And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Diamondbacks 14, Mets 1: I was tempted to say that Adam LaRoche’s two three-run home runs yesterday are just the latest example of second-half greatness from a great second-half player, but check out his month-by-month OPSeseses: April: .953; May: .787; June: .698; July: .669. Contrary to his reputation, he’s gotten worse as the season has gone on. I wonder if those bombs are the opening salvo to a furious August and September to salvage that reputation.  Jerry Manuel on the Mets’ performance: “We didn’t pitch, we didn’t hit, we didn’t play defense.”

Rays 3, Yankees 0:
That’s eight of nine for the Rays, who pull to within one of the
Bombers. Joe Girardi felt obligated to use all of his shiny new toys —
Kearns! Berkman! Wood! — while giving A-Rod and Brett Gardner the day
off.  Made the box score look all Central Divisiony to me.

Reds 2, Braves 1: Some shaky defense and tons and tons of stranded runners by the Braves wastes an excellent performance by Tommy Hanson. Both Reds runs were the result of Braves’ defensive miscues: if Jason Heyward didn’t try to make a diving catch on Brandon Phillips’ triple it would have at best been a double with no run scoring, and of course, Alex Gonzalez’ error gave the Reds their second run. I’d rather they just get beat 14-1. When that happens I just let the game fall out of my head. These coulda-shoulda-woulda games stick with me all damn afternoon.

Phillies 6, Nationals 4: Philly had to come from behind and then get two RBI singles in the 11th to avoid a sweep by the Nats. Charlie Manuel had no problem giving Brad Lidge the ball to close this one despite him giving up the walkoff homer on Saturday night. Ryan Howard sprained his ankle in the first inning and was hobbling around the clubhouse in crutches after the game. For as bad as the Braves have been playing lately, if Lidge keeps closing and key players keep getting hurt for Philly, you have to like Atlanta’s chances.

Angels 4, Rangers 1: Jered Weaver and Cliff Lee are probably the two best starters in the AL this year. The former outpitched the latter yesterday. The Angels are still way back, but taking two of three from Texas may be the start of something, right?

Padres 5, Marlins 4: Josh Johnson has his worst start of the year, giving up five earned runs. Indeed, it was the first time he had given up more than three since his first start back on April 5th.  Ryan Ludwick gets a pinch hit and comes around to score in his Padre debut.

Rockies 8, Cubs 7: The Rockies are a streaky bunch. They take their fourth in a row after that big losing skid coming out of the break. Dexter Fowler saved the game with this awesome catch in the ninth, but he probably bought himself some time on the DL too. Way to take one for the team, Dex. Bad day medically all around, as Cubs’ starter Carlos Silva left the game in the first with an irregular heartbeat.

Cardinals 9, Pirates 1: I know it’s statistically impossible, but it at least seems like every single time Adam Wainwright pitches his line looks like this: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 5K.

Twins 4, Mariners 0: Francisco Liriano struck out 11 and gave up only two hits. The M’s have lost seven in a row, three of which have been shutouts. Just terrible, terrible baseball. Who gets fired first: Wakamatsu or Manuel?

Astros 5, Brewers 2: See, all the Astros needed to do in order to go on a tear was trade away their best pitcher and best hitter. Seems obvious in hindsight. A pinch hit grand slam in the seventh by Jason Michaels was the big blast here.

Royals 5, Orioles 4: Bruce Chen was in a hell of a jam in the sixth — bases loaded, no one out — but reliever Kanekoa Texeira bailed him out. Texeira after the game: “I told Bruce today, ‘Big guy, I got your back. Bruce, don’t worry.” Amazing. No, not Texeira’s foresight, but rather that was the first time in his 33 years on Earth that anyone has ever called Bruce Chen “big guy.” By the way: anyone know what ever happened to Jung Bong?

