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And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 16, Astros 6: If Martians came down to Earth, threatening war, but we somehow managed to enter into delicate peace talks with them which, the president decided, would be capped off with a ceremony in which we showed them our national pastime featuring our most famous baseball team, and if this was the game to which we took them, the treaty would be torn up and the world would be annihilated by angry Martians. Seventeen runs were scored in the first three innings which took approximately 83 hours to play. Amazingly these teams managed to bring the whole game in under four hours, but that either had to do with everyone freezing their butts off late and mailing the last few innings in or else a Martian time warp kinda deal is happening, prelude to the full invasion.

Tigers 7, Marlins 3: Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in four, including a homer off of Jose Fernandez. Fernandez had a crazy line. Five runs on five hits suggests a guy who didn’t have anything. Thirteen strikeouts in fewer than six innings (and only one walk), well, that suggests a guy who had some great stuff. I dunno. Weird things happen sometimes. Like Saltalamacchia being the hero against the club that’s paying most of his salary this year.

Indians 7, Red Sox 6: Speaking of old friends, Mike Napoli broke a 6-all tie in the seventh with his solo shot against the Sox, which ended up being the game-winner. Clay Buchholz started the game by allowing four runs in the first. While Boston tied it up eventually, you really don’t put your team in a good position to win when you do that. Boston has a lot of people who are high on them. For those expectations to be met, they need someone besides David Price to be a solid, reliable starter. Buchholz is the most obvious candidate. Maybe he will be, but like he did in this game, he has started off poorly.

Rockies 4, Diamondbacks 3: Trevor Story, like Robinson Cano (see below) has four homers in his first three games. Since he’s a rookie that’s a little more notable and record breaking. It also leads to a lot of fun. The AP headline I saw for this game was “Amazing Story.” If he keeps this up we’ll see a “Neverending Story” or something eventually. Really, the guy’s name, if nothing else, is a gift to headline writers everywhere. If he kills the Phillies in a road game it’ll be “Philadelphia Story.” If he goes on a terrible skid it’ll be “American Horror Story.” He’s already something of a “Cinderella Story,” but if he does this for 18 years he’ll be “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” For right now, to Colorado fans, he’s a “Love Story.”

Rays 5, Blue Jays 3: Steven Souza homered twice. Josh Donaldson homered once. Souza didn’t leave the game with a strained right calf the way Donaldson did, though, so he comes out even farther ahead. Looked like a tough break for the MVP, but he said after the game he won’t miss time. Worth watching.

Brewers 4, Giants 3Jeff Samardzija scares some people because they think that he got that $90 million deal based on his name and rep and not where he is as a pitcher anymore. They worry that the bad 2015 they saw from him was not a blip but the beginnings of a decline. One start will not determine that, obviously, and he battled through trouble pretty well yesterday, but his first start of 2016 —  three runs on eight hits in five and a third — probably made some people make the weird signing noise Tina makes on “Bob’s Burgers.” Chris Carter hit a homer for Milwaukee. That’s what he does.

Mariners 9, Rangers 5: Robinson Cano homered for the third and fourth time in his first three games. The guy is on fire. I was pessimistic about Seattle’s chances this year but those who were less pessimistic based it on their belief that Cano had a superstar comeback season in him. Given that he really bounced back fantastically in the second half last year it’s not a crazy thing to believe. If he does look like the elite Robinson Cano we’ve seen in the past, it would go a long way toward changing the shape of the Mariners’ season from that which the more pessimistic observers expect.

Reds 4, Phillies 2: The Phillies’ bullpen fails to come through again, this time with a two-run ninth capped off by a Scott Schebler bases-loaded double off of Dalier Hinojosa, who allowed three singles before that. Tough stuff. Oh well, Phillies fans, I have this for you. Feel free to use it whenever you need to. I feel like you’re going to need it all season long.

Orioles 4, Twins 2: Chris Davis homered in the third to put the O’s up 2-1. They’d never trail thanks to a solid outing by Yovani Gallardo. Davis has two hits and two walks in two games. Which isn’t Cano-Story sexy or anything, but the Orioles have to be happy.

Pirates 5, Cardinals 1: And with that we have the first three-game sweep of the year. Juan Nicasio pitched allowed one run over six innings and Francisco Cevelli hit a two-run double. It doesn’t matter yet obviously, and this is just a case of fun dumb numbers in the first week of the season, but the 2015 Cardinals were never farther than 2.5 games out of first place last year. They’re three out now. TIME TO PANIC?! WHO CAN SAY?!

Dodgers 7, Padres 0: And with that we have the second three-game sweep of the year. This one a lot more decisive, as the Dodgers outscored San Diego 25-0 in the first three games of the year. Only silver lining is that the Padres now get to travel to Colorado. Which means the pitchers will still be scared but it basically guarantees that the offense will come out of its coma. Oh, fun stuff here: Kenta Maeda made his big league debut. In addition to getting the win with six scoreless, he hit a homer. It was the Dodgers’ first homer of the year.

Nationals 3, Braves 1: Down 1-0 in the seventh, the Nationals rallied, with the rally capped off by a Matt den Dekker two-run double. “Matt den Dekker” is probably the most fun name to say in major league baseball right now.

Athletics 2, White Sox 1: Better late than never. Sonny Gray, sidelined with either food poisoning or a stomach bug or whatever, was supposed to go on Monday. Two days of recouperation did the trick, however, and he went seven innings allowing only one run. He got the lead thanks to a Mark Canha homer in the second and never looked back.

