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Bryce Harper pulled from Saturday’s game for not hustling

Apr 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

Well, this is interesting.

When Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper left this afternoon’s game against the Cardinals after six innings, many assumed that he might have aggravated his recent left quad injury. Nope, it was actually because he didn’t run out a ground ball.

It should be said that the play in question was a simple comebacker to the pitcher, so there’s no way he would have been safe even if he busted it up the line. And for a guy who is coming back from a quad injury, there was little reason to needlessly push it on such a routine play. This might even be the safe way to go about things for someone who has been called too aggressive in the past. Alas, Williams thought otherwise.

For what it’s worth, Harper told Andrew Simon of MLB.com after the game that he “respected” what Williams did. But what else is he supposed to say?

Harper’s spot in the order actually came up in the bottom of the ninth inning against Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, but the Nationals were forced to use Kevin Frandsen with the tying runs on second and third base. Frandsen drove in a run with a ground out, but one wonders how things would have turned out if Williams didn’t have such a quick hook. It might have cost them a chance at a victory.

  1. Francisco (FC) - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    This is ridiculous, no player runs out ground balls 100% of the time.

    • aceinthehole12 - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      It’s just a new manager pushing his weight around. If you’ve watched Harper play at all during his life you know lack of hustle isn’t in his DNA.

    • sabatimus - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:27 PM

      That isn’t exactly the point, is it?

    • strictlythedanks - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:02 PM

      One of the problems with the MLB if you ask me. Players need to hustle because there are way too many close plays at first where if they hustled at all they be safe. I feel like I could round the bases before a lot of player would get to first on a routine groundball.

      • 18thstreet - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:51 PM

        Liners back to the mound are not one of those plays.

      • someguyinva - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:06 PM

        @18thstreet – It wasn’t exactly a liner so much as a weak one hopper.

        A point Williams made in his post-game news conference was that with the ridiculous interpretations of the transfer rule so far this season (including one earlier in the series when Espinosa was charged with dropping a throw while he was trying to complete a double play, with the ball already in his throwing hand and above his throwing shoulder when he got hit with the takeout slide) that you must at least run to the bag at first in case the first baseman bobbles the ball. Harper gave himself up 30 feet short of the bag; if he finishes running/jogging to first on that play, this post doesn’t exit.

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      Pete Rose.

      • stercuilus65 - Apr 19, 2014 at 10:01 PM

        Felon

      • mazblast - Apr 19, 2014 at 11:42 PM

        Admitted felon and admitted, serial liar. Great singles hitter with some real hustle and lots of fake, including the run to first base on a walk bit.

  2. fawnliebowitz - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    “Harper told Andrew Simon of MLB.com after the game that he “respected” what Williams did. But what else is he supposed to say?”

    How about “No comment” if he didn’t agree with the move?

    I also respect Matt Williams for doing what he did. Take a strong line now, and hopefully it will make for a better team later on. Williams was a hustling ball player during his career and I admired him as a player. Now I do so with him as a manager.

    • kardshark1 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:17 PM

      Williams also spent tons of the time on the DL as a player.

      I know you respect Williams for what he did. But tell that to the 12 year old at the ball park whose favorite player is Bryce Harper. After all, his dad probably blew $100 of hard earned money so his kid could see his favorite player try to win the game for his favorite team in the 9th inning. Instead, he gets to watch Matt Williams teach life lessons and a great at bat from Kevin Frandsen.

      It’s like going to Disneyland, and when you enter the park you find out Space Mountain and the Pirates of the Carribean are closed. Wouldn’t that piss you off?

      • chc4 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:20 PM

        Williams’ job isn’t to appease some 12 year old at the park. If he all he came to see was Harper then that’s silly. So I guess no manager is allowed to give his star player a day off for a home game? That’s nonsense.

      • happytwinsfan - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:18 PM

        it may not be williams job to appease the twelve year old at the ballpark, but don’t forget if it wasn’t for the twelve year old at the ballpark, williams wouldn’t have a job.