White Sox 4, Athletics 1: A complete game with 11 strikeouts for Gio Gonzalez, but it was not enough on a day when Gavin Floyd had a perfect game into the sixth inning. Dude’s been on fire for basically two months and the Chisox simply don’t lose at home anymore.  Speaking of New Comiskey: I was chatting with my HBT Daily/Extra cohort Tiffany the other day, who just got back from a trip to Chicago. She contends that a day at Comiskey is way better than a day at Wrigley. I’ve not been there, but based on her and others’ descriptions — and based on my own experiences at Wrigley — I think I can see that. I bet that, rooting interests notwithstanding, serious Chicago baseball fans would make a strong case for the South Side simply because you don’t have all of that party atmosphere baloney going on down there. Thoughts?

Red Sox 4, Tigers 3: Nice vulture job by Papelbon, as he blows the save in the ninth yet was the pitcher of record when the Tigers threw the ball away to allow the winning run score on a bunt single in the bottom of the ninth. I wonder if some day Clay Buchholz will have 288 wins or something and some baseball writer will keep him off his Hall of Fame ballot because he “just didn’t know how to win.”

Indians 5, Blue Jays 4: If Cleveland could play Toronto 162 games a year they’d be, like, the best team ever. They’ve taken six of seven from the Jays, this one on the strength of a two-run homer from Asdrubal Cabrera.

Giants 2, Dodgers 0:
Matt Cain threw shutout ball into the eighth, and both Giants runs came
in on an Edgar Renteria triple in the sixth. I usually watch a good bit
of the Sunday night game if not all of it, but I randomly picked up
“Ball Four” last night and started thumbing through it. By the time I
looked up I realized that the damn game was most of the way over.
I certainly consider it time well spent, however.

Players are waking up and getting ready to fight

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There’s this idea out there that the owners have been eating the players’ lunch at the bargaining table in recent years because the players are, generally, rich and happy and maybe don’t care about a lot of the stuff the previous couple of generations of players did. There is probably some degree of truth to that. The difference between a good deal and a bad deal, in both collective bargaining and on the free agent market, is way less dire now than it used to be and thus the urgency may not have been there over the past several years the way it was in 1981 or 1994.

But it goes too far to say that such a mindset is universal among players. Or that it’s a mindset which, even among those who hold it, will always persist. Players may not have been as vigilant about labor matters over the past several years as they used to be, but they’re not idiots and, at some point, the owners are gonna push ’em too far and they’ll respond.

As we find ourselves in the second straight offseason in which teams simply don’t seem all too keen on signing free agents, it’s starting to happen already.

Earlier this week Dallas Keuchel tweeted out some things critical of the current market and teams’ approach to it (and took another swipe today). This afternoon Giants third baseman Evan Longoria chimed in on Instagram, posting a picture of Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and saying the following:

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

Most of that is common sense, the sort of which we’ve been arguing for around here for some time. Fans should care about good players and winning baseball games, not whether or not their front office can get a great bargain for its own sake. It may be interesting to talk about payroll and salaries and wins/$, but the point of baseball is to win, right? When so many teams seem rather uninterested in that, it’s a problem that all of the interesting analytical insights can’t really make up for.

The second part is worth keeping your eyes on. Maybe players have not been on a war footing the likes of which their predecessors were in the 1970s through the 1990s, but it doesn’t mean they won’t get back there if pushed. As is abundantly clear, the owners are pushing. Salaries are dropping in both an absolute sense and, especially, compared to baseball’s revenues. Players are getting a smaller piece of the pie than they have in a while and ownership seems quite pleased to see that continue.

If players are saying stuff like this publicly, it means that players are talking about it amongst themselves privately. The last two years have likely served as quite a wakeup call for them, and they seem to be waking up. Evan Longoria is. Dallas Keuchel is. So are some others. If current trends continue, more and more will wake up.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2021 season. What happens over the rest of this offseason and the next two is going to determine the mood of the players. The mood of the players, in turn, is going to dictate the tenor of negotiations. If they were to begin right now, those negotiations would be very, very rocky.