The easiest thing about the hardest sport is the running.
Almost no one can hit a baseball thrown faster than 90 miles an hour with all sorts of spin, swoop and dip on it. Just ask Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, who has said hitting a baseball is “literally the hardest thing to do.” However, running, and running hard between the bases, is so simple that even someone like the Fix could do it in our (brief) baseball glory days.
But twice this week, Bryce Harper, the uber-talented, famous-since-he-was-15 Nationals outfielder, couldn’t bring himself to sprint down the line.
The first incident came Saturday night when Harper was unable to run out a routine grounder back to the pitcher in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was immediately benched. After the game, Nats manager Matt Williams called Harper out. “For the sake of his teammates and the sake of the organization, he needs to play with aggression,” Williams said.
Problem solved, right? Not exactly. On Wednesday night, Harper bounced a ball to Angels’ first baseman Albert Pujols in the eighth inning. He appeared to jog out of the batter’s box but kicked it into a much higher gear once Pujols bobbled the ball. Harper was safe at first, a point Williams emphasized when asked about the play after the game, which the Nats won.
“He’s safe at first base,” Williams said. “That’s all I care about. We’re not asking him to go 100 percent all the time, as fast as he can possibly go at every single moment. Because not everybody does.”
And through Thursday’s night loss to the Padres, Harper was 4 for 20 at the plate this week, with zero RBIs, bringing his batting average down to .272.
Bryce Harper, for loafing down the line — twice! — you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at firstname.lastname@example.org.