Yankees, Orioles eek out one-run wins to preserve AL East tie

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The Orioles got a walkoff win over the Rays in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday, and the Yankees held on against the Red Sox to keep pace in the AL East.

Baltimore won 3-2 on a Nate McLouth “single” off the right field wall that scored Manny Machado with one out in the ninth, handing Kyle Farnsworth a loss.

Machado, a rookie still supposedly learning the ins and outs of third base after moving over from shortstop upon being promoted, made an outstanding heads-up play to help preserve the tie in the top of the ninth (video). With two outs and pinch-runner Rich Thompson on second, Evan Longoria hit a slow roller down the third-base line, one that was too slow for Machado to make a play on. However, shortstop J.J. Hardy followed the runner from second to third and was in the perfect spot when Machado whirled and fired to third, catching Thompson having rounded the bag.

The Yankees won their game 5-4 a bit later. Curtis Granderson homered twice and Robinson Cano went deep once, accounting for all five Yankees runs. The Red Sox rallied from 5-1 down with two runs in the seventh and then a Jarrod Saltalamacchia solo shot in the ninth. They weren’t far away from making it back-to-back homers off Rafael Soriano in the ninth, but Daniel Nava’s high fly to left was caught by Chris Dickerson at the wall.

New York’s win may have been costly, as Derek Jeter left with a bone bruise in his left ankle after coming down awkwardly on the first-base bag in the eighth. There was also a collision at first an inning later, with Alex Rodriguez running over James Loney after Andrew Miller’s wild throw pulled the first baseman into the baseline. Fortunately, both players were able to stay in, though Loney hurt his left shoulder on the play.

Boston’s Cody Ross was ejected from the game in the eighth for arguing a called third strike on a breaking ball that looked low and outside. Bobby Valentine backed his player and was tossed himself, giving himself a new Red Sox single-season record with six ejections in a season.

With the wins tonight, the Orioles and Yankees are both 80-62. The Rays have fallen three games back of both at 77-65.

Why more baseball players don’t kneel

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Bruce Maxwell was the first baseball player to kneel for the National Anthem. There may be others who do so, but I don’t suspect many will. Indeed, I’m pretty confident that the protests we’re seeing in the NFL today, and will see more of once basketball season begins, will not become a major thing in baseball.

Some will say it’s because baseball or baseball players are more patriotic or something, but I don’t think that’s it. Yes, baseball is a lot whiter and has a lot of conservative players who would never think to protest during the National Anthem or, for that matter, protest anything at all, but I suspect there are many who saw what Colin Kaepernick and other football players have done — or who have listened to what Steph Curry and LeBron James have said — and agreed with it. Yet I do not think many, if any of them will themselves protest.

Why? I think it mostly comes down to baseball’s culture of conformity.

Almost everyone in baseball comes through a hierarchy. Even the big names. Even if you are the consensus number one pick, you do your time in the minors. Once there, conformity and humility is drilled into you. This happens both affirmatively, in the form of coaches telling you to act in a certain way and passively, by virtue of all players being in similar, humbling circumstances. Bus rides, cheap hotels, etc. In that world, even if you are ten times better and ten times richer than your teammates, you fall in with the crowd because doing otherwise would be socially disruptive.

The very socialization of a baseball player is dependent upon them learning to talk, walk and carry themselves like all those who came before. No one is given special treatment. In the rare cases they are, it’s head-turning. Bryce Harper was a more or less normal minor leaguer, but since he got their earlier by bypassing his final years of high school, he was thrown at and challenged in ways no other minor league stars are. It does not take much for a guy to be singled out for punishment or mockery and even the superstars like Harper are not on solid professional ground as long as they’re still in the minors. Indeed, between a player’s education, as it were, in the minors and their pre-free agency residency in the majors, it can be a decade or more before a unique personality or a true showman is able to shine through, and by then few are willing. They’ve been conditioned by that point.

Even budding superstars can be roundly criticized for the tiniest of perceived transgressions or the most modest displays of individuality. Think about all of the “controversies” we have about the proper way to celebrate a home run or run the bases. If that’s a cause for singling out and, potentially, benching or being traded or being given a shorter leash, imagine the guts a baseball player has to have in order to do something like take a knee during the National Anthem. A guy with multiple MVP Awards would likely be in an uncomfortable spotlight over such a thing, so imagine how brave someone like Bruce Maxwell, who has barely 100 games under his belt, has to be to have done it.

CC Sabathia, a 17-year veteran, spoke out yesterday, but I suspect he won’t kneel for the National Anthem when he lines up with his teammates before the Wild Card game next week. Other ballplayers will likely wade into the fray in the coming days. But I suspect baseball’s very nature — it’s very culture — will keep ballplayers from following in the footsteps of the many NFL players who took a knee today.

 

Bronson Arroyo retires from baseball

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Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds’ right-hander Bronson Arroyo has decided to officially retire from Major League Baseball. At this point, the announcement shouldn’t come as a surprise. The 40-year-old starter was placed on the Reds’ 60-day disabled list after sustaining a right shoulder strain several months ago and hasn’t pitched in a game since June.

On Saturday, the Reds honored Arroyo during a pre-game retirement ceremony, gifting the pitcher with a rocking chair and custom guitar, among other commemorative gifts. He returned after the game — a 5-0 loss to the Red Sox — and showcased another of his talents with a 40-minute concert.

The timing of the ceremony was fitting, too. Not only had Arroyo logged nine seasons with the Reds, compiling a 4.18 ERA and 16.4 fWAR over a whopping 279 starts in Cincinnati, but he also spent a memorable three seasons with the Red Sox from 2003-2005 and helped carry them to an incredible, drought-snapping World Series championship in ’04. While he didn’t have the most dominant run in 2017, dragging a 7.35 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 5.7 SO/9 through 71 innings before succumbing to injury, the fact that he made another run at the majors was miracle enough.

“It feels now like my senior year in high school and I’m ready to get out,” Arroyo said. “I’m honestly ready to go.”