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And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mariners 13, Royals 5: Who put the Benzedrine in the Seattle Mariners’ Ovaltine? Edwin Encarnación hit two homers in the same dang inning — the second time he’s gone deep twice in an inning in his career — and the M’s hit five jacks in all to send the Royals to yet another loss. Jay Bruce, Dan Vogelbach, and Dylan Moore went deep as well, abusing Homer Bailey and a series of Kansas City relievers. The Mariners have 32 homers in their first 12 games, which is the most by any team in 12 games to start a season. Ten wins now for Seattle. Most of those have come against some weak sisters of the American League, but the M’s themselves were supposed to be a weak sister of the American League. This is . . . unexpected.

Cubs 10, Pirates 0: Jon Lester left early with hamstring tightness but the Cubs’ Beleaguered Bullpen™ stepped up with  Brad Brach, Brandon Kintzler, Randy Rosario and Pedro Strop combining to toss seven innings of scoreless relief. They were buoyed by the Cubs’ six-run second inning and two runs each in the third and fourth.  Lester, by the way, was hurt when he scored from second on a two-run single after he himself hit a two-run double. Pitchers batting giveth, pitchers batting taketh away.

Astros 4, Yankees 3: New York took a 3-1 lead into the seventh, thanks in part to Aaron Judge hitting a homer off of Justin Verlander. Jose Altuve went deep for Houston’s lone early run. In the seventh, though, Robinson Chirinos doubled in two to tie it. Carlos Correa gave Houston the go-ahead run the next inning thanks to a little dribbler of a broken-bat hit off of Adam Ottavino which functioned like a perfect bunt to score Alex Bregman. It was the first run Ottavino had given up all year. I feel like if it were me I’d rather give up that run on a double off the wall rather than a broken bat nothin’ that went about 30 feet.

Orioles 12, Athletics 4: All anyone was talking about during the game last night was Chris Davis’ record-breaking 0-fer streak, but the rest of the O’s were just fine as they laid some serious lumber to the A’s. Jonathan Villar homered and had four RBI, Trey Mancini went 3-for-3 with a homer, Cedric Mullins hit two triples and drove in three and Richie Martin‘s had a triple and a pair of singles. Only 6,585 fans paid their way to the game, making it for the lowest attendance total in Camden Yards history if you don’t count the game they played with no fans that time.

Phillies 4, Nationals 3: Rhys Hoskins hit two solo homers and Odubel Herrera hit a two-run shot. They were the fourth and fifth homers of the year for Hoskins, who I feel like is going to put up one of the more quiet MVP-caliber seasons in some time.

Rays 5, White Sox 1: The Cy Young winner was in Cy Young form, striking out 11 over six innings. He started strong, striking out five of the first six hitters he faced and then, in the sixth, he put two runners on and then struck out the side, ending the threat as he ended his outing. Just big man stuff. His counterpart, Carlos Rodón, was in a somewhat lesser form, putting on baserunners like it was his job when, in fact, his job was the exact opposite of that. The Rays, 8-3, are off to their best start since 2010.

Cardinals 4, Dodgers 3: The Dodgers lost Hyun-Jin Ryu early after he was removed with a groin strain. Ryu missed time with a similar injury last year so, uh-oh. His counterpart, Miles Mikolas, stood a better chance of hurting opposing hitters than hurting himself as he plunked three Dodgers batters on the night. None seemed intentional, though. He allowed three runs on five hits in getting the win. The Cardinals won thanks to a seventh inning rally which was capped by Paul Goldschmidt scoring the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Joe Kelly, who has blown three saves on the young year.

Braves 8, Rockies 6: Atlanta built a big early lead for what seemed like the fifth time this season, and they turned out to need it. Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a two-run homer in the first, then a two-run Nick Markakis single in the third and a two-run Dansby Swanson triple in the fifth made it 6-0. Swanson would then score on a wild pitch to give the Braves seven. Colorado mounted a comeback in the bottom half of the fifth with six runs of their own, capped by Trevor Story‘s three-run homer, but that’s as close as they’d get. A Swanson sac fly would provide some insurance later. Neither started is framing the box score of this game and putting it on the wall of their rumpus room.

Padres 6, Giants 5: Madison Bumgarner was staked to a 5-0 lead after four thanks in part to a Kevin Pillar grand slam but it was not enough. Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a two-run homer in the fifth, Wil Myers hit a solo shot in the sixth and Franmil Reyes hit a two-run homer in the seventh to cap the big comeback. Bumgarner gave up five of the six runs and the Tatis and Myers bombs. San Diego may not be good enough to hang with L.A. all season, but they’re plenty good this year and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Angels 5, Brewers 2Mike Trout, if you were unaware, is ridiculously good at baseball:

He also walked twice and scored a run. His home run streak ended, but Trevor Cahill thanks him for his defense, which helped Cahill toss six innings of two-run ball. And even if Trout didn’t homer, Tommy La Stella, Justin Bour and Andrelton Simmons did.

