Wire Taps: Bryce Harper calls Mike Trout best in MLB; Nationals & Orioles MASN dispute could end in fall; More …

Wire Taps: Bryce Harper calls Mike Trout best in MLB; Nationals & Orioles MASN dispute could end in fall; More …

Today in Wire Taps: two pieces about the Supreme Court.

Happy All-Star Break:

Lerner on All-Star Game week: “It worked out beautifully” (MASN)
Mark Lerner thought that everything worked out from beginning to end — especially Bryce Harper’s performance in the Derby.

Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper relish ASG in DC (MLB)
Max Scherzer compared the atmosphere to the playoffs — if he had to face Mike Trout — while Harper got to excite the masses the night before.

Juan Posto (Sweetspot Network – Nationals Baseball)
Juan Soto’s rolling average has gone down a little bit, but his OBP is up, and all the other numbers lead to the same conclusion: he’s not a fluke, and is above and beyond where he should be for a nineteen-year-old in the majors. In other words, this is his floor.

‘That’s gone’: Mic’d up Bryce Harper had a great view of Mike Trout’s All-Star Game home run (WaPo)
Harper also agreed with FOX Sports’ assessment: that Mike Trout is the best player in baseball.

Nationals need surge to meet expectations (MLB)
Despite a rough start, the Nats are still buyers, until something goes catastrophically wrong — though we’ll see how much Mike Rizzo will put on the table.

Cal Ripken Jr.: MLB should supplement the Home Run Derby with a skills challenge (WaPo)
Cal Ripken thinks that the Home Run Derby, but relay-throwing, throw accuracy, and other activities may add more fun.

Harper homer blitz bet backfires for Nationals (AFP)
This isn’t anything that hasn’t been covered, but the fricking international press covered this.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh takes in MLB All-Star Game (USA Today)
Today, in Brett Kavanaugh news that we’ve somehow been roped into covering:

Nats-Orioles TV fees dispute likely to be reheard this fall (AP/FOX SPORTS)
The decision will go to the Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee, which includes the owners of the Brewers, Mariners, and Blue Jays.

Opinion | The Real Reason to Oppose Brett Kavanaugh (New York Times)
Apparently, John Roberts shouldn’t be too eager about adding Kavanaugh to the bench because he supports an extremely dysfunctional franchise (the Nats), which clearly suggests that his judgement is clouded.

Did Bryce Harper Cheat in the Home Run Derby? | FanGraphs Baseball
The actual rules are ambiguous, but there’s no penalty for breaking them — and even if Harper did break them (which he didn’t, this is stupid), it wouldn’t disqualify him.

Angels take on Rob Manfred, stand behind Mike Trout

Angels take on Rob Manfred, stand behind Mike Trout

In an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting commissioner, the Angels issued a statement Wednesday strongly defending their franchise player, Mike Trout, against criticism that he ought to dedicate more time to selling himself and his sport.

“We applaud him for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion,” the statement read. “That is rare in today’s society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent.”

The statement followed two days of All-Star festivities in which the inability of Major League Baseball to market its best player was a hotly debated topic. On Tuesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the greatest obstacle in marketing Trout was Trout himself.

“Player marketing requires one thing for sure: the player,” Manfred said.

Trout prefers to spend his free time privately, not jumping from talk shows to commercial shoots. He has declined to participate in the home run derby or the World Baseball Classic.

Fans have voted him into the starting lineup of the All-Star game for six consecutive years, but early this season he fell out of the top 10 in MLB jersey sales. Aaron Judge, the New York Yankees’ mammoth slugger, ranks first.

Trout might have been pegged to replace Derek Jeter as the face of baseball, but he told The Times he does not hold the league responsible for not transforming him into an icon of popular culture.

“I’m not telling anybody to do that,” he told The Times.

Manfred, already fighting to revitalize a sport with an aging audience, pointed the finger at Trout for his unwillingness to embrace a national profile.

“If he wants to engage and be more active in that area, I think we could help him make his brand really big,” Manfred said. “But he has to make a decision that he is prepared to engage in that area, and it takes time and effort.”

In defending Trout, the Angels said: “His brand is built upon generously spending his time engaging with fans, both at home and on the road, while remaining a remarkable baseball player and teammate.”

As well, the Angels said: “Mike Trout is an exceptional ambassador for the game. Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere.

“Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our Organization, and marketing Major League Baseball. He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools, and countless other charities.”

Angels owner Arte Moreno was involved in drafting Wednesday’s statement. In 2014, when owners selected Manfred to replace the retiring Bud Selig, Moreno initially preferred another candidate: Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.

In a subsequent tweet, Angels publicist Eric Kay said: “Bottom line, Mike Trout doesn’t self promote and he gets criticized for it. Everyone else thinks they know what is best for Mike. No one takes more time to engage with fans than Trout. THE GAME IS ABOUT THE FANS. He represents the Angels better than anyone has. EVER.”

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Angels praise Mike Trout for 'prioritizing personal values'

Angels praise Mike Trout for 'prioritizing personal values'

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels publicly praised Mike Trout “for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion” a day after baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the All-Star outfielder would be an even bigger star if he would spend more time marketing himself.

The team released a statement Wednesday congratulating Trout on his performance in the All-Star Game in Washington then extolled the time he spends visiting hospitals, schools and charities and the quality time he spends with family.

“We applaud him for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion,” the statement said. “That is rare in today’s society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent.”

A day earlier, Manfred said MLB was interested in having players more engaged and in helping players develop their individual brands.

Manfred said Trout chooses not to spend his down time marketing.

“Mike’s a great, great player and a really nice person, but he’s made certain decisions about what he wants to do and what he doesn’t want to do, and how he wants to spend his free time and how he doesn’t want to spend his free time,” Manfred said. “That’s up to him. If he wants to engage and be more active in that area, I think we could help him make his brand really, really big. But he has to make a decision that he’s prepared to engage in that area. It takes time and effort.”

Manfred’s remarks struck a sour note with fans, some of whom took to social media to say Trout was a great role model who should be left to live his life as he pleases.

The Angels apparently concur. “His brand is built upon generously spending his time engaging with fans, both at home and on the road, while remaining a remarkable baseball player and teammate,” the team said.

At 26, Trout is a two-time AL MVP and a seven-time All-Star. He homered off the Mets’ Jacob deGrom in the third inning of the All-Star Game on Tuesday night.

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Angels fire back at MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, call Mike Trout ' exceptional ambassador'

Angels fire back at MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, call Mike Trout ' exceptional ambassador'

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The second half of the MLB season is here and USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale has the story lines all fans should know leading up to the playoffs. USA TODAY

In a startling rebuke of Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday issued a vigorous defense of All-Star outfielder Mike Trout, touting his commitment to promoting the game and his work in the community. 

The Angels’ statement, which calls Trout “an exceptional ambassador for the game,” comes one day after Manfred told a gathering of the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America that Trout’s lack of widespread popularity among casual sports fans was due in part to his hesitance to participate in activities that might promote him. 

“Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn’t want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time,” Manfred said in the hours before MLB’s All-Star Game at Nationals Park. “I think we could help him make his brand very big.

“But he has to make a decision to engage. It takes time and effort.”

The Angels fired back in kind on Wednesday, with a withering statement that did not mention Manfred by name but certainly made clear who they were referencing.

Trout, an affable and fan-friendly character whose lack of flamboyance off the field belies his transcendent performance on it, has not connected with the public in a widespread fashion like stars from other sports, nurturing a long-running narrative about baseball’s inability to promote its players. 

Tuesday night, he produced another star turn in baseball’s All-Star Game, hitting a home run, winning a stirring showdown with National League starter Max Scherzer and wearing a microphone on the Fox game broadcast as he patrolled center field.

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Mike Trout can't do it all, but he sure tried, as Angels fall to Dodgers 3-1

Mike Trout can't do it all, but he sure tried, as Angels fall to Dodgers 3-1

Angels 1 Dodgers 3

In game two of this weekend’s much-ballyhooed Freeway Series, base hits were still in short supply as they were in Friday night’s tilt, and the scoring was minimal, showing us that these two so cal megalopolis teams are quite well matched and capable of putting on some nail-biters. The Dodgers and Angels both had four hits, and starters Ross Stripling and Deck McGuire (the latter being a fill-in arm and thus needing the help of his reliever core, of course) were in no mood to let things get out of hand.

