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.
Jul 31, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT
The Giants placed Tim Hudson on the disabled list, which created room on the roster for incoming pitcher Mike Leake.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:55 PM EDT
A.J. Burnett hits the DL with an elbow issue. Recently-acquired pitcher J.A. Happ will take his spot in the rotation.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:28 PM EDT
Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart laughed when he recalled the Padres asking for Paul Goldschmidt in return in a potential trade involving Craig Kimbrel.
Jul 31, 2015, 7:49 PM EDT
Kendrys Morales is more nimble than we give him credit for being.
Jul 31, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT
Yankees pitching prospect Luis Severino will make his major league debut within the next week.
Jul 31, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT
Clayton Kershaw has been scratched from a start yet again due to a hip problem.
Jul 31, 2015, 5:37 PM EDT
Yes, I realize it’s silly to do this an hour after the trade deadline, as time is required to see how this stuff truly shakes out. But what is the Internet for if not kneejerk reactions?
Jul 31, 2015, 4:33 PM EDT
J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton, reunited.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
He was DFA’d by the Dodgers as soon as they got him but he may platoon at 1B for Pittsburgh.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
People thought they’d make four or five trades. They ended up doing nothing.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT
We’re recapping all of the deals as they come down.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT
Bullpen help for Chicago.
Jul 31, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT
The Mets add a big bat to their anemic offense. And they don’t have to part with Zack Wheeler to do it.
Jul 31, 2015, 3:12 PM EDT
Jones struggled in a part-time role for the Yankees.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:27 PM EDT
This is the third outfielder to whom they’ve been linked in three days. Let’s see if this one takes.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT
He’s hitting hitting .298/.334/.374 and will likely take over left field duties.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
Jed Hoyer has worked for all three of these teams. He may be in the middle of a big trade involving them all.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
Bullpen help has been an obvious need for Minnesota.
Jul 31, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
The Cubs get a starter.
Jul 31, 2015, 1:28 PM EDT
Another move for Toronto.
- The Winners and Losers at the Trade Deadline 58
- 2015 MLB Trade Deadline Tracker 11
- Report: Yoenis Cespedes heading to the New York Mets 36
- The Blue Jays pick up Ben Revere from the Phillies 63
- Cubs trade for Dan Haren 27
- Cardinals add more bullpen help, get Jonathan Broxton from Brewers 13
- Orioles trade for Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra 19
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 46
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers (112)
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies (106)
- Royals make another big move, get Ben Zobrist from A’s (95)
- Report: Rockies trade Troy Tulowitzki to Blue Jays for Jose Reyes and prospects (90)
- The Hall of Fame just made a MAJOR change to the Hall of Fame voting process (78)