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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 6, Blue Jays 5: Miguel Cabrera wins it with a walkoff walk in the 11th. Or I suppose you could say Lucas Harrell lost it by issuing that bases loaded walk. Except, he actually didn’t get the loss because Jeff Beliveau issued the walk to the runner who was forced in on the walk and was thus responsible for the losing run. Really, though, when the bases get loaded due to a couple of walks and a fielding error and then the game-ending run is walked in, everyone can take a piece of the credit for it. Lost in all of this was that the Tigers bullpen tossed five shutout innings allowing only one hit. That’s a pretty nice collective effort too.

Royals 4, Rangers 3: If you think the walkoff walk was somewhat dubious way for a team to win a game, how about a walkoff two-run single that should’ve been a routine fly ball that would’ve sent the game into the 10th inning except for the fact that the right fielder lost the ball in the sun? Check out Shin-Soo Choo‘s follies in the bottom of the ninth:

Sun happens.

Pirates 4, Cardinals 3: How about a more conventional walkoff? Pittsburgh was down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth and rallied for the win with a Jordy Mercer RBI double and Adam Frazier‘s walkoff RBI single, both of which came off of Brett Cecil. On Friday Josh Bell hit a walkoff three-run homer off of Seung-Hwan Oh, so I guess it didn’t matter who the Cardinals ran out there.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0; Red Sox 3, Yankees 0: After playing for 16 innings and nearly 6 hours on Saturday I’m sure the Red Sox and Yankees loved to have a double header yesterday. Especially a day-night affair. Even better: the split here meant that, standings-wise, everything cancelled out. But they’re ballplayers and that’s what they do. In the first game CC Sabathia and three relievers combined to shut Boston out on four hits with a Didi Gregorius homer highlighting the win. In the nightcap Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer and Dustin Pedroia singled in a run as David Price tossed eight shutout innings.

Price had some help. Watch Jackie Bradley Jr. save the shutout with a home-run-robbing snag:

 

Nationals 14, Reds 4: A five-run fifth inning from Washington broke things open in this laugher as the Nats rung up Homer Bailey for eight runs on eight hits. Washington hit five homers with Daniel Murphy slugging two — three-run and a two-run jacks — and Anthony Rendon, Adam Lind and Jose Lobaton all going deep as well.

Rockies 13, Mets 4: Colorado had a 9-0 lead after three and a half innings, highlighted by a Nolan Arenado three-run blast. Seven of those nine runs came off of Steven Matz who couldn’t even retire a batter in the second inning. Late in the game Charlie Blackmon hit an inside-the-park homer. Sorta. That’s what it looked like in practice as the ball hit the wall and bounced onto the field and Blackmon motored around the bases. But the ball actually cleared the fence and Curtis Granderson — who knew that a replay review would’ve confirmed a home run — just casually retrieved it. Since either result of a replay review would’ve resulted in a home run, there was no review and it remained an inside-the-park homer since that was the initial ruling on the field.

Dodgers 3, Marlins 2: Los Angeles remains hot, winning its ninth game in a row and sweeping the Marlins. Rich Hill allowed one run over five innings and Justin Turner went 2-for-3 with a homer and a sac fly. It would’ve been a larger margin of victory but Marcell Ozuna robbed Kiké Hernandez of a homer with a great catch.

Cubs 8, Orioles 0: Jose Quintana was fantastic in his debut with the Cubs, tossing seven shutout innings and striking out 12. For years he struggled with run support on the South Side, but it was not an issue for his first game with the Northsiders as Chicago built a 4-0 lead after two innings and then got two runs homers from both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo later.

Braves 7, Diamondbacks 1: The Braves probably want to trade Jaime Garcia. Him allowing only one run and striking out seven over seven innings helps that some. Matts Kemp and Adams hit homers for Atlanta, the former’s a three-run blast, the latter’s a solo shot.

Mariners 7, White Sox 6: Chicago had a 5-0 lead thanks to a two Avisail Garcia homers, but that didn’t hold up as the Mariners came back and Nelson Cruz hit a homer in the top of the 10th to put Seattle up for good. It was the second straight game in which he hit a go-ahead home run. Seattle has won four in a row while the White Sox have now lost fourt straight.

Phillies 5, Brewers 2: Nick Williams hit a grand slam to account for four of the Phillies’ five runs. The slam came off of Tyler Webb. The last time Williams faced Webb was in a Triple-A game last month. He homered off of Webb then too. It’s nice to be a big leaguer for only a few weeks and already have the number of another big leaguer.

