Much was made of Bryce Harper‘s lackluster — by his standards — first half. After a torrid April, Harper hit just .221 with a .293 on-base percentage in May, then followed that up with a .188/.333/.341 June. He went into the All-Star break with an .833 OPS which is good for most hitters, but pedestrian by Harper’s own standards. Many eyes were carefully watching Harper’s stats as the superstar is a free agent after the season and is expected to cash in with a very lucrative contract.
Harper won the Home Run Derby in dramatic fashion and has been hitting the cover off of the ball in 16 games since the break. Entering Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Braves, Harper batted .367/.484/.673 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 62 plate appearances. In five August games, Harper accrued multiple hits in four of them. He stayed hot in the first game of the doubleheader, going 2-for-5 with a solo home run and an RBI single in the Nationals’ 8-3 win.
The Nationals limped into the All-Star break below .500 at 47-48. Though the team didn’t go into an official sell-off mode, GM Mike Rizzo let other teams know he would listen to trade offers for Harper. The Nats have gone 10-6 in the second half thus far and sit only five games back of the first-place Phillies and 3.5 games behind the second-place Braves. If Harper can keep hitting well, he could propel the Nats, the preseason favorites in the division, into first place.
Earlier today the Major League Baseball Umpire’s Association made multiple posts on social media registering its displeasure at what it feels was the league’s weak discipline of Manny Machado following his run-in with umpire Bill Welke. It was an unusual statement, as it’s not common for umpires, individual or via their union to comment on such matters.
This evening, in an official statement, the league called it inappropriate:
“Manny Machado was suspended by MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, who considered all the facts and circumstances of Machado’s conduct, including precedent, in determining the appropriate level of discipline. Mr. Machado is appealing his suspension and we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association, just as it would not be appropriate for the Players Association to comment on disciplinary decisions made with respect to umpires. We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”
That final bit, about workplace violence, is something that I didn’t really consider when I read the umps’ statements, but it’s a damn good point. In an age where people are literally shooting up workplaces, umpires making reference to that kind of thing in response to a player throwing a bat is pretty rich indeed. And in pretty poor taste.