And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Tigers 8, Royals 6: Victor Martinez homered twice and drove in five runs, but it was Ian Kinsler’s two-run walkoff homer which ended this one. The Tigers took two of three from division-leading Kansas City and now sit three and a half out in the wild card. It’s highly unlikely they’ll leap over all of the teams ahead of them but, if they manage it, do they get backsies on David Price, or what?

Brewers 10, Padres 1: Khris Davis hit two three-run homers and Matt Garza had no trouble with the Padres lineup, allowing only two hits in seven innings. Davis’ homers came off of Odrisamer Despaigne and Kevin Quackenbush. We should maybe check with the Elias Sports Bureau first, but I’m gonna wager that no batter in MLB history has ever hit two homers in a game off of pitchers with more combined letters in their names than Davis did here.

Astros 5, Athletics 4: Jed Lowrie had a throwing error in the ninth that allowed Oakland to score twice and force extra innings. But then he hit an RBI double off Edward Mujica with two outs in the 10th. Counter Intelligence is going over the video of this to see if the error was truly a mistake and if the double wasn’t just a means of making Houston brass believe he is not an A’s agent planted deep within the Astros organization. Really, when it comes Lowrie, the Astros and the Athletics, it’s hard to know where allegiances truly lie.

Dodgers 10, Phillies 8: You figure if you score six runs on seven hits in six innings off of Zack Greinke — five of which come in the first inning before he retires any of you — that you’re living right. But then your starter gives up seven runs in four innings, including a homer and two other hits to Greinke himself and, nah, you ain’t. Not a pretty game here at all. The six runs Greinke gave up in the first three innings here match the number of runs he gave up in his previous nine starts combined. But hey, a win.

Cardinals 3, Reds 0: Michael Wacha and three relievers combine to shut out the Reds. St. Louis held Cincy scoreless for the last 18 innings of this series. Reds starter Michael Lorenzen is 0-5 in his last seven starts.

Nationals 8, Diamondbacks 3: Rookie Joe Ross allowed a run and five hits while striking out seven in six innings and then, after the game, learned that the guy he was replacing in the rotation, Doug Fister, was being demoted to the bullpen. Bryce Harper reached base all three times he came to the plate and scored twice. His line on the year: .334/.461/.666. Hail Satan.

Braves 9, Marlins 8: Andrew McKirahan got his first career win and Arodys Vizcaino got his first career save. Both of them served 80-game suspensions for PEDs this year. Hail Hydra.

Yankees 2, Red Sox 1: The second 2-1 game between these two. If it wasn’t for that ugly 13-3 thing on Tuesday this series would probably challenge for the lowest-scoring Yankees-Red Sox series in recent history. As it was, CC Sabathia actually pitched well, allowing one run in six innings, A-Rod doubled in a run and Jacoby Ellsbury homered to put the Yankees ahead for good. Now New York faces a big series against the Jays this weekend.

Blue Jays 9, Twins 3: Mark Buehrle won — it was his 30th win against Minnesota in his career — and Edwin Encarnacion went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and scored twice. Also hit his 250th career homer. The Jays complete a four-game sweep of Minnesota, knocking the fading Twins back to .500 and putting them behind both the Rangers and the Orioles for the second wild card slot. Seems like the Cinderella phase of Minnesota’s season is over. Three games in the Bronx for Toronto now.

Cubs 5, Giants 4: The Cubs win their seventh of eight thanks to a Kyle Schwarber three- run homer and a Jorge Soler bases-loaded single. Jason Hammel was kinda miffed after the game that Joe Maddon pulled him in the fifth inning when he was in trouble, but they said afterward they’re on the same page. I’m assuming Maddon and him “rapped it out,” as the cool kids said and then were all copacetic. Joe Maddon is hip and knows how to talk to today’s youth.

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.