Phillies crawl into 1st-place tie, match NL history for longest 9-inning game

Phillies crawl into 1st-place tie, match NL history for longest 9-inning game


PITTSBURGH — It was a good night for the Phillies, but not necessarily for Major League Baseball.

The Commissioner’s office is very concerned with the amount of time it is taking to play games these days. Steps to shorten times of game have been taken.

So you can bet MLB officials weren’t too keen on the Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates needing four hours, 30 minutes to play nine innings Friday night. 

But the Phillies? They didn’t mind all that much. They came out of the marathon evening with a 17-5 victory and a share of first place in the National League East in a game that tied the record for longest nine-inning NL game ever (see first take).

“Really?” catcher Andrew Knapp said upon being made aware of that fact.

Knapp conceded the game did feel long.

“But thankfully we were hitting for most of it,” he said.

The Phillies did that. They hit and hit and hit. They also walked 10 times. Five of those walks turned into runs.

In all, the Phillies had 18 hits. They were 9 for 20 with runners in scoring position. Every starting position player had at least one hit. Scott Kingery had four of them. Knapp and Odubel Herrera both had three-run homers.

The Phillies have won five in a row and seven of their last eight. They are 11 games over .500. They are flying high, tied atop the NL East with Atlanta.

“I think we’re pretty comfortable with where we’re at,” Knapp said. “I don’t think anyone in this clubhouse doesn’t expect us to be there.”

Manager Gabe Kapler expects the Phils to be there. Before the game, he mentioned that the Phillies should be thinking about winning the division (see story).

“It’s definitely gratifying,” Kapler said of claiming a share of first place.

Kapler was more enthused about the way the Phillies got there. He and the front office are trying to build a lineup that sees pitches, grinds out at-bats, hits mistakes, takes walks and gets on base. There was a lot of that in this game. The Pirates had trouble throwing strikes and Phillies hitters remained patient and took advantage.

“It’s definitely gratifying to play Phillie-style baseball today, Phillie-style offense,” Kapler said. “We again continue to work counts and see a lot of pitches and grind down the opposition and really it’s becoming our calling card. I believe it’s a great way to win baseball games and I think our guys are starting to walk the walk more and more.”

Not everything went well in the game for the Phillies. Their defense was sloppy early in the game and they were burned by a defensive shift to open the top of the fourth and that led to a run.

Ultimately, however, the defense made two big plays when the game was still close. Rightfielder Nick Williams and third baseman Jesmuel Valentin each cut down a potential run at the plate to hold off the Pirates when they were still in the game.

Nick Pivetta did not pitch well, but he also did not get help from his defense. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up five hits and two walks. The bullpen gave up just two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

By the conclusion of the interminable game, it was difficult to even remember that Pivetta had pitched. He was one of 13 pitchers used by the two teams.

Despite the poor outing, Pivetta maintained his sense of humor when told that the length of the game had tied the National League record, previously set by Colorado and Arizona June 24, 2016.

“I set the tone pretty well tonight,” he deadpanned. 

“But these guys, they didn't give up. And that's fun to watch. You sit in here, they scuffle the first couple innings and they come back. Some guys put great at-bats together and we won the game. I think that's the most important thing.”

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What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

Tuesday's meeting between MLB and the players' association kicked off an important week for a sport that knows it needs to quickly solve its financial battle and return to our screens.

According to multiple reports, the financial plan proposed to the players on Tuesday involved a sliding scale that would give the largest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the least, and the smallest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the most.

In simpler terms: If the players were to sign off on this plan, it would mean Bryce Harper ($27.5M in 2020) would get a lower percentage of his prorated salary than would Rhys Hoskins ($605,000).

The rationale of this reported proposal is pretty clear: There are so many more players earning close to the league minimum than there are superstars earning eight figures per year. If the players earning the least are given the highest percentage of their prorated salaries, it means a large chunk of the league would be close to earning what it would've if the March agreement regarding full prorated salaries remained untouched.

