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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Some history was made last night, as the Minnesota Twins became the first team to make the playoffs after losing 100 games the previous season. Also, the Cubs made the playoffs for the third straight year for the first time since 1906-08. Not too bad.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cubs 5, Cardinals 1: The Cubs clinch their second straight NL Central crown, doing it this time on the field of their rival, the Cardinals. Addison Russell hit a three-run homer. John Lackey allowed one run over six innings. Michael Wacha allowed five runs over six innings, though none of those came in innings one through six. He began the seventh but would never escape it, getting hammered with hit after hit while Mike Matheney, apparently, slept with his eyes open in the Cardinals dugout, oblivious to the fact that his starter was out of gas.

Indians 4, Twins 2: The Indians won, with Danny Salazar pitching well even if he didn’t qualify for the win. Not that this game mattered too much in hindsight, as the Twins sat around afterward, watched the Angels lose and thus clinched the Wild Card, triggering a two-hours-after-the-fact champagne party in the visiting clubhouse of Progressive Field.

White Sox 6, Angels 4: Nicky Delmonico ended the Angels’ postseason hopes and clinched the Wild Card for the Twins with a tenth inning walkoff two-run home run off of Blake Parker. Well done. That was a choice bit of hitting, Nicky. Though we may not have thought much given that you — a cornfed boy from Tennessee — were selected in the 6th round, we all look forward to your prime.

Rockies 15, Marlins 9Ian Desmond hit a three-run homer as part of a six-run second inning that helped sink Miami. Six late runs by the Marlins made this one look a bit closer than it was. The Rockies have a two and a half game lead for the second Wild Card with three games to play.

Reds 6, Brewers 0: The Cubs’ clinching the division closed off one avenue to the playoffs for Milwaukee. The Rockies’ win over the Marlins narrowed a second. Their play, however, is the biggest obstacle. Here Brandon Woodruff got shelled for all six of the Reds’ runs in his two and a third innings of work. Craig Counsell went to eight different relievers after him, none of who surrendered a run, but Milwaukee’s bats couldn’t do anything against Homer Bailey, who tossed seven shutout innings. Joey Votto hit his 36th home run. Tucker Barnhart added another.

Astros 12, Rangers 2: Justin Verlander allowed two runs in six innings and struck out 11, winning his fifth straight stat. George Springer hit a grand slam. Jose Altuve notched his 200th hit for the fourth straight season, which is a pretty rare feat these days. The Astros outscored the Rangers 37-7 in the three-game series.

Athletics 6, Mariners 5: It was tied at five in the bottom of the ninth when Mark Canha hit a walkoff solo homer. Canha only has five homers this year but two of them have been walkoff jobs. Matt Joyce had three doubles. The A’s won their 15th game in the month of September, ensuring a winning month. They’ve not won more games than they’ve lost in a month since April of 2016.

Diamondbacks 4, Giants 3: Another walkoff win, this of the walkoff walk variety. David Peralta was the one showing the patience at a critical time, with his bases-loaded free pass capping a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth for the Diamondbacks. J.D. Martinez hit a homer to start off the rally. How novel that he has hit a home run. Sam Dyson was the victimized Giants reliever, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks. The season, sadly, is ending for him much the way it began when he was back with the Rangers.

Yankees 6, Rays 1: Luis Severino allowed one run on four hits over six innings, striking out nine, while Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks went deep. New York is three games behind the Red Sox in the AL East with four games to play.

Phillies 7, Nationals 5Aaron Altherr went 2-for-4 with a triple and drove in two. Phillies relievers threw four and two-thirds scoreless innings to lock this one down. The Nats now know they’re facing the Cubs in the NLDS. Otherwise they’re just trying to stay healthy until next week.

Pirates 5, Orioles 3Josh Bell hit a two-run homer in the third that made it 4-3 Buccos and the rest was academic. Gregory Polanco homered too. In a game that is meaningless, the biggest cheer may have come when Pedro Alvarez came to bat for Baltimore and was greeted warmly by the Pittsburgh crowd. Maybe more warmly than when he played for the Pirates.

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 7: Rick Porcello was shaky, allowing five runs on seven hits in five and two-thirds, but Xander Bogaerts‘ three-run homer and four RBI led a 13-hit Boston attack that gave him a big enough margin for error. That’s not something the Sox want to see in the playoffs, of course. Boston’s magic number is two.

Mets 7, Braves 1: Robert Gsellman allowed one run over six innings and Travis d'Arnaud drove in three. This was probably Terry Collins’ last game as a manager at Citi Field.

Royals 7, Tigers 4: The Tigers had a 3-0 lead early and led 3-2 as late as the seventh but Paulo Orlando hit a two-run homer that frame to put the Royals up for good. Detroit has lost nine in a row and are planning final day gimmicks. Gonna be plenty of seats available in Comerica Park next season.

Dodgers 10, Padres 0:Rich Hill allowed two hits over seven shutout innings and Yasiel Puig, Curtis Granderson and Corey Seager homered for L.A. The Dodgers outscored the Padres 29-5 over the three game series and have won six of seven overall. Looks like lack of momentum is out as an excuse if they don’t make noise in the playoffs.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.