Quick Links

LaRoche, not Harper should be in home run derby

803960.png

LaRoche, not Harper should be in home run derby

2012 MLB Home Run Derby captain Matt Kemp said earlier this week he wouldn't select Bryce Harper as a participant, that his stats didn't qualify. It was reported, however, that he planned to select teammate Andre Ethier who has more homers than Harper, but not enough to put him at the top of the league.

Kemp's participation has been in serious question because of injury and now Ethier looks headed to the disabled list with an oblique strain. If both are still hurting on July 9, that could open some spots in the derby. While many will clamor for Harper to get in, another Nationals player may be even more worthy.

With two home runs in Tuesday's game, first baseman Adam LaRoche moved all the way to sixth in the National League with 15 home runs on the year. He is tied with Corey Hart of the Milwaukee Brewers and trails five N.L. players including Carlos Beltran and Ryan Braun who lead the league with 20 homers each.

One thing that could help LaRoche is his recent surge in power numbers. LaRoche has hit seven home runs in the month of June which is tops in the National League. He is legitimately the hottest power hitter in the N.L. at the moment.

LaRoche has more home runs than any N.L. first baseman or infielder for that matter. Six of the other top seven sluggers this year are outfielders and Houston shortstop Jed Lowrie is the only other infielder in the top ten.

Will Kemp mix it up and put some infielders in the competition? If so, then LaRoche should be included. He would be the first Washington Nationals participant and the fifth overall in franchise history.

Hubie Brooks represented the Montreal Expos in 1986, Larry Walker did it in 1992, left fielder Henry Rodriguez (the other one) in 1996, and Vladimir Guerrero in 2000. All four players combined for a total of 10 home runs across the four appearances, not a good showing overall. LaRoche himself has never been in the showcase, but once hit 32 home runs in 2006 and has 179 overall in nine seasons.

At 32 and in the middle of a comeback year, LaRoche wouldn't exactly draw viewers to the event. But then again, if they pass on Harper then ratings must not be the primary goal.

There is also the concern of LaRoche's swing being thrown off by participating. It is always possible for a player to come out of the derby in a prolonged funk after swinging for the fences over and over to please the crowd. But all in all, it would be fun for the Nats to have someone in the event and another highlight of a season to remember so far.

Quick Links

X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

The Nationals got a dose of good news on a night All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos went down with a potentially serious knee injury, as Bryce Harper's X-ray came back negative, meaning there are no broken bones in his left thumb.

Harper, 23, suffered the injury sliding into third base on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. He had the X-ray on Monday morning and the team is of course pleased to hear the results.

"He could be back within a couple days, a few days. That’s big right there," manager Dusty Baker said. "The swelling’s down, so I think his strength is up, I heard. It’s very positive. We still got time for him to get well.”

Getting Harper back soon would be huge for a Nationals team that just saw Ramos go down and recently saw Daniel Murphy injure his left buttock and Stephen Strasburg strain his right flexor mass.

Murphy's injury is also not expected to be serious. Baker even said on Monday that it's "very likely" he will be ready to go for the playoffs. But that's four of the Nats' five All-Stars now injured to varying degrees with just six games left in the regular season.

At least with Harper, they may have dodged a bullet.

[RELATED: Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope injury isn't serious]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

Quick Links

Wilson Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope and pray injury isn't serious

Wilson Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope and pray injury isn't serious

The Nationals know this feeling all too well, the anxious wait for test results to determine the severity of an injury to a star player. The latest, with All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos, includes an MRI set for Tuesday morning.

Ramos suffered a right knee injury on Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the sixth inning, the same knee in which he tore his ACL and MCL back in May of 2012. Ironically, Nationals manager Dusty Baker was also there for that one, in Cincinnati as the skipper of the Reds.

The Nats will hope and pray that this time it's not as serious.

"He doesn’t look too good tonight," Baker said. "You could tell he was in pain. We have to wait till tomorrow to come up with something definitive.”

Ramos buckled to the ground and pointed to his knee after a relay throw to home by Ryan Zimmerman sailed high over Ramos' head and required him to jump to catch it. The Nationals were playing on a wet field following a 20-minute rain delay and they believe the injury could be related.

“That probably had something to do with it. Yeah. Last time he hurt his leg it wasn’t an impact play either," Baker said. "We just got to pray for Wilson and hopefully he’s OK.”

The Nationals have already seen Stephen Strasburg go down with a right flexor mass strain, an injury that has put his postseason availability in question. Bryce Harper is currently out with a jammed left thumb. And Daniel Murphy has been out of the starting lineup for seven straight games with a strained left buttock.

Harper received good news on Monday that his X-ray was negative, but that's four of the team's five 2016 All-Stars who are banged up with just six games and 10 days left to go until the playoffs begin.

That's an unusual string of bad luck at a bad time to have it.

"My dad told me, ‘Don’t say what else can go wrong because something else can go wrong.’ I’m thinking what else can go right? I don’t think like that. I don’t allow myself to think like that," Baker said. 

"Those thoughts come into everybody’s head, but you’ve got to dispel them and try to figure out a way to get out of this mess. Bryce’s X-rays came out negative, so that’s a positive note in itself. It just seems like down this stretch you lose a guy, gain a guy. Like Stephen Drew. I’m glad we got Stephen Drew back. And who knows? Somebody else might step up and be the hero, the least likely of people. That’s how I think.”

Ramos earned his All-Star nod with a breakout season at the plate. He's batting .307 with 22 homers, 80 RBI and an .850 OPS. He has the lowest catcher's ERA in baseball and has emerged as one of the best backstops in the game, right before he's set to hit free agency this winter for the first time in his career.

Losing Ramos would be devastating for the Nationals at this point in the year.

"He’s a leader of this team. It’s a tough break, really is," Drew said. "It didn’t look too good. My thoughts and all these guys on this team hope for the best for him and we’ll be thinking about him.”

Everyone in the Nationals' clubhouse is pulling for Ramos, but Baker knows the Nats will have to keep going if his injury is serious. Backup catchers Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino will have to step up in his absence, however long it is.

"I feel badly because you know how we all feel about Wilson, but it’s part of the game," Baker said. "You hate (for) it to happen this late, right before the playoffs, but our next step is try to figure out a way to play without Wilson. I’ve been mixing and matching this year and most of my life. Therefore it’s another obstacle and I just got to try to go back to the drawing board and figure out something."

[RELATED: Nationals on playing the Dodgers in NL Division Series round]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES