Phillies' Howard smiles after scoring the game-winning run against the Astros during their National League baseball game in Philadelphia

Ryan Howard is delusional

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Ryan Howard had a great game last night — 4 for 4, a homer, two doubles, a walk and two RBI — and he’s had a hot start. So maybe what he had to say after last night’s game can be chalked up to adrenaline or something. But whatever caused him to say this, it’s not reality-based:

“The statement we’ve made is us being us,” Howard said. “A lot of people counted us out.”

Who counted you out, Ryan?  Who counted out the team that has only dropped one game? That has the best rotation in baseball? That has won its division for four straight years and even on the young season remains in first place? That was picked by a plurality if not a majority of commentators (this one included) to with the NL pennant?  I’ve seen concern voiced about the lineup and team health, but I’ve not seen anyone’s concern that even approached a level of counting you out.  People have counted the Pirates out. No one, unless they’re just trolling for a reaction, has counted the Phillies out.

I don’t mean to pick on Howard. For one thing it’s possible that this was taken out of context and he was referring only to the team’s offense (UPDATE: confirmed, he was talking just about the offense), though that would be silly, because they’ve only had one game in which they haven’t scored at least five runs (they’ve gone 5, 9, 7, 1, and 10).  And of course he’s a sensible and thoughtful guy who normally gives sensible and thoughtful quotes. But it says something about the athlete’s psyche if even someone as level-headed as Ryan Howard feels like he has to play the “no one believed in us card.” I think someone — maybe Nick Swisher or CC Sabathia — said something along these lines about the Yankees last week. too. That was still crazy, but it was even less crazy for a 2011 Yankees player to say it than a 2011 Phillies player.

But hey, if this kind of thing is motivating Howard — and the fact that he is now batting .524 on the season shows that, yep, he’s motivated — good for him.

(thanks to Jeremy for the heads up)

Jake Arrieta almost quit baseball

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 29: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs scratches his beard as he walks back to the dugout at the end of sixth inning after giving up a three run home run to Gregory Polanco #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates (not pictured) at Wrigley Field on August 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner and author of two no-hitters, considered quitting baseball a few years ago when he was bounced up and down between the major leagues and the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia.

At the time, Arrieta was having trouble living up to his potential as one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects. He started on Opening Day in 2012, but finished the season with a 6.20 ERA and was very quickly moved back to Norfolk after four mediocre starts to begin the 2013 season.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Arrieta was considering quitting baseball so that his family could have a regular life.

We were at a point where I had other things that I could segue into and establish a career elsewhere. Not that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t want to continue to go through the things we were going through and moving from place to place in the minor leagues at 25, 26 years old.

Baseball is something that I’ve loved to do since I was a little kid, but it’s not everything. I had to reevaluate some things. I knew I could always pitch this way, but there were times where it seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to get to that point.

It’s just part of life that we had to deal with.

Mooney also points out that Arrieta had a business background having gone to Texas Christian University and would have done something in that field if he had hung up the spikes.

This has been brought up because Arrieta’s teammate Tommy La Stella considered quitting baseball as well recently, as the Cubs demoted him to Triple-A. Though La Stella received a lot of criticism, Arrieta can relate to La Stella. The right-hander said, “I know that there were things that he was going through and dealing with (that) we may not agree with and understand.”

The National Anthem: an unwavering sports tradition . . . since the 1940s

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Associated Press
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There’s an interesting article over that the New York Times in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick stuff. This one is about the history of the National Anthem at sporting events.

The anthem is a fixture for as long as those of us reading this blog have been attending games and it’d be weird if it wasn’t there. But it hasn’t always been there, the Times notes. Indeed, it was not a regular fixture until 1942 when it was added for the obvious reason that we were at war. The other major sports leagues all adopted the anthem soon after. The NBA at the inception of the league in 1946 and the NHL in the same year. The NFL’s spokesman doesn’t mention a year, but notes that it’s a non-negotiable part of the game experience. The non-negotiability of it is underscored by the comment from the MLS spokesman who notes that they felt that they had no choice but to play the anthem when that league began play in the 1990s.

I like the anthem at ballgames. It just seems like part of the experience. I like it for its own sake, at least if the performance isn’t too over the top, and I like it because it serves as a nice demarcation between all of the pregame b.s. and the actual game starting.

But this article reminds us that there is no immutable structural reason for the anthem at games. Other countries don’t play their own anthems at their sporting events. We don’t play it before movies or plays or other non-sports performances. It’s a thing that we do which, however much of a tradition it has become, is somewhat odd when you think about it for a moment. And which has to seem pretty rote to the actual ballplayers who hear it maybe 180 times a year.