Loving and hating Bryce Harper

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NBC’s Jelisa Castrodale considers the phenomenon that is Bryce Harper. And, after noting his … uniqueness …

He was the guy who smudged his eyeblack down onto his cheekbones, the guy who cost his team a National Junior College World Series after an ejection and suspension, the one who blew a kiss to an opposing Single-A pitcher as he jogged around the bases. And let’s face it, his name is Bryce. BRYCE. That could only be more irritating if his parents had gone with EdHardyNickelbackCrocs …

Notes that he also has the potential to be everything we want in a ballplayer:

I’ll take Harper’s in-your-face ambition and (sometimes cringeworthy) honesty over other young players who hide their fake humility behind equally forced smiles. Harper’s willingness to tell you exactly what he thinks — whether arguing a call inches from an umpire’s face or admitting he “likes showing up the older guys” — is why he was booed during his debut at Dodger Stadium and why Hamels parked a 93 mph fastball in his back.

Ironically, despite all of the criticism about his own behavior, Harper seems to bring out the worst in other people, whether it’s coming from Hamels’ left arm or out of the mouths of the scouts who evaluated him as a pre-draft prospect.

It’s a good nutshell of Harper. And posits, quite accurately, I think, that in a lot of ways, this young brash pain in the butt is far more “Old School” than those who claim he needs a baseball education in that regard.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.