And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Red Sox 9, Nationals 4: The Mookie Betts show. A three-run homer, a home run-saving catch. Two stolen bases on one play because the Nationals, apparently, forgot that when you’re in a shift, no one is covering a third, leaving that bag wide open. The Nats defense overall was a total disaster, with mental lapses, balls plopping onto the turf between two fielders and all of that jazz. It’s been like that the entire first week of the season. Which shows you that, even when you’re everyone’s World Series favorite, you still have to play good baseball.

Mets 2, Phillies 0: The Phillies are going to make a lot of pitchers look good this year, even the bad ones. So when a good one like Jacob deGrom faces them, welp, this sort of thing is going to happen. A shutout into the seventh supported by an infield single and a sac fly.

Pirates 5, Tigers 4: The dream of 162-0 is over for the Tigers. Alas. They had their chances, but Jared Hughes bailed Gerrit Cole out of a a no-out, bases-loaded situation in the seventh and Mark Melancon bent but did not break in the ninth. Josh Harrison, Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart all homered for Pittsburgh, which has won 3 of 4.

Royals 12, Twins 3: The Royals, however, still have a shot at 162-0, right? At this rate, why not? The bullpen has been amazing and unlike last year they’re not jus eking by in the one run games. Get this:

Rany later went back and checked and, yes, that extends back to the beginning of the American League as well.

Brewers 5, Cardinals 4: Carlos Gomez had two hits and an RBI for the Brewers in what Ron Roenicke called “an ugly win.” But this play from K-Rod was pretty:

[mlbvideo id=”72349283″ width=”600″ height=”336″ /]

Rockies 2, Giants 0: The Giants raised their banner and carried out their trophies and stuff, then got shut out. Rockies rookie starter Eddie Butler outdueled Giants rookie starter Chris Heston, tossing five and a third shutout innings. Heston only allowed one earned run, but the Rockies’ second run was his fault as he committed an error to allow a run to score. The earned run rules are dumb.

Yankees 6, Orioles 5: Stephen Drew had to pinch hit for Brett Gardner after Gardner needed to exit following an earlier hit-by-pitch. No worries, as all Drew did was hit a grand slam in the seventh to put the Yankees up by two. Chris Young and Mark Teixeira also homered. That’s two in a row for the Yankees. Winning streak.

Rays 2, Blue Jays 1: The Rays runs scored on consecutive bases-loaded walks by R.A. Dickey. It was three walks in a row for Dickey, actually, all after he had recorded two outs. Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi allowed one run over eight innings to spoil the Jays home opener.

Braves 3, Marlins 2: Reading some news stories and random Twitter comments, the whole “the Braves are playing small ball, doing the little things” narrative is clearly starting to take hold. Someone call Whitey Herzog, then, and tell him that they’re defining small ball down. In the fourth it maybe sorta looked like small ball, as Christian Bethancourt made his way around the bases without the aid of a hit, but it also came via a Marlins throwing error and a wild pitch. And the inning ended with another Braves runner caught stealing. The other two runs came the next inning via a combo of single-double-single-single. Yes, the Braves have been really home run dependent, but stringing hits together is not the same thing as “small ball.” I know I probably should care — hey, my team won! — but I don’t want to encourage Fredi Gonzalez into thinking he’s some master button-pusher.

Angels 6, Rangers 3: The Rangers jumped out with three in the first, but Angels’ starter Matt Shoemaker bounced back and didn’t allow anything else while pitching into the seventh. LAA got a pair of two-run homers from Collin Cowgill and David Freese in the fifth inning and they never looked back.

Cubs 7, Reds 6: Jon Lester was roughed up pretty good — and revealed that, yeah, maybe he has the yips — giving up six runs on 10 hits over six innings, putting his ERA at 7.84. Jorge Soler helped bail him out, however, hitting two two-run homers. The Reds bullpen imploded here, as they were up 6-4 when starter Mike Leake left after seven innings. Jumbo Diaz gave up one of those Soler homers to tie it. In the tenth everything unraveled, as relief pitchers who were not Aroldis Chapman allowed the Cubs to win. Such a shame that God Almighty Himself handed down that Commandment about not using your closer in a tie game on the road because He in all of His wisdom and glory has declared the save statistic to be sacred.

Athletics 8, Astros 1: Hey, Evan Gattis finally got a hit. His line on the season is now .042/.080/.042, which is sort of satisfying looking, aesthetically speaking. That was it for Houston highlights, however. Billy Butler hit a three-run homer in the fifth, but the game was already decided by then. Scott Kazmir allowed one run over six.

Dodgers 6, Mariners 5: Alex Guerrero hit a bases-loaded single with two outs in the 10th inning for the walkoff win, in a game the Dodgers trailed 4-0 in the fourth inning. Nelson Cruz hit two homers in a winning effort in a losing cause. Dodgers starter Brandon McCarthy gave up four homers but also struck out ten dudes. That combo doesn’t happen often, according to the Elias Sports bureau. But I suppose both results are a function of guys on the other team hacking like hell.

