And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

62 Comments

Athletics 12, Rangers 5: Oakland shocks the world. No one on the planet had them pegged as a playoff team and, as recently as a week ago, no one figured they had a chance in hell at the division crown. Well, that’s what you get for pegging and figuring. As for the Rangers … just, dude, the Rangers. Losers of seven of nine down the stretch. They looked positively shell-shocked in this game. I know there is no correlation between how a season ends and how a team does in the playoffs but, man, this was ugly city.

Yankees 14, Red Sox 2:  God job, Boston. Good effort. Unless, rather than just a totally listless and mailed-in performance, your rolling over like this was really a calculated thing in which you served up you revenge to Baltimore for beating you to close out 2011’s collapse.

Rays 4, Orioles 1: Evan Longoria loves game 162. Three homers here to follow up last year’s heroics. As for Baltimore, it was remarkable that they made it all the way to the last day of the season with a shot at the division. There is no shame in taking the wild card. Now, on to face a Rangers team that looks like it’s suffering from PTSD.

Tigers 1, Royals 0: Miguel Cabrera: .330, 44, 139. Triple Crown. And the Tigers: the best rested of all of the AL playoff teams despite the fact that they have the worst record of them all. Viva divisions.

Nationals 5, Phillies 1: The Nats clinch home field throughout the playoffs. Teddy wins. What a festive day. Even better? Pouty Phillies! Jimmy Rollins:

“With us healthy, they’re a second-place team”

And if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas.

White Sox 9, Indians 0: Dan Johnson: all he does is hit home runs in game 162. Really, that’s all he’s done for two years now. Three bombs last night. His first three of the year.

Braves 4, Pirates 0: Let the record reflect that Chipper Jones ended his career (regular season version) with a pinch hit single to right. Let it also reflect that Ben Sheets ended his with a scoreless inning. Beyond that the Braves emptied the pen and won their 20th of 30 to close out the season.

Mariners 12, Angels 0: Casper Wells drives in five. Every Mariner batter in the starting lineup scored at least one run.

Cubs 5, Astros 4: Because of course the Astros had to lose their 107th and final game — and their final NL game — in a walkoff loss. I guess some folks may look to the fact that Houston started respectably and ended winning 15 of 30 to say “hey, it’s not so bad,” but c’mon guys, it’s bad. Here’s hoping Bo Porter and a move to the AL give everyone a new beginning down there.

Mets 4, Marlins 2: It’s all over now everyone. The pain will stop until next spring. Ike Davis hit his 32nd homer.

Cardinals 1, Reds 0: Homer Bailey, alas, was unable to pull off the old Johnny Vander Meer. Matt Carpenter singled in a run and Shelby Miller tossed six shutout innings against a mostly resting Reds roster.

Dodgers 5, Giants 1: Clayton Kershaw finishes with the ERA crown. That’s something. He also finished a lone strikeout behind R.A. Dickey for the second jewel of the pitcher’s Triple Crown. Maybe next year he’ll learn how to win, however, and regain his Cy Young form.

Blue Jays 2, Twins 1: Next year will be the fist season since 1988 without Omar Vizquel in the major leagues. That is all.

Rockies 2, Diamondbacks 1: An NL West crown is followed by a .500 season. And before the NL West crown season, they were just putrid. The Arizona Diamondbacks are like a box of chocolates.

Padres 7, Brewers 6: This was the last game to end last night. And with it the 2012 major league regular season.

And, as it always does, its end makes me sad. I love the playoffs, of course, but they’re not the regular season.  Baseball to me has always been best as a constant, low-leverage thing where no one game matters too terribly much and, if we don’t like it, another game will come along the next day. It’s beautiful background music as we go about our lives from April through September.  The playoffs are …  something else.

Thanks for stopping by every morning during the long slow walk.

Meanwhile, on the cold, cold Hot Stove . . .

Getty Images
10 Comments

It’s Hot Stove Season baby! You know what that means! Yep: time to watch some teams sign a few relievers to minor league deals and then wait everyone out until February while talking about the need to maintain financial flexibility! FEEL THE BURN.

In more specific news:

We’ve talked a lot about Betts this winter already, and that seems like madness. Bryant’s career with the Cubs began with business-side acrimony, it’s still simmering, and there is no sense that either side is amenable to a long-term deal before he hits free agency. The Indians have been signaling for some time that they have no interest in keeping Lindor long term.

It’s quite the thing when three teams who are supposed to be contending are, instead, looking to deal recent MVP award winners and candidates who are 27 and 26 years old, but these are the times in which we are living.

  • Joe Sheehan wrote an excellent column for Baseball America last week analyzing the attendance drop MLB experienced in 2019. Which is just the latest in a series of attendance drops. As Joe notes there is a very, very strong connection between teams (a) signaling to fans during the offseason that they are not interested in signing or retaining players or otherwise being competitive; and (b) teams suffering attendance losses.

As I wrote last offseason, there is an increasing disconnect between attendance and other proxies of broad fan interest and revenue. Which is to say that, as long as teams continue to get fat on long-term TV deals, side businesses like real estate development, and soaking a smaller and wealthier segment of the fan base with higher and higher prices, they really have no reason to care if several thousand common or casual fans become alienated by their teams’ lack of desire to compete.

Sullivan doesn’t offer ideas about how that can happen, but over the past couple of seasons we’ve seen a number of proposals, some broad, some specific, about how MLB can turn its free agency/trading period into frantic, 1-3 day scrambles-to-sign like we see in both the NBA and NFL. I’m sympathetic to that desire — it’s exciting! — but any attempt to do that in Major League Baseball, at least as things are currently set up, would be a disaster for the players.

In the NBA and NFL you have salary caps and floors and, in the NBA, you have max contracts. As a result, teams both have a set amount of money to spend and an incentive to spend that money. We can quibble with whether those incentives are the best ones or if they benefit the players as much as other systems might, but there’s at least something inherent in their systems which inspires teams to sign free agents.

In Major League Baseball, there is no such incentive. May teams want to keep payrolls as low as possible under the guise of rebuilding or tanking and there is no effective mechanism to keep them from doing so. Even nominal contenders — see the Cubs, Indians and Red sox in item 1 above — spend more time thinking about how to cut payroll rather than add talent. This is bolstered by the stuff in item 2 above in which attendance and even winning has less of an impact on the bottom line than it ever has.

So, why scramble to sign players by a set deadline? Under most of the scenarios I see floated — like the laughably horrible one MLB reportedly suggested to the MLBPA — teams would just wait out free agents until deadline day, give them crappy take-it-or-leave-it offers and then leave them all scrambling to sign one-year deals or to sit the season out.

For such a thing to happen — or for teams to want to keep their bright young stars or for the league to want to maintain fan interest and keep attendance from continuing to slide — there must be incentives put in place to make them want to sign and retain players. To make them want to win. To make them want to excite the fan base.

At present, such incentives are not there. And, as such, we are faced with yet another winter with a cold, cold stove.