Live Blog: Rangers-Yankees ALCS Game 3

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UPDATE: Feliz shuts down the Yankees 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth, securing an 8-0 victory. Hey, Clay Rapada could have done that.

The Rangers now hold a 2-1 lead in the series. Joe Girardi has indicated otherwise, but I would be very surprised to see A.J. Burnett starting for the Bombers tomorrow.

Stay tuned for a post-game wrap-up from yours truly. As always, thanks for reading!

11:18 PM: The Rangers added another run on a wild pitch by Sergio Mitre and lead 8-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. If the huge lead didn’t make it obvious already, the handshakes and high-fives on the bench do. Cliff Lee’s night is officially over. Maybe he really is “The Scariest Thing Ever.” Very surprised to see Neftali Feliz coming on to pitch, but this is Ron Washington we’re talking about here.

11:08 PM: And David Robertson is done. Elvis Andrus just doubled over the outstretched glove of Nick Swisher, scoring Bengie Molina from second base. The Rangers have plated five runs so far in the top of the ninth and lead 7-0. Yankee Stadium now looks like Citi Field in September.

11:06 PM: Mitch Moreland just added two more with a double just inside the first base line. The Yankee Stadium faithful — or at least the ones in the expensive seats — are headed to the exits. I think Cliff Lee can probably keep his jacket on.

11:05 PM: Bengie Molina tacks on another one with an RBI single off Robertson. It’s 4-0 and the bases are still loaded.

11:01 PM: Nelson Cruz just singled in Josh Hamilton from third, giving the Rangers a 3-0 lead. The ball was hit awful hard, but the speedy Julio Borbon managed to go first to third.

10:53 PM: Josh Hamilton just snuck one into the left center field gap and is now standing on second base with a leadoff double. Potentially valuable insurance. Boone Logan out, David Robertson in.

10:49 PM: Wow. Cliff Lee now has 13 strikeouts — tying his career-high — through eight shutout innings. Perhaps of more importance, he has thrown 122 pitches. As Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse points out, his career-high for pitches in a game — including postseason and regular season — is 124. The ninth inning is going to be a very tough call for Ron Washington.

10:44 PM: Cliff Lee just struck out Jorge Posada looking to begin the bottom of the eighth. He now has 12 strikeouts on the night — a new personal postseason best.

10:39 PM: Kerry Wood retired the Rangers in order in the top of the eighth on a couple pop-ups and a groundball. Cliff Lee is slated to face Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner in the bottom of the eighth. Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tells us that “The Darrens” are up in the bullpen for the Rangers.

10:34 PM: Kerry Wood is in for the Yankees in the top of the eighth. Andy Pettitte is done for the night after giving up two runs on five hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked none. For those just tuning in, the difference in this game was a two-run shot by Josh Hamilton in the top of the first.

10:31 PM: Cliff Lee just struck out Marcus Thames — again — to end the bottom of the seventh. Thames came into tonight’s game with 15 strikeouts in 36 career at-bats against Cliff Lee. Tonight, he’s 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. That’s a sample size we can probably rely on.

10:19 PM: Alex Rodriguez just made a diving stop of a ground ball hit by Bengie Molina to end the top of the seventh inning. Any other human would have beat it out, but this is Bengie Molina we’re talking about here. Credit where it’s due: It took a great pick by Mark Teixeira to make it happen.

10:12 PM: Cliff Lee got Mark Teixeira to ground out to end the bottom of the sixth inning, stranding Brett Gardner at third base. Elvis Andrus actually bobbled the ball on the transfer, but still had enough time to get him.

Lee now has 10 strikeouts through six innings tonight. He has reached double digits in strikeouts in three straight starts so far this postseason. If that sounds pretty special, you’re right. No other pitcher has done something like that before.

10:04 PM: The Yankees finally have a runner in scoring position, as Gardner swipes second base. The ball got away from Elvis Andrus, but Gardner was unable to advance.

10:00 PM: Brett Gardner just led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to center field. He dove into first base, just out of habit. Kidding.

