And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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I’m back after a week’s vacation. I wrote up a long sappy version of it last week, but here’s the short version: San Diego for five days, during which I took Mookie and Carlo to their first ever major league game to see the Rangers vs. the Padres last Monday night. It was a doubly troubling game.

First the Padres — who we decided to root for that night — lost, which was a bummer. Worse: Jason Marquis pitched really well, which has fooled Carlo into thinking Jason Marquis is a superstar. Really, he has not shut up about Jason Marquis for a week. Those two things aside it was a great game. Both of the kids made it through all nine innings, cheered when appropriate, yelled at umpires when appropriate and ate the living crap out of ballpark food.

Back in Ohio late last week, I spent the weekend in Cincinnati with the girlfriend and road-tripping-from-New York- friend Katie for Friday and Saturday’s Reds-Twins games. The games themselves were mixed bags, but the trip was an outrageous success because we got Sean Casey Bobbleheads, fried Kool-Aid and hot dogs with carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and sriracha sauce. All of those things are, in reality, way better than the descriptions sound.

In any event, the trip is over. I greatly appreciate all of you doing the reader contribution And That Happends last week, but as of now democracy has been suspended and we shall revert back to our usual benevolent dictatorship as far as recaps go. Unless you don’t want this stuff anymore and would prefer that we just post scores, in which case I’ll just start sleeping in more. Anyway:

Athletics 4, Giants 3: Two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the home team down 2-1 and up steps Derek Norris to slam a three-run walkoff blast. It was his first ever homer, too, so most of them are going to be a letdown after this. We should call such things “Stone Roses home runs” or “M. Night Shyamalan home runs” or something.

Padres 2, Mariners 0: The Pads found out that bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds died of cancer before the game. Then four pitchers went out and combined for a shutout. That’s a freaking tribute.

Rays 3, Phillies 2: Rays 7, Phillies 3: Cole Hamels shut the Rays out for seven innings in the first game, was lifted for Antonio Bastardo in the eighth and Bastardo walked two dudes and then gave up a homer to Carlos Pena. After the game Charlie Manuel was asked about putting in Bastardo and responded by, more or less, saying they really don’t have anyone better. And he’s right. In the nightcap Brooks Conrad hit two two-run doubles. Cliff Lee was beaten up and still has no wins. Right around the time the second game was ending, I saw this on Twitter, which is about perfect:

Yankees 6, Mets 5: On vacation and only paying vague attention to what was going on in baseball, and even I got the sense that the R.A.   Dickey vs. the Yankees hype had gotten too big. Yes, he’s having a fantastic year, but it was silly to assume he’d be able to keep up the earned-run-free streak going forever. The Yankees got to him for five last night, though the Mets fought back to get him off the hook for the loss. Robinson Cano’s eighth inning homer broke the 5-5 tie and ended up winning it for the Yankees.

Astros 7, Indians 1: Derek Lowe’s reversion to late-period Derek Lowedom continues apace, with the Indians’ starter losing again. His ERA for June: 6.44. Chris Johnson went 3 for 4 with three RBI and a homer. The Astros take the series.

Tigers 3, Pirates 2: A complete game for Justin Verlander, who gave up only five hits, though one of them was a two-run homer. After the game he said he “didn’t feel particularly great.” Guys who struggle just to make it through five innings probably love hearing that sort of thing.

Angels 5, Dodgers 3: The Angels have won 13 of 18 from the Dodgers. They’re getting so bored with this “rivalry” that they’re letting punchless dudes like Peter Bourjos hit two-run homers.

Cardinals 11, Royals 8: St. Louis scored 30 runs on 41 hits in this three game series. It was the biggest beating Missouri has seen since the Centralia Massacre. Oooh … sorry. Too soon?

Marlins 9, Blue Jays 0: The Feesh end a six-game skid. Mark Buehrle’s win makes him the winningest pitcher in interleague history. Which, based on the way some of you feel about interleague play, is sort of like being the top Edsel salesman of 1959.

