Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper Ejection a Symptom of a Frustrating Season

Bryce Harper

Ejections happen in Baseball, even to some of the calmer guys, but Bryce Harper getting thrown out in a Washington Nationals loss doesn’t seem that surprising considering the disappointing season the All-Star right fielder is having.

Harper headed into the 2016 season with the media speculating about how much money he was going to make when he and the Washington Nationals draw up his contract. There were talks about $400 million and sums around that number, while Harper, who is eligible for arbitration at the end of this season and for free agency after the 2018 season, is making $5 million for 2016.

After leading the National League in runs (118), home runs (42), OBP (.460), slugging (.649), OPS (1.109) and OPS+ (198), leading to his first NL MVP award, Harper has been quite pedestrian this year. His OPS still puts him in the very good category (.854), but he is batting just .254, down almost 8 points from last year, and although he made the All-Star game for the fourth time in his career, he’s been having a rough season compared to the expectations. He’s hit 22 home runs, which means he’s on pace for 28 this season, the 2nd best season of his career.

Harper was thrown out after a third strike was called on him by umpire Mike Winters in the 10th inning of the Nationals loss to the Colorado Rockies, as a 4-4 game turned into a blowout in the 11th inning after two home runs off of Yusmeiro Petit. A 95 mph fastball from Jake McGee was called for Harper’s third strike, who thought the ball went outside the corner. He yelled at Winters and slammed his helmet on the ground, while Winters calmly tossed him out.

It was off the plate. I could possibly see one more pitch and maybe hit a homer or a double or walk — I could even strike out. But I just wanted to see that last pitch, and I never got there. It just shouldn’t happen. Just bad behind there. It’s not a strike. You don’t ever want to get ejected, but you don’t want an umpire to make a mistake in that big of a situation. That’s just not good. I wanted to see that last pitch. We could have possibly not played the 11th or the 12th or whatever.

Harper was 1-for-4 with an RBI in the loss to the Rockies. He’s actually been doing better after relatively bottoming out in late July, batting .338 with a .985 OPS since July 30, hitting two home runs for 17 RBIs and drawing 15 walks in his last 20 games.

Manager Dusty Baker, whose Nationals comfortable lead the NL East by 8 games, and have the 2nd best record in the National League, thought this was just Harper blowing off some steam, and he wasn’t only frustrated with Winters.

Everybody blows up from time to time. These things happen this time of year when tempers are short. It’s hot, you’ve played a lot of games, you’ve been around the same people for a long period of time and this is the time of the year when tempers do flare up.

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