And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Don’t you love the word “penultimate?” Me too!

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: It took twelve innings, but Raul Ibanez’s heroics won the day. He homered off Boston closer/arsonist Andrew Bailey to bring the Yankees back from a 3-1 deficit in the ninth and then he singled in the improbably-in-the-game Frankie Cervelli to walk it off.

Orioles 1, Rays 0: Both the Orioles and the Rays seasons in a nutshell. The Rays got a fantastic performance from James Shields (CG, 2 H, 1 R, 15K), but no offense to speak of. The Orioles got a fantastic group effort from the pitchers and prevailed in a one-run game.  The O’s have to win again today and hope for a Yankees loss to force a one-game playoff for the AL East title tomorrow.

Athletics 3, Rangers 1: People took me to task on Twitter yesterday when I said that the Rangers had “collapsed.” I think they were right. It is the case that the Athletics have played out of their minds and that, overall, the Rangers have basically been the Rangers for the past month and change.  But it is true that they had a five game lead a little over a week ago. They’ve dropped four of five head-to-head to Oakland and are one more loss away from being in a wild card game in which they never figured on playing. Not a collapse, I’ll grant you, but definitely a butt-kicking.

Reds 3, Cardinals 1; Giants 4, Dodgers 3: Bye-bye Dodgers. It was a nice run, much of it made when they had nowhere close to the talent level your typical contender possesses, but it wasn’t meant to be. However, if all of those guys they acquired over the summer play at their established norms or even, shock, have a slightly better-than-normal year in the next couple, L.A. will be a force.

Royals 4, Tigers 2: Over the years there have a been a few guys I figured had a run at a triple crown in them. Don Mattingly, maybe, at least for a couple of years in the mid 80s. Gary Sheffield. Manny. Some freak of nature the Colorado Rockies signed and CoorsHabilitated.  Miguel Cabrera has had that look ever since he first joined the Marlins. A rare bird. A perfect hitter with a perfect blend of greatness and consistency. He went 2 for 3 with two RBI. Barring a Josh Hamilton explosion today, dude is actually gonna win the triple crown.

Pirates 5, Braves 1: In honor of the Braves losing out on the NL East, Fredi Gonzalez apparently went to the Home Depot parking lot and found several guys to play in last night’s game. I mean, I know “Jeff Baker” is a real major leaguer, but it could just as easily be the name of a drifter who found himself stuck in Pittsburgh while he tries to scrape a bit together to get him up to Buffalo, where he heard there might be some work. Not much, but honest pay and a chance to maybe make something out of this life and forget about the past, where everything went wrong no matter what he tried to do. But now, he supposes, he’ll play a little right field, a little second base. Play the man’s game until he can make it to a world where he isn’t always gettin’ played. [long, thoughtful drag on a cigarette  lonesome harmonica music].

Marlins 4, Mets 3: Adam Greenberg has seen four major league pitches in his life. A 92 mile per hour fastball to the head and three R.A. Dickey knuckleballs with which he could do absolutely nothing. Probably a good time to hop on the motivational speaking circuit, dude.  Seriously, though: how Marlins is it to give him his one shot only to make him do it against the nastiest starter in the NL this year?  What, they couldn’t work him in against Craig Kimbrel last week?

Nationals 4, Phillies 2: Adam LaRoche was the only everyday player to stay in for more than five innings. While he did so, he hit a homer and topped 100 RBI for the year. Some fans even chanted “MVP” for him. They probably believed it too. Nationals fans are just so damn cute. Two homers for Darin Ruf.

Blue Jays 4, Twins 3: I always wondered if it’s hard to concentrate on baseball while you’re busy making plans for hunting trips and beach weekends with your girlfriend during a game. Blue Jays managed it OK.

Indians 4, White Sox 3: Adam Dunn has no fear. With the season over for Chicago, he could have sat out these last two games and not challenged the single season strikeout record. Nope: he faced it. And whiffed twice, tying Mark Reynolds for the record at 223. Play tomorrow, Dunner. Take what is rightfully yours.

Astros 3, Cubs 0: Getting shut out by the same 3-0 score to the worst team in baseball at home has to be one of the more ignominious ends to a season in baseball history. Maybe some team in 1919 had half the roster die from Spanish Flu or something. That would be worse. I guess.

Brewers 4, Padres 3: Martin Maldonado hit a grand slam. If the Braves played a lineup of drifters, the Brewers played a lineup of orphans. Indeed, they used ten rookies in this game.

Diamondbacks 5, Rockies 3: Aaron Hill with the walkoff three-run homer. Arizona’s season isn’t ending in the most satisfying manner, but at least it’s ending with some excitement.

Mariners 6, Angels 1: Mike Trout’s 1 for 5 dropped him to .324, so that’s that as far as the batting title goes. In other news, Kyle Sager hit a home run. Every Mariner pitcher is desperately using that as evidence that, no, they don’t need to move the fences in at Safeco next year. “Please, dear God, don’t do this to us,” they’re saying.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.