Cumberland Times-News

Columns

May 16, 2013

Harper just needs to stop scoring the wall

• Happy birthday, Brooks Robinson. No. 5 will be 76 tomorrow.

Remember, in the words of Gordon Beard, “Brooks Robinson never asked anybody to name a candy bar after him. In Baltimore people name their children after him.”

And put up two statues of him.

• Happy birthday, Reggie Jackson. The anti-Brooks will be 67 tomorrow.

And unless Reggie paid for one himself (and don’t bet against it), there is not one Reggie statue of record.

• So the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper needs to slow down, huh? That’s what everybody but manager Davey Johnson is saying these days just because the kid ran fullspeed, nose-first into the right-field wall in Dodger Stadium the other night and nearly decapitated himself.

(Which brings to mind, in a funny way, of course, San Diego Padres play-by-play man Jerry Coleman, who once made this call on a ball hit to right field: “Winfield goes back to the wall, he hits his head on the wall and it rolls off! It’s rolling all the way back to second base. This is a terrible thing for the Padres.”)

No, Bryce Harper does not need to slow down. He just needs to stop being an idiot. His running into the wall had nothing to do with his hellbent for leather style of play. It had everything to do with his misplaying a flyball and paying no attention to the warning track.

Warning track: That’s why they’re there Brycey Bryce-Bryce, and that’s why they’re called warning tracks. When you feel dirt, crushed stone or rubber instead of grass beneath your feet after you butcher a flyball, it’s a warning that you should have been paying attention and that you really should look into pulling up.

Look, this is no knock on the kid. Quite the contrary, for I’ve tried to find every reason not to like Bryce Harper. But if you love baseball, how can you not love him as a player? Not only for the bust-arse way he plays the game, but because his ability could make him the best player of his generation. He does everything right, and he does everything better than anybody else.

I’ve watched more Nationals games (with the sound turned down) this year than I’ve cared to and, aside from the Nats being an excellent team that is going to be just fine by midsummer, Harper is the likely reason why. You watch him play and you can see something on any given night that you’ve never seen before — including a running nosedive into a wall, which, of course, we don’t condone.

The same can be said for Manny Machado, the Orioles second-year third baseman and heir to the shortstop throne. The only difference being we’ve almost kind of seen this before, as watching the young Machado is not unlike having watched the young Alex Rodriguez when he came up with the Seattle Mariners.

Machado, who leads the American League in hits, is just downright scary good, particularly when you consider what a great defensive player he already is while not playing his natural position. For Orioles fans, it’s not unlike Cal Ripken Jr.’s first couple of seasons when he was THE phenom of the big leagues. And, not so coincidentally, Machado represents the latest branch on the Ripken shortstop tree, even though Ripken came up then retired a third baseman, and even though Machado, a natural shortstop, is currently playing third base.

A-Rod, you see, grew up idolizing Ripken because he proved big men could play shortstop. And let’s face it, A-Rod was a great shortstop himself before becoming a great third baseman. As for Machado, he grew up idolizing A-Rod and, since they both live in Miami, went on it be mentored by A-Rod, with the two remaining very good friends.

The question beckons, naturally, as to what happens when J.J. Hardy’s contract expires after the 2014 season. Do the Orioles move Machado back to short? Yes, without question they do. Fortunately, though, that’s for another day for them to even consider.

• Not to be George Costanza here, but where did the term “score the basketball” come from?

What does it mean? And better yet, why?

He can score the basketball anytime he wants to ... What, he just calls a basketball and it will go out on a date with him at the drop of a hat?

Why is this all you hear basketball analysts and coaches say anymore? “He has the ability to score the basketball.” Really? I thought he had the ability to hit a lot of baskets and score a lot of points.

Just because we say, “He sure can pass the basketball” or “He rebounds the basketball better than anybody,” we have to say “the guy can sure score the basketball”?

Does former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend have anything to do with this? You’ll recall after the Baltimore Ravens won the 2001 Super Bowl, she said, “My favorite part was when the other team scored a football and then we came right back on the next play and scored a football too.”

Oy! That pretty much slammed the door on the Governor’s Mansion before it even opened. But when a politician says it, it’s stupid (and, it is), and when a basketball coach or analyst says it, it’s cutting edge — today’s modern basketball, leading me to believe that the Krzyzewski Conservatory high atop Cameron Indoor Stadium had something to do with this. Somebody probably heard him say it at a coaches clinic and here we are.

Oh, where have you gone Larry Bird? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you — a player who could really just pass, rebound and shoot.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

1
Text Only
Columns
  • Don’t do it. Don’t do it

    Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Mike Sawyers and his father, Frank Sale of quart-sized Mason jars lagging, merchants claim

    The opening day of Maryland’s squirrel hunting season is Sept. 6 and I am guessing you will be able to drive a lot of miles on the Green Ridge State Forest and see very few vehicles belonging to hunters of the bushytail. It wasn’t always that way. In the early 1960s, when I was a high school student in Cumberland, there was no Interstate 68. What existed was U.S. Route 40 and in the last couple of hours before daylight on the opening day of squirrel season there was an almost unbroken line of tail lights and brake lights between Cumberland and Polish Mountain.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hugo Perez Columnist, son are range finders, but where are .22 shells?

    We feel pretty lucky on this side of the Potomac to have a nice shooting range to utilize for free and within decent driving distance.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Stopgap

    Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.

    July 16, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014

  • Build it now Build it now

    Anticipated savings from demolition work that will provide ground for a new Allegany High School on Haystack Mountain may allow the addition of an auditorium at the school.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

    July 13, 2014