And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Indians 3, Red Sox 2: There are certain games in which teams of destiny define themselves. I’m not saying the Indians are that kind of team — hell, I’m just as confused as the rest of you and thus will make no claim to being on the bandwagon earlier than anyone — but if they do turn out to be that kind of team, this game will be featured prominently in the highlight DVD at the end of the year. As lightning flashed and thunder crashed just west of the ballpark, the Indians came from behind in the eighth inning thanks to a Michael Brantley RBI single and then an RBI double by that man, Asdrubal Cabrera, scoring Brantley. Chris Perez allowed two base runners in the 9th but induced a Carl Crawford GIDP to end it.

Astros 4, Dodgers 3: Some comebacks may be season-of-destiny-defining, but just because your season isn’t destined for anything special doesn’t mean that a comeback can’t simply be fun. Bill Hall was 4 for 4 with two doubles, but it was his single in the bottom of the ninth that helped key the Astros’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit when they were down to their last out. That and a little double steal action that put Hall at third and pinch hitter Angel Sanchez at second to score on Michael Bourn’s game-tying double.  Two batters later Hunter Pence singled Bourn in for the game-winner.

Brewers 11, Nationals 3: Corey Hart blasts three homers and drives in seven. Coming in to this game he was batting .237/.275/.329 with no homers and a single RBI.

Phillies 10, Reds 3: Chase Utley returns and with him comes the offense. Of course correlation is not the same thing as causation so don’t read too deeply into his 0 for 5 night. Placido Polanco, Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry Jr. each had a couple of RBI, however, and that made for Philly’s biggest offensive night since, like, ever.

Tigers 6, Rays 3: Close until the eighth when the Tigers strung together two two-run hits off Juan Cruz. Tigers starter Phil Coke left the game in the top of the fourth after injuring his ankle whilst chasing a bunt. He was replaced by rookie lefty Charlie Furbush, who picked up the win in his major league debut. In other news, there is a pitcher named Charlie Furbush.

Mariners 8, Twins 7: Good thing the Twins traded top prospect Wilson Ramos for Proven Closer Matt Capps last year, because there is no way that Jon Rauch or someone else who has not gone on the Proven Closer Vision Quest and had the secrets of the Proven Closer Elders handed down to them could have blown that save in the ninth last night.

Rangers 4, White Sox 0: Josh Hamilton returns with a bang, homering in the first inning of his first game since April 12th. Meanwhile, Alexi Ogando’s post-blister problem run continues nicely, as he takes his third straight decision in what was his best start of the year so far (CG, SHO 5 H).

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 3: Bartolo Colon follows his best start of the year up with his worst. Well, his second worst, but it looks bad compared to that gem against Baltimore last week.  Carlos Villanueva filled in for Jesse Litsch nicely, allowing one run on two hits over five innings. J.P. Arencibia had four RBI and Jose Bautista hit a homer.

Angels 4, Athletics 1: Torii Hunter was the hero in the field and at the plate, nailing Andy LaRoche as he tried to score in the seventh and driving in the go-ahead run with a double in the eighth. On a night when some teams who had not been scoring runs lately broke out with some nice offense, the Athletics remain in the offensive desert.

Cardinals 3, Padres 1: At least the A’s have some company in the offensive desert, as San Diego continues to treat run scoring as if it were radioactive or something. And hey, Albert Pujols hit a homer!

Mike Trout says Harper and Machado’s free agency experience sent up “red flags”

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Mike Trout signed a record-setting contract extension last week, agreeing to ten more years tacked on to his existing deal at $35.45 million a year. It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at and, I’m quite sure, Trout will not lose any sleep over financial matters for the rest of his days.

One wonders, though, what he might’ve commanded had he hit free agency. If he had been bid on by more than one team. Sure, there is some upward limit to how much even a guy of Trout’s caliber might get, but you have to assume that if a couple more teams were able to get in on that action that that $35.45 million a year could’ve been topped.

Did he give any thoughts to testing the market? Maybe not serious ones, but he certainly observed the market this past winter and didn’t much care for what he saw. He said this to Fabiran Ardaya of The Athletic last night:

“I kind of saw what Bryce and Manny went through and it drew a red flag for me. I talked to Manny and Bryce. It was a tough couple months in the offseason. They put it perspective in my mind.”

He added, “I obviously want to be an Angel for life. That was a big key,” so it’s not like this was purely some matter of Trout being scared off the market. But it’s also the case that the market has become fraught for even the best players in the game and has influenced their decision making to a considerable degree. Part of Mike Trout’s decision to sign that deal was how unwelcoming the free agent market looked like it’d be even for him.

And it’s not just Trout. To see how unpalatable free agency has become one need merely look at the bevy of contract extensions agreed to over the past week or two. Each one of those, however lucrative they may be, represent a player foregoing the open market in favor of negotiating with a single bidder with greater leverage as a result. While some of those choices, like Trout’s, do not cost the players much more than, perhaps, some rounding error on his ultimate contract, others, like pre-arbitration players, are likely foregoing tens of millions of dollars in order to make a deal now instead of a few years later. And, of course, each team that signs a player to an extension is less likely to be active in an upcoming free agency period, reducing the number of bidders and thus applying downward pressure on salaries for those players who do hit the open market.

For the first century or so of baseball history the Reserve Clause ruled baseball economics. Under that system, a team which possessed the rights to a player could not be deprived of that player’s services if it did not want to be. When it came time to decide what to pay a player only one team could bid, giving it all the leverage. Then free agency came. Owners fought like hell against its implementation. They lost that battle and then attempted to roll it back as much as they could, even employing illegal tactics at times in an effort to do so, but they didn’t have much luck.

In the past two or three years, however, they have done what decades of efforts could not do: they have effectively taken away a full and open free market for players and have returned the game to a state in which the team which holds a players’ rights is, effectively, the only bidder for his services and has the power to retain him on favorable terms.

It’s not the restoration of the old reserve clause, exactly, but when the best player in baseball since Willie Mays is wary of the open market, you have to admit that it’s far, far closer to it than anyone thought the owners would ever get.