After Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper set a major league record by drawing 13 walks in last weekend’s four-game series against the Chicago Cubs, all-time MLB walks leader Barry Bonds weighed in on the reigning MVP’s plight. 

Despite the frustration that can come with being pitched around, the first-year Miami Marlins hitting coach urged Harper to avoid doing too much at the plate, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald: “He’s going to have to stay disciplined—a lot.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon instructed his pitchers to intentionally walk Harper three times Sunday. He also drew three additional walks and was hit by a pitch in that game, meaning he made seven plate appearances without recording an official at-bat, which also set a new record, per Spencer.

Bonds’ 2,558 career walks and 688 intentional walks are both all-time records by a significant margin, so nobody understands what Harper is going through more so than MLB’s home run king.

Rather than taking issue with the idea of pitching around a dangerous player, Bonds put the onus on Nationals No. 4 hitter Ryan Zimmerman to pick up the slack and make the opposition pay:

They’re playing to win. The same thing happened to me. The guy behind has got to hit, has got to do his job, basically. That’s what it comes down to.


[The strategy backfired] plenty of times. They caught days sometimes when [Jeff] Kent wasn’t hitting. And they caught days when Kent bombed them. It can backfire on you. It’s the price you’re going to pay. They just got Zimmerman on a cold weekend. Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work all the time. They just got Zimmerman on a bad weekend. We’ve all had those.

Jonah Keri of CBS Sports noted the best solution might be for the Nationals to get someone other than Zimmerman to protect Harper:

The Cubs swept the four-game set with the Nationals, during which Harper went a mere 1-for-4 at the plate.

Major League Baseball is a copycat league, as evidenced by the rise of strategies such as defensive shifting and the close monitoring of pitch counts, and that means Harper could be in for more of the same moving forward.

Bonds still managed to put up monster numbers despite being in a similar predicament, but he was a wily veteran by the time his intentional walk totals started reaching extreme levels in 2002.

Harper is just 23 years of age and likely eager to swing for the fences every time he steps into the batter’s box, but if he takes a page out of Bonds’ book and remains patient, he will put his teammates in position to do plenty of damage over the course of the season.


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