Time will tell if Bryce Harper is Roy Hobbs or Bump Bailey, but the Washington Nationals have a chance to shape his legacy more toward “the greatest there ever was” status and less toward running through a wall and killing himself. (If you haven’t, read “The Natural.” Beats the movie all hollow.)

So why aren’t the Nats directing Harper? Why are they letting him make decisions about his ability to play? They didn’t let Stephen Strasburg make those decisions last fall. They shut him down — rightly so, I thought and still think. They were then hailed for their patience and foresight when rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III put himself back in a game on one leg and paid the price. If only the Redskins had taken a lesson from the Nats, fans moaned.

Instead, it appears, the Nats are taking lessons from the Redskins. Harper finally went on the disabled list Saturday for an injury that originally appeared not in the famous wall-banging incident in Los Angeles, but back in April, in Atlanta. So it took more than a month — a month Harper spent putting himself in the lineup, re-aggravating his injured knee, and taking himself out of the lineup — before either he or the team realized he would be better off just sitting down and getting better.

Harper said Saturday he probably should have gone on the disabled list after hitting a fence at Turner Field on April 29. “. . . I didn’t want to go on [the DL],” Harper said. “I thought hopefully my body could have got past it. I think after I hit the wall here [in Atlanta], I think I should have went on the DL, just to try to get better and come back 15 days later. With a lot of guys out, I wanted to stay in the lineup the way I was swinging it. Of course, I want to play every day. It’s something that, maybe I’ll learn more in my career to take off 15 days instead of lose the month or whatever it is.”