And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Johan Santana sitting.jpgPhillies 11, Mets 5: Look, there are about 17 different ways in which
Johan Santana’s awful night could be described, but I think the fact
that he walked Jamie Moyer with the bases loaded in the fourth pretty
much tells you all you need to know. The Victorino grand slam that
immediately followed was less troublesome than that in my mind. Final line for
Santana: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 10 ER, 4 HR. On the bright side, after the
Phillies put up the nine-spot in the fourth, I was able to turn off the
game and go through the cool stuff I bought at the baseball card show I
went to yesterday. My favorite find: the SI issue from 1972 with Dick
Allen smoking a cig and juggling baseballs in the White Sox dugout on the cover
. It’s
totally going up on the wall of my office. You know, for inspiration.

Rays 1, Royals 0:  Gary Gooper in “High Noon” had more help than Zach Greinke has whenever he takes the hill. He ought to throw his badge in the dirt and get on the train with Grace Kelly and leave town. Four hit, a single earned run, six strikeouts and another loss. He’s gonna wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For
a tin star.

Tigers 5, Angels 1: Justin Verlander had been as inefficient as a Rube Goldberg machine his past couple of starts, but he streamlined things nicely — at least for him — with a three-hit, 7K, 0BB 120-pitch outing against the Halos. He retired 23 straight Angels at one point.

Dodgers 9, Pirates 3: Eight strong innings from Hiroki Kuroda, four hits from Blake DeWitt, a 3 for 4 day from James Loney and a 3 for 5 with two homers from Andre Ethier help the Dodgers complete a ship-righting series against the Pirates.

Rockies 4, Giants 1:  Jason Giambi apparently created some sort of infinite improbability field in the fourth inning which allowed him to commit the quite improbable act of a lummox like him stealing second base. This no doubt rattled Jonathan Sanchez to no end, because he walked three straight batters after that, giving the Rockies a 1-0 lead. The rest of the game promptly vanished in a puff of ill-logic, at least from the Giants’ perspective.

Rangers 3, Mariners 1: Tough luck no-decision for Doug Fister, who was perfect into the sixth inning and gave up only three hits through eight, but then had David Aardma come in and blow the save. Not that he was rocked or anything. In fact, the Rangers won this one without the benefit of a single extra-base hit, which isn’t something you see every day.

Padres 8, Brewers 0: The Brewers were shutout in three of the four games of this series and were outscored 21-2. To say that they’re reeling would be such an insult to reels everywhere that the Zebco corporation would probably consider filing suit.

Orioles 3, Red Sox 2: And the sweep. Nice start from Josh Beckett, but Jason Varitek getting gunned down at home by a mile in the eighth (why was he not pinch-run for again, Terry?) and Jonathan Papelbon failing to get the job done in the tenth (his second inning of work) doomed Boston.   The Orioles have seven wins on the season. Four of them have come against the Bosox.

Cubs 10, Diamondbacks 5: The Cubs take three of four from Arizona on the strength of Alfonso Soriano’s four homers and 10 RBIs. The Cubs have won 7 of 10.

Blue Jays 9, Athletics 3: Shaun Marcum snags the win with plenty of run support after a handful of tough luck losses. The Jays are back to .500, confounding my expectations of them being some trainwreck of a 90+ loss team this year.

Cardinals 6, Reds 0: Chris Carpenter toyed with the Redlegs (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8K). Albert Pujols had a bases loaded double. Aaron Harang has had a nightmare of a season so far, but he was decent enough yesterday, giving up three runs over six innings, striking out six and not walking anyone. The Reds highlight of the day, however, came up on Columbus at that card show I went to, when I spotted an autographed photo of Pete Rose flipping the bird while wearing a loud and garish 1970s business suit. Dude wanted too much for it, though, so I gave it a pass. I’m regretting it this morning.

Yankees 12, White Sox 3: Seven shutout innings from Phil Hughes and an offensive onslaught gives the Yankees yet another series win. Someone told Mark Teixeira it was May (4 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI).

Braves 7, Astros 1: A much-needed sweep for the Braves. Jason Heyward went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI (Yawn). Melky Cabrera went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI and Derek Lowe pitched well (someone alert the authorities).

Marlins 9, Nationals 3: Hanley Ramirez hit a pair of homers and had 4 RBI. Someone told Hanley it’s May too, because as soon as the calendar changed, he got hot.