9:58 PM: Pettitte just struck out Vlad Guerrero looking to end the top of the sixth. He’s now at 100 pitches for the night. Yes, pitching counts are largely irrelevant in the postseason — yet we still obsess over them —  but it’s worth noting that these are the most pitches the veteran left-hander has thrown in a game since July 8.

9:54 PM: Josh Hamilton just fell short of his second two-run homer of the game. I’m not sure whether to be impressed by Hamilton’s power, hitting it off the end of his bat, or disturbed by how much of a joke right field in Yankee Stadium is.

9:50 PM: Michael Young singles again. He has three of the Rangers’ four hits tonight.

9:45 PM: Curtis Granderson strikes out swinging, stranding Jorge Posada at first base. Cliff Lee has nine strikeouts over the first five innings. I’m enjoying the brisk nature of this game, but fear it may be too good to be true.

9:42 PM: The Yankees finally have their first hit of the evening here in the bottom of the fifth. Jorge Posada just poked a two-out single into shallow right field.

9:34 PM: Pettitte has retired seven straight since Michael Young’s two-out single in the third.

9:31 PM: Someone just ran onto the field at Yankee Stadium, apparently. No word on a taser sighting.

9:28 PM: Nelson Cruz made it more of an adventure than it needed to be, but Alex Rodriguez just flew out for the final out in the fourth. The Yankees are hittless through four and the Rangers are still up 2-0.

9:24 PM: Woah. Cliff Lee is perfect no longer. He just issued a two-out walk to Mark Teixeira. Amazingly, this is the first time Lee has issued a walk this postseason.

9:23 PM: Quite an at-bat by Nick Swisher there. He ended up being Cliff Lee’s seventh strikeout, but made him throw 11 pitches in the process. He also may have used an expletive on the way back to the dugout. Understandable.

9:14 PM: The Rangers are done quickly in the fourth, as Pettitte delivers a 1-2-3 inning. He has retired 11 out of 12 since Josh Hamilton’s two-run blast in the first.

9:12 PM: On second thought, maybe Gardner was out. It had something to do with the fact that he tried to grab the outside part of the bag, but his helmet also covered his eyes when he went into the dive. He should try running next time, methinks. Brett Gardner is pretty fast on his feet, I hear.

9:07: Brett Gardner was just called out on a head-first dive at first base. If you remember, he did the same thing in the eighth inning on Friday and was called safe. The thing is, he sure looked safe here. Thanks Angel Hernandez! But hey, he prolly would have actually been safe had he, you know, actually ran. Prolly.

Anyway, Cliff Lee is perfect through three.

8:58 PM: Pettitte was able to retire Josh Hamilton on a harmless ground ball to second base to end the inning. He has thrown 61 pitches over the first three frames. As Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse points out, all three Yankees starters in this series have needed at least 60 pitches to record the first nine outs.

8:56 PM: Jeter just did his trademark field-in-the-hole jumpy-throw thing. No dice. Michael Young has a two-out hit. Each of the first three batters in the third have run a full count on Pettitte.

8:45 PM: Another 1-2-3 inning for Cliff Lee, who has three strikeouts already. If you listened closely enough, you could hear him thanking his hat as he ran off the field.

8:38 PM: Interesting seeing Jered Weaver on that list of fewest baserunners per nine innings, right between Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. Don’t think he should win it, but he’s not getting nearly enough love for AL Cy Young. Ah well, that’s a conversation for another day.

8:34 PM: Jeff Francoeur’s ownership of Andy Pettitte is on hold. He just grounded out for the second out in the top of the second.

8:28 PM: The Yankees go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first inning. Lee needed just 15 pitches.

8:24 PM: Derek Jeter just flew out to right field to lead off the bottom of the first. On the bright side, he managed to run the count full. That’s kinda like drawing a walk against Cliff Lee.

8:19 PM: Pettitte just escaped the first without any further damage. He threw 25 pitches in the inning. Your move, Cliff.

