And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Indians 3, Red Sox 2: There are certain games in which teams of destiny define themselves. I’m not saying the Indians are that kind of team — hell, I’m just as confused as the rest of you and thus will make no claim to being on the bandwagon earlier than anyone — but if they do turn out to be that kind of team, this game will be featured prominently in the highlight DVD at the end of the year. As lightning flashed and thunder crashed just west of the ballpark, the Indians came from behind in the eighth inning thanks to a Michael Brantley RBI single and then an RBI double by that man, Asdrubal Cabrera, scoring Brantley. Chris Perez allowed two base runners in the 9th but induced a Carl Crawford GIDP to end it.

Astros 4, Dodgers 3: Some comebacks may be season-of-destiny-defining, but just because your season isn’t destined for anything special doesn’t mean that a comeback can’t simply be fun. Bill Hall was 4 for 4 with two doubles, but it was his single in the bottom of the ninth that helped key the Astros’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit when they were down to their last out. That and a little double steal action that put Hall at third and pinch hitter Angel Sanchez at second to score on Michael Bourn’s game-tying double.  Two batters later Hunter Pence singled Bourn in for the game-winner.

Brewers 11, Nationals 3: Corey Hart blasts three homers and drives in seven. Coming in to this game he was batting .237/.275/.329 with no homers and a single RBI.

Phillies 10, Reds 3: Chase Utley returns and with him comes the offense. Of course correlation is not the same thing as causation so don’t read too deeply into his 0 for 5 night. Placido Polanco, Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry Jr. each had a couple of RBI, however, and that made for Philly’s biggest offensive night since, like, ever.

Tigers 6, Rays 3: Close until the eighth when the Tigers strung together two two-run hits off Juan Cruz. Tigers starter Phil Coke left the game in the top of the fourth after injuring his ankle whilst chasing a bunt. He was replaced by rookie lefty Charlie Furbush, who picked up the win in his major league debut. In other news, there is a pitcher named Charlie Furbush.

Mariners 8, Twins 7: Good thing the Twins traded top prospect Wilson Ramos for Proven Closer Matt Capps last year, because there is no way that Jon Rauch or someone else who has not gone on the Proven Closer Vision Quest and had the secrets of the Proven Closer Elders handed down to them could have blown that save in the ninth last night.

Rangers 4, White Sox 0: Josh Hamilton returns with a bang, homering in the first inning of his first game since April 12th. Meanwhile, Alexi Ogando’s post-blister problem run continues nicely, as he takes his third straight decision in what was his best start of the year so far (CG, SHO 5 H).

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 3: Bartolo Colon follows his best start of the year up with his worst. Well, his second worst, but it looks bad compared to that gem against Baltimore last week.  Carlos Villanueva filled in for Jesse Litsch nicely, allowing one run on two hits over five innings. J.P. Arencibia had four RBI and Jose Bautista hit a homer.

Angels 4, Athletics 1: Torii Hunter was the hero in the field and at the plate, nailing Andy LaRoche as he tried to score in the seventh and driving in the go-ahead run with a double in the eighth. On a night when some teams who had not been scoring runs lately broke out with some nice offense, the Athletics remain in the offensive desert.

Cardinals 3, Padres 1: At least the A’s have some company in the offensive desert, as San Diego continues to treat run scoring as if it were radioactive or something. And hey, Albert Pujols hit a homer!

Bryce Harper is really just a tiny bit better Adam Lind when you think about it

Associated Press
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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post writes about an important matter facing the Washington Nationals over the next year: what to do about Bryce Harper, who is entering his walk year and will be a free agent a little over 12 months from now.

That’s a fine and important question. The Nats do need to decide whether to offer Harper a long term deal, when to offer it and, above all else, how big that deal should be. Should it be $300 million? $400 million? Should it be conventional or unconventional, with opt-outs and such? It’s not every day that a generational talent comes along and it’s even more rare that the generational talent hits free agency at the age of 26, so the decisions facing the Nationals are not easy ones.

Boswell acknowledges that bit of trickiness, but he also, strangely, spends a whole lot of time trying to portray Harper as an ordinary talent. He starts with health, comparing him poorly with Stephen Strasburg, who is ranked 30th in games started over the past five years. In contrast . . .

In those same five years, Harper ranks 90th in games played, just 126 a season, and now he says he should have skipped quite a few more games in 2016 when he had a balky shoulder. That’s almost six weeks out per season.

Nowhere in the column is it mentioned that the several weeks he missed in 2017 was the result of a freak injury in wet conditions and that, despite that, Harper worked his tail off to come back and be ready for the postseason. Not that Boswell doesn’t mention the postseason of course . . .

Harper, for the fourth time, failed to lead his team out of the first round and has career playoff batting average and OPS marks of .215 and .801. By the high standards of right fielders, he’s Mr. Average in October.

I suppose it’s not Boswell’s job to refrain from insulting a player on the team he covers, but he certainly seems hellbent on insulting not only Harper, but our own intelligence via comparisons like this:

In the past five years, in those 126 games, Harper averaged 26 homers, 72 RBI and a .288 average. Over the last nine years, Adam Lind averaged 128 games, 20 homers, 70 RBI and hit .273. That’s selective stat mining. Harper is much better, in part because he walks so much. But Harper and Lind in the same sentence?

“A person can eat delicious chocolate cake or lead paint chips. The chocolate cake is much better, but chocolate cake and lead paint in the same sentence?” I guess Boswell gets points for acknowledging that it was a misleading comparison, but if he thinks it is, why make it in the first place? If you want to eliminate this one as an outlier, cool, because he makes a lot of other comparisons like that in the piece.

This is not necessarily new for Boswell. Here’s something he wrote about Harper in 2014:

Harper has not driven in 60 runs in either of his two seasons. He has only five RBI this year. He’s never had more than 157 runs-plus-RBI. Ryan Zimmerman has had between 163 and 216 six times. Adam LaRoche, no big star, has had 175 or more three times. Fourth outfielder Nate McLouth once had 207. Can we get a grip? Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player. If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twice. Harper is in a self-conscious, fierce scowl-off with baseball. Rendon dances with it and grins. Baseball loves relaxed.

That was written 16 games into his age-22 season.

I’m not sure what Boswell’s beef with Harper is. I’m not sure why he’s contorting himself to portray him as an ordinary player when he is fairly extraordinary and, most certainly, a special case when it comes to his impending free agency. In his career he already has 26.1 career bWAR, 150 homers, an MVP Award under his belt and, if it wasn’t for that freak injury in August, would have a strong case for a second one. Guy has a career line of .285/.386/.515 and he turned 26 four days ago. He’s younger than Aaron Judge.

My view of things is that players should ignore the media for the most part, but they don’t always do that. Sometimes the hostility or criticism of the local press — especially from the most respected portions of the local press who have the ability to shape fan sentiment — gets to them.

Which is to say that, if this kind of noise keeps up, I wouldn’t be shocked if Harper puts up a line of .340/.480/.650 in 2018 and then walked the hell out of D.C. for New York or Chicago or L.A. or something. Would anyone blame him?