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?”

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

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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.