8:16 PM: The Rangers jump out in front first. Josh Hamilton, who walked four times on Saturday, just launched a two-run blast to right field to give the Rangers an early 2-0 lead. This is his second hit of the series. Both are home runs.

8:11 PM: The Yankees finally get Elvis Andrus. Andy Pettitte just threw him out on a tapper. Andrus got on base to lead off each of the last two games and scored on both occasions. The last three games if you count Game 5 of the ALDS.

8:00 PM: Tino Martinez just threw out the first pitch. He did an awesome job as a last-minute substitute for Matt Nokes.

7:53 PM: Craig is handing me the baton to do some live blogging for tonight’s Game 3 of the ALCS between the Rangers and Yankees. No worries, I don’t intend to run with it. I’m just going to sit on my couch and watch baseball for a couple few hours. And that’s pretty cool.

As always, feel free to add to the conversation in our comments section.

Game 3 starters:

Cliff Lee – Some might know him better as “The Scariest Thing Ever.” The left-hander posted a 3.09 ERA in three starts against the Bombers this season and won both of his starts against them in the World Series last season, including a 10-strikeout complete-game victory in Game 1.

Andy Pettitte – The winningest pitcher in postseason history added to his own record by tossing seven innings of one-run ball in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Twins on October 7. While Pettitte has 19 postseason wins, he has also started more postseason games than anybody. And it’s not even remotely close. The veteran left-hander won his only start against the Rangers this season, allowing two runs over eight innings back on April 18.

Looking for lineups? Here’s Ron Washington’s lineup card and here’s Joe Girardi’s.

Verducci: Machado contract proves “free agency isn’t broken”

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The signing of superstar free agent Manny Machado, by the Padres to a 10-year, $300 million deal, immediately brought out the hot takes. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci had perhaps the hottest of the takes, declaring that “free agency isn’t broken after all” because Machado got paid. This is Verducci’s opening paragraph:

Let’s discuss the “free agent is broken” narrative and the “one-third of the teams are tanking” canard. Just one day after players association chief Tony Clark wickedly called out teams for not trying to justify the cost of a ticket, a low-revenue team without a winning team in six years under its current ownership just spent $300 million on a guy called out as a dirty player and who projects as Ryan Zimmerman with a better glove.

Verducci adds that Harper will also likely sign for a similar amount of money. Free agency is fine, everyone!

Before getting into it, can we just acknowledge that the comp of Machado as “Ryan Zimmerman with a better glove” is one of the most ludicrous things ever written by a baseball writer? Zimmerman was a terrific player — and still is to an extent — but had problems staying healthy. Additionally, across his 14-year career, he has had just two seasons above 5.0 WAR, according to Baseball Reference: 2009 (7.3) and 2010 (6.2). Machado has had four in his seven-year career: 2015 (7.1), 2016 (6.9), 2013 (6.7), and 2018 (5.7).

Before the last few years, Machado and Harper would’ve been signed by the end of December at the latest and there would be nothing but scraps on the free agent market when spring training opens. In 2019, not only has spring training started, but the likes of Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel are still teamless. Exhibition games begin in just a few days. I did a meager illustration of the slower progression of the free agent market in December 2017. It would only look worse having added the last two years’ worth of data.

Machado and Harper were always going to get paid, even if that meant waiting until late February or March to sign the dotted line. Machado signing a lucrative contract is not proof that “free agency isn’t broken.”

According to Maury Brown of Forbes, players last year received their second-smallest percentage of revenues dating back to 2006. They got 54.8 percent last year after hovering around 57 percent for most of the last five years. It might not seem like a big difference, but it is for a business that took in over $10 billion in revenues last year. That’s because front offices across the sport pretty much all adopted the same way of thinking, thanks to analytics, at roughly the same time. One of the more analytically-oriented beliefs is that paying free agents, who tend to be close to 30 years old or older and thus past their prime, is a bad investment. So teams just stopped signing free agents as quickly and as much.

