An umpire ejected Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals for the second time in his career Sunday afternoon after he argued a check-swing call for strike three in the first inning. At first glance, third-base umpire John Hirschbeck seemed to be the aggressor in the confrontation, but the available video of the incident doesn't tell us everything.
And regardless of who instigated what, Harper only vaguely addressed with the media what happened, and he did not take to Twitter later to express any dissatisfaction. This is what he said, via the Washington Post, after the Nats beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2.
“I don’t have much to say on it,” Harper said. “I’m not going to badmouth anybody or say anything I shouldn’t say. I’m glad we got the W today.”
Harper's response was 180 degrees from that of David Price of the Rays who — no matter that he seemed within his rights — passive-aggressively ripped an umpire in public after a recent argument, and was fined as a result.
Instead of all that, Harper took the high road — the highest possible, really. Good for him, being only 20 years old. One of Harper's major league friends, Adam Eaton of the Arizona Diamondbacks, did send encouragement on Twitter:
Was it all that ridiculous, though? Here's an account by reporter Adam Kilgore of WaPo, explaining happened immediately after Harper got rung up, along with quotes from Hirschbeck:
Harper raised his hands in protest, with the bat over his head. Hirschbeck, in his 29th season as an MLB umpire, started yelling at Harper and walking toward him. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson chimed in from behind. Harper appeared to yell back at Hirschbeck and threw his bat on the ground. Hirscbeck pointed at Harper, who then threw his helmet. As Johnson sprinted out of the dugout, Hirschbeck ejected the 20-year-old slugger.
“I didn’t like that he put his hands up with the bat,” Hirschbeck said. “That’s kind of what I yelled at him. He continued and threw his bat. I kind of pointed like, ‘That’s equipment.’ And then, he still continued and slammed his helmet down. That’s when I ejected him.
“I was actually just being nice. Even the hands up in the air is showing me up, to me. I could have ejected him right then. I was nice enough to leave him in the game. And then he slammed his bat down. And then on top of that, he slammed his helmet. I had no other recourse, really.”
Well, that last sentence is where Hirschbeck strays. While the rules expressly say that players aren't allowed to do any of the things that Harper did — argue a called strike three by shouting (or with body language), or to throw equipment — there's nothing prohibiting an umpire from turning around and ignoring a brief tantrum. It happens all of the time, and Nationals manager Davey Johnson reminded Hirschbeck of this.
Yes, Harper did enough to get tossed out, but it also appeared — from the get-go — that Hirschbeck was looking for a fight. However, if Harper doesn't throw his helmet or bat, he probably stays in the game.
So, even though he showed maturity in dealing with the aftermath, he still has something to learn. In a way, he can thank Hirschbeck — even if they both showed a quick temper in the heat of the moment.
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