by Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
Bottom line: He produces.
As maddeningly inconsistent and glaringly light with the eye-popping power displays in his first season with the Phillies as Bryce Harper may be thus far, there is no denying that.
Oh, some may try – pointing out his subpar batting average, a legit beef, or stating that teammate Rhys Hoskins shoulders most of the team’s offensive load, a laughable one. But the reality is, even with all the scuffling he has endured at the plate during much of the 2019 campaign’s first half, dipping as low as .219 after six weeks, as Harper enters his 99th game in Philly attire this evening in Pittsburgh, he has been one of Major League Baseball’s best run producers.
Forget your frustration with his sometimes ill-advised baserunning for a minute. Or your dislike for his celebratory sneers or your jealousy of his flowing hair. Or distaste for his mind-boggling, uber-long-term contract.
Here are the facts:
Not bad for a guy, well, struggling a bit in his initial season with a new team.
Thing is, this is not a career year for Harper, who is behind the pace of most averages for his first seven seasons. His MVP season of 2015, he hit 42 homers with a .330 batting average, .460 on-base percentage and .649 slugging percentage for a rather Ruthian 1.109 OPS.
But it is a career year for the likes of fellow big-namers Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Christian Yellich and Freddie Freeman. Yet, still, Harper’s production is within striking distance of all.
Thanks to his current 15-game surge (15 RBIs and 8 runs scored while going .351, .431, .596 and 1.027 on the averages), Harper has 109 runs produced (70 RBIs plus 56 runs scored, minus 17 homers).
Comparatively speaking, Freeman has 124 (76 + 73 – 25) and Yellich 113 (75 + 73 – 35) while Trout (75 + 75 – 30) and Bellinger (77 + 77 – 34) both have 120.
Pirates slugger Josh Bell (84 + 71 – 27) and Boston’s Rafael Devers (73 + 74 – 19) pace the majors at 128 apiece, with Devers’ teammate, Xander Bogaerts (74 + 74 – 21), bumping up from good to great status this season, at 127.
Anthony Rendon (116 runs produced), has picked up the pace in Harper’s absence in Washington, but, again, he’s having a career year, and Mets rookie Pete Alfonso (100) has been a revelation.
Harper, meanwhile, though starting to warm up, has yet to really go off, as he is prone to do at some point each season … and he’s already been producing at a high level by MLB 2019 standards.
For further perspective on that, consider Manny Machado.
The former Baltimore shortstop was the 1A to Harper’s 1 status in the most recent free-agent market and has had a solid start in San Diego. In fact, he’s shown more power than Harper, drilling 24 homers. But he trails Harper in runs produced, his 96 total 13 less than what the Phillies right fielder has posted.
Take note, Philly fans and media, Hoskins trails Harper by 18 … and that margin has been growing of late. Quickly.
So, pick him apart, if you like. Or simply enjoy watching him play.
Either way, bottom line: He produces.
LAST 15 GAMES
Beginning on June 31, Harper has:
TOP RUN PRODUCERS
RBIs plus runs scored, minus home runs, through July 19:
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Go see it.
When push comes to shove in reviewing a movie, there is no more positive disclaimer a writer can give a flick.
Go see it.
For me, that’s the take on “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
With fair warning …
For those of you taken in by the Marvel Universe’s hard lean to the all-star lineup of superheroes joining forces to face off against intergalactic threats the last few years, this may not be your cup of tea.
But let it steep a little in the theater and it might grow on you a bit.
Truth be told, this second solo act in the latest Spider-Man reboot starts pretty slow. Frankly, it takes just about half the 130-minute showtime to get going.
At that point, with our hero (British actor Tom Holland reprises his youthful take on the Spider-Man/Peter Parker role) having befriended Mysterio, aka Quentin Beck, as played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and awarded him “Avengers” status after going to battle together and defeating the last-standing Earth “Elemental,” a rather cartoonish massive figure of fire, it turns out that the script doctors of the plot decided to shift gears and be true to original Spidey series.
The result being: Mysterio isn’t friend-worthy or Avengers-worthy. He’s a diabolical, narcissistic, power-hungry genius.
Turns out the inferno and Elemental cohorts seen previously were nothing more than creations of an army of drones controlled by the real villain, Mysterio.
Good, because it was a little creepy for those of us with some old-school Spidey knowledge to see the webslinger teaming up with a character that had long been a nemesis in storyline print.
Perhaps naïve, you know, being just a teen and all, and trying to vacation with classmates in Europe, not the least of whom being MJ (Zendaya), the object of young Parker’s heart tingling, Spidey, like everyone else, was simply fooled by Mysterio’s act, which was aided by a team of nerdy, tech-driven minions.
Inquisitive by nature, and “the smartest guy in the room” despite his youth, Parker starts to piece things together, gets over his fears and second-guessing, receives some help from “Happy” (Jon Favreau), makes a new suit with an ode to his old pal Iron Man/Tony Starke playing in the background – “Back in Black” by AC/DC (spoiler alert from this point forward: this is when Happy realizes that Spidey is ready to take over as the lead Avenger) – and comes back to, well, kick Mysterio’s ass in an epic tussle on and around London Bridge, with Spidey facing an army of drones at the mercy of ol’ best friend for five minutes.
Spidey/Parker even manages to get the girl before things wrap up and credits role. As does the long overdue reappearance of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), from a prior Spider-Man vehicle manned by Toby Maguire, and a colossal “What the F#ck” moment in which Spidey’s identity is revealed via video – taken by Mysterio just as he was being defeated by our hero.
The post-movie stuff is worth sticking around to check out, too, if only for its kitchy appeal and, later, its link to current trending state of Marvel.
Cards on the table, not a big fan of superhero moviemaker giant’s take on Spidey/Parker and its insistence on youth, youth, youth. That Parker has to be this pint-sized high schooler who is more geek than anything else.
A further stretch from what the character was with initial creation and for decades in comic books and cartoons could not be derived. Spidey was the ultimate smartass among superheroes, and, frankly, a cocksure badass. He played more innocent as Parker, of course, but not to the degree Marvel pushes, and he wasn’t perpetually 16 years old, either. The original Spidey/Parker was in high school briefly before being a college undergrad. In other words, he wasn’t so “young.”
That being said, Holland makes the character work. He has a certain charm and boyish innocence that is endearing and engaging, and he shows the capacity to grow the character into a mature one … if Marvel ever lets him.
If nothing else, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is good, clean fun in a time where that isn’t always easy to find, and, all in all, entertaining.
Go see it.
by Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
Hmmm, what to make of it …
The crown jewel of the college basketball season – the Final Four of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – is about to tip off in a few hours with the first of two national semifinals in an oversized, glass-roofed football stadium situated in downtown Minneapolis, and, frankly, am still kinda up in the air here.
In short, regardless of program histories and coaching reps, we got four pretty evenly matched teams, with intense-but-understated Steady-Eddie Tom Izzo and his equally stable Michigan State Spartans serving as the headliners of a show that also includes a classic underachiever in Virginia and two newbies to this “ultimate” hoops scene in Texas Tech and Auburn.
Just begs the question, does that make for quality entertainment tonight through Monday night’s title game, or sheer boredom?
Hmmm, what to make of it …
With the clock, as noted, winding down, gotta say, leaning toward the latter.
Why? There’s no “juice” here. No David. No Goliath. Nothing real big. Nothing real small. Nothing great. Nothing awful.
We got four power-5 conference schools at the event. They’re all “name” schools, not virtual unknowns like George Mason in 2006, or Virginia Commonwealth and Butler in 2010.
The buzz is pretty low. The vibe, really, pretty much on life support.
Say one thing for Duke, when it makes it to this stage, as it gritting-my-teeth so often does, at least serves a critical role in being the team to hate, or root against, for the vast majority of non-frontrunning fans out there. North Carolina, Kentucky or such former, one-time uber-hyped outfits as UNLV and Florida have been fabulous bull's-eye fodder, too.
But that entity is lacking this April.
So, too, is a true underdog … and, sorry, anyone trying to push Auburn as that either hasn’t been following the sport the last six weeks or has no ability whatsoever to judge talent. Since getting smoked at Kentucky on Feb. 23, Bruce Pearl’s Tigers have won 12 straight, including victories against the best team in the Southeastern Conference for most of the 2019-19 campaign in Tennessee – twice, in the regular season and then in blowout fashion in the conference title tilt – and then against perennial national juggernauts Kansas and UNC, in almost embarrassingly easy fashion, before serving UK a nice payback sandwich in a Sunday matinee Midwest Regional final last weekend.
