And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Tigers 7, Mariners 6: A game-winning RBI single for Clete Thomas
in the ninth got Jarrod Washburn off the hook after yet another dismal
post-trade performance. Thomas had hit a walk-off homer earlier this
season, and after game said this: “It’s not as good as the homer, but
any walk-off is awesome.” Yeah, just ask Ray Chapman. Sorry. Too soon?

Braves 3, Mets 2: Johan Santana falls to 0-7 against Atlanta. He
gave up nine hits and only struck out two in seven innings. Kenshin
Kawakami pitched well, but man, that’s not much of a Mets lineup he
faced.

Dodgers 7, Cubs 2: Russell Martin has been a millstone for the
Dodgers this year, but his sixth inning grand slam broke the tie and
effectively won the game for big blue. Lots of fun game story stuff:
“The Dodgers improved to 1,015-1,014 all-time against the Cubs.” I
think it would be hilarious if either Piniella or Torre used that as a
motivator in a pre-game speech, totally deadpanning how serious they
were about wanting to leave this series with the all-time lead. Also:
“Penny Marshall was a pregame dugout visitor with Dodgers manager Joe
Torre.” What is this, 1983? We’re reporting Penny Marshall sightings?
Has anyone seen Anson Williams lately? Finally: “Chicago native Jim
Belushi got booed when he was spotted wearing a Cubs cap.” You sure it
was the Cubs hat that set off the booing? It’s Jim Belushi. He’d
probably be booed even if he was riding piggy back on Sandy Koufax
while singing “Hail to the Dodgers.” (note to self: write a song called
“Hail to the Dodgers”).

Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1: J.D. Drew was 4 for 4 with two homers
and three RBI. Best error of the year so far: Jason Bay is on first
base. Catcher Rod Barajas throws the ball back to Brett Cecil after a
pitch, who drops it. Because no pitcher would ever, ever want to throw
a dirty and possibly scuffed ball, he asks for a new ball from home
plate umpire Greg Gibson. He gets it, and throws the old ball into the
third base dugout. Except he didn’t call time out, which allowed Bay to
move to third on the play. Bay later scored on a single. Heh.

Phillies 12, Diamondbacks 3: Homers from Ryan Howard and Jayson
Werth and eight good innings from Joe Blanton turn this one into a
laugher (Ho-ho-ho, hee-hee-hee, ha-ha-ha . . . see how they smile like
pigs in a sty . . .).

Reds 2, Giants 1: Just-called-up Drew Stubbs hit a walkoff homer
in the tenth to win it. Man, one wonders what would have happened this
year if he had been called up sooner.

Indians 11, Angels 3: Just-called-up Matt LaPorta hit a two-run
double in the sixth that chased John Lackey and busted the game wide
open. Man, one wonders what would have happened this year if he had
been called up sooner.

Astros 4, Marlins 1: Wandy Rodriguez only gave up the one run —
unearned — in eight innings, and added an RBI double in the fifth. The
loss combined with the Braves’ win pulls the Marlins down into a tie
for second in the East with Atlanta, though being 6.5 back makes it all
rather academic. They’re both still four back in the wild card.



Orioles 8, Rays 7: Brian Roberts hit a grand slam and Nolan
Reimold added a three-run shot. Brian Matusz only lastes five and a
third, but he struck out 7 and didn’t walk anybody.

Rockies 4, Nationals 1: Fifth inning, two men on for Colorado,
and Garrett Mock appears to strike out Carlos Gonzalez on a
swing-and-miss. THe Nats walk to the dugout, but then Rockies manager
Jim Tracy comes out to argue that the ball had been tipped, the umps
agree and Gonzalez resumes his at-bat, who proceeds to hit an RBI
double. When was the last time a manager actually got an ump to change
his mind like this? Does Tracy possess the power to perform the Jedi
mind trick?

Cardinals 5, Padres 1: It’s no reason for concern, but Albert
Pujols is 4 for his last 24 with only two extra base hits. Thankfully,
however, he’s getting some help from his teammates these days and the
Cards really didn’t need him against the Pads last night. Joel Pineiro
was strong once again, and Brendan Ryan hit a grand slam. This quote
from Pineiro is troubling, however: “The big grand slam by Ryno kind of
gave me a little bit of extra breathing room to settle down and go out
there and work.” Cardinals players are allowed to be nicknamed “Ryno?”
What if Carlos Zambrano started calling himself Old Hoot and Geovany
Soto started being referred to as “The Man?”

Rangers 11, Twins 1: Marlon Byrd had two homers and had a slick
diving catch in left. Nelson Cruz returned from the DL with a homer of
his own. Cruz’s replacement, Julio Borbon, went 3-for-5 with three RBI,
and is hitting .536 (15-for-28) in seven starts since being called up.
Someone had better check and see if Neftali Feliz is OK, though, as he
only struck out one dude in 1.2 innings instead of the three or four
we’ve come to expect.

Free agents who sign with new teams are not disloyal

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Most mornings my local newspaper is pretty predictable.

I know, when I navigate to its home page, that I’ll find about eleventeen stories about Ohio State football, even if it is not football season (especially if it’s not football season, actually), part 6 of an amazingly detailed 8-part investigation into a thing that is super important but which no one reads because it has nothing to do with Ohio State football and, perhaps, a handful of write-ups of stories that went viral online six days previously and have nothing to do with anything that matters.

Local print news is doing great, everyone.

I did, however, get a surprise this morning. A story about baseball! A baseball story that was not buried seven clicks into the sports section, but one that was surfaced onto the front page of the website!  The story was about Michael Brantley signing with the Astros.

Normally I’d be dead chuffed! But then I saw something which kinda irked me. Check out the headline:

Is Michael Brantley “leaving” the Indians? I don’t think so. He’s a free agent signing with a baseball team. He’s no more “leaving” the Indians than you are “leaving” an employer who laid you off to take a job at one of its competitors. This is especially true given that the Indians made no effort whatsoever to sign him. Indeed, they didn’t even give him a qualifying offer, making it very clear as of November 2 that they had no intention of bringing him back. Yet, there’s the headline: “Michael Brantley leaves Indians.”

To be clear, apart from the headline, the article is unobjectionable in any way. It merely recounts Ken Rosenthal’s report about Brantley signing with the Astros and does not make any claim or implication that Brantley was somehow disloyal or that Indians fans should be upset at him.

I do wish, though, that editors would not use this kind of construction, even in headlines, because even in today’s far more savvy and enlightened age, it encourages some bad and outmoded views of how players are expected to interact with teams.

Since the advent of free agency players have often been criticized as greedy or self-centered for signing contracts with new teams. Indeed, they are often cast as disloyal in some way for leaving the team which drafted or developed them. It’s less the case now than it used to be, but there are still a lot of fans who view a player leaving via free agency as some kind of a slap in the face, especially if he joins a rival. Meanwhile, when a team decides to move on from a player, either releasing him or, as was the case with the Indians and Brantley, making no effort to bring him back, it’s viewed as a perfectly defensible business decision. There was no comparable headline, back in early November, that said “Indians dump Brantley.”

Make no mistake: it may very well turn out to be a quite reasonable business decision for Cleveland to move on from Brantley. Maybe they know things about him we don’t. Maybe they simply know better about how he’ll do over the next year than the Astros do. I in no way intend for this little rant to imply that the Indians owed Brantley any more than he owed the Indians once their business arrangement came to an end. They don’t.

But I do suspect that there are still a decent number fans out there who view a free agent leaving his former team as some sort of betrayal. Maybe not Brantley, but what if Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies? What if Kris Bryant walks and joins the Cardinals when he reaches free agency? Fans may, in general, be more enlightened now than they used to be, but even a little time on talk radio or in comments sections reveals that a number of them view ballplayers exercising their bargained-for rights as “traitors.” Or, as it’s often written, “traders.” I don’t care for that whole dynamic.

Maybe this little Michael Brantley headline in a local paper that doesn’t cover all that much baseball is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an example of how pervasive that unfortunate dynamic is. It gives fans, however tacitly, license to continue to think of players as bad people for exercising their rights. I don’t think that belief will ever completely disappear — sports and irrationality go hand-in-hand — but I’d prefer it if, like teams, athletes are likewise given an understanding nod when they make a business decision. The best way to ensure that is to make sure that such decisions are not misrepresented.