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Bryce Harper accused of begging out of a game in order to avoid Jose Fernandez and preserve a hitting streak

Apr 21, 2014, 12:17 PM EDT

If you thought the Washington Post’s Tom Boswell was provocative in calling Bryce Harper his seventh-best player in his latest column, get a load of his answer during his chat on the Nationals this morning:



Unlike the thing about Harper being the seventh-best player — which was Boswell’s own, possibly disingenuous assertion — this sounds way more like Boswell passing along scuttlebutt of what he’d heard from Nats players, coaches and/or execs. We’re in no position to know for sure, but talking to some Nats fans on Twitter who pay close attention to coverage of the team reveals that Boswell’s m.o. is more about being a conduit for internal team sentiment and using his chats to mention things that he may not be able to get into a column than it is about stirring crap for its own sake. And, based on reading Boswell for nearly 20 years myself, he has never struck me as the sort of guy who gets all huffy about someone and then decides to mount a campaign against them a la Plaschke (see, Plaschke vs. Paul DePodesta, Plaschke vs. Puig, etc.).

So, what to make of this? Maybe I’m wrong and Boswell is just beating up an attractive target for the hell of it. Maybe someone — or many someones — on the Nats is suspicious of Harper. Maybe it’s the totally unhinged thoughts of one player on a bad day. Maybe there’s an undercurrent of anti-Harper sentiment on the team. Maybe Harper is legitimately reverting to some of the stuff that made him look a little bad when he was 16 or 17 or whatever and it’s rubbing people the wrong way.

But we can at least say that it’s not that often a veteran team which many think is playoff-bound gets catty like this in front of reporters. Implying that a guy oversold an injury in order to duck a tough pitcher is a pretty serious accusation, be it made anonymously or not. It’s something worth watching.

  1. 461deep - Apr 21, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Boy this board is infatuated with Bryce Harper. He did not run out a comebacker like most & yes should have been spoken to but not benched for 1st offense. No real proof he begged out of a game. 7th best on team, get real. This kid needs to be left alone awhile so he can relax & continue to grow. All young players make mistakes but not all get dissected like Bryce. He has never done anything to even approach deserving the criticism he receives. Oh yeah he made a clown joke & motioned something in the minors terrible rap sheet. This boy will be good this year & has great years ahead of him. Nats need to not overreact to his innocuous actions. Yankees, Red Sox others are hoping Nats dumb enough get him upset to leave as FA in 3-4 y-ears.

    • observer82ab - Apr 21, 2014 at 6:50 PM

      I agree. I think Williams was right to bench him if he chose to, but this story is just rumor. I do not like to see players dog piles because it is a slow news day. I had never ready anything negitive regarding Harper until this point. I have a son in the minor leagues. He is a gamer much as i am sure Harper is. I am not a Nationals fan!

    • dakotaandotter - Apr 22, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      he should be benched when just the day before the manager says he’s going to bench the next guy who does it.

  2. AZ Dem - Apr 21, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    Williams’ calling out of Harper was a HUGE mistake. It says more about Williams’ immaturity as a Manager than anything about Harper. The pitcher had cleanly fielded the ball before Harper could even get out of the batter’s box. The pitcher would have beaten him to first if he had to run it over there himself. Harper would have looked like a fool if he had run that play out. He would have looked like he was showing up his teammates. There’s a time for going 100%, there”s a time for taking it easy. Being a professional means knowing the difference.

    Re: Harper’s relationship with his teammates, I, obviously, have no first hand insight. But I’ve seen interviews with him on that telly screen. He’s obnoxious. I live in Mormon country, and they are flat out obnoxious. Mormons make for good neighbors in that they keep their properties well kept, and they’re a law-abiding people. And, yes, those are the two most important things. They have a vapid smugness about them. It just drives you crazy. Notice in Harper’s interviews, it’s not an arrogance that says “I’m the best ball player,” it’s more like “I’m a better person than you.”

    Just gotta mention this: All you Williams defenders. A manager with 3 weeks of experience. I’m a BoSox fan, and all you guys like to jump on Ortiz, a nice guy who is truly one of the princes of MLB. His name popped up on the PED list because he took an over the counter oral supplement without closely examining the fine print on the label. Which is a mistake, yes. Williams, however, knowingly cheated. He illegally purchased and used HGH and steroids during his playing career.

    • growingyoungoils - Apr 21, 2014 at 5:21 PM

      Really, do you believe this mess you wrote. A manager should always question his players hustle, especially if they have a history of this, like Harper does. Harper will never live up to his potential.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Apr 21, 2014 at 6:08 PM

        A manager should always question his players hustle, especially if they have a history of this, like Harper does.