They managed that last one without their best player, Chuma Okeke, too. Suffering an obvious ACL tear that CBS announcers Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel inexplicably couldn’t grasp or even explain – “may be an ankle” … really, brah, are you that outta touch with sports injuries, especially the most incredibly simple one to spot? – late against the Tar Heels,
Okeke, a gifted junior forward, will not be available until next season, if he recovers from surgery by then. But, really, not even sure that’ll matter.
Spearheaded by the Shazam-fast backcourt of Jared Harper and Bryce Brown, Auburn’s advantage over, well, every team in the country is speed. Fastbreaking UNC and UK both challenged the Tigers there, and got burned. Bad.
Frankly, the only source of electricity in these last three games of the season seems like it would come from the sparks off Auburn’s sneakers. Virginia, Tech and even MSU are energy-sapping squads to the max. Both the Cavs and Raiders rely so heavily on defense, and the Spartans on playing, well, the heavy that they come across more like old-school WWE wrestlers, outfitted in shorts instead of singlets, slapping on a sleeper hold – not just to the opposition, but the viewing audience.
Izzo, Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Tech’s Chris Beard may be superstar technicians in their profession, but, my lord, they produce some serious snore sessions on the court.
If anything, to me, Auburn is this Final Four’s only shot at salvation. Should the Tigers fail to beat Virginia tonight, Monday’s finale with the Cavs systematically shutting TV-watching eyelids across the nation along with either Tech or MSU provides a perfect opportunity for an alternative.
So, that’s what to make of the 2019 Final Four. At this point at least.
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Sean Payton:
Feel your pain, buddy, and am sorry for it.
That missed pass-interference call in Sunday’s NFC title game against the Los Angeles Rams … brutal. Just brutal.
It’s the kind of thing that can haunt you, your New Orleans Saints and the rest of Who Dat Nation for an eternity.
But that’s really not what is bothering you, is it?
When you get past the frustration, the pain, the “goddam, we had ’em” teeth-gritting, the reality is … you and your team blew the game, not the officials.
That’s the thing that is eating away at you.
Sure, it’s easy to point the finger at that one play, a third-and-10 pass attempt from Drew Brees to Tommylee Lewis blown up by Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman is almost cartoonish fashion, a pass interference so obvious that anyone could have called it – yet no official in this game did.
Game, set, match right there, huh, coach? Cost you the game, huh?
If only damn reality didn’t get in the way of such a good gripe.
For starters, the teams were tied 20-all at that point, with 1:48 remaining in regulation. If memory serves, Saints placekicker Will Lutz then drilled a 37-yard field goal to give the hosts a three-point cushion, right?
To me, and am sure you as well, coach, a championship squad shuts the door on the opposition right there and soon commences plans for its second Super Bowl trip in a decade.
Didn’t happen, though, did it?
Nope. Rams went right down the field and kicked the tying field goal.
No biggie, though. Overtime merely gave you, your MVP candidate and your team another opportunity to shine, and ultimately earn that berth to Atlanta.
What’s that … Brees threw a pick on the first possession in the extra frame? Geez, probably still decimated from what didn't get called minutes before, huh?
Well, certainly the defense picked him up, right? That's what title-winning teams do.
Alas, it didn’t. Gave up just enough yardage on the Rams’ ensuing series to pave the way for Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning 57-yard field goal.
Thing is, New Orleans blew this game long before that final kick. Even long before that laughably pathetic non-call.
Championship outfits don’t blow 13-0 first-quarter leads in the playoffs. At home. After they’ve posted a 13-3 mark in the regular season to earn that advantage.
They don’t get outgained 363 yards to 160 after that initial frame, either. With the opposing team’s most lethal weapon riding the bench most of the time.
They certainly don’t have their head coach go into brain-dead mode near the end of regulation and see him call a stupid pass play on first down at the opposing team’s 13-yard line with less than two minutes on the clock when the obvious call there is a run to force the other team to burn a timeout after making a tackle.
