Smoltz falls short in bid to qualify for U.S. Open

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smoltz-golf-100510.jpgWe learned last week that former pitching great John Smoltz was going to play in a local qualifier in hopes of advancing to play in one of golf’s biggest tournaments: the U.S. Open.

Unfortunately, we find out today that Smoltz, despite carrying a 2-handicap, came up short. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

He didn’t embarrass himself, but didn’t make it, either. His 6-over 76 was six shots away from contention. Smoltz didn’t play poorly, but he failed to hit his approach shots close enough to give himself a chance to make birdies.

The real difference came on the greens, where Smoltz had trouble getting anything to drop. After missing a two-footer on his 11th hole, he quipped, “That’s what happens when you don’t putt gimmes.” He later predicted a putter change, saying he’d probably make a call to the bullpen for one of the 25 different putters he owns.

Despite his putting woes, Smoltz showed he still had the ability to close the deal when he banged in a 20-footer to save par on the final hole, a conclusion that drew applause from the 100 or more who gathered there to watch.

His dream temporarily dashed, Smoltz will return to broadcasting games for MLB and the Turner Network, and presumably, since he has yet to retire, searching for a team. Smoltz has said he would like to play on the Champions Tour when he becomes eligible – by turning 50 – in 2017. With seven years to practice, and Smoltz’s competitive fire, don’t be surprised if it happens.

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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.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.