A day after being plunked by Braves’ starter Julio Teheran with a fastball to his hip, an incident that saw both benches and bullpens clear, Bryce Harper took stock of the situation in a one-on-one sitdown with Comcast SportsNet.
Harper told CSN’s Nats Insider Mark Zuckerman that he understands why the Braves reacted the way they did, but noted it was a double standard considering Justin Upton’s extended home run trot in Tuesday’s game.
Because of that, Harper believes he did nothing wrong in shouting and pointing at Teheran, nearly creating a brawl between both teams.
“Compared to what Upton did the first night, I don’t think so,” he said “[Brian McCann] is just trying to protect Teheran on that play and it’s all part of the game. I respect McCann for doing that to me and I really respect how he did it.”
McCann walked out onto the field and tried to get in Harper’s face as he yelled at the pitcher, with only home umpire Joe West in between them to diffuse the situation. Harper calmed down and took first base, but says he may have reacted differently Tuesday night if the Nationals’ weren’t in desperate need of a win.
“I don’t think I should charge the mound when they have a 14 1/2-game lead,” he said. “If we’re ahead a couple of games, I probably try and put him six feet under.”
The Nationals followed Harper’s lead and didn’t retaliate during the second half of the game. Gio Gonzalez could have thrown a pitch at a Braves player, perhaps McCann who charged at Harper.
Harper doesn’t blame his team for not responding, but does wonder if he would have had the same self-control.
“I think if I’m a pitcher on my team, I’m going to drill somebody. That’s something that is a part of the game. Yesterday was something that I think can light a fire for us.”
The Braves went on to win their 13th consecutive game and are in prime position to qualify for the playoffs this season, while the Nationals are not. In a game that was separated by one run at the time, Harper and the Nats could not afford to lose anyone to an ejection or, even worse, a suspension.
“Of course we’re 14 1/2 games back and we don’t need anyone getting ejected or doing anything like that,” he said. “We’re going to try and push until the end.”
Harper was upset about the situation and didn’t hold his emotions back in the heat of the moment. But he can see Teheran’s reasoning for throwing at him and can see himself doing the same if he were in his shoes.
“I understand why Mack did what he did and I probably would have done the same thing if it were me on the mound.”
Tuesday night was another example of Harper finding himself in the middle of an unfortunate incident, perhaps with another team targeting him specifically. It has become a trend in his brief MLB career to draw the ire of the opposition.
Whether it was Cole Hamels throwing at him last season or Ozzie Guillen starting a confrontation from the dugout in Miami, Harper always seems to draw unwanted attention from other teams, often when he hasn’t done anything that egregious himself.
Harper realizes he may be a target for other teams and their players, but doesn’t understand why that’s the case.
“This game’s funny in that way. I bust my butt every single night and some teams don’t like the way I play. Some guys don’t, some guys do. It’s just part of the game,” he said.
“It’s more what my clubhouse thinks and what my team thinks and what my management thinks. I’m just going to try and keep doing what I’m doing and play as hard as I can for the fans and for this team.”
Harper already has a reputation around the league for playing as hard as anybody. He can’t control the opinions of others and plans to continue playing the game as he does every single day. It was the way he grew up playing it and the only way he knows how.
“We owe this game everything we’ve got. We’re so blessed, very blessed to be out here every single day,” he said.
“If teams take me playing hard the wrong way, then that’s their own fault. My teammates love the way I play, I play hard every single day. I think they respect that to the fullest."