Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker is a fan of Bryce Harper. And, apparently, corporal punishment. 

“Will I have to spank him sometimes? Maybe,” Baker said of his star outfielder Tuesday, a day after Harper was ejected from a 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers, per James Wagner of the Washington Post.

Harper, 23, was thrown out by umpire Brian Knight in the ninth inning after arguing a questionable strike call on Danny Espinosa from the Nationals’ dugout. After Clint Robinson hit a walk-off homer later in the inning to give the Nationals a win, Harper was seen yelling not-so-PG words at Knight. 

“Yeah, absolutely,” Harper said, per Eddie Matz of ESPN.com, admitting the exchange. “I was pretty upset. I think I was right to do that. Let him hear what I have to say, let him hear it again, and so what? Couple choice words. If I do [get fined], I do. I’ll pay it. So I think it deserves to, you know, maybe he’ll get fined, too. So we’ll see.”

Harper previously jawed with Knight over balls and strikes during a fourth-inning strikeout. Going on the field after an ejection is prohibited by MLB rules—even in situations like a walk-off home run. Baker said Harper deserves a fine for violating the rule but wasn’t unhappy with his reigning MVP.

“There are enough emotionless people in the world,” Baker said, per Wagner.

It’s possible Harper was projecting some of his own personal frustrations onto Knight on Monday night. After lighting the world on fire in a nine-homer April, Harper has struggled as teams have pitched him more carefully in May. He’s hitting just .174/.500/.304 with one home run and three runs batted in for the month. The Chicago Cubs gave him a Bondsian welcome over the weekend, walking him 13 times in 19 plate appearances over a four-game sweep.

Even when Harper has been seeing strikes, he hasn’t been the same monster that he was in April. He’s already struck out 13 times for the month, equaling his total for all of April in just 10 days. Harper has only had 12 plate appearances all month that have not ended in a strikeout or walk.

So while Harper’s “choice words” Monday night may have been aimed at an umpire, it’s likely more a product of his frustration boiling over. 


Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter. All stats and splits courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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