What he gets right.
In the "Matt Williams Managin' Moment of the Weekend" (sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Convention and Vistors Bureau - Visit Phoenix. It's Rising!) Bryce Harper was benched for failing to run out a ground ball back to the mound. And by "failing to run out" I mean he literally stopped 30 feet down the line and went back to the dugout. I think most everyone agrees Matt Williams was right in doing what he did. Baseball forgives a lot for the injured and the special, but there is a minimum level of effort expected and a moderate jog to first base on balls where you are going to be out 99.9% of the time is one of these benchmarks. This is pretty much "show up, punch clock" territory. It's the least you are expected to do, and if you can't even do that, you need to be told you do.
Did Matt Williams have to show him up? Maybe not, but it was public lollygagging so I have nothing against public shaming. As Boz says, it should have been done and Bryce should have been started the next game and he was so all is well here.
What he may or may not get.
Lines like "But authority must be asserted toward Harper to get his attention, not just assumed" and "And that notoriety, that constant spotlight, leads him into believing — or perhaps unconsciously acting out the part of — someone who should never fail, whose outs didn’t quite really happen." are nonsense lines. Boswell doesn't know Bryce. We certainly don't know him. It's armchair psychology at it's worst.
The team could be feeding Boz these lines and this impression, but if that's the case (and let's face it, it likely is) it doesn't make it better. It makes it worse. Boz should be a reporter, not a mouthpiece. What is the purpose of this then? To shame Bryce again? To turn the fans against him? The situation was done on the field and was dealt with on the field. Leave it at that.
What he gets wrong.
Boz wants to make Bryce look bad, or at least silly for getting all this attention without really doing anything yet. There's a problem though. He HAS been doing stuff. He's been having seasons at 19 and 20 that are among the best seasons anyone that age has had in baseball history. How, in that scenario, do you make Bryce seem lesser than he is? You quote stats based heavily on playing time.
Harper has not driven in 60 runs in either of his two seasons. He has only five RBI this year. He’s never had more than 157 runs-plus-RBI. Ryan Zimmerman has had between 163 and 216 six times. Adam LaRoche, no big star, has had 175 or more three times. Fourth outfielder Nate McLouth once had 207.If the point was "hmm Byrce isn't staying healthy" these would be fine stats to use but that's not the point he's trying to make. He's trying to make it seem like Bryce is not as good, on some level, as these players. Of course runs and RBI are, like I said, based heavily on playing time and a month+ in the minors in 2012 and an injury in 2013 have cut into those numbers. How does it look instead if we look at R+RBI per PA? We'll scale them all back to the most PAs of these numbers.
Bryce: 190, 187
Zimmerman's best years : 205, 190, 224, 203, 211, 185
LaRoche's best years: 232, 205, 196
McLouth's best year: 218
So there is something to the idea that Bryce's years so far aren't as good as these years above. But it's not as big a difference as the raw numbers would suggest (McLouth was never 33% better than Bryce) and think about what you are saying. Bryce's rookie year and second year in the majors at 19 and 20 aren't as good as the handpicked best years from veteran players. Gomer Pyle is not surprised by this. Plus there are a number of things we didn't factor into this, like how the players in front and behind you drastically effect these numbers (part of the reason LaRoche and Zimm have their last big number year is because THEY WERE DRIVING IN BRYCE). I remember 2006 like it was yesterday and you know what? Ryan Zimmerman had 110 RBI that year in large part because he had at least 10% more at bats with RISP than all but two other guys in the majors. Yes Bryce only has 5 RBI. He also has only 15 ABs with RISP. He's 4-15 with a triple and HR. That's fine.
This is a faulty stat designed not to illuminate but to mislead and Boz should be ashamed of himself for using it.
Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player.He might be. But that's pretty unlikely. Desmond is the only one who's clearly been better in the past years. You can argue a starter (any of the three will do) but most baseball people will agree an everyday player is just going to be more valuable. Werth maybe if you give him health and a full season. Then again if you give Bryce health and a full season he's likely to be easily better than everyone but Desmond. I'm at a loss for who the other one would be. I guess Rendon.
If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twiceI suppose. I wouldn't think twice but it's certainly isn't a crazy thought. Then again it's not like Rendon is chopped liver. He was pretty much considered a very special hitter coming out of college who's major concern was injuries. If he could stay healthy people liked him as an All-Star level player. It's like comparing Bryce to Zimmerman in the R+RBI thing above. Zimmerman was a Top 5 player for a few years there. An injury free back-half of his career might put him in the conversation for the Hall. (probably not but you can't say I'm completely out of line here). Not quite hitting Zimmerman's best seasons before you are old enough to drink isn't some how a mark of failure.
Anyway this is a long-winded way to say this: Bryce should have run out the ball to first. Matt Williams was right in pulling him. All this other nonsense? Embarrassing-level blame shifting.