Ernie Banks to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Why give him just one medal? Let’s give him two!

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Dean Smith are among those who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. According to the White House, this award is given to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Banks has been a fantastic ambassador for the game and is, by all accounts a wonderful human being. He will join Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Buck O’Neil, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams as Medal of Freedom recipients from the game of baseball.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.