Tipsheet: Trout goes down, Harper puts self in harm’s way – STLtoday.com

Monday was not a great day for baseball’s two most electrifying outfielders.

And, no, we’re not counting whiff-prone, minors-bound Randal Grichuk in that equation.

Mike Trout learned he could miss the next five to eight weeks for the Los Angeles Angels while recovering from a torn thumb ligament suffered the day before while stealing a base.

Over in the National League, Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper blew a gasket after getting hit by a pitch and charged San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland — triggering a bench-clearing melee.

Harper didn’t risk his life with that ill-fated move, but he definitely risked limb. What if he broke a hand or wrenched his shoulder in the ensuing melee?

“A baseball is a weapon,” Harper told reporters afterward. “Sometimes you’ve got to go and get him. You can’t hesitate. You can either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Yeah, but Major League Baseball didn’t want to lose him, too, after seeing Trout go down. These guys help drive the industry, particularly with young fans hoping to see some action in the sport.

Strickland apparently plunked Harper in retribution for two homers he hit back in the 2014 playoffs, including one blast down the right field line that Harper took a good long look at before starting his trot.

“It’s so in the past it’s not even relevant anymore,” Harper said. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should be even thinking about what happened in the first round.”

As for Trout, his injury effectively ends the Angels season, such as it was.

“Any time a guy is hurt, there’s a ripple effect,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters. “We lose a guy like Mike, the way he plays his game, the way he plays with passion. His presence on the field is huge, his presence in the clubhouse is huge. But we have to be more than one guy, and I think we are.”

No, you are not. Trout is hitting .337 with 14 doubles, 16 homers, 32 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. There’s just no replacing that offense.

Albert Pujols, for instance, is batting just .249 with six homers and 34 RBIs. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is the team’s next biggest run producer with 20 RBIs. Collectively, Angels not named Mike Trout are hitting .226 with a .298 on-base percentage.

The Angels (26-28) are already 11 games back of Jeff Luhnow‘s Houston Astros in the AL West. For now they are clinging to mathematical life in the wild card race, but that won’t last.

MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE

Questions to ponder while wondering if Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong can pump some life into the struggling Cardinals:

Where was Tiger’s caddy when he needed him?

So what do MLB players talk about at first base?

How will the Cavaliers defend Steph Curry?

TALKING BASEBALL

Here is what folks have been writing about Our National Pastime:

Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports: “Seriously, have you ever heard baseball players try to explain away the nonsense that goes on when a pitcher brandishes the five-ounce ball in his hand and chucks it at a batter? Baseball’s labyrinthine unwritten rules force players to twist themselves into logical pretzels, and none is anywhere near a talented enough contortionist to extract himself from the foolishness the game teaches. It’s bad enough when the pitcher — in this case, Hunter Strickland  — tries to deny hitting the batter intentionally. For nearly three years, Strickland had bottled up fury that Bryce Harper, the hitter, walloped a pair of home runs off him in a 2014 playoff series the Giants actually won on their way to a World Series championship. The rationale here is delightful. Strickland was bad at his job. Harper was good at his job. Ipso facto, Harper deserves to get hit with a 98-mph fastball. Harper, of course, knows better than to succumb to a 1,000-day-grudge-carrying lummox. He has been a target for the aggrieved, the jealous, the foolish since the day he was drafted. To get baited by Hunter Strickland, of all people, is just unbecoming.”

David Schoenfield, ESPN.com: “Without Trout the Angels might have the worst offense in the American League. With Kole Calhoun off to a slow start, the only above-average hitter in the lineup other than Trout has been Cameron Maybin, who suddenly has decided to start taking walks, helping himself to a .370 OBP. Albert Pujols is closing in on 600 home runs, but he’s a shell even of his early days with the Angels, hitting a terrible .249/.297/.381 entering Monday’s game. C.J. Cron was supposed to be a power source, but he was so bad, he’s in the minors. Minus Trout, you’re looking at Ben Revere (.235 OBP) getting more playing time. He’s a replacement-level player, at best (and below one, so far), so we’re talking about three to four wins of value being lost. With Trout, FanGraphs projected the Angels to finish 79-83, with playoff odds of 15 percent. Those odds probably dip below 10 percent with a lengthy DL stint. From a statistical perspective, we’ll miss Trout’s run at a third MVP award. He has finished first or second in the voting during all five of his seasons, and with a .337/.461/.742 line, he was in line for not just another top finish, but possibly one of the best offensive seasons in a long time. During the expansion era, only six times has a player finished with a higher OPS than Trout’s current 1.203 mark (four of those by Barry Bonds, one by Mark McGwire and one by Frank Thomas).”

Mike Lupica, Sports on Earth: “On Memorial Day, traditionally the first good tracking point of the baseball season, we really need to talk about the team with the second-best record in the sport behind the Astros. A team that can mash like crazy, up and down its batting order. A team whose starting pitching has been a surprise, and one whose relief pitching is absolutely stacked in the late innings. Of course it sounds as if we’re talking about the Yankees. We’re not. The team, even more of a surprise than the Yankees, is the Colorado Rockies. You can only imagine the things people would be saying about them if they were doing this in New York, and what kind of expectations people would have for them after a start like they’ve had.”

Michael Baumann, The Ringer: “Since New York is more than twice the size of most American cities, there’s room for two outstanding young corner outfielders: the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who is also more than twice the size of most American cities, and Michael Conforto of the Mets. Judge became one of the biggest stories of the 2017 season after hitting 10 home runs in April. He’s cooled off a little since that hot start, but he’s still slugging over .600 in May, is tied for the big league lead in home runs (15), has the second-highest average exit velocity in baseball (94.4 mph, trailing only Miguel Sanó), and is responsible for the hardest-hit ball of the season, a home run to center field off Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman that left he bat at 119.4 mph. Judge has been a huge factor in the Yankees’ surprising run to first place in the AL East, but the team’s success has also given Judge an added spotlight. Conforto hasn’t exactly flown under the radar, but his team’s been dysfunctional even by the Mets’ usual ‘late-1980s crumbling Soviet bloc government’ standards. Conforto didn’t even start back-to-back games until April 20 and 21, because the Mets built the entire team out of corner outfielders and getting manager Terry Collins not to just play the three oldest healthy guys on the roster is like getting a dog to swallow a pill.” 

MEGAPHONE

“It’s a good swing on a pitch that’s out there. It’s good to see. We’ll keep penciling him in, let him play, get his swings. Some good things are happening. You’re looking for consistency. We’ll see where it goes.”

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, after struggling outfielder Andrew McCutchen woke up and launched a game-winning homer.