More drama for Nationals’ at NatsFest

Bryce Harper absent from Saturday’s NatsFest

Every team (I assume) has a fan fest to thank the fans and garner support for the upcoming season. NatsFest, held yearly by the Washington Nationals, is one of the best or so I’ve heard (personally I have only been to two, the Oakland A’s Fan Fest and the San Diego Padres’ Fan Fest, both of which were a total blast).

Fan Fest is important to fans who can get the pictures, autographs and interact with their favorite players who they cheer for all year long,

According to fans on Twitter this year’s NatsFest was great. They watched Stephen Strasburg play videos and even got to talk to the Nationals’ lastest player to bring “drama” to the organization Jayson Werth.

Werth was arrested for reckless driving earlier this year. He was recently sentenced to 10 days in jail, a sentence which he is currently appealing.

Still, while Werth did not speak out to the media because of his legal issues, he showed up for his fans. It was a commendable and generous act in the midst of what could be considered, by some, an embarrassing and upsetting situation. General manager Mike Rizzo said of Werth,

“He’s going to be around and meet the fans and visit with the fans, I think that’s the important part of what he should be doing.”

Werth did the responsible and respectable thing, he gave back to the people who give so much for him, who pay to watch him play and cheer him on game after game, season after season, win or lose. That shows that, regardless of his irresponsible actions (we’ve all been irresponsible in our lives), he cares about the people who care about him, even if he doesn’t know them.

However, just like not all “regular” people truly care about people other than themselves, not all ballplayers do either.

Not to criticize my own team but I know what it feels like, as a fan, for one of the team’s fan favorites to not show up for Fan Fest at the last minute. It’s almost like a slap in the face.

Bryce Harper. Getty Images.
Bryce Harper. Getty Images.

One big name, some might say even the face of the franchise, was absent from NatsFest this year, Bryce Harper. Harper, 22, currently has a greivence filed against the Nationals regarding his contract.

Harper, who is set to make 1.5 million in 2015 according to the contract he signed when he was drafted, qualifies as a “Super Two” player. A “Super Two” player is one who qualifies for arbitration with less than three years of service time if they are within the top 22 percent of players who have at least two years of MLB service time.

Harper stands to make much more than $1.5 million through arbitration, however, an opt-out of this, the final year, of his five year contract was not written into the original agreement. Harper and his agent Scott Boras say there was a verbal agreement made that if the issue arose it would be addressed at that time.

Accoding to Federal Baseball,

At that point, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association came up with a “letter of agreement” which said if Harper qualified for arbitration, “before he reached the end of the contract, a grievance hearing would determine whether he could opt out of his contract.”

Well, said grievence hearing is set for Tuesday and is more than likely the reason that Harper did not show up at Fan Fest. Rizzo said earlier in the week that they had hoped to avoid a hearing because it could create animosity between the two parties. On Saturday both Harper and Rizzo made a statement.

Harper did not show up and Rizzo had the following to say about it,

“We’re disappointed he’s not here, but he chose not to be here because of the grievance.”

Those words should not be taken lightly coming from any team’s general manager so it appears that even prior to the hearing there is already animosity between the two parties which was certainly exacerbated by Harper not appearing at NatsFest.

Josh Reddick. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.
Josh Reddick. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

A similar situation occured last year at A’s Fan Fest. The A’s had hoped and were ultimately able to avoid an arbitration hearing with right fielder Josh Reddick for the same reason the Nationals wanted to avoid a grievence hearing with Harper, hearings ultimately create hard feelings on one if not both sides.

Prior to the scheduled hearing between the A’s and Reddick was A’s Fan Fest. Reddick backed out at the last minute sending out a tweet to fans in the early morning that he would not be in attendence. This was obviously because he was angry that the team wasn’t giving him what he wanted.

Harper, too, issued a statement through his representatives,

“I have attended NatsFest each year and always enjoy my experience with the fans, but was unable to attend this year’s event due to matters out of my control.”

The thing is that the matter of showing up for the fans was within Harper’s control, perhaps his emotions were what were not under control.

Is it me or is punishing the fans because of an issue the player has with the team and not the fans really fair? The fans have nothing to do with contracts or arbitration but they are the ones who show up to games and to events such as Fan Fest to support their teams and players.

I’ll I am saying is that it seems a bit selfish on the part of the players. If they had respect for the people who support them they should just be a little selfless and show up.

  • Harper is a wussy. I consider him great trade bait for a team that is on the cusp of being a perennial playoff contender. I’d trade him for a couple of infielders and a bullpen pitcher.

    • Jen Rainwater

      I happen to agree with you. Seems kinda like bit of a primadonna but some teams will put up with that. He is great trade bait. I just read that they gave him a 2 year 7.5 million extension. Not much for a contender to take on. Might as well have settled with him but I think he would have been fine with 1.5 million. lol.

  • Tim Csaey

    Jen, spot on, per usual! I saw Jayson at both at NatsFest and later that night at the Kennedy Center. He is nothing short of classy – very gracious with his time, understands the significance of the fans, and does things within the game the right way. He could have hidden, but instead, stood tall. Much love and respect for this man!

    • Jen Rainwater

      I happen to agree. Everyone makes mistakes but he gets major props in my book for as you said standing tall. Good for him – I just saw this other pic of him from NatsFest where he did an impromptu q & a for a bunch of kids! Was going to add it to this post. He’s a class act (despite being a bit too fast of a driver – but most people are! I think the sentence was harsh! It’s not like he was drunk or anything …)!

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