Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Why aren’t the Nats getting Harper’s back??


Harper reacts to his purposeful drilling by Julio Teheran on 8/7/13.  Photo HarperBryce hbp Teheran Aug2013 Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Harper reacts to his purposeful drilling by Julio Teheran on 8/7/13. Photo Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Teheran blatantly drilled Bryce Harper after he thought Harper showed him up after hitting a long bomb on August 7th.  There was no question the pitch was purposely thrown at Harper.  (By the way; watch the video of that home run and try to find the objectionable action there.  Maybe he pauses slightly, maybe he tosses his bat away instead of dropping it, maybe he runs slower than normal.  Not one of these actions comes even close to what some guys in this league do on EVERY homer, ahem Yasiel Puig).

What did the Nats do in response?  Nothing.

Last night, Harper was hit not just once but TWICE.  First in the 4th inning on an errant Alex Wood curveball, then again in the 8th when Luis Avilan threw a ridiculous pitch behind Harper’s head.

What did the Nats do in response?  Again, nothing.

The Nats broadcast team (as heard in the link for last night’s game above) said it right: “What is going on??”

I don’t care if Harper got hit with a curve (not on purpose) and a wild fastball (probably not on purpose, since it put the go-ahead runner on base in a tight game).  I don’t care what the situation is; YOU HAVE TO RESPOND in kind.  Enough is enough.  That’s three straight plunkings of our best guy by the same team inside of a week.

The reaction of the Atlanta crowd was rather telling.  Pathetic in that they cheered the HBP and then gave Avilan a standing ovation.  However also telling because the message is clear; the Nationals ball club, for whatever reason, is not responding in kind to their best hitter getting repeatedly thrown at.

What is going on??  Why aren’t the Nats protecting Harper?  Why aren’t they responding to these HBPs?

The correct response to the August 7th event would have been to hit Justin Upton in the middle of the back the next time he came to the plate.  First pitch.  Plain and simple.  Why Upton?  Because it was Upton who just the night before did the exact same thing that Harper was accused of, only it took him LONGER to prance around the bases.  If Harper got hit because the Braves thought he was too slow around the bases, then how exactly do they excuse Upton’s trot, which was 4 seconds longer?  And the correct response last night was to absolutely drill the first guy up in the bottom of that inning.  No questions; first pitch, in the back.

I don’t know what the hell Davey Johnson is doing.  Why wasn’t he out on the field last night, defending his player?  Why wasn’t he calling out Atlanta’s manager Fredi Gonzalez?  Why isn’t he ordering a response??   Why isn’t he showing any of the passion you would expect from a hall of fame manager who should know better?  Better question; why aren’t Harper’s teammates taking any initiative here and doing what should be done?  Where’s the leadership on this team?  Where’s the leadership in this clubhouse??

If your answer is, “well it was a close game and the Nats couldn’t afford to purposely put a runner on base” then my response is this: 59-62.  That’s the team’s record right now.  You want another couple numbers?  15.5 (games out of first place with 6 weeks of the season to go), or how about 9.5 (games out of the wild card behind a team clearly better than them).  The point is this; the season is over.  They’re playing out the string.  Time to start standing up for yourselves, protect your teammate, show some g*d d*mn spine, and protect your best hitter for the future.

I can’t image what Harper is thinking about his manager and his teammates right now.  If it were me, I’d be asking my manager and my teammates point blank to their faces why i’m not being protected.  It almost makes you wonder if his teammates flat out don’t like him.  Is that what’s going on?  Is the Nats clubhouse, which I’ve accused many times of being dysfunctional, even worse than we thought?

If you don’t think beanball justice has a role in the game, then you’ve either never played the game or don’t understand this aspect of it.  The Nats are sending a message that its ok to go after their guys.  That’s a really bad precedent to create.



Written by Todd Boss

August 17th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

19 Responses to 'Why aren’t the Nats getting Harper’s back??'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Why aren’t the Nats getting Harper’s back??'.

