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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bryce Harper benched for ‘lack of hustle’ despite quad injury

If only someone had done this with Yaz when he was 21…

Nationals wunderkind Bryce Harper was pulled from Saturday’s game and benched for a “lack of hustle,” manager Matt Williams told reporters. Harper grounded out back to pitcher leading off the sixth inning but did not run hard down to first base.

...Yeesh, tough call by Williams. He’s clearly using Harper to set an example for the rest of the team. I don’t think any player would run out that ball hard.

More...“We made an agreement,” Williams said. “He and I made an agreement. This team made an agreement that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times, that we play the game with intensity and the willingness to win. As it turned out, his spot came up. Kevin Frandsen put on a nice a-b against [Trevor] Rosenthal. But his spot came up with the ability to win the game. That’s a shame for his teammates.”

Harper said he “absolutely” understand Williams’s decision and “I respect what he did. It’s part of the game.”

Repoz Posted: April 19, 2014 at 05:10 PM | 130 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nats, nuts

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   1. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: April 19, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4689283)
Matt Williams seems like a bad choice for this team.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 19, 2014 at 05:31 PM (#4689284)
Trade him for Pete Kozma already.
   3. spike Posted: April 19, 2014 at 05:38 PM (#4689289)
Awesome. The Braves seem to be the beneficiary of many a grit obsessed manager these days.
   4. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: April 19, 2014 at 06:05 PM (#4689304)
Matt Williams seems like a bad choice for this team.

granted, it's WAYYY early, but I think he's been an absolute disaster
   5. JE (Jason) Posted: April 19, 2014 at 06:07 PM (#4689307)
Matt Williams seems like a bad choice for this team.

Well, Kirk Gibson was his mentor.
   6. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 19, 2014 at 06:24 PM (#4689320)
Grit worked for the DBacks didn't it? I mean I don't know what the standings are like this year but ...
   7. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 19, 2014 at 06:37 PM (#4689327)
That was pretty ridiculous. It was a hard one-hopper right back at the pitcher, who had the ball before Harper left the batter's box. There aren't five players in the majors who would have hustled down the line on that play.
   8. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: April 19, 2014 at 07:26 PM (#4689342)
Jeeze, the D'backs are 1-11 at home this year. Even in a dozen games, how do you only win one at home?

That Kevin Frandsen was batting rather than Harper at the end of the game is totally on Williams. That's absolute insanity.
   9. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: April 19, 2014 at 07:53 PM (#4689356)
Bobby Cox used to audibly shout "Easy! Easy!" when a pitcher or injured player hit a routine ground ball. He didn't want them busting it to first base.
   10. catomi01 Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:04 PM (#4689360)
Bobby Cox used to audibly shout "Easy! Easy!" when a pitcher or injured player hit a routine ground ball. He didn't want them busting it to first base.


Almost all rational managers and coaches do the same.
   11. Dan Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:08 PM (#4689363)
That Kevin Frandsen was batting rather than Harper at the end of the game is totally on Williams. That's absolute insanity.


Batting against the closer with the tying runs in scoring position and 1 out, no less.

Between this move and batting Harper 7th after he got off to a slow start in the first week of the season, Williams is doing a remarkable job at driving Harper to the Yankees as soon as he can be a free agent.
   12. tshipman Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:10 PM (#4689365)
This is a remarkably stupid move that makes me think that the Nats are less likely to win the division.
   13. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:27 PM (#4689370)
Between this move and batting Harper 7th after he got off to a slow start in the first week of the season

He batted him 6th in the second game of the season.
   14. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:37 PM (#4689376)
He's changed the batting order virtually every game. It's like he has to prove he's in charge.
   15. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:38 PM (#4689378)
Harper's injured again? Yeesh. If he were employed by my team I would already be thinking about parking him at first base in the near future.
   16. Chris Needham Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:47 PM (#4689380)
My initial reaction was the same sort of mockery from this thread. But the full comments from Matty show it's something different. We associate hustle with sprinting of max effort. That's not hat he's talking about here. Harper hit a grounder then didn't even bother running to first. He took a few steps then gave up, peeling off for the dugout. Basically, he quit on the play. That's a bit different than loafing it down the line.

I'm sure there's a size able majority here who wont see a distinction. Or that'll argue that this doesn't matter a lick. But I think it's telling that one I the best writers tweeted that he's heard no criticism from the players on or off the record. Loafing is one thing. Quitting another.

