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And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Kobe’s last game? Golden State going for the record? Over a dozen night baseball games? That’s all good, but after the Braves went down 3-0 and looked to be on their way to yet another loss I switched to Art Carney and Lily Tomlin in “The Late Show,” which is one of the weirder but still more fun 1970s movies I’ve seen in a while. Sometimes you gotta step away from sports and remind yourself that no matter how old you are, there are some cool movies you haven’t seen and then make a point to see them.

Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 2, Marlins 1: Why I could never be a fan of a New York team: people were talking about this afterwards as if it were a “must-win” game. Like, not just crazy fans and columnists. The manager of the team was saying stuff like this. Baseball is supposed to fun, man. If my team thinks it has a must-win game on April 13 I’m just gonna get all freaked out and not enjoy myself for six months. This was enjoyable though.

Angels 5, Athletics 1: Four in a row for the Angels thanks to Matt Shoemaker and Albert Pujols. The Angels are still my dark horse “collapse at some point over the summer and have a really ugly end to the season” team this year — maybe the only real candidate for this in the AL — but for now they’re humming along pretty well.

Indians 4, Rays 1: Terry Francona said starter Carlos Carrasco was battling some “intestinal turmoil” at the beginning of the game. Given that he pitched eight innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts I’d hate to see what he would’ve done to the Rays if his intestines were a placid sea of peacefulness. In other news, I heard that one of my favorite hardcore bands from the 1980s, “Intestinal Turmoil,” is getting back together. I probably won’t go to any of their shows, though. Not the same since their bass player killed all of those people and then died after choking on prison food while awaiting trial. I lost interest then, because that was a pretty boring way for a 1980s hardcore band member to die, comparatively speaking. Show me something, man. Show you’re committed to the scene.

Mariners 4, Rangers 2: The Mariners had a 2-1 lead in the eighth but blew it and it was 2-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning when Dae-ho Lee came up to bat. He was benched because a righty got the start — and had been struggling anyway — but Lee came up big in a pinch hitting situation, smacking an 0-2 fastball off Jake Diekman for a walkoff two-run homer.

Red Sox 4, Orioles 2: The O’s finally lose one. Had to happen eventually, as there has never been a team to go 162-0 in a baseball season. Not even in that 1988 version of Lance Hafner Baseball I had for my Commodore 64 in which I created a team consisting of Bench, Gehrig, Morgan, Wagner, Schmidt, Mays, Ruth and Aaron with a pitching staff that matched up to that talent level. I think I ended up going 150-12 or something like that, because even computer systems in 1988 had that annoying “look, I know you’re taking advantage of me here, but I am NOT going to stand for this” mode. I think the first team to beat me was the 1987 Tigers or Blue Jays. After that I really cooled on my team. Don’t do that, O’s fans. Your guys are still good.

Brewers 6, Cardinals 4: “Hello. My name is Domingo Santana. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” At least that’s what I assume Santana said to Trevor Rosenthal before their ninth inning faceoff. It went about as well for Rosenthal as things went for Count Rugen. With go-ahead two-run homers being about as welcome to relievers as a sword to the gut.

Nationals 3, Braves 0Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings. He was a spot starter, as Stephen Strasburg was scheduled to go but was scratched due to an illness. The spot starter could’ve been Art Carney or Lily Tomlin and it would’ve gone the same way. Art Carney has been dead for over 12 years and Lily Tomlin is 76 years-old. The Braves are bad.

White Sox 3, Twins 0Carlos Rodon was very Carlos Rodony, showing great stuff and not giving up any runs but still walking five in six innings. When he puts it together he’s gonna be something. He just hasn’t put it together yet. Didn’t have to really have it together, however, given that he was facing the Twins. Jerry Sands gave the Sox some insurance with a two-run homer in the seventh off of Phil Hughes. The Twins are 0-8. They too are bad.

Phillies 2, Padres 1: Jared Eickhoff struck out nine in seven scoreless innings and Maikel Franco homered, doubled and drove in two. The Phillies: actually playing good baseball for a team that’s supposed to suck.

Tigers 7, Pirates 3Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s 100th career homer was a grand slam which brought the Tigers back from a 2-1 deficit and put them ahead to stay. Losing James McCann was bad, but Saltalamacchia can hit a bit.

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 2: Still not used to a world in which J.A. Happ is a money starter, but he has been. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 of his past 12 starts and here it was one run over six. After the game he was asked what was key to his performance and he said “making some big pitches.” Ah. Jose Bautista got his 800th career RBI. I presume he was happy to help the team get a big win against a good opponent.

Cubs 9, Reds 2: Alfredo Simon gave up five runs on four hits and three walks and didn’t even make it out of the first inning. Maybe he wanted to go watch “The Late Show” too. He’s not big on Carney or Tomlin I hear, but a young Joanna Cassidy has a small role in this one and who doesn’t love Bill Macy?

Royals 4, Astros 2: The Ken Giles acquisition is not yet making Astros fans happy. Sal Perez smacked a tiebreaking two-run homer off of him in the eighth inning. Giles has given up three home runs in four games. He’s my early favorite for “relief pitcher who punches a wall in frustration, fracturing his pitching hand” this season. It’s early, though.

Rockies 10, Giants 6: Nolan Arenado homered twice, doubled, singled and drove in seven runs. Meanwhile, Trevor Story had two triples. Nice to see him mixing things up like that. Too many homers make people suspicious.

Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1: Diamondbacks’ starters are 0-6 with a 6.61 ERA through the team’s first nine games. And their defense stinks. And they couldn’t do anything against Alex Wood, who allowed one run and pitched into the eighth. Adrian Gonzalez hit a homer.

Something needs to change to avoid future incidents like Machado-vs.-Welke

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced that Padres third baseman Manny Machado was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for “aggressively arguing” and making contact with home plate umpire Bill Welke after a controversial strike three call in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game against the Rockies in Colorado. The clip of the incident is below, showing that Welke’s call was poor. Machado’s behavior was also poor, as he indeed made contact — inadvertently or not — with Welke and repeatedly swore at him. Machado also threw his bat, though it was not in anyone’s direction and no one was put in harm’s way.

Machado chose to appeal his suspension, as is his right. While that matter is in the process of being resolved, the Major League Umpires Association put out a lengthy statement on Facebook and a shorter but hashtag-laden post on Twitter. The statements were problematic for a number of reasons, chiefest being that the union is publicly commenting on an ongoing matter. MLB can keep Machado’s suspension at one game, which seems likely, or it can reduce his suspension to zero games. The league can also choose to reduce or remove the fine as well. Once the matter is resolved, the MLBUA should feel free to comment publicly on the matter.

MLBUA’s statement was also poorly proofread, hyperbolic, and creates a very legitimate argument for bias against Machado and/or the Padres going forward. The MLBUA described Machado as “violently” throwing his bat “with no regard to anyone’s safety.” It continued, “It is NOT okay to throw a temper tantrum and physically touch someone of authority, just because you don’t agree.”

MLBUA then moralized, asking, “What does this teach the MLB’s immense and ongoing influential youth movement trying to attract young fans to the game? Major League Baseball has to always lead by example in all cases of violent behavior, on and off the field.” It closed out, saying that the union was “extraordinarily disappointed” in MLB’s “inaction.”

Among the hashtags MLBUA used on Twitter were “#TemperTantrum,” “#RepeatOffender,” and “#Nonsense.”

Major League Baseball then released a statement on Tuesday night, saying, “…we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association.” The league added, “We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”

Whoever put out the message on behalf of the MLBUA should have asked themselves, “What is my purpose here and for whom am I posting this?” The entire purpose of a trade union is to create a cohesive unit, establishing bargaining power on behalf of labor versus capital. So, MLBUA is not writing this for fans, for players, or for MLB executives; it is publicly commenting for umpires. An ancillary benefit might be to engender public support for umpires vis-a-vis Welke.

It must then ask itself if the statement creates solidarity among umpires. And I think that’s a solid no. Machado is not the first player and will not be the last to make contact with an umpire and to throw a “temper tantrum” of that magnitude. So why single Machado out and die on this hill today? I would be shocked if more than a handful of umpires outside of Welke and his closest confidantes appreciated the MLBUA reacting the way it did. It doesn’t help them achieve any union-specific goals and might actually hurt them. Repeatedly referring to Machado’s actions as a “temper tantrum” and “nonsense,” and calling him a “repeat offender” is unprofessional. It’s something an Internet commenter would write in the heat of the moment, not the representative of a trade union in one of the most profitable industries in the country. Furthermore, in singling out Machado, Machado himself as well as his teammates have a legitimate reason to believe Welke and his crew might be biased against them not just for the remainder of the season but for the foreseeable future.

On a more pedantic note, the MLBUA wrote that it is not okay for players to act the way Machado did against “someone of authority.” It’s not the power that should shield umpires from workplace violence; it’s their humanity. Machado should no more or less scream and yell at an umpire than he should anyone else in any walk of life. However you rank umpires, coaches, front office executives, teammates, opponents, fans, etc. — they should all be treated equally.

All of this being said, there was one part of MLBUA’s statement that rang true. As mentioned, Welke did suffer violence in the workplace. I disagree with MLB that the comparison was inappropriate. There is nuance to what constitutes “workplace violence.” Is it a mass shooting? Of course not. But in no other employment setting would it be appropriate for one person to scream, curse, and throw items across the room during a disagreement. The union correctly wrote, “Physical contact simply cannot be tolerated.” The crux of all of this is that Major League Baseball doesn’t discourage altercations between umpires and players/coaches. Things have gotten better since the implementation of instant replay, but some instances — especially ball/strike judgment — can turn into very heated altercations.

MLB needs a flat rule instructing players and coaches not to argue with umpires. The team of the offending person(s) would incur an in-game penalty as well as a potential fine and suspension. In exchange for this loss of power on the part of players and coaches, the umpires should be subject to actual oversight. As it stands, umpires are almost never punished in any way for any kind of behavior towards players and coaches, nor are they often punished for poor results in terms of correct calls made. The umpires already have the advantage with their authority; their lack of oversight puts that advantage on steroids, which is why there’s often so much frustration. Umpires instigate confrontations a non-negligible amount of the time. If they felt like they would actually be held accountable for it, they might be much more reluctant to act, for example, the way Ron Kulpa did towards the Astros in early April.

MLBUA helped gain that power imbalance for its members, so it isn’t likely to give it up very easily. I don’t see my utopian dream coming to fruition anytime soon. But that’s the crux of every umpire-involved confrontation: authority. Umpires and players/coaches need to be on a level playing field in that regard, and the rules need to be crystal clear on what kind of behavior is allowed from both sides. Until that happens, we’ll be seeing a Machado-vs.-Welke incident once or twice every year ad infinitum.