Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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Report: Bryce Harper has been playing through a shoulder injury for two months

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One of the greatest mysteries of the 2016 season is the day/night difference between Bryce Harper‘s first month or so, in which he raked just like he did in his 2015 MVP season, and the rest of the season where he’s been a shell of his former self.

The answer most often given is that pitchers stopped giving Harper anything good to hit and Harper showed that he couldn’t lay off the bad stuff, chasing balls or so-called “pitchers’ strikes” which were not in his wheelhouse. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, however, just reported a far more straightforward explanation: Harper has been playing through a right shoulder injury for the last two months. Verducci hears that Harper hurt his shoulder on a head-first slide and that his swing has been affected ever since.

The Nats’ GM, Mike Rizzo, denies the report, saying that “Tom Verducci is wrong.” Whether he’s denying the nature of the injury or the fact of its existence is an open question — executives have been vague about these things in the past — but there is some corroboration from Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, who says that Harper, who has missed four straight games, is suffering from both a neck and a shoulder issue.

Harper’s OPS by month certainly tells the story of someone who isn’t right: 1.121 (March/April); .785 (May); .801 (June); .621 (July); .544 (August). The real question now is will he be ready to play, and will he be effective, in October.

 

 

A-Rod batting third, DHing in his final Yankees game

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The lineup for tonight’s Rays-Yankees game is out. Alex Rodriguez is batting third and DHing. He hit cleanup last night, but by batting him third tonight Joe Girardi guarantees that he will come to the plate in the first inning.

Probably important as there are going to be various on-field and video-board-related tributes and festivities. There will be a career retrospective video, video messages of some kind — what they are are not yet known — and some sort of on-field presentation.

In other news, the Yankees, despite spending a good part of last year avoiding the promotion of A-Rod milestones for legal and financial reasons — have issued an A-Rod specific fact sheet to the media:

The game will be nationally televised on Fox.

 

A Core Four Farewell: Jeter, Rivera, Pettite and Posada praise A-Rod

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Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal got statements from each of the “Core Four” New York Yankees of the 1990s-2000s Yankee Dynasty: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.

All of them had good things to say about Alex Rodriguez, calling him a hard worker, a good teammate, a smart baseball mind and someone who cared about the game. You know, all of those things the media and fans claim he wasn’t even though they were in nowhere as good a position to know as those four guys.

OK, I realize that the rules for such farewell statements are the same as for funerals: if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I’m 100% certain that at one time or another each of those four was livid at A-Rod for something and obviously they’re not going to say it here. Still, the idea that one can hold two views of Alex Rodriguez — appreciate what was good about him even if there are things about him you didn’t care for —  is a pretty shocking concept for most people, even if we treat everyone else in the world that way. The statements:

Derek Jeter:

“I’ve spent 22 years playing against, playing with and watching Alex from afar, and there are two things that stand out to me the most: the conversations we had when we were young — hoping for the opportunity to play at the major league level and then somehow finding a way to stick around — and the championship we won together in 2009. That was a season everyone on that team could cherish.

“What people don’t realize is how much time, effort and work that Alex put in on a daily basis. He lives and breathes baseball. I know it will be difficult for him to not be on the field, but I’m sure he will continue to give back to the game. Congrats, Alex.”

Mariano Rivera:

“It was a privilege to play with Alex. Through his preparation and work ethic, you saw how much he cared about this game and about helping this team win.  I love him — as a friend and as a teammate. He was all you could ask for in both.”

Andy Pettitte:

“I had a chance to see Alex as a young player in the league, and I knew immediately he was going to be special. It was always fun competing against Alex, but I really enjoyed having the opportunity to play side-by-side with him in New York. He was a big reason we were able to win the 2009 World Series. I wish Alex and his family nothing but the best moving forward.”

Jorge Posada:

“Alex was not only one of the best players in the world, he was one of the smartest players on the field. It was such a great combination. Please go have fun and enjoy your family — you are an awesome dad. I’m very proud of you.”