Francisco Lindor
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Indians secure AL Central crown

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The Indians wrapped up the AL Central division with a 15-0 win over the Tigers on Saturday, marking their third consecutive division title since 2016. Mike Clevinger earned his 12th win of the season, turning in six innings of one-hit, five-strikeout ball as Cleveland’s offense worked their way to double digits on the scoreboard.

At the plate, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley kicked off an explosive first inning with back-to-back home runs. The two homers were enough to retire Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, who made a hasty exit from the mound after sustaining a bout of right knee inflammation. His replacement, lefty reliever Matt Hall, fared little better: by the end of the first inning, Edwin Encarnacion, Yandy Diaz, and Jason Kipnis had all scored on a combination of fielding errors and productive outs, while Roberto Perez topped the team’s six-run spread with an RBI single.

The Indians didn’t stop there. They overwhelmed the Tigers’ bullpen again in the second inning, returning with another five runs on Jose Ramirez’s RBI double, a pair of RBI hits from Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera, a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, and Perez’s sac fly to gain an 11-0 advantage over Detroit.

All told, the Tigers cycled through seven pitchers in an attempt to stymie the Indians’ efforts. They didn’t catch a break until the fifth inning, by which point the Indians had already amassed 15 runs following Yonder Alonso‘s two-run homer and a run-scoring triple from Ramirez and single from Encarnacion. (Encarnacion, it should be said, made it through just four innings before departing with a right ankle sprain.) It was the largest run deficit the Tigers had seen all year, and the most runs they’d allowed since they weathered a 15-8 loss to the Twins in August.

Though the Indians secured the AL Central title in decisive fashion this weekend, each of the other five divisions have yet to see a clear winner emerge. The Red Sox currently lead the AL East with a league-best 101-47 record, while the Astros hold a narrow 2.5-game lead over the Athletics in the AL West, the Braves look like the favorites to wrap up the NL East, the Cubs continue to outpace the Brewers in the NL Central, and the Dodgers and Rockies remain tied in the NL West.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.