I listened to Matt Williams’s interview with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan on my way to work Wednesday and honestly didn’t think twice about the Nationals manager’s response to a question about sending Bryce Harper to the minors.
“Is it a terrible idea – just a wacky idea – to send him down to Syracuse for a week, just to get him right?” Junkies host Jason Bishop asked Williams. “Is that just a stupid idea on my part?”
“I don’t know,” Williams replied. “I don’t think it’s stupid. Generally, if you have young players, that’s what you do. But this guy is a special young player. We all know that. It’s different.”
My interpretation of the exchange? Williams was being a polite guest by acknowledging that sending a young player to the minors to “get right” is something that teams do from time to time. He also implied that it was a stupid question in the case of Harper, without explicitly calling Bishop an idiot for asking, which would’ve made for an entertaining Bog post on its own.
Others interpreted Williams’s response differently and the Harper-to-the-minors story line became a thing. It was a thing that Williams tried to squash when he was asked about his comments in a heated pregame news conference, but by that point, it was too late.
Not going to happen, but Matt Williams tells @1067thefandc that sending Bryce down to Syracuse isn’t a “stupid idea.”
— Natitude (@NatitudeProblem) August 6, 2014
Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser debated whether the Nationals should send Harper to the minors on Wednesday’s episode of “PTI.”
“They should, but I don’t think they can,” Wilbon said. “I think now we’re talking about two separate things, Tony. We’re talking about what’s good for his baseball and what’s good for him and that franchise. As you know, there’s already this delicate balance, this dance that’s being done around this kid, even though, to me, he’s not even close to being the kind of player that he ought to be. And injuries, speaking of injuries, have played a big part in that.”
“He did run into a wall, twice, banged up his knee, he’s still not right,” Kornheiser said.
“But, Tony, with the relationship with the town, the manager and the club, I don’t think emotionally the Nationals can afford to send him down to the minors to get well,” Wilbon said.
“They absolutely cannot do that, okay?” Kornheiser said. “That would fracture the very tenuous relationship that he has with Matt Williams, who publicly humiliated him earlier in the year, benching him when he didn’t run something out. Then he tried to hustle so hard that he ripped his thumb and was out for 30 or 40 games. And since he’s gotten back, he’s awful. He’s batting .214, he’s got five RBI in 30 games.”
Ray Knight reacted to Williams’ press conference on MASN’s pregame show and made it perfectly clear that he thinks sending Harper to the minors would be a stupid idea.
“Let me tell you something, the way you learn to hit the big leagues and the way you learn to get out of slumps is being subjected to the big leagues, not somewhere else,” Knight said. “Man alive. I love it and I love that fire. You haven’t seen it that often but we’ve known along. And the big thing is, he’s not just protecting his players, he’s saying, this is the way Matt Williams is. If I’ve got something to say, I’ll say it. Don’t infer that I’m thinking something else.
“You know, Bryce Harper is going to hit,” Knight continued. “All you folks out there, give him an opportunity. So much has been blown up. You see him in commercials and all this stuff and all of a sudden superstar is around him. Well, he hasn’t become a superstar yet. He’s a star. To become a superstar you have to perform year in and year out. He’s been hurt every year of his career. He just needs an opportunity to go out there and express himself. I talked to Mike Rizzo today, and Mike and I were talking about hitting, and it’s a fact, you’re one broken-bat hit away from getting hot, especially when you’re struggling. This kid’s going to break out, he’s going to be a big part of this offense. You know, sending him down, that ain’t going to do him any good. Just let him play it out, play through it, realizing that he is young and he doesn’t have a lot of big league experience, even though he’s been here parts of three years. I don’t blame [Williams] for getting hot.”