And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 4, Braves 1: I have been arguing against a Stephen Strasburg shutdown for a while now, but allow me to say that if those dudes are really gonna do that, I wish they would have done it before last night. Strasburg struck out ten in six innings, allowing a single run and winning his 15th. Jesus Flores’ three-run homer was all Washington needed. The Braves are pretty much playing for the wild card now. Viva Los Nationals.

Royals 1, Rays 0: If you told me that a big time pitchers duel was going to go down involving David Price, sure, I’m on board. Luke Hochevar? Eh, color me skeptical. But that’s what we had. Each of the starters tossed eight shutout innings, with Hochevar giving up only one hit and Price three. It was decided in the 10th when Eric Hosmer singled in Jeff Francoeur, who wouldn’t have even been in scoring position but for a Ben Zobrist throwing error. In other words: offense was tough to come by here. BTW: David Price has been utterly fantastic in all of his no-decisions this year but has gotten butt for run support. Guess he doesn’t know how to win.

Rockies 6, Mets 2:  Jhoulys Chacin came back for the first time in nearly five months, holding the Mets to one run on four hits in six innings. Bad defense hurt the Mets, with Chris Young throwing a ball away, contributing to a big inning and the Mets botching a rundown. Is it Jets season yet?

Reds 5, Phillies 4: Cliff Lee was cruising until the seventh and then ran the heck out of gas in a hurry. By the time Charlie Manuel got him it was 3-1 Reds. Not that it was over by then. That’s when it went all see-saw. Philly tied it on a Jimmy Rollins RBI double in the bottom half, Todd Frazier homered in the eighth, Philly tied it back up in the bottom half, but then Zack Cozart homered in the ninth. And, yes, the Phillies threatened in the ninth, with Jimmy Rollins stealing and second and third with Chase Utley up to bat. Aroldis Chapman doesn’t give a flying eff, though, and throws a 102 m.p.h. fastball by him, leaves and presumably goes to sit in his hotel room and dream about someone who can challenge him one day.

Angels 5, Red Sox 3: The four game losing streak is over, thanks in part to Mark Trumbo’s 30th homer. Mike Trout had two hits, but the highlight of the game had to be Aaron Cook actually striking Trout out. Cook had struck out seven dudes all season before then. Trout probably saw Cook’s eminently hittable junk just hanging there and about came out of his shoes he was so excited to mash it. He didn’t, but every other Angel did, practically, so it was all good.

Tigers 5, Blues Jays 3: Max Scherzer struck out eight in seven innings, allowing one run. Rickey Romero: not so good. He lost his 10th straight decision, giving up five runs on seven hits while walking eight. EIGHT. And no, he didn’t strike out anyone. How Detroit only scored five here is a miracle.

White Sox 7, Yankees 3: It was 2-2 in the fifth when Kevin Youkilis walked up to the plate with the bases loaded. Bammo, grand slam. I’m sure the Yankees fans who came to love Youk so much over the years dug that.

Cardinals 7, Astros 0: St. Louis didn’t really need Adam Wainwright to throw eight and a third shutout innings while fanning 11 a shutout while striking out 12, but he did it anyway. Bring on Roger Clemens. Heck, bring on Mike Scott or J.R. Richard. The Astros could use a side show right around now. UPDATE: Glitch in the matrix on that Wainwright line. Wrote it last night after I saw from Twitter that the game ended, but the box score I had up didn’t refresh for some reason and I was too tired to notice. Derp.

Brewers 5, Cubs 2: Chris Rusin was meh at Iowa this year, but his major league started out well enough: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER. But then Alberto Cabrera came in and set fire to the place, allowing one run on a wild pitch and two more on an RBI double. Is it Bears season yet?

Orioles 5, Rangers 3: Manny Machado must have heard that I talked smack about him yesterday because he went 2 for 3 with an RBI triple. Nate McLouth, who is apparently alive, homered and scored on a wild pitch.

Mariners 5, Indians 1: Johnny Vander Meer’s legacy remains safe, but Felix Hernandez was once again fantastic, allowing one run over seven and two thirds.

Giants 4, Dodgers 1: Tim Lincecum beats Joe Blanton. Had decent velocity too, which has been elusive for him this season. The Giants lead over the Dodgers is now one and a half.

Padres 7, Pirates 5: Garrett Jones had two homers but Chase Headley’s walkoff in the 10th won it for San Diego. Headley has had a fantastic August, hitting nine homers and driving in 26 to lead the bigs. The Pirates are now 7.5 back of the Reds so, like Atlanta, they too are clearly in Wild Card City.

Athletics 4, Twins 1: Brett Anderson made his first start since mid-2011 and it was pretty darn good (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6K).  The A’s turned a 5-4-3 triple play too, which is pretty nifty. Oakland is a half game back of Baltimore for the wild card.

Marlins 6, Diamondbacks 5: Arizona jumped out to a 5-run lead in the first but that’s all they’d get, as the Fish chipped away and Giancarlo Stanton delivered an RBI single in the 10th. “We should have won that game,” Kirk Gibson said afterward. Yep, you should have.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.