Wire Taps: Nationals vs Angels, Bryce Harper vs Mike Trout

H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY

After Bryce Harper was benched this weekend, making headlines for all the wrong reasons, the Washington Nationals' 21-year-old slugger is part of baseball's hype machine again as he and LA Angels' star Mike Trout face off in the nation's capital this week.

Veteran Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell shared his thoughts on this weekend's big story in an article on Sunday. No, it was not about the Washington Nationals' splitting the first series of the year with St. Louis. It was, of course, about Nats' skipper Matt Williams' decision to bench 21-year-old slugger Bryce Harper for "lack of hustle" after the Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick failed to run out a grounder back to the mound in Saturday's loss to the Cardinals.

As Boswell saw Williams' decision and subsequent public explanation, it was one that must have been made with the bigger picture in mind:

"No player is so publicly shamed before a sellout home crowd — with a full explanation of the mid-game exodus given during the postgame news conference — unless there is plenty of backstory and an understanding within the organization that an issue needs to be addressed."

The years of hype, Gatordade commercials and public perception of Harper are coming into conflict with the reality of Harper as a major league player, who, Boswell writes, is a, "... good but miles-from-great player," and a, "... very good but immature young man." So was this all about humbling Harper as the WaPost's columnist suggests?

Meanwhile... BRYCE HARPER vs MIKE TROUT!!!

"I think it's great for the game. They're both dynamic players and they both have high ceilings, as high as they possibly want to go." - Matt Williams on Harper vs Trout

Two days after he was benched, Bryce Harper is a national story again for reasons other than his "lack of hustle."

Mike Trout and the LA Angels are in town and the baseball world is focusing in on the nation's capital and the matchup between two of the game's brightest young stars. Williams was asked on Sunday what he thought of having both players on the field for the three-game set in Nationals Park.

"First, I think it's great for the game," Williams said. "They're both dynamic players and they both have high ceilings, as high as they possibly want to go. And so I think it's great to talk about and it's great to anticipate."

Williams said he expects to see both players at their best in the first head-to-head matchup.

"I anticipate that from their side, [Trout] is going to everything he can to beat us and I know Bryce will be ready. He'll be ready to play tomorrow and I'm proud of the way he played today and we're glad to have him on our club."

Williams said Sunday that after all the drama on Saturday and national headlines it led to, he did sit down and talk to Harper before the series finale with St. Louis.

"It was good," he said of the talk. "Just sat with him for a couple minutes at his locker and told him that I'm confident in him and I'm proud of him. And he was going to have an impact today, which he did. He had an impact getting a base hit, stealing a base and giving us another opportunity, made some nice plays in the outfield. He did well."

One day this will all make sense. Until then, links and lots of them... starting... RIGHT NOW!!!:

• THE BIG STORY!!!:

• "The problem of Harper’s lack of hustle when he’s sulking extends back to last year at least. In fact, several days ago the entire team was warned that the next man who didn’t run out a ball was coming out of the game. Teammates like Harper, but they back Williams." - "Bryce Harper needed a reality check, and Matt Williams gave it to him with benching" - Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post

• NATS BEAT:

• "Espinosa enters Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals hitting .273 with a .500 slugging percentage, more than adequate production given the situation." - "Danny Espinosa making the most of his opporunity to play every day" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider

• "About one-tenth of the way through the season, the Nationals’ most pleasant and essential development has been the re-emergence of Danny Espinosa." - "Danny Espinosa continues his re-emergence" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post

• "Matt Williams might not love the Nationals' 2-for-12 line with runners in scoring position today or the fact that they stranded 17 runners, but he did love the way his team kept getting runners on..." - "Nationals Pastime: Williams discusses Nats' 3-2 walk-off win" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com

• "Denard Span's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the Nationals over the Cardinals..." - "St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals - April 20, 2014" - Bill Ladson, MLB.com WSH Recap

• "Strasburg has absorbed a lot of criticism this season, but perhaps that will abate, at least for the next five days." - "Slider-free Stephen Strasburg strikes out nine" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post

