Bryce Harper played one of the best games of his young career Wednesday night, but he also showed and admitted that he still has to learn how to control his temper. Harper capped a two-home run night by getting ejected by umpire C.B. Bucknor in the ninth inning for spiking his helmet on a double play. The helmet kind of, sort of, bounced near Bucknor, who apparently thought Harper was upset at his call at first base. Or something. C'mon C.B., good buddy.
It was a close play. And you shouldn't spike your helmet. Ever, really. But this wasn't even a Brett Lawrie kind of helmet-spiking, where he got up into the umpire's face with rage. The helmet didn't hit Bucknor; it didn't really come close to hitting Bucknor. Harper was mad at himself and he was running away from the umpire. It wasn't even sneaky passive aggressive of him. Harper was just mad at making two outs on one play. The umpire apparently thinks he's the center of attention, though. Major League Baseball should correct him.
Harper, on the other hand, needs a little self-correction. He even said so himself:
''I shouldn't have done it, but I don't like hitting into double plays,'' said Harper, 19. ''I just need to stop getting mad and live with it. I just need to grow up in that mentality a little bit and try not to bash stuff in. I've always done it my whole life. Things need to change.''
Yeah, he's 19 years old and this is the sort of thing you get with immaturity, but he's supposed to be special. Harper is special. And he should know better by now.
His manager, Davey Johnson, agrees:
"Bryce couldn't control his emotions again,'' Johnson said. ''I had a little chat with him. He'll get over it. He's just a hundred-percenter. He expects great things out of himself, breaks bats, throws his helmet. He's just got to stop it. We can't afford to be losing him in a ballgame. He'll learn. He's young.''
The Associated Press story makes Harper out to be some kind of serial brat — referring to this incident as his "latest tantrum" — and that's also a little unfair:
Harper's most notorious outburst came in May, when he slammed his bat against the side of a tunnel in frustration, and the barrel smacked off the wall and hit his temple just above the left eye, causing a gash that needed 10 stitches.
The Nationals don't have a serious problem on their hands, as long as Harper works to control his anger and doesn't allow this to become a defining storyline of his career. We're not there yet. Harper can still keep it that way.
And umps can be arbiters of discipline — just not there.