The “Make Baseball Fun Again” movement has taken its first hit: Bryce Harper has been fined and suspended one game for his actions earlier this week following an ejection, Major League Baseball announced Wednesday.
The Washington Nationals star made headlines earlier this week when he was ejected for reasons unbeknownst to anyone but ultimately labeled as arguing balls and strikes. Just moments after Harper’s ejection, teammate Clint Robinson hit a walk-off home run. Harper ran onto the field with the rest of his teammates in celebration but was caught on camera pointing at home plate umpire Brian Knight (who had just ejected him) and yelling “f — you.”
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The suspension is understandable from MLB’s point of view, but Harper, who is appealing, has a very good case.
For starters, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell and designated hitter David Ortiz both re-entered the field of play over the weekend against the New York Yankees following ejections, and both gave home plate umpire Ron Kulpa a healthy piece of their mind with a few choice words similar to Harper’s, if our lip-reading skills aren’t deceiving us.
So there’s a consistency issue here — players curse at umpires every single day. And while it often results in ejections, it’s not really a suspendable act. But it goes deeper than just an even playing field.
Harper probably had given Knight a hard time all evening, and by all accounts he’s certainly never been afraid to in the past. But Harper walked away, off the field, and wasn’t even looking in Knight’s direction when the ejection came, let alone saying anything. Knight simply pointed toward the Nationals’ bench, which apparently was chirping at him and voicing their displeasure, and after a few seconds picked Harper out of a crowd and threw him out — a completely unreasonable and unfair abuse of his powers.
That point got swept under the rug thanks to Robinson’s walk-off just moments later, but can you imagine the outrage should the game have gone into extras and Harper’s spot came up again two or three innings later, except the reigning National League MVP wasn’t available to bat because an umpire just picked someone minding his own business out of a crowd and tossed him?
We won’t waste your time with an argument like “people don’t pay to see Brian Knight,” but something certainly has to be done when umpires run amok and start calling games as they please.
Sure, Harper by rule couldn’t re-enter the field of play and by morality standards shouldn’t have cursed at Knight. And if MLB wants to interpret that curse as a threat to an official to justify its action, we disagree, but we get it. But it doesn’t change the fact that something fishy went down that, if left unaddressed and continues, could seriously hurt the integrity of the game.
Harper probably deserved to be ejected, and Knight probably deserved to be sworn at in that scenario, too. If MLB wants to send a message, that’s fine. But suspending Harper after a misguided breach of protocol and ignoring Knight’s actions entirely do nothing but send the wrong message and simply make matters worse.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports Images