Posts Tagged ‘Bryce Harper’

Bryce Harper was Right And the Myth of Code Loyalty

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

BH

I so appreciate the sports of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Be it Colin Kaepernick or the Golden State Warriors, they give me material.  And now Bryce Harper and my San Francisco Giants.

Yes, my San Francisco Giants.  Full disclosure for those who have been under an FB rock, baseball is and has always been my favorite sport, and the Giants are my favorite team.  I got it from my pops.  I modeled my pitching motion after high-leg kicking Giants pitchers Juan Marichal and Vida Blue.  I lived long enough to see them win 3 world series rings in 5 years to lap the hated Dodgers in titles.  Simply put, over the past 8 years, it’s been good to be a Giants fan.

And with all that being said, I am 100% in support of Bryce Harper for going after Hunter Strickland for intentionally hitting him with a pitch upwards of 97 miles per hour.

This all played out with the larger backdrop of baseball trying to reign in “bean ball” wars.

Good luck with that.

Since its inception, baseball has long had an unwritten code that says if you throw at one of ours, we will throw at one of yours.  Of course, the likes of Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, and Roger Clemens took this internal vigilantism to an entirely different level, both for retribution and intimidation.  It was all understood that this was how things were done.

Of course, the other complication is that there is a legitimate tactical justification for pitching inside.  The gentlemen’s agreement has long been that the outside part of the plate belongs to pitchers and the inside belongs to hitters.  If a hitter gets greedy trying to crowd the plate to take aggressive hacks at pitches on the outside corner, things must be put back into order and the inside fastball is the mechanism for doing so.  While this will surely result in some batters being hit, to ban the tactic in of itself would tilt the balance of competition so far in the direction of hitters to the point of the game ceasing to be what we have known it to be.

Baseball’s challenge is against whom and when does it intervene; against the first violator or the second?  On the first shot, a pitcher could have legitimately simply lost control of a pitch.  Should he be thrown out of the game?  If second offender (or retaliator) is ejected, that will essentially give the initiators a free shot.  The bottom line is that as MLB moves to eliminate this internal policing of the game, hitters can no longer count on their pitcher to keep things in order.

So, when a guy throws a 97 mph baseball at a hitter, what the hell do we expect him to do?  If Harper does not make a stand, then the message to the rest of the league is clear; you can throw at him with impunity!

None of that contextual backdrop applies to what Strickland did Monday in San Francisco.   He was simply pissed off because 3 years ago in the playoffs, Bryce Harper hit not one, but two moonshot home runs off him.  The espoused offense was that Harper ran around the bases too slow.  I was at the game in Washington.  The ball cleared the Jackie Robinson number in the upper deck.  While I did not think it was funny at the time, you could not help but be impressed.  The one in San Francisco cleared the stadium and landed in McCovey Cove.  Simply put, if Harper decided to walk around the bases, I would have had no problem with it at all, and if Strickland did, he should have learned to throw a damn change up!

The other aspect of the incident that has garnered a lot of attention was the Giants’, especially all-star catcher Buster Posey, lackluster attempt to “protect their guy”.  Admittedly, it is unusual for the catcher not to grab the hitter or at least attempt to do so in that situation.  Some have speculated if this will affect how Posey is perceived in the locker room.  That is an assessment that cannot be made without knowing how Strickland is perceived in the locker room.  If he is viewed as some out of control lone wolf who takes matters into his own hands, Posey’s place in the locker room will not be affected one iota.

The truth is that these “ride or die” loyalty codes we men swear to adhere by unconditionally are anything but unconditional.  We espouse to believe in them because they are often a rites of passage for peer group, cultural and societal acceptance.  But the graveyard has its share of dudes who actually took that nonsense literally at a party or on the streets.  Such blind loyalty is romanticized in the media.  Buster Posey is neither Cookie from Empire nor Marines from A Few Good Men.  No matter how sincerely committed, there will come a time when one must use your capacity to think for yourself, to dismiss the group code in favor of your own individual best interests.  Doing so doesn’t make one cowardly or disloyal.  It makes one intelligent.  In the real world, when the rubber meets the road, the sheer practicality of self-preservation will rule the day, be it among the Bloods and Crips or the Mafia.   We should expect no less from baseball players.

Simply put, if a loose cannon like Strickland fires off a 97 mph fastball at a hitter for no legitimate tactical reason, and without any pre-approval or reassurance from the leadership or team collective that they have his back, HE IS ON HIS OWN!

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Bryce Harper was not the NL MVP and this is why.

Friday, November 20th, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

May 10, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

May 10, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper was the best player in the National League in 2015….perhaps in all of baseball.

