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And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 5, White Sox 3: Zach Britton strikes out ten, gets sent down to the minors. That’s fair. That aside, heady freakin’ times for the Orioles who, apart from the Yankees fans, I think everyone on the planet is wanting to sweep New York and make the AL East a dead heat by Sunday night. Viva chaos.

Cubs 12, Brewers 11: Jonathan Lucroy drove in seven runs for Milwaukee — his second seven-RBI game of the season — but the Cubs still won. Total bullpen meltdown, capped with a K-Rod blown save on a day when Axford was unavailable. I was shocked to see that driving in seven in a losing cause is not terribly uncommon. Indeed, he was the fourth player in the past five years to do it, joining immortals like Jose Guillen.

Mariners 5, Twins 4:  Look at the Mariners go. They’re not gonna finish at .500. They’re certainly not gonna make the playoffs. But they’ve played respectable baseball all year and are finishing strong. If you’re not gonna win, at least be respectable and competitive every night out, and that’s what Seattle is doing.

Phillies 3, Mets 2: Hustlegate. I can’t think of a former MVP who has found himself at this place in his career like Rollins has, but that’s where he is. I don’t even know what to think about it. Except that I think there are 20 teams and maybe more who would love to have a non-hustling Jimmy Rollins as their shortstop.

Athletics 12, Indians 7: The AP gamer referred to the Indians as “free falling.” I think that’s an insult to parachutists, who at least have a plan about where they’re heading. The A’s continue to lead the AL wild card race.

Blue Jays 2, Rays 0: A two run double in the first was all Toronto needed as they had Carlos Villanueava pitch six shutout innings with three innings of blanks from the bullpen.

Nationals 8, Cardinals 1: For a team whose calling card has been offense all season, the Cardinals’ recent offensive drought has to be somewhat concerning, no? They went 28 innings without scoring a run before the eighth inning of this one, and that came after everything was more or less decided. Another homer for Bryce Harper and ten strikeouts over eight shutout innings from Edwin Jackson.

Royals 2, Tigers 1: Now it’s three things that would-be playoff teams don’t do: Lose Justin Verlander starts, lost to Bruce Chen and lose to Jeremy Guthrie. Basically, you can’t get the tar knocked out of you by the Kansas City Royals is what I’m saying.  I don’t think I’m declaring the Tigers dead yet, but the patient is in dire shape.

Giants 8, Astros 4: Bad luck and worse luck, all on one play — and a late collapse blowing a 4-0 lead — pretty much sums up the 2012 Astros.

Angels 5, Red Sox 2: Boston goes 0 for 2012 against the Angels. The AP gamer described Zack Greinke as “unintimidating but effective” in this one. I plan on filing a lawsuit later today because that was the working title of my autobiography.

Diamondbacks 2, Dodgers 0: Kennedy pitched shutout, two-hit ball for six and a third. Chris Young hit a two-run homer. The Dbacks take their seventh straight from the Dodgers. If L.A. falls short this year, not beating the Dbacks as much as they should will be a good reason.

Report: Koji Uehara close to signing with the Cubs

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10:  Koji Uehara #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game three of the American League Divison Series at Fenway Park on October 10, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports, citing a source as well as Nikkan Sports, that reliever Koji Uehara is close to signing a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Cubs.

Uehara, 41, finished the 2016 season with a 3.45 ERA and a 63/11 K/BB ratio over 47 innings. He missed some time in the second half with a strained right pectoral muscle. When Uehara returned from the disabled list on September 7, he tossed 11 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts and two walks through the end of the regular season. So there’s at least some evidence, albeit in a very small sample size, that Uehara has stuff left in the tank.

The Cubs recently acquired closer Wade Davis from the Royals. Uehara would join Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, Jr., Justin Grimm, and Mike Montgomery in what is once again a very deep bullpen.

MLB implements another player-unfriendly rule, this time targeting draftees

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to the media before Game Three of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports reports that the MLB draft has a new program in which the top-50 pitching prospects are asked to undergo a voluntary pre-draft MRI on their throwing arm. At first glance, it seems reasonable because, hey, pitchers are injury-prone and players sometimes hide injuries. It would feel bad if my favorite team drafted a lemon!

The reality is that this is just another player-unfriendly rule that shifts financial risk away from the owners and onto the players. The players, in this case, are often not wealthy and are about to begin life in the minor leagues where they earn less than $8,000 per year. Signing bonuses help alleviate some of the immediate financial discomfort of minor league life.

The pre-draft MRI is “voluntary” with quotes around it. Choosing not to undergo the MRI will only give prospective teams more reason to be skeptical of one’s durability. It’s a lot like those voluntary workouts in football that aren’t so voluntary due to superior and peer pressure. You don’t show up, you’re lazy, entitled, a bad teammate, etc. In this case, a pitching prospect refuses to undergo the MRI, it’s because he’s hiding an injury.

Ian Anderson was the first pitcher taken off the board in the 2016 draft, going to the Braves at No. 3. He got a $4 million signing bonus. Let’s say this new MRI program had already been instituted and Anderson refused, or something came up that caused the Braves to change their minds. Anderson’s draft stock falls, let’s say to 21 where the Blue Jays took T.J. Zeuch with a $2.175 million signing bonus. Falling 18 spots in this case costs Anderson about $2 million, perhaps more because he loses a lot of negotiating leverage. Maybe he falls further, even to the second round.

In a column for FanGraphs nearly two years ago, Nathaniel Grow showed that, as a percentage of total league revenues, player salaries have been declining since the early 2000’s. In 2002, player salaries made up 56 percent of league revenues. In 2014, it was only 38 percent.

In isolation, the MRI program isn’t a big deal. The injured player loses stock, but another player moves up to take his place and earns a bit more money. As part of the bigger picture, however, this is part of an ongoing trend in which owners abdicate financial risk and push it all onto the players. The new collective bargaining agreement, for example, capped international signings at $5-6 million per team per year. That removes any incentive for overseas stars like Shohei Otani from coming over to play Major League Baseball. If he wanted to anyway, he would make much less money than he otherwise would on an open market. The amateur draft itself is almost entirely risk-avoidant for owners and it’s terrible for the players because they, too, would earn much more on an open market. And let’s not forget how owners have fought tooth-and-nail to keep minor league salaries suppressed.

Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick once paid $2.8 million for the Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card. Let’s not act like these owners can’t afford to shoulder the risk on young pitchers.

EDIT (4:40 PM EST): As I’ve seen others mention it, it’s worth bringing up the Astros/Brady Aiken issue. The Astros took him first in the 2014 draft, but they took issue with his elbow health. The two sides had agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus, but the Astros wanted to reduce it to $5 million as a result. Aiken didn’t end up signing with the Astros. He underwent Tommy John surgery and was later selected by the Indians 17th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. He got a $2,513,280 signing bonus.