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Chris Archer hopes the U.S. World Baseball Classic team can unite America

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Chris Archer and Team U.S.A. begin play in the World Baseball Classic on Friday. They stand as good a chance at winning as the U.S. team ever does. That chance: decent enough, given their talent, even if they don’t have the best available U.S. talent.

Archer, however, has greater aspirations for the Team U.S.A. than merely winning the WBC. He wants it to help unite America. At least for a while. Via ESPN.com:

“Given the timing and the circumstances of our country, I think it’s a great opportunity for us, temporarily, to show we are united, regardless of the turmoil and things going on here and other places in the world. So it’s always been a dream. And what’s going on in the country right now makes it even better.”

Archer didn’t get super specific about that turmoil, but he expanded a bit on what he hoped the U.S. team could show:

“Just that we are all unified, at least in my opinion. And it is a beautiful country of diversity and freedom and a lot of other things that other countries don’t have. So for this moment in time, for this next two weeks, we’re going to put on this jersey with pride and show we’re diverse, we’re united, and what USA is really all about.”

It’s an admirable sentiment. And the idea that sports can help unify people is an admirable aspiration.

I suspect, however, that a baseball tournament that many actual baseball players don’t care about isn’t going to register very strongly with a great number of Americans. And I fear that our divisions are so strong that virtually nothing can break through them. At least for the time being.

 

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.