On Monday night, the Phillies had a tall task ahead of them. After a long rain delay, they needed to come out and play strong on the road against a division rival with the greatest chance at competing with them for the division.
Philadelphia did not come out strong. They did not play well. Jake Arrieta only let up three runs, but his team only collected three hits and committed just as many errors in a 5-1 loss. The peak of the game came when Bryce Harper, who had already argued the outcome of his own at-bat four batters earlier, went ballistic after teammate Cesar Hernandez took a high pitch for strike three.
When Arrieta, who has a history of speaking the truth, was asked about it postgame, he said this:
“We need him in right field. I don’t care how bad the umpire is. He wasn’t great for either side. I’m out there, trying to make pitches, he misses some calls, so what? We need [Bryce] out there.”
Additionally, he threw his entire team under the bus:
“Dugout was flat, defense wasn’t good, didn’t throw the ball well overall.”
Even during the ejection-inducing argument, it was Phillies manager Gabe Kapler who went out to argue first, followed by an irate Harper who pushed his own manager aside to scream at umpire Mark Carlson, followed by Kapler strongly shoving his star player out of the way.
It was a chaotic, confusing and unnecessary scene. But Harper has a long history of arguments and ejections — he has 12 in his eight-year career. And even without getting thrown out of the game, Harper gets into qualms with his teammates often — remember when Jonathan Papelbon choked him in the dugout after criticizing Harper for not running out a popup?
Harper is the kind of athlete who pimps home runs and doesn’t hustle on ground balls. I won’t go into how he isn’t scrutinized for this because he’s white, but the reality is his strong personality has created problems in the Nationals clubhouse, and it’s starting to cause problems in his new clubhouse in Philadelphia.
Will this have a big enough effect to throw the Phillies out of whack?
Harper was brought in to be a young star for a young team. In 2018, the Phillies led the NL East in August and lost it by the end of September. They’re a team that still has a lot to learn and lacks the discipline that’s necessary to lock down in a long season.
Harper, though, is not exactly the face of discipline. And Arrieta already made it clear that Harper can’t continue to pull antics like that if the Phillies expect to contend.
Is there any chance of stopping him, though? I doubt a few words in a postgame interview will drastically change Harper’s personality overnight. He’s going to continue to argue calls and stand up for what he thinks he ought to.
Whether the Phillies can handle that for a 162-game season is yet to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: Either the rest of the clubhouse will have to get used to the way Harper acts or it’s going to be a long, long season.