Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. With September quickly giving way to October, playoff baseball prepares to take center stage. While the NL teams have been decided, the AL remains a cluster of teams hopeful for having their playoff ticket punched. My Astros have slowly faded from their perch atop the AL West. After a season of being chased, Houston now must do the chasing. With only a handful of games remaining, each game is a vital puzzle piece to the playoff picture. Tuesday night, Houston‘s bullpen once again caved late to allow Seattle to score two runs in the bottom of the 8th inning. I am by no means throwing in the towel, but I must face the fact that this young team is running out of gas.
Although I am disappointed with the Stros September swoon, I will take nothing but good memories away from this season. With their victory on Monday, Houston ensured that they will finish the season above .500. While that may not seem like a great accomplishment…given where this team has been the past several years, this is a big deal. As I look forward, I see a team built with a young solid foundation. I will be very interested to see what changes occur in the offseason. My wish list will include a legitimate closer to anchor the bullpen. Gregerson looks much better in the 8th inning to me. Houston needs a true RBI guy to slot in the clean-up spot. Many thought that Chris Carter would be the guy, but this season has proven otherwise. When I watch the Rangers with Fielder and Beltre, I see two seasoned bats that Houston simply cannot match. Houston did a great job of scoring runs during the season, but it was very obvious that for September baseball…they needed that guy. The problem is that a 100 RBI corner infielder simply does not grow on trees. Do you think that Toronto would trade Josh Donaldson? Yeah…me neither. But, this is a discussion for the offseason. Perhaps this young Astro’s team has a bit of hidden life left to finish the season. It is not looking good, but as we all know…it ain’t over till it’s over.
There has been much written the past few days about the dugout confrontation between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper. Since so many have weighed in on this, I started to ignore the subject…but there is something that really bothers me about the perception of this dust up. First of all, I will say up front that I am not a Jonathan Papelbon fan. When the Nationals acquired Papelbon, Drew Storen had a 29 saves in 31 opportunities with a 1.73 ERA. The Nationals were 52 and 46 with Storen as closer. With Papelbon, the Nationals are 27 and 30. Although Drew Storen did not complain publicly, he did not fare well in his new set up role…posting an August ERA of 8.49.
Bryce Harper is a tremendous talent and he literally carried the Nationals for much of the year. Harper has an edge to him that many find offensive. I believe that part of the public dislike is because Harper and Mike Trout came into professional baseball together. Mike Trout is the media’s darling, while Harper is the guy many love to hate. It is simply wrong to say that Bryce Harper does not hustle. If you watch baseball at all, you will recognize that Harper plays the game hard…sometimes too hard. Go back and watch the play that supposedly raised Papelbon’s ire…Harper was pissed because he popped up a pitch he felt he should have driven. He took one second, before he ran to first base. There is a term in baseball that is called “eyewash”…which means fake hustle. While players should always play hard, but in game 154 of a long frustrating season, sometimes players make a mistake. I have no problem calling out Harper for his lack of focus, but Jonathan Papelbon was the wrong guy for that job. Papelbon is a relief pitcher who has not put in a sliver of the time that Harper and other position players have. Harper is likely the NL MVP this year that did much to help his team. What did Papelbon do to help Philly or Washington this year?
In reality, Papelbon did not care that Harper did not bust it to first base…he had another bone to pick with Harper. This is what people simply refuse to hear. Papelbon is not a team guy…ask the players in Philly that he blasted on his way out of town. He was not calling out Harper for the good of the team. No, the truth of the matter is that Papelbon was mad at Harper for comments he made about Papelbon’s head hunting of Manny Machado. He was simply waiting for an opportunity to vent his anger on Harper. I maintain that Papelbon was standing on the top step of the dugout was no coincidence. This was a premeditated act that perfectly describes who Jonathan Papelbon is. He is a selfish player that is only interested in what is best for Jonathan. Listening to his explanation that the choking incident was something that brothers do…brothers? That explanation does not wash either. Papelbon and Harper have not played together for years…in 57 games, how much brotherhood could there really be? So, if you don’t like Bryce Harper, I get it. If you want to say he was wrong for not running out a fly ball, I will accept that. Just don’t blindly buy into the sack of shit that Papelbon is trying to sell. The National fans certainly are not…
This sign pretty much says it all…
Here are a few comments from an ESPN article about Bryce Harper. I thought comments from his teammates and coaches would provide keen insight to the player and person that Bryce Harper has become:
Robinson: People saw what happened in the dugout, you make your own opinion. I think [Harper] did a good job of saying what he’s going to focus on for the rest of the season and that’s it. Off the field, I don’t think of Bryce as a 22-year-old. He doesn’t look like a 22-year-old. He doesn’t act like one. He’s a grown man who’s got a good head on his shoulders and he shows it.