Rob Manfred explains reasoning behind proposal to cut 42 minor league teams

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As we learned earlier this week, Major League Baseball wants to contract 42 minor league teams, mostly in short-season and rookie ball. The proposal earned a lot of backlash, including from some of the teams on the chopping block and from Congress. MLB responded with its own letter to Congress, written by deputy commissioner Dan Halem, explaining the league’s reasoning.

In the letter, Halem complains about the lack of competition between minor league teams and independent teams. Halem wrote, “The lack of competition among operators of teams for an affiliation with a Major League Club has reduced the incentive for some affiliated Minor League teams to improve their facilities and player amenities.” It is an interesting thing to write as someone representing a $10 billion business that has benefited for a century from an antitrust exemption.

Halem also noted that MLB has several goals that are supposedly attained by cutting 26 percent of the minors: ensuring the quality of the facilities for the players, reducing the travel burden, improving the “compensation, accommodations, and amenities” for players, improving the affiliation process between minor league and major league teams.

Commissioner Rob Manfred essentially echoed that sentiment on Thursday, per Newsday’s Laura Albanese. He gave four reasons behind the proposal: inadequate facilities, travel, poor pay, drafting and signing players who don’t have a realistic shot to make it to the majors. The last reason is a new one, but let’s go over those four reasons in context.

It is true that some, perhaps even most, of the facilities of the 42 named teams are inadequate. It’s not all of them. As NECN’s Jack Thurston reports, the owner of the short-season Lowell Spinners, Dave Heller, said that his team’s stadium is “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League,” speaking highly of its lighting and field conditions. The Quad Cities River Bandits, the Astros’ Single-A affiliate and also on the chopping block, renovated their stadium a handful of times over the last 12 years. In fact, it earned an award from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” in both 2008 and ’09, and finished third in the 2018 running for “Best View in the Minors.” At any rate, if facility quality is such a big issue, why did the Athletics continue to play in a stadium that repeatedly had its sewage system overflow in 2013?

Travel is certainly a big issue for minor leaguers because they mostly travel by bus, not plane. Having teams located closer to each other would be more beneficial in this regard. Or — and hear me out, here — major league teams could take on the extra expenditure of paying for their minor leaguers’ airfare. Several years ago, the Phillies took on the extra expenditure of making sure their minor leaguers ate healthy food and that has worked out well. The Blue Jays took on the extra expenditure of giving their minor leaguers a pay raise and that has worked out well. The Red Sox took on the extra expenditure of installing a sleep room at Fenway Park to ensure their players were well-rested and that has worked out well. No one is suggesting that Single-A players have to fly first class on every flight, but the travel issue is an easy fix that doesn’t require contracting 42 teams. Teams have individually chosen to improve their players’ quality of life and it has yielded positive results. Imagine it on a league-wide scale for thousands of players in their formative years.

Manfred citing minor league pay as a basis for the proposal is laughable. His own league successfully lobbied Congress to amend language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, classifying minor league players as seasonal workers. That means they are not entitled to a minimum wage or overtime pay, among other worker protections. If the pay of minor league players was so important to Major League Baseball, it wouldn’t have pressured the government to legally ensure they didn’t have to pay them a living wage. Every baseball team is worth at least a billion dollars. The league has set year-over-year revenue records for 16 consecutive years, crossing $10 billion in 2018. Minor leaguers could be compensated well without robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Lastly, it is true that a majority of minor league players will never reach the major leagues. That doesn’t mean that their presence in the minor leagues or their effort to realize their dreams have zero value. Lopping off the bottom 26 percent of minor leaguers might nominally increase the level of skill on each roster, but it eliminates so many jobs — well over 1,000. Furthermore, there are few incentives for athletes to want to slog through several years of the minors as it is, as Kyler Murray recently showed, but there would be even fewer incentives by shrinking the minors (and, consequently, the draft). Shrinking the minors and the draft could lead to more minor league free agents, but if baseball is actually interested in a free market (it’s not) then it should abolish the draft entirely as well as the arbitration system.

These reasons, each uniquely fallacious, hide the real reason behind the proposal: shifting money around so Major League Baseball can say it will award pay raises to minor leaguers, ending a years-long stretch of bad P.R., without actually cutting into profits. MLB could have afforded to pay minor leaguers a living wage years ago and it chose not to. MLB could have chosen not to lobby Congress for the ability to continue underpaying minor leaguers years ago, but it chose to do so. Everything since has been the league trying to avoid lying in the bed it made for itself.