Bryce Harper was ejected in the bottom of the third inning Thursday night after going absolutely nuts on infamous umpire Angel Hernandez when Hernandez blew a call, ruling Harper swung with two strikes when the bat barely left his shoulder.
If appeals to third base on a check swing could be measured, this might've been among the worst in big-league history.
There's no concrete way for a third or first base umpire to rule whether a player swung. It is often based on intent. Sometimes it seems to be based on whether a player's bat crossed the plate. No matter the definition, Harper did not offer at the pitch, a 3-2 slider from Pirates right-hander Luis Ortiz.
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"It’s just bad all around," he said. "Grinding in an at-bat against a guy I’ve never faced before. I get to a 3-2 count and take a slider down-and-in. I obviously didn’t go and wasn’t even thinking about it in that situation. I was taking my stuff off and heard the crowd’s reaction and was like there’s no way.
"Angel in the middle of something again. It’s every year, it’s the same story, same thing. I’m probably going to get a letter from (MLB's VP of on-field operations) Michael Hill and I’m going to get fined for being right, again. It’s the same thing over and over and over again. It’s just not right."
Harper was livid after the call. He walked all the way up the third base line gesturing and screaming at Hernandez, appearing to say, "That's bull----" and "that's so (bleeping) weak," among other things.
Harper walked off the field to a loud ovation and threw his helmet into the stands. A young kid ended up with it and wore it the rest of the game.
"I wish I could’ve hit a homer or done something different in the game to make their night," he said.
The fact that it was Hernandez probably played into Harper's reaction. Hernandez is notorious for missing calls and having a quick hook, and he's almost universally disliked by players, managers, coaches and fans. Everything is measured these days and the data has agreed with the eye test of most.
It was the fourth time this season Harper has been ejected. He was tossed by home plate umpire Alex Tosi two weeks ago in St. Louis after a bad strike-two call by Tosi that led to a Harper K. He was ejected for arguing a check swing call back in June. In mid-May, he was given the boot after Rockies reliever Jake Bird taunted the Phillies' dugout and an ensuing argument led to both benches clearing.
"I never want to get thrown out of a game," Harper said. "This was our last game at home in the regular season. Not all of these people are going to be able to afford tickets to see a postseason game, it’s a very tough ticket to get. Getting thrown out of a game like that is not fun. They might see me for the last time this year. I don’t like that and I don’t like putting fans in that situation, me getting thrown out in the third inning. It’s a bummer for everybody."
Harper plays with as much passion as anyone in the bigs. Thursday's matchup of the Phillies and Pirates meant absolutely nothing in the standings, but when Harper's in between the lines, he's a different person.
"Everyone talks about these games don’t mean that much, but they do, for each stat, each game, having a winning mentality," he said. "All these at-bats matter. We don’t get to play forever, and to get one taken away from you doesn’t sit well."
Harper walked in his first plate appearance. He's hitting .295/.402/.502 on the season. Despite going a career-long 166 plate appearances without a home run early in the summer, his numbers are in line with where they've been overall as a Phillie.
He should have more time off his feet this weekend at Citi Field when the Phillies end their season against the Mets. Thomson is giving his starters rest each day with the Phils having already clinched their specific spot as the top wild card. Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh and Johan Rojas had the night off Thursday.
"I understand you have to live up to a certain big-league mentality," Harper said, "but at the same time, when there’s a call that bad that happens, I think it’s wrong. It’s just a bad situation. I’m going to get into trouble and I just don’t think it’s right."