And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 10, Brewers 1: The four-game sweep of the Brewers. Four RBI for Allen Craig. That’s six straight wins for the Cards, who are in their customary first place position in rather quiet fashion. The six first place teams right now: Boston, Detroit, Texas, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco. Not many surprises there. I guess Boston would be the biggest one, and it’s not like they’re some Cinderella story. Viva Big Team Hegemony.

Braves 9, Mets 4:  A double, a homer and three RBI for Freddie Freeman. Reed Johnson drove in three two. Meanwhile Brian McCann is likely coming back today, and will take at bats away from Evan Gattis. Reed Johnson will continue to come off the bench. B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, however, will continue to play every single day to no apparently effective purpose.

Twins 4, Indians 2: Mike Pelfrey: stopper. Or something. He pitched well and the Indians’ six-game winning streak comes to an end. Brutal stretch here for the Twins as the came off Detroit to play the hot Indians and now on to Boston. Had to win one in there somewhere lest this become the road trip from Hell which effectively ends the competitive portion of Minnesota’s season.

Nationals 6, Pirates 2: Clint Hurdle intentionally walked Adam LaRoche to get to Tyler Moore. Moore then hit a three run homer. Didn’t watch the game but I’n guessing there was a nice iso camera shot on Hurdle right after that. And that Hurdle knew it and just chewed his gum and stared straight ahead for a few seconds. Man’s a pro. He knows how to handle those situations. Oh, and Bryce Harper’s day ended early because of an Ump Show.

Athletics 5, Yankees 4: Not a great day for Andy Pettitte, giving up a couple of homers and walking four. The Yankees clawed back, however, only to see Josh Donaldson take Boone Logan into the upper deck in the eighth inning. Grant Balfour got into trouble late but held on.

Blue Jays 10, Mariners 2: I guess Toronto is going to win some games. And winning one in a blowout will help that embarrassingly poor run differential get better faster. Mark DeRosa hit a three-run homer. Melky hit a solo shot. Brandon Morrow was on point for eight innings.

Reds 7, Cubs 4: Was at a restaurant last night. In the bar there was some greatest highlights of the year kind of show. They showed Ben Revere’s amazing catch in center at Great American Ballpark against the Reds from earlier this year. I didn’t recognize the show as a past highlights show at first because I wasn’t really paying attention. Thought it was SportsCenter or something. My brain: “wait, the Phillies aren’t in Cincy, whaaaaa ….?”  It took me far longer to reconcile all of that than it should have. In other news, the restaurant I was in last night makes great, great martinis. Maybe that should be “in related news …”

Royals 6, White Sox 5: Late heroics in Kansas City. Billy Butler with a two-out, two-run double in the ninth to tie it on a pitch which, had he missed it, would have ended the game. Alex Gordon hit a bases-loaded single in the 10th to win it. The Royals have come from behind in 11 of their 17 wins this season. Also: the Royals have 17 wins this season. And a lot of people laughed when I picked them to finish ahead of the White Sox back in March.

Marlins 14, Phillies 2: Is this the end for Roy Halladay? Adeiny Hechavarria hit a grand slam and a bases-loaded triple off of him, and now he’s heading to the DL. This is the stuff of long absences and, in some cases, the end of a pitcher’s career. Let’s hope this isn’t a Brandon Webb or Johan Santana situation.

Rangers 4, Red Sox 3: I watched this one until it was 3-0 Red Sox and thought “well, Darvish has some good stuff, but he’s leaving things up, so this probably won’t end well.” It ended well, as the Davids Ortiz and Ross homers were all the damage the Sox would do, while Darvish struck out 14. He’s doing a lot of that striking out hitters thing lately.

Padres 5, Diamondbacks 1: Back to back homers by Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable and a solid outing from Edinson Volquez, as the camo-clad Padres win. The once-struggling Padres have won eight of eleven. Arizona is on a mini-skid.

Orioles 8, Angels 4: I feel like the O’s have been on the west coast for three years. OK, just checked: it was 11 games. And they won seven of them. Not too shabby. The Angels, meanwhile, continue their worst start in franchise history and have dropped seven of nine. Not that Seven of Nine is a bad thing at all.

Tigers 9, Astros 0: This was more of a snuff film than a baseball series. I kept wanting to throw a towel into the ring. The Tigers outscored the Astros 39-8 in the four-game series.

Rays 8, Rockies 3: If you give up three runs in Coors Field you can win as long as there aren’t runners on base. That’s what Alex Cobb did anyway. [Craig randomly looks at the box score, notices James Loney is hitting .398/.444/.532, spits coffee out all over the screen].

Giants 4, Dodgers 3: I have a houseguest from Los Angeles at the moment. We got home and watched some of the Dodgers game last night. It’s a month into the season and this Dodgers fan already has a feeling of inevitable blah, predicting the bad things like first-pitch-swing outs for Juan Uribe and stuff. The Dodgers have a new feel about them, but they also have an old feel about them.

