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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights


Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Pirates 14, Cubs 3: The Pirates scored ten runs off of Jon Lester in the first inning. Only four were earned but that’s just by virtue of one error that itself didn’t cause a run to score. They hit Lester hard — six hits, two of which were homers and one of which was a double — and walked three times. People keep wondering why the Cubs are struggling this year. There are a lot of reasons for it, including a lot of their hitters falling back from last year. But I think we all overlooked how unlikely it was to expect some of their veteran starters to repeat the years they had in 2016.

Dodgers 5, Royals 2: Clayton Kershaw, man. Complete game, two runs, 13 strikeouts no walks. Justin Turner hit two homers. The Dodgers enter the break with 60 61 wins and a 7.5 game lead in the West — their biggest of the season — and a +163 run differential. Most teams love the All-Star break. The Dodgers have to wonder if they can somehow just keep playing. And it may get even worse for the NL foes. For now the Dodgers have . . . The Rally Granny:

They should have a bobblehead night for her soon. Or at least a bobblesomething night.

Brewers 5, Yankees 3Travis Shaw hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Stephen Vogt hit a solo homer in the second. From the AP Gamer:

The Milwaukee Brewers have scored 81 runs in the first inning this season, more than any team in baseball. That’s not exactly a fluke. In fact, it’s by design . . . “A lot of starters settle in after the first inning and we’ve kind of taken that same approach with every pitcher,” Shaw said. “Try to jump on them early and grab the momentum and then work on it after that. We’ve been a really good first-inning team.”

Shaw shouldn’t say that out loud. If other teams hear him they may try to steal the Brewers’ “score a lot of runs early” strategy. Because before now no one has thought to try to do that.

Astros 19, Blue Jays 1:

Carlos Correa homered twice and drove in five. Jose Altuve got three hits for the fifth straight game. The Astros become the fifth team to notch 60 wins by the All-Star break, joining the 1998 Yankees, 2001 Mariners, 2003 Braves and this year’s Dodgers.

Rays 5, Red Sox 3Brad Miller hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth as the Rays take three of four from the Red Sox. The Rays are four over .500 and only three and a half back of the Sox.

Nationals 10, Braves 5: Nats starter Joe Ross left after just three and a third due to some triceps soreness but the Nats’ pen picked him up. Matt Wieters drove in three and Anthony Rendon drove in two and reached base five times. Freddie Freeman went 2-for-4 with three driven in in a losing cause. He’s 10-for-26 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBI in six games since coming off of a two-month DL stint. Dude is a machine.

Phillies 7, Padres 1: Six homers for the Phillies, two from Freddy Galvis. Nick Williams, Cameron RuppOdubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr went deep as well. Jerad Eickhoff struck out eight in five innings. Philly snapped a five-game losing streak.

Orioles 11, Twins 5: Adam Jones hit two homers and drove in five. Ruben Tejada and Seth Smith each had three hits. The win aside, the O’s could use the All-Star break.

Cardinals 6, Mets 0: Lance Lynn tossed seven shutout innings, allowing three hits and Trevor Rosenthal and John Brebbia .  finished off the shutout. Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong and Luke Voit all went deep.

Angels 3, Rangers 0: JC Ramirez tossed six shutout innings and three relievers finished it off. That made the Angels one reliever less-efficient than the Cardinals I guess. Albert Pujols homered, Andrelton Simmons doubled in a run and Juan Graterol hit a sac fly. Ramirez after the game, when asked about what he plans to do during the All-Star break:

“I’m going to Vegas for a couple of days. I need my mind to get away from baseball.”

I’d read the hell out of a story about what non-All Stars do during the break. They’d have to be honest, though.

Rockies 10, White Sox 0Kyle Freeland flirted with a no-no, losing it with one out in the ninth. He struck out nine and walked only three. Shortstop Pat Valaika had his back with five driven in thanks in part to a three-run homer.

