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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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There were ten games yesterday. The winning team scored in double digits in six of them. This is what baseball would be like if aliens tried to replicate baseball on their own planet but all they had to go by was old video of every Rangers game from the mid-late 1990s or something. I guess it’s OK if you’re into that sort of thing.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 10, Cardinals 2: Adam Wainwright was a Braves product before being shipped to St. Louis for J.D. Drew. That was so long ago that no one in Atlanta is still around who was there at the time save a couple of elderly advisors and maybe some assorted office workers. I guess the old trainer Jeff Porter is probably still knocking around too, though if I remember correctly he got promoted to advisor status too. The team is even owned by different folks. Maybe that contributed to the rude welcome Wainwright was given by his original organization, which tattooed him for five runs on five hits in the first four innings. Rookie Austin Riley — who was six years-old when Wainwright was traded to St. Louis — went 3-for-4 with a double, drove in a run and scored twice. Julio Teherán tossed five scoreless and drove in two himself. Wainwright:

“It’s the worst fastball command I’ve had all year,” Wainwright said. “I actually had a good fastball, but I just didn’t locate it worth a darn, and worst breaking ball I’ve had all year. Bad combo.”

“Darn?”

Athletics 17, Tigers 3: Well that was something. It’s been a whole lot of something for the Tigers of late. They have lost four straight games and have been outscored in those games 41-9. A week prior they lost 13-0. A Twitter correspondent told me yesterday that, had the Tigers not scored three runs with that two-out, bottom of the ninth homer from Dawel Lugo it would’ve been the first time in baseball history that a team lost two 13+ run shutouts at home in the span of a week. Way to deprive us of history, Lugo. Gosh.

In other news, I’ve long been of the view that, if everyone has the right attitude about it, following a really bad team can be kind of fun. It’s not fantastic or anything, but if people are realistic with their expectations, don’t take the losing too personally and try to maintain a sense of humor, the shared misery of it all can bring forth some unexpected joy. Stuff like this, tweeted out by the team right after the game ended:

As for the A’s, Jurickson Profar hit a grand slam, Josh Phegley had four hits including a homer and Matt Olson and Marcus Semien and Mark Canha all went deep for Oakland as well. Canha should get an asterisk as he hit his off of outfielder Brandon Dixon, but since baseball doesn’t do asterisks we won’t either.

Rangers 16, Royals 1: Another blowout as Texas socks five homers in this laugher. Rougned Odor hit two of them on a four-RBI day, and Hunter Pence, Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun all went yard as well. Calhoun was 4-for-7 with three driven in. It’s only been two games since he’s been called up but he already has six hits and five RBI on the year. Like the Tigers, the Royals used a position player to pitch: Chris Owings. He got not just one but two innings on the mound, surrendering Pence’s bomb and Odor’s second one.

Nationals 7, Mets 6: The Nats win their first series in a month. It wasn’t easy as they blew an early 4-0 lead, but Gerardo Parra hit a two-run homer in the fifth to put Washington back on top and they didn’t trail after that. Parra went 3-for-3 with that homer and three RBI in total. He’s been a nice pickup for Washington so far. Bad news for the Mets: they lost both Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto to injuries in this one. The former with abdominal tightness, the later left the game after colliding with teammate Robinson Canó and was later diagnosed with a concussion. Those two have, by far, been the Mets best offensive players this year — Conforto hit a three-run homer in this one to tie the game at four — and losing even one of them is a tremendous blow. Both in one game? Oof.

Brewers 11, Phillies 3: Christian Yelich hit two homers — his major league-leading 17th and 18th on the year — and Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas each went deep as Milwaukee takes three of four from Philly. Yelich had three hits and scored three times. He’s batting .342 and at the moment is in great shape to challenge for a second straight MVP Award.

Indians 14, Orioles 7: “Jason Kipnis?” the old man said, taking a long drag off his cigarette while staring into the middle distance. “I haven’t written that name in a recap for years.” Here he homered twice — one was a three-run shot — and drove in six. The Indians were down 5-1 in this one and didn’t take the lead until the sixth inning, but then they put up a five run seventh to render this one less-than-competitive. Thanks to Wednesday’s double header the Orioles lost three games in around 24 hours which is “fun.” Overall they have lost seven of eight.

Reds 4, Cubs 2: Chicago got two off the Reds ace Luis Castillo early but would get nothin’ the rest of the way. Jose Perazá homered for Cincy and Eugenio Suárez knocked in a couple. The rain got an assist too, as very wet and very sloppy conditions just before a rain delay contributed to José Quintana throwing back-to-back wild pitches which allowed a run to score. The Cubs came into this three-game set with the Reds having won or split 10 straight series but they dropped two of three.

White Sox 4, Blue Jays 2: It was tied at two in the eighth with a runner on third and Ryan Cordell at the plate for the Chisox when Rick Renteria called for the suicide squeeze:

I guess the aliens had some old small ball videos lying around too.

Twins 11, Mariners 6: The Twins sent 13 men to the plate and scored seven runs in the fourth inning and they made everyone continue to play the rest of the game after that for some reason. Four Minnesota batters homered: C.J. Cron, Jason Castro, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton. Cron went 4-for-5. Buxton drove in three.

Padres 4, Pirates 3: San Diego was down 2-1 in the sixth when Ian Kinsler smacked a three-run homer. Kinsler, who has gotten heat from Padres fans this year, flipped his bat after his homer and offered what the AP game story called a “profane outburst” as he crossed home plate which many in attendance took to be aimed at the hometown fans. Which, um, seems pretty accurate:

After the game he said that was directed at his teammates as a means of celebration, but that doesn’t seem really plausible. It’s worth noting that his manager didn’t buy it either. Andy Green said he’d talk with Kinsler about it and added:

“We as professionals should handle that displeasure in a more positive way than it was handled today. With [Kinsler], he knows that. He’s played the game a long time . . . Clearly not expressed well today. Ultimately, though, he’s a passionate baseball player.”

So, yeah, not the best look from Kinsler. One wonders if all of the people who get up in arms about player decorum will do so here.

Ahoy, San Diego: 2019 Winter Meetings Preview

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Over the weekend the baseball world will descended on San Diego, California for the 2019 Winter Meetings. Let’s talk about what’ll go down there in the next week.

 

Free Agents

So far this has been a much brisker offseason than the past two, during which it seemed like no one signed between November and February. This year, however, we have already seen top-30 free agents Zack Wheeler, Yasmani Grandal, Cole Hamels, José Abreu, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Moustakas, and Michael Pineda sign, and a handful of others have inked pacts as well.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done. Top free agent Gerrit Cole has had some heat around him lately, with the Yankees reportedly hot on his trail, and New York has at least had a conversation with San Diego native and resident Stephen Strasburg as well. Beyond them, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner, Nicholas Castellanos, and Josh Donaldson are all looking for new employers as well.

At the end of October Rotoworld’s Matthew Pouliot ran down the top 111 free agents, from highest-ranked to lowest, to help you get a jump on who is available.

 

Trades

Free agent signings notwithstanding, we are in an age in which a lot of teams are in cost-savings mode. For that reason some big, MVP-caliber names are reportedly on the trading block, including Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Francisco Lindor of the Indians and, perhaps, Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Beyond them, there has been chatter about the Dodgers dealing Joc Pederson, the Tigers dealing Matthew Boyd and the Pirates and Rockies shopping anyone worth a bag of balls.

Whether any of those big names switch teams, it’s already been a pretty active trading season so far, and it would not be at all surprising of the transaction wire is humming in the next week. We, of course, will have near-instant breakdowns of every deal that goes down, so make sure you keep a window open with this site on it and hit refresh early and often.

 

Managers on Parade

 

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors, so we can only talk about those once they happen. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press.

We have a boatload of new managers this year, all of whom have had their happy little press conferences back in their home cities so far. The press availabilities at the Winter Meetings are a bit more in depth and, quite often, feature managers giving more detailed answers to their philosophies and their plans as they prepare for the 2020 season.

New at the little tables and under the bright lights this year: Jayce Tingler with the Padres, Mike Matheny with the Royals, Gabe Kapler with the Giants, David Ross with the Cubs, Derek Shelton with the Pirates, Joe Maddon with the Angels, Carlos Beltrán with the Mets, and Joe Girardi with the Phillies.

And, yes, the tradition like no other continues this year, as I will be ranking all 30 of the current managers on the basis of handsomeness. Here’s last year’s rankings. The new rankings will go up first thing Monday morning. It’s the silliest thing I do all year and, for better or for worse, it’s the thing I’m best known for. What a life I have.

 

Hall of Fame Vote

The Modern Baseball Era Committee — formerly known as the Veterans Committee — will meet on Sunday to vote in, or not vote in, new inductees for the Hall of Fame. For the past two weeks I’ve been profiling the candidates. Here are those profiles:

Committee members get four votes each. If I had four I’d give them to Whitaker, Evans, Simmons, and Miller, but you never know what the real voters will do. We’ll have the results up on Sunday evening once the vote is made public.

 

Major League Baseball vs. Minor League Baseball

One thing a lot of people don’t know about the Winter Meetings is that it’s put on, primarily, by Minor League Baseball as an organization and the vast majority of the people on the ground at the Winter Meetings either run or work for or are trying to sell stuff to minor league teams. Almost every team’s owner comes and brings along some staffers. Coaches, trainers, scouts, and other team employees who spend most of their year out in the bushes as opposed to back at the big club’s home base attend meetings and hobnob with one another.

Normally that’s all pretty routine. This year, however, it probably won’t be thanks to Rob Manfred’s plan to contract 42 minor league clubs and rearrange a great many more of them across levels and leagues.

As we noted earlier today, that scheme has set off a political firestorm and is no doubt the top agenda item and point of concern for every single minor league official and employee at the Winter Meetings. There are, reportedly, already meetings going on in San Diego about all of this. Expect some news about it at any point in the next week. At this point I’d expect anything from Manfred totally scrapping the plan, to him doubling down on it, to reports of general acrimony and possible legal action and everything in between.

 

The Boring Business of Baseball 

Outside of the transactions, the Hall of Fame stuff, the managers and the minor league contraction intrigue, we’ll likely have more mundane Winter Meetings business. Most people at the Winter Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. There is no single rule change that everyone is talking about at the moment, but something will likely pop up. Sometimes we’re completely surprised with that kind of stuff.

 

The Rule 5 Draft

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am Pacific time on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected, but by next summer you may very well know some of them who are either picked or who were made available this week. Max Muncy could’ve been had by anyone a couple of years ago, went un-picked and all he’s done is rake like crazy for the team with the most wins in the National League. Given that even the combined minds of 29 front offices didn’t think he was worth a roster spot last year, you’ll be forgiven for not having any idea about the guys in this year’s Rule 5. But, if you want to at least attempt to be prepared for it, here’s a good place to start.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at the Hyatt Manchester in San Diego — and maybe a few other places around town — bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.