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have to question whether Davey Johnson is hesitant to declare war and start a feud that he can’t finish at this end stage of his career. Perhaps his thinking is to let the next manager decide how the battle should be fought.

    “We like to play civilized” post-game response from Ian Krol, a major leaguer for all of two-and-a-half months was the real head-scratcher in my opinion. I didn’t realize the Nats had this reputation and that all rookies must follow the handbook on proper etiquette and gentlemanly play. 🙂

    John N.

    17 Aug 13 at 1:14 pm

  2. Well said. This whole season has been Davey showing love for his vets ie Zim Laroche and saying its ok to half ass it and underperforming while throwing Bryce and Strasburg under the bus. He should not be allowed in the hall of game for this season alone. If I was Rizzo I would make this Bryce’s team a rod them of anyone who’s not on board with that, even the overpaid, overrated FOF


    17 Aug 13 at 1:19 pm

  3. I think back to Bryce having those warrior saying t-shirts printed up and Ryan Zimmerman’s reaction something to the effect that professionals do not respond to such rah-rah stuff. At the time I thought Harper’s gesture was silly but harmless, but this beanball stuff in the wake of Zim’s comments make me wonder.

    It also concerns me that if much of the rest of the Nats clubhouse is resentful of Harper for being so young, brash and talented this may be a long term problem. And, although it pains me to say this, screw Zimmerman for being mad that not every 20-year-old on the team instinctively “knows his place” like he did when he first came up and apparently accepted that it is better to be a loser and fit in than try to rock the boat and make the team better.


    17 Aug 13 at 1:38 pm

  4. I had this same conversation about Zimmerman and his leadership capabilities. Is he threatened by Harper? Perhaps so; if the Nats were winning it’d be Harper getting MVP consideration, not Zimmerman or Werth or LaRoche or any of the other vets.

    Performance talks. If its Harper who gets it done, he’s the leader. Maybe they just need another couple of seasons before its solidified. Or maybe i’m just completely wrong and it always comes down to the vets. Either way, yeah there could be a long term problem here. All the more reason to get a disciplinarian, well respected manager in here who can lay down the law.

    Todd Boss

    17 Aug 13 at 2:57 pm

  5. Davey should have been canned when they replaced Eckstein. Not doing so essentially wrote the season off. Which I just don’t get; if the stated goal was to get to the post-season now (and everything about this roster construction says “now”) then why not do more to shake this team out its malaise? They made one minor personnel change, one minor trade, and nothing else. Yes you have to respect what Johnson as done in his career, but not at the expense of the whole season.

    Todd Boss

    17 Aug 13 at 2:58 pm

  6. Todd,

    Jason Werth said it best “That’s just part of the game. I’m not going to speak publicly about it.”

    The Braves don’t want to pitch to Harper he is the only guy they worry about in our line up.

    Yes the Braves threw at Harper in fact even the curve ball was intentional, not really to hurt him just to upset him and the Nationals. In fact I bet a ball gets away again today but probably not to Harper unless warnings are issued before the game.

    I think Avilan was trying to throw behind Harper again to upset him and only get charged with a ball. maybe he meant to hit him but at that point in the game it would have been a bad decision on his part. I don’t think he went head hunting because most pitchers don’t want that label and that’s why when interviewed he seemed a little upset or maybe he’s a good lair.

    The Braves then got very lucky because warnings were issued which makes it more difficult to throw inside. A lot of Braves batters stand close to the plate. Uggla and Heyward have each been hit 7 times and Johnson has been hit 6 times in 114 AB. Taking the inside pitch away from the National favors the Braves.

    So what to do?

    We play the Braves again in September about 2 weeks before the playoffs. The Braves are going to the playoffs the National aren’t. The Braves have a lot more to lose than the Nationals.

    In September a pitch should be put in Heywards or Uptons ribs and if possible in the 3rd game put a pitch in on of their pitchers ear preferable Teheran.

    It would be best if Clippard does it because he throws high fastballs and will almost never have to bat. He also is not known for doing this.

    These pitches should be done with the intention of making it so they can’t play in the playoffs.