Astros 5, Twins 3Mike Fiers struck out a season-high 11 over seven and Nori Aoki had two hits and drove in two. Houston took two of three from the Twins. Can we just fast-forward to the Astros-Dodgers World Series now?

 

Angels 4, Rays 3: Tied 2-2 in the eighth when C.J. Cron a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth. The Rays threatened in the ninth and did pick up one run, but the Angels escaped with the sweep-avoiding win.

Athletics 7, Indians 3: Trevor Bauer allowed four runs on three hits and walked three while working only two-thirds of an inning, losing this one before it even really began. His counterpart, Sean Manaea, allowed only two over seven innings and struck out eight. Matt Joyce, Ryon Healy and Jaycob Brugman each drove in two runs. Oakland sweeps the Indians in three, reducing Cleveland’s division lead to one and a half games.

Padres 7, Giants 1: Corey Spangenberg and Hector Sanchez each hit three-run homers before the third inning was over as San Diego wins in a laugher. Sanchez hit a two-run walk-off homer on Saturday night. That’s about as good a weekend as a backup catcher can have.

Baseball in Arizona as early as May is pure madness

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UPDATE: Major League Baseball has released the following statement in the wake of Jeff Passan’s ESPN report overnight, discussed in more detail below:

MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so.  While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan.  While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association.  The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large are paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.

9:04 AM: Overnight Jeff Passan on ESPN followed up on the Associated Press’ report of preliminary talks between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA about the potential resumption of the baseball season. The plan, which is nothing short of radical — and nothing short of highly-fraught — would potentially have baseball resume as early as next month. June at the latest.

The talks are highly preliminary at the moment, but Passan describes the following topics that are at least on the table:

  • All 30 teams would play games at stadiums with no fans in the Phoenix area, including at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field and various spring training facilities;
  • “Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium;”
  • Teams would carry significantly expanded rosters to (a) allow for players who get sick or who test positive for COVID-19 to be easily replaced; and (b) to allow for ample rest give that games would be played in the triple-digit heat of the Arizona desert;
  • There would be an electronic strike zone to allow the umpires to keep their distance;
  • There would be no mound visits;
  • There would be seven-inning doubleheaders to allow them to schedule as many games as possible;
  • On-field microphones would be used by players, “as an added bonus for TV viewers;”
  • Players and team personnel would sit in the empty stands 6 feet apart instead of in a dugout to ensure proper social distancing.

There’s a lot to chew on there, but I want to hold off a moment on that chewing. I want to resist the urge to do what we usually do when some radical new idea about sports comes up such as a rules change, the implementation of a new technology, divisional realignment or playoff expansion, or something to that effect. I’ll get to that stuff in a moment, but for now I want to take several steps back and leave the specifics of those things aside and ask a question:

What in the hell are we doing here?

Don’t get me wrong: I miss baseball. Everyone misses baseball. Setting aside the financial incentives at play for the moment, MLB exists to put on baseball games and they want baseball games. Players live to play baseball and they want to play. If we could snap our fingers and make that happen, God, it would be wonderful. If we could play baseball or any other pro sport right now, it would definitely be a pick-me-up for a large part of the nation.

This plan, however, is patently absurd. Less in form than in its very conception and existence.

How, in light of all that is going on at the moment, is this at all justifiable?  How is the level of necessary logistical support to pull this off — the transportation, the isolation, and the prioritization of a few thousand baseball people for testing and attendant medical care if someone gets sick — close to rational?

Just yesterday a member of New York’s city council announced that they will be burying the city’s many dead in temporary mass graves in public parks, ten to a row, and that prison inmates will be offered $6/hour to dig the graves. The governor of Illinois said last night that states are bidding against one another to try to obtain desperately needed medical supplies to treat the national surge in the sick and the dying. Is that what everyone is going through right now? No, of course not. Most of us are bored at home. But that — the tens of thousands of dead and counting and the overarching fear and anxiety which is affecting the populace — provides the national backdrop against which these negotiations are occurring. To call it “incongruous” to be talking about a far-sooner-than-expected return of baseball is a monumental understatement.

