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Thoughts on Harper's message to Nats fans calling for more support


Thoughts on Harper's message to Nats fans calling for more support

The question was simply about the pennant race atmosphere at Nationals Park, and Bryce Harper's answer was brief. But his quick, perhaps off-the-cuff response has set off a firestorm of scrutiny both from outside the city of Washington and within the Nationals fanbase itself.

Harper, when asked about the crowd on Monday afternoon, noted how many of the 34,210 in attendance left after the seventh inning. "That's pretty brutal," he said.

This just happens to come on the heels of Jonathan Papelbon referencing a lack of energy among the Nats faithful during Friday night's win over the Braves.

β€œI got a little bone to pick with some of the fans here tonight. I saw a few of them sitting down. I’m not going to lie. We need to stand on up in those situations. So let’s get that going, you know what I mean? Because this is playoff baseball," he said after the victory.

Those are two of the biggest names on the Nationals - their best player and their closer - essentially calling out the fans who root for them.

First, on Harper's comments. In fairness, his observation was correct. After the Nationals saw four relievers combine to allow three runs to the Mets in the seventh inning, thousands in the stands cleared out. It was a mass exodus of sorts.

But, for what it's worth, many of the fans who left were sitting on the first base side, or the part of the stadium that had been baking in the sun all afternoon. The departure of so many fans was noticeable from the pressbox in large part due to its symmetry. One third or so of the stadium was nearly empty during the eighth and ninth innings, while the rest of it was packed.

Could that be a coincidence? Possibly. But I did have Nats fans reach out on Twitter in support of that theory and some said they were sitting on that side before moving to the shaded concourse to watch the rest of the game.

And though many left after giving up hope for a comeback, there were 34,210 there to begin with. That's actually about a thousand more than what the team has averaged this season (33,109), a mark that is good for 10th in baseball.

Of course, it wasn't the quantity of fans that Harper and Papelbon, it was the manner of their support. And, love him or hate him, Papelbon of all people would know.

The right-hander made his name while pitching for the Boston Red Sox, who not only played some pretty big games while he was there, they lifted a fanbase that had been through decades of disappointment to new heights. The feeling of a pennant race at Fenway Park, especially in the first few years of Papelbon's Red Sox career, would be hard to replicate, especially in a town that is relatively new to the experience.

As we outlined in our previews leading up the Nats' series with the Mets, this is the first time in team history the Nationals have been playing games this late in the season with such high stakes. They are going head-to-head with the team they are chasing in the division with only a handful of games separating them. Each of these games can either help close the gap in the NL East, or create distance and put them one step closer to missing the playoffs.

This is the first pennant race not only for the Nationals, but for generations of sports fans who call Washington, D.C. home. A major league pennant race is its own, unique thing. Sure, the Redskins have had do-or-die Week 17 games where their postseason hopes rested on a handful of plays. The Capitals have fought for their playoff lives in April, and so have the Wizards. But those are all different than the highs and lows of an MLB pennant race when every single day can change so much.

For Harper, in particular, to say what he said speaks volumes. It's one thing for Papelbon to ask for more from the fans. It would be another thing for a tenured veteran like Jayson Werth or Ryan Zimmerman to say it. But coming from Harper, who is not only their best player but an emerging face of the sport, it carries a special kind of weight.

This is actually not the first time Harper has done this. Late in the 2013 season he made a plea in his then-weekly sitdown with CSN for more support as the team was chasing the Braves. Excitement for the football season was heating up and Harper sensed a fade in loyalty.

"Coming to a game without any fans isn't fun. Last night we didn't have that many, and we need that for this last month," Harper said at the time. "I think it's tired, I really do. Just because football season's coming up, we're still in it."

Harper further explained it by saying, "I think fans know that guys feed off the crowd." It was a message he wanted to get across, and Monday's comments were likely coming from the same place.

Criticizing your fans is always a risky proposition, but maybe there is an intent behind his words just like there was last time, a call to action that apparently he isn't alone in believing is necessary.

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Did Max Scherzer's dance moves cause the Junkies' broadcast to lose power?

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Did Max Scherzer's dance moves cause the Junkies' broadcast to lose power?

Watching Max Scherzrer rack up Ks during a game is a usual sight for fans.

Dancing is not.

On Wednesday while the Sports Junkies were broadcasting at Nats Spring Training in West Palm Beach, we got a taste of what the back-to-back Cy Young Award winner has to offer on the dance floor. 

With just about a week left until their season kicks off, manager Dave Martinez hired a DJ for the day's workout, saying he wanted to "turn it up a notch." 

Well he turned it up a few too many notches, causing the back end of the complex where the Junkies were broadcasting to lose power.

While the Junkies were put in a pickle because of said DJ, we were able to get a glance of Scherzer dancing to Drakes' "God's Plan."


It's nice to see the usually lazer-focused pitcher let loose.

While Scherzer's dance moves didn't actually cause the Junkies to lose power, it's nice to think they were too much for the ballpark to handle. 

106.7 The Fans Sports Junkies simulcasts on NBC Sports Washington every weekday morning from 6:00 to 10:00 am ET. You can stream the Sports Junkies right here

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again β€” when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner β€” and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down β€” in order β€” the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful β€” and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats.