Chipper Jones replaces Matt Kemp on NL All-Star team

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It’s a case of very unusual timing, what with Chipper Jones currently leading the NL Final Vote, but the National League announced Tuesday that Jones would replace the injured Matt Kemp on the All-Star team.

The most recent reports had Chipper holding a slim lead in the Final Vote balloting over Cardinals third baseman David Freese, with Bryce Harper in third place.

Final Vote balloting ends Thursday afternoon, so it’s hard to see why the league didn’t just wait until then to announce Kemp’s replacement. If Freese goes on to win the balloting, it would give the NL team four third basemen, which hardly seems necessary. Now that Chipper is out of the mix, Harper figures to pick up more votes from the non-St. Louis contingent. Harper, of course, threw his support behind Chipper when the ballot was announced Sunday.

It will be Chipper’s eighth All-Star nod. The 1999 NL MVP and future Hall of Famer announced earlier this year that he’d retire at season’s end.

As for Kemp, he’s still expected to take part in Monday’s Home Run Derby, even though he’s on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Ryan Braun automatically replaces him in the starting lineup because of his placement in the player’s vote, but this still gives manager Tony La Russa a decision to make, as Braun was the obvious choice to start at DH if Kemp had been able to play. Now La Russa can take his pick. Carlos Gonzalez is one possibility. David Wright could be another, particularly if Freese wins the Final Vote and gives the team the extra third baseman.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.