And so, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post took a hatchet to Bryce Harper with a column Monday morning that reeked of someone in the Nats organization (Mike Rizzo?) feeding him lines in order to support Matt Williams. Later in the morning, Boz continued his takedown on Harper in a WaPo chat, going as far as to suggest that Harper begged out of last Wednesday's game because he didn't want to face Jose Fernandez in order to keep his hitting streak alive. Here's Boz answering a question about the "appropriateness" of the benching, and if Harper's bad quad played into things:
Within the team it is certainly seen as appropriate.
The team was specifically told several days ago that the next guy who doesn't run out a ball is coming out of the game. As to the quad, Harper missed a game on Weds that happened to be against Jose Fernandez. Other players always look for "coincidences." The next game, he laid down a bunt against Wainwright, flew to first and looked fine. After he went 0-for-4, he threw his helmet. Turns out that 0-fer snapped a nine-game hitting streak. Not much of a streak. But teammates noticed. I assume his quad really did hurt him. But the Nats, over the last year, have certainly narrowed their eyes in looking at Harper's motivations. The enormous benefits of the doubt -- on whether he's really more about the team or about himself or about both -- that he got when he was 19 are not going to obtain when you are in your third full year in the big leagues.
Remember, no manager would do this -- it's dramatic, unequivocal and got national attention -- unless 1) the player involved had a history of similar behavior, 2) the organization supported the move and the manager knew that he would get full backing and 3) the team had been "refreshed" on the need to run balls out.
And so, Bryce Harper is suddently part of the problem with the Nats? We'd love to know who's feeding Boz his lines...
See also: Hardball Talk.