Yesterday in baseball Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon got into a dugout fight. Since no real details were released we can only really assume that it had to do with Bryce Harper not sprinting but slowly jogging down the line to first base. I’m giving Harper a break here on lack of hustle for many reasons;
- He’s This Year’s NL MVP
Harper has had his breakout season slashing .339/41/96 while leading the league in runs, home runs, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and wins above replacement. I’m going to focus on WAR (Wins Above Replacement) which Harper’s is 10.2 and the next highest position player (since Greinke’s is 9.4) is Josh Donaldson who has a WAR of 8.9. If Harper has been playing his tail off to keep Washington in contention and adds more than a full win over his replacement then the next best in the entire league I think it is fair to say he is the backbone and future of the Nationals. Once his team has been statistically eliminated I think he probably doesn’t even want to play, Harper plays for wins and rings therefore he is on the field everyday for the fans which I can respect.
- Harper Has Been Told to Take it Easy in the Past to Avoid Injuries
To echo off of the last few points in number 1, why should the Nationals not limit Harper when they’ll only be spinning their tires. Very similar to in weeks 16 and 17 in the NFL many backups play to avoid the starter getting injured. If he can no longer help them make the playoffs they probably told him to relax. In the past Harper has been injured for reasons having to do with over-hustling so I believe that based on the precedents that the Nationals have in situations with Harper, his lack of hustle was probably due to the direct advice of a coach.
- Papelbon Being Suspended by the Nationals
Papelbon doesn’t have the best track record with ethics but the fact that the Nationals are basically putting all the blame on him by not suspending Harper as well I feel all but proves my point in number two. Harper wasn’t sprinting due to a coach’s instruction. Harper is their future and the Nationals know that, and Papelbon learned it the hard way.
- The Pitch Location
If you were to watch the video of the play unfold you can see that the pitch was an 89 mph fastball from a no-name Phillies pitcher that went right down the middle. That is usually a pitch that Harper sends 500 feet (another one here) so I can understand his frustration in a tie game late, wanting to destroy the cover of the baseball and coming up short. Even the way he tosses the bat towards the dugout shows that his is not satisfied with the at-bat he just had, and his body language shows almost disgust.
I’m going to reiterate that I am on Harper’s side here, I feel with this season that he’s had that he can jog to first base one time and I strongly believe that he was only listening to the manager’s directions.