Bryce Harper’s hustle (or lack thereof) was the big topic of conversation following the Nationals’ 3-2 loss to the Mets last night at Nationals Park.
With two runners on and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Harper hit a weak grounder to Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. Assuming that he would be out by a mile, Harper put his head down in disgust and didn’t run at 100 percent. Murphy bobbled the ball, but recovered and threw out Harper by a few steps at first base.
While it’s possible that Harper still would have been out even if he busted it down the line like he usually does, Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com notes that the play drew some sharp criticism from Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr.
“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough: He gets frustrated,” said bench coach Randy Knorr, who had to take over for an ill Dave Johnson mid-game. “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s gonna have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it. He gets frustrated at times and it just comes out of him. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”
“It’s hard for me to say,” Knorr said. “I’m not 20 years old in the big leagues and all this stuff going on around me. Something that we’ve got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually we’re just going to have to take him out of the game.”
This comes one day after teammate Jayson Werth told reporters that he’d really like to see Harper “settle in” and “focus in for a month and see what he could do.” Harper addressed the eighth inning play after the game by saying, “I guess I’ll learn from it.”
To be fair, there were other reasons the Nationals lost last night. In fact, the key play of the game occurred in the top of the eighth inning when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made an ill-advised off-balance throw which allowed Daniel Murphy to score what proved to be the winning run. Zimmerman defended his decision after the game by saying he’d “throw that every time” and that Murphy would have been out at home plate if Adam LaRoche was able to field his wild throw. But that’s not nearly as fun to talk about, is it?
The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.
Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”
Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.
Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.
According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.
While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.