Saturday, August 17, 2013

So...Braves fans...about Friday night...

In my last post, I bashed the Nationals for their refusal to shut up.  It was the right thing to do because even after watching the Braves open over a dozen-game lead and even after failing to get to .500 and stay there, Nationals players and their manager continued to spout off.

In the first game of an anticlimactic three-game series, the Braves won 3-2 in ten innings.  Once again, Justin Upton was the guy the Braves were hoping for when they acquired him this offseason.   When the count got to 1-2, I IM’d my friend and said “Upton's going to walk-off here.”  I really should do that more often.

But the result of the game will probably be glossed over by sports media outlets.  Instead, two plate appearances involving Bryce Harper become the story of the game.  You might remember a week or so ago when Harper homered off Julio Teheran and there was a lot of discussion over slow homerun trots.  Why would a ridiculous subject become a debatable point?  Because, according to the theory of a great many bloggers and analysts, Teheran hit Harper later in the game for “admiring” his homerun too much.

Whether it was intentional or not is fully up for debate.  Teheran, who often has wonderful control, seemed to have issues hitting his spots during the game.  In addition, Teheran throws inside.  He attempts to own the inside corner and is not shy about it.  He’s hit 12 batters on the year, the most in the National League, and three different times, he’s hit two batters in a single game.  That’s not to say that there is no possibility that he was trying to send a message to Harper.  For the record, Teheran denies it and I am inclined to believe him.

Regardless, Nationals fans and possibly the worst announcers in baseball (Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo) were convinced that Teheran was aiming for Harper.  True or not, don’t really care.  Short of Teheran coming out and saying “yeah, I was going after him,” no one who seems so sure of Teheran’s intentions actually knows.

Move forward to this evening.  Harper doubled, but was stranded early as Alex Wood pitched into and out of a little trouble.  In his next at-bat, a breaking pitch never broke and softly struck Harper.  The Braves fans cheered.  Loudly. Ridiculously loudly.  Now, it’s not like Harper was injured or anything.  It was just a knuckle-curve that got away from Wood.  And truly, I can forgive the fans cheering this one because it was so softly thrown and even Harper could laugh about it.

In the eighth, with Wood gone, Ryan Zimmerman doubled off Luis Avilan.  For so long, Avilan has been a shut down guy coming out of the bullpen, but he was struggling with his location and crossed up his defense, which was playing Zimmerman to go opposite field.  There was two outs and the Braves were trying to get a 2-1 lead to Craig Kimbrel.  Harper stepped in.  It was the matchup the Braves wanted.  Avilan handles lefties so well (.148/.216/.173).  You don’t want to face Jayson Werth with a chance to tie or put the Nationals ahead.

Instead, Avilan’s pitch comes in and hits Harper in the shoulder/upper back area.  Avilan looked very disappointed by the pitch.  You cannot convince me that Avilan intentionally hit Harper.  As the second-year player said after the game, “Anybody who thinks I was throwing at (Harper) on purpose doesn’t know the game of baseball.”  There’s just no way Avilan intentionally tried to put the go-ahead runner on, a runner capable of scoring with any gapper.  His job is to strand runners, not put them on base.

But that wasn’t the bad thing.  Atlanta fans, as Harper grimaced outside the box, cheered loudly.  The reception grew in volume as Fredi Gonzalez changed pitchers, bringing in Luis Ayala.  A sort-of standing ovation was given to Avilan as he left the field.  It was an abysmal showing from the often mute fans.  Don’t get me wrong, I take pleasure in Harper’s failures.  When he swings-and-misses on a Kimbrel fastball or gets bastardized on a changeup from Wood, I smile and pump my fist.  I yell “sit down, bro” at my TV.  Fuck Bryce Harper.

To cheer after he gets hit, though?  Classless.  It’s not a proportional response.  He talks shit and you want him to fail to live up to that.  You heckle him and throw his words back him.  Hey, is this shit over yet, Bryce?  Are you still fighting to the every last man?  However, you don’t want him to get hit.  Especially the second time, which put the go-ahead runner on base and left Gonzalez with the choice between what appeared to be an ineffective Avilan vs. Werth or the low leverage Ayala against Werth.  The latter resulted in a game-tying base hit.

Much like the trash that was thrown on the field, it was a bad moment for Braves fans.  Even more, fans took to twitter to defend the actions of those at Turner Field.  Seriously, we can call our own fans on something and in this case, it was an awful show of sportsmanship…a classless display of fandom…and a dark and indefensible moment for Braves fans.

Still…that Upton homer was pretty sweet.

6 comments:

  1. What do you mean the nationals continue to "spout off". They have not said anything negative about other teams, they have only tried to stay positive about themselves as their season has unraveled. If you think they should "shut up" and admit publicly, even though they probably realize it privately, that their season is over with 41 games to play (25% of the season) then you don't know anything about baseball or any other sport for that matter. Also if you can't appreciate Bryce Harper as a player you're an ass. He may be a little brass, remember he's only 20, but nobody today plays the game as hard or with as much enthusiasm as he does. It's one thing to be a fan of one team (as I am the Nats) but give the competition the credit and respect they deserve.

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  2. My other post last night went over when they "spout off." It's called "The Talkative 'Nats." I specifically went over different instances involving Werth, Espinosa, Strasburg, Harper, and Davey Johnson where they just don't shut up. And shutting up doesn't mean they admit publicly their season is over - IT MEANS SHUTTING UP! In fact, I get that the Nationals are new to this, but when a reporter asks your opinion, you don't even have to give it. That's why they invented cliches.

    "Little brass?" Hmm, okay. As a player, he's wonderful. And I get that's a 20 year-old primadonna who might mature into less of a jackass. But really, someone on that team really needs to take him aside, but I guess they don't really like him too much either. When Teheran hit Harper, you had to practically drag them out of the dugout when the benches "cleared." Jason Heyward was receiving treatment and he was out to defend his team. Harper's shtick seems to be tiring on his team.

    I do agree that you give the opposition the credit and respect they deserve. I only wish the Nationals players and their manager would do that.

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  3. I must admit I had not read your earlier post about the "Talkative Nats" so after reviewing it I would like add these comments. Most of the comments you cited were made early in the season when most teams with a legitimate shot at being a playoff team speak with a lot of bravado, and the Nats were especially bigheaded after being pumped up all winter by the national media. As for Jason Werth's comments on the Phillies, he only said to not write off the Phills, not that they would be the only threat. If not for the losses of Philidelphia's two biggest stars, Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard, and the unexpected emergence of the previously unknown Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis, his analysis may have rung much truer. Harper's comment in July came as the Braves were beginning to pull away with their current torrid streak and he was trying to get his team fired up (showing a little bit of leadership actually). And while you used his choice of language to criticize, you use much worse in your own blog. Maybe the reason the Braves charged out of the dugout after the Teheran incident with more urgency than the Nats is because they knew Harper was plunked intentionally while the Nats were not as sure. Davey only said "we need to show them there're not better than us" not "we ARE better", and depicting a 70 year-old man as "sickly-looking" is also unkind, to say the least. I hope I get around as well as Davey does when I'm 70. I don't think anyone foresaw the Braves running away with the division like they have (although yours truly remembers saying to a coworker in March "everybody's saying how good the Nationals are going to be but those Braves scare the hell out of me") so my hat is off to them. Congrats to the Braves and good luck to them as they represent the NL east in the playoffs this year (unless by a miracle the Reds or Cards fall on their face and the Nats sneak in as a wildcard (never say die, right?). P.S. F.P. and Bob are the BEST announcers in baseball but you need to be a homer to appreciate them.

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    1. I understand that we are coming from two very different point-of-views here as I am a fan of the Braves and you support the Nationals. Difficult to be objective here. I will say that Werth's comments were absurd at the time. The Braves won 94 games in 2012, 13 more than the Phillies. At worst, they held even with their offseason pickups and increased age of a young team. I don't really care all that much about Harper's language. I'm an adult and as you point out, I use worse myself. And maybe he was providing leadership, though I think it was more a refusal to accept failure because he's been humbled all too infrequently. My thing about Davey's statement is that the Braves have already shown they are better. Tell your players whatever you want, but you shouldn't go to the media like that. I admit it was highly unkind of me to refer to him as "sickly-looking." I actually like him because when I was born, he was the manager the local Carolina League team. But, man, he just looks awful in the postgame interviews. Oh, and on Heyward, I don't think he was ready to take the field so much as he saw Harper acting like a punk and he wanted to be there for his teammate. I DO think the Nationals seem tired of Harper's shtick. He brings a lot of attention on himself and has acted like a brat who loves to play the heel. Veterans grow tired of that every day.

      P.S. I have watched a lot of MASN over the years. The only thing I can say positive about he losers they currently employ is at least neither one are as awful as Rob Dibble.

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  4. Teheran and Avilan both threw at Harper. Wake up and get out of your Polyanna dream world you freaking idiot.

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    1. Judging by your name, I imagine you are incredibly objective on this.

      /or not
      //you can read minds? cool.

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