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The 5 stages of coping with Bryce Harper’s injury

How Bryce Harper’s knee injury sent me from denial to acceptance in sixteen hours.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals Michael Owens-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know much about the five stages of grief, but since I watched Bryce Harper slip then stumble then take flight over first base last night, I have completed the cycle.

It was not easy to watch the first time, nor the seemingly seventeen times MASN replayed it, nor an hour ago when Fox Sports Midwest decided it’d be a nice thing to have on the Cardinals broadcast. Fortunately, it is just a bone bruise as opposed to something more along the lines of a torn ligament a la Adam Eaton or a broken anything like Jayson Werth. Insurance rates are going up on the Nationals outfield, and my poor soul cannot take much more of this.


The first stage of grief is denial and, well, that didn’t last very long. They replayed the injury how many times? But there was that initial hope that it was a lot of pain, but he could walk it off. Bryce later admitted he’s kind of a drama queen so that hope was not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

I’d say this stage pretty well ended when Bryce was being helped down the dugout steps, tentatively touching his left toes to the ground and wincing.



And so the “anger” stage began. When I was at the game on Thursday, Bryce would trot to first so slowly he could probably feel the ghost of Jonathan Papelbon’s fingers around his neck. But this rainy game, he decided to leg out a single to first base in the top of the first inning.

Why? Because the baseball Fates think it’s funny to play with the heartstrings of Nationals fans. Sometimes they turn Pete Kozma into Albert Pujols and other times they screw up Wilson Ramos’s knee or break Trea Turner’s wrist. It just isn’t fair.

Play cautiously in rainy games! It’s a single, Bryce. A single! Not even an RBI single! Is one single in the first inning all that important when you’re batting .330 and the base is practically an ice rink? When you’re a superstar and a cornerstone of a team, a player should probably know when to push it and when to bail.

Was I angry at Bryce Harper for being so aggressive in a dangerous situation? Yes. I was angry at Dusty Baker for sending the best players into a drizzly night. I was angry at Fate! Was I angry at myself for being a Nationals fan? You betcha. I was angry at everyone and everything.


“Since you took Bryce, can we have Trea back soon?”

I don’t actually pray to the “baseball gods,” so this stage is like pros & cons. Bryce Harper is heading to the DL but at least Michael A. Taylor is ready to come back, right? Jayson Werth is working his way back and Adam Eaton can run again.

It’s difficult to bargain when the entirety of a team’s opening day outfield is currently on the DL. Now bargaining is more like begging.

Please help Jayson Werth’s foot heal quickly.”

Please help Trea Turner’s wrist heal quickly.”

“For the love of everything good in baseball, do not let anything happen to Anthony Rendon.”

I may start a petition for Daniel Murphy to play games covered in bubble wrap.


But what does it matter? Can the Nationals overcome their propensity to bow out in the NLDS if Bryce Harper isn’t in the lineup? Has Werth maintained his timing and plate discipline while being out for two months? Will Trea be confident swinging the bat?

All we have right now are questions.

I think this hit particularly hard because the team was so invulnerable. A massive lead in the division which all but guaranteed a postseason appearance. The infield was so good and the outfield replacements were surprisingly effective. The offense was a powerhouse, with a set of three-through-six hitters that could make opposing pitchers quake in their cleats. To lose a cornerstone of the team, to lose a superstar like Bryce Harper ... It’s such a contrast to where the team was twenty-four hours ago and it was a hit no one expected to take.


But there are two things we have that give me hope: Bryce Harper’s stubborn will to make it to the playoffs and a 13.5-game division lead. Today, we got better news:

As he lightly hobbled out to a press conference today, braceless and in a self-branded hoodie, Bryce kind of brought me around to acceptance. It wouldn’t be the Nationals if something didn’t go wrong in August or September. There is a high likelihood he will return in time to have an impact in September and hopefully continue his run for the league MVP. (*aggressively knocks on wood*)

Make no mistake, this sucks. But at the same time, it could be a whole lot worse. Nats fans still have the best third baseman in the league, the hottest-hitting second baseman in the league, and we have Wilmer Difo whom I find endlessly delightful. Thus, I have found acceptance.

But seriously, if we could get Anthony Rendon to play in one of those giant hamster ball things, I would not be opposed.

. . .

Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Federal Baseball. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.