And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Red Sox 7, Rays 3: Mike Carp with a tenth inning grand slam. Good job extending your lead, Boston! Good job letting the Yankees pull to within one game of the wild card, Rays! Apropos of nothing, I’d give a lot to hear what Red Sox fans who love this beards thing had to say about Brian Wilson a couple of years ago.

Yankees 5, Orioles 4: The Yankees are Rasputin. No, they’re not mystic/visionary/healer/religious charlatans who hold the Tsarina in thrall. I’m talking about the part where you simply can’t kill them, no matter how hard you try. Homers from Cano, Granderson and A-Rod combine with a good enough effort from Andy Pettitte to pull the Yankees to within one game of the wild card. And one game closer to the delicious “A-Rod came back and turned the Yankees’ season around” narrative that will literally kill multiple New York columnists. Especially the ones who were convinced that he’d never play another game and/or was “physically unable to perform.” Still waiting for the mea culpas from those guys. Not holding my breath.

Marlins 5, Braves 2: Jose Fernandez held the Braves to to one run on five hits over seven innings while striking out five. He also hit a homer. He also stopped to admire it and then spit at the third baseman’s feet and fomented a benches-clearing situation. All in a day’s work. As for the pitching: holy crap this guy is good. He’s being shut down now, which makes sense. He should also be the consensus Rookie of the Year. As for the hubbub: I’m not a big fan of unwritten rules, I think that admiring your first ever big league homer is defensible and I think the Braves, as an organization, get too hung up on all that Play The Game The Right Way thing. Not saying the spitting was fantastic, but maybe your best revenge is to get hits off the guy or to humiliate him the next time he bats against you.  Anyway, what I really want to know, though, is what that old lady who thought Harper and Puig were “low class acts” and Fernandez was “such a nice young man” thinks of all of this.

Pirates 7, Rangers 5: If you’re not a fan of Fox you have to hope this is the World Series matchup, right? Not exactly a ratings bonanza, even if baseball freaks should love it. If you’re an AL team you shouldn’t like it either, as the Pirates are now 15-5 in interleague play this year after sweeping the Rangers.

Reds 6, Cubs 0: A solid if unspectacular game for Mike Leake and homers from Devin Mesoraco and Jack Hannahan helped the Reds avoid the sweep.

Royals 6, Indians 2: The Indians fail to take advantage of the Rays’ recent troubles — if they’d won these past two games they’d be in the wild card slot right now — and the Royals succeed in coming back from the near dead to find themselves only two games back. They’ve won 13 of 18. Imagine where they’d be if it wasn’t for a couple of sharp swoons at various points this year.

Giants 4, Rockies 3: The Giants were down 3-1 but then plated one in the seventh and two in the eighth. I feel like the Giants have been playing the Rockies for 12 straight games.

Phillies 4, Padres 2: Cliff Lee solid again. Eight innings, five hits, two runs, nine strikeouts and lowers the ERA to 2.97. Imagine what he’d do on a team with a bullpen and an offense.

Nationals 3, Mets 0: Five straight wins for the Nationals. Still six back in the wild card, but some nice baseball all the same. Dan Haren was fantastic again. If he had been anything close to this in the first half the Nats could be playoffs bound.

Angels 5, Blues Jays 4: The Angels season has sucked but at least C.J. Wilson has been good. Three earned runs in seven innings to win his eighth straight decision. Josh Hamilton was 3 for 3. He’s hitting .400 in the month of September.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 1: A good start from Lance Lynn and a four-run eighth inning helps the Cards win their fifth straight and maintain their lead over the Reds and Pirates.

Tigers 1, White Sox 0: Anibal Sanchez strikes out ten in seven and a third shutout innings. Tough break for Jose Quintana, who also pitched wonderfully. Omar Infante’s RBI single in the eighth was the only offense here. How a 1-0 game still goes three hours and sixteen minutes is a bit of mystery.

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 1: Paul Goldschmidt went 4 for 5 with a couple driven and Patrick Corbin allowed one run in six and a third as the Dbacks avoid the sweep.

Athletics 18, Twins 3: Well, that was ugly. Every A’s starter had at least one hit, one run and one RBI. That’s practically socialism. Not that it mattered much, but there was a foul ball call that was reversed and turned into a double in this one after the umpires huddled and changed their call. After that Ron Gardenhire came out and argued forever and got an ejection. Can’t wait to see how managers react once challenges start.

Astros 6, Mariners 1: And the sweep. The Astros actually have a winning record in September. I don’t think momentum is a thing, but I’m sure this will make some Astros fans and players happy.

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.