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A bit of Bryce Harper's luster had come off recently, as his long absence from the Nationals allowed other young players to shine. We're looking mainly at Yasiel Puig, whose 2.1 wins above replacement over 26 games is insane and would be a halfway-decent number over a full season. Harper wasted no time at all in re-establishing himself, however -- he homered in his first game back from injury on Monday night. The Nationals aren't a bad team without Harper, but their left fielders could use the boost -- during Harper's 31-game absence, the gentlemen who replaced him hit .200 with two home runs, eight RBIs and a .540 OPS.


Top phenom?

We're lucky enough to be living in the dawn of a potential golden age of outfielders, but it remains to be seen which one will rise above the rest.

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Which young outfielder would you most want on your team?

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    22%
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    24%
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    54%

Discuss (Total votes: 75,875)

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Harper, Strasburg and the Nationals

Washington Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg <a href="http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9385258">is set to return to the mound Sunday</a>, after spending time on the DL with a lat strain. Meanwhile, standout outfielder Bryce Harper got good news from Dr. James Andrews on his ailing knee and could be back next week. This, of course, is good news for the Nats, who entered the season as a popular World Series pick but who enter Friday at just 33-32, 5.5 games out of both the NL East lead and a wild-card spot. As for fans, they'll be watching closely to see if their two biggest names can remain on the field.

Who is more important to the Nationals?

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    61%
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    39%

Discuss (Total votes: 8,359)

  • Will injuries keep Stephen Strasburg from reaching his potential?

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      81%
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      19%

    Discuss (Total votes: 7,753)

  • Who should be considered the Nationals' ace?

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      30%
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      70%

    Discuss (Total votes: 7,768)

  • Will the Nationals make the playoffs in 2013?

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      50%
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      50%

    Discuss (Total votes: 7,551)

  • Which team has been most disappointing in 2013?

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      52%
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      14%
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      23%
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      11%

    Discuss (Total votes: 7,623)

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As fans of the comedy series "Portlandia'' know, the secret to merchandising is to slap a bird on it. And apparently, the same holds true for baseball uniforms.

After four rounds of voting, tigers, fish, elephants, snakes, astronauts, seafarers, gun-toting officers of the law, buccaneers, heavenly bodies, Native Americans, pinstriped Northeners and even two pairs of colored socks are all gone. Our Battle of the Uniforms will finish with the Battle of the Birds.

#UniBattle

The No. 1-seeded Cardinals, who have as iconic a St. Louis design as the Gateway Arch or a bottle of Bud, beat their longtime rival, the Chicago Cubs, in the final round of the National League voting, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Meanwhile, the Cinderella team of the American League bracket upset yet another higher-seeded team in the AL championship. By a margin of 3,103 votes, fans declared they prefer the orange and black Baltimore Orioles over the traditional uniform worn by everyone from Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter. Or perhaps fans just hate the Yankees' pinstripes.

Whatever the reason, it's the Cardinals versus the Orioles for the title of baseball's best uniform. Bird watchers should get their binoculars out for this ornithological fight, though Toronto fans are probably wondering why their colorful Jay was found wanting.

This is serious business, so to make sure that everyone gets a chance to take a long, careful look at these two uniforms and judge the colors, logos, caps and overall style of both home and road uniforms, our polls will be open throughout the weekend. You can cast your vote up until noon ET Monday, when we will declare the winner.

So good luck Cardinals and Orioles. May the better uniform win. And remember voters, this isn't about who actually wears the uniforms but the uniforms themselves.

--Jim Caple

Note: Championship-round poll closes at noon ET Monday.

Mobile users: To vote, click here.

Battle of the Uniforms: Championship


(1) Cardinals vs. (13) Orioles

Audubon would have loved this championship.

SportsNation

Which set of uniforms is best?

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    41%
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    59%

Discuss (Total votes: 147,418)

Battle of the Uniforms seedings

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We've now reached the final four. Or, if you prefer, we've reached the league championship series.

#UniBattle

Either way, the Battle of the Uniforms is now in the home stretch (or as a malapropism-prone boss of mine once liked to say, "the home run stretch"). In the American League, the Orioles are facing the Yankees, and the National League crown has come down to the Cubs and the Cards.

The seedings, done by Jim Caple and myself, have largely proven accurate. Three of the final four teams were seeded either No. 1 or No. 2 in their respective leagues, which means our uni assessments are largely in line with yours. The lone outlier is Baltimore, which was seeded 13th but upset the top-seeded Tigers.

I'll admit it: I was kind of hoping for a rogue uniform design to make it to the semifinals, just to make things interesting. The Diamondbacks, say, or the Marlins. And I was seriously rooting for the A's to upset the Yanks (they came thisclose). In the end, though, the classic designs have won. And that makes sense: The classics are classic for a reason.

The cool thing about the Battle of the Unis is that several on-field rivalries have been echoed at the ballot box. Wednesday we had the Yankees just eking out a victory of the Red Sox (whose fans were no doubt chanting "Yankees suck!" as they clicked on the Sox icon), and now we have a classic National League matchup, as Chicago and St. Louis face off for Senior Circuit supremacy.

So who's going to advance to the uniform World Series? You folks get to decide that. But I'll say this: I'm voting for the teams with the feathers.

--Paul Lukas

LCS-round polls close at 9 a.m. ET Friday, and the championship round begins shortly thereafter.

Mobile users: To vote, click here.

Jim Caple bracket: American League


(2) Yankees vs. (13) Orioles

The Birds have upset three teams so far, but can they knock off the Pinstripers for the AL title?

SportsNation

Which set of uniforms is best?

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    41%
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    59%

Discuss (Total votes: 36,353)

Paul Lukas bracket: National League


(1) Cardinals vs. (2) Cubs

These two teams have always had an on-field rivalry. Good to see that's extending to their uniforms.

SportsNation

Which set of uniforms is best?

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    54%
  •  
    46%

Discuss (Total votes: 36,237)

Battle of the Uniforms seedings

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