And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Marlins 1, Braves 0: I talked about how awesome 1-0 pitching duels are just last week. I wish I had saved that ode for this one. Braves pitchers struck out 13 hitters, didn’t walk any and allowed only one run and lost. That’s pretty mind-blowing. Not as mind-blowing as Jose Fernandez was, of course. He struck out 14 and allowed only three hits in eight shutout innings. And the game was so fast. Two hours and eight minutes. I mean, you could play this game almost five full times in the same amount of time it takes to play my new favorite song (be sure to watch through to the end):

Angels 7, Nationals 2: There went 499 and 500 for Albert Pujols. He has eight on the year and has an OPS of .956. Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say, but nothing comes out when they move their lips — just a bunch of gibberish –and mother****ers act like they forgot about El Hombre.

Rays 7, Twins 3:  David DeJesus drove in three and David Price was effective, but let’s talk about the weird here instead: Price was hit by a comebacker right in the, urm, um, midsection in the top of the fourth. He was fine, though. This is why you wear a cup, gentlemen. Also, Great Moments in Instant Replay: Yunel Escobar took ball four, the umps were confused about the count, checked instant replay and still got the darn count wrong. Escobar ended up striking out on the 4-2 pitch.

Royals 8, Indians 2Moustakas’ three-run homer, Eric Hosmer had four hits and James Shields was on point. This has been the blueprint for the past couple of year, but only Shields has read the plans and adhered to them consistently before last night.

Reds 4, Pirates 1: Johnny Cueto with his second straight complete game. The only blemish here was a homer given up to Andrew McCutchen in the ninth.

Blue Jays 9, Orioles 3Brett LawrieMelky Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion each hit homers. It was Encarnacion’s first of the year. He watched it go out and rounded the bases with his right-arm-cocked chicken wing thing. No one got in his face and barked at him afterward. They just played baseball. Imagine.

Tigers 8, White Sox 6: Miguel Cabrera finally woke up, going 3 for 5 with a homer and an RBI double. Of course, a lot of Tigers hit against Sox’ spot starter Charlie Leesman, who filled in for Chris Sale.

Cardinals 3, Mets 0: Adam Wainwright shut the Mets out into the seventh inning but had to leave when he hyperextended his knee fielding a ball. He says he’s OK. No one asked if the Mets think they’ll be OK after being shut out, but we presume so.

Yankees 9, Red Sox 3: Masahiro Tanaka continues to be relatively unimpressed with major league hitters. I’m sure he wouldn’t say that, but no one has really challenged him yet (7.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 7K 0 BB). The Yankees, meanwhile, scored eight runs — only three earned — off Jon Lester. Jacoby Ellsbury’s return to Fenway in enemy colors started off well for him: he tripled to lead off the game and then robbed Grady Sizemore of a hit with a nice catch. He later hit a two-run double.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on WednesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Cubs 9, Diamondbacks 2: Mike Olt — MIKE OLT! — hit a three-run homer. The Cubs have won three of four. Arizona has dropped four straight.

Padres 2, Brewers 1: A Chase Headley homer in the 12th ended up winning it, but a big assist goes to the Padres pen who tossed six shutout innings. The Brewers’ four-game winning streak is snapped.

Rangers 5, Athletics 4: Former Athletic Mike Choice hit a two-run single in the ninth to help the Rangers rally. After the game he said “you always want to do something good against the ex.” I have no idea what he’s talking about. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shave and put on my best clothes because my ex-wife has a meeting near my house this morning and I need to look my best on the off-chance that she stops by to say hi to the kids before they go to school.

Rockies 2, Giants 1: Always fun to see a pitching duel in Denver. Franklin Morales allowed one run on five hits over seven. Madison Bumgarner allowed two runs in eight. All the runs came on solo homers and the game was over in 2:41.