Mariners 4, Athletics 0: Yet another shutout. Here Felix Hernandez looked King-like again, allowing only two hits over six innings and striking out eight in his best start of the season. Nelson Cruz hit a two-run shot. He leads the AL in RBI with 70, tied for the MLB lead with Nolan Arenado and Macell Ozuna.

Reds 2, Diamondbacks 1: Homer Bailey was shelled in his first two games back from the DL, allowing fourteen runs in four and two-thirds. In his last two: two runs in twelve and two-thirds. Here he allowed one and worked around four walks and seven hits. Joey Votto singled in a run, Scott Schebler doubled in one. The Dbacks enter the break having lost five of six.

Marlins 10, Giants 8: Giancarlo Stanton is ready for the Home Run Derby. He homered twice here, but it was A.J. Ellis‘ tie-breaking two-run home run in the 11th which loomed the largest for Miami. Not that Stanton was chopped liver: he scored four times and walked twice. He was also hit by a pitch. They needed it all as Miami blew a 7-3 lead in the seventh before winning in extras.

Tigers 5, Indians 3: First time I’ve watched Sunday Night Baseball in a few weeks. David Ross was in the booth which gave him and the other two guys an excuse to talk more about David Ross than the Indians and Tigers playing in front of them. Which is quite a trick given that the game lasted almost four dang hours. Corey Kluber was alright but inefficient, so he was out after five and the bullpen didn’t have his back. Michael Fulmer was more effective, allowing two earned runs over six innings. But again, that just distracted from us all thinking about David Ross’ career, the 2016 World Series, Dancing with the Stars and all of that. What a time to be alive.

How we talk about contracts between players and teams

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The language we use affects the way we think about concepts on both a conscious and subconscious level. For example, an MIT study from 2007 studied English speakers and Russian speakers. The Russian language doesn’t have a single unifying word for the color blue, but English does, of course. Their study found that Russian speakers were 10 percent faster at distinguishing between light blues and dark blues than distinguishing blues within the same shade category.

With that in mind, I’d like to discuss the way we use language with regard to contracts in baseball. Last week, Jose Altuve signed a five-year, $151 million extension with the Astros. Bob Nightegale of USA TODAY tweeted, “The Houston #Astros reward Jose Altuve with 5-year, $151 million extension.” I responded, “This is me being pedantic, but this is bad phrasing. Altuve earned and negotiated $151 million. Saying the Astros ‘rewarded’ Altuve implies a one-sided affair with teams holding all the power.”

This, by the way, is not to single out Bob. Nor is it to lift myself up as somehow being morally superior or more “woke.” Doing cursory research for this piece, I went back through the ways I described contracts when I was writing on my blog Crashburn Alley and on Twitter in the past. I’m just as guilty as anyone for using slanted language to describe contracts and I wish I had been more aware back then.

Motivated by some people who responded to my tweet, I got to thinking about other ways we speak about contracts and how it shapes or perception of the dynamic between players and team ownership. There are plenty of examples. One such example, which we’ve complained about here in the past, is when new ESPN play-by-play broadcaster refers to a player as “property” of a team. What Vasgersian means is that the player is in a team’s minor league system, but what that language elicits is a picture of a player powerless against ownership, subject to their whims. Whether or not that picture is accurate is neither here nor there (and I would argue in this particular instance, it’s accurate, sadly). Allowing such terminology to become part of the language with which we talk about baseball serves to further the disparity in power and weaken our ability to empathize with players.

As with most analyses of language, this will be taken by some to mean I am calling for a ban on this language. I am not; I am simply writing all of this to make you think about the language you use and the world you implicitly paint by using it. If you want to be more mindful of the language you use, great. If not, I appreciate you keeping an open mind. Changing one’s language habits seems daunting at first, but it’s remarkably easy once you dip your toe in the water. What you gain for it is invaluable: you do your part in creating a more equitable world for all of us.

With that being said, here are more examples.

