And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 9, Red Sox 6: Just your standard seventeen inning affair in which a first baseman is the winning pitcher, after throwing two shutout innings and and outfielder is the losing pitcher after giving up a three-run homer . Chris Davis shut out the Red Sox for the 16th and 17th innings, striking out two. Of course he did. Darnell McDonald gave up a three-run homer to Adam Jones. Of course he did. J.J. Hardy had two homers. The game took six hours and seven minutes. Mercy.

Angels 4, Blue Jays 3: Albert Pujols hit a homer, so we can quit keeping track of that I suppose. Guess now we can see how long it takes for his average to get above the Mendoza Line.

Indians 4, Rangers 2: Yu Darvish struck out eleven Indians but still got the loss because, strikeouts aside, walking four and giving up six hits in six innings while throwing 112 pitches isn’t a study in efficiency. The Indians three-run third inning started when a Johnny Damon popup fell in after getting lost in the sun. Here’s Darvish, after the game through an interpreter:

“If the ball goes into the sun, what can you do?”

I’d like to think that he listened to “A Saucerful of Secrets” right before this game, but I kinda doubt it.

Braves 7, Rockies 2: The sweep. What a nutso series. I thought they had a humidor or something, but by the time yesterday’s game got started I was totally of the mindset that a six run deficit didn’t matter any. Overall the Braves scored 29 runs in this three-game series. On the pitching side, some order was restored in this one with Brandon Beachy allowing only a couple of runs in six and a third.

Marlins 6, Padres 3: Tied at two until the Fish put up a four-run eighth inning. Thankfully, however, the Padres scored one in the bottom of the inning, creating a save situation and allowing us to watch someone besides Heath Bell handle the ninth. Edward Mujica gets the save.

Mariners 5, Twins 2:  Hector Noesi took a shutout into the seventh and Jesus Montero hit a two-run double. If you told this to a Yankees fan a year ago …

Cardinals 8, Astros 1: Tyler Greene hit two homers, the Cardinals salvaged one in the series and, more importantly, Adam Wainwright looked good, with good command for really the first time all season.

Yankees 10, Royals 4: Robinson Cano hit a grand slam, Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run shot and Nick Swisher hit a solo homer, breaking the Yankees offense out of a slump. We knew the offense was going to figure it out soon enough. We were less sure of Phil Hughes, but he turned in his best start of the season, allowing three runs over six and two thirds and striking out seven.

Reds 5, Pirates 3: This is why the Reds traded so much talent for Mat Latos: six innings, two hits, no runs and eleven strikeouts.

Athletics 9, Rays 5: Of course Brandon Inge hit a three-run homer and drove in four. We all know he’d do that against Matt Moore. Who we also predicted would give up eight runs.  We all talked about this during the big pregame show. It was my Master Lock “Lock of the Week.”

Mets 3, Diamondbacks 1: R.A. Dickey was on point (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER). Assuming knuckleballers have points. I think of them as having weird concave places and a lot of swirly bits.

Giants 4, Brewers 3: Matt Cain struck out ten in seven innings but the bullpen couldn’t hold the one-run lead. Tim Dillard walked two and gave up two hits to blow the game in the 11th. Because — all together now! — you can’t use your closer in a tie game on the road!

Tigers 3, White Sox 1: The Tigers offense still isn’t clicking, but solo homers by Austin Jackson, Prince Fielder and Andy Dirks were all Rick Porcello (6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER) and four relievers needed to take care of the Sox.

Cubs 4, Dodgers 3: A walkoff walk to David DeJesus in the 11th. By the way: is it just me, or are there an inordinate number of extra inning games this year? Seems like a lot. Someone who has some research-fu, tell me if I’m nuts.

Phillies 9, Nationals 3: True fact: Natitude is still only 66.6% effective. Hunter Pence had four RBI.  Cole Hamels allowed one run in eight innings and struck out eight. And likely got himself a suspension for admitting that he’s kind of a  jerk.

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.