And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Rockies 6, Mets 2: Two outs, runners on second and third, a base open
and Troy Tulowitzski at the plate. I hate intentional walks, but I
understand that a lot of managers would walk Tulowtizki in that spot.
Especially to bring up Melvin Mora. Boy did that ever bite Jerry Manuel
in the ass! Grand slam for Mora, game basically over.

Padres 8, Pirates 5:
Sometimes I wonder if, on a road trip, Pirates players ever consider
walking away from the team hotel and defecting like they were Soviet
ballet dancers or something. I’m pretty sure there’s a U.N. resolution
somewhere that covers the dire situation in which they find themselves
and would counsel that the home team provide them asylum.

Diamondbacks 8, Brewers 2:
Adam LaRoche, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew went back
to back to back to back in the fourth inning.  All four came off Dave
Bush, by the way, who apparently is unaware of certain settled concepts.

Phillies 2, Dodgers 0: Matt Kemp was on the bench again because, according to Joe
Torre, he wanted to run out the lineup that had scored 15 runs the night
before. Maybe he would have been better off somehow finding a way to bench Roy Oswalt, because I think the opposing pitcher had a lot more to do with it.

Yankees 7, Rangers 6:
The Yankees got to Cliff Lee enough to keep it close, but then they
really got to Frank Francisco and Neftali Feliz to secure a comeback win
after being down 6-1. Good to see Mariano Rivera close it down a day
after a blown save. Fragile young closers like him need to get right
back on that horse after falling off, you know, lest they get all
erratic and nervous.

Marlins 9, Nationals 5:
Mike Stanton went 5 for 5 with two doubles a homer and four RBI.  OK,
now that that’s out of the way, allow me to observe that between
Washington, Miami and Atlanta, the NL East has to be the most humid
and disgusting division in baseball, weather-wise. I can’t think of any division that — in the
aggregate — plays in more oppressive, swampy heat. Baltimore gets ugly,
of course, but they’re offset by a couple of domes and northern teams in their
division. Same with Kansas City. Texas sucks, but lovely Anaheim,
Oakland and Seattle temperatures more than offset it. Philly and New
York don’t nearly outweigh the awfulness of D.C.-to-Miami weather. These are the things I think about when I’m on the 1,356th straight day of sitting in air conditioning.

Braves 8, Astros 2: My Mets and Phillies friends told me “beware of late-season Billy Wagner!” They kinda have a point. Still, the Braves gotta score more than two runs in regulation before they can really start worrying about their closer blowing one here or there. And hey, if Wagner had locked this one down then Brian McCann wouldn’t have had that grand slam, and the grand slam was great fun.

Cardinals 6, Reds 1: Hit this one up as it ended yesterday. The Reds, ironically, were the ones who ended up gettin’ told.

Athletics 5, Mariners 1: Dallas Braden turns in his second best performance of the year, going the distance and allowing a single run. Three doubles and three RBI for Mark Ellis, who hit into a triple play on Monday. This is important. This means something.

White Sox 6, Twins 1: John Danks has been pretty incredible lately. Last night: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 7K. The dogfight in the AL Central continues.

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 1: Two homers for Bill Hall and bombs from J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre as well.

Orioles 3, Indians 1: Buck Showalter is The Doormat Whisperer. Brad Bergesen with a complete game two-hitter.  Only complaint: with thirteen hits and three walks, the O’s really should have scored more than three runs.

Angels 2, Royals 1: Bobby Abreu walks off with a bomb off Jesse Chavez who, for reasons known only to Ned Yost, was pitching in a critical situation. Great starts by both Zack Greinke and Jered Weaver, each allowing only one run on six hits in eight innings.

Tigers 3, Rays 2: Detroit salvages one as Matt Garza, sadly, does not no-hit the Tigers again.

Giants 5, Cubs 4: Pat Burrell had a couple of big hits and a nice defensive play on a relay throw from left field. At this point he should probably petition to have his time in Tampa Bay just expunged from his record, no?

Programming Note: I’m going to be gone tomorrow for what is, as far as you know, some important business. As such, there won’t be any “And That Happened.” Please try to find a way to muddle through the day . . . somehow.

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.