All that being said, I think Matty handled this about as poorly as he could. It was a failure of basic leadership. But Harper's original sin was a problem. It wasn't merely a player taking it easy. If he cartwheeled down the line I don't think he would've been taken out of the game.
   17. Chris Needham Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:47 PM (#4689382)
Excuse the typos. I'm on my phone and the words aren't showing up as I type them.
   18. Scott Lange Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:56 PM (#4689384)
Did you watch the play, #16/#17? He doesn't start to peel off until the first baseman had already caught the ball. This is precisely what it looks like: Grade-A managerial insanity.
   19. JE (Jason) Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:08 PM (#4689388)
Scott is 100% correct, Chris. The ball was in the first baseman's glove by the time Harper turned toward the dugout.

Insanity indeed.
   20. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:15 PM (#4689391)
Harper hit a grounder then didn't even bother running to first. He took a few steps then gave up, peeling off for the dugout.


There's a .gif *in* the linked article. He didn't turn until he was halfway up the line. He turned when the ball was caught by the first baseman.
   21. Good cripple hitter Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:29 PM (#4689396)
Harper's teammates don't seem to be impressed with Williams' decision:

“It has nothing to do with me,” Werth said. “I’ve played on teams where if you don’t hustle, you get taken out of games. Pretty standard. You talk about taking care of your area — that’s not my area. I think it’s part of the game. You show up here. You be on time. You hustle. Not a lot is asked of us. But we’re focusing on one, small part of the game, I feel like.”

“That’s up to Matt,” starter Jordan Zimmermann said. “I don’t have much to say about that. I try to stay out it. Hopefully he learns, I guess.”

“Coach’s decision,” Danny Espinosa said.
   22. Brian Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:32 PM (#4689398)
"But his spot came up with the ability to win the game. That’s a shame for his teammates.”


I love how Williams tries to lay this off on Harper, who is being the adult here by trying to defuse the situation. Matt Williams seems to not understand the responsiblities of his job.
   23. booond Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:40 PM (#4689401)
It was a clown move.
   24. Los Angeles El Hombre de Anaheim Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:40 PM (#4689402)
Harper's injured again? Yeesh. If he were employed by my team I would already be thinking about parking him at first base in the near future.
Then where's Ryan Zimmerman going to play, because that guy's shoulder isn't going to be able to handle third base in another year or three.
   25. Joey B. Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:58 PM (#4689408)
This crap is almost enough to make me miss Jim Riggleman.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: April 19, 2014 at 10:01 PM (#4689411)
I haven't watched Harper much lately, but when he was a rookie he was the hustliest hustle that ever hustled. Has that changed?
   27. Zach Posted: April 19, 2014 at 10:05 PM (#4689414)
There are three things I think about this story:

1) Combining talent and injury history, Bryce Harper might be the single player in the major leagues I am most worried about hurting himself through overexertion.
2) There was a 0% chance that hustling would have changed the outcome of that play. Basically, the pitcher has to trip over his shoelaces in order for the batter to have a chance.
3) This is way too early in the season for a manager to pick fights.
   28. JE (Jason) Posted: April 19, 2014 at 10:08 PM (#4689415)
There was a 0% chance that hustling would have changed the outcome of that play. Basically, the pitcher has to trip over his shoelaces in order for the batter to have a chance.

Or be named Jose Valverde. (Sigh.)
   29. Depressoteric feels Royally blue these days Posted: April 19, 2014 at 10:16 PM (#4689422)
LET'S GO MARINERS!

-- signed,

The biggest, longest tenured Nats fan on Primer.

[*sigh*]
   30. Chris Needham Posted: April 19, 2014 at 10:40 PM (#4689432)
Yes. I did see the play. And I do think it's a problem. You guys, as I said was likely to be the CW here, don't.

We can all agree that Matty handled it poorly though.

I think [21] is sort of a misread. Werth's quote is almost (or could easily be read as) an endorsement of the benching. Werth has also in the past talked openly about Harper's sometimes focus problems. The other quotes likely aren't a "can you believe this guy" but a "nothing good fan come from me saying anything at all" kind of quote.
   31. Walt Davis Posted: April 19, 2014 at 10:54 PM (#4689437)
I've watched it and again Chris I don't see what your concern is. He doesn't peel off until the 1B catches the ball. Heck, given pitch location and swing, he can't possibly get out of the box before the ball is in the pitcher's glove. What is the "hustling player" supposed to do differently here? You want him to jog slowly to the bag even though he was called out 3 seconds ago?

I've been watching baseball for 40+ years and I see nothing even remotely questionable with Harper's play here. And if he's got a dicey quad, he'd be irresponsible to do anything else.

I'll never quite get fans and coaches. Guy swings at a lousy pitch to hit and people think the thing he did wrong was not risk (re-)injury by sprinting full speed out of the box.
   32. Chris Needham Posted: April 19, 2014 at 10:59 PM (#4689439)
Read the link in 21. About halfway down there's a fuller more extended quote that explains the crux. It's not about sprinting. It's about completing plays, especially with the way catches and replay have made everything squirrely.
   33. Lars6788 Posted: April 19, 2014 at 10:59 PM (#4689440)
Looks like Harper hit the ball, took a few steps towards first base and peeled back to head towards the dugout.

