And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

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Cardinals 8, Phillies 4: Sometimes there are these pitches that seem simply unhittable. That scrape the corners, that paint the blacks, that fall right off the table and leave everyone in the house guessing except for the catcher who called for it and the pitcher who threw it. Kyle Kendrick does not possess any of those pitches (5 IP, 7, H, 7 ER, 3 HR). And Charlie Manuel would have yanked him before he gave up his third home run in the fifth inning, but he was gettin’ some shut-eye, see, and told no one to wake him unless there was an e-mergency, get me?

Marlins 9, Rockies 8: A wild one. The Rockies took leads in the third, the sixth and the eighth, but gave the leads back in the third, the sixth and the ninth. I was gonna look and see if the someone was messing with the humidor, but then I saw that they were playing in Florida, and that’s all humidor, all the time. Oh, and Ubaldo Jimenez got beat up. I imagine we’re one or two mortal performances like this one before we return to not paying much more attention to Ubaldo Jimenez starts than we do anyone else’s.

Rays 8, Orioles 1: Wade Davis gives up one run over eight innings. Davis feasts on the Orioles — he’s 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in three starts — but then again, who doesn’t feast on the Orioles?

Reds 7, Nationals 2: Nothing better for a team having hard time scoring runs like a visit from the Nats. The damage was done by Miguel Cairo, Jonny Gomes, Drew Stubbs and Johnny Cueto, which is totally how the Reds drew it up.

Brewers 3, Pirates 1: Chris Capuano got his first win since May 13, 2007. That was about a month after I started blogging. Just two days before that win I put up a post about how Major League Baseball was struggling to figure out how to properly commemorate Barry Bonds imminent breaking of Hank Aaron’s home run record because — as some people were vaguely aware at the time — Selig had some shadowy committee headed up by George Mitchell investigating steroids. So much uncertainty! How much time has passed.

Astros 11, Cubs 5: Remember back when we were all marveling at Carlos Silva’s fast start. Yeah, that’s over (1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER).

Royals 5, Blue Jays 4: Kevin Gregg came out for the bottom of the 10th with a one run lead. A triple and a sac fly tied the score, then Gregg got a grounder for out number two. Can Gregg do it! Nope: Single, walk, single ballgame. Second clunker in a row for Gregg, but at least he didn’t lose that last three-walk game in Baltimore.

Giants 5, Dodgers 2: The Dodgers’ tailspin continues and the Giants continue to surge. Into second place as we wake up this morning. Buster Posey has a 13 game hitting streak. If he keeps that up I may soon stop picturing Tony Hale every time I hear his name.

Diamondbacks 13, Mets 2: Mike Pelfrey gets destroyed in what was probably the worst outing of his career. He’s 1-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his last six starts. After the game Jerry Manuel went off about how Pelfrey needs to quit throwing junk and get back to his fastball-sinker routine. For his part Pelfrey agrees and says he feels fine physically and that it’s all a mental thing. At this point I can’t decide if it would be worse for the Mets if there was a physical problem or a mental problem, but it needs to get fixed fast because an effective Pelfrey is absolutely essential to the Mets’ chanced.

White Sox 6, Mariners 1: After a bad weekend, Chicago wins while both Detroit and Minnesota lose. Ozzie Guillen: “One day at a time. That’s our philosophy. No matter
what happens yesterday, today is a new one.”  Anyone else get a little weirded out by Ozzie being philosophical?

Red Sox 2, Athletics 1: Dice-K throws an efficient six and two-thirds innings and the game ended in two hours and forty minutes. Kevin Cash after the game: “That’s Dice’s whole M.O. Getting ahead and throwing strikes.”  Well, it’s totally not his M.O., but it’s nice to see him do it for once.

Indians 10, Twins 4: I’m torn. On the one hand I like to see the Indians playing well like they have lately because, while I don’t root for them, I get more Indians games on my big HD TV than anyone else’s and I’d rather watch a good product than a bad product. On the other hand, if they put together a nice second half with the young talent playing well, they’re going to trick me into thinking they’re a contender again next spring, and I’m pretty tired of being tricked into thinking the Indians are going to do well only to have them face-plant out of the gate.

Rangers 8, Tigers 6: A fourteen inning affair ends after Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer. Well, it didn’t end directly after that because the Tigers still got to bat in the bottom of the inning, but you know what I mean. Rangers’ pitcher Dustin Nippert was hit in the head with a comebacker earlier in the game. Scary, but he appears to be OK.  Oh, and the Tigers should have won this one in the 11th but Cruz deked Johnny Damon — who was on second base — on a single hit to right-center. Damon should have scored, but Cruz played like he was going to catch it, causing Damon to hesitate and subsequently get stranded at third.

Tony Clark thinks front offices have too much of an impact on baseball

AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post spoke to MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, who said he feels that front offices have too much of an impact on the game of baseball. Clark said, “You hear players saying it’s even hard to recognize how the game is being played. If those on the field see it and experience it, then those who are watching it will notice, too. It’s not to suggest I don’t like home runs or strikeouts or walks. I like all those things. But I also like more of the strategy and the dynamics that have always determined the outcomes in our games.”

Clark continued, “The decisions that are being made are changing the game. When you’re in a climate where the decisions about how the game is being played are being made less by the players who are playing and the coaches and managers who are coaching and managing it, we find ourselves in a climate that seems to be focused in on what everybody’s calling the three true outcomes: the home run, the strikeout and the walk. I would argue that there are two true outcomes: whether you win or you lose. … I’m not saying data is a bad thing. I’m saying it’s morphed our game and its focus quite a bit.”

Clark also discussed tanking, saying, “This isn’t a player problem. It’s reflective, I believe, of very deliberate business decisions. Players as a whole compete on every pitch and every at-bat. Our industry is predicated on competition from the top down. … What it appears that we are seeing in that regard is teams withdrawing from that competition for seasons at a time. It becomes challenging when it’s more than a couple of teams that are going that route, whereby you have a considerable chasm between those that are competing at one level and those that are competing at another.”

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2021, so the union and the owners will have three more years of talking about these issues before they are concretely addressed. The tanking issue seems like it will almost certainly be addressed.

Clark’s concern over the impact of front offices may not be misplaced, but it’s difficult to envision any kind of rule making a difference. Limit what data teams can access? Centralize the data? The “scienceification” of baseball, if you will, was an inevitability, an evolution. In order to go in a different direction, the game will need to evolve again. Trying to tamp down data usage in baseball is akin to playing whack-a-mole with various ways with which teams will find advantages over other teams.

Major League Baseball could try to cut into the ever-increasing three true outcomes rate by changing certain things about the game without touching the data. Back in 1969, the pitcher’s mound was lowered to encourage more offense. In a similar vein, to encourage more doubles and triples and fewer home runs, stadiums could be adjusted to have the fences back to a certain distance (e.g. at least 340 feet down the lines, 410 in center). The pitcher’s mound could be moved back a few inches, lessening the impact of higher velocity, which has been a big factor in the ever-increasing strikeout rate. There are surely other ideas that smart people can come up with to bring the game towards a more active, enjoyable experience. We still have three years to go so we’ll certainly be seeing some interesting suggestions.