I know I'm a bit late to the game here, but I was unable to write until today, so I figured it was better late than never to talk about Bryce Harper's ejection by third base umpire John Hirschbeck from Sunday afternoon's game in Pittsburgh. The more I watch the video, the more amazed I am at the ejection and the set of circumstances that unfolded following the game.
So, to me, it certainly looked like Harper did swing the bat. If he didn't, it was close enough that it's pretty hard to be mad at Hirschbeck's initial strike call. Harper may not have broken his wrists, but his entire torso had turned around and the bat advanced pretty far across the plate. Harper showed his displeasure at the call by throwing his hands in the air. Should he have done that? No. Did he show up the umpire by doing it? Maybe, but that's in the eye of the beholder.
Hirschbeck then became the aggressor. He started screaming down the line at Harper, mimicking his arm gestures, and walking in his direction. Harper stood in the box in disbelief, but Hirschbeck continued down the line, prompting Nats third base coach Trent Jewett to get in between the umpire and Harper as Hirschbeck appeared to point Harper back to the dugout. To be clear, Harper wasn't moving toward Hirschbeck. He actually started to walk away.
What happened next prompted the ejection as, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, "Hirschbeck told a pool reporter he had 'no recourse' but to throw out Harper after he raised his arms over his head, then 'threw his bat' and 'slammed his helmet down.'" You may be able to argue that Harper tossed his bat, but he definitely didn't throw it or spike it. It's hard to see how anyone can truly argue that his helmet was "slammed" into the ground. He hardly had "no recourse."
Hirschbeck, from the moment Harper looked miffed at the strike three call, seemed to be looking to toss the Nationals young star from the game. There have been far too many circumstances with umpires becoming the story in recent seasons. I'm not even talking about when the umpires blow a call. These guys are usually very good, and even the best will make mistakes. However, these kinds of emotional displays from umpires, further evidenced by the Tom Hallion and David Price situation this season, need to be addressed, and there needs to be more accountability for umpires as there are for players.
This post was updated on May 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm after the previously linked video was removed from the source. New image from notsportscenter.com.