In summing up his thoughts on Bryce Harper's ejection from Sunday's game in PNC Park after the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in spite of losing their three-hole hitter in the first inning, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson said he couldn't really blame umpire John Hirschbeck. "He made the right call," the Nats' 70-year-old manager admitted, "What can I say? I just wish he hadn't made it. I never want to lose anyone, like I said, and I definitely don't want to lose my three-hole hitter."
Harper, "... kinda bit on a 2-2 bender from Pittsburgh Pirates' starter Wandy Rodriguez," as we wrote in our post game wrapup of the incident, "but thought he'd held up. Hirshbeck disagreed and a standoff ensued with Harper staring out toward third and gesturing toward the veteran umpire. Hirshbeck walked toward home, gesturing back, talked to Nats' third base coach Trent Jewett then watched as Harper walked toward the dugout and "slammed" his bat and helmet. Then Hirshbeck tossed Harper."
In attempting to explain why he had tossed the Nationals' 20-year-old slugger, Hirschbeck, a veteran of 29 seasons as an umpire, told a pool reporter, as quoted by MLB.com's Bill Ladson, that he felt the second-year major leaguer was attempting to show him up:
"First of all, he put both arms up in the air. To me, I felt like that’s showing me up. I yelled at him and warned him to stop. And then he continued and he slammed his bat down. I actually warned him again and then the next thing he slammed his helmet down and I felt three warnings are more than enough."
Asked for his thoughts on the matter, which has remained a topic of discussion far longer than it likely would have if the Nationals didn't have the last two days off after that game, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo offered his take on the matter in his weekly appearance on 106.7 the FAN In D.C.'s eponymous "Mike Rizzo Show" with Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier.
"It was a play that emotions ran high," Rizzo said, "And you can say that Bryce shouldn't put his hands up in the air, which he shouldn't, but I've seen much worse things [than that] happen at home plate [and] guys weren't ejected. For instance, you saw [the Reds'] Joey Votto at home plate against us at our ballpark slam and break a bat, slam and break a helmet and no one said a word about it, so. It was an emotional time. Bryce has to be a little smarter and not throw his hands up in the air." Rizzo added that the situation could have been handled differently without Harper ending up ejected.
Rizzo was also asked if players have to know about umpire's personalities, and adjust accordingly? The Nats' GM said that's an unreasonable expectation. "Players have got to be themselves," the general manager explained, "the game is too tough to play [to be] worrying about the demeanor of the umpire. So, play your game, be who you are and try to make sure that you're not crossing a line and staying in the game, because the important part of getting kicked out of the game is, in the first inning of an important game for us, our no.3 hitter's gets taken out of the game after one at bat. So it deludes the bench, it takes out one of your better players and it makes things a little bit tougher to win that one particular baseball game."