I wish this was Puig and Mattingly instead - I can imagine the furor over the player's lack of hustle instead of the manager's apparent incompetence in benching him.

   34. Depressoteric feels Royally blue these days Posted: April 19, 2014 at 11:10 PM (#4689443)
FWIW I agree with Needham in all details. This was not a "nonissue" despite how some might perceive it here. However, it was still nevertheless handled poorly by Williams.

That is all.

LONG LIVE KING FELIX!

:-( :-( :-(
   35. JE (Jason) Posted: April 19, 2014 at 11:24 PM (#4689451)
Read the link in 21. About halfway down there's a fuller more extended quote that explains the crux. It's not about sprinting. It's about completing plays, especially with the way catches and replay have made everything squirrely.

OMG, Williams cited the "transfer rule" on a throw to first base?!? Gimme a break. The guy is attempting to cover his ass.
   36. Rob_Wood Posted: April 19, 2014 at 11:30 PM (#4689453)

new manager over-reacts to non-issue behavior to send message to team -- the real question is what is the message that the team receives
   37. McCoy Posted: April 19, 2014 at 11:49 PM (#4689457)
A manager should manage to win the game and the season overall. Williams botched the game and this might just be a clue as to how he'll handle to season. If you want to go all old-school and say Bryce Harper has to touch first base no matter then fine, I won't argue that point. But on a scale of 1-100 Harper's mistake was a 1 while Williams' was a 35 that blossomed into a 60 or so when Harper's spot no longer had Harper in it with the game on the line. The only reason we need to know that Harper made a mistake is so that we can understand why Williams made such a horrendously stupid decision. If Williams doesn't pull Harper out of the game and instead talks to him in the dugout, or has a ballplayer talk to him, or talk to him after the game then the Nationals get 4 or 5 PA out of Harper, there is no controversy, and the Nationals might have even won the game. Stupid stupid decision on Williams part and a Nat's fan should hope that Rizzo pulls Williams aside and explain just how stupid his decision was.
   38. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:03 AM (#4689461)
Did you watch the play, #16/#17? He doesn't start to peel off until the first baseman had already caught the ball.


True, he didn't peel off until the first baseman caught the ball. Of course, that has nothing to do with the reason he was pulled. He was pulled, because none of the 5-8 steps he takes while trotting toward first were anything close to hustling. He gave up on that ball the minute it came off the bat and didn't even try to make the pitcher's play difficult. If his quad is so bad that he has to trot like a 60 year old doing half-marathon pace, he should be DL'd and given time to heal. If he's healthy enough to play, he needs to run down the line.

I have no great love for Matt Williams, but seriously, anyone watching that gif in the link and thinking Harper was making any effort at all is just blinded with fan-boy stupidity. If he runs hard, he's maybe two or three steps closer to the bag, and maybe the pitcher clutches the play a little with the added pressure. In a tight game, that's important.
   39. JE (Jason) Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:07 AM (#4689462)
I have no great love for Matt Williams, but seriously, anyone watching that gif in the link and thinking Harper was making any effort at all is just blinded with fan-boy stupidity.

Yawn. We know all too well that you have way less love for Bryce Harper.
   40. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:10 AM (#4689464)
Yawn. We know all too well that you have way less love for Bryce Harper.


I think he's a douchenozzle jackass, yes. But dude, go watch the gif at the link. If he runs even 3/4 of Bryce Harper speed, he makes that play close at 1B. And if he makes the play close, errors can happen, or reviews can happen. Again, if that's as hard as he can run out of the box - basically Bartolo Colon speed should Bartolo ever make contact - then he should be on the DL.
   41. BDC Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:17 AM (#4689466)
That's about the most routine play I've ever seen. How on earth is Harper doing anything wrong, even if he were 100% healthy?
   42. esseff Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:26 AM (#4689468)
I know coaches (below major league level) who have a rule that you have to touch first base on a grounder, no matter how far you're out by. Wonder if something like that is in play here.
   43. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:31 AM (#4689470)
white manager demands white-boy hustle
   44. Zach Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:34 AM (#4689472)
If he runs even 3/4 of Bryce Harper speed, he makes that play close at 1B. And if he makes the play close, errors can happen, or reviews can happen.

