by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
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 | email@example.com
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.