And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

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Marcus Thames celebrate.jpgYankees 11, Red Sox 9: Papelplosion.  The Yankees blew a 6-1 lead and found themselves down 9-7 nearly four hours and eight and a third innings into it when A-Rod hit a two-run homer to tie it and Marcus Thames hit a two-run homer to win it. Papelbon had a day off on Sunday, but one can’t help but wonder if that 2+ inning outing on Saturday night was still lingering in that right arm of his.

Rays 4, Indians 3: The game ended on a squeeze play in the 11th, which is pretty sweet. I didn’t see any of this, but I did watch their AAA teams play each other down in Columbus, with the Clippers beating the Durham Bulls 5-1 on the strength of a grand slam and a solo shot off the bat of Carlos Santana. That there is a young man who probably needs to be in the major leagues right now.  If you’re curious, here’s a picture of Columbus, Ohio’s Huntington Park with my bald head and sideburns, stage right, taken by Will.  Not bad for an iPhone.

Phillies 12, Pirates 2: I watched that Clippers-Bulls game with Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll, who was in town for Will Carrolly things. During the game I was complaining about Nate McLouth and made some reference to the trade with the Pirates that brought him to Atlanta in exchange for Charlie Morton. Will says something to the effect of “Morton throws hard.”  The score of this one flashed up on the out of town scoreboard. Then Will, after taking a thoughtful pull of his beer, says “didn’t say he threw well. Just hard.”

Padres 3, Giants 1: I guess the Padres just have the Giants’ number. That’s seven in a row this season for San Diego against the Giants.  Random game story factoid of the night: “Bruce Bochy, who still has an offseason home in suburban Poway, was
bummed because he might have to have his 16-year-old Labrador
euthanized.”

Diamondbacks 5, Marlins 1: Edwin Jackson is always good for pulling some otherworldly performance out of his back pocket amidst a string of terrible starts and last night was a fine example: eight shutout innings of 12-strikeout ball. Add Hanley Ramirez getting benched for not hustling after a ball he kicked out into the outfield and you have a night the Marlins would prefer to forget.

Reds 6, Brewers 3: Johnny Cueto follows up his one hitter with seven innings of one-run baseball (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 7K). From the game story: “A fan wearing a Reds batting helmet and a red shirt with a “1” on the
front danced in the second row behind the dugout when the team took the
field for warmups, yelling: “First place! First place! First place!” The
scoreboard made a point of emphasis to show the division standings,
drawing cheers.”  Glad to see Cincy acting like they’ve been there before. Sheesh.

Twins 8, Blue Jays 3: Justin Morneau went 3 for 4 with two homers a walk and four RBIs. Morneau is having an absolutely sick season, by the way. .375/.491/.710 with 11 homers and 29 RBI, which puts him on pace to [quickly figuring] . . . be totally awesome.

Mets 3, Braves 2: If you tell me that (a) the Mets are in town; and (b) Derek Lowe actually pitched OK, I would have bet between 50 and 75 dollars that the Braves would have won, but alas it was not to be. Mike Pelfrey had a good night and either bad luck or bad baserunning by the Braves got him out of a couple of jams that should have been more trouble than they were.

Rangers 4, Angels 3: Scott Kazmir gave up four runs and nine hits in seven innings in what was probably his best outing of the
season, even if it was in a losing cause. This was the first time these two teams have faced each other all year, which is rather astounding to me.

Cardinals 6, Nationals 2: The fact that the Cardinals scored four runs in the first inning probably means that Albert Pujols is going to be batting cleanup for the foreseeable future.

Royals 4, Orioles 3: An ugly game between bad teams in horrible weather. Ned Yost: “We have played the last three, four nights in muddy weather and it’s
been sloppy out there. I’m coming to find out we’re pretty
good mudders.”  I hear his mother was a mudder. Yeah, this baby loves the slop, loves it, eats it up. Eats the slop. Born
in the slop. His father was a mudder too.
 
Cubs 4, Rockies 2: A walkoff two-run homer for Aramis Ramirez in the bottom of the 11th.  Welcome to the party, pal.

Dodgers 6, Astros 2: John Ely has faced 84 guys in a row without walking anyone. Last night he threw first pitch strikes to 20 of the 25 guys he faced. Pitching coaches all over baseball are walking around their clubhouses today saying “why can’t you be more like Johnny?”

Athletics 8, Mariners 4: Gio Gonzalez on the Athletics breaking their five-game losing streak: “Sometimes I psych myself out. I didn’t even realize we
were in such a long losing streak.”  He later failed to add: “It feels ‘out there.’ A major rush.  I mean it doesn’t just feel ‘out there’ but it feels out there.”

White Sox vs. Tigers: Postponed:

Let the rain kiss
you.

Let the rain beat
upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you
a lullaby.

The rain makes still
pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes
running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a
little sleep-song on our roof at night–

And I love the rain.

— Langston Hughes, a man who, for all his talents, obviously wasn’t a big baseball fan.

