And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

59 Comments

Angels 5, Dodgers 0: You don’t hear about this much nationally or anything, but I’ve done some radio in Los Angeles lately and they’ve been asking me about a possible Freeway Series. Like, Freeway World Series, not just this interleague matchup in midseason. It’s probably a fair question to ask. The Angels have gotten less ink than just about any legit contender this year. But they keep winning and stand one game back of Oakland for the division lead and the best record in baseball. And here they are taking it to their would-be Freeway Series foes. Garrett Richards tossed a five-hit shutout, striking out nine and flashing a 98 m.p.h. heater. Trout and Pujols both had RBI doubles in a four-run first. Watch out for Anaheim, dudes.

Indians 7, Reds 1: The Battle of Ohio. The loser of which has to stay in Ohio, I assume. Corey Kluber follows up his dominant outing from last week with another dominant outing, allowing one run while pitching into the eighth inning. Lonnie Chisenhall drove in three and Michael Brantley two.

Orioles 7, Nationals 3: The Battle of the Baltimore-D.C. Area. The loser of which has to, I dunno, keeps their team owner. This wasn’t really a battle anyway. It was a makeup game from a July 8 rainout. Why it was played at night when the Orioles have a game today in another city is the kind of question I’d be asking if I was the Orioles’ shop steward, by the way, but no one listens to me. Anyway, Baltimore rallied in the seventh and added a couple of insurance runs in the eighth. Caleb Joseph homered and drove in three runs while J.J. Hardy had four hits.

Giants 4, Mets 3: Last game of a wraparound series, but at least people had the sense to schedule it for the afternoon. Pablo Sandoval drove in three runs on three hits, capped by the go-ahead double with two outs in the ninth inning. Sandoval is on fire, having gone 32 for 93 over his past 23 games and hitting .500 in with runners in scoring position over his last 25 at bats in that situation.

Yankees 2, Tigers 1: Brandon McCarthy continues his roll in New York, allowing only an unearned run into the sixth inning. Four Yankees relievers took it the rest of the way home. Great timing for McCarthy’s surge, by the way. Not only has it been a lifeline to a Yankees team in the wild card race, but it may be making McCarthy a boatload of cash. He’s a free agent after this season and this is serving as a nice audition for a Yankees team with rotation uncertainty. Or, for that matter, any other number of teams which often ask of free agent pitchers “can they handle the AL East?”

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Tuesday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on TuesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Athletics 3, Rays 2: Derek Norris with the walkoff single in the 10th with the bases juiced against Grant Balfour. Who may have been agitated from a previous ball called against Josh Donaldson that led to a Joe Maddon argument and ejection. Balfour said after the game that he felt like he had to get “five outs.” Welp, maybe. But go get them then. In other news, a possum wandered out on to the field during the 10th inning. Which, OK, squirrels and bunnies and the occasional cat is cute. But possums are gross and disgusting. No word on whether the A’s call him “bitey.”

White Sox 5, Rangers 3: Tyler Flowers homered and tripled. The triple was almost a homer, bouncing off the top of the wall. He should probably cherish that more. He may hit two homers in a game again at some point, but triples for a catcher are rare things. That was only his second in his career. This one was shortened by rain. Anything to reduce the amount of Rangers baseball this year is welcome, however.

Mike Trout says Harper and Machado’s free agency experience sent up “red flags”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mike Trout signed a record-setting contract extension last week, agreeing to ten more years tacked on to his existing deal at $35.45 million a year. It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at and, I’m quite sure, Trout will not lose any sleep over financial matters for the rest of his days.

One wonders, though, what he might’ve commanded had he hit free agency. If he had been bid on by more than one team. Sure, there is some upward limit to how much even a guy of Trout’s caliber might get, but you have to assume that if a couple more teams were able to get in on that action that that $35.45 million a year could’ve been topped.

Did he give any thoughts to testing the market? Maybe not serious ones, but he certainly observed the market this past winter and didn’t much care for what he saw. He said this to Fabiran Ardaya of The Athletic last night:

“I kind of saw what Bryce and Manny went through and it drew a red flag for me. I talked to Manny and Bryce. It was a tough couple months in the offseason. They put it perspective in my mind.”

He added, “I obviously want to be an Angel for life. That was a big key,” so it’s not like this was purely some matter of Trout being scared off the market. But it’s also the case that the market has become fraught for even the best players in the game and has influenced their decision making to a considerable degree. Part of Mike Trout’s decision to sign that deal was how unwelcoming the free agent market looked like it’d be even for him.

And it’s not just Trout. To see how unpalatable free agency has become one need merely look at the bevy of contract extensions agreed to over the past week or two. Each one of those, however lucrative they may be, represent a player foregoing the open market in favor of negotiating with a single bidder with greater leverage as a result. While some of those choices, like Trout’s, do not cost the players much more than, perhaps, some rounding error on his ultimate contract, others, like pre-arbitration players, are likely foregoing tens of millions of dollars in order to make a deal now instead of a few years later. And, of course, each team that signs a player to an extension is less likely to be active in an upcoming free agency period, reducing the number of bidders and thus applying downward pressure on salaries for those players who do hit the open market.

For the first century or so of baseball history the Reserve Clause ruled baseball economics. Under that system, a team which possessed the rights to a player could not be deprived of that player’s services if it did not want to be. When it came time to decide what to pay a player only one team could bid, giving it all the leverage. Then free agency came. Owners fought like hell against its implementation. They lost that battle and then attempted to roll it back as much as they could, even employing illegal tactics at times in an effort to do so, but they didn’t have much luck.

In the past two or three years, however, they have done what decades of efforts could not do: they have effectively taken away a full and open free market for players and have returned the game to a state in which the team which holds a players’ rights is, effectively, the only bidder for his services and has the power to retain him on favorable terms.

It’s not the restoration of the old reserve clause, exactly, but when the best player in baseball since Willie Mays is wary of the open market, you have to admit that it’s far, far closer to it than anyone thought the owners would ever get.