Harper: ‘I could care less what people think’
By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
Bryce Harper is a No. 1 Draft pick, National League Rookie of the Year and All-Star Game starter. He’s also 20 years old. He’s still growing up.
Sunday capped an eventful three-game series for the Nationals’ wunderkind. On Friday, he drew criticism from bench coach Randy Knorr for not running out a ground ball at a pivotal stage of the game. On Saturday, he was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple in a blowout. And on Sunday, he dropped a sacrifice bunt that helped fuel a three-run rally in the eighth inning.
Harper showed maturity in more than one way Sunday. Facing a tough lefty in Scott Rice, the 20-year-old laid down a bunt with two runners on and nobody out, a team-first move, instead of trying to be the hero with one swing of the bat.
“In the moment, baseball players play baseball,” said Jayson Werth, who drove in the winning run, “and that’s what he was doing right there.”
Manager Davey Johnson said that he did not give Harper the sign for a sacrifice bunt. He did it on his own.
“As tough times as we’ve had with hitting with runners in scoring position,” Johnson said, “putting the tying run down there ain’t a bad idea.”
Harper also showed growth after the game. When asked about the potential backlash the Nationals would have received with a sweep, he said he could care less.
“Screw what people think,” he said. “Everybody talks about us all year long saying we’re not going to make this or do that. I could care less what they think. It’s all what we think. I could really care less what the media thinks or anybody else. It’s nice to get that W tonight and, like I said, I could care less what people think.”
Harper was seen limping earlier in the game and said that while his previously-injured left knee was fine, “some other things [are] hurting me.” He declined to elaborate. Whether the injury affected his decision to bunt is unclear.
Injury aside, the decision to put the team before potential glory was a good one. It was an important one, too, both within the context of the game and outside of it. Harper was able to put the national headlines of his jog to first and the ESPN television cameras at Sunday’s game behind him and just play baseball. And for a 20-year-old phenom, that’s sometimes the toughest thing to do.