Sadly, the bigger plays would fall in the favor of the boorish Dodgers, who put two on the scoreboard via Justin Turner’s two-run single off of reliever Taylor Cole in the fifth. Mike Trout would answer Turner’s hit with a powerful home run to center field, his 25th of the season, but alas it was only a solo shot and had the game at 2-1. Speaking of Trout, he accounted for three of the Halos’ four hits this entire contest, so that shows you just how quiet the rest of their lineup was against the Brooklyn transplants.

A Yasiel Puig home run in the top of the ninth, hit off of home run giver-upper Noe Ramirez, made the score 3-1, and effectively ended the game right then and there. The score would remain unchanged after the bottom of the frame, and the two rivals would find themselves heading into Sunday with a rubber match on deck.

If only there were more Mike Trouts in the world.

To pitch or not pitch to Mike Trout? Mariners manager Scott Servais must make that decision several times a game

To pitch or not pitch to Mike Trout? Mariners manager Scott Servais must make that decision several times a game

To pitch or not to pitch to Mike Trout?

M’s Stats and MLB Standings

It’s not so much a question with an exact answer.  It’s more of a philosophical debate that is perfect for sports bars, sportstalk radio, social media and the seats of Safeco Field.

For manager Scott Servais, it’s a Maalox-inducing decision each time the best player in the league steps to the plate.

“It’s not easy, believe me,” Servais said. “I’m sitting in the dugout and my stomach is turning. I’m constantly looking at my lineup card and it seems like this guy hits every inning against us.

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No active player has tormented or dominated the Mariners more than Trout, which makes playing 19 games against the Angels every season rather un-enjoyable for the Mariners and their fans.

This season, Trout is hitting .571 (16 for 28) with a 1.968 on-base plus slugging percentage, four doubles, a triple, five homers and nine RBIs in seven games against Seattle. In 125 career games vs. the Mariners, he’s hitting. 317 (143 for 451) with a 1.023 OPS, 22 doubles, nine triples, 31 homers and 82 RBIs.

“Before last series, we thought we’d come up with a plan to attack him,” Servais said on Tuesday before the current series started. “It didn’t work, obviously. So that plan was not thrown out again. I did notice that the sheet that the pitching guys put together on each hitter, Mike Trout has just one line while other guys have a paragraph in how we want to approach him.”

Many fans want the Mariners to walk Trout every time he steps to the plate. Servais has a different philosophy.

“The situation dictates itself,” he said. “You have to be very cognizant of the game situation, the score of the game, who is on the mound. I think if I remember back last series. There was a particular game where we were up three or four runs and there was a guy on a base and base open. And we pitched to Mike Trout and he hit a homer. The score was within three runs and now it’s a one run game. Everyone was like, why would you ever pitch to him?”

That game was on June 12. Trout’s homer did cut the lead to 4-3 with a two-run blast off of Ryan Cook, but the Mariners retired Justin Upton — the next batter — and went on to win the game, 6-3.

“My reason was Mike Trout had to hit a homer and the next guy would have to hit a homer for the score to be tied vs. walking him where only one guy has to hit a homer to tie the game,” Servais said. “Certainly the guy behind him is a good player, but not the caliber that Mike Trout is at.”

Trout came into Wednesday hitting .310 with a 1.080 OPS, 16 doubles, three triples 24 homers and 75 RBI on the season. But he’s been scuffling of late. Trout is hitting just .171 (7 for 41) with one homer and three RBI in his last 13 games. Teams have walked him 13 times along with three intentional walks.

“He seems to be going pretty good this year, certainly against us,” Servais said. “You watch other games and you see other guys getting him out and make the pitch. Our guys seem to make that pitch or make a pitch close to that spot and it doesn’t end up with the same result.”

In Tuesday night’s 4-1 win, Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc retired Trout in his first three plate appearances. But Trout never had much of a fourth plate appearance. With two outs and Kole Calhoun on third base, Servais wasn’t going to jeopardize a 3-1 lead at the time and pitch to Trout. He signaled for the intentional walk before Trout could even tighten his batters’ gloves and step in the batter’s box.

“I did choose to walk Mike Trout there,” Servais said after the game. “It may have been an unconventional time, but I said it before the game and I will say it after the game. He’s a great player and he’s having a great season. They have a lot good players on that team, but not at the level of Mike Trout. So we are going to take our chances with some other guys.”

Trout’s numbers vs. the Mariners for his career