And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Blue Jays 2, Yankees 0: A pretty darn big sweep here, both in terms of what it means in the standings and what it means for, I dunno, the optics of it all. Three straight games from the team you’re chasing is a big deal, and now the Jays are only a game and a half back of the Yankees. But doing so in three straight low-scoring games in which the Yankees scored only one run is kind of crazy. We’ve gotten used to the Blue Jays bashing the hell out of people. Seeing them hold New York down like this is another thing altogether. That’s eight straight wins overall for Toronto. Look out American League.

Diamondbacks 4, Reds 3: Chris Owings had a walkoff single in the tenth, but the Reds tried to turn this into a Merkle’s Boner game by claiming that the runners didn’t properly advance and finish the play before going to celebrate the win. That didn’t end up washing — Owings and the runner who scored ran out their end of the play — but the discussion about it certainly made the end of things weird. Also, it gives us all the chance to say “boner,” and that’s always good.

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Angels 5, Orioles 4: David Murphy drove in four, including a walkoff single in the 11th inning. Buck Showalter walked both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols with two out to get to Murphy before his game-winning hit, willingly putting a runner on third base to do it. Which ain’t exactly the best strategy I’ve ever seen, but even Buck Showalter is allowed to have a bad day, right? After the game Showalter said “I was just trying to give us the best chance to win.” I get that I guess, but pitching to anyone with the bases loaded seems more dicey to me than trying to retire even really good hitters with a runner on second. Also, someone watch the video of Murphy’s hit and explain to me why the outfield was playing so damn shallow. Anything on the ground scores a runner from third. With two outs, don’t you play straight up? And if you’re playing straight up, doesn’t the left fielder catch that fly from Murphy? Just weird.

Rays 4, Mets 3: Richie Shaffer hit a tie-breaking homer in the seventh inning off of Bartolo Colon. After the game he talked about how it was a big deal for him because his dad is from Cleveland and is a big Cleveland Indians fans and used to like watching Bartolo Colon. If you need me I’ll be in the next room crying all day after realizing just how damn old I am that major league ballplayers talk about how their DADS used to watch old timers who broke into the big leagues two years after I graduated from college and got married.

Red Sox 7, Tigers 2: Jackie Bradley Jr., who has been a non-factor on offense in the majors, homered, tripled and drove in five. Henry Owens got his first big league win. Go Junior Red Sox.

Indians 8, Twins 1: Corey Kluber tossed a three-hit complete game allowing one run and striking out ten in a cool 100 pitches. It was very nice of him to let the Twins get to the airport and back to Minnesota so early like that.

Rockies 6, Nationals 4: That’s a game that’ll bug the Nats for a good long while. Max Scherzer on the mound against a bad team like Colorado and a lead heading into the sixth inning. The Rockies tied it on a Carlos Gonzalez homer, however — they hit three off Scherzer in the game, two from Gonzalez — and then Drew Storen gave up two runs in the eighth inning. Washington mounted something of a rally in the ninth, but nothing came of it. They remain a game and a half behind the Mets.

Royals 5, White Sox 4: On paper, a game in which Danny Duffy couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning, Kelvin Herrera blew a lead and Greg Holland was unavailable would seem like the sort of game the Royals lose. Nah. Because they just don’t lose much these days. The sweep puts the Royals lead in the Central at a hilariously insurmountable eleven and a half games.

Brewers 5, Cardinals 4: I don’t pay that much attention to Khris Davis in the grand scheme of things, but every time he comes to my attention it’s because he’s hit two home runs in a game. Some people never touch your life. Some people you can’t stop thinking about. Some people serve some narrow role in it like “the player you will forever think about when someone says ‘two homers in a game.'” The Brewers’ win snapped the Cardinals four-game winning streak.

Cubs 2, Giants 0: The Cubs sweep the Giants in the four game series. Jake Arrieta pitched shutout ball into the eighth and also [all together now] helped his own cause when he tripled and eventually came in to score in the second inning. The Cubs have won ten of 11 and are now three an a half up on San Francisco for the second wild card. The Giants will be better off looking at the division title, where they trail the Dodgers by only three.