There's a professional baseball player standing 50 feet from first base with the ball in his glove with 5 seconds to throw. Exactly how big a percentage are you chasing here?
   45. McCoy Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:37 AM (#4689474)
He gave up on that ball the minute it came off the bat and didn't even try to make the pitcher's play difficult. If his quad is so bad that he has to trot like a 60 year old doing half-marathon pace, he should be DL'd and given time to heal.

That's just silly.
   46. booond Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:45 AM (#4689478)
There's a professional baseball player standing 50 feet from first base with the ball in his glove with 5 seconds to throw. Exactly how big a percentage are you chasing here?


You're discounting lightening striking the defense.
   47. Zach Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:59 AM (#4689482)
You're discounting lightening striking the defense.

Or maybe the pitcher remembers a really funny joke and gets a sudden attack of the giggles.
   48. Zach Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:59 AM (#4689483)
Or Option J.
   49. Rough Carrigan Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:59 AM (#4689484)
#37 has it right. There are so many different ways that Williams could respond in this case that would make more sense.

On a parallel note, recently, there was a case of a guy who at the cafeteria of some Veterans Administration hospital went up to the soda dispenser and poured himself a second drink after finishing his first. But there weren't free refills with that first soda. For this offense that viciously cheated the VA out of $1.89, the guy was fined $525.

This is roughly what Matt Williams did. Harper committed about $1.89 worth of offense, if that much, and Officer Matt rolled onto the scene on his CHiPs motorcycle, took off his mirrored sunglasses and wrote out a ticket for $525 for Harper.

How many different ways could Williams have responded to $1.89 worth of offense instead of writing out a ticket for $525?

He could have simply gone over and talked to Harper in full view of the cameras to make his tough guy, steward of the game point with the degree of pointless anger displayed being proportionate to how tough he desperately needed to appear to be.

He could have had a coach go over and say something to Harper.

He could have had a leader among the players go over and say something to Harper.

He could have waited till after the game to say something to Harper.

He could have had a coach wait till after the game and then say something to Harper.

He could have had a leader among the players wait till after the game and then say something to Harper.

He could have had Harper fined and let it be known publicly.

He could have had Harper fined without letting it be known publicly.

There are probably still multiple other ways that Officer Matt could have handled this situation short of hurting his own team's chances for no good reason. But he didn't choose any of them. He's Officer Matt.
   50. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:05 AM (#4689485)
Even if you think Harper messed up on this play (which is kind of ridiculous in the first place), how do you justify benching him for it?
   51. Rob_Wood Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:59 AM (#4689491)

Yes, Williams said after the game that you always have to touch first base on every ground ball no matter how far out you are.
   52. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 20, 2014 at 06:35 AM (#4689500)
Yes, Williams said after the game that you always have to touch first base on every ground ball no matter how far out you are.


Another 15 years or so and managers will no longer be able to get away with that ####, because by the next morning the internet will have produced ten different video clips of the manager himself failing to do so during his playing days.
   53. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 20, 2014 at 07:05 AM (#4689502)
Yeah, because no human anywhere, in or out of sports, has ever worked harder because their boss or supervisor pushed them to. Work effort, at all times and in all places, comes solely from within -- and that effort is always as high as it should be because reasons.
   54. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 20, 2014 at 07:17 AM (#4689505)
I think you're answering an argument that hasn't been made, SBB. The objection most of us are raising isn't that managers shouldn't or can't try to get the most out of their employees*, but that the way Matt Williams is going about it in this case is stupid.

* Setting aside for this particular argument the fact that nominally "managing" baseball players far richer than yourself is not really similar to managing employees in any meaningful way.
   55. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 20, 2014 at 07:27 AM (#4689506)
I think you're answering an argument that hasn't been made, SBB. The objection most of us are raising isn't that managers shouldn't or can't try to get the most out of their employees*, but that the way Matt Williams is going about it in this case is stupid.

Except no one on this board has the slightest clue how to do it and virtually unanimously defaults to the fanboy proposition that managers can't bench or publicly criticize the fanboys' heroes.

Setting aside for this particular argument the fact that nominally "managing" baseball players far richer than yourself is not really similar to managing employees in any meaningful way.

Sure it is. Not that money has a thing to do with it, but plenty of major league players make less than their manager.
   56. Rob_Wood Posted: April 20, 2014 at 07:43 AM (#4689508)

good job sbb, you just went back on ignore
   57. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: April 20, 2014 at 08:15 AM (#4689518)
Williams should have let him finish the game, taken him aside after and told him "you look too injured to play" and sat him the next game. He's created something out of nothing. Baseball isn't football and doesn't really need this fascist "I'm the boss!" stuff all the time. Hopefully Matty will learn. He was one of my favorite Giants so I always hope he does well.
   58. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: April 20, 2014 at 08:20 AM (#4689522)
I'm pretty far up there on the expect players to hustle scale and see the following:
1. Harper wasn't even on his second step when the pitcher caught the ball
2. Harper has some kind of quad injury. OK enough to play but risking aggravation. Been there done that as most of us have, I'm sure.
3. Harper ran hard enough to get to first if the pitcher threw it away.
4. Harper did not run through the bag. OK, it's non-hustle. Like others said, you talk to him then or after the game.
5. As a manager, go public judiciously, if you think you have to.

