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And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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I think we still have a couple of home openers to go, but we’re almost to regular run-of-the-mill, day-in, day-out baseball. Yesterday, however, there was still some pomp and still some circumstance.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cardinals 10, Brewers 1: Jeremy Hazelbaker went 4 for 4 with a triple, double and sacrifice fly and is now 10-for-19 with five RBI on the young season. He’s a 28-year-old rookie who played seven seasons in the minors before 2016. The Cardinals just manufacture guys like this, though. It’s like their minor league coordinator is Morgoth and players like Hazelbaker are forged in Mordor, in mockery and envy of other teams, of whom they are afterwards the bitterest foes.

Orioles 9, Red Sox 7: Six straight wins to start the season for the O’s. That puts me in mind of the gold standard for hot starts of my youth, which was he 1987 Milwaukee Brewers, who began 13-0. Of course they also had a 12-game losing streak a month later. Man that team was crazy streaky. Won 91 games, though, which while not good enough to make the playoffs back in the pre-wild card days would be a nice total for this year’s Orioles. Here Chris Davis hit a three-run shot off of Craig Kimbrel to break a 6-6 tie in the ninth. The O’s bats also got to David Price, scoring five in five innings. If you can’t count on Price and Kimbrel, man, what can you count on in this crazy world?

Pirates 7, Tigers 4: Justin Verlander had a great second half last year and was sharp all spring and there was this “JV is BACK” sentiment floating around. This start, however — 4.1 IP, 10 H, 7 ER — looked like old-new JV, not new-new JV and especially not old-old JV. Or maybe it’s just the case that the Pirates are really, really good and everyone has a bad day sometimes.

Padres 4, Phillies 3: An infield fly rule and a squeeze play figured in prominently here, in case you’re needing to go bother your non-baseball fan coworkers with a bunch of “beauty and nuance of the game” baloney at the water cooler this morning. Normally it’s just U.S. soccer fans which pull that stuff with their otherwise uninterested coworkers, but I feel that baseball is fertile ground for you to become That Guy too. Here are the details of the infield fly rule play, but the upshot is that it took the Phillies out of a potential rally. The squeeze came from Alexi Amarista in the seventh innings, scoring Derek Norris with the go-ahead run. I hope Andy Green got himself a beer after this one, because that’s a W to the manager.

White Sox 4, Twins 1: The Twins are now 0-7 and are probably sending this article to everyone they know (NSFW language warning). Bright side, though: they’re still only one third of the way to the 1988 Orioles. And that club had already fired its manager by now.

Marlins 10, Mets 3: A seven-run second inning capped by a Giancarlo Stanton homer pretty much ended this one not long before it got started and handed Steven Matz his first regular-season loss. Every Marlins starting position player had a hit and scored a run. The Mets are 2-4 and that same link from the White Sox-Twins recap applies to them, but you still know the tabloids are gonna start poking pretty soon.

Nationals 6, Braves 4: Being a Braves fan makes life easier to live sometimes. They scored four runs in the first two innings off of Max Scherzer and, if you rooted for another team, you might feel hopeful at that point. If you’re a Braves fan, though, you know that things will even out, your team will still manage to lose and thus you avoid all of that unhealthy up-and-down that’s hard on the heart and stomach. Also: before the game is over you can catch up on the stuff on your DVR and even enjoy it some. Like “Gotham,” which I am about 95% hate-watching at this point but which, because two hours of Braves baseball preceded it, actually was OK. Like, I want Paul Reubens’ character and his weird family to get their own spinoff, set about 10 years previously. Which would make that show a prequel of a prequel of sorts. Otherwise “Gotham,” like the 2016 Braves, is mostly hot garbage.

Cubs 5, Reds 3: Brandon Finnegan had a no-hitter going until there were two outs in the seventh inning. That’s when David Ross broke things up and the Cubs went on to score two runs charged to him. It wasn’t exactly a dominant performance anyway as he walked five. The pen went on to allow three more thanks to an Addison Russell three-run homer the following inning. Reds reliever Tony Cingrani played a role in both rallies, so he’s probably feeling really awesome today. Reds fans should have a good summer of catching up on stuff on their DVRs too.

Astros 8, Royals 2: Collin McHugh got shelled in his first start of the year but he pitched seven scoreless innings here against the defending champs. He allowed eight hits, though, which by law requires us to say that they were “scattered.” Carlos Correa had three hits and two RBI, Jose Altuve had three hits and Colby Rasmus hit a two-run bomb. The top of that Houston lineup is pretty sweet: 10 hits in all for the top four of the Astros’ order.

Angels 4, Athletics 1: Mike Trout hit his first home run of the season — this one off of Sonny Gray — and Nick Tropeano pitched five scoreless innings. So I guess that means Mike Trout is good again.

Rangers 7, Mariners 3: Colby Lewis allowed one run on four hits over six innings. The Mariners scored 19 runs in their two wins last week, both against Texas. They’ve scored nine runs in their five losses. That’s not good. Also: it’s more data in my grand theory that — hear me out now — teams don’t score as much when they lose. Or they lose when they don’t score much. I have to gather more data before I can make any definitive conclusions.

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.