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Bryce Harper accused of being concerned with preserving hitting streak

Bryce Harper NationalsWashington Nationals manager Matt Williams made an example out of Bryce Harper over the weekend by benching him after Harper chose not to hustle down the line on a ground ball back to the pitcher. Some felt that Williams should have given Harper leeway since he has been nursing a quad injury, but the manager apparently felt the injury was not serious enough to serve as an excuse.

On Monday morning, Tom Boswell of the Washington Post held his weekly chat with fans and was asked if he thought Harper deserved to be benched. He shared some interesting information that is worth a read.

Within the team it is certainly seen as appropriate.

The team was specifically told several days ago that the next guy who doesn’t run out a ball is coming out of the game. As to the quad, Harper missed a game on Weds that happened to be against Jose Fernandez. Other players always look for “coincidences.” The next game, he laid down a bunt against Wainwright, flew to first and looked fine. After he went 0-for-4, he threw his helmet. Turns out that 0-fer snapped a nine-game hitting streak. Not much of a streak. But teammates noticed. I assume his quad really did hurt him. But the Nats, over the last year, have certainly narrowed their eyes in looking at Harper’s motivations. The enormous benefits of the doubt — on whether he’s really more about the team or about himself or about both — that he got when he was 19 are not going to obtain  when you are in your third full year in the big leagues.

Remember, no manager would do this — it’s dramatic, unequivocal and got national attention — unless 1) the player involved had a history of similar behavior, 2) the organization supported the move and the manager knew that he would get full backing and 3) the team had been “refreshed” on the need to run balls out.

Harper is 0-for-4 in his career against Fernandez, who is one of the best young arms in the game. We know Harper has a tendency to get frustrated with himself, and that would not have been the first time he spiked his helmet after a rough at-bat. The assertion that the Nationals have “narrowed their eyes in looking at Harper’s motivations” is relatively serious.

If Boswell was passing along what he heard from other players, that could be even worse. Harper came into the league with a reputation of being a young kid who is cocky and arrogant, but I personally have always seen him as a team player who wants to win. I’ve been wrong before.

H/T Hardball Talk

Lightning lose to Canadiens after controversial goaltender interference call (Video)

The Tampa Bay Lightning desperately needed a win against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday to avoid falling behind 0-3 in their opening round playoff series, but they were unable to get. Thanks in part to a controversial goaltender interference call, Tampa Bay is now one game away from elimination.

It looked like the Lightning had taken a 2-1 lead in the second period when forward Ryan Callahan scored after a series of shots that sent Canadiens goaltender Carey Price scrambling all over the ice. However, an official ruled that a Lightning player had interfered with Price and waved off the goal.

Lightning-goaltender-interference

Lightning center Alex Killorn inadvertently ended up in the net after losing his balance. When he went to make his way back into the play, he barely grazed Price. Apparently the official felt that he made enough contact with Price to affect his ability to make a save. Here is the official rule on goaltender interference, courtesy of Puck Daddy:

69.3 Contact Inside the Goal Crease – If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

The fact that it happened in the crease probably made the call easier. Still, there was no way Price was going to get back into position in time to make that save. Shortly after the call, Steven Stamkos took a knee to the back of the head and had to leave the game. Montreal went on to win 3-2 and may have put an unofficial end to the Lightning’s season.

Ronda Rousey rips Cyborg, calls her an ‘it’

Ronda Rousey Cyborg Santos

Ronda Rousey has made it clear over the past few years that she does not like Cris Cyborg Justino, and in case you weren’t aware, she cemented that point a few days ago.

Rousey talked with Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole Friday about some of her potential opponents. Rousey is scheduled to fight Alexis Davis on July 5, but the her potential fights are much more intriguing. Those would be against three people who aren’t even in the UFC — Cyborg, Gina Carano and Holly Holm.

Though Rousey had praise for Carano and showed interest in facing Holm, she ripped Cyborg. Rousey also said that while she is willing to face Cyborg, she does not agree with the steroids cheat being promoted by the organization.

“I’ve said before, I don’t care if she’s injecting horse semen into her eyeballs, I’ll fight her, but that’s just my personal decision,” Rousey told Iole. “But I can’t make a decision for the whole division. I can’t say it’s the right thing. This girl has been on steroids for so long and [has been] injecting herself for so long that she’s not even a woman anymore. She’s an ‘it.’ It’s not good for the women’s division. It’s not good at all.

“If she comes in the UFC and I beat the [expletive] out of her and then I retire and become an action movie star, then the UFC is still going to be stuck with her. The division could die. She could ruin the whole sport. Even though it’s a fight a lot of people want to see, even if I beat the living crap out of her, it won’t be good for the sport because then she’d still be in the UFC.

