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Clutch hitting powers the East to a 4-2 win in the AFL Fall Stars Game

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Baseball isn’t quite over yet. The league’s top prospects clashed in the Arizona Fall League’s annual Fall Stars Game on Saturday evening, which ended by a score of 4-2 when the East Fall Stars took the lead with an eighth-inning rally.

The Nationals’ No. 1 prospect, center fielder Victor Robles, was crowned the MVP after kicking off the three-run comeback with an RBI single off of Indians’ right-hander Argenis Angulo. From there, things snowballed: the Brewers’ Corey Ray took a six-pitch walk, effectively ending Angulo’s outing, followed by another RBI single from the Athletics’ Sheldon Neuse and a sac fly by D-backs’ right fielder Victor Reyes.

Clutch hitting wasn’t the only feature of the game, however. East Fall Stars’ starter and Pirates’ right-hander Mitch Keller dazzled through the first two innings of one-run ball, as did opposing starter and Yankees’ southpaw Justus Sheffield. Their successors — Sandy Alcantara and Tanner Scott, respectively — did them one better, holding their respective opponents scoreless through the fourth.

In the fifth inning, something had to give, and that something turned out to be Adbert Alzolay’s fastball. Padres’ shortstop Luis Urias pounced on a 3-1 pitch left high in the zone, riding it for a deep home run to take the lead. It was the first and last time the West Fall Stars would hold a lead all evening.

Following Urias’ home run and the East Fall Stars’ subsequent rally, Giants’ righty Tyler Cyr returned to close out the ninth inning. He induced a ground out from Andrew Knizner, then caught Braden Bishop swinging at a low changeup and retired Nicky Lopez with a game-ending line out.

With the conclusion of the Fall Stars Game, Arizona Fall League competitors are looking at just nine more games before the Championship Game kicks off at Scottsdale Stadium on November 18. Game time is set for 1:08 PM ET, with the competitors yet to be decided. The Mesa Solar Sox (comprised of Cubs, Tigers, Astros, Athletics and Nationals affiliates) and Peoria Javelinas (Braves, Red Sox, Padres, Mariners and Blue Jays) currently lead their respective divisions with identical 12-9 records.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.