Take the “baseball in Montreal” stuff with a big grain of salt

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The “could baseball return to Montreal” thing kind of took off over the weekend, much the way it takes off every year or two. The impetus this year was a study by a Montreal business group that showed, under a certain set of assumption, yes, it could be financially feasible.

Which, yes, it may be under such assumptions or others. As a purely intellectual exercise all manner of things are possible. But understand that it is but an intellectual exercise. There is no one with money or influence in Montreal — be they private citizens or public entities — proposing or pledging anything. There is no one even five steps removed from talking about doing anything in any serious way, let alone turning dirt or moving teams.

I feel like I need to point this out because, whenever something like this study or some release or expression of interest happens, people seize on it a bit too strongly. Lots of places (including HBT) wrote about it over the weekend. MLB Network did a segment about it. I get that because it’s an interesting topic — all potential expansion/relocation stories are — but I feel like we need to be realistic about it for reasons separate and apart from protecting against disappointment.

The biggest reason: our excitement about such things plays right into the hands of those in and around Major League Baseball who would like to extort local governments and taxpayers for new ballparks and tax breaks and the like. It’s in the best interests of baseball ownership and management to have a plausible alternative to a current major league city so that they can bluff their way into free goodies. The NFL does this with Los Angeles. The NBA does this with Seattle. We used to see this all the time when Washington D.C. was a vacant city. Eventually baseball’s moved a team there, and it’s working out for them, but it did cost them a good bogeyman. Now, by bootstrapping some innocuous little studies and some generalized excitement, baseball can, increasingly, point to Montreal as a potential landing pad for teams in cities it deems sufficiently ungrateful or ungenerous.

My guess: baseball returns to Montreal one day. But that day is decades away, not years. In the meantime, Montreal will be used as a point of leverage and not much more. We should all strive to be realistic about that fact.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.