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Did Bryce Harper and his dad cheat to win the 2018 Home Run Derby?

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It’s 2018. Of course there are Home Run Derby truthers.

T-Mobile Home Run Derby Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

No.

But I suppose that I should, with the deepest of sighs, explain why I thought this post was necessary. In the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby, Bryce Harper made a furious charge to catch Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs in regulation time. With 22 seconds left in bonus time, Harper drilled a home run to take the competition.

It’s 2018, though, which means there’s probably some sort of dumb conspiracy afoot. And, friends, I urge you not to search for “Harper cheated” on Twitter. Please, it will damage your brain and your spirits, so you absolutely should not do this, and I’m just kidding, here’s a sampling because I don’t like you:

It goes on and on and on. The truther movement is even harassing poor Jay Jaffe over it. The evidence is this:

Hmm, let me see if I can spice this up a little:

Oh, yeah, baby. That’s ready for your uncle to share on Facebook. Now, as far as I can tell, the official rules of the Home Run Derby aren’t posted online — probably because it’s a silly exhibition — but the argument contends that the pitcher has to wait for the baseball to drop before a new pitch can be thrown. If that’s the case, then, yes, the elder Harper did throw a couple pitches too soon.

Every hitter had a few of these.

STILL IN THE AIR, KYLE. MARK IT ZERO, DUDE. Still, to be fair, Harper’s example — specifically one with fewer than 10 seconds left — was one of the more egregious. So was this a case of Harper and his dad trying to game the system?

No. If you’ll notice in the video, that Harper’s dad does not move his head back and to the left, back and to the left, back and to the left to follow the flight of the ball. He’s waiting for a cue from an umpire. You can see the umpire telling Schwarber’s pitcher to hold up here:

The pace is dictated by the umpire.

Is it possible that the umpire was an MLB plant whose job it was to give Bryce Harper an extra advantage in his home park? I mean, you get to believe what you want. What’s more likely is that he gave the “go” sign a little too soon on a pitch or two, and Harper’s dad was more than eager to get those pitches up there quickly, considering he had the most errant pitches of any of the pitchers and time was a-wastin’.

I don’t know if the umpire was getting caught up in the moment, or if he had been setting a similar pace for the entire Derby, with it becoming more noticeable as time was expiring.

What I do know is this: Harper won the competition with 22 seconds to spare. He did not get 22 seconds of advantage from these early pitches. And even if he did, the seconds were not stolen by Harper’s dad, who was focused on throwing strikes. While he’s no stranger to pressure — he’s brawled with Popeye several times, which means he’s used to adrenaline — this was probably as much pressure as he’s faced in his sporting life. All he wanted to do was get the signal and throw strikes. Get the signal and throw strikes.

I think you’re just going to have to let Nats fans have this one, internet. Harper’s comeback was incredibly thrilling, and we can probably just leave it at that. Not everything needs to be ruined. Just most things.

While I’ve got you, though, let me talk to you about the weather machine that was about to open up the skies in the extra innings of Game 7 of the 2016 and prevent the Cubs from winning. It all starts with the NSA and a Cardinals fan named Devon Tadbury in 1961. You see ...