        He has a history of not hustling? Take it away Nationals Media Guide:

        Or how about Harper’s own manager, a day before the benching:

        “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. ”

    • fang41 - Apr 21, 2014 at 5:48 PM

      You must be a Republican- as you are able to deftly twist a discussion about Harper’s problem into a lame-ass defense of Ortiz’s drug problems, while at the same time casting dispersions about Matt Williams character (and you are the first to do that, by the way).

      I’m guessing you hopped out Carleton Fisk’s case for dressing down Dion Sanders. Hell, you’re probably not a Carleton Fisk fan (because Fisk left the Red Sox and went to the White Sox, right?) Lack of hustle on a ball field is lack of hustle no matter how you slice it, and it has no place is sports!

      In the immortal words of Roy Hobbs to Max Mercy- “Did you ever play the game?”

      • stercuilus65 - Apr 21, 2014 at 8:14 PM

        fang41 – Apr 21, 2014 at 5:48 PM
        “You must be a Republican”
        Wow, very lame.

    • observer82ab - Apr 21, 2014 at 6:51 PM

      You know nothing about the game of baseball.

    • wrathofherk - Apr 22, 2014 at 4:31 AM

      Did You WriteThat With A Straight Face? Ortiz Is A Prince ? He TookAn Over The counter Supplement By Mistake? Talk About A Disillusioned Red Sox Fan! I Guess Manny Ramirez DidIt Unknowingly As Well Right? Give Me A Break. Every pro Athlete Knows Exactly What He PUts In His Body, What It Will Do To Him, And WheTher OR Not Its BanNed. Millions Are At Stake For These Athletes,Its Their Business To Know What TheYre Putting In Their Bodies, And Anyone Who Thinks Any Different Is Kidding Themselves. Just Like A Sox Fan To take a Discussion About Anything And Make It About The Red Sox. Get Over Yourself, Ortiz has Been Juicing All Along

      • jruiz2112 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:45 AM

        why do your words start in capital font? must’ve taking you a long time to type…

    • prestonbucher - Apr 22, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      Why would running out the play be showing up his teammates if they are also expected to do it? I think by him not doing it would show the attitude that he is above the rules laid down by the manager. I don’t think Williams expected him to sprint to first like Jake Taylor at the end of Major League, but I do think he expected him to go through the bag at a decent pace.

    • dakotaandotter - Apr 22, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      wow, that’s a lot of crazy comments for one post. wish i could give you more than one thumbs down. I’ll respond to just one. the players were clearly told the next guy who doesn’t run it out is going to be pulled from the game. the purpose of this is to produce a winning/hustling culture that will permeate the culture and build a winner. this is a franchise that has never been a winner. I’m not sure Williams will succeed but I give him credit for trying.

  3. tomtravis76 - Apr 21, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    Look out John Wall, you’re up next. Show any signs of being good with some young arrogance and the DMV is ready to get you out of the market as quick as possible. Damn, dc hasn’t won anything since the early 90s, yet you get some young potential stars and you feel the need to bury them. It’s sports entertainment, give these kids a chance to grow in the community instead of them counting the seconds until they can leave.

  4. fang41 - Apr 21, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    I’m guessing Harper must have declined an interview with Boswell at some point in the past, and now Boswell is seeking to bring the lad down! Boswell is no Saint himself (oops- my bad- he went to St. Stephen’s didn’t he). I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for his chances on getting interviews from the Nationals players or coaches anytime in the future.

  5. randygnyc - Apr 21, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    AZ dem- typical of liberal thinking. Tell me more about the all the Mormons. Next tell me about the blacks. Anything you want to add about the Joooz?

  6. pesky99 - Apr 21, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    Harper is a hack, and you have to be tough on these young players so they learn respect for the game and managers, coaches, and the team.
    Harper and Puig both need some ass kicking if you ask me, before they turn into self-absorbed and expect everything without working for it. These two scabs are already showing signs of being future a-rod’s and barry bond’s- the game doesn’t need anymore of that!

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Apr 21, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      These two scabs are already showing signs of being future a-rod’s and barry bond’s- the game doesn’t need anymore of that!

      Two of the best to ever play the game? Yeah, the game doesn’t need any of that…

      • kgsmith - Apr 21, 2014 at 10:01 PM

        bonds and Arod = cheaters

  7. gymtruthteller - Apr 21, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    He’s young and privileged. He’s used to getting his own way regardless of how he behaves. He’s like a teenager that needs a spanking. Hopefully being benched and having stuff like this leaked will help him grow up.

