Loving and hating Bryce Harper

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NBC’s Jelisa Castrodale considers the phenomenon that is Bryce Harper. And, after noting his … uniqueness …

He was the guy who smudged his eyeblack down onto his cheekbones, the guy who cost his team a National Junior College World Series after an ejection and suspension, the one who blew a kiss to an opposing Single-A pitcher as he jogged around the bases. And let’s face it, his name is Bryce. BRYCE. That could only be more irritating if his parents had gone with EdHardyNickelbackCrocs …

Notes that he also has the potential to be everything we want in a ballplayer:

I’ll take Harper’s in-your-face ambition and (sometimes cringeworthy) honesty over other young players who hide their fake humility behind equally forced smiles. Harper’s willingness to tell you exactly what he thinks — whether arguing a call inches from an umpire’s face or admitting he “likes showing up the older guys” — is why he was booed during his debut at Dodger Stadium and why Hamels parked a 93 mph fastball in his back.

Ironically, despite all of the criticism about his own behavior, Harper seems to bring out the worst in other people, whether it’s coming from Hamels’ left arm or out of the mouths of the scouts who evaluated him as a pre-draft prospect.

It’s a good nutshell of Harper. And posits, quite accurately, I think, that in a lot of ways, this young brash pain in the butt is far more “Old School” than those who claim he needs a baseball education in that regard.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.