Matthews: Bryce Harper A $400 Million Player?

WILL BRYCE HARPER BE BASEBALL’S FIRST $400 MILLION PLAYER?

I doubt it. I hope not. What has he done to merit that distinction?

Bryce Harper turned 26 on Tuesday. He could afford to buy himself a few really nice birthday presents.

The charismatic slugger has long said he hopes to become baseball’s all-time best-paid player. The popular number that has been floated regarding Harper is $400 million for 10 years.

Say it isn’t so. In my opinion, no pro athlete is worth that much – unless, of course, a team is willing to pay it. And why any team would offer Harper a contract like that is a mystery to me.

Harper is a free agent and the bidding will start after the World Series.

Why Harper is such an attractive free agent:

He’s been in the spotlight since high school, when he put up phenomenal numbers in his native Las Vegas. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB June amateur draft, briefly played in the minors, and has been a regular with the Washington Nationals since he was 19 years old.

He’s young and maybe has yet to hit his prime. Maybe.

He’s charismatic. Fans love left-handed sluggers. Young fans love his hair style.

He’s marketable. He’s a big draw at the box office and would boost cable TV ratings and revenue for whichever major-market team he signs with.

Why I believe Harper is overrated and might have to settle for a mere $30 million or maybe even $25 million:

He probably isn’t among the top five all-around players in baseball today. But maybe in the top 10 – on potential alone.

He’s been in the majors for seven full years. At age 22, he had his one monster season: 2015 National League MVP -- .330 batting average; 118 runs; 42 HRs; 99 RBI; 124 walks, 131 strikeouts; 1.109 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage. The sky appeared to be the limit. He hasn’t enjoyed a similar season since.

The Nationals were a huge disappointment this season and he was a reason: .249 batting average; 103 runs; 34 HRs; 100 RBI; 130 walks; 169 strikeouts; .889 OPS. Not bad/ But $400 million good?

He’s not a great all-around player.  He has enormous power when he connects. He runs well but is not a big base-stealer.  His defense is decent but nothing special.

He hasn’t consistently hit for a high average (a .279 career average).

Top stars on the team he signs with would expect Harper-type money if they outperformed him.

Here are the latest odds on the favorites to sign Harper, posted by on-line oddsmaker BOVADA:

Cubs even. They have the money. Wrigley Field is a great place to hit, especially when the wind is blowing out. He probably wouldn’t mind playing a lot of day games.

Dodgers 5-to-1. The new big spenders in baseball. He likes the bright lights and La-La Land is tough to top.

Phillies 11-to-2. He could be the center-piece for a rising young team in a great sports town.

Yankees 6-to-1. They might want to save the huge contract for Aaron Judge. He’d love the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. Could fill the void at first base.

Nationals 7-to-1. Been there. Done that.

Red Sox 11-to-1. Interesting thought.

Angels 12-to-1. Could they afford Harper and Mike Trout? Would he mind sharing the spotlight?

Giants 16-to-1. Can’t see it. Would be compared – unfavorably – to Barry Bonds.

Wherever Harper chooses to play, his signing will be the baseball story of this winter.

WEEK 7’s “BEST BET”: CHARGERS OVER THE TITANS IN LONDON

The Los Angeles Chargers are among the NFL’s best-balanced teams. They have the NFL’s second-best yardage differential per play in the league. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is enjoying one of his finest seasons.

The disappointing Tennessee Titans have been struggling to protect quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Sunday’s 9:30 a.m. ET game is in London. At any time, in any country, the Chargers are the better team.

This week’s “Best Bet”: Los Angeles Chargers (-6 1/2) 30, Tennessee 13.

Sunday’s other games

 (home team in CAPS)

INDIANAPOLIS (-7 ½) 17, Buffalo 13 – No way I can tout the Bills with Derek Anderson at quarterback and Nathan Peterman in reserve, but 25 touches for LeSean McCoy plus the league’s third-ranked defense can make them competitive here.

PHILADELPHIA (-5) 27, Carolina 17 – Eagles QB Carson Wentz is getting better every week and his team’s defense usually plays much better at home than on the road.

