Bryce Harper and his streaking Nationals were at home on Wednesday night playing the Yankees. The Nats have won five games in a row and surged to the top of the NL East over that stretch. However, Wednesday night’s win would be overshadowed by an incident between Harper and home plate umpire Marvin Hudson. Basically, the first pitch of the at bat was a strike that looked to be down in the zone or out of it altogether. Supposedly, Harper then “refused” to get in the box, and Hudson ejected him. Manager Matt Williams then cane out to argue on his behalf, for which he was ejected. The ejection, in my eyes, was completely wrong.
First of all, players argue balls and strikes all the time. If I had a dollar for every time a player was discontented with a ball-strike call, I could be really, really rich. Harper was very unhappy however, and something that is important to note when considering the other side of the argument is that the pitch was only strike one. Also, the at bat took place in the third inning, and there is still most of the game left at that point. Think what you want about Bryce Harper, but he is an extreme competitor. He wants everything to go his way, and sometimes if they go the other way, he becomes unhappy. However, be clear of his intent; he just wants to win.
Second of all, if I pay the money to go to a Washington Nationals game, I would much rather watch Bryce Harper do what he does than watch Marvin Hudson do his job. I have never heard of anyone that has gone to a baseball game and paid a real significant amount of attention to the umpires; they want to watch the players. And without the best Nationals position player on the field, the game is simply not as exciting. On a Wednesday night when people are most likely coming straight from work to see the game, depriving them of one of the most exciting players in baseball is simply not right.
Finally, along these lines, I am sick and tired of watching exhibitions that are not-so-affectionately known on social media as “#umpshows.” Like I said in the first paragraph, I don’t watch baseball for the umpires. It’s a great game, but the umpires are a blight upon it, no doubt about it. Hudson did not exactly shy away from the arguments with Harper and Williams, either. In the video above (which was shared by MLB’s YouTube account), not-so-nice words are blurred. When Williams goes out to confront Hudson, he launches a bunch of these (examples of them rhyme with duck and spit). However, Hudson did the exact same thing. Don’t think of umpires as higher authority of better than the players, because they clearly don’t act it.
Finally, one of the reasons why Hudson wanted Harper to get back in the box (other than to create an #umpshow) is that he wanted to speed up the game. This side of the anti-Harper argument is understandable. However, the attempt backfired in Hudson’s face. Not only was he embarrassed by Williams, Harper, and his own actions, the arguments took roughly two minutes, which doesn’t exactly speed up the game. While this year’s pace-of-play rules have clearly worked, this was a miss. An attempt to speed up the game by five or ten seconds wound up setting it back for two minutes, which does not look good for the game of baseball.
Any way you slice it, I think Harper should not have been ejected.
But, hey, let’s all get together to watch another great #umpshow sometime soon.