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Indians shut out the Cubs 1-0 in Game 3 of the World Series

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On a blustery night in the Windy City, one where 14 m.p.h. winds (and Carlos Santana) all but guaranteed base hits in left-center field, the Cubs and Indians had themselves a pitcher’s duel.

It was a combined effort for the Indians, who cycled through four pitchers to take their second win of the series, 1-0. Josh Tomlin opened with 4 2/3 scoreless frames, working up to a full count just twice in 17 batters faced and keeping the ball low with eight ground outs.

Andrew Miller picked up the end of the fifth inning, inducing a lineout from Miguel Montero before returning in the sixth to strike out the side on 17 pitches. For those keeping score at home, that’s 15 innings Miller has pitched in the 2016 postseason, eclipsing Goose Gossage’s 14 1/3 innings in the 1981 playoffs for most innings pitched by a reliever in a single postseason (per MLB Stat of the Day). According to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Miller’s three strikeouts also brought his 2016 postseason total to 27 whiffs, just shy of the 28-strikeout mark left by Francisco Rodriguez in 2002.

Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen tag-teamed to finish off the last three frames of the game. Both relievers faced major threats from the Cubs, with a Jorge Soler triple in the seventh and runners at the corners in the ninth — and, coincidentally, both relievers silenced Javier Baez at the plate to preserve their one-run lead.

The Cubs worked their pitching staff against the Indians, too, calling on six different hurlers to keep the game scoreless through 6 1/3 innings. Kyle Hendricks looked sharp through the first 4 1/3 frames, striking out six batters and executing a flawless pick-off throw to catch Francisco Lindor off the first base bag in the first inning. While Joe Maddon’s bullpen put up a good fight, right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. hit a snag in the seventh inning, losing the shutout to pinch-hitter Coco Crisp on a 92.1-m.p.h. fastball-turned-RBI-single.

One run was all the Indians needed for a lead and their first World Series win at Wrigley Field. Even Kyle Schwarber couldn’t solve their pitching staff, entering for one at-bat in the eighth and popping out to Lindor on a 2-1 count against Shaw and his arsenal of cutters high in the zone.

Surprisingly, the team’s two biggest concerns heading into Friday’s game — the wind and Carlos Santana — were non-issues. Santana cleanly (one might even say smoothly) fielded the only fly ball in his direction in the first inning, while Tomlin and the rest of the Indians’ crew almost exclusively kept the balls to the infield.

The Cubs will try to even the series again on Saturday evening at 8 PM EDT. They’ll send out right-hander John Lackey against Indians’ Corey Kluber, who will be pitching on short rest after his Game 1 start on Tuesday. Could this finally be the Cubs’ first World Series win at Wrigley Field since 1945? If not, it’ll put the Indians on the brink of a championship title, with the opportunity to clinch the whole dang thing on Sunday night.

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.