MLB

MLB: Is Bryce Harper Causing Problems in Philadelphia’s Clubhouse?

Bryce Harper might already be causing problems in the Philadelphia Phillies clubhouse.

Bryce Harper was the biggest prize in this winter’s free agent market. The Phillies landed the outfielder by giving him a $330 million contract that keeps him in Philadelphia through the 2031 season. The team and its fans were happy with the signing at the time, but could Harper already be wearing out his welcome in Philly just a month into his first season with the Phillies?

Harper gets ejected in his 22nd game as a Phillie

During an April game against the division rival Mets, Harper grew frustrated with the strike zone of home plate umpire Mark Carlson. He was 0-for-2 in the game, with strikeouts in both of his at-bats — one swinging, one looking.

Then in the fourth inning, he exchanged words with Carlson to let him know that he was unhappy with his performance calling pitches behind the plate. That led to Harper’s ejection, making him the first Phillies player since pitcher Justin De Fratus in 2015 to be ejected from a game. After the game, Carlson told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo and other reporters that Harper made “inappropriate” comments that “warranted an automatic ejection.”

Jake Arrieta calls out Harper after his ejection

Jake Arrieta was the Phillies’ starter in the game, and he wasn’t happy with his teammates’ performance that night or with Bryce Harper getting an early exit from the contest. He said the team was “flat from start to finish,” and the 95-minute rain delay before the game wasn’t an excuse for their play.

Arrieta had harsher words for Harper, though. He said the Phillies “need” Harper in right field, going on to say that regardless of how bad the umpire’s performance is, Harper needs to make sure he’s in the field and it “hurts” if he’s not out there with the rest of the team. Arrieta took the loss in the Mets’ 5-1 win at home.

Harper caused problems with the Nationals last season

Bryce Harper might already be causing problems in the Philadelphia Phillies clubhouse.
Bryce Harper (second from right) sometimes lets his temper get the best of him. | Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Harper had a reputation as a troublemaker in the clubhouse during his time with the Nationals. There were reports last summer that the Nationals’ clubhouse was “a mess,” with part of that due to Harper’s concerns that he might have been on the trading block as the Nationals were hovering around the .500 mark around the 2018 trade deadline. He wasn’t traded last year, but the Astros confirmed in the offseason that they had a deal in place to acquire Harper in July. Nationals’ ownership ultimately nixed the trade.

Harper also reportedly made comments last season that some with the team deemed to be “unprofessional” and “potentially divisive among his teammates,” according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Harper has a history of irritating teammates

The most infamous example of Harper having issues with teammates happened late in the 2015 regular season. Harper had an altercation in the dugout with RP Jonathan Papelbon, and it all was caught on camera.

In the eighth inning of a game that the Nationals eventually lost to the Phillies 12-5, the then-teammates exchanged words when Harper returned to the dugout after making an out. Video showed Papelbon telling Harper he has “got to run that … ball out.” The verbal exchange turned physical as the pitcher appeared to choke Harper briefly before pulling on his jersey. Papelbon went on to pitch the ninth inning, giving up five runs — two earned — as part of an eight-run ninth inning that helped the Phillies win the game. After the game, Papelbon placed blame on himself, saying he was “in the wrong.”

Given Harper’s history, his ejection against the Mets seems rather minor, but could it signal the start of a divide in the clubhouse? As a veteran, perhaps Jake Arrieta publicly called out Bryce Harper as a way to nip any problems in the bud. As the old sports adage says, winning cures everything. If the Phillies get hot and climb up the standings, we’re guessing calmer heads will prevail in Philadelphia.