Bryce Harper is aiming to rejoin the Nationals on July 1

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Bryce Harper has not yet been cleared to catch fly balls or take swings six weeks after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, but Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that the Nationals are hoping to have him back in the lineup by July 1.

Nationals manager Matt Williams told Zuckerman that July 1 “would be a good target, but we just don’t know … it depends on how everything else goes.” He then added that Harper is “itching” to return, but the team is taking things cautiously with the 21-year-old.

Whenever he does return Harper’s presence could cause the Nationals to shift Ryan Zimmerman back to the infield after bringing him off from the disabled list as a left fielder this week. Zimmerman has also been taking ground balls at first base recently and an outfield with Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth wouldn’t leave much room for him.

Of course, that’s at least 3-4 weeks away and these things often sort themselves out.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?