Something needs to change to avoid future incidents like Machado-vs.-Welke

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced that Padres third baseman Manny Machado was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for “aggressively arguing” and making contact with home plate umpire Bill Welke after a controversial strike three call in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game against the Rockies in Colorado. The clip of the incident is below, showing that Welke’s call was poor. Machado’s behavior was also poor, as he indeed made contact — inadvertently or not — with Welke and repeatedly swore at him. Machado also threw his bat, though it was not in anyone’s direction and no one was put in harm’s way.

Machado chose to appeal his suspension, as is his right. While that matter is in the process of being resolved, the Major League Umpires Association put out a lengthy statement on Facebook and a shorter but hashtag-laden post on Twitter. The statements were problematic for a number of reasons, chiefest being that the union is publicly commenting on an ongoing matter. MLB can keep Machado’s suspension at one game, which seems likely, or it can reduce his suspension to zero games. The league can also choose to reduce or remove the fine as well. Once the matter is resolved, the MLBUA should feel free to comment publicly on the matter.

MLBUA’s statement was also poorly proofread, hyperbolic, and creates a very legitimate argument for bias against Machado and/or the Padres going forward. The MLBUA described Machado as “violently” throwing his bat “with no regard to anyone’s safety.” It continued, “It is NOT okay to throw a temper tantrum and physically touch someone of authority, just because you don’t agree.”

MLBUA then moralized, asking, “What does this teach the MLB’s immense and ongoing influential youth movement trying to attract young fans to the game? Major League Baseball has to always lead by example in all cases of violent behavior, on and off the field.” It closed out, saying that the union was “extraordinarily disappointed” in MLB’s “inaction.”

Among the hashtags MLBUA used on Twitter were “#TemperTantrum,” “#RepeatOffender,” and “#Nonsense.”

Major League Baseball then released a statement on Tuesday night, saying, “…we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association.” The league added, “We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”

Whoever put out the message on behalf of the MLBUA should have asked themselves, “What is my purpose here and for whom am I posting this?” The entire purpose of a trade union is to create a cohesive unit, establishing bargaining power on behalf of labor versus capital. So, MLBUA is not writing this for fans, for players, or for MLB executives; it is publicly commenting for umpires. An ancillary benefit might be to engender public support for umpires vis-a-vis Welke.

It must then ask itself if the statement creates solidarity among umpires. And I think that’s a solid no. Machado is not the first player and will not be the last to make contact with an umpire and to throw a “temper tantrum” of that magnitude. So why single Machado out and die on this hill today? I would be shocked if more than a handful of umpires outside of Welke and his closest confidantes appreciated the MLBUA reacting the way it did. It doesn’t help them achieve any union-specific goals and might actually hurt them. Repeatedly referring to Machado’s actions as a “temper tantrum” and “nonsense,” and calling him a “repeat offender” is unprofessional. It’s something an Internet commenter would write in the heat of the moment, not the representative of a trade union in one of the most profitable industries in the country. Furthermore, in singling out Machado, Machado himself as well as his teammates have a legitimate reason to believe Welke and his crew might be biased against them not just for the remainder of the season but for the foreseeable future.

On a more pedantic note, the MLBUA wrote that it is not okay for players to act the way Machado did against “someone of authority.” It’s not the power that should shield umpires from workplace violence; it’s their humanity. Machado should no more or less scream and yell at an umpire than he should anyone else in any walk of life. However you rank umpires, coaches, front office executives, teammates, opponents, fans, etc. — they should all be treated equally.

All of this being said, there was one part of MLBUA’s statement that rang true. As mentioned, Welke did suffer violence in the workplace. I disagree with MLB that the comparison was inappropriate. There is nuance to what constitutes “workplace violence.” Is it a mass shooting? Of course not. But in no other employment setting would it be appropriate for one person to scream, curse, and throw items across the room during a disagreement. The union correctly wrote, “Physical contact simply cannot be tolerated.” The crux of all of this is that Major League Baseball doesn’t discourage altercations between umpires and players/coaches. Things have gotten better since the implementation of instant replay, but some instances — especially ball/strike judgment — can turn into very heated altercations.

MLB needs a flat rule instructing players and coaches not to argue with umpires. The team of the offending person(s) would incur an in-game penalty as well as a potential fine and suspension. In exchange for this loss of power on the part of players and coaches, the umpires should be subject to actual oversight. As it stands, umpires are almost never punished in any way for any kind of behavior towards players and coaches, nor are they often punished for poor results in terms of correct calls made. The umpires already have the advantage with their authority; their lack of oversight puts that advantage on steroids, which is why there’s often so much frustration. Umpires instigate confrontations a non-negligible amount of the time. If they felt like they would actually be held accountable for it, they might be much more reluctant to act, for example, the way Ron Kulpa did towards the Astros in early April.

MLBUA helped gain that power imbalance for its members, so it isn’t likely to give it up very easily. I don’t see my utopian dream coming to fruition anytime soon. But that’s the crux of every umpire-involved confrontation: authority. Umpires and players/coaches need to be on a level playing field in that regard, and the rules need to be crystal clear on what kind of behavior is allowed from both sides. Until that happens, we’ll be seeing a Machado-vs.-Welke incident once or twice every year ad infinitum.