Washington Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper was benched by manager Matt Williams during Saturday's 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals for a luck of hustle, according to CSNWashington.com's Chase Hughes on Twitter:
Bryce Harper benched for lack of hustle. #Nats— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) April 19, 2014
Williams referred to Harper not hustling as 'the inability to run 90 feet.' He was not happy. #Nats— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) April 19, 2014
The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore adds another postgame quote from Williams:
Williams went out of his way to point out Harper's spot came up in the Nats' last rally. Said it was "too bad for his teammates."— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) April 19, 2014
MLB.com's William Ladson reports that the decision will not impact Harper's playing status for Sunday:
The 21-year-old slugger went 0-for-3 at the plate on Saturday before being replaced in left field by Kevin Frandsen, who drove in a run in his second at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Although Harper's frustration is justified given the Nationals' recent struggles, it certainly doesn't warrant a lack of effort. By benching the third-year star, Williams is sending a strong message to the rest of his squad.
Harper has blossomed into the face of the Nationals franchise in recent years and was off to a strong start in 2014 before Saturday's game, batting .310 with five RBI and a home run. It remains to be seen how Williams' bold decision will impact Harper's confidence moving forward. However, the move will certainly be a talking point in the coming days as the Nationals look to shake off their struggles.
MASNSports.com's Pete Kerzel was among those who agreed with Williams' decision to sit Harper:
But others, including baseball writer Keith Law, weren't too fond of the punishment:
Regardless, following Saturday's loss to St. Louis, Washington is now just 3-6 in its last nine games after a scorching 7-2 start to the regular season. Williams and his star player will have little time to waste sorting things out in the clubhouse.
Washington will close out its four-game series with St. Louis on Sunday and won't have a day off until Monday, April 28. Unless the Nationals can put the drama behind them quickly, it's likely to take their collective focus off of the task at hand, which is winning games.
For Harper, who has won over fans and built his reputation on making hustle plays, the move is a head-scratching one, but nonetheless, one he can learn from and use to his advantage.
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