Bryce Harper was not the most valuable player in the National League and that was not his fault.

This is not about hating on Bryce Harper. I love the way the he plays the game. He combines Pete Rose’s mindset with Mickey Mantle power. In all my years of going to see baseball games, he is the only player that I have seen hit multiple upper deck homers. One was in the playoffs against my Giants (I did not particularly love him at that exact moment) and the other was against the Dodgers. You can imagine how much that endeared him to me. Early in the year his improved pitch selection and overall plate discipline forecasted trouble for pitchers. When a guy with his power restricts his swings to strikes, the results are career highs in both homers and walks both nearly double previous highs.

My liking him or not liking him has nothing to do with my case. At the heart of it all is the failure of the baseball, and sports writer culture to make a distinction between the best player and the most valuable player. So lets do that now.

The most valuable player is the player whose team’s level of success would be least likely without! A key provision would be team’s level of success. Subsequently if the team had little or no success, how valuable could any one player have been? Apparently not valuable enough for 2014 NL manager of the year Matt Williams because he got fired.

It’s at this point when the baseball sabermetric zombies will cite Harper’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) stat which was 9.9, round it up to 10 wins which is outstanding under any assessment. Simply put that means without Bryce Harper this past season, instead of winning 83 games, the Nats would have only won 73 games. If our task is to measure value in the context of the team’s success to that I say, WHO CARES? How valuable can any one player be on a team that regressed 13 games from the previous season?

If we look at Harper’s value from a pure costs benefit analysis, it’s a more compelling case than pure baseball statistics in that he greatly out performed his $2.5 million salary for the year. He does not hit arbitration until 2017 and free agency in 2019. Unless he dramatically regresses, the Nats will have to pay for their 2015 bargain with the highest arbitration award in the history of the game in 2017 and highest contract ever to keep him in 2019 when they will surely be competing with his childhood favorite team the Yankees. They may decide to do that but to this point, what do they have to show for it? In football both Seattle with Russell Wilson and Baltimore with Joe Flacco illustrate cautionary tales in paying to compensate past bargains at the expense of addressing other team needs. But at least their decisions can be defended by the players value to their winning a championship.

Part of this challenge is the inconsistent history of what the writers are actually looking for in the MVP. The process also reeks with personal gripes, surely at times stemming from which guy gave them interviews when they wanted one. Go back to 1983 when the Orioles won it all, led by both Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken. Either would have been valid MVP choices. Cal finished 1 and Murray 2. No secret that Cal was much more amenable to media than Murray. Murray was arguably the most feared hitter in the league, a switch hitter with power and a clutch rep similar to what we have seen with David Ortiz in recent years. He hit 4th behind Cal which insured Cal was not being pitched around. Consider the assessment of teammate and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer when asked who he believes should have won that award, “Eddie Murray missed 7 games that year. We lost every one of them!”

Fast forward to 1989. Cecil Fielder leads the league in homers and RBIs and is first to hit over 50 (51) since 1977. He finished second in the MVP voting, losing out to Rickey Henderson. The general writers’ response to his losing to Henderson was that Henderson played for a contending team. The next year, Cal wins his second MVP on an Oriole team that finishes in 6th place over Cecil Fielder and his league leading 44 homers and 133 RBIs for the second place Tigers.

So which is it?

The point is as great as Harper was in 2015, his absence from the Nat’s would have been no more than a distinction without a difference on what really matters: winning! On the other hand, does anyone think the Cubs get to the NLDS without Jake Arietta? Would the Mets have made it to the World Series without Yohanes Cespedes? The answer is no on both counts and that is what value is all about.

The basic resolution is two awards: a Most Valuable Player award which must be tied to the players contribution to the teams NOTEWORTHY SUCCESS and a Player of the Year award which can be driven by statistical production alone. Pitchers would not be eligible for player of the year. There is a Cy Young and Firemen’s awards for them. All players are eligible for MVP. In theory a player can win both. An example of when the awardees should have been split would have been 1987. Andre Dawson was the best player in the league that year leading the league with 49 homers and 137 RBIs…….for the last place Cubs that finished 18.5 games out of first place. He won the MVP that year. So were the voters saying without him they would have finished in 7th place? Hell there were only 6 teams in the division. Meanwhile Ozzie Smith didn’t hit a home run all year……but he drove in 80 and batted .303 while playing his routinely great short stop for an offensively challenge Cardinal team that advanced to the World Series. That’s value and due to no fault of his own, Bryce simply did not have that for a historically underachieving Nationals team this year.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports