Apr 21, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
You probably saw that Bryce Harper was benched on Saturday after he didn’t run out a ground ball (it was hit back to the pitcher). Matt Williams called it a lack of “hustle” and made a point to call him out publicly after the game. We already covered this one for the most part, but for what it’s worth — and keeping in mind this is a nitpick — I think “hustle” isn’t exactly the issue here. At least not as we usually think of it.
Generally speaking, Harper is nothing if not hustle (the Nats’ program the very day of that game is evidence of that). Indeed, until Saturday the biggest talking point about Harper was whether he hustled too much and whether he should slow down some in an effort to not tax his body. The play on Saturday, I feel, was less about physical effort than it was about (a) quitting mentally; and (b) Williams sending a message to his team in general, even if Harper was the pretext for it. If Harper slowly jogged all the way to first I’m guessing Williams doesn’t bench him, even if that’s not exactly “hustle” as usually defined. It’s more about just giving up on the play. If the Nats had been playing better baseball lately, I’m guessing Williams doesn’t react the way he did.
That’s not a major point, but feel like “hustle” or the lack thereof has become a proxy for laziness and that so often the “hustle” conversation inspires false hustle and needless hustle in ways that are unnecessary. Williams was trying to make Harper and the Nats in general mentally sharper. To not quit or lose focus. He wasn’t — I hope anyway — trying to instill a culture where guys sprint after ball four and in from the bullpen like Pete Rose or something. For that reason he was fine to bench Harper, even if I take issue with him (a) calling him out publicly like he did, which seems unprofessional to me; and (b) couching it in terms of hustle which is such an amorphous and malleable word in sports these days. One which leads to a lot of dumb and unproductive inferences and incentives.
Anyway, with that aside, let’s look at something less nuanced and far, far dumber. It’s Tom Boswell of the Washington Post going off on Harper about this in his latest column. After several paragraphs of ripping Harper and lauding Matt Williams for sending Harper a message, Boswell uncorks this:
Can we get a grip? Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player. If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twice. Harper is in a self-conscious, fierce scowl-off with baseball. Rendon dances with it and grins. Baseball loves relaxed.
This is what I’m talking about. You put a guy in the crosshairs like Williams did by calling him out in a postgame presser and you declare this a conversation about hustle, you give people license to take their knives out and go insanely over the top because, hey, not hustling is, like, the WORST THING YOU CAN DO and arglebarglebagleblah!
Boswell famously created a stat called Total Average one time. It has been widely debunked as a useful analytical tool and it’s actually pretty misleading. So, perhaps it is not so shocking to see him totally whiffing on a point of analysis here. But hey, if he can get anyone inside baseball to agree that Harper is some mediocre player because of a mental lapse or that they’d rather have Anthony Rendon than Bryce Harper now, five years from now or 20 years from now I suppose I’ll moderate my stance.
May 26, 2015, 6:51 AM EDT
Walking Mike Trout, running Bartolo Colon. Today’s ATH has everything.
May 25, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT
After signing a one-year, $3 million deal with the Braves, Callaspo is batting just .206 with one home run and a .545 OPS over 123 plate appearances this season.
May 25, 2015, 10:19 PM EDT
D’Arnaud has been sidelined since April 19 due to a fractured right pinkie finger.
May 25, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT
We usually post videos of Giancarlo Stanton hitting long home runs because he has a penchant for doing that on a regular basis and it’s a lot of fun to marvel over them. However, he can also get it done with the glove.
May 25, 2015, 8:14 PM EDT
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista hasn’t been able to play in the field since April 21 due a nagging shoulder injury, but he hopes to change that soon.
May 25, 2015, 7:05 PM EDT
Brewers outfielder Khris Davis hit two home runs today against the Giants, but he nearly had one of them taken away for not touching home plate.
May 25, 2015, 6:09 PM EDT
Brewers manager Craig Counsell said today that right-hander Wily Peralta will miss at least four weeks with an oblique strain.
May 25, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
When I think solemn remembrance of the military dead, I definitely think John Kruk and Curt Schilling in weird jerseys.
May 25, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Dodgers fans have been through this before, but hope is hope.
May 25, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT
Loney was hitting .275 with two homers and a .698 OPS in 30 games.
May 25, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
He thinks it’s silly that guys are risking 8-10 game suspensions for doing something everyone does and everyone thinks is sensible.
May 25, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Ishikawa started (out of position in left field) for the Giants during last year’s World Series-winning playoff run.
May 25, 2015, 2:48 PM EDT
May 25, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
“Don’t they want to win a championship?”
May 25, 2015, 2:10 PM EDT
Doolittle is coming back from a partially torn rotator cuff.
May 25, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT
Last time he started in left field and batted fifth for the Rangers? July 27, 2010.
May 25, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
It might be too little too late for the A’s considering their 16-30 record.
May 25, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
The world of illlllluuuuuusion
May 25, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT
Playing through the injury did not work at all.
May 25, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Mike Scioscia ran Mike Napoli out of Anaheim. Napoli has beaten the hell out of the Angels ever since.
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 0
- Reds finally shut down Devin Mesoraco seven weeks after hip injury, surgery may be needed 6
- Mike Napoli continues to kill the Angels 7
- Brian Matusz suspended eight games for a foreign substance 18
- Settling the Scores: Memorial Day Edition 58
- Giants designate Casey McGehee for assignment 26
- Yan Gomes returns to the Indians’ lineup after missing six weeks with a sprained right knee 0
- Marlins jump in Clevelander pool after snapping losing streak 22
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights (133)
- Bryce Harper on Marvin Hudson ejection: “I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump” (132)
- Bryce Harper ejected for second time in a week (122)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (101)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (96)