And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Mets 1, Marlins 0: A three-hit shutout for Zack Wheeler, with the only run support he got or needed being David Wright’s first inning solo shot. That overshadowed what was otherwise a pretty spiffy major league debut for Andrew Heaney who, apart from the homer, basically shut down the Mets bats for six and a third innings.

Pirates 4, Reds 3: Russell Martin drew a bases-loaded walk off Tony Cingrani with two outs in the 12th. Otherwise known as the walkoff walk. That whole last inning was special. Gaby Sanchez single, got balked to second, then Bryan Price decided to have Josh Harrison intentionally walked, Cingrani then plunked Clint Barmes to load the bases. Talk about your unforced errors.

Phillies 4, Cardinals 1: Ryan Howard remains hot — he hit a homer and drove in three — and the Phillies win again. They are now only four games out of first place in a division with no clearly elite team. Do I think they have a chance? Nah. Do I think they’ll flirt enough with respectability to fool Ruben Amaro into not making trades that could start a meaningful rebuilding process? Oh, definitely.

Indians 5, Angels 3: Cool walkoff grand slam, bro! We talked about that and Mike Scioscia’s curious bullpen decisions yesterday. But at least they were happy in Brohio.

Brewers 4, Diamondbacks 1: Yovani Gallardo improved to 7-0 with an ERA of 1.93 in ten career starts against the Dbacks. After the game he searched for an explanation:

“Sometimes you look at it as how this game is. There are certain things like that I wish I could explain, but I just can’t.”

Dude. I can.

Tigers 2, Royals 1: The Royals’ ten-game winning streak is snapped thanks to Anibal Sanchez allowing one run over seven innings. It didn’t help that the Royals didn’t have Alex Gordon, who sat out due to flu-like symptoms. Not that he didn’t try:

I feel bad for the groundskeeping assistant, frankly.

Padres 4, Mariners 1:  A four-run seventh inning for San Diego, in which Chris Denorfia singled in the go-ahead run. The Padres won back-to-back games for the first time since the end of May.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 4: The Yankees have won 16 straight over Toronto at Yankee Stadium. The Blue Jays have lost nine of 12 and their lead in the East is down to a game and a half.

Braves 3, Nationals 0: For as crappy as the Braves have been playing lately they can at least count on beating Washington. They are 23-7 in their past 30 games against the Nationals, including 6-1 this season. The win came with a price, though: Gavin Floyd fractured his elbow and is gone for the year.

Rays 5, Astros 0: Chris Archer had six and two-thirds shutout innings. Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria hit back-to-back homers on back-to-back pitches.

Twins 4, White Sox 2: Let’s hear it for the relatively old guys: Yohan Pino is 30, but he was still making his major league debut last night. Pino allowed two runs and struck out seven in seven innings. A Joe Mauer RBI double and a Kurt Suzuki sac fly in the eighth broke a 2-2- tie.

Athletics 4, Red Sox 2: Scott Kazmir allowed two runs over seven innings striking out eight and walking no one to win his ninth game and to keep the Red Sox offense searching for answers. Yoenis Cespedes homered. In June he is hitting .343 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 17 games.

Ahoy, San Diego: 2019 Winter Meetings Preview

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Over the weekend the baseball world will descended on San Diego, California for the 2019 Winter Meetings. Let’s talk about what’ll go down there in the next week.

 

Free Agents

So far this has been a much brisker offseason than the past two, during which it seemed like no one signed between November and February. This year, however, we have already seen top-30 free agents Zack Wheeler, Yasmani Grandal, Cole Hamels, José Abreu, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Moustakas, and Michael Pineda sign, and a handful of others have inked pacts as well.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done. Top free agent Gerrit Cole has had some heat around him lately, with the Yankees reportedly hot on his trail, and New York has at least had a conversation with San Diego native and resident Stephen Strasburg as well. Beyond them, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner, Nicholas Castellanos, and Josh Donaldson are all looking for new employers as well.

At the end of October Rotoworld’s Matthew Pouliot ran down the top 111 free agents, from highest-ranked to lowest, to help you get a jump on who is available.

