Back in 2012, former Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Johnson was asked if there was anything he would change about the way Bryce Harper played the game. He said, "No," initially, then after giving it a moment’s thought, the veteran manager offered one suggestion for something the then-19-year-old rookie might think about changing.
"I like him just the way he is, to answer your question," Johnson said.
"A lot of people around the league tip their hat to that kind of all-in," he continued.
But if there was one thing...
"I hope he gets to softening his slam into first base," Johnson said, referring to Harper's tendency to stomp hard on the first base bag as he runs down the line.
"But other than that everything else is pretty good."
Late Saturday night in the nation’s capital, after a three-hour rain delay, and in a light drizzle, Harper sent a grounder to first, and hustled down the first base line on a wet field.
He lunged late as he tried to beat San Francisco’s first baseman Ryder Jones and the covering pitcher, Giants’ right-hander Jeff Samardzija, to the first base bag.
His left cleat came down hard on the bag, and slipped right over the top of the slick base.
Harper landed/planted hard on his left knee after it slid over the bag, and he appeared to hyperextend the leg, tumbling over, and falling hard on his right shoulder as he tried to clutch his left leg while still in the air.
Harper was obviously injured, and in considerable pain, the whole scene made worse by the fact that the crowd that waited out the delay was stunned silent so you could hear the now-24-year-old outfielder’s screams.
He had to be helped off the field, by the team’s trainer, Paul Lessard, and hitting coach Rick Schu, unable to put any weight on the leg.
The Nationals, as per usual, didn’t offer any update during the game, but Dusty Baker did update reporters after the 3-1 win over the Giants.
Baker was asked if he had any information he could share.
“Not a whole bunch yet,” he said. “We know he hyperextended it when he slipped going across the bag, but he’s going to get an MRI, we’ll know more tomorrow.
“We just ask for prayers that it’s not serious.
“We’re just urging everybody out there that are Nationals fans and baseball fans to just say a prayer for him tonight, because he was in obvious pain out there, but we’re just hoping for the best.”
Baker said he hadn’t talked to Harper before he met with reporters, but he was on his way back to do that. His reaction, he said, was the same as everyone else’s when he saw Harper go down.
“Silence goes over the crowd and you’re just thinking, ‘Please Lord, don’t let it be serious,” Baker explained.
“My first thought was to think about [Wilson] Ramos, you know, last year down the stretch. And so I’m hoping that it’s not the case.”
Asked if Harper said anything, Baker didn’t have anything in particular to pass on.
“No, he was in obvious pain, and he was praying, and I was praying too,” Baker said, “so, he was talking to — you know, the Master. And that’s what we usually do when things are in a bad way, so the good thing is he’s young and strong, you know what I mean, so I’m very optimistic that he’ll be at least fine shortly.”