Diamondbacks 8, Padres 4: Ender Inciarte hit two doubles, a triple and drove in four. If the sports headline in the Arizona Republic is not “Ender’s Game” today, I’m just giving up.

If 2020 season is cancelled, which players would be hurt the most?

Miguel Cabrera
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Last week, I went over a few teams that stood to be hurt most if there were to be no 2020 season as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, we will look at some players who may be adversely effected by a lost year.

Milestones

Players chasing milestones, especially those towards the end of their careers, would be stymied by a lost season. Tigers DH and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is the first one that comes to mind. He is 23 home runs short of joining the 500 home run club. Though he hasn’t hit more than 16 in a year since 2016, he would likely have at least hit a few this year and would have had an easier time getting there in 2021. He turns 37 years old in 10 days. Cabrera may be under contract through 2023, but it is not clear that his age and his health would allow him to play regularly such that he would be able to reach 500 home runs if the 2020 season were to be cancelled. (Cabrera is also 185 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.)

Mike Trout has 285 home runs for his career. It’s almost a given that he would get to 300 and beyond in 2020. He is currently one of only 13 players with at least 250 home runs through his age-27 season. The only players with more: Álex Rodríguez (345), Jimmie Foxx (302), Eddie Mathews (299), and Ken Griffey Jr. (294). Trout likely would have also reached 1,000 runs for his career, as he is currently at 903. Losing a full season could really make a difference where he winds up on the all-time leaderboards at the end of his career.

Veteran catcher Yadier Molina will be a free agent at season’s end, though he and the Cardinals have expressed interest in a contract extension. He turns 38 this summer and is 37 hits shy of 2,000 for his career. Even if this season never happens, Molina will likely join the 2,000 hit club in 2021 whether or not he signs a multi-year extension. Molina is also 84 RBI shy of 1,000 and 21 doubles shy of 400.

Free Agents

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto headline the free agent class heading into the 2021 season. Even if there eventually is a 2020 season, or something resembling it, teams are losing money across the board and that will result in stinginess in the free agent market. Make no mistake, Betts and Realmuto, as well as Trevor Bauer, Marcus Semien, and Marcus Stroman will still get paid handsomely, but they likely won’t get as much as they would following a typical year. The players that really stand to get hurt are the mid-tier free agents, whose cost won’t match their relative upside — players like James McCann, Howie Kendrick, Yuli Gurriel, DJ LeMahieu, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Turner, Michael Grantley, Marcell Ozuna, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jay Bruce, and Josh Reddick.

2020-21 Draftees and International Free Agents

At the end of March, MLB and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement on a deal covering issues including service time, pay during the pandemic, and the amateur draft. In exchange for players on active rosters getting credit for a full year of service time whether or not there is a 2020 season, the league got the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds and the 2021 draft to 20 rounds. The league also gained the right to delay the start of the 2020 and 2021-22 international signing periods.

The MLBPA effectively sold out what will be their future union members. A shortened draft this year and/or next year would mean that players who would otherwise have been drafted this year will go undrafted and thus will either become unsigned free agents or return to the draft next year as part of a crowded pool of players. Likewise, pushing back the international signing period will add more players to the market at the same time. This, obviously, benefits ownership as a surplus of labor diminishes those laborers’ leverage.

Bounce-back Candidates

Players coming off of injuries or otherwise down years in 2019 were hoping to use 2020 to bounce back, reestablishing themselves in the league. Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani didn’t pitch at all last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was hopeful to rejoin the starting rotation at some point in the first half of a normal 2020 season. We learned yesterday that Ohtani is expected to throw off a mound “soon.” If a 2020 season does happen, it likely wouldn’t begin for another couple of months at minimum, which should afford him enough time to get into pitching shape.

Ohtani’s teammate and perennial Gold Glove Award candidate Andrelton Simmons played in only 103 games last season due to an ankle injury. He mustered a meager .673 OPS as well, compiling just 1.9 WAR, his lowest total in any season since debuting in 2012. In 2017, he peaked at 7.8 WAR and put up 6.3 the following season. Simmons will become a free agent after the 2020 season, so he most certainly needed a healthy and productive 2020 to maximize his leverage on the market.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, now 36 years old, is coming off of the worst offensive season of his career. He hit .261/.357/.411 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 608 plate appearances, continuing a downward trend. He registered a 167 adjusted OPS as recently as 2017, but that declined to 126 in ’18 and 98 last year. The Reds, back to being competitive, were definitely banking on a bounce-back year from Votto. (Votto, by the way, is also 56 RBI short of the 1,000 milestone for his career.)