What they’re saying about the Mariners’ combined no-hitter

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Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen combined for a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers last night.

It was the 10th combined no-hitter in major league history and the first since six Astros combined to no-hit the Yankees on June 11, 2003. It was the third no-hitter thrown by the Mariners in their 35-year history and their first since Chris Bosio did it on April 22, 1993 against the Red Sox.

Here’s some reaction to the unique feat:

Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing: “It’s such an anti-history way of going about things. So much is lost when a guy who’s throwing a no-hitter has to be removed. Much of the charm is gone, and the fans watching resign themselves to the reality that they won’t see one guy turn in a legendary performance. But then you remove the guy who replaced the first guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the second guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the third guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the fourth guy, and you go all the way back around again to being incredible. The Mariners have a twelve-man pitching staff. Half of them combined to no-hit a team.”

Jesus Montero, via the Associated Press: “He was surprised,” said Montero, referring to Wilhelmsen. “He didn’t know. … I jumped on him and I was like, `Hey, it’s a no-hitter!’ And he went, `What?!” And then he was so happy after that. He was so focused on the game. That’s what happened.”

Tim Wilhelmsen, via ESPN.com: “Well, I mean, I knew what was going on. But no, I have a brain fart every so often and just focused so hard on getting one thing done. It’s not like you forget, but it’s like you put it off to the side. And then it’s like, ‘Holy cow, we just did it,’ and Montero is in my arms. And then it’s, ‘Holy Cow, we just did it!’ ‘HOLY COW, WE JUST DID IT!’ Something like that. It’s there; it just takes a minute to get it, pick it out and place it in.”

Kevin Millwood, via MLB.com: “I’m excited, I’m excited for all these guys who came into the game out of the bullpen. I guess it’s a little bit more exciting for those guys when they can be a part of it. I wasn’t very happy when I came out of the game, and it took me a couple innings to get a little excited about it, but those guys got all the tough outs.”

Brendan Ryan, via MLB.com: “Wow, he can really fly,” said Ryan, referring to the close play on Dee Gordon in the ninth inning. “I got it cleanly, I got to it quick, I thought, and got it out of my glove. It was a decent throw. I’m still shocked it was that close.”

Jim Caple of ESPN.com: “Consider this: The man who started it (Kevin Millwood) is a 37-year-old journeyman who watched the final three innings on TV in the clubhouse while undergoing treatment for a sore groin. He didn’t even get the win because the game was still tied at 0 when he left. The winning pitcher (Stephen Pryor) is a 22-year-old rookie who was in Triple-A Tacoma the last time the Mariners played a game in Seattle. And the reliever on the mound at the end (Wilhelmsen) is a former bartender. Man, baseball is great, isn’t it?”

Don’t let Rob Manfred pass the buck

Rob Manfred
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Yesterday morning, in Ken Rosenthal’s article, Rob Manfred made it pretty clear what his aim is at the moment: throw blame on the union for the sign stealing scandal getting to the place it is. It was clear in both his words and Rosenthal’s words, actually:

In fairness, Manfred was not alone in failing to see the future clearly. As far back as 2015, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) expressed concerns to MLB about the rise of technology in the sport. The union, however, did not directly focus on the threat to the game’s integrity.

Then, in his press conference yesterday, he went farther, saying that the union refused to allow a situation in which punishment might happen, going so far as to claim that the union refused to make Astros players available for interviews without blanket immunity.

The union, both in its official statement last night and in Tony Clark’s words to Yahoo’s Hannah Keyser earlier this afternoon, is basically saying Manfred is full of it:

“We were approached with respect to their intentions to not discipline players. Our legal role and responsibility is inherent in accepting that consideration, which is what we did.”

Which is to say, it was Rob Manfred, and not the union, which started from the presumption that there was immunity for Astros players. Manfred is the one who settled on that at the outset, and he’s now trying to make it look like the union was the side that insisted on it so that people who are mad will get mad at Tony Clark for defending the indefensible as opposed to getting mad at him for creating a situation in which there was no legal way to punish Astros players.

And, as we have noted many times already, he did create that situation.

It’s undisputed that Manfred never attempted to make rules or set forth discipline for players stealing signs. Indeed, he did the opposite of that, saying over two years ago that GMs and managers, not players, would be held responsible. If he wanted to discipline players now, he’d have a big problem because he specifically excluded them from discipline then. I’d argue it was a mistake for him to do that — he should’ve said, three years ago, that everyone’s butt would be on the line if the cheating continued — but he didn’t.

Some people I’ve spoken to are taking the position that the union is still to blame here. I’m sort of at a loss as to how that could be.

It is the union’s job to protect its members from arbitrary punishment by management. It is not the union’s job to say “hey, I know our workers were off the hook here based on the specific thing you said, but maybe we should give them some retroactive punishment anyway?” If someone in charge of a union proposed that, they’d be in dereliction of their duties and could be fired and/or sued. Probably should be, actually. A lot of people might be mad about that, and I know fully well that unions aren’t popular. But then again, neither are criminal defense attorneys, and they don’t go up to prosecutors and say “well, there isn’t a law against what my client did — in fact, the governor issued an order a couple of years ago saying that what he did wasn’t prohibited — but we’re all kind of mad about it, so why don’t we work together to find a way to put him in jail, eh?” It’d be insane.

That doesn’t make anyone feel better now. The players are certainly mad, with new ones every day finding a camera to yell at over all of this. I get it. What has happened is upsetting. It’s a situation in which some members of the union are at odds with other members. It’s not an easy situation to navigate.

They should take that anger, however, and channel it into telling their leader, Tony Clark, that they don’t want this to happen again. That, to the extent Rob Manfred now, belatedly, proposes new rules and new punishments for sign-stealing or other things, he should get on board with that. They should also — after the yelling dies down — maybe think a little bit about how, if the facts were slightly different here, they would never argue that Rob Manfred should have the power to impose retroactive or other non-previously-negotiated punishment on players.

Either way, neither they nor any of the rest of us should take Manfred’s bait and try to claim that what’s happening now is the union’s fault. If, for no other reason, than because he doesn’t have much credibility when it comes to this whole scandal. Remember, he’s the guy who issued a report saying that, except for Alex Cora, it was only players involved despite knowing at the time he said it that the front office had hatched the scheme in the first place. Which, by the way, similarly sought to make the players out to be the only ones to blame while protecting people on management’s side. He’s not someone who can be trusted in any of this, frankly.

At the end of the day, this was a scheme perpetrated by both front office and uniformed personnel of the Houston Astros. To the extent nothing more can be done about that than already has been done, blame it on Rob Manfred’s failure of leadership. Not on the MLB Players Association.