And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Rangers 10, Tigers 4: So much for pitching porn. Darvish wasn’t exactly sharp early but he ultimately settled down. Meanwhile, who put the benzedrine in Mr. Verlander’s Ovaltine? He was a hot mess. And I do mean hot. He was lighting up the radar gun in the early innings but was overthrowing and seemed to have no idea where the ball was going. Just a mechanical disaster, really, unlike I’ve ever remembered seeing him. Darvish ended up going eight innings and improving to 7-1.

Mariners 3, Yankees 2: Andy Pettitte left with a muscle injury. Andy Pettitte is 40. So basically, this is his life now (warning: a bit of bad language, but if you’re 40, you NEED to hear this because it’s 100% true).

Mets 5, Cardinals 2: The Mets end a six-game skid behind five hits from Daniel Murphy and David Wright. From the AP gamer about Jon Niese:

Terry Collins thought it was no coincidence the lefty rediscovered his groove in shirt-sleeve weather and paved the way for the New York Mets’ slump-buster.

That word he used: I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

Pirates 7, Brewers 1: Travis Snider hit a 458 homer that ended up in the Allegheny River. Snider went 3 for 5 with three RBI and the Pirates won their sixth of seven.

Red Sox 4, Rays 3: Down 3-1 in the ninth, the Red Sox loaded the bases off Fernando Rodney and Will Middlebrooks cleared them with a double. Just bananas. Oh, sorry Fernando, not bananas at all. Rodney has already blown three saves this year. He only blew two last year.

Reds 5, Marlins 3: [Craig press three keys and his “The ____ sweep the Marlins” macro is activated]. This one was competitive at least, as Mat Latos ran out of gas in the ninth and Aroldis Chapman couldn’t close the deal either, sending it to extras. Brandon Phillips, who had homered earlier, hit a sac fly for the go-ahead run in the 10th.

Giants 8, Rockies 6: Down 6-0 early, the Giants put up five in the fourth and three in the sixth. I didn’t see the broadcast, but I’m gonna assume the announcers said “no lead is safe in Coors Field” approximately five times. San Francisco has beaten Colorado ten straight times.

White Sox 5, Angels 4: Yet another rally on a night that seemed to have many of them. The Sox were down two in the eighth when they scored three. The go-ahead run came on a bases-loaded walk to Jeff Keppinger, who had not walked in over 140 plate appearances so far this year.

Nationals 6, Padres 2: Stephen Strasburg pitched eight innings allowing only one earned run. Bryce Harper shook off his ailments from the fence collision in L.A. and hit a 432 foot homer in the seventh.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks/Getty Images
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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.