Somehow we find ourselves back here again. Several years removed from Jonathan Papelbon’s attempt to instill some discipline in young Nationals’ star Bryce Harper, a perceived lack of hustle on the part of Washington’s 24-year-old slugger is making headlines.
In the fifth inning of last night’s 4-2 loss to the New York Mets in Citi Field, Harper came to the plate against hard-throwing right-hander Noah Syndergaard with two men on and one out after singles by both Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon, and Harper hit a 96 mph first-pitch fastball out to short where Amed Rosario started an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP.
“Harper didn’t even bother running,” Mets’ SNY broadcaster Gary Cohen said.
“Wow,” Keith Hernandez chimed in. “Your star player, that kind of effort. That’s not good.”
Not good at all.
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez noticed.
After he talked about the Nats needing to do the little things better like figuring out how to move runners over and drive them in after the game, the skipper was asked about another little thing that could potentially make a difference.
“Sort of in the ‘little things’ vein, it looked like Bryce kind of stopped running on a double play ball there, what was your take on that?” a reporter asked.
“That’s a conversation that Bryce and I will have tomorrow. He didn’t run that ball out the way I wanted to so we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
Martinez was asked if he thought that was out of character for Harper, a player who’s been accused of playing too hard at times. He stressed that he has no overall issue with Harper’s effort even if he didn’t like the lack of hustle on that particular play.
“Hey look, I’ve got no beef with Bryce,” the first-year manager said.
“Bryce comes every day to play. Try to give him days off, he don’t want days off.
“He tries to win, he wants to win, that’s who he is, and like I said, we’ll have a conversation about it tomorrow.
But it was nothing physical Harper felt that stopped him from running?
“No,” Martinez said. “I just think out of frustration ... he hit the ball hard, I mean, he crushed the ball, and it was going to be a double play.”
But Harper didn’t sprint out of the box, and had something gone awry on the play he may have cost the Nationals an opportunity in a tightly-contested game, so here we are again, with the 2010 No. 1 overall pick potentially headed for free agency this winter and making headlines for all the wrong reasons.