Bill Baer

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reaches on a fielder's choice in the fourth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Tempers flare, benches clear during Sunday’s Nationals-Pirates game

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A fake tag by third baseman Jung Ho Kang led to a beanball and emptied benches during Sunday afternoon’s game between the Nationals and Pirates at PNC Park.

In the top of the third inning, Bryce Harper led off with a triple to right field. He ran hard towards third base and Kang feigned receiving a throw which had, in reality, missed the cut-off man. That caused Harper, who had already committed to sliding head-first into the third base bag, to come into the bag awkwardly, injuring his left hand. Harper stayed in the game initially, scoring on an Anthony Rendon single, but he did not take his position for the bottom half of the inning. Chris Heisey took his spot in right field.

On the Nationals’ television broadcast, former major leaguer F.P. Santangelo said, “Kang faked a tag. You don’t fake a tag in the big leagues. You don’t fake a tag anywhere — you can hurt somebody.”

Nationals starter A.J. Cole got two quick outs to start the bottom of the third, bringing up Kang. Cole immediately threw a fastball up and in at Kang, which ended up sailing behind his back. Cole was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Jordan Baker. Some Pirates and Nationals players spilled out onto the field and the rest of the players and bullpens joined them not too long after.

Sean Rodriguez, known for his temper, needed to be held back by Gerrit Cole and David Freese. Rodriguez was ejected by Baker as well. When order was restored, Rafael Martin took over for Cole and struck out Kang to end the frame.

Cole and Rodriguez are likely looking at fines and suspensions. The Nationals should have more on Harper’s status after Sunday’s game is completed.

Jose Fernandez was in the middle of baseball’s culture war

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins and Brian McCann #16 of the Atlanta Braves have words after a solo home run by Fernandez in the sixth inning during a game  at Marlins Park on September 11, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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A lot has been written since news of Jose Fernandez’s death broke early Sunday morning. Fernandez will be remembered fondly for the way he seemed to never stop smiling and for the way he competed on the field. Having already won the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year, it seemed inevitable that Fernandez would one day win a Cy Young Award. We were truly watching one of the best arms of this era and that was paired with a terrific personality. The combination is quite rare and the sport was made so much better in the four years during which Fernandez pitched.

Fernandez attempted to defect to the United States four times and was sent to prison after each of the first three unsuccessful attempts. On the fourth attempt, his mother was thrown overboard in choppy waters and Fernandez dove in to rescue her. Fernandez risked everything to come to the United States to play baseball and seek a better life for himself and his family. If anyone had a right to tell other players to “play the game the right way” or to “respect the game,” it would have been Fernandez. But he never did. He played every game like it was his first. He savored his time out on the baseball field.

When Fernandez somehow snagged a Troy Tulowitzki line drive, Tulo stopped in his tracks to ask him, “Did you catch that?” Fernandez, flashing his trademark smile, replied, “Yeah, I did.”

When Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster home run to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, Fernandez cheered like he had just won the lottery.

Most memorably, Fernandez took a moment to take in his first career home run, hit on September 12, 2013 against the Braves. He lifted a 1-0 Mike Minor change-up for a no-doubt home run just in front of the Clevelander sign beyond the left field fence at Marlins Mark. Fernandez took his time circling the bases and, as he passed third base, Chris Johnson chirped at him. Catcher Brian McCann confronted him at home plate and shortly thereafter, both benches emptied. Even during this tense moment, Fernandez was seen smiling. In the dugout, he had an expression on his face that seemed to say, “Really?”

Fernandez was not the most central figure in baseball’s culture war, but as one of baseball’s best and most well-known players, he was certainly in the middle with the likes of Yasiel Puig, Jose Bautista, and Carlos Gomez. The war was about baseball’s “unwritten rules” which were devised by a homogeneous group of players decades ago and still followed today, still a rather homogeneous group. Newer players, an increasingly diverse group, were expected to adhere to these rules despite the fact that many of them played the game in a culture where emotion and exuberance were a normal part of the game.

Fernandez’s death should be a reminder that, when all is said and done, baseball is just a game and we’re meant to have fun with it. He was the embodiment of fun on the baseball field. In his memory, players should admire their handiwork on the field. Flip a bat after hitting a foul ball, like Odubel Herrera. Bat flip a fly out, like Puig. Players should laugh and pump their fists and cheer as if they might never have a chance to do it again. Because they might not.

Steve Clevenger apologizes for “beyond poorly” worded tweets

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 14:  Steve Clevenger #32 of the Seattle Mariners hits a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Safeco Field on May 14, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
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Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger made some regrettable tweets on Thursday night, giving his opinion on current events, including Black Lives Matter and recent protests regarding police brutality. The Mariners issued a statement, distancing themselves from Clevenger’s remarks.

Shortly after midnight on the East coast, Clevenger himself issued an apology of sorts. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

It’s a rambling apology. And, to be frank, it’s a weak apology as he blames readers for “[reading] into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel.” A simple, “I said a bad thing and I’m sorry” would have sufficed.