  8. kanolee - Apr 21, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    The Mayweather of Baseball…seeing how Mayweather refuses to box Pacquiao

    • renaado - Apr 21, 2014 at 10:27 PM

      As a Filipino myself I really appreciate your statement, truly he is the fighting pride of the Philippines. “Mabuhay ka Pacquiao!”

  9. belichickee - Apr 21, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    Gee why do I get the feeling if Bryce were black or Hispanic Craig would be railing against Boswell instead of being intrigued by his reporting?

  10. bbk1000 - Apr 22, 2014 at 4:42 AM

    What a surprise….Harper cares more about himself than anything else.

    A quick look at his past suggests that, not exactly a shocker.

    Next subject….

  11. courtjester1234 - Apr 22, 2014 at 5:35 AM

    From the farthest depths of the universe come the Super Jerks! Bryce Harper John Wall Alex Ovetchkin RG-Me and MeSean Jackson! Together they promise sports greatness while pointng the finger of blame on anyone but the true culprates: Themselves

  12. sandman58769 - Apr 22, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    The hitting streak should be scratched as soon as that name gets scratched from the lineup,A streak is a streak,amn this jst like cheating in a way!And also a game check needs to be deducted!

  13. numbskull111 - Apr 22, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    Didn’t Matt Williams say he wanted to help get Harper out of the spotlight so he could develop and mature (saw it in an interview during spring training? )

    Well, his benching move has done nothing to accomplish that feat. In fact, he turned up the brightness of that spotlight 1000x….nice job coach.

    I have no problem with the benching, but there was no reason to put the reason out there in front of the media. That was like throwing blood in the water to a bunch of sharks….and now you see the result. Next we are gonna read about how Harper cheated kids out of Easter Eggs at the White House Easter Egg roll because he is such a “monster”.

    • prestonbucher - Apr 22, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      How is that Williams’ fault? He laid down a rule and expected the players to follow it. Harper just shot himself in the foot. What if Williams had laid down the bunt sign and Harper shrugged it off? This is the same thing. The manager calls the shots and the player is expected to follow it. I don’t think he requested anything over the top that he had to try and disregard the manager.

      • numbskull111 - Apr 22, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        If you read what I said, I said I didn’t disagree with the benching. Williams apparently had a meeting with the team and said the next person that does not run all the way to first is getting pulled….so I have no problem with that.

        I do have a problem with him airing that dirty laundry to the media. He could have benched Harper, dealt with it in-house and called it a day. The message would have been served to Harper.

        Instead, he has created this circus around the player he stated he wanted to get out of the spotlight and protect from the media.

  14. Luis Torres - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    I’m a little surprised at the responses on the comment board. At the risk of stating an unpopular opinion, here goes:

    Boswell is out of his mind calling Harper the 7th best player on the team. Last year he hit .274 /.368/.486 with 20 HR in only 118 games. The year before he hit .270/.340/.477 with 22 HR in 139 games. He had 3.5 bWAR in 2013 and 5.1 bWAR in 2012. That’s good for 1st among Nationals position players in 2012, and roughly 2nd in 2013, despite all the time he missed that year. I think Boswell said what he said is either because of ignorance, or more likely that Harper hasn’t lived up to the hype. That’s not Harper’s fault. Remember everyone, HE’S ONLY 21 YEARS OLD! There’s every reason to believe he’ll live up to the hype some day. The talent is there. He’s a current 60 hitter with the potential to be a 70 hitter. To top it all off, he has 80 power! 80! Here are a few examples of players with 80 power: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Davis, and Miguel Cabrera. The break out hasn’t come yet, but, barring injury, there’s every reason to believe it’ll happen. Fans have become disenchanted with him because it has been a couple of years and because Mike Trout has set the bar so high.

    The rest of Boswell’s comments are just speculations, assumptions, and rumors. Nobody in the Nationals clubhouse even went on the record by attaching their name to a quote. What if he’s only going by what the minority is saying? How would we know? We only have the word of a writer who’s out to get a story. Let me be perfectly clear: Boswell’s conclusions are not based on any facts whatsoever. He has no idea how Harper’s quad is doing, or why he really slammed his helmet on the ground. He’s doing what BBWAA members are best at: Drawing baseless conclusions in order to drive their fabricated narratives. Yes, Harper, like Puig, has serious makeup concerns, and it is getting overblown because these kind of issues are narrative crack to the BBWAA. It’s easier to make stuff up instead of doing any actual baseball analysis.