Twins 8, Indians 3:  Catcher Wilson Ramos, filling in for the injured Joe Mauer, gets four hits in his major league debut. That’s a pretty rare feat, as it has been 12 years since the last time someone had four hits in his major league debut. Francisco Liriano was relatively mortal for once, giving up three runs in seven innings, but he still struck out nine, and with 20 hits behind him, he didn’t need to throw a one-hitter or anything crazy like that.

If you’re wanting to nitpick I suppose you could wonder how a team that got 20 hits and five walks only scored eight runs, but I’m not really in the mood to nitpick: I have a whole box of baseball card show swag to mess with this morning, and that’s way more fulfilling than talking about hitting with runners in scoring position and all that jive.

Report: Braves not expected to pursue Bryce Harper

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Thanks in part to a rebuilding effort that got ahead of schedule, the Braves in 2018 had their best season in five years, finishing 90-72 and winning the NL East. They were stopped in the playoffs by the Dodgers, falling in five games in the NLDS. Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and Brian Snitker won the NL Manager of the Year Award. Veteran outfielder Nick Markakis even got some down-ballot love in NL MVP voting, finishing 18th behind teammates Freddie Freeman (fourth) and Acuña (12th).

Markakis is now a free agent and there happens to be a very talented and still-young outfielder available in free agency this offseason who could replace him and then some. He goes by the name Bryce Harper. You might have heard of him. David O’Brien of The Athletic initially said to not be surprised if the Braves became players in the Harper sweepstakes, but quickly retracted it as a source he trusts assured him the Braves are not, in fact, in on Harper and added that he thought there would be no way Braves ownership (Liberty Media) would sign off on a 10-year deal.

Since being taken over by Liberty Media in 2007, the Braves’ Opening Day payroll has been in the $60 million to $137 million range, according to USA TODAY Sports. On average over that period of time, the Braves have had the 18th-highest payroll among the 30 major league teams. The Braves increased payroll to a franchise-record $137 million on Opening Day in 2017, but cut that all the way back to $83 million in 2018, dropping their rank in baseball from 13th to 27th. In April, the Braves disingenuously played service time games with Acuña, then an uber-prospect who was undoubtedly major-league ready, in order to cheaply get another year of team control over him.

Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote in March this year that Liberty Media has $42 billion in assets. This corporation is not hurting for cash. Yet the Braves cried poor in order to bilk taxpayers of $400 million to fund the totally unnecessary new ballpark that moved the Braves’ home from Atlanta to Cumberland (Cobb County). The stadium is not as easily accessible by way of bus or subway, hurting a lot of the Braves’ poorer fans and those who live in the city, sans car. As Meris Lutz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year, Cobb County found itself in a $30-55 million budget shortfall, even after “raiding $21 million in rainy-day funds to plug a gaping hole in the 2018 budget.” Liberty Media, of course, doesn’t lose anything from this.

The Braves were one of 13 teams in baseball to see an attendance increase from 2017 to ’18, seeing over 50,000 more fans go through the turnstiles. Braves ownership had said that a spike in revenue — from increased attendance as well as from leasing offices and retail space — would lead to increased payroll. Instead, the Braves’ payroll was cut by approximately $54 million and now the organization has reportedly already taken itself out of the running for Harper, unarguably the best free agent outfielder to hit the open market in quite some time. Adding a talent like Harper (or Manny Machado) would solidify the Braves’ legitimacy in the NL East and it would, at minimum, be a show of good faith to Braves fans, whose tax dollars are on constant display during all 81 home games in Cobb County.

This is in stark contrast to Phillies owner John Middleton, who recently said, “We’re going into this [offseason] expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” He added, “We just prefer not to be completely stupid.” This confirms what everyone already knew: the Phillies are major players for elite free agents Harper and Machado. Heck, they might even get both. Either player could exceed the record for the largest contract in baseball history, currently held by Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who signed a 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins in 2014.

This past season, the Phillies fell flat on their faces in the second half while the Braves continued to press forward with a better-constructed team. The Phillies didn’t have an Acuña or a Freddie Freeman and their minor league system still doesn’t quite match up with the Braves’. Sniping Harper from the Phillies would seem almost critical, then. Or at least keeping up with the Phillies by signing other free agents to fill the gaps left by Markakis and others.

Sadly for Braves fans, it seems like Liberty Media got what it wanted, largely on the taxpayers’ dime, and is happy to keep the Braves near the bottom-third of the league when it comes to payroll. If the Braves finish behind the Phillies in 2019 and beyond, fans and the players will have only ownership to blame.