One of the more insulting columns you’ll read this season

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T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times has a shtick. He’s used it over and over again.  It’s this: insult, bait and pester a given Dodgers or Angels player and hope against hope that they’ll spout off in anger so that he can print a juicy quote and follow it up with his “man, what’s his problem?” rebop.  Even better, they say nothing, so he can call the guy standoffish or aloof or whatever.  I think Simers has his charms at times, but this bit is tired and offensive and has been for years.

But at least most of the time he uses it against a big star like Manny Ramirez or Torii Hunter who, while it’s no more fair to them, is at least something their time in the spotlight has conditioned them to handle. What gives with today’s broadside against Marcus Thames, though? Simers starts off by calling him a no-name and a head case. He makes fun of his surname. He calls him a stiff. And that was before he had even spoken with him. This was how Simers introduced himself, referring to Thames’ limited playing time over the years:

“Are you that horrible on defense that teams don’t think it’s worth playing such a home run threat?” I asked by way of introduction.

And it just goes on and on like that, with Simers ripping Thames — who wisely smiled politely but did not respond to the bait — and then ripping Don Mattingly who tried to explain to Simers that, you know, Thames is on the team for his bat and that he’s a platoon player. Simers’ response:

So now we understand the Dodgers have a guy in left who can’t catch, can’t hit right-handed pitchers and can’t answer questions about his obvious shortcomings.

And team P.R. people are worried about allowing bloggers to have press passes because of concerns about decorum? Mercy.

Attention Los Angeles Times sports page: I was concerned that you’d never do anything to bring more embarrassment upon yourself than to feature Bleacher Report boobie slideshows next to the content of your paid writing staff, but at the moment I’m struggling to see how continuing to allow Simers to pull this low-rent garbage is much better.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell’s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Nationals plan to activate Bryce Harper on Monday

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The Nationals are planning to activate Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Janes adds that Harper has been taking his knee injury on a day-to-day basis, so if he experiences pain ahead of tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, then the Nationals won’t activate him.

Harper, 24, suffered a knee injury running out a grounder last month against the Giants. The Nationals hope to get him into some game action before the end of the regular season just so he can get acclimated in time for the playoffs.

When Harper returns, he’ll look to improve on his .326/.419/.614 slash line with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances.