Frank Robinson tried to give Vladimir Guerrero a proper send-off in the final home game of the season in Montreal back in 2003. Robinson sent the Expos’ outfielder to right field after the bottom of the sixth inning, but took him out of the game with one out into the seventh, sending a defensive replacement out to relieve the then-28-year-old outfielder, who was set to hit free agency that offseason.
Fans in Montreal were not happy with the decision.
Robinson’s attempt to give Guerrero a curtain call, one last moment with the crowd in the Stade Olympique, was not well-received.
When he went to the mound to make a pitching change later in the game, Robinson was booed by the home crowd.
In their minds, Expos fans were robbed of one last at bat from the slugger.
“Nothing surprises me in this game, the longer I’ve been in this game,” he added.
“If they wanted to see Guerrero, they should have come out more often. They had plenty of chances.”
Davey Martinez’s plan to give Bryce Harper a curtain in the nation’s capital in what could’ve been his last game with the Washington Nationals didn’t go as planned either.
It was rain that got in the way of the curtain call he’d planned for the 2010 No. 1 overall pick, who’d received several loud ovations from the crowd in Nationals Park in each at bat before the game was called following a long delay between the seventh and eighth innings.
“I was going to let Bryce run out to the outfield there and have [Andrew] Stevenson go out and play for him and let him tip his hat and do his thing,” Martinez explained after the final home game, “but you know, like I said before, we’ve got three more games, he’s a National.
“I see him as a National, so we’re going to play this out and see what happens.”
Harper was fine with it. He’s headed for free agency this winter, but he said afterwards that after a long season full of rain-related delays, his only issue was with the weather.
“Definitely don’t really like the rain right now,” Harper said, “but that’s how it goes.”
Harper, who got to the park early and suited up to enjoy putting on the home uniform for what might have been the last time, reiterated after the game what he’d said before it, no one knows what’s going to happen this winter.
“You never know what’s going to happen in the offseason,” Harper said, “you never know if I’m coming back or not or anything like that, so just try to enjoy the best I could today, and I did that.”
Martinez said he was impressed with the way Harper handled things in the home finale.
“That was his deal,” the first-year skipper said.
“The way he wanted to handle it was very professional, and you heard what he said. In his heart he wants to be back here, I know that. We’ve got three games left, he’s going to wear a Nationals uniform for three more days and hopefully for many, many years after that, so we’ll see.”
Harper went 6 for 14 with two doubles in the final three games of the season in Coors Field in Colorado, and given the opportunity to come out late in a blowout by the Rockies in the series finale, he instead said he wanted to get one last at bat if possible after striking out in the seventh. He picked up his second double in the series in his final at bat in the ninth.
“He handled it really well,” Martinez said after Harper’s 2 for 4 day in Game 162. “Obviously he wanted to play and he wanted to finish it out. I mean, that’s a testament to who he is.
“He didn’t want to get taken out of the game. He wanted to stay in the whole game. And if it is his last at bat, he ended off on a good one. Hopefully it’s not.”
“I just wanted to go out there and play the game and play it well,” Harper said when asked if the last game of the season was emotional.
“And I think as a team, of course, this year wasn’t up to par. If you look at it, I think we saw a lot of young guys come up here and do the job, if that’s [Juan] Soto or [Victor] Robles or guys in our bullpen, our staff as well. I’m excited about Joe Ross, of course, coming back from TJ, so I mean as many downs and lows as this year had, there was a lot of good things for the organization as well.
“Me personally, of course, not the best first-half in the world, but I thought I played as an All-Star the second-half, thought I played really well and was happy about being able to go up there and hit a double in my last at bat. So, just thought we played a great series and a lot of guys had some pretty good years. If that’s [Anthony] Rendon or Trea [Turner], or [Adrian Sanchez] coming up and playing a great second base, Robles, of course, [and] Soto, a lot of positives and just happy the way it went.”
Harper said taking off his Nationals uniform for what could be the last time wasn’t really particularly emotional, since, as he said, no one knows what will happen this offseason.
So he was approaching it like he did the end of his previous six seasons in the majors.
“Today it’s just like I’m going to the offseason any other offseason, so not really thinking about — not thinking about it too much, but you never know, and that’s just how it goes.”
When a reporter suggested that it was actually completely unlike any other offseason he’s been through, Harper said he would still treat it as such.
“I’m just going to go about it the right way,” he said, “work hard, do the things I can. Travel. Hang out with my wife, hang out with my dog, enjoy my house, of course, and that’s it. If I’m back with D.C. or if I’m back with the Nationals then that’s where I’ll be. If I’m not then I’m not afraid of change. I’ve said that before. So it’s just how it goes. I’m excited about this offseason, I’m excited to get stronger, excited to get better. Learned a lot about my mental side, and learned a lot about my swing and my approach, so just going to get better and keep plugging along.”
Harper, as he noted, put together a solid .300/.434/.538 line with 20 doubles, 11 home runs, 52 walks, and 67 Ks in 65 games and 281 plate appearances in the second half, after a rough .214/.365/.468 first-half in which he hit 14 doubles and 23 home runs, with 78 walks and 102 Ks in 94 games and 414 PAs before the All-Star Break.