Washington D.C. is known for its politics – for people trying to exert their power, and for other people trying to check it.
Well, our nation’s capital is also becoming known for something else: Superstar athletes acting like divas.
“This is something that’s going on now in Washington D.C. at a rapid clip,” WJFK radio host Chad Dukes said on Ferrall on the Bench. “We lost Mike Shanahan because things weren’t going well with Robert Griffin III. Things weren’t going well between Alexander Ovechkin and Adam Oates, (and Oates) gets the whack job. And Bryce Harper is basically calling out Matt Williams’ lineup and saying, ‘This is not the way we should be doing things.’”
“We’ve got some great young superstar athletes in the District of Columbia that I think a lot of people would be envious of,” Dukes continued. “But they have an enormous amount of power.”
Especially Harper, who is revered in D.C. The 21-year-old missed more than two months with a thumb injury, rehabbed, jacked a few homers in the minors and returned to action Monday.
It didn’t take long for him to stir up drama.
Harper said that he should be playing center-field – not left – and that Ryan Zimmerman, who is playing third base, should take his place. As for current Nationals center-fielder Denard Span? Bench him.
Does Harper really have the audacity to miss more than two months, come back and act like he’s running the team?
“The answer is yes,” Dukes said. “That’s exactly what he’s done. First of all, he called into question the communication between him and the ownership group, saying, ‘Look, I found out I was playing on Twitter. That’s how I knew I was on the field.’ He questioned the lineup. He questioned where he was batting, saying he’d like to bat higher.”
“We all know there was a rift early in the season where Matt Williams benched Bryce Harper for pulling up for not running a ball out at first,” Dukes continued. “It happens every night. Now, you’re trying to teach the kid to do the right thing, but you got this mercurial superstar. Do you really want – as a rookie manager – to make your case with him? He’s not Yasiel Puig, but he’s very, very confident in himself, and he has very strong opinions. There are some Manziel-like qualities there.”
It doesn’t help that the Nationals (46-38) have underperformed this year. Yes, they’ve won five straight and nine of 12, but they shouldn’t be trailing Atlanta (47-38) in the NL East – even if it is only by a half game.
“Yeah, the Nationals are 46-38, but the Braves have been (ravaged by) injuries in their rotation, (Evan) Gattis goes on the DL, (and the Nationals are) splitting series with the Chicago Cubs. They have Silver Sluggers. They’ve got young talent. Anthony Rendon, I don’t have to tell you how (well he’s played). He’s making a superstar name for himself. They got (Stephen) Strasburg. They bring in (Doug) Fister, who’s been lights out. This team should have 60 wins under their belt right now, and they don’t.
“So when Harper comes back and says, ‘Look, we need to score more runs. We need a better lineup,’ . . . it’s undercutting the manager. It’s going to cause Denard Span to answer questions and Ryan Zimmerman to answer questions. Mark DeRosa comes out on the MLB Network and skewers (Harper), saying he needs to shut his mouth and he’s a 21-year-old kid popping up and saying, ‘Look at the back of his baseball card. He’s not a superstar yet.’”
“Well he’s not, but he’s beloved here, and everyone agrees with his assessment of the team. So it’s been very, very, very odd because most of our callers – and most of the people that follow this team in town – agree with everything (Harper) said.”
How this situation gets resolved remains to be seen. The Nationals have a lot of talent, yes, but according to Dukes, they also have a lot of egos. Unfortunately, you can only start eight guys on any given night.
“Somebody’s going to have to sit a couple nights a week,” Dukes said. “And they’re probably going to get pissed off about it.”