Astros 5, Mariners 2: Remember when people were all like “hmm, maybe the Mariners are better now” a couple of weeks ago? Haha, that was a riot. Collin McHugh was called up from Oklahoma City to take Scott Feldman’s start and didn’t walk a batter while pitching into the seventh. The crowd at Safeco Field numbered 10,466 and was the fifth-lowest in park history. Six of the seven lowest have come when the Astros were in town. Some draw, eh? The Mariners have dropped eight in a row and ten of eleven, however, so that crowd ain’t all on Houston.

Phillies 3, Dodgers 2: The Dodgers were shut down by the Phillies’ starter for the second straight night — this time A.J. Burnett — but really lost this when Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez got their wires crossed on a short Carlos Ruiz fly to left in the 10th. The next man up, Domonic Brown, doubled him in.

Meanwhile, on the cold, cold Hot Stove . . .

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It’s Hot Stove Season baby! You know what that means! Yep: time to watch some teams sign a few relievers to minor league deals and then wait everyone out until February while talking about the need to maintain financial flexibility! FEEL THE BURN.

In more specific news:

We’ve talked a lot about Betts this winter already, and that seems like madness. Bryant’s career with the Cubs began with business-side acrimony, it’s still simmering, and there is no sense that either side is amenable to a long-term deal before he hits free agency. The Indians have been signaling for some time that they have no interest in keeping Lindor long term.

It’s quite the thing when three teams who are supposed to be contending are, instead, looking to deal recent MVP award winners and candidates who are 27 and 26 years old, but these are the times in which we are living.

  • Joe Sheehan wrote an excellent column for Baseball America last week analyzing the attendance drop MLB experienced in 2019. Which is just the latest in a series of attendance drops. As Joe notes there is a very, very strong connection between teams (a) signaling to fans during the offseason that they are not interested in signing or retaining players or otherwise being competitive; and (b) teams suffering attendance losses.

As I wrote last offseason, there is an increasing disconnect between attendance and other proxies of broad fan interest and revenue. Which is to say that, as long as teams continue to get fat on long-term TV deals, side businesses like real estate development, and soaking a smaller and wealthier segment of the fan base with higher and higher prices, they really have no reason to care if several thousand common or casual fans become alienated by their teams’ lack of desire to compete.

Sullivan doesn’t offer ideas about how that can happen, but over the past couple of seasons we’ve seen a number of proposals, some broad, some specific, about how MLB can turn its free agency/trading period into frantic, 1-3 day scrambles-to-sign like we see in both the NBA and NFL. I’m sympathetic to that desire — it’s exciting! — but any attempt to do that in Major League Baseball, at least as things are currently set up, would be a disaster for the players.

In the NBA and NFL you have salary caps and floors and, in the NBA, you have max contracts. As a result, teams both have a set amount of money to spend and an incentive to spend that money. We can quibble with whether those incentives are the best ones or if they benefit the players as much as other systems might, but there’s at least something inherent in their systems which inspires teams to sign free agents.

In Major League Baseball, there is no such incentive. May teams want to keep payrolls as low as possible under the guise of rebuilding or tanking and there is no effective mechanism to keep them from doing so. Even nominal contenders — see the Cubs, Indians and Red sox in item 1 above — spend more time thinking about how to cut payroll rather than add talent. This is bolstered by the stuff in item 2 above in which attendance and even winning has less of an impact on the bottom line than it ever has.

So, why scramble to sign players by a set deadline? Under most of the scenarios I see floated — like the laughably horrible one MLB reportedly suggested to the MLBPA — teams would just wait out free agents until deadline day, give them crappy take-it-or-leave-it offers and then leave them all scrambling to sign one-year deals or to sit the season out.

For such a thing to happen — or for teams to want to keep their bright young stars or for the league to want to maintain fan interest and keep attendance from continuing to slide — there must be incentives put in place to make them want to sign and retain players. To make them want to win. To make them want to excite the fan base.

At present, such incentives are not there. And, as such, we are faced with yet another winter with a cold, cold stove.