Angels beat the Red Sox in the stupidest game of 2012

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Craziest? Wildest? No, I’m sticking with stupidest.

The Angels edged the Red Sox 14-13 in 10 innings Thursday. Some highlights:

– Boston blew a six-run lead by giving up eight runs in the top of the third

– The Angels put together said eight-run inning without the benefit of an extra-base hit. They did, however, benefit from two bases-loaded walks by two different pitchers, a Pedro Ciriaco error and a dropped ball on a botched rundown.

– The Red Sox took the lead in the eighth and scored in both the ninth and 10th innings, yet lost the game.

– There were four blown saves, two from the current closers (Alfredo Aceves and Ernesto Frieri) and two from past closers (Andrew Bailey and Jason Isringhausen).

– Both closers came out for another inning after blowing their saves and gave up more runs. Aceves was horrible in allowing three runs in the ninth, yet was allowed to come back out and give up two more runs in the 10th. Frieri allowed a run in the ninth and a run in the 10th. The Red Sox may well have re-tied or won the game against Frieri in the 10th if Mike Trout hadn’t had Jacoby Ellsbury played perfectly on Ellsbury’s shot to the left-center gap.

– Vernon Wells hit a homer in the ninth that probably wasn’t a homer, except the Red Sox didn’t bother arguing it (the ball hit off the red line at the top of the Green Monster and bounced back into the field of play)

The Wells homer-double debacle probably didn’t matter, since the Angels followed his homer with three singles and two more runs anyway. Bobby Valentine deserves a whole lot of blame for being asleep at the wheel, though, not only for not arguing that play but for leaving Aceves in.

Some totals from the game:

Of the 18 starters tonight, seven players had at least three hits, 13 drove in at least one run and 15 scored at least once. Ciriaco had four hits and four runs scored for Boston, while Dustin Pedroia had four hits and five RBI. Trout went 3-for-6 with two RBI and two steals.

15 pitchers were used. Five of the seven Angels hurlers allowed at least a run, while only four of the Red Sox’s eight pitches gave up runs. Of course, the difference there was that Boston’s closer allowed five runs.

Free agents who sign with new teams are not disloyal

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Most mornings my local newspaper is pretty predictable.

I know, when I navigate to its home page, that I’ll find about eleventeen stories about Ohio State football, even if it is not football season (especially if it’s not football season, actually), part 6 of an amazingly detailed 8-part investigation into a thing that is super important but which no one reads because it has nothing to do with Ohio State football and, perhaps, a handful of write-ups of stories that went viral online six days previously and have nothing to do with anything that matters.

Local print news is doing great, everyone.

I did, however, get a surprise this morning. A story about baseball! A baseball story that was not buried seven clicks into the sports section, but one that was surfaced onto the front page of the website!  The story was about Michael Brantley signing with the Astros.

Normally I’d be dead chuffed! But then I saw something which kinda irked me. Check out the headline:

Is Michael Brantley “leaving” the Indians? I don’t think so. He’s a free agent signing with a baseball team. He’s no more “leaving” the Indians than you are “leaving” an employer who laid you off to take a job at one of its competitors. This is especially true given that the Indians made no effort whatsoever to sign him. Indeed, they didn’t even give him a qualifying offer, making it very clear as of November 2 that they had no intention of bringing him back. Yet, there’s the headline: “Michael Brantley leaves Indians.”

To be clear, apart from the headline, the article is unobjectionable in any way. It merely recounts Ken Rosenthal’s report about Brantley signing with the Astros and does not make any claim or implication that Brantley was somehow disloyal or that Indians fans should be upset at him.

I do wish, though, that editors would not use this kind of construction, even in headlines, because even in today’s far more savvy and enlightened age, it encourages some bad and outmoded views of how players are expected to interact with teams.

Since the advent of free agency players have often been criticized as greedy or self-centered for signing contracts with new teams. Indeed, they are often cast as disloyal in some way for leaving the team which drafted or developed them. It’s less the case now than it used to be, but there are still a lot of fans who view a player leaving via free agency as some kind of a slap in the face, especially if he joins a rival. Meanwhile, when a team decides to move on from a player, either releasing him or, as was the case with the Indians and Brantley, making no effort to bring him back, it’s viewed as a perfectly defensible business decision. There was no comparable headline, back in early November, that said “Indians dump Brantley.”

Make no mistake: it may very well turn out to be a quite reasonable business decision for Cleveland to move on from Brantley. Maybe they know things about him we don’t. Maybe they simply know better about how he’ll do over the next year than the Astros do. I in no way intend for this little rant to imply that the Indians owed Brantley any more than he owed the Indians once their business arrangement came to an end. They don’t.

But I do suspect that there are still a decent number fans out there who view a free agent leaving his former team as some sort of betrayal. Maybe not Brantley, but what if Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies? What if Kris Bryant walks and joins the Cardinals when he reaches free agency? Fans may, in general, be more enlightened now than they used to be, but even a little time on talk radio or in comments sections reveals that a number of them view ballplayers exercising their bargained-for rights as “traitors.” Or, as it’s often written, “traders.” I don’t care for that whole dynamic.

Maybe this little Michael Brantley headline in a local paper that doesn’t cover all that much baseball is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an example of how pervasive that unfortunate dynamic is. It gives fans, however tacitly, license to continue to think of players as bad people for exercising their rights. I don’t think that belief will ever completely disappear — sports and irrationality go hand-in-hand — but I’d prefer it if, like teams, athletes are likewise given an understanding nod when they make a business decision. The best way to ensure that is to make sure that such decisions are not misrepresented.