And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Red Sox 15, Orioles 10: Of course. The night after Boston took 16 innings to score one run, they unload for 15 against the O’s. That after getting almost no sleep due to the late night. I said yesterday that the Orioles had their worst series of the season against Boston before the All-Star break, but this one could end up being uglier.

Cubs 6, Phillies 1The heat got to Halladay. I can only assume that at certain temperatures and humidity levels his hydraulic limbs and positronic net start to experience some sort of interface malfunction with the organic components, resulting in cyborg failure.  I’m sure that after a level 2 diagnostic and a purge of his short term memory he’ll be back to work, doing the jobs that we can’t depend on Man to do as reliably, all the while biding his time until he leads the other machines — who have since become self-aware — in a bloody revolt against their creators.

Pirates 2, Reds 0: Charlie Morton didn’t pitch the most efficient game in baseball history — he threw 87 pitches in five innings — but the Reds did nothing against him during that time. Didn’t help that there was an hour and a half delay during the first inning. The Reds did nothing against the rest of the Pirates staff either. Pittsburgh is in first place.

Indians 5, Twins 2, Indians 6, Twins 3:  David Huff throws seven scoreless innings in the first one. The thinking was that he was only making the spot start for the doubleheader and would only be up with the big club for a minute and a Huff, but he may have won himself a job with that outing. You know, he hasn’t stopped talking since I came here? He must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.

White Sox 5, Royals 2: Mark Buehrle keeps rolling, pitching better than his record suggests. It was 95 degrees at game time with a heat index of 105.  I have a theory that the idea of the heat index is bunk and that it was made up by a TV meteorologist looking to sexy-up the weather segment of the evening news, but I can’t prove it.  I suppose I could ask my dad, who retired from the National Weather Service.  But how do I know they haven’t gotten to him too?

Yankees 5, Rays 4: Joe Maddon decided to bring in Kyle Farnsworth for the five-out save with a couple runners aboard in the eighth inning. Not something a lot of people would do.  That backfired, as both of the runners came around to score. Alex Torres came into a 4-4 tie in the ninth, loaded the bases and then walked Russell Martin with them loaded and took the loss. This is what people were expecting a lot of from the Rays’ pen before the season began.

Marlins 4, Mets 1: Clay Hensley gave up only one hit in five innings and the bullpen took it home from there. A two-run double for Mike Stanton. No stolen bases for him, though, so his manager is probably mad at him.

Nationals 5, Astros 2: A couple RBI for Ryan Zimmerman and eight innings of two-run ball for Jason Marquis. No one really sweats when playing Houston.

Braves 7, Rockies 4: Derek Lowe was cruising — even got a hit and scored a run — until he ran out of gas in the seventh. Braves held on, however, thanks to another nice game from the McCann-Freeman combination of which I am becoming a giantic fan.  Now if only Jason Heyward would come out of his coma to help them out.

Diamondbacks 3, Brewers 0: Rookie Josh Collmenter tomahawked the Brewers, shutting them down and shutting them out over eight. Really, he tomahawked ’em. Inevitable he goes to the Braves one day, I suppose.

Giants 5, Dodgers 0: Ryan Vogelsong had his way with the Dodgers as well. He now leads the NL in ERA, which is what we all expected before the season began, right?

 

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.