Unless it was his third offense, what Williams did was bad managing, I don't care if you are managing a McDonalds or a major league team.
   59. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 20, 2014 at 08:35 AM (#4689528)
Baseball isn't football and doesn't really need this fascist "I'm the boss!" stuff all the time.


It doesn't work in the NFL, either. It works in college, where the players are either unpaid or (in the case of a few stars) paid relatively little and under the table. At big-time schools the coach is the superstar (since he's usually there much longer than any player) and has absolute power over even the star players. This is a major reason why big-time college coaches usually fail badly in the NFL and slink back to college. Try to order millionaires around like a drill sergeant and they'll give you the finger and/or laugh in your face.
   60. Publius Publicola Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:09 AM (#4689541)
Matt Williams seems like a bad choice for this team.


It's tough to lead when you've been known to cut corners yourself. I thought he was a bad hire last winter.
   61. Publius Publicola Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:17 AM (#4689543)
If he runs even 3/4 of Bryce Harper speed, he makes that play close at 1B.


Wow, is that ever a reach, Rickey!. It was a one hopper right back to the pitcher, which he fielded cleanly. He could have gone into the dugout to adjust his jockstrap, had a shave and a shower, gotten dressed again, and still had time to beat Harper with the throw.
   62. BDC Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:22 AM (#4689544)
Funny thing is that sprinting through first base after you've been called out probably violates some other manager's unwritten rule about the right way to play the game. Harper can't win :)
   63. Nats-Homer-in-DC Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:23 AM (#4689545)
Fascist? Williams is conspiring with the team's sponsors to enrich his and his coaching staff's power, and the coaching staff is the team, which is the fan base? All hail Williams, let's invade and promote Nationals-ism?
   64. jacjacatk Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:40 AM (#4689549)
Frandsen dogging it in the 9th. Notice he gets maybe 1 step closer to 1B before the 1B has the ball, on a grounder to 3B where the 3B double clutches the throw. He did jog it out to 1B afterwards, though.

Original MLB link here, http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_04_19_slnmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=video
   65. McCoy Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:42 AM (#4689550)
Frandsen needs to come alive if he wants to get more playing time.
   66. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:45 AM (#4689553)
Williams *is* Harper's boss. Hard to see how that's "fascist."

That said, the objections and whines in these situations have always been, at their core, political/ideological (*) so it's good that it's been laid bare.

(*) In at least two ways -- one, the very concept of bosses chaps people's asses; two, the sabery conceit that only people like Tango and Law have standing to hold major league players accountable, and then only at a macro level. That line of thinking holds that Harper's slash line is all that matters, not how he gets there -- and that's horseshit.
   67. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:10 PM (#4689595)
To be clear, I prefer the Cox theory mentioned early up there to Williams' apparent red-assery. My only real point of contention here is to the claim that Harper wasn't guilty of loafing down the line just because he jogged until the ball was caught by the 1B. I think there's plenty of room for both Williams and Harper to be wrong here.
   68. JLAC is engulfed in a harmless burst of flame Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:22 PM (#4689605)
It wasn't the right way to play by Harper, but Williams hurt the team with his move. That's flat-out unacceptable. Exert your leadership in ways that don't harm the ballclub.
   69. Zach Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:26 PM (#4689609)
Look, I often side with managers on the importance of visible but basically useless hustle. I think it's important at the team level to know that nobody can get away with dogging it. But Williams is just being a fool here. Harper gave an amount of effort commensurate with his chances in the play, and didn't turn off the basepath until he was officially out.

If Williams pulled Harper because of some little league rule about stepping on first even if you're out, then he lost his best player at a critical point in the game for nothing. Literally, nothing. Not "a chance for an error," not "finishing the play." Nothing. That's a textbook situation for yelling something mean, fining the guy 50 bucks, and keeping your powder dry for an incident when Harper is actually in the wrong.

You can say that Williams is Harper's boss. But his job is to get the most out of his team and win ballgames. In this incident he picked a fight that didn't need to be picked, had his star player sitting on the bench at a crucial point in the ballgame, and lost the game. He screwed up, and the whole team saw him screw up. There's no organizational title in the world that made this the right move on Williams' part.
   70. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:35 PM (#4689616)
It wasn't the right way to play by Harper, but Williams hurt the team with his move. That's flat-out unacceptable. Exert your leadership in ways that don't harm the ballclub.

