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Dodgers interest in Bryce Harper should be expected, not surprising

USA Today Sports

Dodgers interest in Bryce Harper should be expected, not surprising

The reverse would be more surprising. If the Los Angeles Dodgers, loaded with so many of the cues necessary to chase down Bryce Harper, sat this one out, hands behind their back, head shaking, that would be a stunner.

The Dodgers wading into the situation at some point is not. Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that Los Angeles is among those now in pursuit of Harper, at least in a cursory nature. Harper and Scott Boras are reportedly hosting owners in Las Vegas ahead of the Winter Meetings. These are the people who will be handling this negotiation. Harper and Boras are talking to ownership groups. General managers will be mitigated in this process. It’s how Boras does, and has done, high-end business for the last 20 years. 

Los Angeles is a common-sense fit, should it decide to enter negotiations with force. It has proximity, legacy, roster flexibility and starry-eyed allure on its side. Harper could make it back to Las Vegas via a four-hour drive or a plane ride that lasts just more than an hour. His promotional opportunities would be amplified. It’s easy to picture him sitting courtside at Lakers games with his fellow fame-drenched L.A. workers.

The Dodgers have reached consecutive World Series. Their baseball legacy is in line with the Yankees or Red Sox or Cubs. The situation is a prime bundle of wins for Harper each time he checks an item on his list. 

Would it be beneficial to stay long-term? Would it work for my personal life? Will we win? Can I grow my brand? All are answered with an emphatic “yes” when assessing the Dodgers. They just have to cooperate.

Past decisions by Los Angeles president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman suggest the lone speed bump. He’s loathe to shackle the organization to one enormous contract since taking over in 2014. Clayton Kershaw’s recent contract extension didn’t even reach $100 million. Three years, $93 million for the league’s best pitcher when healthy.

The organization likes depth and flexibility. Harper cuts into both. Matt Kemp, who has to play a corner outfield position, will cost the Dodgers $21.5 million in 2019. Yasiel Puig is expected to receive a pay bump to around $11 million in arbitration. Cody Bellinger moves between center field and first base. That in turn moves Max Muncy around. And so on.

Which is not to suggest Los Angeles can’t simplify its stance by saying 'Harper is too valuable, we’ll sign him and figure it out.' Its manager, Dave Roberts, is one of the best in baseball at varied deployment. His talent is part of the reason the Dodgers can take the approach they do. Plus, Kemp and Puig come off the books in 2020 while Bellinger, 23, and Corey Seager, 24, remain under cost-effective team control. Syncing them with a 26-year-old Harper makes billboards and sense.

The Dodgers also snuck under the competitive balance tax threshold last season, resetting their clock and avoiding penalties. That opens their ability -- along with massive revenue streams -- to chase Harper, who already turned down $300 million from the Nationals and undoubtedly wants to at least surpass Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million contract, the largest in the history of North American professional sports.

In a vacuum, the Dodgers’ deliverables fit. In this specific space, they also fit. The Winter Meetings are a week away in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas. Hearing about interest from the Dodgers shouldn’t surprise anyone.



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2019 Little League World Series: How to watch Virginia vs. Louisiana

2019 Little League World Series: How to watch Virginia vs. Louisiana

Loudoun South Little League will play Thursday night for a chance to advance to the United States final of the Little League World Series.

After a furious rally wasn't quite enough Wednesday night against Hawaii, the South Riding, Virginia, squad is one loss away from elimination in the double-elimination tournament. At the same time, though, they're also one win away from the United States championship game and a shot at redemption against Hawaii. Virginia did not allow a hit through the first two games of the tournament but is now on the brink of elimination.

Here's how you can watch the first Virginia Little League team in 25 years to make the LLWS play for a shot at the title.

Date and Time: August 22, 7:00 PM ET

Location: Lamade Stadium

Channel: ESPN, including streaming 

Teams: South Riding, VA (Southeast Region L24) vs. River Ridge, Louisiana  (Southwest Region W22)


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Nationals strike gold with role players a year after floundering in that department

Nationals strike gold with role players a year after floundering in that department

PITTSBURGH -- The so-called scrap heap isn’t always kind. General managers are sifting through what other general managers didn’t want in search of a solution for a problem they have. The odds of success in such an equation are low. Think about it in real life: there’s an issue and the strategy is to resolve it with someone else’s previous problem. Not great.

But, that’s where injuries and under-performance push GMs each season. The Opening Day nine don’t make it through the season. They got hurt. They fail. Sometimes both. Which leaves the water-carrying to the role players.

How those fill-ins -- whether in-house or later acquired -- perform can pivot a season. 

They failed in Washington last year. Wilmer Difo hit .230. The year before, he hit .271 as a supplemental part. Brian Goodwin played 48 games, good for a 79 OPS-plus in 2018. The season before? An .811 OPS. Mark Reynolds was serviceable at the plate thanks to 13 home runs and a 110 OPS-plus. Otherwise, the fill-ins didn’t work.

Similar troubles spilled into the start of 2019 when April and May jeopardized the season. Difo again under-performed. Top-prospect Carter Kieboom wasn’t ready when Trea Turner was hurt. Michael A. Taylor played his way to Double-A Harrisburg.

The opposite occurred for dice rolls Gerardo Parra, 32, and Asdrúbal Cabrera, 33, and bench mainstays Howie Kendrick and Matt Adams. Parra’s .814 OPS has paired with defensive versatility and dugout bonanzas to make him among the most valuable role players in the league -- a surprise to most. Cabrera homered again in Wednesday’s 11-1 win in Pittsburgh. He’s hitting .324 since arriving with two home runs in 37 at-bats. 

Cabrera is in his 13th season; Parra his 11th. Both dealt with similar paths to end up in Washington. 

Cabrera was released for the first time in his career when Texas sent him out Aug. 3. The news was a jolt.

“That surprised me at that moment,” Cabrera said. “I got my son with me that day and he's always been with me. He was crying. ... But, I keep it in my mind I know I've still got a chance to still play baseball and trust myself. Washington called me and I feel really good to be back here and show the people I can still do it.”

The Nationals signed him three days later. Parra joined the team two days after becoming a free agent. He took one call -- from Washington. Then, he immediately turned his season around, too.

They were added to Adams and Kendrick, two of the league’s better bench players. Adams hit his 14th double Wednesday to go with 20 home runs and serviceable first base play. Kendrick has a .913 OPS despite a second-half slowdown. Both have been key in keeping the Nationals afloat.

They were here from the start. Parra and Cabrera showed up after being discarded elsewhere, adjusting midseason, trying to figure out what’s next after a decade in the game. And their additions were giant supplements to Adams and Kendrick, rounding out a roster the same way role players did in division-winning seasons under Dusty Baker.

“It’s tough, cause you don’t know what the outcome is going to be,” Davey Martinez said of the adjustment. “For me, cause I got traded many times during the season later in my career, it’s more about family. 'Oh man, I’ve got to pick up, I’ve got to get my family here.' On the other hand, when you do get picked up, you feel pretty good about yourself. 'Hey, there’s a team out there that wants you.' And especially a team that’s in the playoff hunt.

"You come and you get an ability to help somebody get to the playoffs, for these guys when they come in here they’re ramped up. They’re ready to go. All the new guys we got. They’re fired up. They see what’s going on. They love the clubhouse. They love their teammates. We welcome them in like they’ve been here all year. And they appreciate it.”