Harper makes effort to avoid ejection this year

September 15th, 2018

ATLANTA -- has never been shy in his career about voicing his displeasures with umpires. He has been ejected 10 times in his career and even got thrown out of a Spring Training game in 2014. Harper has not been ejected from a game this season, however, a conscious effort he made at the start of the year to manage his temper and remain in the game.

"That's my biggest thing this year, I don't wanna get tossed," Harper said following Friday's 10-5 loss to the Braves. "I think I go to the edge and kind of quiet up.

"Because there's no reason to. At the end of the day, if I'm 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, it's just part of the game. I'd rather be 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 and not get thrown out of the game where I'm only 0-for-2 and we lose the game in the eighth or the ninth."

Harper neared that edge Friday night during a confrontation with home plate umpire Laz Diaz, stemming from Harper's disagreement with a called strike in the fifth inning. The two exchanged words throughout the game, including when Diaz called another strike on a pitch well off the plate on Harper in his next at-bat. Although Harper clearly took issue with Diaz's strike call, he showed restraint, arguing briefly while looking straight ahead and not making eye contract with Diaz.

If Harper has developed a reputation as somewhat of a hothead around the league for his actions early in his career, he is working to reverse that.

Instead, he allowed Nats manager Dave Martinez to argue for him, something Martinez has told him he prefers. While Martinez, who has been ejected once this season, acknowledged there have been times this year where he has had to step in front of Harper as he yelled from the dugout or on the field, overall he has seen a different Harper, one better at managing his anger during games.

"We've talked because we always tell him, we're better with you in the game than without you," Martinez said Saturday. "So let me get thrown out or let me argue for you. He's been good. He has made that effort.

"That's a choice that he had to make because ultimately you compete, but sometimes you lose your mind and you go off. And I get that. It's happened to him in the past, but this year he's done a better job letting us handle stuff."