Comparing and contrasting Joe Mauer and Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper2.jpgI’ve been critical of Bryce Harper skipping two years of high school in order to become draft eligible this year. I’ve done so as a father who has been kind of freaking the hell out recently over just how fast his kids seem to be growing up and as a man who wonders from time to time what happened to his youth.  It’s subjective, I know. I don’t know the first thing about Bryce Harper the young man and even less about his parents. He may wind up being the most well-adjusted guy on the block.  I have no idea, really. When I write about Harper’s life choices I’m fretting, and I admit that.

FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi frets too, for many of the same reasons, and channels his fretting into a compare-and-contrast between Harper and Joe Mauer, concluding that, all things being equal, Harper shouldn’t have left school early:

Harper is probably a nice kid. I don’t know. I’ve never met him. But I
am certain of this: Right now, he is one terrible role model. And that
has nothing to do with the fact that he was recently ejected from a game
for taunting.

In baseball, “staying in school” used to refer
to college juniors who elected not to sign and instead returned for
their senior years. But here comes Harper, bolting from high school
before he could park with the upperclassmen.

It’s not right.
But it’s legal under the current basic agreement. If baseball isn’t
careful, Harper might inspire a legion of followers — and few, if any,
will possess the same ability. That is bad for the game and worse for
the kids. They will be like the teenagers who skipped college to chase
their hoop dreams … only to wind up with the Fargo-Moorhead Beez.

I worry less about the copycat thing than Morosi does, simply because it’s probably a lot harder for a GED-taking high school kid to latch on to a college program than it is for a high school basketball player to simply declare for the draft, so to the extent this is about example-setting I think Morosi is overstating the concern.

Beyond that, I’m not overly-impressed with the Mauer comparison.  I’m sure Mauer is a great guy and everything, but as I read through Morosi’s take on it, I couldn’t help but think that everyone’s situation is different and we’d probably be better off not judging the decisions parents and their children make. At least the not obviously-ridiculous ones. $25,000 sweet sixteen parties are unadulterated evil, but I knew a couple of people who went into engineering school at age 16 and they turned out OK (I’m sure they would have remained virgins at 30 even if they had played out the full high school string). A baseball player who is clearly ready for the next step should be allowed to do it too.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m officially flip-flopping on the whole “let’s beat up Bryce Harper and his folks over putting him into the draft early” thing.  It’s inconsistent I know, but as I tell my children, I always reserve the right to change my mind.

Brewers hold off the Dodgers to force Game 7 of the NLCS

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Down 3-2 in the NLCS, the Brewers faced a must-win situation during Game 6 on Friday. Any residual uncertainty they might have felt about their chances of extending the series was all but resolved in the first inning, however, when Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas, and Erik Kratz combined for a four-run spread to take an early lead. Powered by those early-game RBI, as well as masterful performances from Wade Miley, Corey Knebel, and Corbin Burnes, the club surged to a 7-2 win to pull even with the Dodgers and force a Game 7 tiebreaker.

Left-hander Wade Miley trounced the Dodgers in 4 1/3 innings of two-run, four-strikeout ball. He was bested by David Freese in the very first at-bat of the night, which culminated with a 402-footer to right field to put Los Angeles on the board, 1-0. After a few scoreless innings from the Dodgers, Freese returned to torment Miley in the top of the fifth, this time with an RBI double that narrowed the Brewers’ advantage from four runs to three.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for opposing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the bottom of the first inning, Ryu allowed a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, followed by a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun. Jesús Aguilar came up to bat with two out and two on, then smacked a two-RBI line drive double to right field. Moustakas and Kratz went back-to-back-to-back with Aguilar, putting up another three runs on an RBI double and single, respectively.

The Brewers kept rolling in the second inning. Christian Yelich and Braun each collected a double off of Ryu, bringing Milwaukee’s lead to 5-1 over Los Angeles. Braun advanced to third on a Travis Shaw groundout, but with Aguilar up to bat, Ryu wasn’t going to chance a repeat of the Dodgers’ first-inning debacle. He intentionally walked Aguilar, then whiffed Moustakas on three straight fastballs to cap the inning.

By the time both Miley and Ryu were forced from the mound, the Brewers stood 5-2 above their opponents. Right-hander Corey Knebel worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, striking out Manny Machado to eliminate another potential rally from the Dodgers in the fifth inning and retiring all four batters in the sixth (save for Joc Pederson, who reached base after taking a 96.3-MPH fastball to the wrist). The righty received another significant opportunity to do some damage against the Dodgers in the bottom of the fifth, when he came up to bat for the first time in his professional career with the bases loaded and two outs… but saw just four pitches before swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

After Ryu’s unexpected departure in the third, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts cycled through five pitchers — Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Kenta Maeda — in an attempt to squelch the Brewers’ comeback. The bullpen combined for four consecutive scoreless frames, but was ultimately foiled in the seventh, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, a wild pitch from Maeda ricocheted off the front of home plate and allowed Aguilar to plate yet another insurance run. Still not content with a two-hit, two-RBI performance, Aguilar came back in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single — only moments after a failed double play that would have ended the inning — to bring the Brewers to a cushy 7-2 advantage as they entered the ninth.

No similar last-minute rallies awaited the Dodgers there. Rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes orchestrated another flawless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, retiring Pederson and Puig with consecutive strikeouts and inducing a game-inning, series-extending pop-up from Matt Kemp to wrap the win.

Game 7 is set for 8:09 PM EDT on Saturday. The starters for both clubs have yet to be announced.