Quite a pitcher’s duel in Tropicana Field this afternoon as Felix Hernandez and the Mariners took on Chris Archer and the Rays.
Archer actually outpitched — or at least out game-scored — Hernandez for eight innings. Archer shut down the Mariners’ lineup, allowing only two hits in eight innings, not walking anyone and striking out 12. That’s a 90 game score which makes it the third best performance by that metric all season. Through eight innings Hernandez matched him in the runs allowed department, though he did walk a guy, allowed two more hits and struck out “only” six.
Then the ninth inning happened. Kevin Cash took the ball from Archer, who had thrown only 95 pitches. Maybe he was getting tired. Maybe Cash just thought it was time for his closer, Brad Boxberger to come in. The same Boxberger who took the loss in extras last night when he gave up a homer to Kyle Seager. He’d get back up on that horse this time, right?
Nope: he retired two batters but walked two batters and then gave up a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz. Felix Hernandez, who had only thrown 86 pitches through his eight innings, came out for the ninth and set the Rays down in order, striking out two more guys. Ballgame.
What a pair of performances. What a change of luck for Felix Hernandez, who until this year tended to get no-decisions in games like these.
Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.
The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.
Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.
While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.
Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?