Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo defended Bryce Harper one day after his young star criticized fans for leaving a key game against the Mets early, attributing Harper's comments to emotions running high after a difficult loss.
"Bryce is a passionate player who wears his heart on his sleeve," Rizzo said Tuesday afternoon. "There's nobody on this team that loves the fan base of Washington, D.C. more than Harp. There's nobody that loves this city more than Harp. He stated it when we were in New York. He's stated it multiple times throughout the season, how much he appreciates and admires the fan base here. You're talking about a player after a tough loss with some frustration. But he's a guy who loves this city."
Speaking after Monday's loss, in which a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning turned into an 8-5 deficit in the seventh, Harper was asked what he thought of the atmosphere at Nationals Park, which for most of the afternoon was electric.
"I mean, they left in the seventh," Harper said. "That's pretty brutal. I don't know, whatever."
Large sections of the right-field stands, bathed in direct sunlight all afternoon, did empty out during the final innings, though the rest of the park remained full from the original crowd of 34,210.
Harper has taken plenty of heat from fans in the 24 hours since, but Rizzo attributed the original comments to a heat-of-the-moment thing.
"It was after a tough loss," the GM said. "And he's a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve and a guy that doesn't give you cookie-cutter answers and a person who speaks from his heart."
Rizzo spoke highly of Nationals fans as a whole.
"I can't say more about the fan base," he said. "I love the fan base. I think it’s a rabid, intelligent, high baseball-IQ fan base, and they're the ones that urge us on and really give us the energy to keep things rolling."