Twins 4, Reds 3: Figures the one game of this series that I didn’t see in person was the most exciting. Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth to bring the Twins back from a 3-2 deficit. Chapman is in a major funk, going 0-4 with three blown saves and an 11.37 ERA in his last seven games. This slide started at almost the exact time the heat started to die down regarding his encounters with the bunco squad. To get back to relief ace form, Chapman clearly must start some new scams and grifts.

White Sox 1, Brewers 0: Eduardo Escobar pinch-hit for Brent Lillibridge in the tenth inning, got the walkoff hit and then Lillibridge got traded to Boston. Then on the way to Boston Lillibridge was bumped from his flight and while waiting for the next one, some dude snaked his seat at the gate. But it wasn’t all bad: this kid cried his eyes out when he learned that Lillibridge was traded away. Really.

Orioles 2, Nationals 1: The O’s are in an offensive funk, but Matt Wieters’ two-run homer was all they needed. Baltimore took two of three from the Nats.

Red Sox 9, Braves 4: Cody Ross hit two homers and drove in five. Kevin Youkilis’ last game with the Red Sox ended with a triple in the seventh and a standing ovation when he was lifted for a pinch runner. The Braves have lost nine of 13.

Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 1: The Snakes sweep the Cubs behind Wade Miley’s eight innings of one-run ball. Justin Upton drove in three.

Rangers 4, Rockies 2: Matt Harrison got the win and pitched five scoreless, but he had to leave early due to tightness in his lower back.

Mike Trout says Harper and Machado’s free agency experience sent up “red flags”

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Mike Trout signed a record-setting contract extension last week, agreeing to ten more years tacked on to his existing deal at $35.45 million a year. It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at and, I’m quite sure, Trout will not lose any sleep over financial matters for the rest of his days.

One wonders, though, what he might’ve commanded had he hit free agency. If he had been bid on by more than one team. Sure, there is some upward limit to how much even a guy of Trout’s caliber might get, but you have to assume that if a couple more teams were able to get in on that action that that $35.45 million a year could’ve been topped.

Did he give any thoughts to testing the market? Maybe not serious ones, but he certainly observed the market this past winter and didn’t much care for what he saw. He said this to Fabiran Ardaya of The Athletic last night:

“I kind of saw what Bryce and Manny went through and it drew a red flag for me. I talked to Manny and Bryce. It was a tough couple months in the offseason. They put it perspective in my mind.”

He added, “I obviously want to be an Angel for life. That was a big key,” so it’s not like this was purely some matter of Trout being scared off the market. But it’s also the case that the market has become fraught for even the best players in the game and has influenced their decision making to a considerable degree. Part of Mike Trout’s decision to sign that deal was how unwelcoming the free agent market looked like it’d be even for him.

And it’s not just Trout. To see how unpalatable free agency has become one need merely look at the bevy of contract extensions agreed to over the past week or two. Each one of those, however lucrative they may be, represent a player foregoing the open market in favor of negotiating with a single bidder with greater leverage as a result. While some of those choices, like Trout’s, do not cost the players much more than, perhaps, some rounding error on his ultimate contract, others, like pre-arbitration players, are likely foregoing tens of millions of dollars in order to make a deal now instead of a few years later. And, of course, each team that signs a player to an extension is less likely to be active in an upcoming free agency period, reducing the number of bidders and thus applying downward pressure on salaries for those players who do hit the open market.

For the first century or so of baseball history the Reserve Clause ruled baseball economics. Under that system, a team which possessed the rights to a player could not be deprived of that player’s services if it did not want to be. When it came time to decide what to pay a player only one team could bid, giving it all the leverage. Then free agency came. Owners fought like hell against its implementation. They lost that battle and then attempted to roll it back as much as they could, even employing illegal tactics at times in an effort to do so, but they didn’t have much luck.

In the past two or three years, however, they have done what decades of efforts could not do: they have effectively taken away a full and open free market for players and have returned the game to a state in which the team which holds a players’ rights is, effectively, the only bidder for his services and has the power to retain him on favorable terms.

It’s not the restoration of the old reserve clause, exactly, but when the best player in baseball since Willie Mays is wary of the open market, you have to admit that it’s far, far closer to it than anyone thought the owners would ever get.