And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 10, White Sox 4: Matt Wieters homered twice. The first one coming in the eighth, which kicked off the O’s comeback after finding themselves down 4-1, the second one: a 10th inning grand slam which put the game out of reach.

Twins 7, Yankees 3: Joe Mauer had three hits and Justin Morneau played in the field and had a home run. That should make the Twins fans happy. Carl Pavano allowed three runs in seven innings, which should make the Yankees fans mad.

Phillies 5, Giants 2: The battle of the aces doesn’t quite live up to its billing, but Halladay beats Lincecum, who is still struggling mightily. Indeed, Lincecum gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings and it actually represented a clear improvement over his last outing.

Mets 6, Braves 1: I guess the Mets own the Braves now. Ike Davis — three run homer — and Dillon Gee — four hit ball over seven innings — led New York to their fourth straight win over Atlanta.

Rays 1, Red Sox 0: As mentioned yesterday, Bobby V. stuck with Daniel Bard a bit too long and he walked the ballpark. And Fernando Rodney should have walked Cody Ross in the ninth, but Larry Vanover had other ideas. None of which takes away from James Shields’ day (8.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER). The Rays avoid the sweep.

Nationals 6, Astros 3: Stephen Strasburg cruised through five innings, was beat up a bit in the sixth, but had plenty of margin for error to get the win. And check out this throw home on a pop fly by Rick Ankiel. You’ll never see a better one in that situation. If the dude stood out there and threw it like that ten years ago instead of on the mound he’d still be a pitcher.

Tigers 3, Royals 2: Speaking of nice throws, check out this one by Jeff Francoeur nailing Jhonny Peralta at third base. Tigers still won, though, because Verlander dealt for eight innings and then survived — just barely — for the ninth, after loading the bases and going 2-2 to Alex Gordon. Struck him out looking though, with all five pitches to him being 100 m.p.h. fastballs. Brandon Inge had a two-run homer. Which probably bought him two more years in a Tigers uniform, what with the sliding performance scale to which he is subject.

Padres 7, Rockies 1: Nick Hundley drove in three, Chase Headley had three doubles and scored three times and Corey Luebke allowed one run on six hits in seven innings.

Angels 6, Athletics 0: Kendrys Morales hit his first homer since the one that led to his ankle injury nearly two years ago. Mike Scioscia actually said this after the game: “”I was happy he got around the bases in one piece.” Pujols went 2 for 4 with a double. Jered Weaver got his 1000th career strikeout. The A’s were shutout for the third time in six games.

Diamondbacks 5, Pirates 1: Chris Young continues his torrid start. He had three hits, including his fifth homer of the year. Joe Saunders gave up one run on six hits in seven innings.

Meanwhile, on the cold, cold Hot Stove . . .

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It’s Hot Stove Season baby! You know what that means! Yep: time to watch some teams sign a few relievers to minor league deals and then wait everyone out until February while talking about the need to maintain financial flexibility! FEEL THE BURN.

In more specific news:

We’ve talked a lot about Betts this winter already, and that seems like madness. Bryant’s career with the Cubs began with business-side acrimony, it’s still simmering, and there is no sense that either side is amenable to a long-term deal before he hits free agency. The Indians have been signaling for some time that they have no interest in keeping Lindor long term.

It’s quite the thing when three teams who are supposed to be contending are, instead, looking to deal recent MVP award winners and candidates who are 27 and 26 years old, but these are the times in which we are living.

  • Joe Sheehan wrote an excellent column for Baseball America last week analyzing the attendance drop MLB experienced in 2019. Which is just the latest in a series of attendance drops. As Joe notes there is a very, very strong connection between teams (a) signaling to fans during the offseason that they are not interested in signing or retaining players or otherwise being competitive; and (b) teams suffering attendance losses.

As I wrote last offseason, there is an increasing disconnect between attendance and other proxies of broad fan interest and revenue. Which is to say that, as long as teams continue to get fat on long-term TV deals, side businesses like real estate development, and soaking a smaller and wealthier segment of the fan base with higher and higher prices, they really have no reason to care if several thousand common or casual fans become alienated by their teams’ lack of desire to compete.

Sullivan doesn’t offer ideas about how that can happen, but over the past couple of seasons we’ve seen a number of proposals, some broad, some specific, about how MLB can turn its free agency/trading period into frantic, 1-3 day scrambles-to-sign like we see in both the NBA and NFL. I’m sympathetic to that desire — it’s exciting! — but any attempt to do that in Major League Baseball, at least as things are currently set up, would be a disaster for the players.

In the NBA and NFL you have salary caps and floors and, in the NBA, you have max contracts. As a result, teams both have a set amount of money to spend and an incentive to spend that money. We can quibble with whether those incentives are the best ones or if they benefit the players as much as other systems might, but there’s at least something inherent in their systems which inspires teams to sign free agents.

In Major League Baseball, there is no such incentive. May teams want to keep payrolls as low as possible under the guise of rebuilding or tanking and there is no effective mechanism to keep them from doing so. Even nominal contenders — see the Cubs, Indians and Red sox in item 1 above — spend more time thinking about how to cut payroll rather than add talent. This is bolstered by the stuff in item 2 above in which attendance and even winning has less of an impact on the bottom line than it ever has.

So, why scramble to sign players by a set deadline? Under most of the scenarios I see floated — like the laughably horrible one MLB reportedly suggested to the MLBPA — teams would just wait out free agents until deadline day, give them crappy take-it-or-leave-it offers and then leave them all scrambling to sign one-year deals or to sit the season out.

For such a thing to happen — or for teams to want to keep their bright young stars or for the league to want to maintain fan interest and keep attendance from continuing to slide — there must be incentives put in place to make them want to sign and retain players. To make them want to win. To make them want to excite the fan base.

At present, such incentives are not there. And, as such, we are faced with yet another winter with a cold, cold stove.