And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Rockies 12, Reds 4: The Colorado Wrecking Crew: Carlos Gonzalez hit three home runs and drove in six. Troy Tulowitzki hit two of his own. Pedro Villarreal had no idea what hit him.

White Sox 7, Mariners 5: You figure if you score five runs in the top of an extra inning that you’re gonna win that extra inning game. The White Sox did that in the top of the 14th inning of this one, but then immediately coughed up that five run lead in the bottom half, thanks to a Kyle Seager grand slam and an Endy Chavez RBI single of Addison Reed. Robin Ventura stuck with Reed for some reason after that, however. Well, probably for the reason of “who the hell else are we gonna pitch in a 16-inning game?” It paid off as Reed settled down in the 15th and 16th and the Sox pulled it out in the end. Whew.

Blue Jays 4, Giants 0: The Giants couldn’t do Dickey against R.A. Dickey. The knuckler tossed eight and a third two-hit shutout innings. He also doubled in the Jays’ first run of the game. I think that if a pitcher has what turns out to be the game-winning RBI and gets the win that we should call it a “Baseball Bugs.”

Rays 3, Tigers 0: Started watching this one, got bored, then decided to switch to that Liberace movie, “Beyond the Candelabra.” Rob Lowe’s drugged out, plastic surgery addicted plastic surgeon should have his own spinoff. It was LITERALLY the BEST performance I have EVER seen. Oh, Alex Cobb pitched seven and two-thirds of shuout ball. Doug Fister matched him into the ninth but then ran out of gas as the Rays put up three in the ninth.

Braves 5, Pirates 0: Julio Teheran was four outs from a no-hitter before Brandon Inge — who should be summarily suspended by Bud Selig for 100 games and his contract voided — broke it up. Still, eight shutout innings with 11 strikeouts for the Braves’ breakout pitcher of 2013.

Mets 10, Nationals 1: Marlon Byrd had two homers and three RBI, Anthony Recker had three RBI of his own and Dillon Gee pitched seven solid. The Nats — this and many other writers’ pick in the NL East and as the best team in baseball back in March — stink on ice.

Phillies 6, Marlins 1: And because the Nats stink on ice, they have allowed the Phillies to slide into second place. Philly brings their record to 30-30 — their first time at .500 since they were 6-6 — thanks in part to finally scoring Cole Hamels some runs. Their ace struck out 11 and won his first game in a dog’s age. Ryan Howard hit a triple. You don’t see that every day. You do seem to see Domonic Brown hitting home runs every day, however. He hit his 10th in 12 games and leads the NL with 18 overall.

Yankees 6, Indians 4: CC Sabathia went the distance after being staked to a 6-0 lead by the end of the second inning. I suppose this is what pitching to the score looks like?

Athletics 6, Brewers 1: Guess the A’s decided that they just weren’t going to lose anymore. Neat trick if you can pull it off. Bartolo Colon is 7-2 with a 3.14 ERA and he’s only walked six guys in 77.1 innings. He turned 40 two weeks ago.

Rangers 3, Red Sox 2: A day after the Red Sox got 13 extra base hits and scored 17 runs, five Rangers pitchers combined to limit them to two runs on five hits. Alexi Ogando came back off the DL for the start and was solid. The Rangers have the best record in the AL and their best record through 58 games in franchise history.

Cubs 8, Angels 6: Two homers for Mark Trumbo, including one to tie it in the eighth and force extras, but he can’t do it alone. A three-run double for Anthony Rizzo in the tenth was enough to put Chicago over.

Royals 4, Twins 1: Three runs in the first and a nice combo performance by Jeremy Guthrie and four relievers help the Royals snap their 11-game home losing streak.

Diamondbacks 10, Cardinals 3: Paul Goldschmidt is a friggin’ beast. He hit his second grand slam in five days and ups his season line to .336/.417/.608 and is on pace for 36 homers and 146 RBI. Arizona has won four of five. It was the first time the Cards lost back-to-back games since the end of April.

Astros 11, Orioles 7: Houston launches six homers and wins its seventh game in its last eight. Jason Castro, Carlos Pena and J.D. Martinez had two-run homers, Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez and Marwin Gonzalez had solo shots. I hope the three slackers in the lineup who didn’t go yard have to pay fines in kangaroo court today or something.

Padres 6, Dodgers 2: Jason Marquis’ deal with the devil continues as he takes a no-hitter into the sixth and notches his seventh win of the year. My daughter will be thrilled. Marquis tied up the Rangers in the first major league game she ever went to last season and now she thinks he’s really good. Maybe this is all about one child’s willingness to believe or some hokey crap like that. [music swells].

Major League Baseball considering expansion, radical realignment

Don Ryan/Associated Press
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Tracy Ringolsby of Baseball America wrote yesterday about a “growing consensus” within baseball that expansion and realignment are inevitable. The likely expansion cities: Portland and Montreal. The 32-team league would then undergo a radical realignment that would also involve reducing the season from 162 to 156 games while expanding the playoffs to 12 teams.

To be clear, Ringolsby’s actual reporting here is limited to that “growing consensus” about expansion, and the most likely cities involved, not regarding the specific realignment or game reduction plan. That I take to be speculative — he refers to it as “one proposal” — though it seems like reasonable and informed speculation. The general idea is that, if you expand, you have to realign, and if you realign you have to change the playoff structure lest too many teams in any one division become also-rans. That, combined with the near impossibility of changing the early-April-to-late-October footprint of the season and the desire of players to have less arduous travel schedules and some extra time off, leads to the shorter season.

The details of the plan:

  • The American and National Leagues would be disposed of, with MLB putting all 32 teams into four, eight-team, regionally-based divisions: East, North, Midwest, West. This is designed to (a) maintain regional and traditional rivalries while (b) cutting way back on cross-time zone travel. Both New York teams and Boston are in the “North,” both Chicago teams and St. Louis are in the “Midwest,” etc. Texas and Houston are in the “Midwest” too, but we’ll let the Texans get mad about that later.
  • The playoffs would feature a LOT of play-in games. Specifically, Ringolsby would have the four division winners go to the Division Series, where they would play the winner of four different Wild Card games, the participants in which would come from the eight non-division winners with the best records, regardless of which division they came from.
  • The schedule would go back to 156 games, giving every team an off-day every week. Between that and the more compact, almost all single-time-zone divisions, the travel schedules would be far less taxing, with shorter flights and more flights which could leave the day after a night game as opposed to directly after a night game, causing teams to arrive in the next city in the wee hours of the morning.

Thoughts:

  • Obviously this would piss off the purists.  The elimination of the traditional leagues, the shorter season, a (slightly) altered standard for records and milestones, and a doubling of one-and-done playoff series would make a lot of fans dizzy. On the one hand, I could argue that baseball has NEVER been as pure and unchanging as people like to pretend it is so maybe people shouldn’t get too bent out of shape over this, but it’s simply unavoidable that this would rattle a lot of baseball fans, and not just the ones hopelessly stuck in the past. Baseball should not be slavishly devoted to its history, but it needs to recognize that its history is a selling point and an important touchstone for many, many fans.
  • Ringolsby’s specific realignment idea is kind of fun, but will inevitably lead to some winners and losers. For example, many traditional rivalries or regional rivalries would be maintained — Chicago and St. Louis and Boston and New York would remain division rivals — but other, less-sexy but very real rivalries would be disposed of. The Mets, for example, would have no old NL rivals in their division. There will also be some teams which get screwed logistically. Here, all of Minnesota’s division rivals would be Eastern Time Zone teams, so all of its road games would be played in a different time zone. You could fix that somehow, but someone else would likely be inconvenienced. There isn’t a perfect way to do it. As such, implementation could be pretty messy, with some owners opposing it, possibly vehemently.
  • The playoff idea would make for a lot of drama with four play-in games, but I don’t think it’s a sustainable model. Yes, division winners would all be guaranteed a five-game playoff series, but having two-thirds of all of the playoff teams subjected to a random one-and-done game as opposed to the current four of ten would inevitably lead to calls for longer Wild Card series. And it would likely, over time, diminish the cachet of the Wild Card itself. Now most people think of Wild Card teams as having made the playoffs, With this plan, I suspect fewer people will think of it that way as opposed to some sort of weird, non-quite-the-playoffs limbo, thus hurting late season interest among fans of non-division winners.
  • A 156-game season wouldn’t be the end of the world. We had a 154-game season for a little over half a century total and a 162 game season for 56 seasons so far. Changing it might cause people to get grumpy about records and milestones, but other changes in the game, be it pitcher usage patterns or juiced baseballs or integration or night games or any number of other things have already changed the context in such a way that such standards were never as set-in-stone as people tend to believe. At the same time, extra off days might very well improve the caliber of play as players are more rested and therefore sharper.

In the end, it’s important to recognize that Ringolsby’s article is, in all likelihood, a trial balloon leaked by Major League Baseball, so don’t take any one aspect of it too seriously, even if we should all take the idea of some radical shift involving expansion and realignment in the not-too-distant future seriously.

Why? Money mostly. There are huge financial incentives for baseball to do this. Part of this involves the cost-savings which would result from better scheduling and less travel that Ringolsby mentions. A much greater incentive would come from the franchise fees the owners of the two new teams would pay the 30 current owners in order to be allowed into the MLB fraternity.  In the last round of expansion, the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays owners paid $150 million each for their teams. Given that franchises have gone up in value by a factor of ten twenty, it’s not inconceivable that new owners in Montreal and Portland would have to fork over well north of a billion dollars each to enter the league. That’s a check for $66 million written to each owner in exchange for simply voting “yes” at some meeting in Scottsdale on some fine December afternoon.

So, while there may be no uncertainly on the “how” of it all, the very fact of expansion and subsequent realignment seems inevitable. Now is a good time for us to start thinking about how the details of it all would work.