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Tempers flare during Mets-Phillies game, Pete Mackanin ejected

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On September 22 last year, the Mets hosted the Phillies at Citi Field. While the Phillies’ hopes had already been dashed, the Mets were in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. They were on a three-game losing streak and were on their way to a fourth when shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera changed that, swatting a walk-off three-run home run off of Edubray Ramos in the bottom of the 11th inning. Cabrera flung his bat and raised his arms in triumph.

It was a scene that Ramos apparently hasn’t forgotten. With the Mets in Philadelphia facing the Phillies for the first time this season, Ramos got the opportunity to face Cabrera with one out in the top of the eighth inning of a 2-2 game on Monday night. The first pitch Ramos threw to Cabrera was a fastball high and inside, not anywhere close to the strike zone, hitting the backstop when catcher Cameron Rupp couldn’t reach far enough to catch it. Cabrera, understandably, wasn’t happy about it and began walking towards Ramos. Ramos started walking in as well, and Rupp intervened with Cabrera before anything could happen.

Home plate umpire Alan Porter issued warnings to both benches, which drew Phillies manager Pete Mackanin’s ire. Mackanin was very visibly frustrated with Porter as he attempted to get an explanation, but ended up getting ejected. Ramos finished out the at-bat with Cabrera by walking him. After getting Yoenis Cespedes to strike out, Joely Rodriguez relieved Ramos and promptly served up a tie-breaking two-run home run to Jay Bruce — his second homer of the night.

Entering Monday’s appearance, Ramos had unintentionally walked 11 of the 174 batters he faced in the majors, a low 6.3 percent rate. He displayed similarly good control in the minors, unintentionally walking 49 of 833 batters faced (7.7%). It would seem especially coincidental that a reliever with the caliber of control that Ramos has displayed would just happen to throw so wildly at a batter who showed him up in a very memorable moment last season. Perhaps that is enough for commissioner Rob Manfred to take a look into the matter and punish Ramos.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Nationals plan to activate Bryce Harper on Monday

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The Nationals are planning to activate Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Janes adds that Harper has been taking his knee injury on a day-to-day basis, so if he experiences pain ahead of tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, then the Nationals won’t activate him.

Harper, 24, suffered a knee injury running out a grounder last month against the Giants. The Nationals hope to get him into some game action before the end of the regular season just so he can get acclimated in time for the playoffs.

When Harper returns, he’ll look to improve on his .326/.419/.614 slash line with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances.