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Giants walk off in the 13th inning to keep playoff hopes alive


Game 3 between the Cubs and Giants was a wild one. And a long one. It was a 13-inning affair that ultimately ended in a 6-5 walk-off victory for the Giants, helping stave off elimination in the NLDS.

Cubs starter Jake Arrieta got the action started early, blasting a three-run home run off of Giants starter Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner had never, in his career entering Monday night, allowed the opposing pitcher to homer. And he’d homered 14 times off of pitchers himself. But Arrieta changed that right quick, putting the Cubs up 3-0 in the second inning.

The Giants fought back for a run against Arrieta in the bottom of the third thanks to a Buster Posey RBI single. They tacked on one more in the fifth on a Brandon Belt sacrifice fly. It would remain a 3-2 game until the bottom of the eighth inning.

Cubs reliever Hector Rondon started the bottom of the eighth, but allowed a leadoff single to Brandon Belt followed by a walk to Buster Posey, prompting manager Joe Maddon to call on closer Aroldis Chapman for a six-out save. Chapman struck out Pence, seeming like he’d have no trouble escaping the jam. But Conor Gillaspie strode to the plate, the hero of the NL Wild Card game against the Mets. Gillaspie, you may recall, hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning to break a scoreless tie in that one.

Here’s what seemed to be the problem for the Giants: Chapman, historically, owned left-handed hitters, holding them to a .393 OPS (!) over his career. Gillaspie, historically, struggled against lefty pitchers, mustering a .523 OPS over his career. The odds were certainly in Chapman’s favor. And yet, Gillaspie laced a line drive to the gap in right-center field, a foot out of the reach of a diving Albert Almora, Jr., allowing Belt and Posey to score, giving the Giants a 4-3 lead. According to FanGraphs, the Giants’ probability of winning jumped from 26 percent entering the inning to 92 percent after Gillaspie’s triple.

Chapman continued to struggle, as Brandon Crawford singled up the middle to bring Gillaspie home to make it a 5-3 game. Crawford then stole second base and advanced to third base on a throwing error by catcher Willson Contreras. Chapman finished off the at-bat by walking Joe Panik before Maddon came out to the mound to bring in Justin Grimm. To recap: against Chapman, a feared lefty-killer, lefty Gillaspie hits a two-run triple, lefty Crawford hits an RBI single, lefty Panik walks. Baseball. Grimm escaped the inning, inducing consecutive ground outs from Gregor Blanco and Gorkys Hernandez.

The Giants were three outs from moving onto Game 4 with their NLCS hopes still alive, but that meant trusting their infamous bullpen. As ESPN’s David Schoenfield notes, the Giants’ 30 blown saves in 2016 were the most by any playoff team since saves became official in 1969. So in the top of the ninth, Sergio Romo walked leadoff batter Dexter Fowler. Kris Bryant then yanked a slider out to left field that just barely went over the fence, tying the game at five apiece. Romo was able to get through the rest of the ninth with no further damage. He worked a scoreless 10th as well.

The game would remain 5-5 until the bottom of the 13th inning. Lefty Mike Montgomery, entering his fifth inning of work, allowed a leadoff double to Brandon Crawford. That was followed by another double by Joe Panik to plate the winning run.

Game 4 of the NLDS between these two teams begins at 8:30 PM on Tuesday evening. The Cubs’ John Lackey will oppose the Giants’ Matt Moore at AT&T Park.

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.