“I really think with Cyborg taking all of those steroids and hormones and then going into the cage, it’s like going in with a weapon. It’s certainly very negligent, but it’s also criminal. I believe, it really is. Promoting her would be promoting that act and I think it would be wrong in every way.”

Cyborg was busted for using stanozolol prior to her Dec. 2011 fight with Hiroko Yamanaka. She’s defended herself by saying that she is naturally muscular and that’s it, if you can believe that.

Rousey says the UFC should have a zero-tolerance policy for cheaters like the Olympics.

And here’s another interesting tidbit from Rousey: not only does she say it would be an honor to fight Carano, but she and her coach also believe the actress would be a tougher opponent than Cyborg. I definitely disagree with that notion.

I do have to say that it’s pretty darn awesome that Rousey is willing to fight Cyborg even though she believes the woman is on steroids. It truly shows how confident and fearless she is, and that’s awesome. That’s exactly why fans love her. In many ways, she embodies the spirit of a true champion.

Previously: Rousey to Cyborg – you don’t just have a dick, you are a dick!

Glove touch to Bloody Elbow

Carlos Gomez and Gerrit Cole exchange words leading to bench-clearing fight (Video)

During Sunday’s game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, the scene turned ugly in the top of the third inning.

pirates-brewers-brawlBrewers center fielder Carlos Gomez hit what he apparently thought would be a solo home run. That ended up not being the case as the ball stayed in the field of play, hitting off the wall just out of the reach of Andrew McCutchen. Gomez wound up on third base with a triple.

That’s when Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole had a few words with Gomez and the situation escalated.

Punches were thrown and both Gomez and Travis Snider of the Pirates were ejected for their roles in the brawl.

Carlos Gomez has been known to admire his home runs in the past and on one occasion it led to a confrontation with Brian McCann. This time around, Gomez ended up on the ground thanks to Travis Snider.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Arian Foster hooks up duped female fan

Arian Foster fan

Arian Foster came through for a female fan who had a social media mishap involving the Houston Texans running back.

Two weeks ago, a Texans fan named Jenni Bazard posted a photo on Twitter of her and a man who she thought was Foster, boasting that she had met and taken a picture with one of her favorite football players:

As you can see, though the man in the photo looks like Foster, he clearly was not Arian Foster. Foster even responded to the woman over Twitter to inform her that she had been duped.

Fast forward nearly two weeks, and the real Foster got together with Bazard to make sure she could get a picture with the actual Texans running back:

Perfect ending. And I’ll tell you this: one look at that photo and I’m pretty sure I know why Foster didn’t mind getting together.

H/T State of the Texans

Jim Kelly returns to Buffalo for cancer treatment, posts reassuring video

Jim Kelly Buffalo

Former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is back in Buffalo and will remain there as he receives treatment for his sinus cancer.

“Jim is coming back, and he wants to fight cancer here in Buffalo,” said his brother Dan Kelly. “He’ll be continuing all his treatments here in Buffalo.”

Jim is fighting cancer for the second time and had been receiving treatment in New York City. He completed his first round of chemotherapy earlier this month and is set for two more chemo treatments. He’s also receiving radiation five times a week.

Kelly’s wife Jill posted this reassuring video her husband recorded to her Instagram account:

Kelly has also been approached by multiple groups interested in buying the Bills, according to The Buffalo News. He is said to be very interested in joining one of the ownership groups, though his top priority is getting healthy for now.

Photo: Twitter/BuffaloBills

Bryce Harper benched for not hustling on weak grounder (GIF)

Bryce Harper NationalsBryce Harper was benched by Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams Saturday for not running out a weak comebacker to the pitcher during the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Harper waved at a good changeup that dove low and away and hit a dribbler back to Lance Lynn, who threw to first for the easy out. Harper just jogged about halfway down the line and peeled away without running all the way to first after he was thrown out. Williams responded by benching his left fielder and having Kevin Frandsen replace him.

Harper was 0-for-3 in the game and has been dealing with a quad injury, so you figure Williams might give him so leeway, but that was not the case.

“We made an agreement. He and I made an agreement, this team made an agreement, that when we play the game, we hustle at all times. That we play the game with intensity and the willingness to win,” Williams said after the game.

“For the sake of his teammates, he needs to play with aggression in the way he plays,” Williams said of Harper.

You can watch video of his postgame comments below:

Clearly Williams will not allow the quad injury to be an excuse. He felt Harper didn’t run it out because he was frustrated with his at-bat, not because he wasn’t well enough to. He probably sent the youngster a good message with the decision.

Oh, and DC Sports Bog shared this on Twitter – how great is this ironic Nats in-game magazine cover for Saturday’s game:

Forearm bash to Eye on Baseball