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Athletics’ Bruce Maxwell Becomes First MLB Player to Kneel for National Anthem

cheap wholesale baseball jerseys Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel for the national anthem in open protest ahead of Oakland’s home game against the Texas Rangers Jerseys. Maxwell, who is African-American and comes from a military family, chose to kneel with his hand on his heart while facing the flag in solidarity with the NFL players who continue to protest racism and inequalities in America. “Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of cheap jersey honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.”

 

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Earlier Saturday, Maxwell posted on Twitter following a series of comments from president Donald Trump that called for the firing of NFL players who chose to protest the national anthem. On Friday night, Trump referred to such players as “sons of b****es” in a public forum while addressing a crowd. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing athletes kneeling in other sports now!! Comments like that coming from our president. WOW! Bruce T Maxwell (@bruu_truu13) September 23, 2017. The A’s issued a statement in support, as well.Maxwell’s teammate Mark Canha Jerseys placed his hand on his shoulder in support as Maxwell protested. Maxwell, 26, was born in Germany, where his father was stationed with the army.

 

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Watch: Dodgers and Phillies Swap Pair of Memorable Home Runs

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Inside-the-park home runs aren’t always self-inflicted by the defensive team, but perhaps no stat better encapsulates the Phillies’ season than four inside-the-park homers allowed in 30 days. Seems almost impossible. As for the Dave Roberts bit? The second notable home run of the night cost the Dodgers’ the lead and eventually the game. Clayton Kershaw Jerseys made his 228th career start on Monday. Previously he had faced 103 batters with the bases loaded. Never before had this happened. Naturally, there were a few interesting tidbits to extract. The takeaways: Kershaw is a generational talent and the Phillies are weird. Even during an inconsequential September game between two teams whose playoff fates are decided, a future Hall of Famer might slip up in a way he never has. Or a last-place team might do something a last-place team would do. Baseball cannot be scripted.

 

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Dustin Pedroia Leaves Games After Fouling Ball Off His Face

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How Byron Buxton Shed a Crippling Slump To Help Push the Twins Toward the Playoffs

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Since making his major league debut two years earlier, Buxton had known nothing but struggle and failure, and as the pressure to perform built, his urge to tinker would increase. A change in his swing, a tweak to his mechanics, the addition and subtraction and then re-addition of a leg kick … Buxton cycled through potential solutions, picking up and discarding adjustments like a college freshman shopping classes. Yet nothing seemed to work. As a high school phenom, the sport had come easy. Now, he struggled to make sense of it. “You feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, especially when it happens day after day after day,” he says. “It’s very hard to try to find something good out of that.”

 

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After a horrible first month of the season, Buxton and new Twins hitting coach James Rowson had started working on a series of changes to his stance and swing. As the weeks went by and the strikeouts piled up, it would have been easy to understand if Buxton had ditched the new mechanics and started from scratch once more. But as he talked things over with Rowson after that awful series at Fenway Park, there was no sense of panic or frustration. Those 11 at-bats may have resulted in just one measly single, but to Buxton, they were the beginning of something promising.

 

all jersey baseball and softball images “I was like, J-Ro, something feels different,” he says. “I’m starting to feel what my legs are actually supposed to do and what the pitcher’s trying to do to me. The game just got so much slower for me. I started understanding what people were telling me about my swing. That’s when I really took off.” “Took off” is an understatement. Since the beginning of July, Buxton is hitting a scalding .315/.365/.571 with 12 home runs in 225 plate appearances. His .939 OPS since the All-Star break, meanwhile, tops big-name sluggers like Kris Bryant Jerseys, Eric Hosmer Jerseys, Nelson Cruz Jerseys and Gary Sanchez Jerseys. And his huge second half is one of the top reasons why the Twins, coming off a 103-loss 2016 season and left for dead at the trade deadline, have surged into postseason contention as the second wild card.

 

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“When I get in the batter’s box, I have amazing amounts of comfort and confidence,” Buxton says. “Anything close to the plate, I feel like I can get a hit.” From the day he was drafted as the No. 2 pick in 2012 out of a small Georgia high school as a five-tool superstar, the Twins and baseball fans have been waiting for this moment: the breakout of Byron Buxton Jerseys. The kid who hit .513 and stole 38 bases in 39 games as a senior, who in 2013 was the consensus top prospect in all of baseball at the age of 19, who reached the big leagues at 21 with so much hype piled on him that it was a wonder he could stand up straight … MLB had seen only flashes of that player. The Gold Glove-caliber defense has been there; so has the game-changing speed. But both have been buried beneath countless miserable at-bats full of confused, lost swings.

 

cheap mlb jerseys australia time The transition to the majors for any player is tough enough, but most of them don’t carry the weight of a franchise on their shoulders. So it was for Buxton, tasked with bringing back to relevance a Twins team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2009, hadn’t advanced past the first round since ’02, and hadn’t won a World Series since 1991, two years before Buxton was born. Buxton was part of a youth movement that was supposed to form the core of the next Minnesota contender sooner rather than later, and the pressure for him to contribute right from day one was significant.

