Dodgers collapse, Phillies prevail in a wild one

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Over-analyzing one baseball game is frivolous.  Heck, over-analyzing a three-game series is frivolous.  The baseball season is a 162-game grind that is best viewed in large chunks — halves or quarters, whatever.

But, every year and without fail, there are games that seem to swing the pendulum of momentum within a division race.  The Cardinals’ three-game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati this week felt important.  And it was important.  Same goes for the Dodgers’ brutal loss to the Phillies on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Up 9-2 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning, the Dodgers looked to have a victory in hand.  Sure, their bullpen is not without flaws, but getting six outs while protecting a seven-run lead is not exactly a daunting task.  At least, not on most nights.

Reliever Ronald Belisario, fresh off a stint on the restricted list due to a substance abuse problem, opened the bottom of the 8th for the Dodgers.  He surrendered a single to Placido Polanco, a single to Mike Sweeney, then threw a wild pitch that allowed both Phillies to advance.  Jayson Werth made him pay immediately with a two-run base hit, then Werth advanced to second when Belisario was issued a balk. 

Collapse in session.

Belisario served up another RBI to Ben Francisco before exiting to a 9-5 deficit and a large, sarcastic applause from the Philadelphia faithful.  The Phils got one more run across the plate against Kenley Jansen, closing out the 8th inning with a big “9-6” flashing on the outfield scoreboard. 

You could smell trouble in the air.  And the cheesesteaks.  You could definitely smell cheesesteaks.

Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, a massive and mostly dominant right-hander, has never pitched well against the Phillies.  Including Thursday’s ugly showing, he is 2-2 with a 9.82 ERA, one save and three blown save chances against Philadelphia.  Par for the course, he hit the first batter that he faced, allowed a walk to Mike Sweeney, then third baseman Casey Blake booted a ground ball that allowed the winning run to reach first base. 

Carlos Ruiz knocked in that winning run in the game’s next at-bat with a shot that nearly cleared the center field wall.

The Dodgers now stand nine games back of the Padres in the National League West and can probably be counted out of the postseason barring a major collapse at the top of that division.  The Phillies, meanwhile, have won eight of their last 10 games to move within two games of the Braves in the National League East.

Maybe in October we’ll look back to Thursday, August 12, and say, “Hey, that’s when the Phillies got ignited.  And when the Dodgers took their last gasp of hope-filled air.”

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.