Associated Press

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Below are the highlights. A bit later than usual for a Monday morning because I spent last night at a Dead Milkmen concert. Not even lying. They were my favorite band for a time in the mid-to-late 1980s. As for them in 2017? Not bad for a bunch of 50-somethings playing music that I liked as a ten-something. In fact, it was pretty amazing.

Oh, and because I’m an old man, I never know what to wear to concerts anymore. This one was easy, though. The Dead Milkmen are from Philly, so I wore my Jeff Francoeur Phillies shirsey (you remember that I bought that, right?). I’d like to think they appreciated the gesture and that, maybe, they liked me because I wasn’t like all of the other people there, in the trailer park.

Anyway:

Astros 7, Mariners 1: And with that the Astros clinch the AL West. Justin Verlander continues to do what he was picked up to do, striking out ten in seven innings and allowing only one run on three hits. Verlander is doing his best Doyle Alexander impression. Those of us of a certain age certainly remember that 1987 Tigers season. If not for Alexander’s fantastic late run after his midseason pickup from the Braves, then for the fact that Tigers outfielder Jim Walewander made the news that summer when it was revealed that he was the most famous Dead Milkmen fan around. It was even listed on his baseball card. During that season, he met the band at Tiger Stadium after they played a gig nearby. That same day he also hit his only major league home run. Rodney, Joe, Dave (RIP) and Dean did not see him do it, though. They had to get in their van before the game started and head on to the next town. By the way: the band still tours in a white van. Saw it parked outside the club last night. They set up their own instruments and stuff too. They never made it so big that they got a bus or roadies or anything. In fact, I think they all have day jobs now. It must be weird to have something of a cult national following but to never have really gotten past the “we tour in a van that we drive ourselves and have day jobs” mode. But respect to them for still doin’ it.

Oh, congratulations, Astros.

Athletics 6, Phillies 3: Down 3-2 in the sixth, the A’s Joey Wendle hit a go-ahead grand slam for Oakland. From the AP writeup:

Growing up near Philadelphia, Joey Wendle dreamed of coming to the plate and hitting a game-winning home run for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

My first thought was “how could any adult have dreamt about hitting a homer in CPB when they were a kid? The place is new!” Then I looked it up and realized that that park opened in 2004 and that Wendle was just a tad older than my daughter is now when it made its debut. My god, where has time gone? *puts on “Bucky Fellini” and pretends it’s still July 1987, when I turned 14 years old*

Orioles 6, Yankees 4Ubaldo Jimenez struck out 10 in just five innings and Tim Beckham hit a three-run homer. Also: Buck Showalter had Zach Britton walk Aaron Judge with two outs in the ninth, bringing the potential winning run to the plate in the form of Gary Sanchez. It worked — Sanchez struck out — and to be honest, given how much Judge has abused the Orioles this year, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing. You may remember that Showalter was also the guy who once ordered an intentional walk to Barry Bonds with the bases loaded back when Showalter managed the Diamondbacks. A man has to have a code.

Indians 3, Royals 2: The Indians technically clinched the AL Central on Saturday, but they celebrated it after yesterday’s win. And it wasn’t one of those bittersweet, we-backed-in sort of things, as they just kept on rolling with the 3-2 win. Corey Kluber — who is probably going to win the Cy Young given his amazing second half — tossed seven shutout innings to notch his 17th win and push his ERA down to 2.34. Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer. Friday night’s loss ended that winning streak but nothing seems to be stopping them otherwise.

Tigers 12, White Sox 0: Matt Boyd lost his no-hitter with two out in the ninth but Tim Anderson‘s double to break things up was all he allowed. Nine innings, the one hit, one walk and five strikeouts for Boyd. On offense the Tigers rolled. Jeimer Candelario hit a three-run shot and drove in four. Nicholas Castellanos hit a two-run homer and doubled in two more. Miguel Cabrera sat with aches and pains, but what else is new?

Reds 5, Pirates 2Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett each hit two-run homers and Tucker Barnhart triples home a run as Cincinnati scored all five of their runs in the sixth inning. They were backed by Robert Stephenson‘s six innings of one-hit, shutout ball.

Rays 3, Red Sox 2: Jake Odorizzi allowed only one hit in six innings, though it was a two-run homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. That tied things up at two, but Jesus Sucre‘s solo shot in the bottom half of the sixth put the Rays ahead. David Price returned and tossed two hitless innings in relief against his old team. He’ll be an intriguing piece of the postseason puzzle for Boston. He could be anything from the most expensive lefty specialist of all time to their version of Andrew Miller.

Mets 5, Braves 1: Robert Gsellman didn’t allow an earned run over seven innings and Asdrubal Cabrera had a two-run, pinch hit homer as the Mets cruised. The Braves are officially eliminated from playoff contention. So sad. Really thought they had a run in them. Oh well, they could still finish at .500 if they win every single one of their last 14 games. Let’s do it, Bravos!

 

Twins 13, Blue Jays 7: Toronto took a 5-0 lead behind two Josh Donaldson homers in the first inning and a half but the Twins came roaring back with seven in the second and then six more in the fifth before the Jays would cross home plate again. Eddie Rosario hit two homers and Joe Mauer hit a grand slam. Byron Buxton homered and doubled in a run. The Twins remain two games up on the Angels for the second Wild Card.

Brewers 10, Marlins 3Travis ShawJesus Aguilar and Manny Pina each had two hits and Shaw and Domingo Santana each drove in three as the Brewers take two of three from the displaced Miami Marlins. The Brewers stayed four games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and got within two and a half games of Colorado for the final NL wild-card spot. Miami has lost 17 of 20 games.

Cubs 4, Cardinals 3: The Cubs sweep the Cardinals in their three-game series and take their sixth game in a row to push St. Louis six back in the Central with only thirteen games left to play. So much for that frisky little run from the Cardinals. Jason Heyward hit a tiebreaking RBI in the seventh. Ben Zobrist drove in two and Kyle Schwarber hit a homer.

Rangers 4, Angels 2: Joey Gallo hit a solo homer that went nearly 500 feet. Mercy. Really, NO ONE hits a ball to this part of Angels Stadium:

Adrian Beltre hit a two-run double and had two hits on the day. I would’ve bet the ranch that he wouldn’t play again this season too.

Giants 7, Diamondbacks 2: If I didn’t think Beltre would play again, I didn’t think Pablo Sandoval was even alive. But here he is, hitting a homer and driving in three. J.D. Martinez hit yet another homer — his 40th overall and his 24th in 51 games as a Diamondbacks. The Dbacks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six.

Nationals 7, Dodgers 1: Stephen Strasburg‘s scoreless innings streak ends at 35 but he allowed only the one run in six innings en route to a win. Ryan Zimmerman hit two homers in this possible NLCS matchup. Weirdest thing about the Dodgers and Nats meeting in the NLCS: one of them would have to actually win it and advance to the World Series. Not sure that’s in either team’s DNA, but I guess we’ll see. Indeed, if that series happens, it will be such an interesting matchup you’ll want to drive your car up here from the Bahamas to check it out.

Now, the important thing here is, you ask me what kind of car it is.

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.