And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Don’t you love the word “penultimate?” Me too!

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: It took twelve innings, but Raul Ibanez’s heroics won the day. He homered off Boston closer/arsonist Andrew Bailey to bring the Yankees back from a 3-1 deficit in the ninth and then he singled in the improbably-in-the-game Frankie Cervelli to walk it off.

Orioles 1, Rays 0: Both the Orioles and the Rays seasons in a nutshell. The Rays got a fantastic performance from James Shields (CG, 2 H, 1 R, 15K), but no offense to speak of. The Orioles got a fantastic group effort from the pitchers and prevailed in a one-run game.  The O’s have to win again today and hope for a Yankees loss to force a one-game playoff for the AL East title tomorrow.

Athletics 3, Rangers 1: People took me to task on Twitter yesterday when I said that the Rangers had “collapsed.” I think they were right. It is the case that the Athletics have played out of their minds and that, overall, the Rangers have basically been the Rangers for the past month and change.  But it is true that they had a five game lead a little over a week ago. They’ve dropped four of five head-to-head to Oakland and are one more loss away from being in a wild card game in which they never figured on playing. Not a collapse, I’ll grant you, but definitely a butt-kicking.

Reds 3, Cardinals 1; Giants 4, Dodgers 3: Bye-bye Dodgers. It was a nice run, much of it made when they had nowhere close to the talent level your typical contender possesses, but it wasn’t meant to be. However, if all of those guys they acquired over the summer play at their established norms or even, shock, have a slightly better-than-normal year in the next couple, L.A. will be a force.

Royals 4, Tigers 2: Over the years there have a been a few guys I figured had a run at a triple crown in them. Don Mattingly, maybe, at least for a couple of years in the mid 80s. Gary Sheffield. Manny. Some freak of nature the Colorado Rockies signed and CoorsHabilitated.  Miguel Cabrera has had that look ever since he first joined the Marlins. A rare bird. A perfect hitter with a perfect blend of greatness and consistency. He went 2 for 3 with two RBI. Barring a Josh Hamilton explosion today, dude is actually gonna win the triple crown.

Pirates 5, Braves 1: In honor of the Braves losing out on the NL East, Fredi Gonzalez apparently went to the Home Depot parking lot and found several guys to play in last night’s game. I mean, I know “Jeff Baker” is a real major leaguer, but it could just as easily be the name of a drifter who found himself stuck in Pittsburgh while he tries to scrape a bit together to get him up to Buffalo, where he heard there might be some work. Not much, but honest pay and a chance to maybe make something out of this life and forget about the past, where everything went wrong no matter what he tried to do. But now, he supposes, he’ll play a little right field, a little second base. Play the man’s game until he can make it to a world where he isn’t always gettin’ played. [long, thoughtful drag on a cigarette  lonesome harmonica music].

Marlins 4, Mets 3: Adam Greenberg has seen four major league pitches in his life. A 92 mile per hour fastball to the head and three R.A. Dickey knuckleballs with which he could do absolutely nothing. Probably a good time to hop on the motivational speaking circuit, dude.  Seriously, though: how Marlins is it to give him his one shot only to make him do it against the nastiest starter in the NL this year?  What, they couldn’t work him in against Craig Kimbrel last week?

Nationals 4, Phillies 2: Adam LaRoche was the only everyday player to stay in for more than five innings. While he did so, he hit a homer and topped 100 RBI for the year. Some fans even chanted “MVP” for him. They probably believed it too. Nationals fans are just so damn cute. Two homers for Darin Ruf.

Blue Jays 4, Twins 3: I always wondered if it’s hard to concentrate on baseball while you’re busy making plans for hunting trips and beach weekends with your girlfriend during a game. Blue Jays managed it OK.

Indians 4, White Sox 3: Adam Dunn has no fear. With the season over for Chicago, he could have sat out these last two games and not challenged the single season strikeout record. Nope: he faced it. And whiffed twice, tying Mark Reynolds for the record at 223. Play tomorrow, Dunner. Take what is rightfully yours.

Astros 3, Cubs 0: Getting shut out by the same 3-0 score to the worst team in baseball at home has to be one of the more ignominious ends to a season in baseball history. Maybe some team in 1919 had half the roster die from Spanish Flu or something. That would be worse. I guess.

Brewers 4, Padres 3: Martin Maldonado hit a grand slam. If the Braves played a lineup of drifters, the Brewers played a lineup of orphans. Indeed, they used ten rookies in this game.

Diamondbacks 5, Rockies 3: Aaron Hill with the walkoff three-run homer. Arizona’s season isn’t ending in the most satisfying manner, but at least it’s ending with some excitement.

Mariners 6, Angels 1: Mike Trout’s 1 for 5 dropped him to .324, so that’s that as far as the batting title goes. In other news, Kyle Sager hit a home run. Every Mariner pitcher is desperately using that as evidence that, no, they don’t need to move the fences in at Safeco next year. “Please, dear God, don’t do this to us,” they’re saying.

Players are waking up and getting ready to fight

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There’s this idea out there that the owners have been eating the players’ lunch at the bargaining table in recent years because the players are, generally, rich and happy and maybe don’t care about a lot of the stuff the previous couple of generations of players did. There is probably some degree of truth to that. The difference between a good deal and a bad deal, in both collective bargaining and on the free agent market, is way less dire now than it used to be and thus the urgency may not have been there over the past several years the way it was in 1981 or 1994.

But it goes too far to say that such a mindset is universal among players. Or that it’s a mindset which, even among those who hold it, will always persist. Players may not have been as vigilant about labor matters over the past several years as they used to be, but they’re not idiots and, at some point, the owners are gonna push ’em too far and they’ll respond.

As we find ourselves in the second straight offseason in which teams simply don’t seem all too keen on signing free agents, it’s starting to happen already.

Earlier this week Dallas Keuchel tweeted out some things critical of the current market and teams’ approach to it (and took another swipe today). This afternoon Giants third baseman Evan Longoria chimed in on Instagram, posting a picture of Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and saying the following:

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

Most of that is common sense, the sort of which we’ve been arguing for around here for some time. Fans should care about good players and winning baseball games, not whether or not their front office can get a great bargain for its own sake. It may be interesting to talk about payroll and salaries and wins/$, but the point of baseball is to win, right? When so many teams seem rather uninterested in that, it’s a problem that all of the interesting analytical insights can’t really make up for.

The second part is worth keeping your eyes on. Maybe players have not been on a war footing the likes of which their predecessors were in the 1970s through the 1990s, but it doesn’t mean they won’t get back there if pushed. As is abundantly clear, the owners are pushing. Salaries are dropping in both an absolute sense and, especially, compared to baseball’s revenues. Players are getting a smaller piece of the pie than they have in a while and ownership seems quite pleased to see that continue.

If players are saying stuff like this publicly, it means that players are talking about it amongst themselves privately. The last two years have likely served as quite a wakeup call for them, and they seem to be waking up. Evan Longoria is. Dallas Keuchel is. So are some others. If current trends continue, more and more will wake up.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2021 season. What happens over the rest of this offseason and the next two is going to determine the mood of the players. The mood of the players, in turn, is going to dictate the tenor of negotiations. If they were to begin right now, those negotiations would be very, very rocky.