Casey Janssen, Nationals P: As a clubhouse leader, I don’t know if it’s [Harper’s] time yet. I think he’s getting valuable experience along the way, but I would think with the personnel we have in this clubhouse, the payroll we have in this clubhouse, I don’t think that’s his job yet. If he were to try and be that, I think he would be stepping on other people’s toes that have the clout and have the years of experience, the salary that goes along with that job. You’ve got J-Dub, who has I don’t know how many years in the league, tons of playoff experience, World Series. There’s Max Scherzer, ace of the staff, big salary guy, has pitched in the playoffs and won a Cy Young. To be the main guy of the clubhouse, I don’t think it’s his time yet. That’s not a slight on him at all. It’s just we have other guys in this room that, quite frankly, are probably getting paid to be that leader.
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals 1B (in an interview before the altercation): When you’re young and come up here, you say you’re going to play hard every day. You’re gonna pop up to the infield and be on second base every time. I’m not saying you don’t need to hustle, but you have to learn how to sustain over six months. A guy with his talent level, and how much he’s learned over the past three years, if he plays 155 games every year, there’s going to be some special numbers that he puts up.
Tony Tarasco, Nationals 1B coach (before the altercation): He’s an emotional guy. Sometimes he wears it on his shoulders. But he’s been able to contain it and use it in the proper way. With emotion you’re going to have ups and downs, you’re gonna see it more than you would on stone-cold Paul Molitor. That’s what’s beautiful and exciting about this game.
Robinson: He’s not the guy that we have to turn to for wisdom. There are older guys in the clubhouse for that, and I think he understands that. He’s done a really good job of just putting his head down and going out and playing every day. No matter what anyone wants to say about the lack of hustle or anything, if you watch Bryce day in and day out, you know he plays the game the right way. He gets after it. He’ll play 150-something games this year. That’s a lot of games. I don’t care how young or old you are, that’s tough to do. Physically and mentally, he’s mature beyond his years, for sure.
Janssen: People have to realize he’s growing up in the biggest spotlight. What comes with being on commercials and being on the cover of ESPN [The Magazine] is that you’re under a microscope your whole career. Fair or not fair, it’s what’s given to him. It makes everyone talk about him, good or bad. But does he have the ability to become a clubhouse leader and on-field leader? Absolutely. What I knew when I was a rookie compared to what I know now — the words you choose, the interviews you accept or pass off — it’s all learning. I still think he’s one of the best players in the league. Glad he’s in our clubhouse.
Since the Longhorn loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday, there has been much discussion about how poorly the game was officiated. On Monday night, Big 12 officiating supervisor Walt Anderson told the Austin American Statesman that “we got the majority of the calls right.” If Walt Anderson sounds like a familiar name, it is because he was the referee that did the Patriots vs Indianapolis game last year…yeah, that game. I am not sure how I missed this fact, but hearing his comments about the Longhorn-Cowboys game, somehow…this did not surprise me. If Walt Anderson is in charge of the Big 12 officials, it now makes perfect sense why the Big 12 officiating is perceived as being so poor. I am not surprised at the outcome of this investigation, and honestly…once the game is over, it is over.
There is one thing that I found very hilarious about this incident…the reaction to Anderson’s comments on twitter. Here are a few that I found funny:
#WaltAnderson on the Titanic: There was some sinking.
#WaltAnderson Gettysburg, “There were some casualties.”
#WaltAnderson Noah’s Ark: There was some rain
On buying Manhatten Island…
…from the native Americans: “There were some unequal negotiations..”
Walt Anderson on L.A. Traffic: There were a few cars on the road.
I have been pretty defensive about criticism of the Big 12. Many have questioned how this conference can continue with the changes that have occurred in college football. Although I do not agree with the thought that a 10 team league cannot survive…the playoff selection last year gave a clear indication that a conference championship put the Big 12 behind the other power 5 conferences. There have been complaints against the crew that called the Texas/OSU game last Saturday, but they continue to work. Fans from other schools think it is funny that it happened to Texas, but there is a bigger picture that should be viewed. Next time, it could happen to your team. What bothers me is that the Big 12 does not seem to adjust to the mistakes that have been made. It is obvious that this conference is not being run properly…and this is a problem. In reality, this is not a problem for a Texas or an Oklahoma. These schools would be gladly grabbed by any of the other power conferences. I can’t tell the future, but I do know if something is not done, that the Big 12 will be left wondering what happened.
That is all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey…
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own…