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Cubs’ Double-A affiliate injects itself into ‘Betsy Ross flag’ debate

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Nike recently decided to pull one of its sneakers, featuring the 13-star “Betsy Ross flag,” off of the market after consulting with activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick expressed concern that the flag was a symbol of an ugly time in the history of the U.S., when slavery was legal. The flag has been flown by white supremacists, including Jeremy Joseph Christian, at rallies.

If Kaepernick said “breathing is good,” a certain segment of the population would hold their breath until they passed out. They were upset with Nike when it teamed up with him to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan, vowing to boycott the company. Those same people apparently forgot about their boycott because they’re threatening to boycott Nike again over this issue with the flag.

The Tennessee Smokies, the Double-A affiliate of the Cubs, decided to inject itself into the debate on Wednesday. The team’s Twitter account posted four pictures showing the 13-star flag across second base with the caption, “Hey @Kaepernick7 after a lot of thought, we have decided it’s best to just do it. #America” The team has since deleted the tweet, but here it is for posterity:

Personally, I’d love to see a Venn diagram of the crowd that constantly shouts “stick to sports” and the crowd applauding the Smokies because it would be just one circle.

Most of us have had a friend who reflexively did whatever behavior you told him not to do anymore because it’s annoying. “Stop chewing with your mouth open.” [He grossly exaggerates his chewing while smacking his lips.] That’s what all of this backlash to Nike and Kapernick looks like — just reflexive, childish contrarianism.

At any rate, it’s worth noting that the flag code says that the flag should not be used for advertising purposes, nor should it be embroidered on anything. It also says that the flag shouldn’t be part of a costume or athletic uniform. Of course, the flag code is for the current flag of the U.S. but I’d imagine self-described patriots would want to be consistent about respect for the flag.

Update: The Smokies issued a statement on Twitter about the now-deleted Tweet.

“We did not mean to offend” is not an apology, Smokies.

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.