The pass, of course, was incomplete … and pretty much encapsulated the entire afternoon for the Saints.
Everything was right there for the taking, and they tossed it away.
Even after a horrible missed call.
When you get past all the bitching, the moaning and the rationalizing, that is what the real issue is.
A word to the wise: Just deal with it. The denial only delays the healing.
Signed, Your Conscience
by Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
It’s fickle. It’s phony. It’s totally Philly.
This farewell to Nick Foles silliness with all the dripping-with-sincerity well-wishers making sure that he, the only quarterback in franchise history to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory, knows that he will forever be … a legend in town.
The majority of people sharing such sentiments were the same ones who either outwardly stated how things would have been even better with Carson Wentz at the helm or inwardly wished Wentz was at the helm because he – not Foles – was their guy.
The memory of what Foles accomplished not only last season, but this one that was careening off the rails for the Eagles until he took over for an injured Wentz yet again, started to fade immeasurably the moment that spot-on pass went right through Alshon Jeffery’s hands and into New Orleans defensive back Marcus Lattimore’s lap to seal an NFC divisional-round clinching victory for the Saints.
You could hear the collective sigh of mindless rationale immediately emanating from Midnight Green Nation, headed by, laughably, the media, across the country – or at least read about it in ridiculously stated code.
The gist of it all: “Well, now we can get back on the path we wanted. With our ‘franchise quarterback’ at the helm.”
Yes, you can … and, at this point, you – and, more importantly, the Eagles – should.
This is the reality: The Eagles have believed in Wentz from Day One. They bent over backward to move up in the 2016 NFL Draft to get him with the No. 2 pick. They traded Sam Bradford the moment it became possible to do so in order to make Wentz the starter. They gave Wentz carte blanche to do whatever he decided was best to do from his first snap.
With that, he has performed well. As well as credited as performing? That’s debatable. Highly debatable. We could argue stats all you want, but they can be skewed. Heck, Wentz was a shell of his 2017 self this past fall, yet his quarterback rating was better in 2018 than it was in his “record-setting” one.
Foles, conversely, has never, ever gained the trust of the Birds’ braintrust. Didn’t matter how well he performed, or what ungodly numbers – or wins – he put up. Or the franchise records he set. When they cast a shadow over anything Wentz did, the Eagles ignored it, or, worse, downplayed it. They, like most fans and media, just chalked it up to “in the moment” momentum, or luck, or magic.
Insulting. Totally. With Eagles head coach Doug Pederson further piling on true lack of appreciation just two days after this title-defense season ended, proclaiming, essentially, he now knows how to handle Wentz better – because, geez, if we can accomplish this, that and the other with a guy like Foles, the mind boggles at what we’ll be able to do with Wentz running the show.
Yeah, coach, get back to me when your boy makes it to the playoffs, and wins a game. Doesn’t even have to win the whole shebang. Just one postseason game.
But, we digress …
Keeping it real, Foles didn’t exactly play stellar in either of the playoff games he started this month. Oh, he performed exceptional right at the outset against Chicago and New Orleans. Then Pederson pulled in the reins, got conservative and reverted to his fetal position of calling on Darren Sproles’ number all too often. Both games.
Doesn’t matter. Even with that, Foles had opportunity to shine, and he didn’t.
Oh, he was directing the Eagles on another thrilling, game-winning drive before Jeffery’s whiff. The masses, incredulously, have somehow skirted over that in their haste to make sure it’s time to move back to Wentz. But, still, Foles was – overall – nothing special against the Bears and Saints.
His efforts paled in comparison to those he gave in last season’s championship run, when he had to throw his way out of Pederson’s “oh, he’s not Carson” shackles to bring Philly its first NFL title since 1960.
The greatness Foles displayed then … that won’t be remembered. It certainly won’t be legendary. Because the Eagles’ organization and the majority of the fan base made that so.
Everything Foles did came with an asterisk attached. Like he didn’t earn it. That he stumbled into it. That everyone else stepped up their game to carry him.
Pretty soon we won’t be hearing Foles’ name linked to Wentz, but, rather, Trent Dilfer.
With those same well-wishing phonies nodding in unknowing unison.