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And That Happened: Monday’s Scores And Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 4, Giants 3: The stories and, perhaps, the clubhouse atmosphere are pretty terrible for the Mets lately, but they’ve won seven of ten. Which means one of three things: either (a) the reports about the acrimony and strife surrounding the team are wrong and overblown; (b) the stories are accurate but and this bit of winning is well and good, but things are gonna turn bad here soon; or (c) the idea that good team chemistry is required for winning is a lie. I suppose time will tell. Either way, playing a reeling Giants team is good for New York right now. The Mets trailed 2-0 and 3-2 but Neil Walker walked things off here with an RBI single in the ninth. Earlier he hit an RBI double.

Orioles 6, Nationals 4: Baltimore jumped on Gio Gonzales for four runs in the first and six runs in the first four innings and that was that. Those first inning runs all came via the longball with Trey Mancini, Joey Rickard and Mark Trumbo going deep. Mancini’s was a two-run shot. The O’s have won five in a row.

Blue Jays 4, Indians 2: Marcus Stroman tossed six shutout innings but this, from Kevin Pillar, was the play of the game. The night. Maybe the season:

Sorry I didn’t embed the StatCast video of that. I worry that my not doing so means that you will have no way of knowing that it was a good catch. In other news. Ryan Goins hit a two-run homer and Justin Smoak added a two-run single.

Yankees 10, Reds 4: If the Yankees were tired from their marathon game the night before they didn’t show it last night. Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday homered, Masahiro Tanaka won his fifth consecutive start. Such a strong performance undercuts those who spilled ink yesterday writing about how baseball needs to do something to prevent marathon extra innings games. If you missed it, I drafted a comprehensive analysis of that issue with arguments that, I believe, thoroughly assesses all relevant angles of that particular dispute.

Cardinals 9, Marlins 4: Marcell Ozuna hit two homers, but Carlos Martinez hit a three-run double and an RBI single. Carlos Martinez the Cardinals starting pitcher, that is. This is where the anti-DH people cluck about how there’s nothing wrong with pitchers batting. Cluck away. I’m sure it was enjoyable to watch. And, of course, Martinez’s hefty .143 batting average speaks for itself on that score.

Royals 7, Rays 3: The Royals, a day removed from being one-hit, rattled off 13 of ’em. Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield each had a couple of base knocks and Drew Butera homered and drove in two. Nate Karns allowed two runs while pitching into the seventh inning and striking out ten.

Athletics 3, Angels 2: Jed Lowrie hit two homers, the second of which was a walkoff job in the 11th inning. The first one was a solo shot in the fourth. That’s three straight walkoff wins for Oakland. And this one, unlike the previous two, wasn’t even aided by the Tigers’ crappy bullpen!

Dodgers 12, Pirates 1: Six runs in the first inning capped by Chris Taylor‘s grand slam made this one a laugher for Los Angeles. They had a 10-lead after four. As such, Dodgers fans would’ve been excused for doing what I did last night. Inspired by the trailer for the new “Blade Runner: 2049” movie, I went back and watched the original “Blade Runner” (Final Cut) for the umpteenth time. And when I say “inspired” I sort of mean “concerned.”

I’m sure I’ll go see it the first day it opens, but everything I like about the original “Blade Runner” seems practically impossible for a movie in 2017. The original is a slow, slow burn. Atmospheric. Far less actually happens in terms of action than you either remember or expect. Most of the appeal is this cool and scary universe Ridley Scott and his production designers created out of Philip K. Dick’s inspiration. There is not a lot of exposition or back story or explicit world creating. It just is. You’re allowed, as a viewer, to imagine its rules and limits and its origin in ways filmmakers today never seem to let us. Everything now is told to us. Often by some old man who knows everything or some superfluous computer whiz or whatever.

Watching the trailer for the new one makes me suspect, however, that there will be big scenes in which someone explains how the world became a dystopia or in which big secrets are revealed. Hopefully Deckard/Harrison Ford isn’t in it simply to be Old Man Exposition. I also see that there will be a bunch of action and explosions despite the fact that the original one was content with a couple of surprisingly brief and simple action scenes and a final fight in which one guy basically gets his butt kicked for a minute and then the bad guy just stops because, eh, what’s the point? And then there’s the Jered Leto factor which, eh, let’s just say I’m not a big fan of his.

