Look, I know plenty of you will kill me for this opinion, and lash me with “you just don’t UNDERSTAND baseball, man!”
In theory, in a labratory of “baseball principles” with white gloves and lab coats…. then.. YES! You can bench anybody for doing what Harper did.
The key word is… “can.” A better word is… “should.”
As in, what purpose does benching him serve? You “send a message.” Ok, good. Check. You create a culture of “respect” for playing hard in the clubhouse. Ok. Check. And… then… what?
You get Harper running needlessly harder all summer long on countless ground-ball outs. Perfect. Additional expected wins: 0. Maybe he hurts himself over-hustling in the field, just to prove he’s no loafer (Not needed in my book. The guy runs through walls already…). Maybe he lets it get into his head and goes into a slump. Who knows.
I just think the downside of such a public “call out” move outweighs the upside by about 3-1.
Why not call him into your office after the game – so we, SportsCenter and every blogger in the world doesn’t know about it. What Williams can’t appreciate – and perhaps doesn’t care – is that Harper has handled a mountain of bullshit since turning pro. And he’s handled it all… like a pro.
A real pro.
The last thing he should have to shoulder, is his own manager, “Johnny Tough Guy New-Skip” putting one more negative narrative on him “into the bloodstream.” My god, look at the damage done by Shanahan to our quarterback last year.
If pulling players for not going all “Carl Lewis” on easy 1-3 tappers back to the mound is good managing, well shit, I could do that. Williams seems to be mashing the X-button on “tough guy” awfully early this season.
What happens if the team is playing worse baseball in June?
These moves feel mighty good, and mighty righteous at the time you make them. They don’t often make for productive long term benefits.
Just ask Mike Singletary.
And now, some email opinions on the move…
TO: Czabe and Cooley
FROM: John Henry
Its obvious none of you guy have managed people. This Nationals team has good players but lacks clutch players. They need a mgr. that sets expectations and holds the players responsible. Harper plays sometimes without using his head. The GM didn’t hire these players to help manage the team he hired them to play ball. When a player gets into making themselves the informal team leader they are walking on slippery ground. Harper is and average player with potential. His benching was a good call. Cooley as much as I liked you play with the Redskins you would not have played for Lambardi or Parcells or Landry. They hire there own asst. coaches.
FROM: Joe in Arlington, VA
Williams made a big mistake to humiliate Harper like that. I look to the greatest manager of men that DC sports has ever seen, Joe Gibbs. He would NEVER call out a player or embarrass a player. Everything was handled behind closed doors. That is the way it should be done. I know baseball is a different sport but managing men is managing men no matter what sport.
FROM: Bill in Alexandria, VA
Don’t advertise yourself as this generation’s “Charlie Hustle” then pull that. He’s too young and his numbers don’t suggest he has big league ball figured out. Throwing helmets, not running out ground balls, tantrums get little leaguers benched. Somehow I don’t think this was a first time affair, maybe first time we have seen it, but I think you error to sell Matt Williams short on this one.