Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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An infectious disease doctor’s take on the Zika-induced cancellation of the Puerto Rico series

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Dr. Paul Sax has been reading my baseball stuff forever. Like, from way, way, way back. That doesn’t say a lot for him — even I can’t stand my baseball stuff for extended periods an I wonder how he gets the stamina — but the fact that he’s the director of an infectious disease program and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School makes up for that. Those are OK credentials. I guess.

His baseball fandom and his professional expertise come in super handy today, as he writes about Major League Baseball’s decision to cancel the Pirates-Marlins series in Puerto Rico due to Zika concerns. The biggest takeaway, other than the content itself, is that if the director of an infectious disease program and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School says that he can see both sides of the cancellation — and that’s the upshot — anyone who claims that MLB either made the absolutely correct decision or engaged in an act of “touristic terrorism” is out to lunch. There’s just too much that is unknown.

Erring on the side of caution is probably sensible. Erring on the other side of it would’ve had some admirable things going for it too. But it doesn’t change the fact that either position was some sort of erring or another.

 

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Hope y’all had a nice weekend. Hope you moms out there had a good Mother’s Day. Hope there was a lot of baseball in it for you and for her, if she partakes. If you or her missed the action yesterday, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Dodgers 4, Blue Jays 2: Howie Kendrick hit the go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning. Dave Roberts said of the hit afterward, “for him to find some outfield grass was big.” Indeed it was big. You could walk around the outfield at Rogers Centre for years and not find any grass but Kendrick did. Amazing.

Indians 5, Royals 4: Josh Tomlin was effective and remained unbeaten and Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli homered as Cleveland takes two of three from Kansas City. The Royals are 15-15 at the moment. If anyone wants to panic about that they can look back and see that last year, 30 games in, they were 19-11. If anyone wants to calm down they can look back and see that in 2014, 30 games in, they were 14-16. Won the pennant in both years, of course. It’s still early yet for everyone.

Rangers 8, Tigers 3: The Rangers traded Bobby Wilson to Detroit in March. The Tigers didn’t use him much and when they got James McCann back off the DL last week, they traded him back to the Rangers. Five days later he hit a tie-breaking grand freakin’ slam off of ’em. He’s going to tell that story at bars for the rest of his life and he will be damn right to do so. Oh, and while I said in the Royals-Indians recaps that it’s early and while I stand by that sentiment, there are some things which are written in stone before the season even begins, and one of those things is THE DETROIT TIGERS’ BULLPEN WILL SUCK EGGS. Yes, it’s written in all-caps. Whoever was carving in that stone meant business. Here it was Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe who took possession of seven shutout innings from Justin Verlander and proceeded to pour kerosene all over it and then drop a Zippo lighter in the puddle like some movie terrorist with a flair for the dramatic.

Brewers 5, Reds 4: Ryan Braun homered and is on a pretty fantastic hot streak, but Jonathan Lucroy gets the cool points for this game. Why? He hit the go-ahead homer late and then, for the last out of the game, he gunned down the extraordinary speedy Billy Hamilton. Like, by throwing the ball down to second base. Not literally gunning him down. That would’ve been illegal and would’ve had me writing a very different set of stories today.

Phillies 6, Marlins 5Tyler Goeddel drove in the tying run with two outs in the eighth inning and he came around to score the winning run. The Phillies are 11-3 in one-run games. That kind of thing early on in a season is fun because it makes a team’s pythagorean won-loss record (i.e. the estimate of what a team’s winning percentage normally would be given their runs scored and runs allowed) kinda screwy. The Phillies are 18-14 overall but their pythagorean record is 12-20.

Orioles 11, Athletics 3: Manny Machado hit two homers and drove in six. While playing shortstop. In a season where he’s slashing .350/.403/.691 and is on pace for 49 homers. Your Trout vs. Harper debates are unreasonably close-minded, you guys.

Diamondbacks 5, Braves 3: Chris Herrmann is no Machado, but he hit two homers as well. One of them came with two outs in the 11th inning so it loomed more than a bit large here. The Dbacks sweep the Braves. Everyone sweeps the damn Braves. It’s so bad that I went incognito as a Tigers fan while out hiking this week. OK, not totally incognito. That shirt I was wearing is a Braves 2013 playoff shirt, but I was more embarrassed by it in and of itself than I was by the fact that I was wearing a shirt and a cap from different teams. Thankfully it rained on me late in the hike and I could cover the shirt up with a jacket. Are you happy, Braves? I’m actually happier I got rained on in the middle of the freakin’ woods than I am proud to sport your team’s gear.

White Sox 3, Twins 1: Jose Quintana continues to be the best pitcher most folks haven’t heard of, tossing seven innings of one-run ball. He improves to 5-1 on the year with a 1.38 ERA. The Sox sweep the Twins and sport a five-game lead in the AL Central.

Astros 5, Mariners 1: Tyler White had a nice game, hitting two doubles and driving in a run, helping him to continue to break out of a slump he had been in. Jose Altuve had two hits and stole three bases. The Astros stole five in all.

Pirates 10, Cardinals 5: Gregory Polanco hit a three-run homer and John Jaso hit a two-run shot to account for half of the Pirates’ runs on the day. Afterward, Polanco described his homer thusly:

“I was looking for a good pitch. He threw me one that was out and over the plate and it was something I could drive”

I read game stories for most games every morning and some variation of that — “I was looking for a pitch that was good for me and bad for the pitcher and then the pitcher threw one that was good for me and bad for him and I hit it” — appears in a good half of them every day. There are slight differences. Some make a reference to “putting a barrel on it” or whatever and others don’t, but that same sentiment (i.e. “I hit the pitch the pitcher threw”) is always there. Which, hey, I get it, because how else do you answer “what happened when you hit that homer?” other than by saying that? Makes me think, though, that we should maybe just stop asking guys what happened when they hit that homer.

Cubs 4, Nationals 3: Bryce Harper‘s day — seven plate appearances, six walks, no official at bats — was silly, but it worked out for Chicago. It was helped out by Ryan Zimmerman hitting behind him and stranding 14 baserunners. At some point walking Harper a ton isn’t going to work out — over time, putting even a fearsome guy on intentionally works against the opposition — but you have to think that, until that happens, Dusty Baker may want to put Daniel Murphy behind Harper in the order? Just asking! The Cubs, meanwhile, are ridiculously hot. They sweep the Nats and win their seventh in a row. They’re 24-6 and sport a 7.5 game lead in what was supposed to be the toughest division in baseball.

Rays 3, Angels 1: Matt Andriese pitched seven innings of four-hit ball. Andriese is from southern California and his family was there, including his mom on Mother’s Day, watching her boy do what he’s worked his whole life to do. Yesterday I ate pork chops at my mom’s house so it was basically the same thing. Rays sweep the Angels.

Rockies 2, Giants 0: Nolan Arenado singled, doubled and tripled. The Rockies finished their 10-game road trip 6-4 which, according to the AP gamer, is the first time they’ve had a winning record on a road trip of 10 games or more since 2009.

Mets 4, Padres 3: Matt Harvey struck out ten batters in six innings. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate. That’s not as impressive as Bartolo Colon‘s homer on Saturday night, but it’s definitely a thing. Last night Bill wrote about how pitchers hitting occasional dingers make the NL rules fun. I’ll grant that Colon’s homer was maybe the most entertaining thing I’ve seen in a long time, but I’m still in favor of making the DH universal. Bill has been suspended from writing for HBT for his dissension. He will spend the next month in a reeducation camp. Sorry, that’s how we roll here. We cannot allow such heresy to undermine The Movement.

Red Sox 5, Yankees 1: David Ortiz hit two homers. Steven Wright struck out seven while tossing a complete game. Imagine how much harder it would’ve been for him to get the win if he had to bat for himself. Imagine how much fun David Ortiz would be having, I dunno, coaching high school kids someplace if he had washed out of the majors at 25 because he couldn’t field a position. DH-4-Eva.

 

MLB-MLBPA announce the postponement of the Puerto Rico series due to Zika concerns

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This, as we have noted previously, was inevitable. But Major League Baseball and the MLBPA just issued a joint press release announcing the postponement of the late May series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Miami Marlins in Puerto Rico. The reason: fears of Zika in light of the outbreak on the island. The series has been moved to Marlins Park in Miami.

From the release:

The Players Association requested that Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. relocate the games after numerous players expressed concerns about contracting and potentially transmitting the Zika virus to their partners.  Players and staff of both Clubs received full briefings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) science staff regarding the risks associated with the Zika virus, and the recommended precautions for travelers including those with partners who are pregnant or attempting to conceive.  After discussing the issue with all involved parties, and consulting with federal and Puerto Rican government officials at the highest levels, Commissioner Manfred decided that the players who objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel to Puerto Rico.  Because too many regulars on both Clubs fell into that category, Commissioner Manfred had no choice but to relocate the games.

The release goes on to say that, in lieu of the games, MLB will stage several youth baseball and community events in Puerto Rico later this month, which will be attended by Commissioner Manfred and several former MLB players. Both MLB and the Players Association also will make contributions to the CDC Foundation to assist the efforts to eradicate Zika in Puerto Rico.

Ultimately, far too many players voiced concerns about playing in Puerto Rico. Expect officials from Puerto Rico to blast the decision as hysteria and alarmism, as they did in anticipation of it in recent days. Also, expect there to be more discussion about Zika in the future, as it’s already something that is entering Florida and will likely be a bigger problem on the U.S. mainland in the future than it is now.