And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Blue Jays 3, Rays 0: R.A. Dickey throws a Maddux (i.e. a shutout in under 100 pitches), with his knuckler back up to the velocity he featured so often during his Cy Young season. Game was over in two hours, ten minutes.

Athletics 5, Reds 0: A.J. Griffin needed 108 pitches for his two-hit shutout and the game lasted ten more minutes but he still did it. Surprising too, given that he walked two of the first three batters he faced in the game.

Marlins 5, Twins 3: Placido Polanco — who I had no idea played for the Marlins, if that tells you how much attention I pay to the Marlins — homered for the first time in a year. Jeff Mathis hit one too. That’s the Marlins’ 13th win this month, which ensures they’ll have a winning record for June. How about them apples?

Phillies 7, Padres 5: This one ended in the 13th inning when Ben Revere hit a grounder to second baseman Logan Forsythe who (a) bobbled it; and (b) made an errant throw home. Two runs scored and that’s all Philly needed. Philly lost the first one of this series in awful fashion but then took the final two. Tell anyone who talks about momentum in baseball to get bent.

Rangers 8, Yankees 5: Nelson Cruz homered and  Adrian Beltre and A.J. Pierzynski hit back-to-back two-run doubles. Andy Pettitte was more like Andy MEHttitte again.

Nationals 3, Diamondbacks 2: Jordan Zimmermann gave up two runs on three hits in seven innings. The runs and two of those hits came in the first. The final six were dominant.

Pirates 4, Mariners 2: Felix Hernandez struck out 11 and gave up only two runs, but as so often is the case with him on this team, it wasn’t enough. The Buccos rallied for two in the ninth to break the tie and win the game. Six straight wins for the Pirates, who are now tied with the Cardinals for both the NL Central lead and the best record in all of baseball.

Cubs 5, Brewers 4: At the other end of the division, the Brewers loss here ties them with the Cubs for last in the NL Central. Scott Feldman pitched well and Kevin Gregg bent pretty hard but did not break in the ninth.

Dodgers 4, Giants 2: The sweep. If you didn’t pick the Giants to win the NL West odds had you picking the Dodgers before the season began. Now these two are in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Clayton Kershaw gave up two runs over eight innings.

Reds Sox 5, Rockies 3: John Lackey’s fastball was up to 95 and he struck out 12 over seven innings. Roy Oswalt failed to impress for the second straight time, allowing five runs in six innings.

Indians 4, Orioles 3: A one run lead in the ninth? Call Jim Johnson. Jim Johnson. Wat R U doin’? Jim Johnson. Stahp! Walk-double-walk-fielder’s choice-fielder’s choice, lead blown.

Angels 7, Tigers 4: The Angels have won eight straight over the Tigers. Mike Trout homered and drove in three. Tommy Hanson was scratched from the start before the game and was replaced by Billy Buckner and a cast of thousands. More or less.

Mets 3, White Sox 0: Eight shutout innings for Shaun Marcum who picks up his first win of the year. Eric Young Jr. was 3 for 4.

Royals 4, Braves 3: The Royals blew a 3-0 lead in the seventh but then Alex Gordon won it with a walkoff single in the 10th.

Astros 4, Cardinals 3: St. Louis has now lost four of five and, as noted above, fall into a first place tie with Pittsburgh. I predict now I will be asked 100 times this week if Pittsburgh is for real. No one ever asks me if the Cardinals are for real.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.