Something needs to change to avoid future incidents like Machado-vs.-Welke

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced that Padres third baseman Manny Machado was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for “aggressively arguing” and making contact with home plate umpire Bill Welke after a controversial strike three call in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game against the Rockies in Colorado. The clip of the incident is below, showing that Welke’s call was poor. Machado’s behavior was also poor, as he indeed made contact — inadvertently or not — with Welke and repeatedly swore at him. Machado also threw his bat, though it was not in anyone’s direction and no one was put in harm’s way.

Machado chose to appeal his suspension, as is his right. While that matter is in the process of being resolved, the Major League Umpires Association put out a lengthy statement on Facebook and a shorter but hashtag-laden post on Twitter. The statements were problematic for a number of reasons, chiefest being that the union is publicly commenting on an ongoing matter. MLB can keep Machado’s suspension at one game, which seems likely, or it can reduce his suspension to zero games. The league can also choose to reduce or remove the fine as well. Once the matter is resolved, the MLBUA should feel free to comment publicly on the matter.

MLBUA’s statement was also poorly proofread, hyperbolic, and creates a very legitimate argument for bias against Machado and/or the Padres going forward. The MLBUA described Machado as “violently” throwing his bat “with no regard to anyone’s safety.” It continued, “It is NOT okay to throw a temper tantrum and physically touch someone of authority, just because you don’t agree.”

MLBUA then moralized, asking, “What does this teach the MLB’s immense and ongoing influential youth movement trying to attract young fans to the game? Major League Baseball has to always lead by example in all cases of violent behavior, on and off the field.” It closed out, saying that the union was “extraordinarily disappointed” in MLB’s “inaction.”

Among the hashtags MLBUA used on Twitter were “#TemperTantrum,” “#RepeatOffender,” and “#Nonsense.”

Major League Baseball then released a statement on Tuesday night, saying, “…we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association.” The league added, “We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”

Whoever put out the message on behalf of the MLBUA should have asked themselves, “What is my purpose here and for whom am I posting this?” The entire purpose of a trade union is to create a cohesive unit, establishing bargaining power on behalf of labor versus capital. So, MLBUA is not writing this for fans, for players, or for MLB executives; it is publicly commenting for umpires. An ancillary benefit might be to engender public support for umpires vis-a-vis Welke.

It must then ask itself if the statement creates solidarity among umpires. And I think that’s a solid no. Machado is not the first player and will not be the last to make contact with an umpire and to throw a “temper tantrum” of that magnitude. So why single Machado out and die on this hill today? I would be shocked if more than a handful of umpires outside of Welke and his closest confidantes appreciated the MLBUA reacting the way it did. It doesn’t help them achieve any union-specific goals and might actually hurt them. Repeatedly referring to Machado’s actions as a “temper tantrum” and “nonsense,” and calling him a “repeat offender” is unprofessional. It’s something an Internet commenter would write in the heat of the moment, not the representative of a trade union in one of the most profitable industries in the country. Furthermore, in singling out Machado, Machado himself as well as his teammates have a legitimate reason to believe Welke and his crew might be biased against them not just for the remainder of the season but for the foreseeable future.

On a more pedantic note, the MLBUA wrote that it is not okay for players to act the way Machado did against “someone of authority.” It’s not the power that should shield umpires from workplace violence; it’s their humanity. Machado should no more or less scream and yell at an umpire than he should anyone else in any walk of life. However you rank umpires, coaches, front office executives, teammates, opponents, fans, etc. — they should all be treated equally.

All of this being said, there was one part of MLBUA’s statement that rang true. As mentioned, Welke did suffer violence in the workplace. I disagree with MLB that the comparison was inappropriate. There is nuance to what constitutes “workplace violence.” Is it a mass shooting? Of course not. But in no other employment setting would it be appropriate for one person to scream, curse, and throw items across the room during a disagreement. The union correctly wrote, “Physical contact simply cannot be tolerated.” The crux of all of this is that Major League Baseball doesn’t discourage altercations between umpires and players/coaches. Things have gotten better since the implementation of instant replay, but some instances — especially ball/strike judgment — can turn into very heated altercations.

MLB needs a flat rule instructing players and coaches not to argue with umpires. The team of the offending person(s) would incur an in-game penalty as well as a potential fine and suspension. In exchange for this loss of power on the part of players and coaches, the umpires should be subject to actual oversight. As it stands, umpires are almost never punished in any way for any kind of behavior towards players and coaches, nor are they often punished for poor results in terms of correct calls made. The umpires already have the advantage with their authority; their lack of oversight puts that advantage on steroids, which is why there’s often so much frustration. Umpires instigate confrontations a non-negligible amount of the time. If they felt like they would actually be held accountable for it, they might be much more reluctant to act, for example, the way Ron Kulpa did towards the Astros in early April.

MLBUA helped gain that power imbalance for its members, so it isn’t likely to give it up very easily. I don’t see my utopian dream coming to fruition anytime soon. But that’s the crux of every umpire-involved confrontation: authority. Umpires and players/coaches need to be on a level playing field in that regard, and the rules need to be crystal clear on what kind of behavior is allowed from both sides. Until that happens, we’ll be seeing a Machado-vs.-Welke incident once or twice every year ad infinitum.