bryce harper getty

Bryce Harper accused of begging out of a game in order to avoid Jose Fernandez and preserve a hitting streak

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If you thought the Washington Post’s Tom Boswell was provocative in calling Bryce Harper his seventh-best player in his latest column, get a load of his answer during his chat on the Nationals this morning:

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Unlike the thing about Harper being the seventh-best player — which was Boswell’s own, possibly disingenuous assertion — this sounds way more like Boswell passing along scuttlebutt of what he’d heard from Nats players, coaches and/or execs. We’re in no position to know for sure, but talking to some Nats fans on Twitter who pay close attention to coverage of the team reveals that Boswell’s m.o. is more about being a conduit for internal team sentiment and using his chats to mention things that he may not be able to get into a column than it is about stirring crap for its own sake. And, based on reading Boswell for nearly 20 years myself, he has never struck me as the sort of guy who gets all huffy about someone and then decides to mount a campaign against them a la Plaschke (see, Plaschke vs. Paul DePodesta, Plaschke vs. Puig, etc.).

So, what to make of this? Maybe I’m wrong and Boswell is just beating up an attractive target for the hell of it. Maybe someone — or many someones — on the Nats is suspicious of Harper. Maybe it’s the totally unhinged thoughts of one player on a bad day. Maybe there’s an undercurrent of anti-Harper sentiment on the team. Maybe Harper is legitimately reverting to some of the stuff that made him look a little bad when he was 16 or 17 or whatever and it’s rubbing people the wrong way.

But we can at least say that it’s not that often a veteran team which many think is playoff-bound gets catty like this in front of reporters. Implying that a guy oversold an injury in order to duck a tough pitcher is a pretty serious accusation, be it made anonymously or not. It’s something worth watching.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.

Raines to wear an Expos cap, Pudge to wear a Rangers cap on their Hall of Fame plaques

1990:  Outfielder Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos in action. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
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There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.

Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.

Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.

With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.

Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.