Eh, I’m overthinking this. The original “Blade Runner” is a dang masterpiece and I’m glad I watched it, regardless of the inspiration. And I bet the Pirates wished they stayed in their hotel last night and did the same thing.

Padres 5, Rangers 1: Trevor Cahill allowed one hit in five and a third scoreless innings and Ryan Schimpf, Austin Hedges and Cory Spangenberg.

Cubs vs. Rockies — POSTPONED:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Astros exemplify the player-unfriendly bent of analytics

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Even as recently as a decade ago, Sabermetrics was a niche interest among baseball fans. As various concepts began to gain acceptance in the mainstream, players slowly began to accept them as well. Players like Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke were hailed as examples of a new breed of player — one who marries his athleticism with the utilization of analytics. This year, much was made of certain players’ data-driven adjustments, including Daniel Murphy and J.D. Martinez. Both had great seasons as a result of focusing more on hitting more fly balls instead of ground balls and line drives.

Statistics can clearly benefit players. They can also be used against them, and not just by opposing players. The Astros, who are in the World Series for the first time since 2005, are a great example of this. The Astros spent a few years rebuilding after a complete overhaul of the front office, which included bringing in analytically-fluent Jeff Luhnow as GM after the 2011 season. That overhaul instilled so much confidence that, in 2014, Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter predicted that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series. He’s only four Astros wins away from being proven correct.

The Astros’ front office, though, took advantage of its players at various times throughout the process. Their success is owed, in part, to exploiting its players. On Twitter, user @chicken__puppet chained a few tweets together exemplifying this:

At its core, analytics is about optimization: getting the most bang for your buck. If you read Moneyball, you know this. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) quickly became synonymous with the field and $/WAR was a natural next step. Sabermetrics defaulted to ownership’s perspective, so highly-paid players who performed poorly were scorned. Cheap players who performed well were lauded.

It is no mere coincidence that once most front offices installed analytics departments, teams stopped handing out so many outrageous contracts to free agent first baseman/DH types. Instead, teams focused on signing their young players to long-term contract extensions to buy out their arbitration years ahead of time, ostensibly saving ownership and the team boatloads of money. Teams began to pay close attention to service time as well. Service time determines when a player becomes eligible for arbitration and free agency, so teams that are able to finagle their players’ service time can potentially delay that player’s free agency by a year. The Cubs tried to do this with third baseman Kris Bryant in 2015, as Craig wrote about.

There is a very real ethical component to covering and being a fan of Major League Baseball, despite the common plea to separate sports from politics. The Astros and Cubs aren’t the only ones exploiting their players; the Angels, for example, made some odd personnel choices earlier this season that happened to allow them to avoid paying some players incentive bonuses. Every front office, in one way or another, games the system because the system is set up to benefit ownership first and players second. And if the likes of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa can be taken advantage of so freely and openly, what hope does anyone else have?

Fans have been conditioned to group players and owners together as one group of rich people. In reality, the player earning $30 million has more in common with the office worker making $35,000 a year than with team owners. When fans hear about Correa making $507,500 instead of $550,000, or about free agent who wants a nine-figure contract, they wonder why he had the nerve to ask for so much money in the first place. We praise players, like Cliff Lee, who “leave money on the table.” Both the player and that fan, by virtue of existing and participating in this system, are locked in an eternal battle with those who cut their paychecks. Regardless of salary differences, the player deserves to benefit from the fruits of his labor as much as the office worker. Part of being a baseball fan should also include rooting for the players’ financial success and not just the owners’.

Praising the Astros for being smart and savvy will only create more incentive for other front offices to mimic these unethical behaviors. The whole theme of the World Series shouldn’t be about smart, analytically-inclined teams reaching the summit; it should in part be about teams getting ahead with a multitude of exploitative practices against their players.