Let's use the Phillies as an example. In 2020, they were set to pay: 

• Bryce Harper just over $27.5M
• Zack Wheeler $21.5M
• Jake Arrieta $20M
• Andrew McCutchen $17M
• Jean Segura $14.85M
• Didi Gregorius $14M
• David Robertson $11M
• J.T. Realmuto $10M

They have seven more players set to make between $1.5 million and $8.5 million. The remaining 25 players on the 40-man roster, plus all the non-roster invitees and pre-arbitration players, all fall below that line.

This, from Joel Sherman of the NY Post, paints a slightly clearer picture of how it could shake out:

One person who had been briefed on the proposal said the expectation is that players due to make $1 million or less in 2020 would be made close to whole on a prorated basis for games played. Thus, if someone were making the MLB 2020 minimum of $563,500 and 82 regular-season games (almost exactly half a season) were played, they would receive roughly half their pay, about $282,000.

But players at the top of the pay chain such as Gerrit Cole and Mike Trout would get less. If that were in the 50 percent range — as an example — then Cole, who was due $36 million, this year would receive half of about the $18 million he would be due for half a season or roughly $9 million.

From a Phillies perspective, if those percentages are close to accurate, it would mean Harper would earn somewhere around $6.9 million of his $27.5 million salary. For Wheeler, that number would be about $5.4 million. For Arrieta, $5 million. And so on.

That is just an example, though. It is currently unclear how many different prorated tiers there would be, what the percentage would be for each, and whether the players would even sign off on this.

However, there are other factors at play. MLB could also elongate what we expected to be an 82-game season to closer to 100 games. The additional revenue of more games on local and national TV could mean a slightly higher percentage of salaries for players.

And, per the Post, "there also would be a kicker in which the players would receive a greater percentage of the salaries if the postseason is played — MLB receives the lion’s share of its national TV money from the playoffs."

There are some hurdles with this plan. There is the potential of pitting players against each other within their own union based on the different tiers of prorated pay. There is also the potential of a few superstar players feeling it's not worth it to play. What if you're Mookie Betts and you agree to play for a fraction of your salary and then suffer a bad injury that diminishes your free-agent value? 

There is no doubt that everyone in baseball is in this together and it benefits all sides to have the game return this summer. But there is still much more negotiating to be done.

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Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Signs point toward meaningful MLB news coming this week. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced that teams could return to their facilities to train, which is meaningful nationwide given the fact that New York has had more than twice as many cases of COVID-19 reported as any other state.

In Tampa, Tropicana Field was reopened for limited workouts and more than a dozen Rays players participated. The Astros have announced that Minute Maid Park is open for workouts, too. The Angels' spring training complex is open to all players on their 40-man roster.

MLB and the players' association are scheduled to meet today. Understandably, the players' union has, so far, been unwilling to accept another pay cut on top of what it thought agreed to in March with prorated pay. Team owners have been adamant that it is not financially viable to pay players a half-season salary with no fans in stands. From their side, the losses would be too steep and would affect future finances.

Will the sides reach a compromise? They have to. We saw again over the weekend how many Americans are starved for sports when 5.8 million tuned into the Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson-Tom Brady golf match, a number slightly higher than The Last Dance documentary received. 

MLB didn't need any more evidence that returning was crucial, but there it was. All parties feel a sense of urgency because the league doesn't want baseball to dip further in popularity, and the players want to play and get paid. If the sport were to disappear for a period of 18 months, it will fall off the radar for many casual fans. And a portion of die-hards will be so frustrated by the sides' inability to come to a financial agreement at a time when so many are suffering physically, mentally and financially and craving the escape of sports that even their viewership habits could change. 

MLB cannot afford that. It is not at the height of its popularity like the NBA.

The goal, when this is worked out, is still to hold Spring Training II in mid-June and open the season at the beginning of July. The closer we get to those dates without an agreement, the less likely it becomes that the regular season could start so soon. Players will need two or three weeks to prepare regardless of when a deal is struck.

It also looks increasingly likely that teams will stay within their own divisions. There would still be a good amount of interleague play between teams in close proximity to one another (think Yankees and Orioles for the Phillies), but the three-division, 10-team format idea is not as necessary if teams can play in their home states as opposed to just Florida, Texas and Arizona.

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