Locked at a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers were in the midst of a game where the bullpens would ultimately decide who went home with a victory. Bryce Harper stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and one out, looking to put the Nats ahead of Milwaukee for the first time in the series.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Brewers lefty Josh Hader threw a fastball down at the bottom of the strike zone that home plate umpire Chris Segal called a strike. Harper was visibly upset with the close call — a pitch that could’ve gone either way — and promptly whiffed on each of the next two pitches to strike out.
Harper kicked the dirt and yelled something inaudible at Segal, who promptly ejected him from the game. The Nats outfielder proceeded to pick up some dirt to show the umpire where he thought the previous strike call was and had to be restrained by Daniel Murphy before heading off the field.
"Runner on third, instead of being 2-0, you're 1-1," Harper said. "Little fired up on the pitch he threw me down. That's a tough lefty right there, so you never want to help him out. I said it was down. I screamed a little bit. I didn't really say any profanity. I don't think I did, at least. But I knew it was down. Swung on the pitch, kicked the dirt. I didn't really yell at him. I just yelled because I was mad that I struck out, and he tossed me.”
The Nationals went on to send five more hitters to the plate en route to a seven-run inning that eventually led to an 8-5 win. Regardless of whether or not Harper’s ejection sparked the rally, however, manager Dusty Baker was still questioned about his right fielder’s fiery personality after the game.
“I’d rather have a guy that plays with emotion than a guy who plays with no emotions,” Baker said. “I’ll take that guy every day.”
Bryce Harper was just ejected for the tenth time in his career. Wonder if the ball thrown for strike three will get authenticated by the MLB— Matt Weyrich (@MattTalksSports) July 27, 2017
Hey, I thought it was funny.
Jokes aside, Harper’s hot head could’ve cost the team the game. If Murphy hadn’t stepped in and Harper made contact with Segal, that could’ve led to a suspension. The Nats have their outfield depth worn thin, and swallowing even a game or two without Harper would be difficult.
None of this is new to the Nats. From his brawl with Hunter Strickland to screaming profanity to an umpire on camera during a walk-off celebration, Harper’s unapologetic and as passionate as they come.
That should be perfectly okay with the Nats organization.
Harper plays with the energy of a rookie — yes, he’s also the same age as most of them. He runs out tough fly balls, goes for the extra base and isn’t afraid to crash into the wall when he needs to. The Nats benefit from his play every time he suits up, evidenced by his active 18-game hitting streak and 26-game on-base streak.
He’s a five-time All-Star, former Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger and MVP who looks like he could be on his way to another one. His career OPS+ is 142, higher than that of Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., George Brett, Rickey Henderson and many others. If he’s going to get ejected one or two times a season, so be it.
It’s understandable to be upset with Harper for losing his head, but this wasn’t a playoff game. Harper has given the Nats so much that they just have to accept him for who he is. Nats fans have fallen in love with his hair-on-fire style of play, so they must take what comes with it.