Associated Press

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

18 Comments

Here are the scores. Below are the highlights. A bit later than usual for a Monday morning because I spent last night at a Dead Milkmen concert. Not even lying. They were my favorite band for a time in the mid-to-late 1980s. As for them in 2017? Not bad for a bunch of 50-somethings playing music that I liked as a ten-something. In fact, it was pretty amazing.

Oh, and because I’m an old man, I never know what to wear to concerts anymore. This one was easy, though. The Dead Milkmen are from Philly, so I wore my Jeff Francoeur Phillies shirsey (you remember that I bought that, right?). I’d like to think they appreciated the gesture and that, maybe, they liked me because I wasn’t like all of the other people there, in the trailer park.

Anyway:

Astros 7, Mariners 1: And with that the Astros clinch the AL West. Justin Verlander continues to do what he was picked up to do, striking out ten in seven innings and allowing only one run on three hits. Verlander is doing his best Doyle Alexander impression. Those of us of a certain age certainly remember that 1987 Tigers season. If not for Alexander’s fantastic late run after his midseason pickup from the Braves, then for the fact that Tigers outfielder Jim Walewander made the news that summer when it was revealed that he was the most famous Dead Milkmen fan around. It was even listed on his baseball card. During that season, he met the band at Tiger Stadium after they played a gig nearby. That same day he also hit his only major league home run. Rodney, Joe, Dave (RIP) and Dean did not see him do it, though. They had to get in their van before the game started and head on to the next town. By the way: the band still tours in a white van. Saw it parked outside the club last night. They set up their own instruments and stuff too. They never made it so big that they got a bus or roadies or anything. In fact, I think they all have day jobs now. It must be weird to have something of a cult national following but to never have really gotten past the “we tour in a van that we drive ourselves and have day jobs” mode. But respect to them for still doin’ it.

Oh, congratulations, Astros.

Athletics 6, Phillies 3: Down 3-2 in the sixth, the A’s Joey Wendle hit a go-ahead grand slam for Oakland. From the AP writeup:

Growing up near Philadelphia, Joey Wendle dreamed of coming to the plate and hitting a game-winning home run for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

My first thought was “how could any adult have dreamt about hitting a homer in CPB when they were a kid? The place is new!” Then I looked it up and realized that that park opened in 2004 and that Wendle was just a tad older than my daughter is now when it made its debut. My god, where has time gone? *puts on “Bucky Fellini” and pretends it’s still July 1987, when I turned 14 years old*

Orioles 6, Yankees 4Ubaldo Jimenez struck out 10 in just five innings and Tim Beckham hit a three-run homer. Also: Buck Showalter had Zach Britton walk Aaron Judge with two outs in the ninth, bringing the potential winning run to the plate in the form of Gary Sanchez. It worked — Sanchez struck out — and to be honest, given how much Judge has abused the Orioles this year, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing. You may remember that Showalter was also the guy who once ordered an intentional walk to Barry Bonds with the bases loaded back when Showalter managed the Diamondbacks. A man has to have a code.

Indians 3, Royals 2: The Indians technically clinched the AL Central on Saturday, but they celebrated it after yesterday’s win. And it wasn’t one of those bittersweet, we-backed-in sort of things, as they just kept on rolling with the 3-2 win. Corey Kluber — who is probably going to win the Cy Young given his amazing second half — tossed seven shutout innings to notch his 17th win and push his ERA down to 2.34. Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer. Friday night’s loss ended that winning streak but nothing seems to be stopping them otherwise.

Tigers 12, White Sox 0: Matt Boyd lost his no-hitter with two out in the ninth but Tim Anderson‘s double to break things up was all he allowed. Nine innings, the one hit, one walk and five strikeouts for Boyd. On offense the Tigers rolled. Jeimer Candelario hit a three-run shot and drove in four. Nicholas Castellanos hit a two-run homer and doubled in two more. Miguel Cabrera sat with aches and pains, but what else is new?

Reds 5, Pirates 2Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett each hit two-run homers and Tucker Barnhart triples home a run as Cincinnati scored all five of their runs in the sixth inning. They were backed by Robert Stephenson‘s six innings of one-hit, shutout ball.

Rays 3, Red Sox 2: Jake Odorizzi allowed only one hit in six innings, though it was a two-run homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. That tied things up at two, but Jesus Sucre‘s solo shot in the bottom half of the sixth put the Rays ahead. David Price returned and tossed two hitless innings in relief against his old team. He’ll be an intriguing piece of the postseason puzzle for Boston. He could be anything from the most expensive lefty specialist of all time to their version of Andrew Miller.

Mets 5, Braves 1: Robert Gsellman didn’t allow an earned run over seven innings and Asdrubal Cabrera had a two-run, pinch hit homer as the Mets cruised. The Braves are officially eliminated from playoff contention. So sad. Really thought they had a run in them. Oh well, they could still finish at .500 if they win every single one of their last 14 games. Let’s do it, Bravos!

 

Twins 13, Blue Jays 7: Toronto took a 5-0 lead behind two Josh Donaldson homers in the first inning and a half but the Twins came roaring back with seven in the second and then six more in the fifth before the Jays would cross home plate again. Eddie Rosario hit two homers and Joe Mauer hit a grand slam. Byron Buxton homered and doubled in a run. The Twins remain two games up on the Angels for the second Wild Card.

Brewers 10, Marlins 3Travis ShawJesus Aguilar and Manny Pina each had two hits and Shaw and Domingo Santana each drove in three as the Brewers take two of three from the displaced Miami Marlins. The Brewers stayed four games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and got within two and a half games of Colorado for the final NL wild-card spot. Miami has lost 17 of 20 games.

Cubs 4, Cardinals 3: The Cubs sweep the Cardinals in their three-game series and take their sixth game in a row to push St. Louis six back in the Central with only thirteen games left to play. So much for that frisky little run from the Cardinals. Jason Heyward hit a tiebreaking RBI in the seventh. Ben Zobrist drove in two and Kyle Schwarber hit a homer.

Rangers 4, Angels 2: Joey Gallo hit a solo homer that went nearly 500 feet. Mercy. Really, NO ONE hits a ball to this part of Angels Stadium:

Adrian Beltre hit a two-run double and had two hits on the day. I would’ve bet the ranch that he wouldn’t play again this season too.

Giants 7, Diamondbacks 2: If I didn’t think Beltre would play again, I didn’t think Pablo Sandoval was even alive. But here he is, hitting a homer and driving in three. J.D. Martinez hit yet another homer — his 40th overall and his 24th in 51 games as a Diamondbacks. The Dbacks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six.

Nationals 7, Dodgers 1: Stephen Strasburg‘s scoreless innings streak ends at 35 but he allowed only the one run in six innings en route to a win. Ryan Zimmerman hit two homers in this possible NLCS matchup. Weirdest thing about the Dodgers and Nats meeting in the NLCS: one of them would have to actually win it and advance to the World Series. Not sure that’s in either team’s DNA, but I guess we’ll see. Indeed, if that series happens, it will be such an interesting matchup you’ll want to drive your car up here from the Bahamas to check it out.

Now, the important thing here is, you ask me what kind of car it is.

Baseball in Arizona as early as May is pure madness

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.