Tigers finish off sweep of Yankees to advance to World Series

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We know one team who will still be alive next Wednesday.

Finishing off a thoroughly dominating performance, the Tigers topped the Yankees 8-1 at Comerica Park today to sweep the ALCS in four games and advance to the World Series.

CC Sabathia is a pretty good pitcher to have on your side facing elimination, but he just didn’t have it today. The big southpaw didn’t get much help from his defense, especially in the third inning, but he gave up six runs (five earned) on 11 hits and two walks over just 3 2/3 innings. This included a pair of two-run homers by Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta in the bottom of the fourth inning. Not a good time for Sabathia’s shortest outing of the season.

While Sabathia struggled, Max Scherzer was dominant over his 5 2/3 innings of work. He didn’t allow a hit until the top of the sixth inning and struck out 10. The Tigers pounded out 16 hits on the day, just six less than the Yankees had for the entire series. Peralta socked a pair of homers while seven out of the nine hitters in Jim Leyland’s lineup had at least two hits.

The pathetic output from the Yankees’ lineup has naturally received much of the attention nationally, but the Tigers’ rotation deserves plenty of credit for shutting them down. Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez combined to allow just two runs over 27 1/3 innings during the series. That’s a 0.66 ERA.

While things got a little interesting in Game 1, this was one of the more dominating series victories you’ll see. The Tigers are the fifth team in MLB history to sweep a best-of-seven series while never trailing and the first to do it since the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series. This is the first time the Yankees have been swept in a seven-game series since the 1976 World Series against the Reds. They were swept in three games by the Royals in the 1980 ALCS.

The Tigers will have a little while to rest before Game 1 of the World Series next Wednesday night. They’ll start the series on the road and will meet either the Cardinals or the Giants.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.