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Ballparks are adding spaces for players to let out their anger

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Remember that time David Ortiz destroyed the bullpen phone in the dugout at Camden Yards? It was an understated dangerous moment for everyone else in the Red Sox dugout. An angry 6’3, 230-pound man was furiously repeatedly swinging a bat within feet of his teammates against the phone, causing the bat to break into shards.

What if there were a designated space for players to let out their anger? Let’s say, a safe space? Some ballparks are doing just that, as James Wagner of the New York Times reports.

Miller Park has installed an Everlast heavy bag in the bathroom of the visitor’s dugout. Mets second baseman Neil Walker said, “I’ve beaten that bag up a few times,” referring to some frustrating moments against the Brewers as a member of the Pirates.

Turner Field, too, has a punching bag, installed in the visitor’s dugout tunnel. Wagner spoke to clubhouse manager John Holland, who said, “We’re trying to minimize the damage.”

Wagner notes that players have other methods of dealing with frustration. Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur prefers to throw his bat at a wall. Cubs starter John Lackey not only yells at himself, but has taken his anger out on tables and chairs for which he’s had to pay clubhouse assistants.

Other players, like Yoenis Cespedes, are more zen. “I go sit down and think about what I did wrong so that the next time I can do better,” Cespedes said.

Athletes taking their anger out in violent, unhealthy ways is nothing new, so it’s great that some steps are being taken to reactively deal with it. However, my other response to Wagner’s article is: why are men so angry? It’s not just athletes. Men overwhelmingly commit the majority of violent crimes. That may be, in part, because we teach boys not to show weakness, and to respond to perceived slights by violence. Why do you think it’s embedded in baseball’s unwritten rules that if a batter shows up a pitcher, that pitcher should retaliate by throwing a 95 MPH fastball at the offender’s ribs?

What if, instead, we taught boys that it’s okay to feel sad or embarrassed or angry, and that it’s okay to talk about it? To that point, we have also socially demonized seeking help for mental health. What if we taught them that violence, no matter what — whether it’s directed at a person or an inanimate object — is an unhealthy response?

Maybe ballparks wouldn’t need to install punching bags in bathrooms to that angry players don’t put their teammates’ safety at risk, the way Ortiz did.

Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the nachos guy from yesterday’s game

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In the bottom of the second inning of Monday night’s game at Busch Stadium, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell dove into the stands down the left field line in an attempt to catch a foul ball. A Cardinals fan holding a tray of nachos was in Russell’s path and had his tasty treat knocked onto the dirt in front of the stands. Russell did the fan a solid, though, bringing him a new tray of nachos and posed for a selfie. The fan was also later seen taking selfies with other fans.

That peeved Cubs starter Jon Lester, who started Monday’s game. Via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Great effort,” pitcher Jon Lester said. “But I don’t understand the other stuff.

“A guy fell into him and got nacho cheese on his arm and now he’s taking pictures and signing autographs. It shows you where our society’s at right now with all that stuff.”

It wasn’t like Lester had a poor outing and that’s why he was salty. The lefty yielded just one run on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts over six innings. Lester just, uh, hates selfies, I guess? I’m also not sure how the whole scenario is a reflection of American society, unless he means that people can turn a disappointing situation into a fun and heartwarming situation.

At least Russell and Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a good sense of humor about it. Maddon said the whole thing was “pretty entertaining.” Russell said, “You don’t get between a man and his nachos.”

Bryce Harper activated from the disabled list

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The Nationals have activated Bryce Harper from the disabled list.

They were expected to activate Harper yesterday but they didn’t because Harper was suffering from an illness. He’s better today so he should be in the lineup against the Phillies.

Harper has been out since August when he slipped on a wet first base bag and was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his left knee. That interrupted an MVP-caliber season in which he was hitting .326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances. While the postseason awards are out of his reach, the Nats will be content to get him back up to speed in time for what looks to be a first round playoff matchup against the Chicago Cubs.