And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 5, Braves 4: I suppose you can yell at Dan Uggla for messing up the play with the infield in and a runner on third in the 13th inning which allowed the winning run to score. But perhaps it’s also worth noting that the Braves played perhaps their most important game to date, in a series that, if they don’t win, the division title is basically out of reach, with their best relief pitcher sitting on his butt. But hey, at least Fredi Gonzalez saved Craig Kimbrel for a save situation that never came. Not having him then would have been terrible. Far better to leave everything up to Cristhian Martinez in a situation when a strikeout is absolutely critical, not the guy who strikes out 15.8 batters per nine innings.

Giants 2, Dodgers 1: In another division battle — with a marquee starting pitching matchup — Madison Bumgarner Dominated the Dodgers, striking out ten in eight shutout innings. Clayton Kershaw struck out ten in eight innings too, but Pablo Sandoval got to him twice, with a sacrifice and an RBI single.

Rangers 5, Orioles 1: The Rangers finally get a Ryan Dempster outing that looked like the Cubs version of Ryan Dempster (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER). All nine Rangers starters got a hit. You don’t win anything for that, but if you do it nine times in one season, everyone in the lineup gets a free t-shirt. Assuming they all got their little cards punched each time.

Rockies 3, Mets 1: R.A. Dickey was solid but for a home run to Tyler Colvin, and then the Rockies scored a run on a passed ball by Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach was so livid about it not being called a wild pitch that he texted the official scorer with Ike Davis’ phone in order to voice his displeasure.

Brewers 9, Cubs 5: Jonathan Lucroy hit two homers and drove in four. Pretty fantastic year for him. He’s hitting .328/.379/.554 with 8 homers in 62 games.

Phillies 12, Reds 5: Not a great outing for Roy Halladay — five runs on ten hits in seven innings — but when the offense goes crazy like this, you don’t need to be great. Homers from Ryan Howard, Erik Kratz and John Mayberry, but really everybody got into the act.

Rays 5, Royals 1: The amazing pitching — and the winning — continue for Tampa Bay. Jeremy Hellickson threw seven innings, allowing one run on six hits. You know how you make up for a “meh” first half? You have your rotation turn into the 1998 Braves in the second half. That’s Tampa Bay this year.

White Sox 9, Yankees 6: New York blew a 3-0 lead, hopped back on top at 6-5 and then blew it again. And their lead over the Rays is now down to four games. DeWayne Wise, Gordon Beckham, Alexi Ramirez and Adam Dunn all went yard against a tater-happy Yankees pen.

Marlins 12, Diamondbacks 3: It was all over when the Fish put a nine-spot on Joe Saunders in the fourth innings. Giancarlo Stanton hit two big homers and drove in four and Jose Reyes and John Buck each had four hits in the Marlins 20-hit attack.

Padres 3, Pirates 1: Edinson Volquez — who has been horrifyingly bad lately — struck out ten in six and two-thirds and Will Venable drove in two.

Mariners 5, Indians 3: Michael Saunders continues his recent hot streak, smacking two homers. He’s eight for his last 16 with three homers. Cleveland has no dropped six in a row.

Twins 7, Athletics 2: The A’s lose their first in five games, the Twins with their first in six. How did it happen, Ron Gardenhire?

“Right from the get-go. We got some runs in there early, had a little bit of a lead and kept getting some base hits and quality at-bats,” Gardenhire said. “And Duens did his thing. It was a nice night. We got to run around the bases a little bit. Some guys had some good nights.”

“Duens?” That’s Brian Duensing’s nickname? Creative, there.

Don’t let Rob Manfred pass the buck

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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.