    Since we hit players who normally get hit and Clippard does throw a high fastball the Nats will have plausible deniability.

    It’s all part of the game and Davey was right one side has more to lose than the other we just need to do it on our terms not theirs.


    17 Aug 13 at 3:28 pm

  7. Not a thing wrong with the Nats that a little bit of baseBALLS could not cure. Your main player is struck twice in the same game with the second one approaching what would be asSault on the street and nothing is done about it ..FROM ANYONE….AND JUST WHAT IN THE HELL DO WE HAVE UMPIRES AND MANAGERS FOR?

    fred lawson

    17 Aug 13 at 3:29 pm

  8. And Ryan Zimmerman…leadership….laughable. Plenty of women can throw from third to first better than he is doing. A graduate of Virginia…nothing more needs to be said…never a more arrogant bunch ever walked the earth than attendees of that so called “public Ivy”

    fred lawson

    17 Aug 13 at 3:36 pm

  9. Yeah, agree with Todd. Usually I think this stuff is overrated, but when you look at the sum total of the HBPs, those idiotic tweets and the fans reaction, a failure by the Nats to show some backbone as well as support Harper just looks like cowardice, which is unacceptable for a major league team. And Todd is right that Harper, an impressionable young kid, has got to be wondering about his team and maybe starting to think ‘I need to get out of here’. If I were Stras, I’d put it square between Upton’s shoulder blades in the first inning, get the warnings, and then again when he is close to exiting the game anyway (Upton again if the lineup works out that way). Stras would be the perfect guy to reclaim some gonads for the team.

    And yeah, Matt Williams looks like a good idea for this team right about now.


    17 Aug 13 at 6:25 pm

  10. Ok Stras delivered the first one. One more, around the 7th, would be nice.


    17 Aug 13 at 8:07 pm

  11. Does anyone know if Jordan kept his rookie status? I think it is close.

    Another perfect example of how ranking farm systems is unreliable. If Jordan is just under and therefore a rookie, that is probably a good shot In the arm for us. Probably a top 5-7 guy? But a few more innings and he is out and we drop. Yet the guy is there either way, right?

    Maybe they should lump the pre-arb guys with the minors when ranking systems.


    17 Aug 13 at 8:14 pm

  12. Yikes, can’t wait for the post game presser. I am kind of with FP, I hope all of that was on purpose.


    17 Aug 13 at 8:26 pm

  13. I’ve been playing and watching this game for a long time. I think beanball wars are stupid dangerous macho posturing. I hope tonight ends this one before anyone gets hurt.

    I also think that the outsider reading of the “mood” of the Nats clubhouse, and its function or dysfunction, is laughably silly. It’s reading tea leaves through one’s own bias and preconceived notions about what’s going on, and tends to say more about the views of the person doing the reading (whether they are reading sturm und drang or a panglossian approach) then it offers true insight into what’s going on.

    John C.

    17 Aug 13 at 10:45 pm

  14. Wally-

    Jordan has exhausted his rookie eligibility, but he was ranked in the 16-25 rank before the season, so losing him shouldn’t cause much of a slip in rankings. Just to put it in perspective, after his awesome year, he shot up from 16 (where he was ranked pretty aggressively) to 8, between Robbie Ray at 7 and Matt Purke at 9 in’s top 20. When Jordan graduated, Jake Johansen slid into the number 20 slot, so we replaced Jordan (who has probably reached his ceiling) with a 22 year old flamethrower having a successful pro debut on our top 20 list. That’s not going to affect the farm system much (at least not in the negative direction).

    Furthermore, the huge step forward by Jordan has been pretty much offset by Destin Hood’s continued struggles.

    Graduating Rendon, while helping the big league club, hurts the farm system’s ranking more.

    The main factors will be scouts’ opinions of Giolito’s recovery and Cole’s progress as well as Goodwin’s fairly blah year. Michael Taylor is also having a good year and is rule 5 eligible this winter, so we’ll have to see how things pan out. Karns has also continued his surge (though the clock is ticking for him to be a successful major leaguer).

