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And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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I was super busy with household chores yesterday afternoon. I was cooking, doing laundry, running some errands and a bunch of other stuff. I didn’t have any time to sit down, really. So, instead of watching games, I listened on the radio via my phone, the MLB At Bat app and a pair of earbuds. Started with the Brewers-Cards game  and then went to the Giants-Padres. Several hours of Bob Uecker, Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper. Let me tell you: baseball was made for radio. Especially when you have great broadcasters like that. But even with lesser broadcasters (i.e. most of ’em) baseball on the radio is hard to beat.

It’s something that became that much more obvious when I sat down after dinner and watched the Braves-Phillies game on ESPN. I went all of last year not watching a Sunday Night Baseball broadcast but figured, hey, first one of the year, my team, why not? Ehhh, not fun. I’m not going to turn this into an anti-Sunday Night Baseball rant — and this isn’t even about the announcers for their own sake — but let me just observe that all of the stuff I mentioned last week about baseball being a day-in-day out affair is lacking with that broadcast. Again, it’s not just an announcer issue, it’s a production issue. They have pre-set storylines and talking points that they’ve thought about all week and they seem to take the whole game trying to find times to drop them in rather than, you know, just talking about the game in front of them. And, of course, with three people in the booth and Buster Olney chiming in from the sidelines, there are just too many people talking.

Baseball is pretty simple. And no one game is a big event. Just see the ball and hit the ball. Just watch the game and call the game. Is that really that hard?

Anyway. Here are the scores. here are the highlights:

Orioles 7, Yankees 5: A good example of the dangers of treating baseball like a storyline-driven, all-or-nothing event kind of thing was demonstrated by this series. If you come into this series with storylines and pre-produced segments and graphics, as ESPN and its high-budget broadcast tends to do, your whole thing is about how much the O’s stink and how powerful the Yankees are. As it goes on, you have to come off of that pre-formed and pre-produced narrative to accommodate what is actually happening in the game(s) (i.e. the O’s beating the Yankees, on their way to taking two of three in the series) and either (a) miss too many of the actual events of the game as you put up your graphics supporting your prepackaged storylines; or (b) overcompensate for the events and turn it into some Rocky-over-Apollo upset that misses the game’s events in a no less unsatisfying way.

Or which misses the point. Because I have no real doubt that, over 162 games, the Yankees are gonna be better than the Orioles. It’s not worth dwelling on that too much over an Opening Weekend series, though, which is how I am certain an ESPN broadcast would handle it. What I hope the broadcasters who did handle it did was to note that Renato Nunez hit a three-run blast and that Trey Mancini and Joey Rickard also went deep on a day when J.A. Happ just did not have it, maybe because of the rain delay. Or to note that John Means did yeoman’s work picking up for Dylan Bundy, all while talking a bit about John Means in a way that I feel like ESPN’s star-focused productions might not have been willing or, possibly, able to do.

OK, I’m done with that. I just ask that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow — and there is nothing wrong with contemplating that as a rhetorical matter — that the one thing you all took away from me typing into the void for the past ten years is that regular season games are, in and of themselves, really unimportant in the larger scheme of things but that we enjoy each and every regular season game for what it is on its own terms. A game is not part of a big narrative. It is the basic unit of baseball enjoyment, even if it is merely one of 162 similar units, and even if it should be treated as such, both in terms of enjoyment and in terms of significance.

Tigers 4, Blue Jays 3:  Rowdy Tellez hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to bring the Jays back from a 3-0 deficit in the eighth, but Nicholas Castellanos put the Tigers up with an RBI single in the 11th and it held. In other news, Elvis Luciano pitched in this game for Toronto. He is the first player in Major League baseball born in the 2000s. Hope y’all feel as young as I did when I heard that yesterday. Oh, and how cool is that guys named “Rowdy” and “Elvis” played in the same game? That’s like the names of the lead characters for one of those cut-rate, attitude-over-plot Tarantino wannabe movies that followed in the wake of “Pulp Fiction” back in the mid-late 90s. You know what kind of movies I’m talking about. All of which were made back before Elvis Luciano was born.