      • kardshark1 - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:47 PM

        Sorry chc4, but that IS his job in the big picture. If the Nationals do not win or provide entertainment, fans don’t come – it’s that simple cause that is all they want. If Bryce Harper calls Matt Williams a jerk in the clubhouse, but hits a homerun the next day, EVERY Nats’ fan is happy even though Matt Williams might not be.

        Just ask anybody you know… would they rather have a team of guys that run their hardest on GBs and “respect” the game but are terrible, or would they rather have their team’s roster filled with guys like Puig, Harper and Carlos Gomez? Actually, you don’t have to ask, I know the answer.

    • Reflex - Apr 19, 2014 at 11:06 PM

      Did you admire Williams’ PED use? Just checking.

      Also, as for this article, switch “Harper” for “Puig” and imagine how much louder the blowup would have been in the media.

    • clydeserra - Apr 20, 2014 at 12:16 AM

      take a srtong stand and contribute to a loss.
      \
      I would fire him for that

      • NatsLady - Apr 20, 2014 at 1:18 AM

        With Harper (and his cannon) in LF, the Cards might not have scored that crucial fourth run.

        Frandsen came up in the 7th with one on and two out. He popped up to short.
        Frandsen came up in the 9th with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out. He grounded out. One run scored, but the negative effect of the second out was -12% in win probability (you know, concede a run for an out).

        Never mind the 12 year olds who come to see Harper. How about the rest of us, who would prefer that our manager actually put in the BEST GUYS to win the game?????

  3. seanb20124 - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    An all-star deserves all-star treatment

  4. mikhelb - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Every player has to run, in the rules it says that a player has to give their best effort, if not, they are liable to penalizations ranging from ejection to a ban from baseball.

    The whole narrative of “nobody runs 100% of the time” is not an excuse, players are getting paid to play and give their best effort, people pay 100+ dlls every game to take their kids see a game of MLB; it is ridiculous to watch minor leaguers or players in independent leagues hustling but get to watch MLB players walking to the dugout as soon as they hit a grounder or a pop fly.

    • emdash01 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      If it had even a medium chance of not being an out, I could maybe see it. Maybe. But it was a soft comebacker that was cleanly in the pitcher’s glove before he even got a chance to leave the box. That’s an out at least 999 times out of 1000. Add in that Harper is nursing quad tightness and it’s even more awful.

      • chc4 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:23 PM

        Maybe there’s more to it. Perhaps Williams hasn’t been thrilled with the effort Harper has been putting forth in pregame. Or in rehabbing his quad injury. I tend to give the manager the benefit of the doubt in situations like these. It’s in Williams’ best interests to keep Harper in the game… he gives them the best chance to win. So if he chooses otherwise then something is amiss.

    • clydeserra - Apr 20, 2014 at 12:18 AM

      I have never seen a player walk to the dugout on a pop up or groundball

  5. pepelestat - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Dont watch to many Nats games but is it me or am I not the only one frustrated with Matt Williams managing; or better yet his how he is handling Harper?(Batting him 6th?) and now this? I mean he did come from the gritty line of managing over at PHX.

    • chc4 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:25 PM

      You should be frustrated with how bad the Nats are fielding the ball. Bad D has cost them at least 3 games already. Williams was an outstanding fielder in his day so I can’t imagine he’s not forcing his players to put in the practice time. At some point the players need to play better.

      • voteforno6 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:42 PM

        I think that’s why Williams had his infielders taking grounders before the game.

  6. paperlions - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Matt Williams understands that you have to be willing to sacrifice everything to try to win, even taking steroids. After all, if any one has the high ground to pull a player for not running full speed on a play in which the ball was in the pitcher’s glove before he even finished his swing, it is Matt Williams.

    • unclemosesgreen - Apr 20, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Now that’s funny.

