Yankees outlast Red Sox to claim series in Fenway

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This one had a little bit of everything packed into a crisp four hours and 12 minutes.

– After Boston grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Ryan Dempster drilled Alex Rodriguez with a 3-0 pitch to open the second. It was at least Dempster’s second attempt to hit him, but the plunking didn’t get Dempster ejected. It did result in warnings for both sides and an early exit for a furious Joe Girardi.

– The Yankees rallied to tie the game after the HBP and then took the lead in the third on an RBI groundout from A-Rod. That lead lasted about 10 minutes, as David Ortiz delivered an RBI groundout of his own in the bottom of the third.

– In the fourth, the Red Sox executed some perfect small-ball after a Jarrod Saltalamacchia leadoff double. Daniel Nava advanced him with a bunt, and Stephen Drew plated him with a fly to left. All of which was rendered pretty moot when Will Middlebrooks followed with an opposite-field homer, making it 5-3.

– In the fifth, with everyone still wondering when CC Sabathia might retaliate for the earlier incident, he blew his last good chance by giving up a double to David Ortiz with Dustin Pedroia on first. He later intentionally walked Saltalamacchia after a 3-0 count. With the bases loaded, he walked Daniel Nava, scoring the sixth Boston run.

– The Red Sox, not satisfied with five unhorrible innings for Dempster, pressed their luck. Which is something that tends to happen when a team has only three reliable relievers, all of whom pitched the day before. Dempster gave up a leadoff homer to A-Rod and still the Red Sox stayed with him. He was finally pulled with the bases loaded, and rookie Drake Britton surrendered a triple to Brett Gardner. 7-6 Yankees.

– The Yankees, too, kept their starter in for some ungodly reason, yet it didn’t bite them. Sabathia walked Middlebrooks to start the bottom of the sixth, but he bounced back with a strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury before being removed. Shawn Kelley came in and got two right-handers to end the inning.

– That was it for most of the excitement in what turned out to be a 9-6 Yankees win. We did see three HBPs after the warnings were issued, none of which resulted in ejections. We saw umpire Brian O’Nora get hit in the throat by a fastball that Chris Stewart flat-out missed, stumble around for a couple of minutes and then stay in the game. We saw the Red Sox get two men on in the bottom of the ninth against Mariano Rivera, who was riding a streak of three straight blown saves, only to have the game end on a lineout to left from Salty.

The story here will be A-Rod, A-Rod, A-Rod. Yet this came down to a battle of the bullpens, and the Yankees won it. Absent Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Miller and Matt Thornton (and Daniel Bard, too, if you’d like), the Red Sox are short of guys they can trust, and manager John Farrell decided to use all three of his those guys (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow) to protect a five-run lead on Saturday. The Yankees had all of their guys available, and their four relievers combined to allowed two hits in 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Boston’s five relievers allowed two runs, three inherited runs and eight hits in those same 3 2/3 innings.

As for Rodriguez, it was definitely his best game since his return; he collected three hits for the first time and hit his second homer. The Yankees are 7-5 with him in the lineup. Sabathia improved to 11-10 despite giving up six runs and walking five. Dempster fell to 6-9, though the Red Sox had won each of his last six starts (Dempster went 1-0 with five no-decisions in the span).

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.