A day after Bryce Harper was drilled on the thigh by a Julio Teheran fastball and voiced his displeasure with what he felt was an uncalled-for plunking and saw both benches empty, the chatter about the incident continues.
Nationals players continue to believe that Teheran intentionally hit Harper two innings after Harper took Teheran deep and made a slower-than-usual trot around the bases. That hasn’t changed in the last 20 or so hours.
“No doubt in my mind,” one player, who noted that he had watched the replays of the plunking, told me.
Warnings were issued to both benches after the incident and the Nats didn’t retaliate last night, something that seemed to irk some fans who wanted immediate retribution.
Manager Davey Johnson was asked today whether he expects anything to carry over from last night, and perhaps not surprisingly, he downplayed the incident.
“No, it’s just baseball as usual,” Johnson said.
Now, I guess we should take that comment with a grain of salt, seeing as how Johnson wouldn’t exactly come out and announce to the world if one of his pitchers was planning on drilling someone tonight. The only real response he can offer in this type of situation is the one that he did.
On top of that, players often take these matters into their own hands. There doesn’t need to be a directive from a manager or the guy who was drilled for a pitcher to then decide that he’s going to even the score, so to speak, by hitting a player on the opposing team.
Johnson is as familiar with the baseball code as anyone, having been around the game for five decades. He doesn’t seem to have any particular issue with what went down last night, although he did seem surprised that Teheran might have taken offense to the speed with which Harper made his way around the bases.
“Baseball, you say something bad to a manager, you might get plunked. If you lay down a bunt, they’d hit you,” Johnson said. “Now it’s going slow around the bases? But that’s just baseball. ...
“It’s remarkable that would happen, because they would have more to lose in a donnybrook. Maybe somebody gets hurt. But everybody has a different viewpoint on how the game is played.”
As for Harper’s slow movement out of the batter’s box and speed around the bases after crushing his homer to center, Johnson didn’t feel Harper was at fault there.
“He’s got a bad leg,” Johnson said, referencing Harper’s lingering knee issues. Johnson also brought up Justin Upton taking his time getting around the bases after a big solo homer Monday night.
It’s entirely possible that some players around the league still treat Harper differently than other players, either because of his youth, his flair or because of the hype around him. For instance, does Teheran hit, say, Adam LaRoche if he had taken the same exact home run trot that Harper did in the third inning last night?
Johnson agreed that Harper might be held to a different standard by some opposing players, but didn’t seem to think that played too large a factor in last night’s incident.
“Probably, but everybody’s got a different slant,” Johnson said. “I mean, you can come in at things and dream up something for something. But that, to me, was a lot about nothing.”
We’ll see if it’s still a lot about nothing after tonight. This is the final game of this three-game series between the Nats and Braves (and thus the final chance to retaliate for now), but the division rivals still meet six more times this season, three in Atlanta in a little more than a week and then three more here in D.C. in September.
And baseball players don’t exactly have short memories.