Rays 3, Astros 1: The Rays got seven innings of one-run ball from Yonny Chirinos and a homer and three driven in from Austin Meadows, which would make a good name for an Austin, Texas suburb somewhere east of Dripping Springs along Highway 290. Maybe if they ever put an outerbelt around that town it’ll pop up for real. Just too much traffic there. Anyway, Tampa Bay takes three of four from Houston to begin the season.

Marlins 3, Rockies 0: Jon Gray struck out ten while pitching into the seventh but Sandy Alcantara allowed no runs while finishing eight and retiring 14 straight hitters at one point. Jorge Alfaro drove in a couple with an RBI single The Fish and the Rockies split the first installment of the annual 1993 Expansion Team Series 2-2. I’m not sure what prize is awarded to each team for tying in the 1993 Expansion Team Series. Maybe VHS copies of the “90210” episodes where Brenda was in France and Dylan and Kelly got together?

Crap. I have to pay Simmons royalties for that joke, don’t I?

Pirates 5, Reds 0: If the Pirates are gonna make any kind of noise this season it’s probably going to be because their starters aren’t bad. The starter in this one — Trevor Williams — certainly wasn’t bad. He pitched six shutout innings and three relievers closed out the final three. He also (all together now) helped his own cause by singling in a run and then picking up another RBI after drawing a bases-loaded walk the next inning. Meanwhile, Yasiel Puig is 0-for-7 with four strikeouts and a walk in two games for his new club. I would bet my children on there being an L.A. Times story pretty soon talking about just how much everyone on the Dodgers hated him over the years. If I’m Puig I want to be hitting a little better than this when it comes out. It’ll just make for a better comment in response, ya know?

Nationals 6, Mets 5: Trea Turner had himself a day. He hit a three-run homer in the third and then scored in the fifth to help the Nats out to a 4-1 lead. The Nats blew the lead in the eighth thanks to pinch-hit RBI singles from Wilson Ramos and Juan Lagares, but Turner stepped up again with a walkoff solo homer in the ninth. Washington avoids the sweep.

Brewers 5, Cardinals 4: Christian Yelich is just ridiculous. In the first inning he hit his fourth homer of the year — tying the record for most consecutive games with a homer to start the season — and hit a two-run come-from-behind, walkoff double in the ninth. In all it was a two-hit, three-RBI, three-walk day for the MVP. In our season previews I had the Brewers falling back a good deal this year, primarily because I’m worried about the recent bullpen injuries. I’ll say, though, that at least part of that calculus was that, even if Yelich was really good this year, he was not likely to repeat his MVP season. Not a knock on him. Most players don’t repeat MVP seasons. Maybe he won’t either. Maybe he’ll be better. He is so far.

Twins 9, Indians 3: Michael Pineda pitched in his first game since 2017 and he pitched really well, allowing only one hit in four shutout innings, striking out five. Nelson Cruz, meanwhile, hit his first homer as a Twin and he, Willians Astudillo and Byron Buxton each drove in a couple. Twins starters allowed one earned run in 17.1 innings in the three-game series. The Indians need to find some punch.

White Sox 6, Royals 3: Lucas Giolito took a no-hitter into the seventh and then lost both it and the shutout but he had a 6-0 lead when that all went down, allowing him to snag the win even if he couldn’t finish the seventh. Yonder Alonso homered, singled in a run and drew a bases-loaded walk. The Royals dropped two of three, but they did manage three stolen bases in the series, putting them on pace for 162 on the year. Last year the Indians led all of baseball in stolen bases with only 135. Watching the stolen bases totals may be the best reason to watch the Royals this year. May be the only reason to watch the Royals this year, actually.