Except he didn't if his insistence on hustle and work ethic improves the team by more than this move cost it. There's a lot of 2014 baseball still to be played.
   71. The District Attorney Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:41 PM (#4689620)
Harper committed about $1.89 worth of offense, if that much, and Officer Matt rolled onto the scene on his CHiPs motorcycle, took off his mirrored sunglasses and wrote out a ticket for $525 for Harper.
Williams' decision may have cost the team the game... he hurt his own organization much more than he hurt Harper. So let's change the analogy... Harper is a prison guard, he doesn't feel well and misses a meeting, Warden Williams fires him, the now-unguarded prisoners riot, and Warden Williams says "That's a shame for the other guards."

Put me in the "I think managers do need to encourage hustle, but this is totally the wrong time with the wrong guy" camp.
   72. JLAC is engulfed in a harmless burst of flame Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:45 PM (#4689624)
Except he didn't if his insistence on hustle and work ethic improves the team by more than this move cost it

I know this is a fruitless plea, but don't be silly. You can "insist" in other ways than hauling your superstar out of the game.
   73. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:48 PM (#4689626)
You can "insist" in other ways than hauling your superstar out of the game.

And you can get more return down the line by hauling your superstar out of the game. Keeping yourself from getting pulled from games is an excellent motivator to hustle and work.

There's insisting and there's enforcing the insistence. The enforcement reinforces the insistence. This was enforcement.
   74. tshipman Posted: April 20, 2014 at 12:52 PM (#4689628)
Except he didn't if his insistence on hustle and work ethic improves the team by more than this move cost it. There's a lot of 2014 baseball still to be played.


Lol. It's quite a bit more likely that he hurts the team by someone pulling a quad muscle than helps it by the one or two plays a season where running hard on every play makes a dime's bit of difference.
   75. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:06 PM (#4689635)
Look, I often side with managers on the importance of visible but basically useless hustle. I think it's important at the team level to know that nobody can get away with dogging it. But Williams is just being a fool here. Harper gave an amount of effort commensurate with his chances in the play, and didn't turn off the basepath until he was officially out.

I always thought it was a Mickey Mouse move to get all hot and bothered about Robinson Cano's lack of "hustle", but at least in his case he'd established a pattern of not going all out on ground balls that he had zero chance of beating out, establishing a trail of behavior that irritates certain "old school" types. Fortunately Cano never had to play for a manager like Williams, and so the Yankees never got faced with a situation where one of the best hitters was sitting on the bench at a game-pivoting point for an offense as comically trivial as this.

And in the case of Harper, you've got a player whose reputation is more along the line of Pete Reiser, someone who runs into walls and plays with such reckless abandon that he sometimes subjects himself to unnecessary injury. Benching him for a play like this is something I'd have expected from a Vern Rapp or a Dallas Green, but not from a manager with any common sense.

In the grand scheme of things, it likely won't impact the Nats' season one way or another going forward, but I sure hope they don't wind up one game out of the playoffs.
   76. spike Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4689637)
That folks are seriously offering that Bryce "runs into walls" Harper has a loafing issue is awesome. That Matt Williams believes it and is willing to sacrifice a game is even better*. Please proceed, Manager.

*For Braves fans, anyway.
   77. Brian White Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:12 PM (#4689640)
Except he didn't if his insistence on hustle and work ethic improves the team by more than this move cost it. There's a lot of 2014 baseball still to be played.


Are there a bunch of examples of Harper hurting his team through lack of hustle? The image I have of Bryce Harper is the guy who crashes into walls and runs really aggressively when it actually matters, and who should actually dial it down a notch rather than needing to show more hustle.

I'd draw a parallel between this and Bobby Cox's mid-inning benching of Andruw Jones back in 1998. The differences were, Andruw really was kind of a lazy player, and the play which resulted in the benching really did cost the Braves an out, rather than just being hustle for show. Also, when Cox pulled his move, he had accumulated a reputation as a players' manager and had enough respect among the players that the benching really did send the right message. Whereas Williams just looks like a n00b trying to pick a fight with his team's star for no damn reason.

There are times where pulling a guy and hurting your chances for one game can be a positive result overall, but this thing with Bryce Harper isn't one of those times.
   78. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4689642)
There are times where pulling a guy and hurting your chances for one game can be a positive result overall, but this thing with Bryce Harper isn't one of those times.

