Much can be said about Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals’ rookie sensation, and much of it would probably be fairly accurate. But no matter what is said, or how one feels about the 19-year-old, no one can deny the passion with which he plays the game – unless, of course, one mistakes that passion for immaturity.
It would be an easy mistake to make for sure. Behind the broken bats, broken blood vessels and tossed batting helmets, there is a fervent young player that does not quite understand how to express himself. As such, he acts out in ways that one would expect a teenager to act out – immaturely.
Harper’s most recent brush with passion, and the play that will almost assuredly garner much of today’s media attention, came in last night’s slump-busting 8-4 win over the Miami Marlins.
The Nationals’ all-important losing-streak-breaking victory will be swept aside. So too will Harper’s two home runs, which marked the youngster’s first career multi-home run game and came in the midst of a second half in which the All-Star center fielder has posted an abysmal .195/.266/.315 line. What is important, though, was the ninth-inning adventure that netted Harper another first – his first career ejection.
The ejection came on the heels of a Jayson Werth single to right. Harper’s sharp ground ball that followed was quickly turned for a double play. Harper’s response? A spiked helmet, which resulted in an angry C.B. Bucknor and an unwarranted ejection.
It was unlikely that Harper’s reaction was the result of the call at first, which was the correct one. More likely, it was the result of failing to leg out what would have been scored a fielder’s choice. Despite the accurate call at first, the ejection that followed was undoubtedly wrong.
Nevertheless, it was a situation in which Harper should never have placed himself. Nationals manager Davey Johnson said as much in a post-game interview.
“Bryce couldn’t control his emotions again and I had a little chat with him,” Johnson said. “He’ll get over it. He is just a 100 percenter. He expects great things out of himself. He breaks bats, throws his helmet and he’s just got to stop it. Can’t afford to be losing him in a ballgame with that. He’ll learn. He’s young.”
Harper is young indeed. And like all young people, he does things that most would consider stupid and immature.
But if anything positive can be taken from Harper’s childish tantrums, it is that they are thrown out of passion.
All of the interviews and all of the television and radio spots give one the sense that Harper is a player that wants desperately to win. And with someone like that on the roster, the Nationals will be in a position to do just that for many seasons to come.