Running into Mr. Harper on the streets of D.C. and informing him of what’s to follow would have been a much better story, but I moved south, and this letter will have to suffice
How’s it going?
Let me start by telling you something you’re already well aware of: you are one of the most talented young players in the game – hands down. Good job with that. Every time I want to take a shot at the hype surrounding you, I turn on SportsCenter and watch, slightly frustrated, as you launch another ball out of whichever park you were playing in that night.
That being said, I grew up in the D.C. area. I was here when the Expos came to town and renamed themselves the Nationals. I was here long before Bryce Harper became a household name, way back when the buzz was all about a pitcher named Strasburg. I observed the frenzy that followed the addition of the “most talented young prospect in the game” to the Nationals’ franchise, and I know that people far more important than me spent a lot of time and money building the organization around you. And despite my team allegiances (forever a Cardinals fan, sorry), I find myself continually trying to root for you.
But here’s the problem I have: I root for your talent. I root for those ridiculous homeruns. I’ll even allow the hair flip. But what I don’t root for is a kid who gets thrown out of games and then blames the umpire. What I don’t like is when a person deals with a frustrating season by calling out the fans, the same fans, in fact, that he took credit for bringing to the park a few weeks prior. I know you play hard, most times, and I know you speak your mind. But sometimes playing hard leaves you concussed on the warning track of Dodger Stadium, needing stitches after an angry outburst, or out at second when you get a little greedy on a single. Sometimes speaking your mind, no matter your intentions, leaves you looking like a hotheaded kid who picks the wrong battles to fight, gets ejected from important games and isn’t grateful to the fans who have been your support system for years. You’re no longer a rookie, and I no longer view “passion” or “outspokenness” as valid excuses for bad behavior.
Now Nationals fans, you’re not completely off the hook here. I get it – this whole baseball thing is still relatively new to a lot of y’all, and let’s face it, the D.C. area is pretty conditioned to accepting disappointing athletic endeavors (the Redskins anyone?). But here’s the thing: you have to stick with your team. You can’t praise Bryce when he hits a homer and then boo him if he strikes out in his next at-bat (yes, I’ve witnessed this happen first-hand). If you’re going to complain, you have to understand the game and exactly what is going wrong. And when your team is fighting for October, even unsuccessfully, a lack of support makes a difficult situation for the team nearly impossible. If you’ve given up on the 2015 Nationals, feel free to stay at home (although I’m not sure the MASN broadcast crew is really worth beating some of the traffic). But if you’re going to support them and all their bullpen blunders, go to the park and give them some energy – even if it means accessorizing with a Trader Joe’s grocery bag.
Note: These thoughts were written prior to the Nationals being swept by the Mets earlier this month, which makes them conveniently more relevant. Here are some thoughts from the half of the Sez You crew that was in attendance over the weekend: Harper, if you’re going to continuously reiterate that you “play hard,” can you please run out a ground ball? And Papelbon, if you want the fans to cut you some slack for giving up the Mets’ winning run, next time don’t call them out for their lack of energy in the days prior. And Nats fans, an insider note for baseball fans: you don’t leave a tied game. Ever. You don’t even leave when your team is down a run – or six. By the end of the endless 7th inning meltdown the other night, the tiny but vocal crowd of Mets fans easily out-roared the Nats crowd in a rapidly emptying stadium.
Katie Thompson is one half of the SezYou crew: baseball lover, picture taker, coffee drinker. Ashley Judd lookalike. Take your pick.
Editor’s Note: After a way-too-long hiatus, SezYou is back in action. If this is your first time stopping by, welcome to a lightly snarky father-daughter duo with a passion for baseball and too much to say. So we say it here…comments welcome.
For most of the 22 years I have spent on Earth, I have been watching baseball. And inning after inning, year after year, one thing remains consistent: pitchers aren’t supposed to be hitters. In fact, I became increasingly aware of the image of the pitcher who does not simply struggle, but is embarrassingly bad in the batter’s box – holding his bat as if it were a foreign object and waving at three consecutive fastballs or curveballs, or anything the opposing pitcher serves up, prior to his retreat to the dugout.
And yet, as a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, somewhere along the way, I also fell in love with the
National League and the way the game is played in that league, with the pitcher batting ninth (and sometimes eighth). My love for the way the National League plays the game extended into the late innings as I tried to predict the manager’s moves when it came to double switches, pinch hitters and when to bring in a reliever. As a young fan, I watched Adam Wainwright transition from post-season closer to an integral part of the Cardinals’ starting rotation, and then again to fill the role of “ace” following Chris Carpenter’s retirement. During this time, I noticed something about the way Wainwright approached the plate. He didn’t seem to be intimidated by his opponent on the mound. Now, maybe some of that confidence comes from Waino being 6’8” (I, mean, who really can intimidate that?), but the more at-bats of his I watched, the more assured I became that he believed he could give his team the lead, and in turn, I believed it too.
Fast forward to 2015, and every other MLB headline I read is about Madison Bumgarner or Zack Greinke adding another huge hit to their ever-growing collection of huge hits. And yet, there are whispers here and there about how MLB should make the switch to having the designated hitter in
both leagues. Sure, most pitchers are not Bumgarner or Greinke. Sure, there still are plenty of pitchers who are going to hate every second of standing at the plate waiting for their inevitable demise. And yes, I am aware that the very pitcher to whom I partially credit my current opinions regarding the DH is out all season with an Achilles injury he suffered while running out of the batter’s box. And yet, Bumgarner is performing late-inning heroics for the Giants as a pinch hitter. And recently, Tigers’ lefty Daniel Norris gave his team the lead with a home run to dead center field in his first professional plate appearance (meaning his first at bat in both the Major and Minor Leagues, folks), becoming the first American League pitcher to ever hit a homer at Wrigley Field. That, to me, is exciting baseball in a time when we’re trying to remind people how much fun this game can be.
If I had to guess, I would say the Dodgers feel like they’re going to win when Greinke takes the mound, as well as when he steps to the plate. I would guess a 7-year old Norris could not have envisioned a better first at-bat at Wrigley. And I would guess that next season, Wainwright is going to continue to step to the plate with the same confidence I saw years ago as a kid staying up too late to watch her favorite team.
Not to mention, at 6’5”, 235 lbs., who is going to volunteer for taking a bat out of Bumgarner’s hands? Anyone? I certainly am not.