TAMPA BAY (3) 31, Cleveland 20 – The Buccaneers have more experience and will be playing at home. The Browns are dangerous but inconsistent.

New England 28, CHICAGO (+3) 20 – The Bears are on the upgrade but the Patriots are back in gear after a slow start.

Detroit 28, MIAMI (+3) 17 – I’m not sold on the Dolphins, particularly QB Brock Osweiler coming off a big game.

BALTIMORE (-2 ½) 27, New Orleans 20 – The Ravens are tough at home and the league’s top-ranked defense could somewhat contain red-hot Saints QB Drew Brees.

JACKSONVILLE (-5) 27, Houston 18 – Quarterback Blake Bortles performs much better at home and  the Jags defense should bounce back from an embarrassing 40-7 dubbing in Dallas.

Minnesota 30, NEW YORK JETS (+3) 23 – I don’t believe impressive Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold is quite ready to outduel Kirk Cousins.

Los Angeles Rams 38, SAN FRANCISCO (+10) 17 – The 49ers gave Green Bay a scare last Monday night but the high-powered Rams are a far more formidable foe.

Dallas 28, WASHINGTON (-1 ½) 24 – The most consistent thing about these two inconsistent teams is Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

KANSAS CITY (-6) 41, Cincinnati 33 – The Chiefs are the NFL’s only 6-0 team against the Las Vegas point spread and should outlast the Bengals in a high-scoring game.

Monday night’s game

ATLANTA (-5 ½) 27, New York Giants 17 –The Giants probably aren’t quite as lousy as they’ve played lately but the Falcons also are desperate and get the home field.

Last week’s results – 8-7 picking winning teams outright (53-38-2 this season)...5-10 picking winners against the spread...The “Best Bet” is 3-3 after 3-point favored Chicago lost 31-28 at Miami.

WHY THE COLTS ARE FAVORED BY 7 ½ POINTS OVER THE BILLS

Entering Sunday’s Buffalo at Indianapolis game, the Bills have a 2-4 record and the Colts are 1-5. Buffalo has the NFL’s third-ranked defense and has allowed 42 fewer points than the Colts – 138 to 180. The Bills are +1 on the turnover hart and the Colts are -3. Buffalo ranks 20th in rush offense and Indianapolis ranks 30th.

So why is Indianapolis favored by 7 ½ points over Buffalo? Because at quarterback, the Colts have Andrew Luck and the Bills appear to be out of luck. Indianapolis averages 25.3 points per game and  Buffalo averages an NFL-low 12.7 points per game.

In a passing league, no team throws more than Indianapolis (NFL-most 186-of-289, for 286 yards per game and 16 TD passes in six games. No team throws less than Buffalo – for lots of good reasons -- 170 passes for an NFL-low 123 yards per game and 3 TD passes.

Indianapolis ranks 30th in rushing and Luck’s 6.22 yards per pass attempt also ranks 30th.  I wonder if he so seldom throws deep passes because he lacks dangerous receivers or his surgically-repaired shoulder won’t allow him to.

Most of us know the Bills are a below-average NFL team. But so is Indianapolis. The Colts favored by 7 ½ points in an insult to Buffalo. Isn’t it?

MORE UGLY NATHAN PETERMAN STATS...

If you need more reasons to support Bills coach Sean McDermott’s decision to start veteran NFL retread Derek Anderson – who wasn’t even in the NFL two weeks ago – instead of second-year man Nathan Peterman Sunday in Indianapolis, check out these stats and facts from Football Outsiders.com:

With the 2017-2018 Bills, Peterman has led 36 drives: 26 ended in an interception, 3-and-out, or a turnover on downs. 19 of the 36 drivers gained fewer than 9 yards.

Including last season’s playoff loss to Jacksonville, Peterman has 10 INTs out of 82 passes.

HOME SWEET HOME FOR BYUNG-HO PARK

Byung-ho Park, the South Korean slugger who flunked his chance with Minnesota, played the entire 2017 season with Rochester and would up buying out the final two years of his contract in order to return to the Korean Baseball Association, is having a much better 2018 season for the Nexen Heroes than he did for the 2017 Red Wings:

2017 Red Wings – 111 games; .253 batting average (106-for-419); 22 doubles; 2 triples; 14 HRs; 60 RBI; 28 walks; 130 strikeouts.

2018 Nexen Heroes – 113 games; .345 (13-for-400); 20 doubles; 0 triples; 43 HRs; 112 RBI; 68 walks; 114 strikeouts.

BULLETIN: CLUTCH POST-SEASON STARTS FOR CLAYTON KERSHAW AND DAVID PRICE

Talented left-handed pitchers Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles and David Price of the Boston Red Sox both had clutch quality winning starts in the MLCS this week. They were timely reversals of their troubled career post-season fortunes:

Kershaw –Career regular-season record: 153-69 record (.689); 2.39 ERA; 1.005 WHIP (walks + hits per 9 innings pitched)...career post-season record:  9-8 (.529); 1.064 WHIP.

Price -- Career regular-season record: 143-75 (.656); 3.25 ERA; 1.144 WHIP...career post-season record: 3-9 (.250); 5.04 ERA; 1.237 WHIP.

There is a chance they could square off in this month’s World Series.

SHORT SHOTS

 Popular former Rochester Red Wings infielder Wayne Krenchicki died Tuesday in Pittsfield, Illinois. He was 64. Wayne had one terrific season with the Wings. The left-handed hitter spent potions of four seasons with Rochester. In 1978, he batted .296, with 93 runs, 26 doubles, 12 HRs, 71 RBI and 17 stolen bases. On August 7, 1981, Wayne was demoted by Baltimore back to the Red Wings when Cal Ripken Jr., was promoted. The University of Miami Sports Hall of Famer spent portions of eight seasons in the majors, with a .266 batting average, 15 HRs, and 124 RBI, with Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit and Montreal.

Entering Week 7, the two lowest-rated quarterback qualifiers in NFL Total Quarterback Rating, are 32nd Josh Allen, 29.3 for Buffalo, and 33rd  Tyrod Taylor, 28.8 for Cleveland. The Bills sure could use Tyrod now.

According to spotrac, here are the 2018 player payrolls for the four teams in Major League Baseball’s League Championship Series: Boston $228,398,860 total payroll (including $167,955,780 for active players...Los Angeles Dodgers $199,582,045 ( $160,502,596)...Houston Astros $163,784,311 ($158, 520,510)...Milwaukee Brewers $108,982,016 ($89,888,830)...Boston is tops in MLB payroll, the Dodgers 3rd, the Astros 9th and the Brewers 22nd.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, October 19

Ashlyn Harris 33...J.A. Happ 36...Jose Bautista 38...Michael Young 42...Leonard Little 44...Brad Dougherty 53...Webster Slaughter 54...Evander Holyfield 56...Tim Belcher 57...Jim Dombrowski 55...Bruce Webber 62...Joe Bryant 64...Dale Tallon 68...Lionel Hollins 68...Dave Dalby 68...Lynn Dickey 69. John Lithgrow 73 is invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, October 21

Rodney Hood 26...Jamie Collins 29...Juan Gonzalez 49...Herman Moore 49...Ray Childress 56...Dave Krieg 60...Scott Hall 61...Keith Hernandez 65...Dave Collins 66...Isaac Curtis 68...Juan Marichal 81. Snoop Dog 47, Kamala Harris 54 and Viggo Mortensen 60 are invited to the birthday party. Mickey Mantle was born on this date 87 years ago (1931) and died in 1995 at age 63.

Sunday, October 21

Damion Lee 26...Ricky Rubio 28...Festus Ezeli 29...Zach Greinke 35...Willis McGahee 37...Gabe Gross 39...Joey Harrington 40...Mo Lewis 49...Whitey Ford 90.. Kim Kardashian 39, Ken Watanabe 59 and Benjamin Netanyahu 69 are invited to the birthday party.

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