Penny dropped from rotation; Smoltz was tipping pitches?

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Boston dumping Brad Penny from the rotation certainly shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, but that the move is taking place in mid-August and involves Penny being bounced in favor of Junichi Tazawa rather than John Smoltz is pretty surprising.
Prior to Smoltz joining the Red Sox there was all kinds of talk about whether they should part with Penny to make room in the rotation, but they kept both and then Smoltz’s struggles made it a moot point. However, Penny definitely pitched his way out of the rotation by going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA and 89/42 K/BB ratio in 131.2 innings spread over 24 starts, including 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his last five outings.
He’ll move to the bullpen for now while Tazawa makes one more start, and then Tim Wakefield’s return from the disabled list could shake things up further. Penny is one of just seven AL starters with an average fastball velocity of at least 94.0 miles per hour and he threw the pitch more often than any other starter in the league except for Jeff Niemann of the Rays, relying on his heater 72.4 percent of the time. All of which tells you that getting major-league hitters out involves a lot more than just throwing really hard.
Meanwhile, after watching Smoltz toss five shutout innings with nine strikeouts in his return to the NL yesterday the Cardinals are apparently convinced that he was tipping his pitches while getting knocked around in the AL. Tony La Russa told reporters yesterday that “it’s pretty clear he was tipping his pitches” while Smoltz said merely that he “very well could have been.”
We may never know the truth on that, but whatever the case moving to the NL and being on schedule to face the Padres, Nationals, and Pirates in his first three starts gives Smoltz every opportunity to succeed. I’ll have to double-check the Cardinals’ schedule to be certain, but I’m pretty sure that his fourth start would be against the Little League World Series runner-ups.

Reds acquire Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers

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The Reds acquired utilityman Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations, J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reports.

This is the second time that the Dodgers have traded Sweeney. The club sent him to the Phillies along with John Richy in August 2015 for Chase Utley. The Phillies sent him back to the Dodgers this past offseason with Darin Ruf in exchange for Howie Kendrick.

Sweeney, 26, made his major league debut in 2015 with the Phillies, hitting a meager .176/.286/.353 in 98 plate appearances. With Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, he hit .227/.290/.412 in 131 PA. While Sweeney’s bat hasn’t proven to be anything special, he has played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions, so his flexibility will make him useful at some point.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.