No Harper, No Problem: Washington Nationals are playing unstoppable baseball

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May 20, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (right) and manager Matt Williams (center) react after being thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson (left) in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The curious case of Bryce Harper

As I mentioned earlier, last night’s win was especially impressive because Bryce Harper was ejected in the third inning and did not play the role of the hero that we’ve seen him play nearly every night for the last two weeks. But while the Nationals were able to overcome Harper’s absence, the circumstances that led to his ejection puzzled many Nationals fans and analysts, and angered many more.

Depending on who you ask, Harper was ejected by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson for either arguing balls and strikes or for not getting back into the batter’s box when he was told to do so by Hudson. Regardless of what exactly happened, it made Harper and the rest of the Nationals’ dugout furious, and manager Matt Williams was thrown out as well.

While we may never know exactly what was said by any of the parties involved, here is, in Harper’s words, a description of the events that led to the ejections, courtesy of MASN’s Chris Johnson:

"“I feel like he was more mad at Matt than he was me,” Harper said. “I was just standing there. He called the strike and I didn’t care really. I just looked off and put my head over. I looked at the floor and was like, ‘That was a little down, don’t you think?’ He told me to get in the box and I was already in the box. Then I was standing there looking at the pitcher. He took his mask off to talk to Matt and so I stepped out.” … “I didn’t need to be in the box while he was chirping at Matt,” Harper said. “Then they were going at it. He told me to get my butt in the box. I was like, ‘Well, you’re still chirping at my manager, so let me take a minute.’ He told me to put my foot in the box and I said, ‘I’ll take the fine.’ It’s not a priority for us to get in the box unless we really need to. I was just taking my time. Once I put my foot back in the box, I said, ‘This is where I was,’ he rung me. He tossed me.”"

If Harper’s account of what happened is accurate, he should not have been ejected. But it’s also important to realize that Harper has a responsibility to stay in the game, and he could have probably done things differently to avoid the ejection. While I personally think the ejection was unwarranted, the Nationals are a better team when Harper’s in the lineup and he has to do everything in his power to stay in the game.

Last night was the second time that Harper was thrown out of a ball game this season, and the Nationals are fortunate enough to have won both of them. But the ball club needs Harper, and if he gets ejected—even if it isn’t entirely his fault—the team pays the consequences.

Next: No Harper, No Problem: Bats and bullpen come through

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