And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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This edition of And That Happened is being written in a New York City hotel room, so if it takes on a tone of fright and confusion at the horrifying, dystopian cacophony that is New York, well, that’s why:

Blue Jays 1, Athletics 0: Luis Perez makes his first big league start and holds the A’s to one hit over six innings. “Hey, skip? Am I doin’ this right?”  “Sure, Luis. Just swell.”

Tigers 8, Indians 7: Austin Jackson = Gandalf. Kosuke Fukodome = Balrog. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!  So, Cleveland is dead now, right?

Nationals 5, Phillies 4: The walkoff HBP. After a weekend of late losses and hours upon hours of rain delays, I’m guessing that the Phillies are happy to get the hell out of Washington.

Rockies 5, Dodgers 3: I love how no one on the planet cared that the Rockies hadn’t won on a bunch of Sundays in a row until last week and then, the very next Sunday, they win.

Padres 4, Marlins 3: Will Venable hit a bases loaded single to win it and to gain the sweep in walkoff fashion.  Of course he wouldn’t have been able to do that if Heath Bell hadn’t blown a save. On the same day that Trevor Hoffman’s number was retired no less. Maybe Hoffman should have pitched.

Giants 6, Astros 4: Pablo Sandoval hits a two-run job in the 11th to salvage one against the Astros. The fact that they had to salvage one against the Astros is kind of sad, of course.

Angels 7, Orioles 1: Jerome Williams — Really, Jerome Williams — shut the O’s down. It was his first win in the bigs since September 2005. My son was two months old then. He’s starting first grade tomorrow.

Reds 5, Pirates 4: The Reds faced Joel Hanrahan three times over the weekend and they beat him twice.

Yankees 3, Twins 0: Curtis Granderson hit an inside the park homer which, given that the Twins’ right and centerfielders lined up poorly to play the carom off the wall, and given that the relay throw was candy-armed into home, wasn’t quite as impressive as one might think. I mean, great for Granderson, but like so many inside the parkers, it was built on a foundation of defense that was poor enough to allow the play but not poor enough to count for an error.

Red Sox 6, Royals 1: First sentence of the Associated Press recap: ” Jon Lester loves to face the Kansas City Royals.”  Well, duh. Who doesn’t?

Braves 1, Diamondbacks 0: The Braves sweep the Diamondbacks. Tim Hudson, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel combine for the five-hit shutout. Fredi Gonzalez called a silly squeeze play once that backfired, but since the Braves won I suppose we’re not supposed to care about such things. Can’t wait until he does it against the Brewers in the NLDS.

White Sox 10, Rangers 0: Gavin Floyd was stingy and the White Sox pounded the Rangers. Here is as good a place as any to mention that I stupidly left the umbrella I brought with me to New York in my hotel room when I left to go out yesterday afternoon. When I emerged from the building I was in, it was pouring, and the hotel was just as far from where I was as was the restaurant I was going to, so I had little choice but to buy one of those cheapo umbrellas from a street vendor. It lasted almost two blocks before getting soaked through.  In other news, you can count on me to do one really dumbass newbie out-of-his-depth thing on every trip to New York. Maybe next time I’ll take an $80 gypsy cab ride from the airport or something. If you have any suggestions of ways I can make my life harder for myself when I leave my safe little Midwestern basement, please, leave them in the comments.

Brewers 6, Mets 2: One of the more pointed sentences you’ll read in an AP recap:

“Milwaukee won three straight in Queens to send the Mets six games under .500 for the first time since May 4 with a thorough display of superior baseball this weekend.”

Rays 8, Mariners 7: Johnny Damon had what he thought was a grand slam taken off the board thanks to a video replay in the seventh inning, but then hit a no-doubt walkoff homer in the ninth. Joe Girardi protested both calls. It was really strange.

Cardinals 6, Cubs 2: Rodrigo Lopez was hit so hard his kids are gonna come out shakin’.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.