 

“Even though I would tell myself that the pressure doesn’t bother me, it’s still in the back of your head,” he says. “It spiraled downhill.” Translating everything that had made him so good in high school and in the minors to the majors felt impossible. Buxton’s 2016 season lasted all of 17 games and 49 plate appearances in which he hit .156 and struck out 24 times before he was sent back down to Triple A in late April. When he was recalled at the end of May, he hit .204 over the next two months before being demoted again. Even when things were going well, he knew it wouldn’t last. Last September, he climbed out of his season-long slump by hitting .287/.357/.653 and homering nine times in 29 games. But his success was built on a hot streak that he couldn’t control or fully understand.

 

“Even though it was good, I still wouldn’t have been able to tell you what I was doing,” Buxton says. “I was hitting the ball and seeing the ball, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you if I were using my legs or if my hands were in a certain spot.” As expected, the strong September finish didn’t carry over into April, but it wasn’t just that the results weren’t there. Watch any of his early-season at-bats, and you’ll see a player struggling with every aspect of hitting. “He was spinning off the ball so badly, his recognition phase was almost nil, and the bat was in and out of the zone so quickly that he didn’t have a chance to hit anything that was away from him, especially if it was breaking away,” says manager Paul Molitor. Things got so bad in those first two months that he and the Twins’ front office discussed sending Buxton down to Triple A yet again.

 

“Part of the conversation I remember having with [general manager] Thad [Levine] and [chief baseball officer] Derek [Falvey] is how much can we beat this kid up here?” Molitor says. “He was still helping us win games—it was incredible the way he was able to separate the offense and defense. But as strong as he is mentally, eventually you’re going to reach a breaking point.”

 

As the team tried to figure out what to do with Buxton, he and Rowson worked on a fix. The first thing to go was his leg kick, which he had been using on and off since 2015: Rowson ditched it, hoping to create increased stability in Buxton’s lower half to allow him to drive the ball to all fields. He also had Buxton close his stance slightly, choke up more on the bat, and change his setup so his bat was down on his shoulders instead of pointing straight up, putting his hands more in sync with his hips and legs. “It allows him to put short, more accurate swings on the baseball,” Rowson says of the changes.

 

The numbers weren’t immediately there, but Molitor could tell something was different. “You could see that he’s not chasing that slider nearly as much, that he’s taking that fastball and hitting it to the right-center gap,” he says. “Just baby steps at first.” For Buxton, the changes helped slow the game down; for the first time in his major league career, he felt in charge of his at-bats. “I’ve got a feeling of what it’s supposed to be like and how it’s supposed to feel,” he says. “I can tell you with one pitch whether I was out front or was on my backside too long or didn’t get my hips through.”

 

Buxton has never struggled with any other aspect of his game. There are few if any players who can touch him with the glove: With every new Statcast number that charts outfield defense comes a leaderboard that always seems to have his name at the top. Likewise with his legs: He owns MLB’s top Sprint Speed at 30.2 feet per second, as well as the game’s fastest time from first to third on a triple—a blazing 10.52 seconds. Those skills have helped him stay moderately productive even despite his putrid offense. What’s truly scary to think about it is how good he can be if his breakout is for real. “He’d be a dangerous guy to put a ceiling on, because if you do, he’s probably going to go through it,” Rowson says.

 

There are many factors in the Twins’ sudden success: The development of hulking slugger Miguel Sano Jerseys; the emergence of power-hitting outfielder Eddie Rosario Jerseys; the maturation of hard-throwing righty Jose Berrios. But Minnesota’s success is always going to hinge most on Buxton, because his upside is so much higher than virtually everyone else in the game. He’s the nearly finished Death Star in Return of the Jedi, and he’s tantalizingly close to being fully armed and operational.

 

There will still likely be hiccups as Buxton develops: He entered Thursday’s action hitless in his last 10 at-bats with seven strikeouts as the Yankees unceremoniously swept the Twins in the Bronx. He’s likely to get a second chance at doing better in the House that Ruth Built if Minnesota can hold off the Angels for the second wild card and return to face New York in the wild-card game. But playoffs or not, there is hope that the real Byron Buxton Jerseys has finally shown up—and now, he finally has the numbers on his side.

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Bruce Maxwell Finally Broke MLB’s Silence, and Hopefully Others Will Follow

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But across Major League Baseball, there was no sign of protest. The end of the 2016 season came and went without a single player kneeling; nothing changed this year, either. Even the election of Donald Trump as president—a man who ran on a campaign of white nationalism and who has courted the support of white supremacists—did little to shake MLB out of its non-political stupor. Baseball, for all its talk of diversity and inclusivity and its promotion as America’s national pastime, seemed content to let the moment pass without saying something—anything—about racism or police brutality.

 

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No longer. On Saturday night, as Trump’s latest incendiary comments on Kaepernick and protests, as well as the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry, precipitated an outpouring of condemnation on social media and in the press, the Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell went to one knee during the national anthem before a game against Texas. MLB finally had its first anthem protester. It’s about time.

 

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Trump’s angry screed about Kaepernick at a rally in Alabama (in which he referred to him and fellow anthem protestors as a “son of a b—-”) and his comments about how NFL players should be forced to stand for the anthem or be “fired,” as well as disinviting Curry and the Warriors from the White House, drew anger and mockery from countless basketball and football stars, and even some NFL owners. But across baseball, there wasn’t much outcry. CC Sabathia Jerseys told reporters that he would “never” visit the White House while Trump was president, adding, “I don’t believe in anything that is Trump.” Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle Jerseys, who was outspoken against Trump’s refugee ban and the white supremacist-led rally in Charlottesville, tweeted about athletes no longer sticking to sports. But otherwise, few players spoke out.

