And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Mets 6, Marlins 1: R.A. Dickey continues his dominant year. He struck out ten and didn’t walk any while tossing a complete game. And we may see more of him soon.

Royals 8, Orioles 2: Manny Machado made his major league debut. Two for four with a triple. Not bad! No one else did anything, however, and the Royals teed off on Wei-Yin Chen. Billy Butler hit a triple for cryin’ out loud. He had a homer too. Though it wasn’t a grand slam, sadly. Which would have been awesome. Probably woulda looked like this.

Diamondbacks 6, Pirates 3: Jason Kubel hit two homers. Lots of folks — myself included — scratched their heads at the signing of Kubel in the offseason, but it’s workin’ out pretty well.

Cardinals 3, Giants 1: Adam Wainwright was on point, allowing one run over seven innings, evening his record to 10-10. Carlos Beltran hit a homer. He leads the NL in RBI. Kinda has to gall the Giants a bit seeing as though he didn’t help them all that much last year. And cost them a pitching prospect.

Rays 7, Blue Jays 1: The fantastic Rays pitching continues. Their staff has allowed one or zero runs in 13 of their last 19 games. If the offense can improve they’ll really have something. Evan Longoria’s return — he had two RBI on three hits last night — is a step in the right direction.

Yankees 4, Tigers 3: Joaquin Benoit gave up back to back homers to Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez, which turned the game around. Oh, and Joe Girardi went crazy and got ejected arguing a fair/foul call that was reversed on the fly, and that was a lot of fun.

Indians 5, Red Sox 3: Break up the Indians! A winning streak!  Ubaldo Jimenez allowed three runs over six innings and struck out ten. The Red Sox have lost seven of nine. Probably time for someone to give some controversial quote now.

Nationals 5, Astros 0: The Nats basically toyed with Houston. Jordan Zimmermann struck out 11 over six three-hit shutout innings. Michael Morse hit two homers and had a sac fly. I’m wondering how the Astros would do facing nothing but Triple-A teams these days. Would they be a .500 team? Serious question.

Cubs 5, Reds 3: Alfonso Soriano’s two-run homer in the eighth broke the 3-3 tie and ended the Cubs eight game losing streak. It was Soriano’s 20th homer. He’s now done that for 11 straight years.

The Reds and Cubs had a long rain delay and were only in the 6th inning when I hit the hay. I’ll catch up when I wake up.

Pressure is on Phillies to finally spend “stupid money”

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For the Phillies, the term “stupid money” has defined their offseason. Coined in November when owner John Middleton said, “We’re going into this [offseason] expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” While Middleton caught himself, adding, “We just prefer not to be completely stupid,” it was a rare promise — especially these days — by a team owner appearing to actually commit to spending money. Austerity measures, it seems, have been implemented by most other front offices across the league.

One of two bombshells finally dropped on Tuesday: infielder Manny Machado reportedly signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres. The deal also apparently includes an opt-out clause after the fifth year. The other bombshell, of course, is free agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

While the Phillies have been more strongly linked to the superstar Harper, the club’s connection to Machado could not be overlooked. Several prominent members of the front office, including president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak, worked with Machado during his years in Baltimore. Upon learning today’s news, Klentak said (via Matt Gelb of The Athletic), “If the reports are true, this contract will exceed our valuation. Sometimes you have to walk away.”

The Phillies, mind you, spent the last five years actively and publicly rebuilding, which included a complete overhaul of the front office. All of that losing was designed to have the club be built up just in time for this offseason, featuring two mega-free agents in Machado and Harper. There are free agents every year. Few of them are of Machado and Harper’s caliber and at the age of 26. The free agent market has stagnated in recent years, in part, due to more analytics-focused front offices being hesitant to pay players lots of money beyond their prime years. Machado and Harper still have plenty of prime years left and, arguably, may not have even entered their primes yet. As far as free agency goes, there are no better bets than Machado or Harper.

So, the pressure is now on the Phillies to go get Harper and live up to Middleton’s “stupid money” proclamation. Despite adding J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, and Jean Segura this offseason, PECOTA still projects the Phillies to finish tied for third place in the NL East at 85-77, just four games behind the projected first-place Nationals. The whole point of rebuilding is to avoid being an 85-win team, teetering on playoff contention. To these more analytically-oriented front offices, it’s either boom or bust. Failing to get Harper would not only make the spurt of activity over the last four months and the entire rebuilding scheme pointless, it would be a slap in the face to fans who endured the pitiful quality of play the club has shown over the last half-decade. Klentak, hired after the 2015 season, subjected fans to things like Jeanmar Gomez, closer; Rhys Hoskins, left fielder; and whatever the heck you call the last three editions of the starting rotation beyond Aaron Nola.

If the Phillies do fail to sign Harper, Klentak will likely say something similar to what he said today, that Harper’s ask didn’t match up with their internal valuations. There will be claims that the Phillies can still spend “stupid money” elsewhere in free agency, like going on a binge and signing Craig Kimbrel, Marwin González, and Dallas Keuchel. No one player left in free agency is a better bet than Harper and no group of players would impact the Phillies’ strength relative to their competitors more than Harper alone would. For the Phillies, it is now Harper-or-bust, and fans should revolt if the club opens the regular season not having signed a free agent superstar.