    The farm does seem deeper this year than last year. A couple of prospects having great years hasn’t hurt at all of course.


    17 Aug 13 at 10:54 pm

  15. John C; you have your opinion on beanball wars as stated here before, and I think we agree to disagree…. and you’re absolutely right that mere mortals like us have no idea what’s really going on in that clubhouse. However if you’ve listened to the last few broadcasts, JP Santangelo has made a lot of the exact same points I’ve made. He’s a former player, a guy who has access. He questioned the Nat’s resolve point blank on the air, and he relayed his conversations with other league sources who called him and asked him if the team hated Harper. I’ll take that as vindication to my suppositions.

    At least Strasburg took care of business. Hopefully that’s it. If the Braves have any sense they’ll let it go.

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 13 at 8:18 am

  16. Some redemption from last night’s game, but too late to earn back my respect for Davey. Now, about those gutless, slave state Atlanta fans.

    The Old Boss

    18 Aug 13 at 9:39 am

  17. Here’s Davey Johnson’s quoted reaction: “I Would Rather We Had A Different Approach To That.”

    I think in general he’s talking about how Strasburg got both himself and Johnson thrown out. For what its worth I have no doubt the UPton plunking was intentional but the more I look at the 2nd inning sequence of pitches, the more It looks like a guy losing his control fast.

    Todd Boss

    19 Aug 13 at 8:55 am

  18. Really, Old Boss? You have lost all respect for Davey over this? Really? Impressive.

    Davey has had a lousy season, and has been up front about that himself. That said, Davey doesn’t need (or likely care much) about earning the respect of anonymous internet commenters. Davey has had a fine career as a player and just short of a HoF career as a manager (he’s been manager of the year twice, once in each league). He has also faced and gone through some personal crises that would have daunted anyone. And I’m not talking about working for Marge Schott and Peter Angelos. So he won’t (that we know of) order a pitcher to plunk someone, and so now it’s too late for him to earn back your respect. Oh, well.

    After this season Davey will retire, and if I were the Nationals I wouldn’t try to lure him back for one more run. But even though I don’t believe that he has had a great season this year, I respect the man. I suggest (without any real expectation that it will work) that you look at the whole picture and reevaluate. With DJ there’s a lot to respect even in the drifting disappointment that is the Nats 2013 season so far.

    John C.

    20 Aug 13 at 12:15 am

  19. John, I don’t think his quote said “all respect” … just “some” respect. And I agree. Davey’s not only had a lousy year, but he appears out of his depth, he speaks at press conferences like a tired old man, he hasn’t protected his players, almost never comes out and argues blatant calls (see the egregious check swing strikes to end sunday’s Braves games), he’s made one poor decision after another managing his pitching staff, he stuck with underperforming players far too long. etc etc etc.

    I’ll draw a good comparison. Joe Gibbs. Hall of fame, beloved coach for years in Washington. 3x superbown champ. However, name one fan in Washington who thinks he did a good job when he came back. The game had passed him by, he was slow, he looked constantly befuddled on the sidelines, he just had no idea what he was doing. This is how I feel about Davey Johnson this year. Takes nothing away from my overall opinion of the guy (I absolutely believe he’s a hall-of-fame manager), it just means that he ended out the string poorly.

    You have stated quite frequently that you do not agree with retaliation plays; it makes me wonder if you hever really played “competitive” baseball where such actions are a necessary evil. I once was at 2nd base and watched a member of the opposing team, upon reaching second base, literally raise his hands indicating the sign of the pitch coming by looking in to see what our catcher was calling. We called time out, looked at him long and hard … and he did it again. So we drilled the batter. The Batter couldn’t really say much; he knew EXACTLY why he had been hit. In your “happy go lucky” baseball world where you don’t agree with plunking batters to send messages, how exactly would you have handled this situation? Would you have just said, “oh, we’ll let them keep on blatantly cheating; we’ll send our message by beating them!” That just sounds so naive. Sorry.

    Todd Boss

    20 Aug 13 at 7:06 am

Leave a Reply