 

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That’s not a surprise. The demographics and culture of baseball could hardly have been designed to make something like an anthem protest more of a non-starter. According to a race and gender report card released by University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the beginning of the season, the league is majority white, at 57.5%. Only 7.7% of MLB players are African-American—the league’s lowest total since 1991—and although the percentage of players of color is 42.5%, most of that group is comprised of Latinos who are not originally from the United States. Professional baseball players are, by and large, a politically conservative group. And perhaps more than any other sport, they are encouraged—or at least cautioned—not to speak their minds about politics and the world beyond the diamond, as Jayson Stark noted for ESPN in February. To talk about social issues is to become the dreaded “clubhouse distraction.” As Adam Jones Jerseys so succinctly put it in an interview with USA Today last September: “Baseball is a white man’s sport.”

 

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It’s easy to understand why players don’t want to throw themselves into the maelstrom that is talking politics in 2017. But it’s also been disheartening to see the league of Jackie Robinson go so silent on social and racial issues, especially when NFL and NBA players are so outspoken. In a country where people of color are being regularly disenfranchised, where the president defends neo-Nazis as “very fine people” and where his Department of Justice targets Hispanic immigrants and Muslim refugees as enemies of the state, how can anyone afford not to speak up? Worse, how could comments like Joe Maddon’s—that it’s “dangerous when folks in our country stop respecting the White House and the seat of the president,” a line of thought that ignores the substance of what Trump has said and done—be the representative for baseball in this day and age??

 

Maxwell is changing the narrative. In some ways, he is the perfect person to lead the way in MLB: An African-American from Alabama—he went to high school just 20 minutes away from Huntsville, the site of Trump’s rally, and to college in Birmingham—he is also the patriotic son of an Army veteran. That last fact is a welcome shield against the tired accusations that Kaepernick and others are “disrespecting the troops,” an argument that fails to reckon with the true purpose of kneeling during the anthem. On Saturday, Maxwell criticized Trump on Instagram and Twitter (though he also made time, as any true Alabamian would, to tweet about the Crimson Tide’s win over Vanderbilt), and he made it clear why he did what he did. As he told reporters after the game, “I’m kneeling for the people that don’t have a voice.” And in doing so, he put his career potentially on the line; as a rookie with little to no job security, he has a lot he could lose. (Although the A’s were supportive of him in a statement released on Twitter, as were his teammates.)

 

As Maxwell knelt in front of his home dugout, teammate Mark Canha Jerseys laid a hand on his shoulder in a show of solidarity. Maxwell will need all the support he can get as he continues his protest in the coming days, when the same people who attacked Kaepernick will take aim at him. He will be attacked on social media, booed by fans, labeled a traitor and worse by right-wing carnival barkers. For demonstrating against injustice, he will face the slings and arrows of racists for the rest of the season, if not longer. He is a brave man. For the sake of his sport, his league and his country, I hope that he isn’t the only one.

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As Nationals’ Offense Sputters, Bryce Harper Nears Return From Knee Injury

cheap baseball uniforms for sale Given that the Nationals entered the month with a 15-game division lead, the biggest suspense surrounding Washington in September wasn’t when they would clinch the NL East, but when Bryce Harper Jerseys would return. Out since August 12 due to a left knee injury, the 24-year-old slugger took an important step forward on Sunday, taking his first on-field batting practice since the injury. As the team’s offense has struggled without him, he’s racing the clock to get back into the swing of things.

 

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On a rainy night against the Giants at Nationals Park, Harper hyperextended his left knee and suffered a deep bone bruise when while attempting to beat out an infield grounder. He slipped while crossing first base, took flight for several feet, and rolled around in agony while clutching the knee after crashing to the ground. He was ?helped off the field and unable to bear any weight on his left leg. Simply by the look of it, it wasn’t hard to imagine the next day’s news—MRI, torn ligaments, season-ending surgery, a somber promise to root his team on from the sidelines, rehab and come back strong in 2018—but fortunately, the diagnosis wasn’t as severe as anticipated.

 

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In the wake of that reprieve, general manager Mike Rizzo said that he expected Harper back before season’s end, and with a 14 1/2-game NL East cushion at the time, the Nationals had no reason to rush him. Even so, as of August 30, the team not only still had no timetable for his return but manager Dusty Baker described his star as frustrated, saying he was “a long way from running.” Harper reported having suffered a calf strain in the same leg, further delaying his return and ruling out a rehab assignment (the Nationals’ affiliates’ seasons ended by September 4). While he had since progressed to jogging and hitting off a tee, Harper finally returned to the cage before the Nationals’ series-salvaging victory over the Dodgers on Sunday. Afterwards, he told reporters, “I hope so,” in response to the question of whether he would be ready for the start of the Division Series on October 6. “That’s definitely in my head. That’s what I want to do. That’s where I want to be. But it takes time. Just trying to do the best I can to get out here and do the things I can to get back and get ready, and see where it’s at.”

