Darwin Barney is not the Cubs’ savior

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Shorter version of Gordon Wittenmyer’s article on Cubs’ second baseman Darwin Barney today: “Look! A weighted random number generator just produced a new batch of numbers! Let’s use them to build narratives!*”

But as the Cubs open their toughest stretch of the season tonight in St. Louis, with temptation growing daily to wrap Albert Pujols in a $300 million bear hug, save the hugs for guys such as the rookie Barney. He’s this team’s future, with the Cubs expected to keep building from within even as tens of millions of dollars fall off the payroll books each of the next two years.

That could be a good thing if Barney keeps developing at this pace. He’s already showing leadership skills and is a stabilizing influence in the middle of the Cubs’ diamond, paired with sophomore hitting star Starlin Castro.

Barney is 25 years-old.  In nearly 1700 minor league at bats, he has a line of .286/.334/.374, including ten home runs total.  That he has an empty batting average so far in the bigs this season is not much of a surprise. But it’s only going to get emptier.  Wittenmyer’s “developing at this pace” comment is most curious because there’s absolutely no evidence that he has “developed” at all.  There is no suggestion in his professional career that what we’re seeing from him right now is anything other than a modest uptick in batting average, accompanied by little if anything useful in his peripherals.

Which isn’t to say that Barney is a bad player or that he can’t be useful. It simply means that the fact that he is currently, technically, a .300 hitter is misleading in the extreme. He has the kind of bat that would make him a decent utility infielder and a spot starter. A role player, not the kind of guy you build a team around. A fairly standard issue short white middle infielder who “plays the game the right way,” and “does the little things right.”

You know, the kind with whom sports writers just can’t seem to quit falling in love.

 

*No, I did not come up with that myself, but boy howdy it’s the best explanation of this business I’ve ever seen.

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.