And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

60 Comments

Astros 9, Royals 2: George Springer is figuring it out and the results are pretty damn impressive. The Astros’ rookie homered in his fourth straight game while going 4 for 4 with two doubles, three RBI, a walk, and five runs scored.

Orioles 7, Brewers 6: Jonathan Schoop hit two homers and Nick Hundley singled in the go-ahead run in the 10th. In other news, I totally missed that the Orioles had acquired Nick Hundley. In my defense I had a healthy amount of bourbon over Memorial Day weekend. If the trade happened before then it’s because I never read Gleeman’s posts. He knows what he did.

Marlins 3, Nationals 2: Giancarlo Stanton went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer and Nathan Eovaldi was solid. To the extent you subscribe to the idea that Memorial Day is the time when you no longer dismiss unexpected results with “it’s early, but  . . .” know that it’s the day after Memorial Day and the Marlins are two games out of first place and two games over .500.

Pirates 5, Mets 3: The Mets bullpen blows a three-run lead in the eighth and ninth by surrendering five runs, three of which came courtesy of Gaby Sanchez hits, four of which were given up by Jose Valverde. Who, immediately after the game, became a former Met. ‘E’s not pinin’, ‘E’s passed on! This Met is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s been released and gone to meet ‘is agent! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of a job. ‘Is pitching processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s shuffled off ‘is active roster, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ bullpen invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-MET!!

Red Sox 8, Braves 6: Clay Buchholz walked eight dudes and gave up six runs in three innings. And man, walking Braves hitters is not easy. His teammates bailed him out, though, with a David Ortiz three-run blast capping a five-run rally to tie things up in the fifth and six innings of shutout work from the Sox’ pen. With that, the Red Sox finally snap their ugly losing streak. Even with the ugly seeping into the first three innings of this one.

Athletics 10, Tigers 0: A five-homer day for the A’s, including a Derek Norris grand slam. All of which is rich given that before the game Bob Melvin told his players to “grind” and not try to hit homers. The lesson here: screw that noise. Homers are awesome. They’re literally the best thing you can do while batting. That’s not my opinion. That’s an inescapable fact of baseball’s rules and scoring system. More homers. Hit ’em all the damn time!

Rangers 7, Twins 2: You write a team’s epitaph after it loses a couple of players for the year and then they go and win three straight and five of six. Remember: no one knows anything about anything in this friggin’ game. Even the fancy, self-proclaimed experts who write and talk about baseball for major media conglomerates. Especially the fancy, self-proclaimed experts who write and talk about baseball for major media conglomerates. We’re the worst.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Tuesday night’s MLB games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on TuesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

White Sox 6, Indians 2: Conor Gillaspie had four hits — three of them doubles — drove in one run and scored another. He’s also 24 for his last 59 over the past 16 games.

Cubs 8, Giants 4: Jeff Samardzija finally got his first win of the season following a ten-strikeout performance. This sorta bums me out. I mean, on the one hand it’s great that he finally got a modicum of run support after to many tough luck outings. On the other hand I was really looking forward to a zero-win pitcher starting the All-Star game.

Phillies 9, Rockies 0: Ryan Howard was 3 for 4 and drove in five. Here come the Philly fan readers who have gone silent for the past two years to argue about the guy’s contract not being so bad. They’ll retreat to the darkness again in a couple of days.

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 5: A.J. Pollock hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth for the walkoff win. And we finally have a definitive answer to who is being walked off when this sort of thing happens. Here’s Kirk Gibson after the game:

“We were standing there and we were saying `Let’s walk them off, let’s walk them off,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said, “and he crushed the ball.”

Given that he hit perhaps the most definitive walkoff homer in history, I think Gibson gets to have the final word.

Mariners 5, Angels 1: Robinson Cano had three hits, drove in two and is hitting .332. Chris Young had a no hitter into the sixth and a shutout into the seventh.

Dodgers 4, Reds 3Hyun-Jin Ryu was perfect over the first seven innings before Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a double. So much for that. And so much for the shutout and stuff as the Reds scored three that innings. All three runs were charged to Ryu, but two of them scored thanks to Brian Wilson not being able to put out the fire all that effectively. But that’s all the Reds could do and the Dodgers held on for the win.

Blue Jays 10, Rays 5: That’s seven straight for the Jays thanks to another Edwin Encarnacion homer and a generalized offensive outburst. Dioner Navarro and Steve Tolleson had back to back homers and Melky Cabrera had three hits and three RBI too. Back to that Memorial Day comment: it ain’t too early anymore and the Jays are a couple of games ahead in the AL East.