 

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Harper not only still has to regain his timing but show that he can sprint, turn sharply on the bases, slide and dive before he’s fully cleared to play. At this point, with only 13 regular season games remaining, the clock is ticking. For the team, there’s very little at stake; the Nationals clinched the division on September 10, the first team to do so, but by losing the first two games of their series to the previously slumping Dodgers this past weekend, they squandered their narrow shot to secure the league’s best record. At 90–59, they trail the Dodgers (96–53) by six games and have an elimination number of eight. That means that any combination of Washington losses and Los Angeles wins totaling eight or more would guarantee the Dodgers home-field advantage until at least the World Series (so long as they’re still playing). Unlike last year, when the Dodgers beat the Nationals in a thrilling five-game set capped by a Clayton Kershaw Jerseys save, the two teams wouldn’t cross paths until the NLCS, with the Nationals facing the NL Central winner (the Cubs lead by four games there) and the Dodgers facing the NL wild card game winner.

 

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The big issue for the Nationals over the remainder of the regular season is getting their offense back on track, with or without Harper, who was in the thick of the NL MVP race before the injury. The star outfielder was batting .326/.419/.614 with 29 homers and 4.7 WAR and still ranks second in all three slash stats and third in OPS+ (163). Through August 12, the team had hit .275/.340/.471 while averaging an NL-high 5.44 runs per game. Since then, they’re hitting just .240/.308/.383 and averaging 4.11 runs per game—including 2.88 in their past eight games—with their 21–14 (.600) record during that span owing far more to outstanding run prevention (3.45 per game).

 

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Rightfield has been a particular problem in Harper’s absence. Given the latitude to experiment via their considerable lead and expanded September roster, Baker has used eight different fill-ins: Rafael Bautista, Alejandro De Aza Jerseys, Wilmer Difo Jerseys, Brian Goodwin Jerseys, Howie Kendrick Jerseys, Victor Robles, Andrew Stevenson and Jayson Werth Jerseys, who are “hitting” .158/.230/.250 with one homer in 135 plate appearances in that capacity. Werth, Stevenson and De Aza, who have combined for 100 of those PA, have hit .115/.200/.218. Werth, the owner of that lone homer, is just 6-for-45 since returning from a 75-game absence due to a fractured metatarsal in his left foot. Kendrick, acquired from the Phillies on July 28, drew the bulk of the playing time in leftfield in Werth’s absence and has since spotted in right; he’s hit a robust .302/.351/.504 in 42 games with Washington and may be Baker’s preferred option for one corner spot come October.

 

Elsewhere in the lineup, centerfielder Michael A. Taylor has scuffled (.248/.302/.410) since returning to the lineup on August 14 after missing 29 games due to an oblique strain. Twelve of his 29 hits and three of his four homers in the 34 games since returning were bunched into a six-game span against the Marlins, Phillies and Braves from September 6-13. More encouraging has been the return of Trea Turner Jerseys, who’s hit .278/.358/.514 in 19 games since returning from a 51-game absence due to a nondisplaced fracture in his right wrist. The core of the offense without Harper, namely Anthony Rendon Jerseys, Daniel Murphy Jerseys and Ryan Zimmerman Jerseys, has tailed off to some degree over the past five weeks, though not enough to sound any alarm bells.

 

With respect to the outfield situation, it’s worth keeping an eye Victor Robles down the stretch. The Dominican-born 20-year-old isn’t just the team’s top prospect, he’s currently the game’s second-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, with Baseball Prospectus, ESPN and Baseball America all placing him among their midseson top eight as well. The five-tool centerfielder hit .300/.382/.493 with 10 homers and 27 steals split between High A and Double A? and is 3-for-9 with a pair of extra-base hits in the majors. While he probably won’t see more than spot duty the rest of the way, his exceptional speed and defense (which has included spot duty at both outfield corners) make him a prime candidate for the postseason roster. Barring multiple injuries, there’s no scenario that has him drawing regular duty come October, but the longer Harper is out, the more time the Nationals can see what the youngster can do.

 

With the Dodgers’ series in the rearview mirror, the Nationals don’t play another team with a .500 or better record until the cheap jersey playoffs; they have three-game road series against the Braves, Mets and Phillies and then close at home with four against the Pirates. The next great test that awaits them is whether Harper can be ready by October 6.

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The Astros’ Justin Verlander Trade Violated Their Philosophy … And May Win Them the Pennant

cheap mlb jerseys outlet reviews Among the least consequential effects of Hurricane Harvey, which tore through Texas in the last week of August, was that it nearly scuppered the biggest trade of this baseball season—the type of deal the analytically driven Astros weren’t supposed to make.

 

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On Aug.?25, Jeff?Luhnow, the Astros’ 51-year-old general manager, left Houston with his wife, Gina, and their three-year-old son, Henry, to accompany the club on a three-game road trip to Anaheim. He had moved his furniture to the second story of their house near Rice. They stayed with Gina’s parents, in west Los?Angeles, but he intended to return to Houston and hunker down with his front office before the waiver-trade deadline, midnight EDT on Aug.?31. It was, in some ways, the most important deadline of his six years as a GM.

 

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The Astros lost 100?games in each of?Luhnow’s?first two seasons, as he initiated a rebuilding effort remarkable for its depth and controversy. Just four years later, as the Angels series began, Houston had the AL’s best record, at 77–50. Still,?Luhnow?needed reinforcements, particularly on the mound. While he had come close to acquiring at least two star relievers at the non-waiver trade deadline a month before, he had emerged with only a middling one, Francisco?Liriano. Rival GMs and baseball analysts assailed him for being too attached to his prospects, and players expressed frustration at his inaction. As No.?1 starter Dallas?Keuchel?put it, “Disappointment is a little bit of an understatement.”

 

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But?Luhnow?wasn’t through. As he watched topflight pitchers debut with their new, contending teams—Yu?Darvish?with the Dodgers, Sonny Gray Jerseys with the Yankees,?José?Quintana?with the Cubs—he kept his eye on the most significant?midseason?prize of all: Justin?Verlander, the Tigers’ 34-year-old ace. Luhnow?had first talked about?Verlander?with Al Avila, his counterpart in Detroit, in July, but they hadn’t come close to a trade. Then things started to change. After a rocky few months?Verlander, the AL’s Cy Young winner and MVP in 2011, had recaptured his old dominance for the rebuilding Tigers, going 4–1 with a 2.36?ERA in his last six games. That—along with a rash of Astros injuries—made?Luhnow?more willing to sacrifice top farmhands to get?Verlander?despite the two $28?million years left on his contract.

 

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The GMs discussed dozens of potential permutations. In?Luhnow’s?estimation, the chances of acquiring?Verlander?fluctuated from as high as 70% to as low as 5%. By the month’s final week he felt his odds were good if he made a final push with the help of his assistants, scouts, analysts and medical staff. As it did for so many?Houstonians, often in far more meaningful ways, Harvey altered his plans.

 

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While his house was undamaged,?Luhnow?couldn’t get home; the airports were closed. So, as his club flew to Tampa to play a relocated series against the Rangers, he stayed in L.A. to negotiate from one of the only spots in his in-laws’ house that receives strong cell service: the dining room table. As?Luhnow’s?son and two young relatives ran screaming circles around him, and he tried to clarify what was happening—“It took me a while to explain to my in-laws that there are kind of two trading deadlines,” he says—he did his best to keep in touch with Avila. By the morning of Aug.?31, though, he felt the probability of an agreement was so low that he scheduled other activities: an appearance at his 11-year-old nephew’s Little League practice, then a date with Gina.

 

The scene in Detroit was more standard. Avila had invited six members of his front office to his house to dine on seafood and yellow rice, his wife’s specialty. They discussed the circumstances under which they would still trade?Verlander, their ace for a dozen years. It would take as much in prospect value as?Luhnow?had ever relinquished. “We genuinely love Justin?Verlander,” Avila says. “Part of us wanted him to stay here and finish his career.”

 

At 5:30 p.m., 3?1?2?hours before the deadline,?Luhnow?arrived at his nephew’s ball field, the same one on which?The?Bad News Bears?was filmed. As he approached the diamond, his cellphone rang. It was Avila. The potential for a?Verlander?trade was not only back on; it was higher than it had been at any point in the last two months. Still,?Luhnow?had a promise to keep. As his mind raced, he addressed a dozen rapt middle schoolers and their coach about the importance of practice. When the event concluded, he sped back to his in-laws’ house.

 

He got there at 7:45—75?minutes before the deadline—and found it filled with people. He had forgotten that Gina’s parents were hosting a dinner party. After a quick explanation—two deadlines!—he rushed upstairs to take what he had intended to be the fastest shower of his life. With the water running, his phone, which unexpectedly had found a signal, rang again. Avila. “We agreed on the deal—the money, the players,”?Luhnow?says. Houston would part with a trio of minor leaguers: outfielder?Daz?Cameron, catcher Jake Rogers and pitcher Franklin Perez, a top Astros prospect who had been off the table in every other potential deal. Avila, reportedly, agreed to pay $8?million per year of the salary still owed?Verlander. “His owner approved it, my owner approved it,” recalls?Luhnow. “I was absolutely thrilled.”

 

There was just one problem. “Have you talked to Justin?”?Luhnow?asked Avila.?Verlander?had a full no-trade clause and had indicated that he wanted to go to the Cubs or the Dodgers. “I’m going to call him now,” Avila said, “and we’re going to send somebody over there.” In fact, Avila—who had mentioned Houston to?Verlander?but hadn’t received an answer on whether he would agree to relocate there—had already dispatched two staffers to sit parked outside the pitcher’s apartment. They had with them, just in case, the documents?Verlander?would need to sign to waive his no-trade clause.

 

After his shower,?Luhnow?went back downstairs to reclaim his cell-friendly spot at the dining table, which was now set for the dinner party, to ensure that everything from the Astros’ side—forms, medical approvals—was in place. Avila called 25 minutes before the deadline. “Justin has not approved the deal,” he said. “It’s not clear which direction that’s going to go.” The dinner guests were filling their plates with food from the kitchen buffet and settling in around Luhnow. “We’ve got four minutes left!” he shouted into his phone to his staff, drawing quizzical glances from the diners. “We’ve got to do this now!”

 

By 9 p.m. PDT—midnight EDT—Luhnow still didn’t know if Verlander had agreed to become an Astro. He did the only sensible thing: went on his date with Gina. Finally, at 9:14, as they sat down at a nearby restaurant, he got a call. It was an executive from the league’s office in New York City. “The deal’s been approved,” the executive said. “But, Jeff, don’t ever put me through that again. We received final verification from Verlander at 11:59 and 58 seconds.” In the morning, Luhnow would speak to his new starter. For now, though, Luhnow ordered a Tito’s vodka and soda, with lime. With two ticks of the clock to spare, and despite obstacles both contractual and natural, he had pulled off a trade that might propel his Astros to a long-awaited championship. But he’d also done something else.

 

Rivals around baseball have often accused?Luhnow, a former management consultant, of being too slavish to his sophisticated forecasting models, which place a premium on young, inexpensive talent. Prospects, in other words. “They don’t give up anything in deals,” an opposing GM complained of the Astros earlier this season. For?Verlander—an older pitcher making a lot of money—Luhnow?had sacrificed potentially 18 controllable seasons from future contributors. If it wasn’t the first move he had made contrary to his data, it was, without a doubt, the most prominent.

 

“The reality is that any economic modeling that includes projections is not going to like a deadline deal, where you’re trading what could be an enormous amount of future value for a decent amount of present value,” says Luhnow. “The math does not support these types of deals. It’s a matter of using your best judgment.” The past six years have confirmed for Luhnow and his staff that while their probabilistic models are useful, they are not infallible. “If anybody tells you they have an idea of what the future looks like, don’t believe them,” says Sig Mejdal, the former NASA engineer who has long been Luhnow’s chief data man. (His title is Special Assistant to the GM, Process Improvement.) “The future is a lot weirder than we can imagine.”

 

In June 2014, when the Astros were still viewed as a laughingstock run by know-it-all baseball outsiders,?Sports Illustrated?put the young outfielder George Springer Jerseys on its cover with a boldly predictive billing: YOUR 2017 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS.?The story described the club’s attempt—after shedding all their expensive assets and starting from scratch—to find success with a mix of traditional scouting and cutting-edge analysis. That Houston made the playoffs in 2015 and is currently a leading contender to win this year’s World Series suggests that everything has gone as planned. It has not.

 

In fact, in the months after that SI issue, nothing seemed to go right. The Astros’ top prospect, Carlos Correa Jerseys, spent the second half of the season on the bench with a broken leg. Springer landed on the DL. Their proprietary database, Ground Control, was revealed to have been hacked—by, it turned out, Chris Correa, a former coworker of Luhnow’s and of several other Houston executives when they were all with the Cardinals. Correa is now serving a 46-month prison sentence for unauthorized access of a protected computer. Luhnow failed to sign the No.?1 pick in the 2014 draft, lefthander Brady Aiken, after the club detected an issue with Aiken’s elbow and decreased its offer to him. One of their minor league stadiums flooded, and another caught on fire.

 

Their assessment of their own players has also been imperfect, as they freely admit. “When we arrived, Dallas Keuchel Jerseys was throwing 87 and walking more than he struck out,” says Mejdal of the 2015 Cy Young winner. “Who would have thought he would turn into this?”

 

Additionally, says Mejdal, “if we ever catch ourselves feeling smart, all we have to do is turn on?SportsCenter.” There, as often as not, they can catch Diamondbacks outfielder J.D.?Martinez hitting another home run—the same J.D.?Martinez whom Houston cut outright in March?2014. Since then he has an OPS (.930) higher than all but six other hitters in the majors. “He’d told us he’d made some changes to his swing that offseason,” says Luhnow, sheepishly. “We didn’t give him enough at bats in spring training to show us. Literally four days after we released him, he’s playing on a back field in Kissimmee against the Astros’ Triple?A team and he hits three home runs. It was like, What did we just do?”

 

Of course, many of their decisions have gone right. Such as drafting Correa—Carlos, not Chris—with the top pick in 2012, which not only gave them a star shortstop but also the financial room to choose starter Lance McCullers Jerseys, now an All?Star, 41st overall. And entrusting the team’s future to Springer and second baseman José Altuve, who is an MVP candidate. And declining to sign Aiken—who would indeed blow out his elbow nine months after the draft—and thus receiving a compensatory pick that they would use the next year on third baseman Alex Bregman, who now has a big?league career WAR of 5.2, nearly double that of any other player drafted in 2015.

 

So far, Verlander has been better than the Astros could have ever imagined. Through Sunday he had made three starts, in which he’s allowed a total of two runs while striking out 26. They were all wins—including Sunday’s, which clinched Houston’s first division title in 16?years. But even the Astros—who have endeavored to turn the art of decision-making into a science, and become winners in a time frame that few found realistic—have relatively little idea if he’ll hold up, even through his next start. Sometimes, you measure a dozen times, cut once, and still fail. Sometimes, you make a multimillion-dollar deal from your in-laws’ dining table, bucking your own data, and it works. “We felt he was going to get them to the World Series and win it—and then they’re going to have a really solid pitcher for two more years,” says Avila. That’s the Astros’ plan, best laid as it is.

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Meet Bruce Maxwell, the First MLB Player to Stage A National Anthem Protest

cheapbaseballjerseysmlb commerce Ahead of Saturday’s game, Oakland Athletics Jerseys catcher Bruce Maxwell joined NFL players in protest and became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem. Maxwell, 26, is a rookie catcher who hails from a military family, and has been described as “highly patriotic” by the San Francisco Chronicle.?He was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, where his father was stationed in the army. He is African-American and chose to kneel in solidarity with NFL players after president Donald Trump called for the ‘firing’ of players who have chosen to peacefully protest.

 

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He has been outspoken on social media regarding political issues but has also been open in discussing what America means to him, giving the following quote ahead of a minor league game on the Fourth of July. “It means a little bit more to me,” Maxwell said. “I take it a little more personal. It’s closer to my heart than most holidays and so it’s just about a respect of guys that give their lives every day and their families that feel the repercussions of what they do over there, even in the States. It’s a big thing for me and it’s an honor to play on this day.” Maxwell has accrued 104 games of Major League service over the last two seasons and has a career line of .256/.337/.364 with four home runs and 35 RBIs. He was drafted in the second round in 2012 out of Birmingham-Southern College.

 

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Chris Sale’s 300-Strikeout Season Places Him In Elite Company

cheap mlb hats walmart locations On Wednesday night, Red Sox ace Chris Sale Jerseys made a bit of history, becoming the first American League pitcher to tally 300 strikeouts since the turn of the millennium, and just the fourth since the adoption of the designated hitter in 1973. While the 28-year-old southpaw’s case for the AL Cy Young isn’t as strong as it was a couple months ago, he’s joined some elite company.

 

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At Camden Yards, Sale spun eight shutout innings against the Orioles, allowing just four hits without a walk and matching his season high of 13 strikeouts. The last of those came on his 111th and final pitch of the night, a slider that caught Ryan Flaherty Jerseys looking. The whiff was his 300 for the season, making him the first AL pitcher to reach the mark since the Red Sox’s Pedro Martinez in 1999. Since then, the only pitchers to strike out 300 have hailed from the NL, where pitchers bat: the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson (four times, annually from 1999–2002) and Curt Schlling (2002) and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw Jerseys (2015).

 

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As with other single-season milestones such as 20 wins and 250 innings, the disappearance of the 300-strikeout season owes plenty to the reduced workloads of starters via the industry-wide adoption of five-man rotations, increased reliance upon bullpens at the expense of complete games, and the use of pitch counts and (for younger pitchers) innings caps as a crude attempt to prevent injuries. In the 18 seasons since Martinez struck out 313 hitters (in just 213 1/3 innings), only nine times has a pitcher thrown at least 250 innings, and only three times has one made more than 35 starts.

 

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While pitcher workloads have decreased during this millennium, strikeouts have been on the rise continuously since 2006, as I pointed out in connection with this year’s record number of home runs. This will be the 12th consecutive season that MLB sets a new record for total strikeouts, with the figure topping 40,000 for the first time. The analytic revolution has reduced the stigma against the K, finding that in most cases, for hitters the strikeout is just another out. It’s preferable to grounding into a double play, and generally correlated with greater power at the plate. For pitchers, K’s have far more value, and with the reduction of the starters’ workloads has come a parade of relievers pitching with maximum effort for one inning at high velocity, further boosting strikeout rates.

 

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Thus, it’s worth putting Sale’s accomplishment into context, at least among the other 300-strikeout seasons. A total of 16 pitchers have reached the plateau 35 times since 1901, just five of which came prior to the majors’ first-wave of expansion in 1961-62. As with ERA+ and OPS+, we can index a pitcher’s strikeout rate to the league rate (both expressed in terms of strikeouts per plate appearance), with 100 being league average, and every increment in each direction representing a one percent difference. That means 120 and 80 would respectively indicate pitchers striking out hitters 20% more or less frequently than the league average. Unlike ERA and OPS, I’m foregoing park effects for the sake of simplicity here, but this at least puts the leagues on the same footing, whether or not they have the DH. Call the stat K+, one I’ve begged the folks at Baseball-Reference for, again and again.

 

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Sale has whiffed 36.3% of all batters faced in a league where 21.3% is average, for a 171 K+. Of the 35 300-K seasons, that’s actually at the lower end, but the company is still quite impressive: In 1999, Martinez struck out hitters at more than twice the league rate, whereas Sale is not quite to doubling it. Still, the latter’s season outranks three of those by Hall of Famers, namely Koufax and Carlton; someday, both Kershaw and Schilling will be enshrined as well. All of the top 10 seasons were produced by Hall of Famers, as were the majority of the 15 that land in the middle of those two tables: five more by Randy Johnson, two by Walter Johnson, and one apiece by Koufax, Martinez and Ryan.

 

So Sale’s season isn’t as impressive as Martinez’s by this measure, but then the latter’s season is one of the greatest in any context; his 243 ERA+ that year ranks eighth since 1901. In 2000, when Martinez set a record via a 291 ERA+ (1.74? in a league where 4.91 was average), he also produced a 221 K+ (284 strikeouts, a 34.8% rate in a league where 15.7% was average). As that season illustrates, it’s possible to have an impressively high K+ without reaching 300 strikeouts. Indeed, the top two pitchers of all time in terms of strikeout rate (K/PA) dominate the top 10 for the wild card era (1995 onward) among ERA qualifiers (one inning pitched per team game scheduled): Johnson’s 1998 season is weighted by the number of batters faced in both leagues (he was traded from the Mariners to the Astros at the deadline). That season bumps Martinez’s 186 K+ from 2002 out of the top 10. Sale’s 171 ranks 23rd during the wild card era, but it’s second since 2006, the beginning of the period during which K rates have continuously risen.

