There was a dustup late last week — maybe less, than a dustup, but that’s the most minor word I can think of to describe “a thing people on those ESPN shout shows felt was worth talking about” — regarding Bryce Harper using one of Yasiel Puig’s bats in a game. I was in a pizza place Friday night where there was a TV tuned to one of those shoes and, on a split screen featuring two reporters who like to yell about things, were the words “Harper Used Puig’s Bat.” So I suppose that’s a controversy of some kind.
Not much of one, though. As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, Harper uses bats from lots of other players. Or at least their models, on a more or less constant try-out basis. If he likes one, he orders them with his name on them. There’s a whole family tree of bat usage, actually. Manny Ramirez had a model he liked named after him, which Ian Desmond adopted and now Harper is trying that one too. Eventually he’ll find one he likes for a while and it will be a Harper.
So it’s just a really inside baseball tech story, not a statement or an instance of guys who are supposed to be competing against one another being too friendly for the tastes of some people or whatever. An inside baseball tech story that would probably be pretty fascinating to known more about, actually. Someone with an attention span: please give us the definitive history of bat models, please. Along with one of those illustrated family trees. I’d buy a print of that.
Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.
It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.
Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:
He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.
“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”
The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.