|Bryce Harper isn't happy. (Getty Images)|
It's not any sort of disciplinary action on the part of manager Davey Johnson; rather, the Washington skipper made the decision based on his perception that the 19-year-old Harper is "pressing a little bit." So consider the contretemps a symptom rather than a cause.
Harper's anger stemmed from two punch-outs in Wednesday night's tight win over the Astros. After the second questionable strike-three call, which occurred in the sixth inning, veteran teammate Adam LaRoche confronted Hernandez about a zone that seemed tailored to frustrate Harper. "I said, 'What's going on? From where I'm at, those balls are down.'" LaRoche told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. "He [Hernandez] assured me that they were good pitches. He said he would never do that to Bryce, he loves him, he loves the way he plays and that there's no kind of initiation there. He called it the way he would call it to anybody."
It goes without saying that having different strike zones for different players based on tenure is a patently stupid practice (to the extent that it exists at all) and antithetical to an umpire's duties. I'd certainly hope Hernandez isn't indulging in something like that.
As for Harper, another veteran teammate, Jayson Werth, advised him not to talk to the media about his grievances with Hernandez, so he had nothing to say after the game.
To be sure, Harper's frustrations probably have as much to do with his second-half struggles than they do Hernandez's puzzling inconsistencies behind the plate. Even so, Harper is right to be upset.
Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net, here's the strike-zone plot of the ABs in question. First Harper's fourth-inning at-bat ...
As you can see, Hernandez's strike-three call was pretty awful.
And here's Harper in the sixth ...
While not as egregious as the first strikeout, two of three called strikes in the sixth were outside the zone.
Those within the game tend not to have a high opinion of Hernandez's abilities, so I'm inclined to side with Harper on this one.