Nova impresses, Cano mashes as Yankees capture 9-3 Game 1 win over Tigers

26 Comments

Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova opened a whole lot of eyes during the regular season while registering a 3.70 ERA across 165 1/3 innings. On a wet and cold Saturday night in New York, he opened many more.

Making his first-ever postseason appearance, the 24-year-old Dominican hurled 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball, striking out five and scattering four hits as the Yankees rolled to a two-night 9-3 victory.

But the Yankees did more than pitch well in the resumption of Game 1 of the ALDS — with Tigers ace Justin Verlander watching helplessly from the visitor’s dugout. They hit. And hit. And kept on hitting.

Robinson Cano hit a grand slam in the sixth inning off the Tigers’ Al Alburquerque, who allowed only three of 31 inherited runners to score during the regular season. It was the 50th grand slam in postseason history.

Derek Jeter had two hits and three runs scored, and Brett Gardner drove in two runs while scoring one of his own. Every member of the Yankees’ starting lineup recorded a hit, expect for Alex Rodriguez.

Game 2 is set for Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET. Freddy Garcia will face off against Max Scherzer.

Notes

* The rain ceased by the time the suspended game got back underway, but it was pouring in The Bronx for most of Saturday afternoon and evening, leaving the Yankee Stadium playing surface a bit moist.

* Nova displayed no fear in the early going, hurling his slider with confidence on an impressive strikeout of Miguel Cabrera in the top of the fourth inning. That confidence remained high throughout.

* Tigers “starter” Doug Fister showed some jitters in his first couple frames, at one point committing an awkward-looking balk. He eventually settled in and began operating quickly, but the Yanks’ lineup can be relentless. The young right-hander retired 11 batters in a row between the second and fifth innings, then just three of his last 10 batters. He departed with the bases loaded.

* Tigers catcher Alex Avila was gunned down at the plate in the fifth inning by a smooth relay from Curtis Granderson and Jeter. Russell Martin laid the tag. The game was tied 1-1 at that point.

* Cano nearly had a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth, but a replay review clearly showed that the ball bounced off the top of the wall and back into play. He was correctly awarded an RBI double.

* Cano’s grand slam in the sixth did not require a review. It was destroyed. A no-doubter.

* Nick Swisher struck out with a man on second in the sixth inning and is now 0-for-28 with runners in scoring position during his postseason career. He entered the night with a .162/.302/.314 career playoffs slash line.

* Yankees fans loudly chanted “MVP” every time Granderson stepped to the plate. He went 1-for-3.

* The Tigers rallied for four hits and two runs in the ninth before the Yanks turned to Mariano Rivera.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
6 Comments

Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.