      Seriously, for me he just took the lead in the “who should get fired first” race, a nose ahead of Kirk Gibson and Bo Porter. Aaaaaand they’re coming around the first turn ….

  7. daveitsgood - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    The same Matt Williams who sets up a lineup with Nate Mclouth batting second and Harper 6th??? Nattitude!

  8. emdash01 - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    Stupidest thing I’ve seen a manager do in a while, and fits my exact fear of how a manager billing himself as “the marine” coming in would act – choosing showing his authority over winning. Plenty of other players jogged down to first on similar plays and he did nothing, so it’s a decent bet he did this to get the most possible attention for being the tough guy.

    • voteforno6 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      The issue isn’t that he just jogged down to first base. He didn’t even go all the way down to first. I think that’s what the issue was.

      • fawnliebowitz - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:05 PM

        Yes. He peeled off the 1st base line and headed towards the dugout before barely reaching the halfway point. I could see how, if he’s nursing a tight quad, he might not want to run hard on a sure out. It looked bad, even if it made sense to some.

  9. mikhelb - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    It is curious how two managers handle the same issue similar:

    Puig didn’t run and gets benched the next day by Mattingly (Yasiel then gets called out by MLB fans for his lack of hustle).

    Harper didn’t run and gets benched during the same game (and let’s see if MLB fans get behind Bryce, arguing that it is not necessary to hustle, he needs to do that to avoid an injury in his leg, the Nationals should be thankful Bryce is protecting their millionaire investment in him by not risking and injury, etcetera).

    Years ago we saw Vladimir Guerrero being benched by Felipe Alou for not hustling fielding a fly ball and allowing a run to score; Andruw Jones got benched for the same reason. MLB players have a bad habit of not being in shape and do not hustle to avoid injuries, or so they say.

    • gatorprof - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      Two things…

      1) Harper is in ridiculous shape.

      2) He was scratched on Wednesday for a quad injury, so he is likely still nursing that.

      I usually want to see hustle, but when someone is protecting an injury and it is a clear out, there is no need to be stupid…especially in April.

      • chad10 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        I agree with all of that, but he could still go through the bag.

    • illuminancer - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      The difference is that Puig stayed in the box because either because he was sure it was going out or because he was sure Pence was going to catch it. Neither one is a given, especially at AT&T.

      Also, it was hilarious watching him get that “I totally meant to do that” look as he walked back to the dugout.

    • stercuilus65 - Apr 19, 2014 at 10:06 PM

      The difference is that Puig is pure concetrated evil and Harper is a golden boy with fans jockeying for postion to bury their heads up his golden butt.

  10. gatorprof - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Matt Williams is an idiot. Harper was scratched 3 days ago for a quad injury. No way he beats that and he headed for the dug out after he was called out.

    This is the same guy who was quoted as saying,

    “Now can we be a little smarter sometimes? Sure. And not necessarily run into that wall? Of course. The kid’s 21 years old: let him go. This is a stallion. This is a guy that is ready to just explode. We’re going to try to give him the game plan to do that.””

    This will come back to haunt Williams the next time Harper hustles into a wall and is out for several months.

    • NYTolstoy - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:11 PM

      Maybe Williams was trained by yoda. “You do, or you do not…There is no try” but Williams failed to become a jedi and instead went into baseball. Right? Hello?

      Where am I? What happened to my pants!

  11. peymax1693 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    If Williams benched Harper for failing to run out one ground ball, Cano would never see the field.

  12. NYTolstoy - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    Seems like the manager jumped the gun a bit. Alot of players don’t run when the ball is caught quickly by the pitcher. Just because they know it was a bad at bat. I never held anything against them for THAT. And it does seem to have hurt them in the 9th. Smooth move Nats.

  13. kardshark1 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Way to think of the home fans, Matt Williams. I’m sure there wasn’t thousands of people who paid good money to see Harper play. Obviously little kids whose parents shelled out $160 on Bryce Harper jerseys wanted to see Frandson play instead.

