MLB Mailbag: Bryce Harper or Rockies? Does José Abreu need a vacation?

As always, this is not complicated. You, the avid reader, ask questions about baseball. I, a big kid who makes a living writing and talking about this stupid sport, answer these questions, while trying to inform and entertain you in the process.

Makes sense? Let’s dive in.

Can you explain the Philadelphia vs. Colorado scrum? — Bill

First, the facts.

Rockies pitcher Jake Bird pitched a scoreless seventh inning against the Phillies in the series finale on Sunday afternoon. The first out of the inning came on a controversial play involving a double at second that the Phillies couldn’t challenge because plate umpire Ryan Wills said they took too long to deliberate. When Bird retired Bryson Stott on a flyout to left for the third out, he turned to the Phillies dugout and uttered some NSFW expletives before biting the glove at his opponents.

Harper, frail surgically repaired elbow and all, took Bird’s behavior as a taunt and hurried out of the dugout to face the Rockies’ reliever. A lot of typical fake baseball brawls ensued: half-assed shoves, a lot of shouldering, some hooking, and a lot of yelling. A closed lip reader on Twitter deduced that at one point Harper yelled “you’re a losing organization, every single one of you” at the Rockies.

Now, the analysis.

Please know that this is one of my favorite moments of the MLB season so far. Here are three reasons why.

1. Bryce Harper still has the fire in him

In his Nationals days, Harper was considered a flamenco, a bewildered youth who couldn’t control his emotions. That’s a simplified narrative, but there’s no doubt Harper, now 30, has relaxed since signing his big deal in Philly. This was a good dose of the old Bryce, bleary-eyed, hair all over the place, anger in the soul. It made me feel young again just watching him.

2. This is Jake Bird now, forever

Jake Bird is a 27-year-old reliever in his second MLB season with Colorado. So far this year, he’s been pretty solid for the last-place Rockies. Unfortunately for Mr. Bird, this is his legacy: Man Who Chirped At Bryce Harper. What a mismatch, huh? Rockies boy versus face of a baseball generation. I know who I have.

3. A losing organization

Harper is more than just a great hitter, this guy knows the ball, sees the ball, thinks the ball and talks the ball. A few weeks ago, I was present when a Mariners reporter asked Harper about Jarred Kelenic and Harper cited specific mechanical changes about a player he had (1) never met or interacted with (2) had 573 MLB at-bats in career and (3) played in a different league 2,000 miles across the country. He pays attention.

So when Harper calls the Rockies a “losing organization,” he doesn’t do it as an insult, but as a statement of fact. The sheer existence of the Colorado Rockies irritates this Cooperstown-bound man. As a man irrationally devoted to the pursuit of excellence, it angers Harper to his core that this purple and black monument to mediocrity is allowed to wallow in its mediocrity year after year after year. And so, he shared his thoughts. No notes

what he does Jose Abreu do you need to start hitting? Going on vacation for a month? Start breakfast for dinner? – Natalie

If I were Abreu, I’d simply step into a time machine and go back to 2014, or even 2022. If you’re reading this, you know that Abreu, who signed a three-year, $58.5 million deal with Houston during the winter. , has been worse than a razor blade on the wrist. His OPS starts at 5. He has zero home runs. Unfortunately, he has looked like a 36-year-old first baseman.

Chandler Rome of The Athletic recently wrote a story full of anecdotes about how Abreu, despite his struggles in April, wants to be in the lineup every day and is working outrageously hard to figure out what’s going on. So yes, I think Abreu needs to go on vacation. His surprisingly bad start isn’t just about the aging curve, dude could use a mental reset. I hear the Great Smoky Mountains are wonderful this time of year.

How long should Gunnar Henderson Will he be allowed to wrestle before returning to AAA for a reset? And how long should Jordan Westburg continue to rack up AAA before going to Baltimore? – Ray

Henderson, who was generally considered the No. 1 prospect in the sport heading into this season, has had a rather strange start to 2023. He hardly swings, especially on pitches out of the zone (good!). But when he pitches to the zone pitches he’s swinging and missing a bunch (bad!). That second thing isn’t a death sentence — Matt Olson, Brent Rooker, Randy Arozarena and Aaron Judge swing and miss in the zone more often than Henderson — but it certainly doesn’t help the youngster’s slow start.

I don’t think Henderson has anything left to learn in Triple-A. The only way to become a better big leaguer is by making adjustments against quality big league pitching. And because Henderson walks a lot, his overall offensive value has a very high floor, which is part of the reason the Orioles still put him in the lineup every day.

Let’s talk about Westburg, who has a 1.021 OPS and 11 homers at Triple-A Norfolk. He probably should be the everyday second baseman by now, but crafty veteran Adam Frazier has done it not more enough to keep his job with the reliable Ramón Urías in IL…for now. At some point, the Orioles will push Frazier to the bench and send Terrin Vavra to Triple-A and call up Westburg. when? I guess if not at the end of this month, then in the middle of June.

Does an outfielder HAVE to wear a cap or could he go hatless? The rules about what “uniform” means are not entirely clear! & obviously there are exceptions that are ignored/don’t apply, like pant length w. -Jim

To the MLB rules! Here are some relevant passages.

3.03 (a) All players on a team must wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all player uniforms must include a minimum of six inches on the back.

3.03 (c) No player whose uniform does not match that of his teammates may participate in a game.

Jim is correct that despite the wording of these “baseball laws”, players make alterations or additions to their uniforms for the purpose of differentiating the appearance. Examples include arm sleeves, black eyes, the height of socks, even the curve of a hat brim, etc., etc.

However, although hats are not specifically mentioned in the rule book, their inclusion is probably implied by the word “uniform”. I emailed an MLB official about this with the subject line “A Dumb Question” and was told that they assumed the hat would be part of the uniform and not wearing it would subject a player to discipline .

But that’s not definitive enough for me, because the wording is so vague. It’s worth noting that in college and professional softball, there is no standard hat. Some players wear hats, some visors, some headbands, some have nothing on their heads. MLB should do this too. We need a pioneering hero to go out without a hat.

Jake Mintzstronger half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He played college baseball, poorly at first, then very well, very briefly. Jake lives in New York City where he coaches Little League and rides his bike, sometimes at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.

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