Rangers 11, Cubs 10: Your standard walkoff wild pitch win for the Rangers:

That came after the Cubs — starting a former Rangers ace for the second straight day — blew an early lead against same Rangers. A couple of leads, actually, as they were up 4-0 in the fourth and blew it thanks to a Delino DeShields Jr. grand slam. Then they were up 8-5 in the sixth and blew it thanks to Jeff Mathis and Asdrubal Cabrera homers. The Cubs rallied to tie it in the eighth before Pedro Strop uncorked that wild pitch up there. The Cubs bullpen, by the way, has allowed 12 earned runs, given up eight walks and has yielded three homers in 10.1 innings of work on the young season. This after Theo Epstein crowed about their relief depth a couple of weeks ago.

Athletics 2, Angels 1: Khris Davis homered for the fourth time in six games and Matt Chapman singled in a run and that was all Frankie Montas and three A’s relievers needed as the A’s take three of four from the Halos. They seem a bit happier in California than they did in Japan at least.

Dodgers 8, Diamondbacks 7: L.A. blew an early 4-0 lead when the Dbacks put up a seven-spot in the fourth inning but rallied for three runs in the eighth to win it. Former Dback A.J. Pollock had two hits in the game and seven in the series while driving in six against his old mates. Well, maybe they’re his old mates. I’m just assuming here. Maybe they all hated one another. You never know what happens behind the scenes. Cody Bellinger had three hits including his fourth homer on the year. Sixty-four runs were scored in the four-game series, 43 by the Dodgers. The Dodgers hit 15 homers. So much for the idea of the N.L. West being a pitching first division. Although maybe that hasn’t been the case for several years. When you’re old like me the years all blend together. I’m no Elvis Luciano or anything.

Padres 3, Giants 1: I probably picked the least exciting of the late afternoon games to listen to on the radio while cooking and cleaning and stuff, but it was nice to listen to the KNBR guys. And it was better than watching it because I didn’t have to see the Padres’ camo jerseys, which are hard on the eyes. As for the game, Padres starter Chris Paddack made his big league debut, retiring the first 10 batters he faced, six via the punchout. He also got thrown out at first by an outfielder which is never a good look, but I suppose they don’t pay him to hit. Or run. As it was, he allowed one run in five innings in a no-decision.

Mariners 10, Red Sox 8: The Yankees and the Red Sox both drop opening weekend series to teams expected to finish in last place. That’s fun. Here Omar Narvaez hit a three-run homer as part of the M’s seven-run third inning off of Rick Porcello. Dee Gordon knocked in three. Jay Bruce homered and Mitch Haniger had two hits and two RBI. Seattle scored nine off of the former Cy Young Award winner — only four earned — and scored 34 runs off the World Series champs in the four-game set. The Mariners were particularly rough on the Boston starters, as Porcello, Chris SaleNathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez combined to give up 22 earned runs on 27 hits.

Phillies 5, Braves 1: Bryce Harper hit another homer:

That was pretty good, sure, but but did the monetary yield of it come in at an efficiency level that meets the new metrics? Because that, I am told, is what matters. Whatever. Silly Phillies, going out and getting good players all offseason. Sure, that’s all well and good now, but when they are unable to swing financing on an outparcel in their mixed-use development, they’ll really be sorry they were so short-sighted. Gotta keep your eyes on the prize.

In non-business news, Jake Arrieta allowed only one run over six and Braves rookie starter Kyle Wright walked five and gave up three runs in less than five innings of work. Which, hey, you have to expect young starters to struggle like that. That’s why you bring them along slowly as you ramp-up to winning in, say, two or three years. Look out, NL East: these Braves might be challenging for the division title in 2022 or so!

Wait, they did what last year? They should be trying to defend that division title? Oh. I had no idea.

If 2020 season is cancelled, which teams would be hurt the most?

Mookie Betts
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently expressed his optimistic outlook, saying that he hoped the league would begin “gearing back up” in May. That would put a regular season return potentially at the end of June or at some point in July. He expressed that the league may have to get creative, likely referring to ideas like playing doubleheaders, extending the season deep into fall, and playing some games at neutral parks in warm-weather areas.