    Teaching life lessons is for kids playing sports in H.S. Winning and providing entertainment should be the only thing on a Coach’s mind in professional sports.

    • chc4 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:26 PM

      Ridiculous take. Totally absurd.

      • kardshark1 - Apr 19, 2014 at 10:42 PM

        A take that every GM, Owner and fan agrees with.

      • nickdoggmoneycash - Apr 20, 2014 at 1:35 AM

        Great argument. Go back to bed.

  14. metalhead65 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    he may not have kidnapers and drug lords threatening him but I am sure there is a good reason why he did not hustle on that 1 play. it is not like this is habit and has had to have a team meeting or veterans talk to him right? or is it only no big deal when a guy who plays for the dodgers does it on a regular basis? wonder what craig has to say about this?

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 19, 2014 at 8:02 PM

      HA!

  15. 461deep - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    Harper is a hustler most of the time. If he made a little more effort until ball caught at first no issue. Williams correct to be annoyed but benching on first instance perhaps extreme. A quiet talk in dugout would work better. Nats need wins so you don’t replace a power hitter knee jerk.

  16. gatorprof - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    Here are two reasons why this is all the more idiotic…the coach needs to be consistent, period.

    1) Here is Matt Williams’ quote on Harper’s quad injury YESTERDAY,

    “Williams also said that Harper is guarding the injury against plays he doesn’t have to go all out on…It’s tight on him, but we have to make sure that we are taking the right precautions so he could continue to play. We don’t want to get it too bad,” Williams said. “The thing that Bryce has to do is make sure he monitors [the injury] himself. ”

    http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140417&content_id=72449622&notebook_id=72452102&vkey=notebook_was&c_id=was

    2) Here is Williams TODAY,

    “”We made an agreement,” Williams explained afterward. “He and I made an agreement, this team made an agreement, that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times, that we play the game with intensity and the willingness to win. And as it turned out, his spot came up. Kevin Frandsen put on a nice AB against (Trevor) Rosenthal, but his spot came up with the ability to win the game. And that’s a shame for his teammates.”

    http://www.masnsports.com/nationals-pastime/2014/04/williams-removes-harper-from-game-because-of-lack-of-hustle.html

    Sorry Matt, you made the mistake in yanking him and THAT is a shame for his teammates.

    • NatsLady - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:41 PM

      Excellent post. I’m borrowing it!

      A lot of people make the knee-jerk reaction, Williams is right to bench a player who doesn’t run out a grounder, etc. etc. My own feeling is MW lost his temper in a frustrating game–which this was–and took it out on the nearest target (Harper) and then, what was he going to say, when asked?

      I think he should have said, Harper ran funny to first base and on the sliding catch, “I removed him as a precaution, the trainers checked him & he’s fine.” But maybe his temper was still hot or he thought other people overheard what he said to Harper.

      It’s possible, however, that this is an on-going issue, that Williams made an “agreement” with Harper–personally, not just a team thing–and that this public chastisement was the latest effort to get his attention. It’s difficult to know from the outside, and of course Nats players/people support MW–if they don’t Rizzo will have them sleeping with fishes. Man, would I like to be a fly on the wall in the Rizzo-Williams meeting.

  17. luz56 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    This Matt Williams experiment is going to go sideways fast..real fast! He isn’t manager material.. Just because he “put in his time” doesn’t mean he’s qualified

  18. phillysports1 - Apr 19, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    I rather have Puig on my team than Harper.

    • yahmule - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:51 PM

      I might as well. Yasiel has better splits.

  19. paperlions - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    According to Williams, “He and I made an agreement. This team made an agreement that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times, that we play the game with intensity and the willingness to win. As it turned out, his spot came up. Kevin Frandsen put on a nice at-bat against Rosenthal. But his spot came up with the ability to win the game. That’s a shame for his teammates.”