  • Calling a contract a “flop,” “coup,” or “liability”

This takes, by default, the point of view of the front office. In using this language, one is likely to empathize with general managers and team owners, not the players. It is biased language. A “coup,” for example, is defined as a “violent seizure,” usually of power from a government. In this context, calling a contract a “coup” for a player implies he got one over on the team. In reality, he and his agent used their available leverage to bargain for a salary to which the team voluntarily agreed.

In a similar vein, describing a contract as a “flop” or “liability” not only takes the point of view of the front office, but assumes that a player’s production is all that matters. His likeness is still used to market the team to fans in the form of tickets, merchandise, TV ratings, and advertisements. A player can legitimately be described as a liability if he does something that impacts that end of things as well, like being arrested for domestic violence.

  • Talking about the “value” a team gets out of a contract

As above, this language forces the reader or listener to empathize with the front office rather than the players. It takes the humanity out of the process, reducing a player to what he provides for the team. And it usually focuses solely on his on-field production, not taking into account the other ways in which a team may capitalize off of a player, like merchandise and ticket sales.

  • Analyzing the “winners” and “losers” of a contract

Continuing the theme as above, teams are almost always the subjects of a winners/losers analysis of contracts. Let’s use the five-year, $125 million contract between the Phillies and first baseman Ryan Howard as an example. The Phillies are considered to have been “losers” of that agreement. Howard suffered injuries and his performance declined from day one when the extension kicked in in 2012. The Phillies likely felt like they didn’t get a good enough return on their $125 million investment. Howard prided himself on being able to be in the lineup on a day-in, day-out basis and surely wasn’t exactly happy to accrue a total of only 151 games in the 2012-13 seasons. Like all major transactions, this was a complex and complicated one. To simply call the Phillies “losers” implies that Howard did absolutely nothing and the Phillies didn’t get any return on their investment at all, which further reinforces a pro-team, anti-player narrative. Howard still hit 96 homers with a .719 OPS over the life of the contract and the Phillies were able to market him to fans for five more years. It wasn’t a black-and-white issue.

  • Talking about a player being “locked up”

This language is in the same vein as calling a player “property” of a team. Saying a player is “locked up” to a deal creates the imagery that he’s a prisoner being forced into labor against his will. I don’t believe people using this language have nefarious intent, but language matters. The two sides agreed to a contract of their own volition. Ostensibly, there was no coercion or force. Unrelated, but people also use this term when talking about getting engaged, as in, “I got her locked up.” That’s also worth thinking about.

  • Describing a team as having “given,” “granted,” “handed out,” “dealt out,” or “shelled out” money to a player

This is fairly obvious, but this language puts discretionary power on the teams. The player earned that money by being a Major League Baseball player and performing at a level that created enough leverage for him and his agent to negotiate that salary. This language also gives the implication that the team made the choice out of its own good will, as if it is not also benefiting from the agreement. The team gets a player who performs feats of athleticism on the field and is able to be marketed to fans off of the field.

Historically, fans have sided with ownership on labor issues heavily. Fans blamed players for the strike in 1994-95. They scoff now at the idea of collusion among owners even though that very thing resulted in three grievances from the MLB Players Association in the 1980’s. The rise of analytics hasn’t helped, as it has further allowed fans to fantasize about themselves in the role of GM. Baseball video games now allow players to wheel-and-deal like Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, giving the option to bypass actual gameplay by simulating entire seasons. We’re putting ourselves in the players’ shoes less and less.

Perhaps in the near future, spurred by more mindful language selection, baseball fans will begin to empathize with the players. Instead of worrying about the bottom line for a billionaire team owner, they finally understand the plight a Single-A player faces when forced to choose between eating dinner or filling up his gas tank. Maybe they’ll cheer when a player signs a big contract instead of worry about how his team will be able to fit under the competitive balance tax. Maybe they will stop booing him if he slumps, no longer caring if he’s “justifying” his paycheck. And at the end of all of this, perhaps the MLBPA stands tall with a never before seen groundswell of public support when the current collective bargaining agreement ends on December 1, 2021. And maybe we’ll be able to overturn the awful piece of legislation that exempts minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would force teams to pay them minimum wage and overtime.