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Davey Johnson thinks Bryce Harper’s ailing knee might have contributed to last night’s lack of hustle

Aug 31, 2013, 9:20 PM EDT

Bryce Harper Getty Getty Images

After Nationals manager Davey Johnson bowed out of last night’s game due to dehydration, bench coach Randy Knorr took over and quickly made his voice heard. As D.J. Short described earlier, Harper weakly grounded out to Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. Assuming it was a routine out, Harper hung his head and ran at a light pace. Murphy bobbled the ball but recovered and managed to still throw Harper out by several steps. It’s tough to say if Harper would have beaten it out even if he had been running at max effort, but there was at least a chance.

Knorr was critical of Harper’s lack of effort when speaking to the media after the game. He said, “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s gonna have to start picking it up a little bit.”

Johnson didn’t get a chance to address the situation until today. He is less critical of his outfielder and thinks his nagging knee problem may have been part of the reason for the less-than-100% effort. Via Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:

Harper still receives treatment on the left knee, which he wears a pad to protect.

“I think it’s still an issue,” Johnson said. “I think it’s probably there. He can probably play with it. But if he headfirst slides or dives in the outfield, it’s probably going to flare up. Hopefully, he’ll get through the season.”

[...]

“My opinion is, you take nothing for granted,” Johnson said. “You hit a groundball, the guy could boot it. You run. Anytime you quit going hard, it’s a losing attitude. With him, I’m between knowing if he’s babying his knee, because he’s usually 100 percent. But I’ll talk to him.”

Harper went on the disabled list and missed 31 games between May 27 and June 30 with bursitis in his left knee. He has been held out of the lineup on several occasions since then to give the knee a rest.

Johnson did say mentioned he noticed Harper not hustling at other times, but not often, saying, “I haven’t seen a lot of it. I’ve seen a little of it.”

Harper, a 20-year-old in his second season in the Majors, has an .892 OPS in 404 trips to the plate.

  1. ramblingalb - Aug 31, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    Very poor job of letting this get in the media. The Nats should know better, and deal with it behind closed doors.

    • flamethrower101 - Aug 31, 2013 at 9:28 PM

      This is the same team that turned Stephen Strasburg’s “shutdown” last year into a daily Jeopardy game. You really wanna talk about them handling things “behind closed doors?”

      • David Proctor - Sep 1, 2013 at 5:10 AM

        I’m pretty sure they didn’t comment on it until it was done. It was the media constantly theorizing and speculating. Nothing the team can do about that.

    • NatsLady - Aug 31, 2013 at 9:29 PM

      Absolutely.

      Anyway, Bryce is hustling today.

      • baseballer28 - Aug 31, 2013 at 11:01 PM

        He’s an arrogant, pompous douchebag. He thinks baseball and all of us owe him something. He needs to get with the system and realize that the game is bigger than him.

    • brentphillip - Sep 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM

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  2. flamethrower101 - Aug 31, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    So the bench coach says one thing about Harper and then the manager does a complete 180? Hmm…do I detest some tension between Johnson and his coaching staff? Or is this just another case of “miscommunication?”

    In any case, I took issue with Harper’s lack of hustle only because it was a rare instance. He basically has made a reputation of hustling out about everything during his brief professional career. But if his ailing knee was giving him fits, Harper would never admit it.

  3. pensman29 - Aug 31, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    I HATE it when players don’t run. It’s 90 feet guys. Drives me crazy. A couple nights ago McCutchen could have gotten an inside the park home run, but he stopped like halfway to first to watch it. And then proceeded to have a stand up triple.

  4. dondada10 - Aug 31, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    And Harper was just thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple while down 9. Didn’t look like anything was bothering him.

    • misterj167 - Sep 1, 2013 at 2:08 AM

      Well he either doesn’t hustle or he’s too stupid to know when not to try and take an extra base. Or look at the damn warning track. It’s not like it was the first time.

      Raw talent will only get you so far, it still takes hard work and baseball smarts to make someone into a superstar.

      • David Proctor - Sep 1, 2013 at 2:32 AM

        Or he’s a kid who made a poor decision when trying to overcompensate. Everyone criticized him for not hustling on a couple of plays so he thought “I’ll show them how much I hustle”. It’s a poor decision, but it’s not like he committed some crime against humanity.

      • chc4 - Sep 1, 2013 at 9:04 AM

        He’s a 23 year old professional athlete. That’s not a kid. When I did dumb things at 23 my boss didn’t respond with “don’t worry about it kid”. The kid crutch is out of control.

      • ayblincoln - Sep 1, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        Yeaaaaa he’s 20, not 23. Where have you been?

  5. skinsovieterps - Aug 31, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    When are you Nats fans going to realize, he is a prick!!!

    • chill1184 - Aug 31, 2013 at 10:55 PM

      In all serious what makes him a prick?

      • baseballer28 - Aug 31, 2013 at 11:08 PM

        His attitude, just the way he goes about his everyday life…he’s that prim donna a&^H*(& jock that every school has.

  6. tjg25 - Aug 31, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    Coddle this douche more please. Other guys just get blasted but maybe he’s hurt not being lazy.

  7. baseballer28 - Aug 31, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    And he’s really not that great of an outfielder either, honestly.

  8. dirtyharry1971 - Aug 31, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    And ME thinks the jays are gonna finish LAST and will not make the playoffs!!! Anyone want to challenge?? didn’t think so!!!

  9. b453841l - Sep 1, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Could it be that the usuall hustle aggravates his injured knee? I understand wanting to win at all costs and not have your players wasting opportunities, but at what point during the 162 game season (possibly plus playoffs) does mandating 110% effort at all times have a detrimental effect due to the stress on the body? I’m not saying that every player exhibiting what might be seen as lazy behavior is injured, but there might be legitimate medical issues that can make it smart, in the long-term, not to hustle on a particular play.

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