    Now for the really unpopular opinion. I completely disagree with what Williams did. Harper was out by a mile. With his quad hurting him, it would’ve been careless for Harper to run full speed down the line when he didn’t need to. Acceleration is exactly the sort of thing that further aggravates quad injuries. He could’ve strained it, which would’ve put him on the DL for at least a month, or he could’ve torn it, which would’ve put him out for the year. Also, it’s not like he has a history of not hustling. Yes he ran full force on the bunt, but you NEED to do that when you bunt. There was no need to do so when Williams pulled him. He aggression has drawn criticism for making extra outs on the base paths and getting him hurt in the outfield. Scouts have actually said they want him to tone it down!

    Williams embarrassed a young, 21-year old for no good reason. He’s still maturing as a ballplayer and a person. People complain, but there are a lot of fans out there who would take a 4 WAR player for their team, with an upside for twice that, in exchange for some makeup issues.

    • prestonbucher - Apr 22, 2014 at 12:49 PM

      If he’s hurt, then he needs to sit. If he wants to play, he should be expected to play with 100% effort. What happens when a fly ball is hit his way, but he has to jog at it instead of running it down? As far as the attitude issues. That’s up to Harper to learn. But, this is a game played by men. Mature men. If he doesn’t want to follow the rules laid down by the manager, that’s up to him. But Williams shouldn’t have to hold his hand while he decides to grow up. This isn’t high school anymore. If he is one of the top players on this team, he better stop acting like a brat and step up and accept the responsibilities that go along with that.

      • numbskull111 - Apr 22, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        Just curious…how is he acting “like a brat?”

        Is it because he didn’t sprint as fast as he could on a 45 foot one hopper to the mound? If so, then over half the league acts like brats. In fact, about half the starting lineup of the Nats have been “brats” at one time or another.

        This kind of attention focused on Harper is exactly the reason Williams should have left the reason for this out of the media. Forever going forward, people will label Harper as a lazy, non-hustling player when nothing could be further from the truth.

        In fact, the knock on Harper before this season was that he hustled “too much” and needed to tone it down and “pick his spots” to hustle to avoid injury.

      • Luis Torres - Apr 22, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        prestonbutcher- As stated in this column, he sat against Fernandez, and according to Boswell his teammates were highly critical of him for doing so. However, to be fair, we only have Boswell’s word for it and no names or who said what. It’s also ultimately up to Williams if he sits or not, and he chose to play Harper knowing full well that his quad was bothering him, yet expected him to run like it wasn’t.

        Playing hurt isn’t black and white. If you’re too hurt to help your team, then yes you should sit down. If not, then you need to play. As the season progresses,everybody becomes hurt to some degree. You can’t expect everyone to sit just because they’re not 100%. A manager needs to know how hurt his players are, whether or not they can play, and if they can, what’s fair to expect. We know for a fact that Williams knew about Harper’s quad. Say whatever you want about Harper’s hustle, but to put in a player with that injury and expect him to run at full speed when it isn’t necessary is downright negligent of Williams. Williams is a rookie manager and clearly has a lot to learn.

        I completely agree that Harper has some maturing to do. I also think that if he was producing like Trout, or Cabrera, or McCutchen, or Goldschmidt, neither you, nor Williams, nor anybody would care. Remember Manny Ramirez in his prime? When he was one of the best hitters in baseball, nobody cared about his maturity issues, the questionable injuries, or even the occasional tanked at bat. The called it “Manny being Manny”. They actually found it endearing! Funny how that works.

        At the end of the day it’s Williams’ decision as to whether or not Harper plays. He knowingly put him in hurt. Nobody talks about that. Either Williams should’ve sat him, or adjusted his expectations. Either way, Harper was the one who was embarrassed and paid for his manager’s mistake.

  15. voidhelix - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:41 AM

    FYI, it`s tie wearing, old baseball `traditionalists` like Boswell here that black-balled Babe Ruth and ultimately meant the greatest hitter of all time won one single league MVP award. Because players don`t conform to insidious tropes of what a baseball player should be like and act like, peons like Boswell assassinate their characters. You don`t get to hold players to ur `higher standard`, you Washington Post, Nazi.

  16. ziplock10 - May 9, 2014 at 1:07 AM

    FYI… Anthony Rendon is the best young player on this team…

    I am counting Harper and Strasburg…

    Rendon just has Zimmerman playing 3rd ahead of him..

    He will be the best player the Nats have in a couple…

  17. NFLisnotreality - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    Come on, his name is Bryce. He’s expected to behave like this, and we are to look the other way…

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