Manfred isn’t the only one champing at the bit for a return to normalcy. President Trump recently said he wanted to “open” the economy back up by Easter, meaning that our social isolation plan could be done in two weeks. And, frankly, I’m sure many of us are starting to become a little stir-crazy as we attempt to flatten the curve.

It’s hard to imagine life returning to normal when Coronavirus (COVID-19) is really starting to spread in the United States. It would be ill-advised for us to go back to business as usual. This is a time when we need to put other interests ahead of business interests. Frankly, there’s a very real possibility that there is no MLB season in 2020. Or, at the very least, there may be a point when Manfred has to choose between starting a season or protecting the health of the players and coaches, journalists, fans, and all of the many people that would interact with them and potentially become vectors for the virus.

In the event the 2020 season is cancelled, which teams stand to lose the most? Let’s take a look at some contenders.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The most obvious of the bunch. The club swung a deal with the Red Sox a month and a half ago to acquire the 2018 AL MVP along with David Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jeter Downs. Betts was a huge upgrade to an already potent Dodger roster, one which won 106 games during the regular season last year.

Betts, however, is a free agent after the 2020 season. MLB owners and the MLBPA reached an agreement last week stating that, if there is no season, players would still get credit for a full year of service time. If the season is canceled, the Dodgers very well may have given up three good young players and taken on a lot of salary for basically nothing. They’ll get to keep Price, who is under contract for two more years after this, but that’s no consolation.

The Dodgers also have some other important players potentially hitting free agency after the 2020 season: Justin Turner, Kiké Hernández, Joc Pederson, and Pedro Báez.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds had a better 2019 campaign than their 75-87 record indicated. They finished in fifth place from 2015-18 before last year’s fourth place finish. The club acquired Sonny Gray from the Yankees before the season and picked up Trevor Bauer from the Indians at the trade deadline. Eugenio Suárez, Aristides Aquino, and Michael Lorenzen were among a handful of players who shone brightly as well.

As a result of a roster on the come-up, the Reds bolstered the roster even more, picking up free agents Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. The Reds signed both players to four-year deals, so they will still be around when baseball eventually resumes, even if it’s next year, but Moustakas will be 32 and Castellanos will be 29. It’s a pretty big deal to miss 25 percent of their contracts in what are, on average, the seasons likeliest to be their best.

Bauer, by the way, can become a free agent after the season. That’s a pretty big deal, too.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies were supposed to be competitive last year, but they fell a bit flat, finishing exactly at .500 with an 81-81 record. GM Matt Klentak continued to bolster the roster a year after inking Bryce Harper to what was then the richest contract in baseball history (13 years, $330 million). This past offseason, he signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal. They also added Didi Gregorius on a one-year deal.

This is a team meant to be an NL East contender in 2020, to finally reach the postseason which it hasn’t done since 2011. If the season is cancelled, that’s one very valuable year out of its window completely gone. That is even more the case upon realizing that catcher J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best player at his position in baseball right now, is a free agent going into 2021. The two sides have discussed a contract extension, but that was tabled as of two weeks ago.

The Phillies haven’t had stability at the catcher position since Carlos Ruiz in the early- to mid-2010’s. They do have some catchers among their top-30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, in Deivy Grullon, Rafael Marchan, and Rodolfo Duran, but none of them are J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is a guy you want to keep around if possible, especially considering the scarcity of his caliber of talent at that position.

. . .

This is a partial list, so this is not to say that teams omitted would not suffer at all from a lost season. You can see the factors that determine whether or not a team has a lot at stake this year: splashy trades, free agent signings, stars potentially becoming free agents after the season, etc.

In general, every team would be devastated by a lost season not just due to the lost development time or the loss of an attempt to win a championship, but because of lost revenues. This is going to have a ripple effect through the baseball economy. Teams will likely become less active in the free agent market, to name one of many potential effects.