Bryce Harper has his eye on joining the annual Best Shape Of His Life list, telling Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he plans to lift tons of weights this offseason and get “as big as a house” by the time spring training rolls around.
Harper also told Kilgore that the nagging knee and hip injuries he dealt with for much of the season won’t require surgery and “it’s more trying to take the time off and let everything settle down.”
Harper got off to an incredible start to his sophomore season at age 20, hitting .373 with nine homers through 23 games, but then he started crashing into walls and playing through injuries and ended up hitting just .249 with 11 homers in his final 95 games. Or as Harper put it: “Body-wise, I felt pretty good except for when I did run into the walls.”
Overall he still finished with a strong .854 OPS, which was a 37-point increase from his rookie season, and Best Shape Of His Life or not a healthy Harper should have a huge 2014.
Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.
This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.
Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.
Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.