    That’s nice….but I’ve watched the Cardinal’s 3 games against the Nats so far and not once has it occurred to me that they play with an unusual amount of hustle or intensity. In fact, the two game won by the Cardinals could arguably be because of a lack of intensity on defense, with errors on easy plays resulting in a ton of runs. The player that has played with the most hustle and intensity (at least, in the field) has been Harper. I’m glad they pulled him and I hope they sit him tomorrow as well, because it increases the chances the Cardinal’s win.

    • NatsLady - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:50 PM

      Yes. It was a close game (4-3), a game that came down to Werth striking out in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on base. You don’t take one of your best hitters out of a game like that, especially missing two other top hitters (Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman). Watch the Nats lose the Division by one game or tie the Cards for the Wild Card or something.

  20. Tucker Warner - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    There’s a time for trying to teach your players a lesson with regards to effort, but this isn’t it. All Matt needs to say is that he was worried about the injury after he saw Harper jog, but he felt a need to criticize him in front of the media. I do feel the effect of a manager can be overstated, and I can’t expect a first-year manager to be Joe Torre or anything, but disrespecting a player by making a criticism in front of the media instead of professionally and TO THE PLAYER, is not going to be received well in that locker room.

  21. andreboy1 - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    Puig and Harper are both entitled assclowns

  22. creek0512 - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    Yeah, it really helps your team to re-injure yourself for one out. Same thing goes for outfielders, it doesn’t help your team to injure yourself crashing into the wall for one out if you end up missing 2 weeks.

  23. jblokhed - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    Imagine how bitter Williams was all those years watching Bonds half jogging grounders.

    • kardshark1 - Apr 19, 2014 at 10:35 PM

      Imagine if Dusty Baker pulled that “remove from the game for disciplinary reasons” stuff on Bonds… The fans would have formed a mob with pitchforks outside AT & T and Baker would have quickly found himself unemployed.

      • mazblast - Apr 19, 2014 at 11:49 PM

        Baker and other Reds managers never once benched Cincinnati’s Own Ken Griffey Jr. (that’s how he was referred to) for his habit of hitting first pitches for lazy fly outs to CF, jogging 30 feet, peeling off, and heading for the dugout. I guess his excuse would have been that he needed to save his energy for all those unnecessary leaps in the outfield so he could get on SportsCenter.

  24. Joe Vecchio - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    Nobody tell Mark Judge!

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 19, 2014 at 8:04 PM

      Too late.

  25. bigmeechy74 - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    Terrible hire. Not even because of this. Also because he started the season having harper bat 6th. What the hell is that? And I’m really bored of this ex-player old school crap. I don’t think managers have that much to do with outcome of games but for what little it matters it won’t end well

    • yahmule - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      Joe Torre used to bat Matt Kemp eighth, the knucklehead.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 19, 2014 at 8:05 PM

        Not a big Torre fan but he can’t be that big a knucklehead if he had all those World Series rings.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 19, 2014 at 8:06 PM

        had = has, unless he pawned one or more

      • yahmule - Apr 19, 2014 at 8:20 PM

        He did a better job in New York when he had the deepest bullpen in baseball to overwork.

      • kardshark1 - Apr 19, 2014 at 10:46 PM

        Mattingly benched Puig for the Dodgers’ home opener cause he was 30 minutes late to batting practice. Oh… never mind that probably more than half the Dodgers’ fan base in attendance were Hispanic who paid good money and waited 6 months to see him play.

      • mazblast - Apr 19, 2014 at 11:52 PM

        kardshark, I was unaware that baseball playing decisions are dictated by crowdsourcing. Mattingly’s job is to win titles, not to make people happy about who plays, and if the team fails in that regard, he’s the one who will be fired, not the fans.

      • Kevin S. - Apr 20, 2014 at 1:50 PM

        Torre did a good job at managing egos (non-A-Rod division), but his tactics were suspect and he was atrocious at keeping a bullpen fresh if he didn’t have multiple great options.

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