Yes, sports have, traditionally, served as a rallying point for the nation. But this is not a war. This is not a natural disaster. This is not a situation where our defiant assertion of normality will help pull us through. We do not need a Winston Churchill figure and, in fact, attempting to be a Churchill figure, we have unfortunately learned, is precisely the opposite of sensible. This is not a situation where keeping calm, carrying on, and acting resolute in the face of peril will help us prevail. A viral pandemic is not impressed with our composure, our resolve or our symbolic gestures such as playing baseball in the face of what can only be described as horror. The only thing we can do in the face of this horror is to take sensible precautions. To collectively sacrifice. To collectively appreciate the risks, stay at home, ride it out, and provide every possible bit of support available to the sick, to those who treat the sick, and to the millions of people displaced, economically and psychologically, by the crisis.

There nothing sensible about this nascent plan currently being floated by Major League Baseball, however. And make no mistake: it is being floated. With a purpose.

This report comes two days after President Trump held a conference call with Rob Manfred and all of the other major sports league commissioners in which he expressed his desire for sports to return as soon as possible. It is in his and his administration’s political interests for that to happen. As it would be, to be fair, in the interests of any president. There was a reason FDR pressed baseball to play on as usual during World War II. My political leanings are pretty plain to those who have read this website for any length of time, but I do not begrudge Trump this impulse, in and of itself. As a leader there are very good reasons for him to want the public to be happy and entertained and, as I said, we would all love to be happy and entertained at the moment.

President Trump, however, has been demonstrably shown to have made countless missteps in his handling of the pandemic thus far. Missteps that, in at least one case, appears to be born by personal financial interest. I simply do not trust his judgment in pressing professional sports back into service and I do not trust Rob Manfred to sensibly push back against political pressure urging him to take what would, clearly, be irresponsible steps in order to make baseball happen the way it is being described in Passan’s column.

And it is irresponsible. Let’s just play this out for 30 seconds:

  • Passan describes a scenario in which players would be isolated for more than four months. Are they supposed to not see their families during all that time? How are they supposed to function under that scenario? Even worse, what if their family members get sick? What if one of their parents die? Is their season over or do they stay in Arizona?
  • No quarantine can be perfect, so there’s a non-trivial chance that despite these efforts someone gets sick. Passan mentioned that they would be removed from their teams and put into isolation. That may be fine for a physically fit 24 year-old, but many managers, coaches, trainers and clubhouse attendants are older and, as such, at far greater risk of complications if they get sick. Some players are too. Adam Duvall is Type 1 diabetic. Kenley Jansen just had heart surgery. Carlos Carrasco and Trey Mancini are cancer patients. What about them?
  • If players are quarantined in hotels or resorts, there are hundreds if not thousands of people cooking for them, cleaning for them, doing the laundry and stuff like that. They all have to be isolated too, no? Just as a virus propagates itself exponentially, so to does the support necessary to put on Major League Baseball games, even in these radically different circumstances.

That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many other things that infectious disease experts and people who are more involved in the details of putting on games under these circumstances could imagine. Yes, I understand that the idea behind flattening the curve and slowing the spread is not to prevent every single person from becoming infected. That’s impossible. But at the same time, Major League Baseball should not be creating conditions under which a highly infectious disease has an entryway into a in environment where 26 guys and a staff x 30 teams all share close quarters as a rule.

That’s especially true when we look at the benefits of all of this. Benefits which, as Passan freely notes in his article, are primary financial. Or, as noted above, may have some broadly inspirational or symbolic significance. And that’s before you start to assess the actual quality and integrity of the baseball which would be played under these extreme circumstances.

Could they figure this all out? Maybe. Will they do it? I don’t know. It might actually happen. Nothing would surprise me at this point. But even attempting it seems profoundly incongruous to what’s happening in the real world. And profoundly misguided.

And one more thing.

To the extent this misguided plan gains traction, it will be because a lot of us — particularly people in my industry, but fans as well — approach this idea solely through the prism of sports. It will be because, when presented with the idea of a 2020 baseball season in the Arizona Bubble League, we spend more time debating electronic umpiring and whether East Coast Bias is the reason the Yankees and Red Sox get more games in air-conditioned Chase Field and that Oakland A’s have to play more games in 105 degree heat at HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa. It will because we thought of all of this as great fun or a cool intellectual and competitive exercise and judged it, as we judge so much else in sports, only on those terms.

We need to think bigger than that. We need to think smarter than that. We need to set aside our laser-focus on sports as the be-all and end-all, set aside our strong and understandable desire to have sports return as soon as possible and treat the current situation with the gravity it deserves.

And this plan ain’t it, jack.