WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper was given a routine day off on Wednesday, but the circumstances and fallout were anything but routine.
The Nats are on the West Coast, playing against the Los Angeles Angels and fellow once-in-a-generation talent Mike Trout. The game was nationally televised and much anticipated, but Harper spent the game on the bench.
“Big deal or no deal?” was the question of the day on Thursday, as two respected D.C. sportswriters shared their opinions on 106.7 The Fan.
For the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga, the move was in the best interests of baseball because it was in the best season-long interests of the Nationals to get Harper rested.
“I’m going to take the very baseball-y side of this thing, and that doesn’t mean I don’t the other side of it,” he told Chad Dukes. “Because if I were not kind of aware of the sport in the day-to-day way that I am, I might get it more from that marketing standpoint.
“Baker consulted with Bryce and said, ‘I want to get you a day here this week.’ Bryce said, ‘Well, can we wait until we get to California because my family will be there and that way I can kind of hang out with my family and get to the ballpark late, rather than killing time in Cincinnati.’ Dusty said, ‘Yeah, that totally makes sense.'”
Going into Thursday, the Nationals held an 11.5 game lead in the National League West, a nearly insurmountable lead given the weakness of the division. As important as these games might be for baseball, interleague games on the West Coast do not matter to the Nats.
“If you’re managing the Washington Nationals and you have a huge lead in the standings, I just don’t have a problem with it,” Svrluga continued. “I do wish it was on Monday night and not the ESPN game, but I also think it’s not really Dusty’s job or Bryce’s job to manage to that national telecast.
“I see both sides of it, but I’m going to take the Dusty-Bryce side of it, in this instance.”
Longtime baseball writer and 106.7 The Fan contributor Thom Leverro blamed MLB for its failure to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
“Baseball does a terrible job of marketing itself, and this is something that would require some vision by somebody in the Commissioner’s office before the season even started, to look at various schedules and say, ‘Where are our marquee matchups? Where are games with players that we can make the most of?’
“And then get in touch with the front offices of those teams, before the season even starts, and say, ‘Sit down with these players, tell them how important this is to the game.’
“Now, Bryce Harper being the Minister of Fun in the game of baseball, I would think that he would care about trying to bring more attention to the game, with its young stars in a matchup. But I think it’s the kind of thing that you have to plan well in advance.
“You’ve got to nip that before that happens. You’ve got to have that date on Bryce Harper’s calendar before the season starts and say, ‘Bryce, baseball needs you to play these games.'”