Most of you have probably heard what happened during yesterday’s Nationals vs. Cardinals game. Superstar outfielder Bryce Harper was benched after his at-bat in the sixth inning when he failed to run out a ground ball back to the pitcher, Lance Lynn. Nationals manager Matt Williams told the media after the game that there was no injury, that Harper was pulled for lack of hustle.
To add insult to injury, Kevin Frandsen, the man who replaced Harper, came up in the ninth with the winning run in scoring position. Frandsen did manage to bring home one of the runs, but the Nats still lost 4-3.
I get it. Harper was frustrated with his 0-3 day to that point, but this still shocked me. Everything we have seen from Harper so far in his brief career has been that of a guy with a good work ethic, and someone who always hustles. He crashed into walls on a weekly basis, drawing comparisons to former Brooklyn Dodger outfielder Pete Rieser, who notoriously got into fights with walls. Of course, the walls won most of those fights and knocked Rieser out of the game too soon.
I was perplexed by Harper’s aloofness on Saturday afternoon. It is not something that we are accustomed to seeing from him. After the game, he expressed some remorse, and said that he didn’t blame his manager. He pretty much said the right things.
Was this the right move by Williams? Harper is just 21 years old. There are two ways this could go. One, it will light a fire under him, and we will never see anything like this from him again. On the other hand, we could see the hot-headedness of a guy just out of his teenage years rebelling against his manager.
Which scenario will play out? I honestly could see either happening from what we have seen of Harper’s personality in his brief time in the major leagues. I applaud Williams’ decision, and every veteran player will too. He is sending the message that you need to run out every play no matter who you are. He is absolutely right.
I tend to think that Harper will respond positively to this. His frustration of not getting his rightful last at-bat with a chance to win the game hurt him. You could see it on his face. I think he will go out and play as hard as he ever has for at least the next few weeks. Furthermore, I don’t think this will cause a rift between Harper and Williams either. All players respect a manager who played the game for as long as Williams did. He knows what they go through on a daily basis. I would be really surprised if this became an issue.
So for those of you that were super ambitious and rushed out to pick up Frandsen or Tyler Moore, don’t get your hopes up. I’m quite sure that we will see Bryce out there tomorrow, and he will sprint down the line on every ground ball.