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Matt Harvey’s Precipitous Decline Is the Latest Sad Chapter of Mets Fandom

cheap mlb baseball caps for sale Just two years ago, Matt Harvey Jerseys was on top of the world. Despite Tommy John surgery in 2014, he looked like his old self in ’15, posting a 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 189 1/3 innings. He had helped the Mets win their first pennant in 15 years as part of the game’s best young rotation and briefly staved off elimination in Game 5 of the World Series (only to lose it in the ninth). He was 26 years old and in the prime of his career, and a big payday was on the horizon; after the 2018 season, he would enter the free-agent market as arguably its best available pitcher, ready to command a contract worth $100 million or more.

 

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Fast forward to today, though, and all the optimism surrounding Harvey is gone. After struggling in the first half and then missing the back half of the 2016 season due to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Harvey has spent most of ’17 either on the disabled list with arm troubles or on the mound getting his brains beaten in. His ERA on the season is an appalling 6.59. Since returning from the disabled list at the beginning of September after missing two months due to a stress fracture in his shoulder, he’s been torched for a 13.19 ERA in 14 1/3 innings. On Monday night in Miami, he was lit up for seven runs on 12 hits (including this majestic home run by Giancarlo Stanton Jerseys) in just four innings in an eventual 13–1 defeat. In the start before that in Chicago, he was tagged for five runs in 3 1/3 frames in a 17–5 loss.

 

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After his dismal outing against the Cubs, a furious Harvey ripped himself in his post-game comments, telling reporters, “It was terrible. I have to be better and that’s about it … It’s extremely frustrating.” But after his shellacking at the hands of the Marlins last night, a more resigned Harvey sounded like he was simply ready for a long offseason as far away from baseball as humanly possible:

 

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“There is nothing to say,” Harvey said. “It’s terrible, not fun, there is no reason for questions [from reporters], there are no answers. You are going to write what you are going to write, anyway. Obviously it’s deserved, so whatever you want to write, but there is nothing to say.”

 

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Harvey’s time in New York has never felt anything short of a saga, one full of highs, lows, and idiotic interludes by both team and player. Pessimistic Mets fans (read: all Mets fans) will tell you that a result like this was practically destined for this eternally star-crossed franchise. While the doom and gloom of the Flushing faithful may feel overblown at times, it’s not like anyone should be surprised that Harvey is reaching a breaking point. After all, this is a player who suffered a serious arm injury, was subsequently asked to push himself through 200-plus innings the year after elbow surgery, then suffered an even more serious arm injury as a result. The prospects of a full recovery from the second injury?are decidedly slim, and now Harvey?is one of the worst pitchers in baseball.

 

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But that doesn’t make what’s happened to Harvey any less sad or any less ruinous for the Mets, who two seasons ago were the envy of every general manager in baseball for their cost-controlled super rotation that is now in pieces. Harvey is broken; Steven Matz Jerseys seems completely unable to stay healthy; Noah Syndergaard Jerseys has missed most of the season with an arm injury of his own. Only Jacob deGrom Jerseys remains standing and still productive, but his terrific 2017 was all for cheap jersey naught as the Mets careen toward 90-plus losses. Worse, he’s now one year closer to free agency (which arrives after the 2020 season) and about to get decidedly more expensive through arbitration, barring a multi-year extension worked out this offseason—and that seems unlikely for a franchise that isn’t exactly flush with cash or eager to spend what little it seemingly has.

 

As for Harvey’s future in Queens, it feels very tenuous. The 28-year-old (he turns 29 in March) is due a raise in arbitration this winter in what will be his final team-controlled season with the Mets, and while he’ll likely only get a slight bump from the $5.125 million he’s making this year, the always-cost-conscious Mets may decide that any amount is too much for a pitcher who looks as bad as Harvey has. Getting something in return for him is a non-starter: His trade value will be close to zero coming off such a dismal year and with free agency looming after 2018. And even if he bounces back next season, all that means is that he’ll be more likely to depart than to stick around. New York’s front office will likely spend their money on locking up deGrom and Syndergaard long-term rather than investing in the decline phase of a 30-year-old with a history of arm problems. And as for Harvey, if 2018 follows the same path as ’17, he’ll find himself with no suitors and a bleak outlook.

 

There’s no new lesson to be learned from Harvey’s collapse, only a reinforcement of the age-old truism that pitchers break, and sometimes they break especially bad. You can look at his decline as another portion of the Mets’ World Series window, seemingly wide open after their championship run, inching ever closer to fully shut. You can look at it as bad luck, or you can blame the Mets’ medical malfeasance, or you can blame Harvey himself. But there’s no possible way to look at Harvey last night, laboring in the Miami heat and getting tattooed by a bad Marlins team, and not feel like those heady October days of 2015 were a lifetime ago.