Texas Rangers v Detroit Tigers

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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These were the last baseball games that count — despite the claim about the All-Star Game counting, which is certainly does not in any real sense — until Friday. That’s some b.s. right there. Why don’t they play the All-Star Game with only 25 guys on a team and let the rest of the league play regular games with each team a player or two shorthanded at most? Fine, you say that’s unfair? Well, so is deciding home field advantage in the World Series based on a dumb exhibition game, but we do that. Don’t tell me about fair.

Anyway, I’m in New York. I took in the Futures Game yesterday. More about that later, as well as some posts from on the scene at the All-Star Game. For now, though, here’s what went on in places where the games actually mattered:

Tigers 5, Rangers 0: A good reason not to hang around press boxes: when Justin Verlander had a no-hitter into the seventh yesterday, a bunch of baseball writers at the Futures Game openly hoped he wouldn’t get a no-hitter because that would require them to do more work or different work or something. That’s just kind of depressing, even if it’s understandable in a very narrow way.

Phillies 4, White Sox 3: John Mayberry hit the game-winning single in the tenth and with it the Phillies won their ninth in their past 13. Like half the teams that played yesterday, someone gave quotes about how maybe this one will give them momentum going into the second half. Assignment desk: someone look at the second half records of teams which won the final game before the All-Star break over the past, I dunno, decade. Let’s see if this momentum is real!

Nationals 5, Marlins 2: A three-run tenth wins it for the Nats, and with it ends a three-game losing streak and averts the sweep by the Marlins. Many teams are worse than the Nationals. Not many are more happy to see the first half end. Expectations are a hell of a thing.

Indians 6, Royals 4: Can’t kill this Cleveland thing. Detroit beat the tar out of them last weekend and then they come back and win two of three from the Jays and sweep the Royals. One and a half back somehow.

Reds 8, Braves 4: Jay Bruce with three hits including a two-run homer. Freddie Freeman sat out because of jammed thumb that will keep him out of the All-Star Game. Guess that Final Vote was a whole lot of wasted effort, eh? Just a total bloodbath series for the Braves. Freeman, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and B.J. Upton were all injured during this series.

Twins 10, Yankees 4: Thus endeth the ugliest half season (and then some) of baseball in the Bronx in a long time. Errors and ineffectiveness gave the Twins their first win over CC Sabathia in six years.

Mets 4, Pirates 2: Dillon Gee allowed one unearned run in six and two-thirds. Three runs for the Mets in the first ended up being enough. They kept showing highlights of this on the jumbotron at Citi Field during the Futures Game. It got bigger cheers than a lot of what went on at the Futures Game.

Orioles 7, Blue Jays 4: Lots of people are parroting the fact that Chris Davis set a record by tying the AL mark for most homers prior to the All-Star break. Not many are pointing out that the Orioles have played 96 games before the All-Star Break which is an awful lot and which can in no technically accurate way be referred to as the first “half.” Still, he’s hit a lot of homers and that’s cool.

Rockies 3, Dodgers 1: Nothing to do with this game but on the media shuttle bus on the way back to the city yesterday I heard a lot of good stories about Vin Scully. Behind the scenes stories which would make you laugh given how Scully has sort of been made into a demi-god over the past several years. Nothing which undermines all that is good about him or which makes him a bad person in any way, shape or form, but stories which humanize the guy a bit and remind one that he is, after all, a human being with a sense of humor and some real world foibles and things. One in which he dropped an F-bomb, which is absolutely hilarious to me. Though I’m sure it was the most melodically-dropped F-bomb ever. Michael Cuddyer hit a homer here. Guess I get to live the lifelong dream of seeing Michael Cuddyer hit in the Home Run Derby tomorrow.

Rays 5, Astros 0: The Rays won for the 14th time in their last 16 behind Chris Archer’s five-hit shutout. The Rays are 2.5 back of the Red Sox and probably didn’t want the All-Star Break to arrive.

Padres 10, Giants 1: Get no-hit on Saturday, rap out 12 hits on Sunday in the course of scoring ten. Barry Zito only lasted two innings. Carlos Quentin drove in three.

Athletics 3, Red Sox 2: Brandon Workman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his first big league start. Ends up with a no decision as Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer off him. Donaldson added the game-winning RBI single in the 11th. Dude is sitting at .310/.379/.522 with sixteen homers but isn’t an All-Star. Remember that the next time someone complains about life being unfair.

Brewers 5, Diamondbacks 1: Wily Peralta allowed only one run in seven and the Brewers snapped their four-game losing streak. They can now spend the break thinking about all the new losing streaks they’ll start in the second half.

Mariners 4, Angels 3: Seattle sweeps the Angels. Correction about the Nats and their expectations ruining their first half. The Angels have ’em beat by a mile in this regard.

Cardinals, 10, Cubs 6: A four-spot in the ninth by the Cardinals – including a three-run homer from Yadier Molina — officially ends the first half. Or two thirds. Or whatever we want to call it. For those of you keeping score at home, Allen Craig actually put them ahead with an RBI single before the homer. He did so even for those of you not keeping score at home.

The Phillies are seeing to it that their minor leaguers eat well

Crop of vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables.
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For years we’ve talked about how odd it is that baseball teams are in the extraordinarily competitive business of developing highly-trained athletes yet, for whatever reason, it pays minor leaguers virtually nothing and all but forces them to subsist on junk food and other cheap options.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, however, the Phillies are changing that. Indeed, they’re plowing serious money into nutritious food options for their minor league players:

The Phillies are teaching their minor leaguers how to play baseball, so why not teach them how to eat well, too?

“We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball,” assistant general manager Ned Rice said. “When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

 

That this is a news story — and it is a good and novel one — is kind of sad in some ways. How teams haven’t been on board with this approach for decades is beyond me.

Tracking baseball’s “Naturals”

The Natural
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Rob Neyer has a great column in today’s New York Times in which he tracks the real life players who, at one time or another, were dubbed “The Natural.” A la Roy Hobbs in the book and movie of the same name.

There are some that a lot of people probably remember: Jeff Francoeur and Ken Griffey, Jr. as “The Natural” come to mind easily. There are some who I don’t ever recall being called “The Natural” but were, apparently, like Terry Pendelton and Karim Garcia. There are also some whose stories were far odder and far more tragic than any version of Hobbs’ tale (oh man, a Toe Nash sighting!). Then there’s Rick Ankiel, whose path may be the closest one to Hobbs’ of them all, at least broadly speaking.

Fun stuff that, in addition to being a walk down memory lane, is also an instructive lesson about how the power of narrative works in sports.

 

Sure, Carlos Gomez is the problem in Houston

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Associated Press
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No one will claim that Carlos Gomez is playing up to his ability. He’s got a .634 OPS in the 65 games he’s played for the Astros between last year and this year. Not good at all.

Still, he seems to be taking an outsized amount of the blame for the Astros’ slow start to this year. I do a weekly radio hit on a Texas station and Gomez has been the talk for three weeks when the Astros’ troubles are mentioned. Today Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle spends a whole column going at Gomez, with the usual dash of “you can’t be flamboyant if you can’t back it up” sentiment often given to players like Gomez when they struggle but which is seemingly never given to players whose act is more “tough guy.” Funny that.

More notable: nowhere in the column is it mentioned that, overall, the Astros’ offense is above league average and that, in reality, it’s the pitching that’s killing them. Gomez may not be carrying his weight, but his teammates in the lineup are for now, as teammates do for every hitter at one time of the year or another. Meanwhile, Smith doesn’t seem to be writing columns about how three of the Astros’ five starters have ERAs above 5.00 and how the bullpen has been a disaster. Gomez, however, gets a “Rally Killer” subheading in reference to his performance in a game his team actually won, primarily due to the offense.

There’s also an unfortunate quote in the article. Specifically, Smith quotes Gomez as saying “For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed.”

I’m sure that’s what he said, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the quote’s imperfect English fits satisfyingly into a column designed to rip Gomez and that it’s going to play right into stereotyping a certain sort of reader who has just HAD it with those allegedly lazy, entitled Latino players likes to engage in. For the record, its not uncommon for other players whose grammar is less than perfect to get [the bracket treatment] to make the mistakes less noticeable. Or, if the quote is less than clear or enlightening, to get the paraphrasing treatment and have his sentiment conveyed in keeping with the intent of the sentiment. I guess Gomez doesn’t get that treatment. He gets to be portrayed in such a way that a certain sort of reader will unfortunately interpret as him being too dumb or too lazy to learn proper English or something.

And no, it’s not just sensitive old Craig noticing that:

Empathy is the key word here, I think. Smith as no interest in portraying Gomez as a player who, like all players, struggles from time to time. He has to be the bad guy who is responsible for all of the Astros’ woes, it seems.

Puerto Rico official calls MLB’s likely series cancellation “an act of touristic terrorism”

Ricardo Arduengo -- Associated Press
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On Tuesday it was reported that Major League Baseball is on the verge of cancelling the upcoming series in Puerto Rico between the Marlins and the Pirates due to Zika concerns. Puerto Rico is not particularly pleased with that.

As this story from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review makes clear, their displeasure is being expressed in totally calm and rational terms:

“It’s an outrageous situation,” Rep. Angel Matos, head of the tourism commission for Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, told the Tribune-Review. “The reality is that this cancellation is unfair, disproportionate, and makes our country look bad. It’s an act of touristic terrorism.”

I will grant that a cancellation wouldn’t be great for Puerto Rico. I will also grant that an expert cited in the same article claims that the odds of any players contracting Zika are very, very long. Indeed, he compares it to someone hitting 20 homers in a single game. Which, sure, Giancarlo Stanton is involved here so you can never totally rule it out, but it’s super unlikely.

But MLB, the union and the players involved aren’t in the business of dealing with the probability of disease contraction. They’re dealing with a bunch of players being really nervous about something vs. a two-game series in May that, while carrying big meaning for Puerto Rico, is sort of meaningless to them in a lot of ways, even if they won’t say so publicly. They’re weighing this a lot differently than tourism commission executives.

My guess is that it still gets cancelled. My guess is that, even if it does, Puerto Rico will survive this act of alleged “touristic terrorism.”