Bryce Harper was benched by manager, Matt Williams on Saturday due to lack of hustle. He’s a professional baseball player making millions of dollars and he can’t run out a ground ball? Bryce Harper should be ashamed and he should apologize to the fans and to his teammates. It doesn’t matter that it was a little dribbler back to the pitcher, and it doesn’t matter that his quadriceps were “tight.” This is Major League Baseball and fans expect more.
The days of going out to the ballpark on a Saturday afternoon is not as easy on individuals and families as it was in the past. No longer can fans buy a decent seat for twenty or thirty dollars, unless they want to sit across the train tracks, in some ditch that’s well beyond the right field fence. For a family of four to attend a game, each getting a hot dog and a drink, the total cost for the day can run $500 for decent seats. At the very least, athletes like Harper should be cognizant of this fact, and find a way to give 100 percent at all times. Otherwise he is cheating the fans, and for this he should be ashamed.
“We made an agreement,” said manager Matt Williams, following the team’s 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. “He and I made an agreement. This team made an agreement that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times, that we play the game with intensity and the willingness to win.” Williams, a World Series champion and hard-nosed player during his heyday is absolutely correct. There’s no excuse for failure to hustle. Going through slumps and injury is one thing that’s difficult to avoid, but running out a ground ball is inexcusable, and it’s something that Harper and his two million dollars per year should know quite well. “I respect what he did,” Harper said following the loss. “It’s part of the game.”
Professional baseball players and athletes in general should not need to be reminded that fans are coming out to the ballpark to see some of the best players in the world perform at the highest level possible. Nobody has ever willingly dragged their family out to the ballpark to see some prima donna who fails to respect the fans and the game. General Manager, Mike Rizzo made a statement following the game saying that he supported the decision 100 percent. Unfortunately, it acts as nothing more than a slap on the wrist for Harper, and once the bright lights of the stadium went dark and the microphones were turned off, chances are he did not give it any further thought. Instead, he probably climbed into his fancy car and sped off into the night while the family of four loaded their kids and souvenirs into their ten year old minivan and drove back to their suburban home.
Perhaps it’s an overreaction to call for a full game benching, as well as stripping him of a game’s pay, but it’s time that professional ballplayers be held accountable. If Bryce Harper cannot give everything he’s got in front of the home crowd, then it’s not an overreaction to say that he should be ashamed, and anyone who says that Williams made a rookie manager mistake has either never played the game of baseball, or does not perhaps have a clue.
Commentary by Johnny Caito