Like it or not, professional athletes are role models. If an immature multi-millionaire goes out of his way to devalue an official, children see that and will most likely imitate it. That is exactly what happened in Washington May 9 when an ejected Bryce Harper raced onto the field to join the Nationals in a post-game celebration.

Just plain dumb.

Harper claims to be on a campaign to “make baseball fun.” His turning to umpire Brian Knight and saying, “F@#& YOU,” if my lip reading skills are worth anything, was just plain dumb, to borrow a phrase from Cracker Barrel. Knight had tossed Harper a couple of pitches earlier when someone on the bench complained about a strike called on Danny Espinosa.

The next batter, pinch hitter Clint Robinson, hit a home run to win the game and Harper returned for the celebration.

Bad boy figure?

Harper is 23-years-old. Most of his money should be coming from endorsements at this point. His next baseball contract in expected to fetch him more than $200 million, maybe twice that depending upon the 2019 market. Maybe his master plan is to sell himself to 18- to 34-year-old males as a bad boy figure. What about the children who, rightly or wrongly, idolize this guy who is acting more and more like a punk? Worse still are the “adult” baseball fans that supported his move after the game. “It’s possible that he finally got miffed at the umpiring, etc, and just went off?” a commenter wrote on the Nationals Discourse blog following the game.

“It’s not right, but maybe on occasion, it’s due?”

Game changes and player changes.

One fan suggested Harper’s language was nothing new. He cited several former managers noted for their antics with umpires as a precedent. Arguing with officials, cursing, spitting and scratching the crotch are nothing new, but the hot mics and cameras capturing a player’s every move are.

As the game changes, so must the players. That is part of what makes the game fun, right?

Umpires misbehave too.

By the way, Major League Baseball has a precedent for suspending umpires for fighting and cussing. It was set May 15, 2012, when the league suspended umpire Bob Davidson and Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel after the catcher brushed against the umpire chasing a wild pitch.

Umpire Joe West was suspended for a game in 2014 after grabbing then Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon’s jersey during a brief argument. The pitcher was suspended for seven games for making a finger gesture at the umpire while walking off the field.

Harper overrated?

Harper is overrated, according to his peers, even though he is the National League’s reigning Most Valuable Player. The MVP only hit a paltry .154 between May 1 and May 10 with 1 home run and 2 RBI.One team, the Chicago Cubs opted to pitch around him, give the batter first base rather than chance him hitting the ball. That was Harper’s best offensive series of the month by far. Perhaps it is time for Harper to consider his strike zone, swing, approach to the game, or lack of it, before considering his image.

Consistent contributions.

It would also help if the "hitters" batting around Harper in the lineup started making consistent contributions so teams had to face the MVP.The bigger problem for the Nationals is Anthony Rendon andRyan Zimmerman. They sandwich Harper in the lineup and they have done a miserable job of protecting the No. 3 hitter. Rendon hits just .218 with an on base percentage of .293. Although Zimmerman hit 2 home runs May 10, his overall numbers stink. The first baseman entered May 11 batting just .235 and a .288 on base percentage. If they can’t protect Harper in the lineup, Dusty Baker should find someone who can.

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