Since launching three home runs against the New York Mets on May 6, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been baseball’s hottest hitter. Over a 12-game stretch that began that afternoon leading up until Wednesday’s game against the New York Yankees, Harper hit .535/.630/1.349 with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs over 54 plate appearances.
Unfortunately, his sizzling stretch at the dish isn’t the only thing that’s taken center stage. During his time in the spotlight, which goes back to his days in high school in Las Vegas, Harper’s also earned a reputation at times for being a hot head, which has now in some way contributed to two ejections during that same stretch.
The first came on May 13, when Harper’s temper clearly got the best of him following a strikeout in Arizona. Following the ejection, Harper launched into a heated tirade against home-plate umpire Rob Drake.
A similar scene played out on Wednesday, when Harper was again ejected in the thrd inning of Washington’s 3-2 win against the New York Yankees after protesting umpire Marvin Hudson’s strike call and then apparently taking too long to return to the batter’s box.
Though not as heated initially, Harper clearly objected to the low strike call. Hudson then became engaged with Washington’s bench and presumably manager Matt Williams, before turning back to Harper and apparently hurrying him back into the box. More words were exchanged and then Hudson gave Harper the hook.
The funny thing is, Harper was in the box until Hudson went after Arizona’s bench. Either way, it doesn’t seem like nearly enough to warrant an ejection, but Hudson clearly took Harper’s maneuvering as a dismissal of his authority.
At that point, Harper launched into a more heated discussion with Hudson and was quickly joined by manager Matt Williams, who concluded his tirade by kicking some dirt on home plate.
It some ways, it was a good old-fashioned player-manager-umpire confrontation. In others, it was a reminder of how sensitive umpires have become and has led some to question why Hudson couldn’t exercise a little more patience with one of baseball’s top attractions.
Among them, Bryce Harper himself.
Well, that won’t endear Harper to the umpires, but the sentiments were echoed everywhere.
The reputation of both proceed them, and those reputations both played into the result. Unfortunately for those who paid good money to watch Harper, and unfortunately for the Nationals, who lost their best hitter far too early in the game, Hudson was the man wielding all the power.
In this case, Hudson could have easily squashed the problem without letting it escalate. By the same token, Harper may have baited a bit by not just getting back in the box. You can find fault in how both men handled the confrontation, but here’s hoping both will be wiser the next time they’re in this position.
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