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Williams on Harper’s spring training ejection

Mar 26, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT

AP AP

Updated at 5:20 p.m.

JUPITER, Fla. — Bryce Harper plays baseball with emotion, and Matt Williams has made it clear he doesn’t want his young star to lose that competitive fire.

But the Nationals’ rookie manager also knows Harper’s emotion won’t do him any good if he’s watching games from the clubhouse instead of participating in them on the field. Which is why Williams wishes Harper had chosen his words more carefully Wednesday after an argument about a close play at first base led to his ejection from a Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals.

“I just think there’s a way to do it,” Williams said. “You can express displeasure with a call and not push it over that edge. But again, we love the way he plays the game, because he’s all-out. He desperately wants to win, so we love that about him. But in a situation like that, he just has to not take it too far. That’s all. It happens.”

Harper displayed plenty of emotion after umpire Jeff Gosney called him out on a bang-bang play in the top of the fourth inning, with Harper busting down the line trying to beat out a slow grounder to second. The 21-year-old outfielder yelled out in frustration over the call, then said something toward Gosney, who immediately gave him the heave-ho.

“He said the magic word,” Williams said. “I don’t know what he said, but the umpire told me he said something to him.”

The Nationals did not make Harper available to media members following the ejection. He was gone from the clubhouse by the time reporters entered following the 3-2 loss to St. Louis.

Upon his ejection, Harper retreated to the Nationals’ dugout, where he collected his belongings. Third base umpire C.B. Bucknor kept the game from resuming until Harper had reached the visitors’ clubhouse, which at Roger Dean Stadium is beyond the left field wall, prompting Williams to get into a heated argument with Bucknor.

“Usually if you get thrown out of a game, you go right down the (dugout) tunnel to the clubhouse,” Williams said. “But here, most spring training places, you don’t go from the dugout to the clubhouse. You have to walk down the line. I just didn’t want him to be embarrassed about it, that’s all. I asked [Bucknor] to get the game going, and [Harper] would go between innings.”

Bucknor wouldn’t consent to that request, so Harper was left to make the long walk to the left field corner with a stadium-full of fans and players waiting and several fans reaching over the railing trying to get his autograph.

Among the points Williams wants all of his players to understand is that MLB’s new replay system will potentially overturn many disputed calls this season. A player who is ejected arguing a call that eventually is changed, however, will not be allowed to remain in the game.

“We’ve had that discussion already with everybody,” Williams said. “You must play the game with emotion. Bryce wants to be safe there. My thought is: He could express it in a better way and not necessarily get thrown out of the game. But he must play with emotion. We’ll certainly have many talks about situations like that and go forward.”

Fondly remembered for his intense playing style, Williams understands how easy it is to get caught up in the moment in a situation like that. He recalled the time he was ejected from a minor-league rehab game in Lancaster, Calif., unable to take the four at-bats necessary to help get him return from the disabled list.

Williams, though, wants his players — especially a star like Harper — to think before they say something they shouldn’t, potentially costing not only themselves but the entire club.

“It’s important for him to stay in games for us,” the manager said. “Especially that early. As it turned out, he would have gotten a couple more at-bats, and it could’ve made the difference (in the outcome of the game).”

  1. naterialguy - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Alright, Harper homers yesterday, gets ejected today….I’d say he is approaching being ready for the real games to begin.
    GYFNG!!!!

    • natsfan1a - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:59 PM

      Sounds like he’s in mid-season form. ;-)

      Actually, it seemed like the ump had an itchy trigger finger, er, thumb.

      Almost time for real baseball!

    • NatsNut - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:09 PM

      Like

  2. tcostant - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Big deal…

  3. hantiaolang - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    Off-topic – but WaPo reports Nats signed Kevin Frandsen, 1 year $900K.

    I like our home-grown guys, but I feel way more comfortable with someone who can back up first base besides RZimm. Plus, from what was said here yesterday and looking at his stats, he can pinch hit.

  4. Doc - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    When can an argument be turned into a replay call?

    Too late after a player’s been ejected; but maybe his ejection is rescinded if the call is over-turned????

    • natsfan1a - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      FP was musing about that during the broadcast the other day.

  5. nats128 - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    If Harper thought he was safe why didnt Matty challenge the play. Was he safe from those who saw it on the TV

    • NatsLady - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      No challenge because it’s not a replay game. The ESPN announcers thought Harper was out.

      BTW, the game is on MLB.tv with Cards announcers, but I’m watching on ESPN. These guys are pretty poor– LONG ingame interviews, I had no IDEA what happened when the Nats didn’t get the doubleplay. Also they talk constantly and NOT ABOUT THE GAME. I may watch it again later on the archive, just to see the actual, y;know, game.

      • natsfan1a - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        The ESPN guys talked about the Cardinals too much, in my humble opinion. Not that I’m biased or anything…

    • unkyd59 - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      AtBat’s highlight was cut off at the bottom, for the “scroll” (rolling eyes). So you can’t see the bag, but it looked really close, and the announcers said it was very close, but offered no further opinion…

  6. kirbs3256 - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    I love Matty protecting his players…when a star is kicked out, you follow him right down the tunnel. (Although in spring he does need to watch the rest of the game)

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    harper needs to control his emotions sometimes. ST game is not the time to be complaining about calls or shouting at umpires, it is a good way to get on their bad side though.

    • natsfan1a - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      Seemed to me that Harper was made at himself rather than directing it at the umpire. Did appear that he was out on the replays. During an in-game interview, Williams said something to the effect that everyone was chippy and ready for real games to start. Also, regarding his own exchange with an umpire, Williams said that because the Nats clubhouse was beyond the outfield, he (Williams) was hoping not to delay the inning while they waited for Harper to walk there. Bucknor (I believe it was), thought Williams was yelling at him and took offense. Is it time for *real* baseball yet? Because I’m feeling a little chippy here. :-)

      • natsfan1a - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        *mad* at himself (missing the edit function)

  8. naterialguy - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    Oh this umpire crew led by Angel Hernandez are a bunch of buffoons. Harper is much more credible.
    Harper will be ready for the real games
    Don’t forget http://www.baseballnation.com/2012/8/9/3230460/bryce-harper-washington-nationals-angel-hernandez-is-seriously-the-worst

  9. janebeard - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    I’d agree with naterialguy — the Kid is getting ready to come North. It doesn’t sound like he deserved to be tossed though. Sounds like they were wanting to toss him…

    • Doc - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      They pick on Harper, no doubt about it.

      Nothing that Harper did, or said, deserved to be tossed.

      Some of these umpires should be tossed. Who is evaluating these clowns?????

  10. NatsLady - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    Here’s what’s going on with the LH reliever Rizzo didn’t sign to a two-year contract.

    http://www.sportsinjuryalert.com/2014/03/angels-sean-burnett-still-having-issues.html#.UzNCtKhdWSo

  11. DaveB - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    This is ST for the umpires also. This was a rookie ump, so I’m guessing he was looking for an opportunity to establish that he doesn’t want to be messed with in a ST environment where it doesn’t affect real games … “just workin on stuff” :-)

  12. slidell2 - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    I was told some years back by a relative who made it to AA that the magic word is “you”.
    Of course, if you carry on too long or otherwise show up the ump, you’ll get tossed no matter what you say

    • chapjim - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Say, “That was a hor$e$hit call” and you stay in the game.

      Say, “You’re hor$e$hit!” and you get tossed.

  13. Drew - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:27 PM

    Lou Grant: “You know what, you’ve got spunk.”

    Mary Richards; “Well, yes.”

    Lou Grant: “I HATE spunk!”

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