And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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As I sit down to assess last night’s action, I am recalling how 27 or 28 teams had no real interest in pursuing Bryce Harper in free agency this past offseason. I am also recalling how many of y’all, every time we wrote something about Harper, rushed to the comments to tell us how he was overrated and just good, not great. That he was not likely the sort of player who could rise to the occasion and that Philly would eat him alive.

Anyway, he’s hitting .429/.556/1.214 with three homers two doubles and five RBI in four games, all against the two teams who figure to most directly stand in the way of the Phillies winning the division this year. Ain’t that a damn thing?

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Phillies 8, Nationals 2: We covered the living heck out of Harper’s return to Washington last night, so if you want some good details and stuff those are the links to follow. Allow me to say, however, that the best part of the whole thing was, after Harper’s first inning strikeout, when the Nats Park crowd went crazy, Phillies play-by-play guy Tom McCarthy saying “well, the Nats haven’t won a championship since moving to D.C. but they are celebrating like they have won something.” The sickest burns are the most truthful burns.

Overall it was a very Nationals kind of night. Early enthusiasm — even the Nats’ Twitter feed thought it raised hell out of the gate — followed by disappointment late. It was all capped off, of course, by a big Harper homer . . .

. . . and a big Harper bat flip:

The Nationals’ will recover just fine after all of that. They’re a good team. And, indeed, the worst thing that happened last night wasn’t even Harper-related, it was Trea Turner breaking a finger on a bunt attempt. Note: Turner hit two home runs the game before that one and Dave Martinez had him bunting in a 0-0 contest. Does that make sense to you? Because it doesn’t make sense to me.

Diamondbacks 8, Padres 5: Have a game, Zack Greinke. The Dbacks’ ace allowed three runs over six and struck out ten and that was fine and all, but he also smacked two home runs. The first one was a a go-ahead three-run home run in the fourth inning. The second was a solo shot in the top of the sixth that had him going back-to-back with John Ryan Murphy. Watch:

After the first one his teammates jokingly gave him the silent treatment. Greinke later told reporters, “I told them it was the first time I wanted anyone to talk to me all year. And they didn’t want to talk to me then.” That’s a pretty on-brand quote for Greinke.

In other news, a weird call took place in the sixth when Manny Machado was called out on a dropped pop up for interfering with Murphy. Though they came close, Machado did not appear to touch Murphy as he went for the ball — he did drop the bat in Murphy’s vicinity, though Murphy didn’t touch it either — but the umpire said it was interference, which per the rules requires intentional and deliberate contact, neither of which seemed to go down. And, it’s worth noting, Machado was like five feet from Murphy when Murphy dropped the ball. Andy Green argued the call and was ejected and Machado seemed mostly perplexed. It was a weird call that did not otherwise seem to stir up acrimony — and I do not think would be called on any player other than Machado — but I suppose it’ll go into the “Machado is dirty” file so many folks are keeping.

Athletics 1, Red Sox 0: Chris Sale‘s velocity was low again — his fastball was in the high 80s most of the night — but he fought through it with breaking and offspeed stuff, allowing only one run over six. That one run — coming on a Matt Chapman solo homer in the first — was enough, though, thanks to (a) Matt Fiers and three relievers combining to shut out the World Series champs; and (b) this amazing, spectacular throw from Ramón Laureano to cut down Xander Bogaerts‘ in the top of the ninth:

Remember kids, even when you mess up, if you don’t panic, you can hustle and work hard to make the best of a bad situation and things might just turn out OK. At least if you have a hose like Laureano does. Also remember: don’t try to do too much. When life hands you a double, don’t get greedy and try to turn it into a triple. Especially if, like Bogaerts, you didn’t hustle out of the damn box.

Dodgers 6, Giants 5: The Dodgers jumped out to a 5-0 lead over Madison Bumgarner thanks mostly to a Cody Bellinger grand slam in the third inning. Bumgarner tried to make some of that up by hitting a homer himself in the sixth, and the Giants made a decent effort to come back, but it was just a tad too little and a tad too late. By the way: between Bumgarner and Greinke, last night there were three homers hit by pitchers. There were only two homers hit by designated hitters. Baseball is fun.

Rays 4, Rockies 0: Blake Snell gave up three home runs on Opening Day but he sure as heck turned things around in his second start of the season. The reigning Cy Young Award winner tied his career-high with 13 strikeouts in seven shutout innings while allowing only two hits in all. Both of the hits came from Trevor Story and one of those was an infield single. Utter dominance.

Orioles 2, Blue Jays 1: Birds win! Andrew Cashner bounced back from a bad Opening Day himself to shut down Toronto over six while Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini knocked in the only two runs of support he’d need. After an Opening Day loss the O’s have taken four straight. All on the road. Break ’em up. They’re too dang good.

Brewers 4, Reds 3:  Orlando Arcia broke an 0-for-16 slump to hit a three-run homer to help the Brewers to a 5-1 start and yet another win over the Reds. Christian Yelich singled and doubled. Josh Hader got his fourth save in four save opportunities. The Brewers’ pen is a bit thinner at the moment than it’s been, but it’s stronger than ever in the ninth inning.

Tigers 3, Yankees 1: Tied 1-1 in the ninth and the Tigers get two runs off of Aroldis Chapman of all people, via an RBI double from Dustin Peterson — his first major league hit — and an RBI single from Jordy Mercer. The lead held up. Peterson could go 0-for-his-next-50, get DFA’d and never make the bigs again and he’ll always have a fantastic story to tell his kids and his grandchildren. It’s stuff like that that’ll make what figures to be a long season for the Tigers go a lot better.

Mets 6, Marlins 5: Jose Urena gave up five first inning runs and the Marlins, while getting to Jason Vargas a bit, couldn’t make it pay off well enough and couldn’t come back all the way late. Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro was particularly unlucky, going 0-for-4 and stranding seven baserunners, including the potential tying run at third to end the eighth inning. Some nights the hits simply do not fall. Wilson Ramos and Dominic Smith each had two hits and an RBI for the Mets, who improved to 4-1.

Rangers 6, Astros 4: Justin Verlander didn’t have it, allowing four over four inefficient innings, and a late two-run single by Joey Gallo put Texas over the top. The Rangers have won three of their first five games and Gallo has had the go-ahead hit in two of them and scored the winning run in the third. Asdrubal Cabrera homered. The Rangers will miss the retired Adirán Beltré eventually, but so far Cabrera is doing a nice job filling in for the future Hall of Famer.

Twins 5, Royals 4: Nelson Cruz doubled in two and later hit the go-ahead single in the top of the 10th inning to lead the Twinkies to victory. He has six RBI in the last three games, so yeah, the old man is still an artist with the Thompson. Adalberto Mondesí hit an inside-the-park homer to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth:

As is the case with a lot of inside-the-parkers, a misplay or a weird bounce or an injury contributed. As you can see in the video, Byron Buxton hit the wall hard going for that one and was late recovering to get to it, helping Mondesi score. Buxton would later leave the game with bruised ribs, so that was less-than-ideal. Kansas City’s announced attendance as 10,024, the lowest at Kauffman Stadium since 9,279 souls showed up against Cleveland on April 21, 2011.

Mariners 2, Angels 1: Marco Gonzales was excellent, allowing only one run on four hits while pitching into the ninth inning. Mitch Haniger doubled in a run to put the M’s on the board in the sixth and Dan Vogelbach homered in the eighth to give Seattle the winning margin. Seattle improves to 7-1 on the season and the Angels fall to 1-7.

If 2020 season is canceled, which players would be hurt the most?

Miguel Cabrera
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Last week, I went over a few teams that stood to be hurt most if there were to be no 2020 season as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, we will look at some players who may be adversely effected by a lost year.

