And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

13 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 8, Rays 4: Aaron Judge homered for the third straight game. And it was a moon shot. He’s a strong young man. Brett Gardner and Rickie Weeks aren’t tiny dudes either, so when they collided during the sixth inning some damage was done as well. Gardner suffered a bruised jaw and a strained neck. Weeks has a bone bruise by the shoulder joint and has some neck soreness.

Tigers 5, Twins 3Andrew Romine hit what turned out to be a game-winning grand slam in the fourth-inning.  He’s hitting .545/.545/1.091 with three doubles and a homer in 12 plate appearances so far this season. With Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Justin Upton all struggling in the early going, that’s been a nice pick-me-up for the Tigers’ offense. Detroit is 6-2.

Padres 6, Rockies 0: The Padres jumped out to a 4-0 lead and never looked back. Zach Lee tossed shutout ball into the sixth and four relievers took the shutout the rest of the way. Ryan Schimpf hit a two-run homer in that first inning and added a sac fly later. The Rockies were picked by many to be at least an interesting club. Not a playoff club, mind you, but interesting. Somehow, scoring only six runs in a three-game series in Coors Field against the San Diego Padres does not seem all that interesting to me.

Cardinals 6, Nationals 1Stephen Piscotty homered and had five RBI, helping the Cards avoid the sweep. Against Max Scherzer of all people. Mike Leake gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked none over seven shutout innings. At one point he retired 19 batters in a row.

White Sox 2, Indians 1: Derek Holland‘s job this year: pitch well until July and let the rebuilding Chisox flip him to a contender. So far so good. Here he allowed only one hit over six innings and pitched around four walks, not allowing a run to the defending AL champs. Holland has allowed only two earned runs in 12 innings in his two starts so far.

Mets 5, Phillies 4: Zack Wheeler cruised until the sixth, when the Phillies piled some runs on him, but the Mets piled more on Vince Velazquez and Wheeler came away with his first W since 2014. You remember 2014, don’t you? ISIS was running wild in Iraq, Ebola ravaged Africa, Russia annexed another country’s sovereign territory and, somehow, the world seemed less scary then than it does now. Anyway, congratulations Zack Wheeler.

Reds 9, Pirates 2: Amir Garrett took a shutout into the seventh inning — he’d eventually give up a two-run homer to David Freese — as the Reds sweep the Pirates. Garrett shut the Cardinals out for six innings in his first start. Not a bad start to the rookie lefty’s career. Especially considering that he got shelled in spring training. Not a bad start for the Reds, too, who are 7-2.

Athletics 8, Royals 3: Andrew Triggs got beat up in spring training but has had two nice starts to kick off the season. I hear Amir Garrett is gonna sue him for stealing his bit. Jedd Lowrie drove in three. The A’s have won eight in a row over the Royals, six of those in Kansas City. Bob Melvin is lobbying to have the Royals moved back to the AL West and for the league office to reinstitute the unbalanced schedule.

Brewers 2, Blue Jays 0: The Brewers’ Chase Anderson and two relievers combined on a four-hit shutout as Toronto’s early season nightmare continues. The Jays fall to 1-7 with their fifth straight loss. No 1-7 team has ever made the playoffs. That’s because baseball seasons are 162 games long, not eight games long, making it preposterous to think that a team that has only played eight games could secure a playoff berth.

Orioles 12, Red Sox 5: The O’s hit five homers in the first three innings. Trey Mancini hit two of them. I refuse to believe that “Trey Mancini” is a real person, however, and not the name of a secondary character in a Ross MacDonald novel. Trey Mancini is not the bad guy, really, but he works for him. Maybe he plays the vibes at a club the bad guy owns. Archer braces him for information, after which he tells Mancini to go back home Fresno, to start going by his given name, Bob Henderson, and to go back to helping his parents out at their corner market rather than getting messed up with the dark element in Santa Teresa. Archer was like that, you know. He was hardboiled, but unlike Marlowe and the others, he was not, deep down, a cynic. He wanted to save those he could, and maybe Trey Mancini was one of them.

Braves 5, Marlins 4: Ender Inciarte hit two homers and Tyler Flowers hit a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth as the Braves snap a losing skid. Giancarlo Stanton hit two homers too, but history is written by the winners, yo. The Braves now have a day off before opening their brand new ballpark Friday night. They probably need the whole day off just to fight through the traffic between the airport and the stadium.

Dodgers 2, Cubs 0: Brandon McCarthy tossed six shutout innings against the World Champs on the day they got their rings. That has to feel good. Three relievers helped them finish the job. It’s really hard to swing a bat while wearing a big chunky ring, you see.

Rangers 8, Angels 3: There would be no dramatic comeback for the Angels this time. Joey Gallo hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the fifth, Mike Napoli, Elvis Andrus and Carlos Gomez homered and the Texas bullpen didn’t give up a run for once.

Astros 10, Mariners 5: There would be a comeback in this one. Seattle had a 5-0 lead after three innings and then allowed the Astros to score 10 unanswered runs. Well, they were likely answered, but only with a lot of muttering and cussing by the Mariners. After starter Mike Fiers departed, the Houston pen tossed five shutout innings. The Astros’ ten runs were occasioned by zero home runs. Death by a thousand cuts over the course of three hours and twelve minutes.

Giants 6, Diamondbacks 2: Welcome back Matt Cain. After what has seemed like years in the wilderness, Cain notches a win by allowing one run over five innings. He also doubled and scored. Now, let’s get an APB out for Tim Lincecum. If we can’t find him, ask Archer. I hear he has a source by the name of Mancini who’s singin’ like a bird.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

Getty Images
11 Comments

Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.