Bryce Harper was benched for doing something about that about 80% of baseball players do — he dogged it running to first.
Unfortunately for Harper, those other players are either better at making it look as if they’re trying (Robinson Cano) or so good they can get away with it their entire career (Manny Ramirez). Harper’s other problem is he’s young. And young people don’t respect the game — or some bullshit — according to manager Matt Williams and Don Mattingly who benches Yasiel Puig every other week for lacking the crucial “hustle” gene.
David Eckstein was a hustler. Martin Prado is a hustler. Bryce Harper was a hustler, according to this article, but has since lost his hustle. Probably packed it in a travel bag for this Nationals road trip and we all know how luggage gets lost.
There was a reason Eckstein and Martin Prado pray to the altar of hustle and Harper once ran his young ass off — they were afraid if they didn’t they’d lose their job. Now, Harper had the teen jitters and he’d only be sent down to the minors, but Eckstein and Prado are the types of player who’re just one bad month away from being demoted or cut to never play ball again. They made the majors because of their ability to run like their job depended on it. It usually always does.
The idea behind running out a ground ball is because “you never know what could happen” and 99.9 times out of a 100 nothing ever happens. The major league baseball player, being paid money just like the guy running or not running hard to first, is going to do his job and make the play. He could boot it, then get benched for “not bending enough”, but running out every ground ball at full throttle isn’t necessary.
Flip the script — Harper hits an easy ground ball, takes off for first base like he’s nuts are on fire, and tears a quad on a routine play. He’d get asked 100 times “what the fuck are you doing?” by coach, players and personnel before they carted him off the field.
This benching might send a message to other players — the borderline guys on the bench who live and die with every at bat — but it will do nothing to change Harper’s approach to the game. It’s stupid. Harper could walk to first base on every ground ball, he’ll still play the next day, if not for the Nationals then for another team willing to take one of the best players in the game who’s barely old enough to drink.
Plus, we can’t have Harper ruining the good name of baseball, now can we Matt?