I still can’t get too worked up about Bryce Harper’s tantrums, including the latest after getting tossed from a Class AA game Wednesday night for throwing his helmet after a called third strike. Umpire Max Guyll’s strike zone was aggravating all the hitters, according to game reports. His manager, Tony Beasley, had argued calls earlier and ended up getting tossed with Harper.
I do think Harper, when angry, needs to keep a little more distance between himself and the umpire, especially when making an argument that’s destined to fail. No one reverses an ejection. And Harper’s too young and green to get in anyone’s face right now.
Beyond that, this is just another step in Harper’s growth — or what the Nationals fervently hope is his growth — toward becoming a major league ballplayer. Popular opinion seems to be that this type of behavior will be knocked out of Harper, if not in the minors, then in the majors, by managers, teammates and opponents.
However, I’ve seen a lot of similar behavior in the majors this season by veterans who should know better. So maybe that’s no longer the rule of thumb. Or maybe there are a handful of players (and managers) who will never be tamed.
I’m sure a Nats representative will talk to Harper again, soon, about his temper — about how much one fit of pique can cost him in suspensions and fines, about how they will need him in the lineup every day when he’s finally called up.
I’m also sure he’s 18. That’s not a real “listening” age, in my experience.
A lot of Nats fans like Harper’s fire and aren’t bothered by his outbursts or his hot-dogging — remember the kiss-blowing incident earlier this season? I couldn’t get too worked up about that one, either. If these incidents become a daily occurrence, then that will be a problem.
Of more concern than his temper, to me, is his rather anemic numbers since he joined Class AA Harrisburg. In 31 games, he is hitting .248 with two home runs and 22 strikeouts. His .385 slugging percentage is not what anyone expected. He’s playing in left field now, which is a change for him, and he’s committed three errors. The pressures on him as a hyped No. 1 overall draft pick, plus all those numbers, probably contributed to his meltdown Wednesday night.
The Nats can expose him to tougher and tougher pitching, they can lecture him and school him on the responsibilities of being a major leaguer. What they can’t give him is maturity. Eighteen is just a number. People grow up at their own rates; some never quite make it. Harper will either get there, or he won’t. If he doesn’t, the Nats will have their hands full. But if he puts up the numbers everyone expects, I’m sure the Nats will say he’s worth it.