Milestones

Players chasing milestones, especially those towards the end of their careers, would be stymied by a lost season. Tigers DH and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is the first one that comes to mind. He is 23 home runs short of joining the 500 home run club. Though he hasn’t hit more than 16 in a year since 2016, he would likely have at least hit a few this year and would have had an easier time getting there in 2021. He turns 37 years old in 10 days. Cabrera may be under contract through 2023, but it is not clear that his age and his health would allow him to play regularly such that he would be able to reach 500 home runs if the 2020 season were to be canceled. (Cabrera is also 185 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.)

Mike Trout has 285 home runs for his career. It’s almost a given that he would get to 300 and beyond in 2020. He is currently one of only 13 players with at least 250 home runs through his age-27 season. The only players with more: Álex Rodríguez (345), Jimmie Foxx (302), Eddie Mathews (299), and Ken Griffey Jr. (294). Trout likely would have also reached 1,000 runs for his career, as he is currently at 903. Losing a full season could really make a difference where he winds up on the all-time leaderboards at the end of his career.

Veteran catcher Yadier Molina will be a free agent at season’s end, though he and the Cardinals have expressed interest in a contract extension. He turns 38 this summer and is 37 hits shy of 2,000 for his career. Even if this season never happens, Molina will likely join the 2,000 hit club in 2021 whether or not he signs a multi-year extension. Molina is also 84 RBI shy of 1,000 and 21 doubles shy of 400.

Free Agents

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto headline the free agent class heading into the 2021 season. Even if there eventually is a 2020 season, or something resembling it, teams are losing money across the board and that will result in stinginess in the free agent market. Make no mistake, Betts and Realmuto, as well as Trevor Bauer, Marcus Semien, and Marcus Stroman will still get paid handsomely, but they likely won’t get as much as they would following a typical year. The players that really stand to get hurt are the mid-tier free agents, whose cost won’t match their relative upside — players like James McCann, Howie Kendrick, Yuli Gurriel, DJ LeMahieu, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Turner, Michael Grantley, Marcell Ozuna, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jay Bruce, and Josh Reddick.

2020-21 Draftees and International Free Agents

At the end of March, MLB and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement on a deal covering issues including service time, pay during the pandemic, and the amateur draft. In exchange for players on active rosters getting credit for a full year of service time whether or not there is a 2020 season, the league got the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds and the 2021 draft to 20 rounds. The league also gained the right to delay the start of the 2020 and 2021-22 international signing periods.

The MLBPA effectively sold out what will be their future union members. A shortened draft this year and/or next year would mean that players who would otherwise have been drafted this year will go undrafted and thus will either become unsigned free agents or return to the draft next year as part of a crowded pool of players. Likewise, pushing back the international signing period will add more players to the market at the same time. This, obviously, benefits ownership as a surplus of labor diminishes those laborers’ leverage.

Bounce-back Candidates

Players coming off of injuries or otherwise down years in 2019 were hoping to use 2020 to bounce back, reestablishing themselves in the league. Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani didn’t pitch at all last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was hopeful to rejoin the starting rotation at some point in the first half of a normal 2020 season. We learned yesterday that Ohtani is expected to throw off a mound “soon.” If a 2020 season does happen, it likely wouldn’t begin for another couple of months at minimum, which should afford him enough time to get into pitching shape.

Ohtani’s teammate and perennial Gold Glove Award candidate Andrelton Simmons played in only 103 games last season due to an ankle injury. He mustered a meager .673 OPS as well, compiling just 1.9 WAR, his lowest total in any season since debuting in 2012. In 2017, he peaked at 7.8 WAR and put up 6.3 the following season. Simmons will become a free agent after the 2020 season, so he most certainly needed a healthy and productive 2020 to maximize his leverage on the market.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, now 36 years old, is coming off of the worst offensive season of his career. He hit .261/.357/.411 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 608 plate appearances, continuing a downward trend. He registered a 167 adjusted OPS as recently as 2017, but that declined to 126 in ’18 and 98 last year. The Reds, back to being competitive, were definitely banking on a bounce-back year from Votto. (Votto, by the way, is also 56 RBI short of the 1,000 milestone for his career.)