MLB Denies Bryce Harper's Request for Time to put on Elbow Brace, Citing Pace of Play Issue
Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball just can’t get out of their own way sometimes.
If there was ever a doubt as to why he may be the worst of all the major sports commissioners, I present you with the Bryce Harper situation.
Here is one of the game’s most marketable stars, back from Tommy John surgery faster than any player ever, generating buzz all across the sport, and Manfred and the league officials in charge of making a mockery of their own game won’t give him extra seconds when he reaches base to ensure his safety because it would allegedly screw with their pace of play initiatives.
Harper and the Phillies asked the league, and according to Harper, asked Manfred directly, if the clock could be paused for a few seconds when he reaches base so he can put on the arm brace prescribed by his doctors, to protect his elbow in case he has to slide.
Baseball said no.
“We talked all the way up to Mr. Manfred and they said we wouldn’t have more time to do that,” Harper told Matt Gelb of The Athletic. “[It’s a] pace of play thing, of course. It’s going to be tough. … Sometimes it gets jammed or caught. I hope maybe some umpires have some feel about it. Some umpires usually do. I appreciate that out of them. But we’ll see. I know they’re going to try to give me extra time, I want to be able to get it on and get it going.”
In the Phillies’ 10-6 loss to the Dodgers Wednesday, Harper reached base five times. He had three hits and two walks. In four of the times he reached base, he was able to get it on in time. The one time he didn’t, he had to throw it aside and run the bases without it, putting himself at risk of reinjury.
Nick Castellanos burned the one timeout he has per at bat before even facing a pitch, trying to give Harper time to get the brace on. It still didn’t work.
“That scared me a little bit,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “Really, they should amend the rule to a certain degree for anybody that has an issue. Just give them the extra time. Have a feel for it so they’re not going to injure themselves.”
But you know, it’s OK for the umpire to call timeout, point to either a batter or pitcher for a violation, turn around, point to the official scorer up in the press box to tell him there was a violation so a strike or a ball can be added to the scoreboard, and then reset the clock. No, that doesn’t take up time at all.
Or better yet…
If we can have real and fake pitchcom issues every time a pitcher isn't ready, then we can give Bryce Harper 30 more seconds to get his arm brace on. It is not a meaningful difference to pace of play.
— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) May 4, 2023
Giving a player an extra 10 seconds or so to put on a brace so he doesn’t reinjure himself? That could take the average game time from 2 hours 38 minutes to 2 hours 38 minutes and 10 seconds. Can’t have that!
PitchCom should sue the league because the fake issues with their system makes the technology look like the pitcher and catcher are using paper cups and string to communicate with how often they seem to malfunction. Oh, and how many pitchers are throwing balls out and asking for a new one to get a breather and reset the clock? What happened to the mud folks in each stadium? Are they rubbing the balls down with Vaseline instead? Man, the pitchers really seem to be struggling to grip baseballs in 2023, don’t they?
MLB issued a BS response when asked why they wouldn’t allot for time for Harper to put on the brace.
“MLB does not make exceptions to the playing rules for individual players. The league consulted multiple orthopedists and athletic trainers before deciding on the current policy, which is that players are allowed to wear protective equipment while running the bases, provided they put it on within the proper time frames.”
OK. Here’s why that answer is total crap. We’ll take the second part first:
- When they consulted with orthopedists and trainers, do we really believe they were discussing a giant elbow brace for one specific player coming back from Tommy John surgery? Or do we think they were discussing the more common uses, like the oven mitts for sliding or perhaps wrist or hand braces that easily Velcro on to protect guys who may be playing through something like a bone bruise or are first returning from a fracture of some kind. Obviously they didn’t do enough consultation because Harper’s clearance to play from a doctor came with the caveat that he had to wear this brace to prevent the elbow from rupturing on a slide. Hey, MLB, check back in with your multiple orthopedists and trainers and see what they think now. And if they tell you he needs to get it on in 10 seconds or tough luck, then they don’t really care about the player and are likely getting their pockets lined by the league.
- You don’t make rules for individual players, eh? Funny, how a two-way player like Shohei Ohtani shows up in the sport and you realize that having him play as much as possible is good for the game and you CHANGE A RULE that now allows the Angels to add the designated hitter to their lineup mid-game so he can stay in the games as a hitter on days that he pitches after being relieved on the mound and without having to play another position on the field. Sure, you can argue that any team can do this, and it’s not just a rule to help one player or one team, and technically that’s right, but… HOW MANY TEAMS HAVE A SHOHEI OHTANI???? Thought so.
Also, let’s not forget that Harper was the one who went on national television and said the players want their game back, which certainly couldn’t have sat well with Manfred and friends:
Bryce Harper casually tossed out that he and a lot of MLB players "want our game back" when asked about the pitch clock during an in-game interview on ESPN.
— Rob Tornoe (@RobTornoe) April 3, 2023
Does that make this response to Harper’s request seem vindictive as hell? Damn right it does. They can come out and say that’s not the case all they want, but man, the optics aren’t good here.
The point is, baseball leadership is so inept that it doesn’t even realize the mess it is creating. Ignoring a simple request from one of the game’s best players that can easily be rectified just so it can die on a hill with its great marketing campaign of a new brand of baseball is only going to come back and haunt it in the end.
The players and their union won’t forget this.