18 September 2015: A Letter to Bryce Harper, and My Former Hometown

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

Hey Bryce,

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.

Nationals’ star Bryce Harper doing what he does best: watching balls leave the park

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.

Nationals Park opened its doors to fans in the spring of 2008

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. 

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Katie Thompson is one half of the SezYou crew: baseball lover, picture taker, coffee drinker. Ashley Judd lookalike. Take your pick.

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