The boos from the Los Angeles crowd one week ago trumpeted the arrival of a new villain in Major League Baseball, someone to move the needle and pique the interest of casual fans. On Sunday night, Bryce Harper was on display for the national audience in a home tilt. He wasted no time getting the crowd ignited.
The baseball world and talking heads everywhere have been breaking down the first Cole Hamels-Bryce Harper showdown. You know the particulars. Hamels plunked Harper in the first inning of the Sunday night game between the Phillies and Nationals. The rookie then electrified the home crowd by stealing home (his first career stolen base) to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Of course, things spilled over from the game when Hamels admitted to plunking Harper and the managers and front offices got involved.
I don’t supposed this fades away quietly, as these two heavyweights are slated to do battle in the NL East for a long time to come. The weighted schedule portends to many confrontations.
We’ve experienced a frenzy of activity in the past two weeks. The closer carousel has been running non-stop, with both of the Los Angeles and Chicago teams changing out closers (charge to the wire for Kenley Jansen) along with San Diego, Miami and, of course, the Yankees in the wake of Mariano Rivera’s injury. We’ve seen several stars injured along with Rivera, including Jayson Werth, Mat Gamel and Evan Longoria. And, of course, the promotions from the minor leagues have been fast and furious.
Harper and Los Angeles call-up Mike Trout received all of the headlines. Quietly, the Red Sox promoted a sweet-swinging slugger of their own.
In Boston, fans are celebrating Will Middlebrooks, who appeared in several of my “Minor League Update” columns on FOXSports.com. Middlebrooks went 2-for-3 in his debut and hit a grand slam in his third game. On Monday night, Middlebrooks extended his meager hitting streak to four games with a breakout performance against the Royals. He went 3-for-5 with two home runs, a double and five RBI.
Look at the wire for corner infield support. At worst, you know you’ll have a ton of prime time opportunities to curse his acquisition.