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CC Sabathia says he’s only been called the N-word in Boston

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Last night, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said he was taunted by Red Sox fans at Fenway Park with racist slurs and one fan even threw peanuts at him. The Red Sox and Major League Baseball both issued public apologies to Jones and the Orioles.

In the aftermath, Boston fans have become very defensive about the incident, saying that last night’s boorish fans represent a very tiny fraction of the city’s fan base. Others pointed to other cities’ fans who have acted similarly, as if to deflect responsibility.

Back in January, Red Sox starter David Price said he was on the receiving end of racist slurs from Boston fans as well. Outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. said he received racial taunts in 2014 when he was struggling. Barry Bonds said in 2004 that he would never play for the Red Sox because Boston is “too racist for me.” Vernon Wells said that, as a player, he was warned about only two stadiums where racist comments were common, and Fenway was one.

Add Yankees starter CC Sabathia to the list. The lefty said, “I’ve never been called the N-word” anywhere but Boston, Newsday’s Erik Boland reports. Sabathia continued, “We know. There’s 62 of us. We all know. When you go to Boston, expect it.” Sabathia said he hasn’t heard racist taunts from Boston fans since he’s been with the Yankees, though, because of increased security in the bullpen.

Yes, racism is everywhere in America, not just Boston. But the combination of Boston being one of the larger metropolitan areas in the country and a very strong city-wide passion for sports leads to more incidents like Monday night’s. Rather than deflect responsibility, Boston fans should hold each other accountable for behavior. Jones last night said that there were “59 or 60” fans ejected from the ballpark. How many others did nothing but watch as these boors acted out? How many others silently cheered them on? The correct response, when players like Jones and Sabathia say that Boston fans are racist, is to acknowledge the problem and vow to make it better. Discrediting the lived experiences of people of color is how white people avoid having to deal with their own complicity in a racist system.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.