The problem is that players are taken advantage of for years prior to becoming eligible for free agency, including making poverty wages in the minors. Free agency was always the carrot at the end of the stick where players were finally paid for their production. Consider that Mike Trout was paid the league minimum salary in 2012, putting up 10.5 WAR, per Baseball Reference. The next year, he put up 9.0 WAR for slightly more than the league minimum. The Angels bumped him up to $1 million in 2014 for 7.6 WAR. The Angels decided to sign Trout to a contract extension in his final year before becoming eligible for arbitration. He had a 9.4-WAR season and was paid about $6 million. Add that all up and the Angels got over 36 WAR for roughly $8 million. Trout is an extreme example, but he illustrates the problem well.

Keuchel has been one of the game’s better starters over the last five years, accuring 18.4 WAR. He finished with a sub-3.00 ERA in three of those five seasons, won a Gold Glove Award in all five years, and won the AL Cy Young Award in 2015. But he’s currently teamless. What club couldn’t use a 31-year-old left-handed pitcher who, at minimum, would stabilize a starting rotation and act as a mentor to younger players? What club couldn’t use Craig Kimbrel, a seven-time All-Star with a career 1.91 ERA? Where are Keuchel and Kimbrel’s carrots?

If we align this offseason’s free agents on tiers, we would put Machado and Harper at the top, followed by Patrick Corbin, Keuchel, Kimbrel, and A.J. Pollock. We have another tier that includes players like Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ, Yasmani Grandal, and Andrew McCutchen. Let’s talk about the tier after that, which would include players like Mike Moustakas. Moustakas was a bit slow to catch up to major league speed, posting an aggregate .668 OPS in his first four seasons. He broke out in 2015, hitting 22 home runs with an .817 OPS before injuries limited him in 2016. In 2017, he set career-highs in homers and RBI with 38 and 85, respectively. He followed up with a quality 2018 campaign, swatting 28 home runs with 95 RBI.

Moustakas hit free agency after his career year in 2017. He didn’t sign until March 2018, finally settling for a one-year, $6.5 million contract with a $15 million mutual option for the 2019 season. He had qualifying offer compensation attached to him, which limited his appeal on the free agent market. Moustakas followed up with another quality campaign, which included being traded to the Brewers. The Brewers declined that mutual option in late October, waited three and a half months, then signed him to a one-year, $10 million deal with a mutual option for the 2020 season (as yet unknown value). A decade ago, a player of Moustakas’s caliber would’ve easily gotten a three-year deal. These days, those players are getting meager one-year deals.

How about Derek Dietrich settling for a minor league deal with the Reds recently? Dietrich, 29, has a career adjusted OPS of 109 (100 is league average) with significant experience at second base, left field, and third base while also having spent time at first base. José Iglesias is still unsigned and will likely also have to settle for a minor league deal. He has an adjusted OPS of 84, but is one of the better defensive shortstops around. David Eckstein, for the sake of comparison, had a career adjusted OPS of 87, was a worse fielder, and made nearly $20 million in his career, which spanned 2001-10. Iglesias, to date, has also made about $20 million in his career, just about a decade later.

Expectations for free agents have shifted downward in recent years. Those expectations are supposed to be constantly moving upwards. A similarly-skilled player should generally be earning more money than his predecessor. Despite being a better player, Machado couldn’t surpass the 13-year, $325 million contract Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Marlins in November 2014. The Keuchels and Kimbrels of the baseball world are waiting months longer to sign than they would have previously for fewer years and fewer overall dollars. The Dietriches and Iglesiases are settling for minor league deals when they previously would have been able to leverage guaranteed major league contracts. The carrots at the end of those sticks are smaller and further away. In some cases, the carrots are nonexistent. Team owners are taking advantage of baseball’s effective monopoly and systems of rules that artificially limit a player’s earning potential (such as the amateur draft and pre-arbitraton contract renewal). That’s why free agency is broken and it’s why we have a labor crisis on our hands, Machado and Harper be damned.