The Washington Nationals are growing tired of 20-year-old Bryce Harper and his temper tantrums.
Harper, who has been plagued as of late by the injury bug, is now dealing with a slump. Yesterday, after New York Mets reliever Vic Black struck out Harper swinging in the eighth inning, he walked back to the the Nationals dugout and slammed his bat on the Nationals’ helmet rack until all that was left was tiny pieces of wood.
Harper continued to take out his anger on his helmet, which he pounded into the cubby slot in the dugout, while his teammates looked on in amazement. Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche gave Harper the nickname of “Bam Bam,” for sometimes breaking bats after failing to get a hit with runners on base.
Dealing with failure is something that every MLB player must come to grips with. Harper has been out of the lineup while the Nationals are making a fun last-minute run for the playoffs. He recently has sat in the dugout and watched as Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos have been hitting home runs in bunches as the Nationals’ offense has come alive.
Prime time is what Harper lives for, and not being able to part of the hit parade is driving the young superstar crazy.
However, Harper needs to learn, like so many gifted players who have come before him, that failing is part of learning. He can and will come out of his mini-slump, but breaking equipment and acting like a child is not going to help his team. He was lectured after yesterday’s game by manager Davey Johnson, who declined to share with the media what he and Harper talked about.
There is no doubt that with 17 games left to go in the 2013 baseball season and the Nationals just 5.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the final NL Wild Card spot that they need Harper to focus on playing well on the field. He needs to be under control and know that if he clams down and lets the game come to him, he will be fine.
You can bet that LaRoche and Werth spoke with him after the game and the message was delivered. We sometimes forget that Harper is only 20 years old. He is lucky to have a good group of teammates around him that care about him and want to see him succeed.
At times like this, I think of the great line uttered by one of baseball’s greatest general managers, Branch Rickey, who said: “I can tolerate errors of enthusiasm but never errors of ignorance.”
For now, Harper’s errors are due to youthful enthusiasm and is a part of growing up in the major leagues. Let’s hope it is just a phase he is going to soon grow out of and that he will mature. It would be a shame if his misguided anger were to hinder his great talent. I am betting that it won’t happen to Harper, who is a true student of the game and has a great respect for it as well.