Doing the Manny Shuffle in the outfield, or willfully ignoring a bunt signal, or standing at home plate admiring a "home run" that winds up hitting the fence are three cases when benching might be appropriate. Not going all out on ground ball like the one Harper hit makes sense only if Williams were being sent secret signals from the Cardinals' dugout.
   79. greenback calls it soccer Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:25 PM (#4689644)
Vern Rapp

Yes, people who try to establish a Culture of Winning by establishing a Culture of Nagging on Trivial ####.
   80. Publius Publicola Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:36 PM (#4689656)
Exert your leadership in ways that don't harm the ballclub.


That was Red Auerbach's motto. And Red had a little success.
   81. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4689660)
Nats announcers threw out this hypothetical:

Player hits a routine grounder to the pitcher, who throws him out at first by 20 feet. First baseman starts to throw the ball 'around-the-horn,' but in transferring the ball from his glove to his throwing hand, drops it on the ground.

If the batter has already given up on the play to run back to the dugout, he's automatically out.
   82. McCoy Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:51 PM (#4689661)
Clearly that means Harper should be benched for 10 games.
   83. JE (Jason) Posted: April 20, 2014 at 02:10 PM (#4689669)
Nats announcers threw out this hypothetical:

Nats announcers know on which side their bread is buttered.
   84. greenback calls it soccer Posted: April 20, 2014 at 02:12 PM (#4689670)
Nats announcers might want to suggest that Danny Espinosa not watch a two-strike fastball right down the middle.
   85. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 20, 2014 at 02:22 PM (#4689677)
LOL. Williams is the dumbest, he cost the team a game over a dumb rule, all to pressure a kid who already hustles far too much.

The best thing that could ever happen to Bryce Harper is that Robby Cano & Bobby Abreu start coaching him.

Abreu ages 24-37 averaged 155 games a year.
Cano ages 24-30 averaged 161 games a year.

You can't win the game for the team if you are sitting on the bench, whether the cause is a concussion, a torn hammy, or a moron for manager. Good managing isn't doing everything you are allowed to do, it's doing everything you are allowed to do that is smart to do.

Player hits a routine grounder to the pitcher, who throws him out at first by 20 feet. First baseman starts to throw the ball 'around-the-horn,' but in transferring the ball from his glove to his throwing hand, drops it on the ground.


Ok, Matty might not be the absolute dumbest, it's close.

BTW: In this scenario you also need the ref to make a ruling or you need replay, which means it has to be a noticable error so the manager can raise a stink (Matty McMoron would likely miss it being so busy yelling at Bryce for not wearing his socks correctly he wouldn't notice the ball was dropped), and shortly the rule will likely be revised making this scenario moot. So yea, the 1 in a 1,000 times they drop the ball, maybe 50% of the time the runner could be awarded the base, so 1 in 2,000 times the Nats lose a game by 9 runs instead of 10.
   86. The District Attorney Posted: April 20, 2014 at 02:25 PM (#4689678)
So yea, the 1 in a 1,000 times they drop the ball, maybe 50% of the time the runner could be awarded the base
Which, if the guy is perfectly healthy, is reason enough to run it out. Why not?

Not when he's hurt, though. I think that's the key factor here.
   87. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 20, 2014 at 02:30 PM (#4689681)
Nats announcers know on which side their bread is buttered.

Well, since one of them defended Williams by saying he had a tattoo in college that read "Full 90" (or something like that), I'll at least give him credit for sincerity.
   88. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 20, 2014 at 02:58 PM (#4689697)
The need to puff up Harper in all things is unbecoming.
   89. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 20, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4689700)
And in the case of Harper, you've got a player whose reputation is more along the line of Pete Reiser, someone who runs into walls and plays with such reckless abandon that he sometimes subjects himself to unnecessary injury. Benching him for a play like this is something I'd have expected from a Vern Rapp or a Dallas Green, but not from a manager with any common sense.

Uh, no. Benching a guy like Harper is stronger enforcement of the culture you want to create. It shows that everybody, even guys who usually bust it, has more to give than they think. If the other players see even a Harper getting yanked for dogging it, they're even less likely to dog it.

And, of course, by "dogging it" and "work ethic," we aren't just talking about running to first base on ground balls. The concepts extend far further than that.

You have to love all the spitballs from the non-athletes, broadcast live from Mom's basement, questioning the handling of a Bryce Harper by a guy who, a little over 25 years ago, basically *was* Bryce Harper.
   90. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 20, 2014 at 03:05 PM (#4689701)
Which, if the guy is perfectly healthy, is reason enough to run it out. Why not?

Not when he's hurt, though. I think that's the key factor here.


No dispute, you are obviously right.

If Matty was smart, he would have already told Harper not to run through the bag until his hammy is 100%, if he wasn't dumb he would have told the team that rule doesn't apply because of Bryce's injury. Instead he benches the guy he needs most at the plate in the 9th, Matty let the team down big time here. Obviously he goes back aways with Rizzo so he's not getting fired any time soon, but if there was a new GM I have to think Matt would be getting reamed out big time in the GMs office over his management of the teams most valuable asset.