 

Trades

Free agent signings notwithstanding, we are in an age in which a lot of teams are in cost-savings mode. For that reason some big, MVP-caliber names are reportedly on the trading block, including Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Francisco Lindor of the Indians and, perhaps, Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Beyond them, there has been chatter about the Dodgers dealing Joc Pederson, the Tigers dealing Matthew Boyd and the Pirates and Rockies shopping anyone worth a bag of balls.

Whether any of those big names switch teams, it’s already been a pretty active trading season so far, and it would not be at all surprising of the transaction wire is humming in the next week. We, of course, will have near-instant breakdowns of every deal that goes down, so make sure you keep a window open with this site on it and hit refresh early and often.

 

Managers on Parade

 

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors, so we can only talk about those once they happen. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press.

We have a boatload of new managers this year, all of whom have had their happy little press conferences back in their home cities so far. The press availabilities at the Winter Meetings are a bit more in depth and, quite often, feature managers giving more detailed answers to their philosophies and their plans as they prepare for the 2020 season.

New at the little tables and under the bright lights this year: Jayce Tingler with the Padres, Mike Matheny with the Royals, Gabe Kapler with the Giants, David Ross with the Cubs, Derek Shelton with the Pirates, Joe Maddon with the Angels, Carlos Beltrán with the Mets, and Joe Girardi with the Phillies.

And, yes, the tradition like no other continues this year, as I will be ranking all 30 of the current managers on the basis of handsomeness. Here’s last year’s rankings. The new rankings will go up first thing Monday morning. It’s the silliest thing I do all year and, for better or for worse, it’s the thing I’m best known for. What a life I have.

 

Hall of Fame Vote

The Modern Baseball Era Committee — formerly known as the Veterans Committee — will meet on Sunday to vote in, or not vote in, new inductees for the Hall of Fame. For the past two weeks I’ve been profiling the candidates. Here are those profiles:

Committee members get four votes each. If I had four I’d give them to Whitaker, Evans, Simmons, and Miller, but you never know what the real voters will do. We’ll have the results up on Sunday evening once the vote is made public.

 

Major League Baseball vs. Minor League Baseball

One thing a lot of people don’t know about the Winter Meetings is that it’s put on, primarily, by Minor League Baseball as an organization and the vast majority of the people on the ground at the Winter Meetings either run or work for or are trying to sell stuff to minor league teams. Almost every team’s owner comes and brings along some staffers. Coaches, trainers, scouts, and other team employees who spend most of their year out in the bushes as opposed to back at the big club’s home base attend meetings and hobnob with one another.

Normally that’s all pretty routine. This year, however, it probably won’t be thanks to Rob Manfred’s plan to contract 42 minor league clubs and rearrange a great many more of them across levels and leagues.

As we noted earlier today, that scheme has set off a political firestorm and is no doubt the top agenda item and point of concern for every single minor league official and employee at the Winter Meetings. There are, reportedly, already meetings going on in San Diego about all of this. Expect some news about it at any point in the next week. At this point I’d expect anything from Manfred totally scrapping the plan, to him doubling down on it, to reports of general acrimony and possible legal action and everything in between.

 

The Boring Business of Baseball 

Outside of the transactions, the Hall of Fame stuff, the managers and the minor league contraction intrigue, we’ll likely have more mundane Winter Meetings business. Most people at the Winter Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. There is no single rule change that everyone is talking about at the moment, but something will likely pop up. Sometimes we’re completely surprised with that kind of stuff.

 

The Rule 5 Draft

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am Pacific time on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected, but by next summer you may very well know some of them who are either picked or who were made available this week. Max Muncy could’ve been had by anyone a couple of years ago, went un-picked and all he’s done is rake like crazy for the team with the most wins in the National League. Given that even the combined minds of 29 front offices didn’t think he was worth a roster spot last year, you’ll be forgiven for not having any idea about the guys in this year’s Rule 5. But, if you want to at least attempt to be prepared for it, here’s a good place to start.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at the Hyatt Manchester in San Diego — and maybe a few other places around town — bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.