This Day in Transaction History: Cardinals send two players to Phillies in lieu of Curt Flood

Curt Flood
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As a recurring column idea, Bill will expound upon one interesting transaction that occurred on a particular day in baseball history. It won’t always be the most exciting or most impactful transaction, but always something interesting. Feel free to share which transactions stand out to you in the comments.

. . .

The Cardinals and Phillies agreed to terms on a trade involving outfielder Curt Flood on October 7, 1969. The Cardinals sent Flood, Tim McCarver, Joe Hoerner, and Byron Browne to Philadelphia in exchange for Dick Allen, Cookie Rojas, and Jerry Johnson. Flood famously refused to report to the Phillies, citing the club’s poor record, stadium disrepair, and racist fans. Flood challenged baseball’s reserve clause, sitting out the 1970 season. On this day in 1970, the Cardinals sent Willie Montañez and Jim Browning to the Phillies in lieu of Flood.

The trade became one of baseball’s most famous and not because of the quality of players involved. Allen, Rojas, Montañez, McCarver, and Hoerner all had lengthy, productive major league careers. Allen, in fact, would go on to win an MVP Award. Browning was really the only player of the bunch that didn’t pan out, as he never exceeded Double-A before his career in baseball was finished in 1975 at the age of 23.

Baseball’s reserve clause tied players to their teams even when their contracts expired. That is why many well-known players in the 1960’s and prior spent their entire careers with one team. Their options were: accept the below-market salaries offered by their teams or sit out the season in protest.

The Major League Baseball Players Association wasn’t created until 1966, but the reserve clause was challenged prior to Flood. The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1922, in Federal Baseball Club v. National League, that the Sherman Antitrust Act did not apply to Major League Baseball. The Sherman Antitrust Act prohibits in interstate commerce anticompetitive agreements and attempts to create monopolies. The Supreme Court maintained that the business of baseball did not qualify as interstate commerce as it pertains to the Sherman Antitrust Act. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, “The business is giving exhibitions of baseball, which are purely state affairs.”

New York Giants outfielder Danny Gardella sued then-commissioner Happy Chandler. Gardella was banned five years because he played in the Mexican League. He claimed that was an unfair use of monopolistic power and said that the 1922 Supreme Court ruling no longer applied given the exponential growth of the sport. Gardella ended up settling out of court.

The reserve clause was more seriously challenged in 1953 when Yankees minor league pitcher George Earl Toolson filed a lawsuit against the Yankees. Toolson spent the 1946-48 seasons with the Triple-A affiliate of the Red Sox in Louisville. He joined the Yankees in ’49, reporting to the Newark Bears. The Bears, however, dissolved, so Toolson was sent to the Yankees’ Single-A affiliate the next year. Toolson refused to report, saying that the reserve clause was a restraint of trade. Because the highly competitive Yankees had complete control over his career, he could not willingly play for another team that might afford him a better chance to realize his dream of pitching in the majors. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reaffirmed the reserve clause.

All of that laid the groundwork for Flood and MLBPA executive director Marvin Miller to challenge the reserve clause when the outfielder refused to report to the Phillies. Flood said in a letter to commissioner Bowie Kuhn, “After 12 years in the Major Leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen.”

Aside from a very brief stint with the Washington Senators in 1971, this lawsuit ended Flood’s career in baseball. He was a terrific player, making the NL All-star squad three times, winning seven Gold Gloves, and winning two championships with the Cardinals in 1964 and ’67. From 1961-69, he accrued 39.2 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference. Only 12 players had more WAR in that span of time.

Sadly, Flood too was unsuccessful in challenging the reserve clause. Judge Irving Ben Cooper of the Southern District of New York denied Flood’s motion for a preliminary injunction, writing, “The game is on higher ground; it behooves every one to keep it there.” He also wrote that “the preponderance of credible proof does not favor elimination of the reserve clause.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit also dismissed Flood’s case, citing Federal Baseball Club v. National League and  Toolson v. New York Yankees, Inc. as precedents. The Supreme Court upheld the rulings of the lower courts.

However, Flood and the MLBPA had made the most progress against the case to date. Miller finally nullified the reserve clause five years later when pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally argued that the reserve clause didn’t give team owners the right to renew player contracts year after year in perpetuity. The MLBPA filed a grievance on behalf of the two players and the case went before an arbitration panel. Peter Seitz, an arbitrator agreed upon by the two sides, ruled in favor of Messersmith and McNally. Major League Baseball appealed in the district court of Western Missouri, but Judge John Watkins Oliver upheld Seitz’s decision. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld Seitz. In 1976, the era of free agency began, allowing players with six years of service time to become free agents.

Despite Flood making arguably the greatest impact on the game of baseball, he is not in the Hall of Fame. It is not surprising, though the Hall of Fame is owned and operated by private interests, as the Hall has often taken an ownership-sided slant. It was not until very recently that Miller was elected to the Hall of Fame, in fact. In late February, 102 members of Congress sent a letter to the Hall of Fame urging Flood’s election. Thankfully, we don’t need the Hall of Fame to decide for us whether or not Flood made an impact. He most certainly did and every player who has signed a contract as a free agent in the time since has him to thank. Just ask Gerrit Cole.