Athletics 5, Astros 4: Newcomer Danny Valencia homered in the fourth inning and singled in the winning run in walkoff fashion. Valencia is 7-for-16 with five RBI since coming over from Toronto. Houston’s loss — their third straight — puts them a mere half game up on the Angels.

Mariners 4, Rangers 2: Nelson Cruz tied Mike Trout for the league lead in homers at 33 and extended his hitting streak to 19 games. During the streak he’s batting .422 with 11 home runs, six doubles and 15 RBI. In addition to leading the league in homers, he’s one point behind Jason Kipnis and Prince Fielder for the lead in batting average and seventh in RBI, 14 behind the leader, Josh Donaldson. That last one may be too hard to make up for the Triple Crown, but he’s at least within shouting distance. Just an amazing season for the guy.

Phillies 5, Padres 3: Phillies sweep the Padres because the Phillies are actually good now and nothing makes sense in the universe. Jerome Williams of all people starred here, allowing one run in seven innings. When Jerome Williams shuts you down, you need to take a good long look in the mirror.

Marlins 4, Braves 1: The Marlins snapped a six-game skid. Brad Hand allowed one run in seven innings and [all together now] helped his own cause by driving in two runs on sacrifices.

Pirates 13, Dodgers 6: The Dodgers took a 5-4 lead into the seventh inning in this one. I suppose, somewhere, someone turned the game off at that point because they were tired or whatever. In which case they missed the Pirates score NINE RUNS in the bottom half of the frame. Dodgers reliever Jim Johnson was charged with eight of those runs in two-thirds of an inning. I swear he was actually halfway decent for Atlanta this year before heading to LA in that three-way trade with the Marlins. But he has stunk up the joint for the Dodgers. Pittsburgh sweeps the three-game series and wins their sixth in seven games.

Minor League Baseball teams sold over $70 million in merchandise in 2017

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Every so often here, we discuss the criminally low pay of Minor League Baseball players. Most of them make less than $7,500 a year, which includes the regular season as well as spring training, playoffs, and offseason training. The abysmal pay forces minor leaguers to eat unhealthy food, live in cramped quarters, and forego consistent, quality sleep, among other things.

What makes this situation worse is that Minor League Baseball is a huge money-maker for their parent teams in Major League Baseball. Josh Norris of Baseball America reported yesterday that Minor League Baseball teams sold $70.8 million in merchandise in 2017. That represented a 3.6 percent increase over the previous record set in 2016. This is just merchandise. Now think about concession and ticket sales.

Minor League Baseball COO Brian Earle said, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations. The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

You may recall that Major League Baseball had been lobbying Congress to pass legislation exempting minor league players from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Doing so classified baseball players as seasonal workers, which means they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. That legislation passed earlier this year. Minor League Baseball generates profits hand over fist and it is now legally protected from having to share that with the labor that produced it.

Many points of divergence led us to this point, but the question is how do we change it? Minor leaguers are routinely taken advantage of because they don’t have a union. Compare the minors in baseball to the minors in hockey, where minor leaguers have a union. As SB Nation’s Marc Normandin pointed out last month, the minimum salary for American Hockey League players is $45,000 and the average salary is $118,000. They receive a playoff share of around $20,000, and receive health insurance that covers themselves as well as their families. Furthermore, the minor league hockey players’ per diem is $74, about three times as much as minor league baseball players’ per diem of $25.

Major League Baseball and its 30 teams have shown no inclination towards treating minor league players simply out of moral obligation or good will, so the minor leaguers need union coverage to force their conditions to improve. This could be as simple as the MLBPA expanding its coverage to the minor leagues because, after all, some minor leaguers do become major leaguers, right? Or the minor leaguers could themselves create a union. It’s easy to say, but tougher to do, which is why they still don’t have a union.

At any rate, every fan of baseball should be enraged when they read that Minor League Baseball keeps setting records year after year when it comes to selling hats and t-shirts, then refuses to share any of that wealth with the labor responsible for it. It’s morally reprehensible.