And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

14 Comments

Sorry the recaps are a bit later than usual. A multi-day sleep deficit finally came due last night and I slept in to the shockingly late hour of 7am. I feel like a layabout. Half the day is gone. Oh well.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Twins 11, Tigers 5: Gonna go out on a limb here and say that the Tigers have some problems with the back end of the rotation and long relief. Minnesota beat up on Jordan Zimmermann for five runs and long man Anibal Sanchez for six. In better news, Miguel Cabrera hit a homer, so reports of his demise were exaggerated. Miguel Sano hit a homer too. It was a rocket that cleared the greenery in straightaway center field of Comerica Park. That’s 420 to the wall and Sano’s bomb was estimated at 446 feet. Mercy.

Red Sox 4, Pirates 3: Hanley Ramirez is over the flu. He doubled in two in a the Sox’ three-run eighth inning rally and then scored on a Xander Bogaerts single. The Pirates have dropped four in a row. In good news, Andrew McCutchen hit a homer which tied him on the all-time Pirates home run list with Barry Bonds at 176. Now all McCutchen has to do is leave via free agency, immediately, for San Francisco and hit another 587 homers and he can be the all-time home run champ. He’ll be 45 at the time if he does it as quickly as Bonds.

Cubs 4, Dodgers 0: The Cubs take two of three from L.A., holding them to four runs in three games. Brett Anderson, making his Cubs debut against his old mates, held them scoreless for five. Anthony Rizzo homered and drove in two.

Rangers 8, Angels 3: All of this has happened before. And will happen again: The second 8-3 win for the Rangers over the Angels in two nights. Robinson Chirinos doubled in one and singled in two. Yu Darvish struck out ten in seven shutout innings. So say we all.

White Sox 10, Indians 4: The Chisox jumped on Josh Tomlin for five in the first and two in the second. They were sad to see him go but piled on three more runs. Three apiece were knocked in by Avisail Garcia and Matt Davidson. Davidson’s came via a three-run homer in the first that broke the game wide open. After starting the season with a sweep of the Rangers, the Tribe has lost five of six.

Yankees 3, Rays 2: Aaron Hicks homered twice, including a go-ahead, two-run drive in the seventh. Luis Severino allowed two runs over seven innings, striking out 11. But of course, Yankees fans know that they can always count on heroics and top-notch performance from Hicks and Severino.

Orioles 2, Blue Jays 1: The Blue Jays fall to 1-8 and, to add injury to insult, lose Josh Donaldson due to that nagging calf he’s had. Four of Toronto’s eight losses have been one-run decisions, and only one of them has been by more than two runs. Horseshoes, hand grenades.

Brewers 5, Reds 1: Jimmy Nelson cooled off the Reds, holding them to one run in seven innings and snapping their five-game winning streak. Ryan Braun and Eric Thames homered off of Bronson Arroyo, who has now given up 11 runs on 13 hits in ten innings in two starts. His comeback was a nice spring story, but I do not expect that it will extend too much beyond spring.

Mets 9, Marlins 8: Yoenis Cespedes hit three homers on Tuesday night and added two more last night. The most noteworthy blast in this one, however, came from Travis d'Arnaud, who put the Mets up in the top of the 16th inning with a solo shot. That’d hold up for the Mets win. Way back in the second inning d’Arnaud tripled in three runs. He had four hits on this long night.

Royals 3, Athletics 1: Kansas City snaps its eight-game losing streak to the A’s. The win came mostly due to Jason Vargas being awesome. Being unbelievably good. Just ask Ned Yost:

“He was awesome,” the skipper said.

Care to elaborate?

“He was unbelievably good,” Yost said.

Told ya.

Varagas shut the A’s out for seven and two-thirds.

Rockies 3, Giants 1: Colorado starter Jon Gray had to leave early with a toe injury, but the bullpen sucked it up with five pitchers combining to toss six innings of one-run ball. Trevor Story‘s two-run homer off of Madison Bumgarner in the fourth was enough to win this one, but Mark Reynolds singled in one later for some insurance.

Major League Baseball considering expansion, radical realignment

Don Ryan/Associated Press
Leave a comment

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.