This is an odd week, isn’t it? The Cubs have secured their place in the 2015 playoffs, but have all but guaranteed it won’t be played at Wrigley Field (even if you might be able to watch it there). While I am overwhelmingly excited about the Wild Card Game, this next week of baseball is going to feel an awful lot like Christmas Eve. To get you through that nervous excitement, why don’t you check out some news from around the league …
- Did you miss the dugout brawl between Bryce Harper and Jonathon Papelbon Sunday? In short, Harper failed to run out a lazy pop-fly and Papelbon gave him the business for it. Harper did not take too kindly to Papelbon’s words and the two went at it. This wasn’t the very beginning of the duo’s issues though, as Harper publicly called out Papelbon’s decision to bean Manny Machado a few days earlier for admiring a home run too long. While the public opinion has generally supported Harper over Papelbon, CJ Nitkowski found something a little different. After polling 14 current and former players (all unnamed), Nitkowski found that not one lent full support to Harper. Nearly all the responses included something along the lines of veterans teaching younger players lessons. Regardless of where you fall on that choice, that is an interesting read.
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, however, would apparently not agree with Nitkowski or, rather, the players he polled. In this article, Kilgore explains how Harper’s public “reputation” is tired and out of date. Further, that Harper is, in fact, one of the hardest working players in the game, not to mention one of the absolute best. While Kilgore admits that the Harper of old may have deserved such treatment, that player doesn’t exist any more and Papelbon was way off in his indictment.
- My opinion is that all players should be treated equally, regardless of status, talent or age. That means that whether you are the expected NL MVP, a bench bat or something in between, you should play with the same expectations and effort. That said, I don’t think it’s fair to say Bryce Harper doesn’t give enough effort (who decides how much is enough, anyway?). He is having a fantastic season and hasn’t let up despite being eliminated from postseason contention. On the other hand, you have veterans on a team for a reason, and one of those reasons is helping young players develop. Then again, Papelbon has been on the Nationals for only two months; there might have been a better candidate (not to mention a better time and place) for such a conversation to occur. Given his desire to police the game – evidenced by beaning Machado – and notorious reputation, Papelbon is probably in the wrong in this case.
- As it stands, it seems that the Washington Nationals agree with me:
The Washington Nationals have suspended RHP Jonathan Papelbon: pic.twitter.com/KYKHvllsaw
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 28, 2015
- And on the Nationals disappointing season, Jeff Sullivan (FanGraphs) takes a look at just how statistically unexpected and unique their underachievement in 2015 has been.
- After president/CEO Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers went separate ways earlier this season, there was speculation that Brad Ausmus – the Tigers Manager – would soon follow close behind. However, after a month and half of deliberation, new president/CEO AL Avila announced that he would be retaining Ausmus and his entire coaching staff into next season. And, the retention eliminates one of the higher profile managerial openings for this coming offseason. While we haven’t heard any rumblings/rumors regarding Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, it would behoove you to remember that he is a well thought of managerial candidate that left his last team when he was passed over for the managerial role. While it would obviously be great for him to stay on as Maddon’s lieutenant for a good while longer, it is not something I would necessarily count on. [Brett: And, at some point, we probably have to wonder whether pitching coach Chris Bosio will someday want/get an opportunity to manage. Dun-dun-dunnnnn…]
- At the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Derrick Goold openly wonders whether or not Jason Heyward will return to the Cardinals after the conclusion of the 2015 season – which I assume will come at the hands of the Cubs in the NLDS. While the Cardinals openly admitted their attempt to woo Heyward throughout the season, there is a chance his expected contract – or opt out demands – may exceed what the Cardinals are willing to give up. At this point, an extension is unlikely, there is little reason for Heyward not to test the market, but a return to the Cardinals is not out of the question. Earlier, I looked at Heyward as one of the potential Cubs targets this coming offseason.
- Speaking of the Cardinals, it would appear that Adam Wainwright is ready and able to return to the St. Louis Cardinals:
Wainwright said his simulated inning went very well today and that he does not expect needing to pass any more tests before coming off DL.
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) September 28, 2015
- Despite losing Carlos Martinez for the rest of the season, the plan remains for Wainwright to pitch exclusively out of the pen. Even in that capacity, though, he can be a huge boost to the Cardinal’s post season run. Wainwright might be back as soon as tomorrow:
If Wainwright reports to ballpark tomorrow with no issues after today's exertion he expects to be cleared for game. Could see him by Wed.
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) September 28, 2015
- At MLB.com, Ian Browne tells the unusual and interesting statistics surrounding Rich Hill’s historic comeback as a starter, after five-plus year gap following his most recent start. Remember when he was an up-and-comer with the Cubs? That was nearly a decade ago.
- Yasiel Puig, who has been out since August 27 with a strained right hamstring, has been essentially ruled out for the NLDS series against the Mets, but not for the Dodgers’ (who are counting their chickens before they hatch) National League Championship series. For now, Puig will continue to work out in Arizona, trying to come back as soon as possible.
- Speaking of counting your chickens before they hatch, how would you feel about a seven game series against the vastly improved New York Mets? At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron took a look at why the Mets are a particularly scary playoff team. I’ll give you a hint, it’s because of their insanely impressive playoff rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. Yeah. That’ll be a challenge. Of course, the Cubs have beat the Mets seven times in a row this year …