Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez said he will talk to star slugger Bryce Harper about not running hard down the first base line. Martinez questioned Harper’s effort on a grounder that turned into a double play in the fifth inning of the Nationals’ 4-2 loss to the New York Mets.
Harper casually trotted down the first base line as the Mets turned an easy double play.
“He didn’t run that ball out the way I wanted to,” Martinez said, according to MLB.com’s Joe Trezza. “That’s a conversation Bryce and I will have tomorrow.”
This isn’t neither the first time nor second time a Nationals’ manager have challenged Harper on his effort running the bases. In 2014, then-skipper Matt Williams benched Harper for a “lack of hustle.”
In 2016, Dusty Baker questioned Harper on a single in which Baker thought Harper could have stretched out a double had he ran harder.
Of course, Harper has had a reputation of being overly aggressive at times, both running the bases and running under fly balls in the outfield. Last season, he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee when his knee buckled on the first base bag while running out a grounder.
Martinez tried to make it clear he was not upset or frustrated with Harper but he would have a conversation with him.
“I got no beef with Bryce. Bryce comes every day to play,” Martinez explained. “I think it was out of frustration. He hit the ball hard. He crushed the ball. And it was going to be a double play.”
Harper is in a contract-year. While early reports suggest the six-time All-Star is looking for a contract as high as $400 million, he has struggled at the plate this season. With the Nationals trailing the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies by 6.5 games, Harper is hitting .214 through 323 at-bats. He also leads the NL with 23 home runs and MLB with 78 walks.