Bryce Harper was apparently barking from center field about Laz Diaz’s strike zone loud enough in the fifth inning on Friday night that Diaz came out from behind the plate and yelled at both Harper and Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez to tell them it needed to stop.
Home plate umpire Laz Diaz, totally normally, screamed at Dave Martinez to stop Bryce Harper from doing *something* in center field. Harper's silent responses of grabbing his cup and a subtle head shake is why he's a perennial All-Star. pic.twitter.com/SE7EEEhAqD— Roger Cormier (@yayroger) September 15, 2018
According to MASN’s Dan Kolko, who is in the Nationals’ dugout during game broadcasts, the umpire then directed more words at Harper as the 25-year-old outfielder left the field that inning. They replayed that exchange on MASN at the start of the sixth.
It didn’t stop there. Diaz then made an egregious strike call on Harper during his seventh inning at bat against Braves’ lefty Jesse Biddle, and the two had words again as the Nats’ slugger tried to concentrate with one out and runners on second and third. Harper hit a grounder to the right side of the infield to bring in a run.
Pitch No. 4 here was called a strike on Bryce Harper by home plate ump Laz Diaz, leading to a bit more chatter between them: pic.twitter.com/AkUBxn6wv1— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) September 15, 2018
Both Harper and Martinez talked about the exchanges when they spoke to reporters after what ended up a 10-5 loss to the Braves.
“I say this all the time,” Martinez began, “and I’m not going to make comments on balls and strikes there, but umpires are supposed to be non-confrontational, they’re supposed to uphold the peace on the baseball field, you know, for me, I think MLB needs to take a look at that, that’s all I’m going to say. I’ve known Laz for a very long time, I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus, but we’re in a pivotal moment of the game and he’s saying things to Harp, and I thought that was uncalled for, you know. Like I said, I’ve known him for a long time, I ran out there thinking I was going to get thrown out, but I said, ‘You know what, I’m not.’ This is a big moment of the game, and just tell Laz, ‘Hey back off. Let him hit. Just let him hit and back off.’ And he called a pitch on him that was pretty ridiculous, but hopefully MLB will take a look at it and decide what to do.”
“I think that’s the most frustrating part of it,” Harper said when asked about the altercation during his seventh-inning at bat after the game. “I don’t want to ever get an at bat taken away from me, especially with guys on base, so I tried to battle my butt off the best I could right there in that situation and was able to get a run across, so I think it takes all your gut and mind to stay in that at bat, and I was able to do that tonight and stay in the game as well.”
Considering it was a dialogue that continued over a couple innings, was he surprised that he didn’t get tossed at some point?
“I’m not surprised I didn’t get tossed,” Harper said. “That’s my biggest thing this year is I don’t want to get tossed, so I think I go to the edge and then kind of quiet up, but I mean, you guys watched the game, [Braves’ catcher Tyler] Flowers heard a lot of what he said, and if I heard him right then Flowers knows what he said, so I’m not going to go into it because there’s no reason to, if that’s going to be the strike zone, then I’ve got to be ready and prepared to battle my butt off and get that strike zone next time.”
Harper was apparently referring to the comments Diaz made at the end of the Braves’ fifth, as he left the field to return to the dugout. But he didn’t hear, or wasn’t willing to share the content of Diaz’s message.
“I don’t know, my head was down, and I was just trying to get into the dugout and cheer the guys on, so wasn’t really worried about what he was doing or what he was yelling to my left, so I don’t know,” Harper explained.
“I didn’t really hear what he was saying when he was walking towards me, but like I said, if you guys want to know what he actually said, Tyler Flowers knows exactly what he said.”
Martinez was asked if he was surprised the initial interaction carried over into Harper’s at bat.
“It did surprise me,” Martinez said. “Like I said, I’ve know Laz for a very long time, and I respect Laz, I really do. I respect all the umpires. Laz and I go way back to the minor leagues, so that’s typically not him, and you’re talking about a premier player too in the league, but regardless of who the player is, that’s uncalled for.”