“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough: He gets frustrated,” Washington Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr told reporters after last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Mets. “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s gonna have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it.”
Strong words, aye? Earlier this season, I don’t think very many people would believe that by season’s end people would be questioning Bryce Harper’s hustle. He’s been compared to Pete Rose, has been given the nickname “Bam Bam” and is known for his all-out playing style in every facet of the game. Last night, however, Harper gave up on a play in a crucial moment of the game.
The play in question took place in the bottom of the eighth inning last night with Bryce Harper at the plate with two on and two out. Harper left the bat on his shoulder and ran the count to 3-0. On deck was arguably their hottest hitter, Jayson Werth. A walk to load the bases and bring Werth to the dish seemed like the best option. Harper then fouled off the next pitch and grounded the following one to the second baseman who then threw it to first for the out to kill the rally and end the inning.
The only thing different about this groundout was that Harper left the batters box, took a few steps and then turned it off. He didn’t hustle down the line and try to beat the throw. Could he have beaten the throw? He had a chance since the second baseman didn’t field it cleanly and had to collect himself before throwing the ball to first. Had Harper been hustling down the line, he would have forced a rushed throw which could have left him safe at first.
After the game, bench coach Randy Knorr, who filled in for Davey Johnson from the fourth inning on due to Johnson’s case of dehydration, called out Harper for his lack of hustle. In a point in the season where every play is crucial, you have to agree with him. Even it is just a measly groundout, every play is important when you’re trying to make a run at the playoffs like the Nationals are. 100 percent effort is needed on every play of every game.
In the grand scheme of things, Harper has been a huge reason why the Nationals are even in a position to make a comeback. There is still no excuse for giving up on a play. I would be surprised if Harper were to do this again. His response when asked about it post game was simple, “I guess I’ll learn from it.”