First comes shock, then denial

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Kurt Helin, at our NBC corporate cousin in Los Angeles, thinks that the Dodgers recent swoon is a good thing in that it will cause them to be challeneged and make their stomach muscles ripple and all of that:

Coasting can lead to a flat team not ready to rise to a challenge — and a couple months back that looked like the Dodgers. But their mediocre play has closed their lead and forced them to focus.

Now they have to be sharp. That will carry over into the playoffs (which the Dodgers almost certainly will still make).

Hey, I love optimism as much as the next guy, and to be fair to Kurt, that was written before last night’s extra-innings loss to the Rockies.  But I have a hard time buying this argument. 

Coasting into the playoffs may not have worked for last year’s Angels team (Helin’s primary example), but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in baseball who wouldn’t rather have a rested bullpen, experienced bench players and the ability to set up their rotation just the way they want to heading into October.

And of course, there’s the small matter of a team not being able to simply step on the gas when they want too.  Personally, I’d rather have to figure out a way to motivate a team that coasts into the playoffs than to have a sharply-honed and battle tested team that finishes a game out.  Wouldn’t you?

(link via BTF)

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.