And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Red Sox 2, Rays 0: Welcome back Clay Buchholz. It’s like you never left. Or at least the early-season version of you never left. Five shutout innings with six strikeouts before making way for a bullpen that was just as stingy. The Red Sox lead in the East is 8.5 games.

Padres 8, Phillies 2: Tyler Cloyd was smacked around for seven runs on nine hits in four innings. Meanwhile, Andrew Cashner limited the Phillies to two runs on four hits and a walk.

Yankees 7, Orioles 5: Homers: Chris Davis with his 49th but Alfonso Soriano had two and Mark Reynolds added one to help the Yankees keep pace in the wild card. Injuries:  Alex Rodriguez tweaked his hamstring, Austin Romine got a concussion and Ivan Nova left early with a sore right triceps. The Bombers limped all season and are now limping to the finish line.

Cubs 9, Reds 1: Edwin Jackson allowed one run in seven innings and hit a homer. Wellington Castillo hit two. I guess you can say the Cubs were [removes sunglasses] … battery powered. [Yeeeeeeahhhhh!!!]

Royals 6, Indians 3: The Indians blew their chance to move within a half game of Tampa Bay in the wild card as they manage nine hits off Mark Jeremy Guthrie (bah, I’m old) but also hit into three double plays behind him. It was the first Royals win in Cleveland in six tries.

Nationals 6, Mets 3: A homer and two doubles for Jayson Werth as the Nats win their fourth in a row. Their run differential is finally at zero. Progress, albeit probably too late.

Angels 12, Blue Jays 6: Five hits — four for extra bases — and five runs scored for Mark Trumbo. Josh Hamilton went 3 for 5 with four RBIs himself.

Braves 4, Marlins 3: Julio Teheran struggled early after a long layoff but settled down. The Braves won this on a walkoff rundown: Craig Kimbrel threw a wild pitch, Marlins pinch-runner Jake Marisnick tried to advance to third, but the ball rebounded right back to Brian McCann who threw Marisnick out. Tough break, kid.

Cardinals 4, Brewers 2: Four wins in a row for the Cards. Wily Peralta took a no-hitter into the sixth but Matt Holliday broke it up with a homer. Shelby Miller continued his mastery of the Brewers. He’s 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts against Milwaukee this year.

Pirates 5, Rangers 4: Pittsburgh keeps pace. Francisco Liriano picks up his 16th win and Andrew McCutchen drives in three. A lot of folks around Pittsburgh thought the Pirates would have a lot of trouble heading into Texas, but so far so good.

Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 3: Pinch hit walkoff homer for Scott Van Slyke in the 11th. Five straight wins by the Dodgers over the Dbacks. That’s how you put an end to the early-season rivalry between the two. And how you win the division with authority. L.A.’s magic number is six.

Tigers 9, White Sox 1: The girlfriend saw it was Rick Porcello pitching, said “eh, Porcello always struggles in Chicago,” and changed the channel to an old “Frasier” episode. It was from 1994. Frasier had an old 386 computer. I realized that watching a 1994 episode of “Frasier” now is like me watching old “Hogan’s Heroes” or “Andy Griffith” episodes when I was in junior high school. The lesson: I’m old. Oh, and Rick Porcello tossed a complete game so it was totally unnecessary to watch “Frasier” anyway. Even though, dudes, it holds up.

Rockies 9, Giants 8: Two homers for Michael Cuddyer, including the tie-breaker in the ninth off Sergio Romo. Cuddyer is now hitting .330 and has a great shot at a batting title. Hunter Pence, meanwhile, drove in six. Given that the Giants scored four runs off Jorge De La Rosa in the first two innings you figured they’d cruise. But a true fact: they play nine innings in baseball.

Twins 4, Athletics 3: Two homers was quite the trend last night. Josh Willingham did it here. The A’s fail to put some distance between them and Texas.

Astros 13, Mariners 2: Houston scored six times in the first three innings then seven times in the final three. Nice bookends.

Report: Braves not expected to pursue Bryce Harper

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Thanks in part to a rebuilding effort that got ahead of schedule, the Braves in 2018 had their best season in five years, finishing 90-72 and winning the NL East. They were stopped in the playoffs by the Dodgers, falling in five games in the NLDS. Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and Brian Snitker won the NL Manager of the Year Award. Veteran outfielder Nick Markakis even got some down-ballot love in NL MVP voting, finishing 18th behind teammates Freddie Freeman (fourth) and Acuña (12th).

Markakis is now a free agent and there happens to be a very talented and still-young outfielder available in free agency this offseason who could replace him and then some. He goes by the name Bryce Harper. You might have heard of him. David O’Brien of The Athletic initially said to not be surprised if the Braves became players in the Harper sweepstakes, but quickly retracted it as a source he trusts assured him the Braves are not, in fact, in on Harper and added that he thought there would be no way Braves ownership (Liberty Media) would sign off on a 10-year deal.

Since being taken over by Liberty Media in 2007, the Braves’ Opening Day payroll has been in the $60 million to $137 million range, according to USA TODAY Sports. On average over that period of time, the Braves have had the 18th-highest payroll among the 30 major league teams. The Braves increased payroll to a franchise-record $137 million on Opening Day in 2017, but cut that all the way back to $83 million in 2018, dropping their rank in baseball from 13th to 27th. In April, the Braves disingenuously played service time games with Acuña, then an uber-prospect who was undoubtedly major-league ready, in order to cheaply get another year of team control over him.

Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote in March this year that Liberty Media has $42 billion in assets. This corporation is not hurting for cash. Yet the Braves cried poor in order to bilk taxpayers of $400 million to fund the totally unnecessary new ballpark that moved the Braves’ home from Atlanta to Cumberland (Cobb County). The stadium is not as easily accessible by way of bus or subway, hurting a lot of the Braves’ poorer fans and those who live in the city, sans car. As Meris Lutz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year, Cobb County found itself in a $30-55 million budget shortfall, even after “raiding $21 million in rainy-day funds to plug a gaping hole in the 2018 budget.” Liberty Media, of course, doesn’t lose anything from this.

The Braves were one of 13 teams in baseball to see an attendance increase from 2017 to ’18, seeing over 50,000 more fans go through the turnstiles. Braves ownership had said that a spike in revenue — from increased attendance as well as from leasing offices and retail space — would lead to increased payroll. Instead, the Braves’ payroll was cut by approximately $54 million and now the organization has reportedly already taken itself out of the running for Harper, unarguably the best free agent outfielder to hit the open market in quite some time. Adding a talent like Harper (or Manny Machado) would solidify the Braves’ legitimacy in the NL East and it would, at minimum, be a show of good faith to Braves fans, whose tax dollars are on constant display during all 81 home games in Cobb County.

This is in stark contrast to Phillies owner John Middleton, who recently said, “We’re going into this [offseason] expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” He added, “We just prefer not to be completely stupid.” This confirms what everyone already knew: the Phillies are major players for elite free agents Harper and Machado. Heck, they might even get both. Either player could exceed the record for the largest contract in baseball history, currently held by Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who signed a 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins in 2014.

This past season, the Phillies fell flat on their faces in the second half while the Braves continued to press forward with a better-constructed team. The Phillies didn’t have an Acuña or a Freddie Freeman and their minor league system still doesn’t quite match up with the Braves’. Sniping Harper from the Phillies would seem almost critical, then. Or at least keeping up with the Phillies by signing other free agents to fill the gaps left by Markakis and others.

Sadly for Braves fans, it seems like Liberty Media got what it wanted, largely on the taxpayers’ dime, and is happy to keep the Braves near the bottom-third of the league when it comes to payroll. If the Braves finish behind the Phillies in 2019 and beyond, fans and the players will have only ownership to blame.