I believe Matt Williams was with the Diamondbacks when Kirk Gibson forced a struggling Hudson through several 2 and 3 innings starts, and Ian Kennedy through similar 3 and 4 inning starts, saying they both "owed him" 100 pitches every start. Hudson had 2 tommy john surgeries in the 3 years since, and Kennedy plummetted so badly they traded him last year for a reliever.

Think Harper will be available for a reserve outfielder in a few years when he hits the Reiser injury limit?
   91. spike Posted: April 20, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4689712)
I remember Matt Williams threatening Orel Hershiser on TV after the Giants yakked up the last of their huge lead on the Braves on the last day of the season in 1993 against LA.
   92. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: April 20, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4689715)
Well, since one of them defended Williams by saying he had a tattoo in college that read "Full 90" (or something like that)


I'm not sure his IQ was that high.
   93. jacjacatk Posted: April 20, 2014 at 05:16 PM (#4689787)
You have to love all the spitballs from the non-athletes, broadcast live from Mom's basement, questioning the handling of a Bryce Harper by a guy who, a little over 25 years ago, basically *was* Bryce Harper.


While I was sitting in my mom's basement (lol, obviously not), my currently HS baseball playing son (whose coaches are rules sticklers), opined that it was a bullshit response from Williams. Good enough for me.

Teams who are poorly run (or playing poorly) look for people to lay the blame on. They disproportionately choose the guys who are actually contributing. The Nats biggest problem isn't Harper, the Dodgers isn't Puig, and Manny's teams weren't Manny (mostly).
   94. calhounite Posted: April 20, 2014 at 05:32 PM (#4689794)
Williams once came to the mound after his starting pitcher's first pitch - a strike.

W: "How many pitches have you made, son?"

A: "duh, one?"

W: "How many outs is the board showing?"

A: "duh, none?"

W: "Give me the ball, son."

The next start, the pitcher gets the first batter to ground out to shortstop on the first pitch.

Guessed it. Williams back to the mound.

W: "What would have happened if our shortstop happened not to be there, son?"

A: "duh ... a hit?"

W: "Fat, lazy, and lucky ain't no way to go through life, son. Give me the ball."
   95. Sunday silence Posted: April 20, 2014 at 07:06 PM (#4689851)
And in the case of Harper, you've got a player whose reputation is more along the line of Pete Reiser, someone who runs into walls and plays with such reckless abandon that he sometimes subjects himself to unnecessary injury. Benching him for a play like this is something I'd have expected from a Vern Rapp or a Dallas Green, but not from a manager with any common sense.


Right. THe only reason any of this happened was that Williams was trying to send a message to his team, he obviously picked one of the more visible/star players to do this too. Equally obvious the Nats have more than their share of bad plays/errors recently so this obviously has made him a little bit on edge.

Does anyone really think he would have benched him if the team was playing well in the last 10 games? Granted they are still above .500 but they lost the whole series to ATl and got blown out by the Cards and Marlins the other day and have a few injuries so he's gone apeshit. That's the only conclusion I can come to, just losing his mind one afternoon.
   96. What's the realistic upside, RMc? Posted: April 20, 2014 at 07:57 PM (#4689887)
If Williams pulled Harper because of some little league rule about stepping on first even if you're out, then he lost his best player at a critical point in the game for nothing. Literally, nothing. Not "a chance for an error," not "finishing the play." Nothing. That's a textbook situation for yelling something mean, fining the guy 50 bucks, and keeping your powder dry for an incident when Harper is actually in the wrong.


This. Chalk it up to a rookie (manager) mistake. (Maybe Williams is threatened by the much-more-popular Harper, so he feels he has to "show the kid who's boss" and all that macho sh!t?)
   97. Nats-Homer-in-DC Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:17 PM (#4689944)
Looking at that video again, who wins in a foot race? The pitcher or Bryce?
   98. Howie Menckel Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:47 PM (#4689958)

I realize this is a silly thing to say, but is it possible we don't know all the facts behind-the-scenes that could have factored into this decision?

   99. vivaelpujols Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:52 PM (#4689960)
non issue, both esoteric's comments in these thread are exceedingly stupid and annoying. I see SBB and PP have started commenting as well. This should get good/terrible.
   100. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:56 PM (#4689963)
I realize this is a silly thing to say, but is it possible we don't know all the facts behind-the-scenes that could have factored into this decision?


Are you suggesting that Delonte West slept with Matt Williams' mom and Bryce Harper had something to do with it?!
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