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Maryland sophomore quarterback Kasim Hill is out for the rest
of the 2018 season with a torn ACL Youth
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 , the second in his two years on campus.
Let’s briefly recount the last six years of Maryland QB situations: 2012Starter
Danny O’Brien transferred before the seasonNew starter C.J. Brown tore an ACL in
fall campSecond-stringer Perry Hills tore an ACL in the seventh
gameThird-stringer Devin Burns hurt his foot in the seventh gameFourth-stringer
Caleb Rowe tore an ACL in the eighth game A true freshman linebacker named Shawn
Petty started the last four games. Maryland went 0-4 in those games, though
Petty played better than some actual Maryland QBs.2013 and 2014Brown played the
whole season. It didn’t go well, but at least he was healthy. 2015A combination
of injuries and poor play required Maryland to use four quarterbacks, including
one who’d later be moved to fullback and then linebacker. Maryland QBs threw 29
interceptions — the most in the modern era for which we’ve got stats, and
possibly the most ever in a college football season by one team. 2016Starter
Hills left several games with injuries, throwing seven or fewer passes three
times and missing one game. Backups Rowe and Pigrome dealt with injuries, too.
Maryland had to start its fourth-stringer, freshman Bortenschlager, at Nebraska
in November. That went as you’d expect, with Maryland losing 28-7. 2017Starting
QB Tyrrell Pigrome tore an ACL in Week 1. Backup QB Hill tore an ACL in Week
3.Other backup QB Caleb Henderson was never healthy enough to play, due to
various ailments, and ended his career earlier.De-facto fourth-stringer Max
Bortenschlager got more snaps than anyone else.Walk-on Ryan Brand started a game
against Michigan. You can guess how it went. 2018Maryland got through nine games
before losing Hill, its starter, to a tear of the ACL he didn’t tear the year
before. His backup will start the last two games. Baseball history is usually
useful when it comes to the MLB offseason and free agency because it’s very good
at reminding us that free agents are usually a double-edged sword. Thinking of
signing a good player for five years? If you can accept the idea that they’ll be
bad for the last two, you’ll be fine. Most small-market teams aren’t worried
about paying All-Stars a lot of money; they’re more concerned about paying
former All-Stars just as much money. But baseball history is also useful in the
case of Bryce Harper and other hyper-young free agent superstars. It reminds us
that, yes, please, give players like this a lot of money. They’re rare freaks,
and the odds are great that they will help your team for years and years and
years. The last comparable case was Alex Rodriguez, and for all of his, uh,
delightful quirks, he was absolutely worth the money on the field. He built on
what will (eventually) be a Hall-of-Fame career, just like he was expected to.
When a super-duper star becomes available in free agency ,
and all he wants is money? Give it to him. It’s usually the smart bet. Don’t
make me pull out the Baseball-Reference tables again and ah okay ha ha you got
me, here’s a Baseball Reference table of players who were this good for this
long at this age: Under 26, more than 3,500 PA, OPS+ of 125 or
higherRankPlayerOPS+PAFromToAgeRankPlayerOPS+PAFromToAgeOPS+ is adjusted OPS,
which includes league, park, and era adjustments. It’s a fine shorthand that
allows us to compare hitters from different times, and it’s telling us that
Harper is in some incredible company.Let’s say that you’re worried about
Harper’s sketchy defensive metrics from 2018, and that your primary concern is
that he won’t hold his value for long. That would, in a worst-case scenario,
make him comparable to Rusty Staub on that list. The same Staub who hit
.280/.365/.444 with a 125 OPS+ throughout the entire 1970s, who averaged
two-and-a-half wins every year despite fielding like a two guys in the same
horse costume. Then you remember that Harper has been a much better hitter
before his 26th birthday, and he’s also more athletic and capable in the field.
But the point is that on that list, Staub is something of a bogeyman. He would
have been fine, just fine, under a long-term deal. Orlando Cepeda is your comp,
then. A Hall of Famer who did most of his damage before turning 26 and shouldn’t
have been in the outfield in the first place. He was often injured in his 30s,
and his last great season came when he was 32. He still averaged 473 plate
appearances with a 129 OPS+ in the decade after his 26th birthday, though. He
still averaged two-and-a-half wins every year for 10 seasons, including an MVP
season. That isn’t to say that Staub or Cepeda would have been worth the
equivalent of $35 million a year after turning 26. It’s that they would have
been modest disappointments, not abject disasters. Then you get to the other
players on the list. Al Kaline! Frank Robinson! Miguel Cabrera!Alex Rodriguez!
These are Harper’s peers as a 25-year-old hitter in baseball history. Even if
you stretch to include Ken Griffey, Jr., just to include another player who
didn’t age well Logan
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 , you’re still getting six incredible seasons before
the breakdown. Every team should at least consider Harper. Every single danged
team, from the Marlins to the A’s, should explore the idea. The Miguel Cabrera
Theorem tells us that when you have a chance to acquire a freakishly young and
talented player like Miguel Cabrera, you do it. Here is that chance, just
without a lot of prospects involved. Now it’s our job to figure which teams will
believe in this strategy. The LikelyBob Nightengale wrote that the Phillies are
the overwhelming favorites for Harper. I’m sorry if you’re a Phillies fan who
was hoping to get Harper. This doesn’t look good. But the Phillies almost
certainly make a lot of sense. Not only do they have plenty of room in their
budget, but they’ve been putting money under their mattress for a couple of
years now. Their attendance has been hovering near the bottom of the league for
five seasons, and they would love a big ol’ neon sign to erect outside of
Citizens Bank Park that reads, “TRYING AGAIN. PARDON OUR DUST.” Last year’s run
at the NL East title was a great start, but beating out 29 teams to get one of
the most coveted young superstars over the last couple decades would really
hammer the point home. The Dodgers are supposedly trying to get under the luxury
tax now, and both the Yankees and Cubs are saying that they want to stay under.
I’m assuming that they’re a bunch of liars for now, using their public
statements as a negotiating tactic, but there’s a chance that they’re serious,
the big dummies. The White Sox are reportedly very interested, and they’ve
becoming the pundit-perferred dark horse. It’s an idea that makes sense, for
sure. The Giants have been long rumored to be in, but just Wednesday, their CEO
said this at the introductory press conference for Farhan Zaidi: So it’s the
Phillies that are still the most likely. But which team is the ideal home for
Harper?The IdealThe Rockies. For science. But if that doesn’t happen, allow me
to get a little weird. The last time there was a chance to get a young player
with a sweet left-handed stroke, the Brewers elbowed their way to the front of
the line because that’s exactly what works at Miller Park. That player was
Christian Yelich, and he’s going to win the MVP. The Brewers should sign Harper
and create an outfield bookend of the gods. Ranking the 50 best MLB free agents
for the 2018-2019 offseasonThe Yankees are pretending they won’t make big free
agency moves and it’s hilarious3 possible motivations behind the Nationals’
10-year, $300 million offer to Bryce HarperYes, bad teams should sign Bryce
Harper and Manny MachadoWhat would happen to Ryan Braun in this scenario? No
idea. Not my concern. Second base, maybe. For science. Or, more
realistically Youth
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 , something of a rover who can fill in at both
outfield corners, with Yelich moving to center if Lorenzo Cain needing a day, or
starting at first when Jesus Agu铆lar needs a day, and picking up the bulk of the
high-leverage pinch-hitting opportunities ... there are always injuries, after
all. Braun would still get 400 at-bats if he’s healthy, I’m sure, and he hasn’t
done much over the last two seasons to justify more than that. Is this likely?
Oh, heck no. I’m just looking at teams with a lefty-friendly ballpark that could
really thrive with a young superstar over the next 10 years, and the Brewers
look like a pretty sweet fit. PredictionNationals, 10 years, $340 million with
an opt-out within the first four seasons.Ah, right, the incumbents. We haven’t
mentioned them, and they happen to be the only team that’s actually offered
Harper a huge contract. Their ownership is one of the few in baseball that
doesn’t shy away from Scott Boras, regularly signing his clients to huge deals.
And for all the dreams about a Yelich-Harper super-outfield to rule the seas for
10 years, the Nationals can do even better with Juan Soto (and Victor Robles).
They have designs on contending. They have designs on becoming a Washington
institution for the first time in the city’s baseball history. The contract
offer suggests that they’re serious about keeping Harper, and for his part, it’s
not like his time with the Nationals has been unsuccessful. There has to be at
least some appeal in staying. All I’m saying about it, though, is think about
it, Brewers. Just think about it.
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