Can we stop with the baseball bromide, “Things will work themselves out?” No. Sorry. Things don’t always work themselves out. Consider the Washington Nationals, a team very much on edge, whether they admit it or not. Manager Matt Williams put on his happy face Tuesday, denying he had a rift with Bryce Harper, telling reporters, “I’ve got Bryce’s back in every way.” It was an interesting reaction, to say the least, considering that 24 hours before, Harper gave an interview in which he all but told Williams how to do his job. Williams, in his first year managing, is in a difficult if not impossible position. He needs to win over Harper, who, when healthy, is the Nationals’ most dynamic player. But Williams also needs to win over his other veterans, some of whom resent that Harper is the most famous and popular Nat even though he has yet to play 140 games in a season and is still only 21. What does Williams tell those veterans, who mostly play and hit where they are told, and are certainly more discreet than Harper when they object to the manager’s decisions? What does he tell center fielder Denard Span, who would be the odd man out in Harper’s suggested lineup, which includes Ryan Zimmerman in left field, Anthony Rendon at third base, Danny Espinosa at second and — ahem — Harper in center? The challenge for Williams is not as pronounced as, “Lose Harper, or lose everyone else” — at least not yet. But the friction is real. If perceived slights translated into wins, the Nats would run away with the NL East. Thing is, Harper is right about how this should play out — Zimmerman, due to his throwing problems, no longer should play third. Heck, Zimmerman has all but screamed from the hills that he much prefers left field, albeit more diplomatically than Harper. And Span? Harper seemed to condemn him on Monday without ever saying his name. Yet Harper, in a June 5 interview with the Washington Post, was downright respectful of Span and the Nationals’ greater predicament. Asked how he would fit after returning from left thumb surgery, Harper said, “I’m not sure. Zim’s pretty good in left now. I think Rendon is a hell of a third baseman. Espinosa, he’s a hell of a second baseman. I really have no idea what they’re going to do, how they’re going to do it.
Some Nationals veterans 'resent' Bryce Harper
Fox Sports | Jul 2