In a recent game against the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nats' Bryce Harper was ejected. Did he have it coming? Probably.
He'd been mouthing off to the home plate umpire, both while at bat and later from the dugout. Bryce was not happy with some of the ball and strike calls on himself or his teammates. Neither was the umpire happy with the constant verbal barrage he was getting. Something had to give.
Though MLB umpires have long exhibited the self-control and composure of, say, your average rabid wolverine, they always get the final say. Ranting and raving players and managers can be ejected. Equally ranting and raving umpires cannot. One would think that somewhere along the line in umpire school, these guys would have to take a class in maintaining professional decorum. Always being gentlemen, as it were. Evidently not, or they all failed miserably.
Still, what is a player obligated to do after he's been ejected? Leave the field, of course, and even the dugout. He's not supposed to be seen or heard from for the rest of the game.
But there's the rub. Once the game is officially over, is he STILL banned to the clubhouse in the bowels of the stadium? Or can he come back into the dugout -- even on the field -- to briefly pal around with his teammates before they all head to the showers? Yours truly knoweth not.
And that's exactly what happened. After one of Harper's teammates hit a walk-off home run to beat the Tigers, he not only came back on the field to celebrate, but also had a few choice words for the above-mentioned umpire. As in F-You. Bryce was still hot, and it was quite unprofessional. But did he cross another line?
Apparently so. He was fined a so-far undisclosed amount of money and suspended by the league for a game. Naturally, he's appealing it which means he can continue playing until the matter has been fully arbitrated and resolved. That could take a while.
Did Bryce Harper deserve to be ejected in the first place? Sure. He was warned to knock off the "chirping" but persisted anyway. What was comical was Harper's initial reaction after he got the hook. He could be seen saying, "Who, me? What did I do?" Like a little kid getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar but denying any responsibility for the missing chocolate chip goodies. Unless he's a psychopath or total idiot, Harper knew damn good and well why he got busted. To feign otherwise made him look like a spoiled brat that's used to getting his way.
Still, the game WAS over. And an expletive here or there from an athlete/coach/manager is hardly anything new. It happens all the time during games. After a game should be no big deal either.
It will be interesting to see how the league and player's union eventually sort this out. When a player is "grounded", how long is it in effect before he can come out of his room? And what exactly constitutes the "room" anyway? Is it out of sight, out of mind, which could be two steps away from the dugout in the tunnel -- or is he supposedly banished to the clubhouse for the rest of the entire day/night? Is there even a rule on the books that covers this? Unknown.
Yet it's difficult to sympathize with any of the entities involved.
1) A loud-mouthed player that didn't know, or have sense enough to shut up.
2) A typical short-fused umpire that kicked a guy out of a game because he was ragging on him from the dugout.
3) Another professional sports league that seems to go out of its way dropping the hammer on an employee in the name of "law and order", over a trivial manner to begin with. (Flexing its muscle to maintain authority -- even in grey areas).
We'll see. Maybe.
Or perhaps a quiet settlement will be reached and it will all be brushed under the rug like it never happened.
Be it Harper, the ump, or the league -- would they really want to go to war over this up to and including litigation that could drag on for years?
Let's hope not. The only people that would benefit would be lawyers and talking sports heads.
Lord knows, we have both of them coming out of our ears already.......