• "Maness threw another changeup that was called a ball and McLouth walked to load the bases." - "McLouth walk a key at-bat in walk-off winner for Nationals" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

• "Span is a groundball hitter, always has been, but he knew anything on the grass or dirt could play right into St. Louis’ hands..." - "Nationals grind their way to walk-off win over Cardinals" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider

• "As to the quad, Harper missed a game on Weds that happened to be against Jose Fernandez. Other players always look for 'coincidences.' The next game, he laid down a bunt against Wainwright, flew to first and looked fine." - "Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports" - Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post

• "Stephen Strasburg delivered a strong outing against a very tough Cardinals lineup, despite the fact he didn't use his slider and instead relied entirely on fastball/changeup/curve." - "Nationals Pastime: Some Easter Sunday leftovers" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com

• "Upon returning in mid-August, Storen had gone back to using a more athletic leg kick in his delivery, and he's also changed his pitch mix." - "Storen picking up where he left off last season" - Andrew Simon, nationals.com: News

• "In the fall of 2011, already well known for what they were supposed to become, the two were briefly teammates on the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League." - "Bryce Harper, Mike Trout shared prelude to MLB stardom in Arizona Fall League" - Rick Maese and James Wagner, The Washington Post

• "Stephen Strasburg, on the heels of a poor performance in Miami, was all business." - "Instant analysis: Nationals 3, Cardinals 2 | Nats Insider" - Mark Zuckerman, NatsInsider.com

• "Stephen Strasburg delivered a strong outing against a very tough Cardinals lineup, despite the fact he didn't use his slider and instead relied entirely on fastball/changeup/curve." - "Nationals Pastime: Some Easter Sunday leftovers" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com


• "Stephen Strasburg didn’t figure into the decision, but that didn’t mean the right-hander’s performance was insignificant." - "More observations from the Nationals’ 3-2 win over the Cardinals" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider

• "'I counted, 1-2-3-4-5. Right there, I told myself a ground ball is not going to do it,' Span said. 'Try to get the ball in the air somehow...'" - "Span, Strasburg, Harper and Werth react after walk-off win over Cardinals" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

• "Denard Span’s approach with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning proves math pays off." - "Denard Span's sacrifice fly completes Nationals' comeback over Cardinals" - Benjamin Standing, Washington Times

• Your Daily Message from the Dalai Lama on Twitter (@DalaiLama):

• NATIONAL(S) BEAT:

• "The 2012 Rookies of the Year will oppose each other for the first time of their blossoming careers Monday..." - "Los Angeles Angels at Washington Nationals - April 21, 2014" - Matt Slovin, MLB.com Preview

• "The Angels last played at Nationals Park in 2008, when they won two of three." - "On deck: Angels at Nationals, Monday, 4 p.m." - Jeff Fletcher, The Orange County Register

• "The deciding factor in the Cardinals' four-game series against the Nationals was defense..." - "St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals - April 20, 2014" - Jennifer Langosch, MLB.com STL Recap

• "In 27 games this season, Espinosa is hitting .313, with seven of his 15 hits going for extra bases.  His defense has been solid, with Espinosa only making two errors in his 15 starts at second." - "Danny Espinosa More Than Stop-Gap Solution for Washington" - Robert Pannier, Liberty Voice

• "Mike Trout was 20 and Bryce Harper was 19 when they played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League in 2011." - "Angels' Mike Trout, Nationals' Bryce Harper to meet for first time" - Mike DiGiovanna, latimes.com

• "The Cardinals led 2-0 for most of the game before the bullpen and the infield leaked." - "Nats rally, take a walk-off win from Cards" - Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

• "The Nationals and Cardinals, two favorites to win their divisions this season, split the four-game set in the nation’s capital, and each game was decided by defense." - "Nothing 'clean' about Cardinals' defense" - Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

• NATS MINORS:

Low-A Hagerstown: "Trailing 5-4 heading to the bottom of the fourth, Hagerstown put up four runs in the inning to take control of the game." - "Suns sweep BlueClaws for 2nd time with 11-6 win" - Hagerstown Suns News

High-A Potomac: "Potomac RHP Ronald Pena (1-0) earned his first win of the 2014 season after motoring through 5.0 innings and allowing two runs, but only one earned run..." - "Nationals Edge Hillcats 6-5 to Claim Sole Possession of First Place" - Potomac Nationals News

• "Monday’s News & Notes" - Luke Erickson, NationalsProspects.com

• "LF Destin Hood, who cracked his first home run in Saturday night's victory in Reading, is hitting .378 this season, good for fifth in the Eastern League." - "Harrisburg Senators, trying to dig out of Eastern League basement, open four-game series tonight in Altoona" - Geoff Morrow, PennLive.com

Double-A Harrisburg: "Each week we'll check in at the four other full-season teams within the Washington Nationals' organization to see how former and future Harrisburg Senators are doing..." - "Spotlight on Rafael Soriano, Jhonatan Solano, Steve Lombardozzi, more: Senators/Nationals glance" - Geoff Morrow, PennLive.com

Triple-A Syracuse: "The Washington Nationals returned outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Syracuse Chiefs on Sunday." - "Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. returns to the Syracuse Chiefs; pitcher Warner Madrigal placed on DL" - Lindsay Kramer, syracuse.com

Triple-A Syracuse: "The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, fell to the Rochester Red Wings, 9-3, on Sunday afternoon..." - "Chiefs drop Sunday matinee to Red Wings" - Syracuse Chiefs News

• NATSTOWN:

• "The game was in line to become one of the Washington Nationals’ (11-8) biggest disappointments of the season." - "Nats Win It In The Bottom Of The 9th With Help From Denard Span" - Erin Flynn, The Nats Blog

• "And while some former baseball men lined up on Boswell’s side, others took a different stance. Like Jim Bowden..." - "Jim Bowden: Matt Williams shouldn’t have benched Harper" - Dan Steinberg, DC Sports Bog

• "On Easter Sunday at Nationals Park, the racing presidents wore their Sunday finest and ran a tight, clean fourth inning race..." - "Video: Easter Bunny Takes Out 4 Racing Presidents" - Presidents Race Fan, Let Teddy Win!

• "Down goes Teddy and George and Abe and Thomas!" - "Must-see video: Easter Bunny tackles four presidents at baseball game" - Nate Scott, USA TODAY Sports

• "Monday Quickie - Boz and Bryce" - Harper, Nationals Baseball

• "A day after the Bryce Harper hustle frenzy, the Washington Nationals created the right kind of drama Sunday afternoon by way of a Denard Span walk-off sacrifice fly to top the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2." - "Washington Nationals Game 19 Review: Span Walk-off Sac Fly Earns Nats a Split with Cardinals" - Alyssa Wolice, District Sports Page

• NL EAST UPDATES:

Phillies: "On April 5, about a week into the 2014 season, I noted that pitchers were continuing a trend started last season by throwing Domonic Brown pitches mostly low and outside." - "Two Weeks Later, No Progress for Domonic Brown" - Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley

Mets: "The Mets will be wearing their new camouflage jerseys on Monday night for the first of five 'Military Monday' games this season." - "Mets Will Wear Camo Jerseys For Military Monday" - Joe D, Mets Merized Online

Marlins: "The 2014 Miami Marlins have begun the season better than expected, and the reason for that unexpected change has a lot to do with, surprisingly enough, their offensive performance rather than their pitching staff." - "The Miami Marlins' early season power surge" - Michael Jong, Fish Stripes

Braves: "Braves starting pitchers entered Sunday leading the Majors with a 1.46 ERA, but Julio Teheran's most recent start last Wednesday might be the group's most impressive showing yet." - "Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves - April 21, 2014" - Joe Frisaro and Joe Morgan, MLB.com Preview

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