Yankees 6, Cardinals 4: Brett Gardner had a leaping grab in the 11th to deprive Yadier Molina of either a homer or extra bases and then Brian Roberts came up big in the 12th with a bases-loaded single. I may be mangling this stat — I saw it on Twitter yesterday and can’t find it this morning — but I think this was only the 35th all-time game between the Yankees and the Cardinals, including World Series games. Which on the one hand is kind of understandable given that interleague hasn’t been around that long and for the bulk of it interleague was about divisional matchups, thus the two were not often pit against one another. On the other hand, the mental imagine I have of baseball history has the Yankees and Cardinals defining much of mid-century baseball history. Though I know better when I actually go year-by-year and think of who played in the World Series, I think of Yankees-Cardinals matchups as happening almost as much as Yankees-Dodgers matchups. Oh well.

Rob Manfred explains reasoning behind proposal to cut 42 minor league teams

Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
2 Comments

As we learned earlier this week, Major League Baseball wants to contract 42 minor league teams, mostly in short-season and rookie ball. The proposal earned a lot of backlash, including from some of the teams on the chopping block and from Congress. MLB responded with its own letter to Congress, written by deputy commissioner Dan Halem, explaining the league’s reasoning.

In the letter, Halem complains about the lack of competition between minor league teams and independent teams. Halem wrote, “The lack of competition among operators of teams for an affiliation with a Major League Club has reduced the incentive for some affiliated Minor League teams to improve their facilities and player amenities.” It is an interesting thing to write as someone representing a $10 billion business that has benefited for a century from an antitrust exemption.

Halem also noted that MLB has several goals that are supposedly attained by cutting 26 percent of the minors: ensuring the quality of the facilities for the players, reducing the travel burden, improving the “compensation, accommodations, and amenities” for players, improving the affiliation process between minor league and major league teams.

Commissioner Rob Manfred essentially echoed that sentiment on Thursday, per Newsday’s Laura Albanese. He gave four reasons behind the proposal: inadequate facilities, travel, poor pay, drafting and signing players who don’t have a realistic shot to make it to the majors. The last reason is a new one, but let’s go over those four reasons in context.

It is true that some, perhaps even most, of the facilities of the 42 named teams are inadequate. It’s not all of them. As NECN’s Jack Thurston reports, the owner of the short-season Lowell Spinners, Dave Heller, said that his team’s stadium is “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League,” speaking highly of its lighting and field conditions. The Quad Cities River Bandits, the Astros’ Single-A affiliate and also on the chopping block, renovated their stadium a handful of times over the last 12 years. In fact, it earned an award from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” in both 2008 and ’09, and finished third in the 2018 running for “Best View in the Minors.” At any rate, if facility quality is such a big issue, why did the Athletics continue to play in a stadium that repeatedly had its sewage system overflow in 2013?

Travel is certainly a big issue for minor leaguers because they mostly travel by bus, not plane. Having teams located closer to each other would be more beneficial in this regard. Or — and hear me out, here — major league teams could take on the extra expenditure of paying for their minor leaguers’ airfare. Several years ago, the Phillies took on the extra expenditure of making sure their minor leaguers ate healthy food and that has worked out well. The Blue Jays took on the extra expenditure of giving their minor leaguers a pay raise and that has worked out well. The Red Sox took on the extra expenditure of installing a sleep room at Fenway Park to ensure their players were well-rested and that has worked out well. No one is suggesting that Single-A players have to fly first class on every flight, but the travel issue is an easy fix that doesn’t require contracting 42 teams. Teams have individually chosen to improve their players’ quality of life and it has yielded positive results. Imagine it on a league-wide scale for thousands of players in their formative years.

Manfred citing minor league pay as a basis for the proposal is laughable. His own league successfully lobbied Congress to amend language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, classifying minor league players as seasonal workers. That means they are not entitled to a minimum wage or overtime pay, among other worker protections. If the pay of minor league players was so important to Major League Baseball, it wouldn’t have pressured the government to legally ensure they didn’t have to pay them a living wage. Every baseball team is worth at least a billion dollars. The league has set year-over-year revenue records for 16 consecutive years, crossing $10 billion in 2018. Minor leaguers could be compensated well without robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Lastly, it is true that a majority of minor league players will never reach the major leagues. That doesn’t mean that their presence in the minor leagues or their effort to realize their dreams have zero value. Lopping off the bottom 26 percent of minor leaguers might nominally increase the level of skill on each roster, but it eliminates so many jobs — well over 1,000. Furthermore, there are few incentives for athletes to want to slog through several years of the minors as it is, as Kyler Murray recently showed, but there would be even fewer incentives by shrinking the minors (and, consequently, the draft). Shrinking the minors and the draft could lead to more minor league free agents, but if baseball is actually interested in a free market (it’s not) then it should abolish the draft entirely as well as the arbitration system.

These reasons, each uniquely fallacious, hide the real reason behind the proposal: shifting money around so Major League Baseball can say it will award pay raises to minor leaguers, ending a years-long stretch of bad P.R., without actually cutting into profits. MLB could have afforded to pay minor leaguers a living wage years ago and it chose not to. MLB could have chosen not to lobby Congress for the ability to continue underpaying minor leaguers years ago, but it chose to do so. Everything since has been the league trying to avoid lying in the bed it made for itself.