Bill Baer

In this photo taken Oct. 1, 2015, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) bats against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning of a baseball game in Atlanta. Harper is a lot of things, namely the Washington Nationals’ best player and the reigning National League MVP. One thing he’s not is a leader. Harper arrived at Nationals spring training early and quietly took his place in the corner of the clubhouse with Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa. Even after being a unanimous MVP selection, the 23-year-old Harper would rather leave the leadership to those veterans. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis

Bryce Harper wore a hat that read “Make Baseball Fun Again” after Monday’s game

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Update (9:12 PM EST):  Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post put up a picture:

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The Nationals beat the Braves 4-3 at Turner Field in Monday’s Opening Day contest. Reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks and a solo home run, picking up right where he left off.

Harper made waves last month when ESPN ran a feature in their magazine about him. In that feature, Harper was quoted as saying, “Baseball is a tired sport because you can’t express yourself.” He was referring to young players such as himself, Jose Fernandez, and Yasiel Puig who have received criticism for the way they play the game. Harper has also been subject to violence twice in his brief playing career, as Cole Hamels intentionally threw a baseball at him and teammate Jonathan Papelbon choked him in the Nats’ dugout near the end of the regular season last year. Both Hamels and Papelbon defended themselves, more or less saying that they were trying to teach the young Harper the right way to play the game.

Harper’s comments were the main topic of conversation for a while after that piece in ESPN ran. Giants reliever Sergio Romo even told Harper to “shut up“.

Taking the whole situation in good humor, Harper wore a trucker hat that read “Make Baseball Fun Again” after Monday’s game as he prepared to speak to the media, CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Chase Hughes reports. That ostensibly references Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America great again.”

It’s good to see that Harper hasn’t been weighed down by the whole situation and is able to have a good sense of humor about it.

Video: Giants go back-to-back-to-back on Opening Day

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Is it an even year? The Giants must be good again. The club has won World Series in each of the last three even years — 2014, 2012, and 2010 — leading to a tongue-in-cheek belief of their even-year magic.

It was on full display on Opening Day at Miller Park against the Brewers. The club won convincingly 12-3, in part because of back-to-back-to-back homers hit in the eighth inning against Brewers reliever Ariel Pena.

Denard Span kicked it off with a three-run home run to right field. Joe Panik and Buster Posey followed up with solo shots — Panik to right, Posey to center.

Paul Goldschmidt gave his spacious locker to Rickie Weeks

Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt tosses the ball to the pitcher covering first base to get San Francisco Giants' Alejandro De Aza out during the ninth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Phoenix. The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 6-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
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Paul Goldschmidt already has a reputation as an upstanding guy, but this is sure to add to it. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the Diamondbacks’ first baseman gave up his spacious locker to Rickie Weeks because Weeks has more big league experience.

Goldschmidt, of course, didn’t have to do that. He’s unquestionably the best position player on the Diamondbacks’ roster and the face of the team. He has twice finished as a runner-up in National League MVP balloting. Weeks, on the other hand, has spent most of the past four years scuffling due to injuries and declining performance. No one would have batted an eye even if Goldschmidt had been pressured to give up the locker and refused.

Good guy, that Paul Goldschmidt.

Nick Markakis involved in first application of the new “Chase Utley” rule

Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis takes batting practice during a baseball spring training session on Thursday, Feb 25, 2016, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Curtis Compton /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)  MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Curtis Compton /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP
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In February, Major League Baseball added more specific language to its official rules in an attempt to better protect middle infielders from sliding base runners attempting to break up a double play. That was a result of Chase Utley‘s slide into Ruben Tejada during the NLCS last year, which resulted in a broken leg for Tejada.

Braves outfielder Nick Markakis had the ignominious honor of being the guinea pig for the application of the new rule. Markakis was on first base with one out in the bottom of the seventhwith Hector Olivera facing Nationals starter Max Scherzer. Olivera hit what seemed like a sure-thing double play ground ball to third baseman Anthony Rendon. Rendon whipped the ball to Daniel Murphy at second base for the first out, and Murphy tried to avoid a sliding Markakis but was too late on the throw to first base. However, the Nationals got credit for the double play after Markakis was called for an illegal slide.

Markakis slid past the second base bag. The new rules say “the runner is to slide so that he is able to or at least attempt to stay on the base”. Seems like the ump got this one right.

Here’s the link to the video on MLB.com. It’s not yet embeddable so you’ll have to watch it there for the time being.

Should the Indians get rid of Chief Wahoo?

FILE  - In this April 8, 2002 file photo, fans hold up Chief Wahoo logo signs as they celebrate the Cleveland Indians' opening win over the Minnesota Twins in Cleveland, Ohio. Many experts say using any human being as a mascot is demeaning regardless of the depiction, though communities at times have been reluctant to cede old traditions. The team continues to use the image of Chief Wahoo despite criticism from those who find it offensive. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File
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The Cleveland Indians haven’t gotten nearly as much flack as the Washington Redskins have for team-related racist connotations. For the Redskins, it’s right there in the name. For the Indians, it’s their logo mascot, Chief Wahoo.

This is not to say that the mascot hasn’t been a topic of conversation. In 2014, the American Indian Education Center planned a $9 billion lawsuit against the Indians over the use of the mascot. Ohio legislators Sherrod Brown [link] and Eric Kearney [link] have spoken out against Chief Wahoo. And to the Indians’ credit, the club has pushed more merchandise with the block C rather than the Wahoo logo, but then-president Mark Shapiro defended the use of Wahoo, saying it “represents the heritage of the team.”

Adding more fuel to the debate, Cory Collins wrote a compelling article for The Sporting News, arguing that the Indians should “retire Chief Wahoo completely”. Collins explains:

Michael Friedman, one of the authors of the Oneida-commissioned study, succinctly explained the impact to NPR:

“A series of studies show that if Native Americans are shown images of stereotypical Native American mascots … self-esteem goes down, belief in community goes down, belief in achievement goes down and mood goes down…

“If someone who is non-Native American sees a stereotypical image of a Native American mascot, their association with the Native American community also gets worse.”

At its most granular level, the NPR interview hit at the core of the problem in speaking with a Native American father, who remembered the seven words his son spoke after seeing the Washington logo: “Are they making fun of us, Dad?”

Controversy over the Indians’ logo isn’t anything new. Collins embedded a newspaper article from 1972 which reported on the Cleveland American Indian Center’s plan to file a lawsuit against the Indians. In Collins’ words, “Sound familiar?”

Collins makes a great argument and, ultimately, he’s right: the Indians, by continuing to promote the team and sell merchandise with the Chief Wahoo logo, they are allowing, “abetting, funding, and profiting from” racism. And the logo is still right there in the team’s online shop.