Public Editor

Provocative Bryce Harper ‘choke’ blog post draws critics’ ire

Twitter is the most negative corner of the Internet, in my opinion. Its short bursts of 140 characters tend to be long on outrage, and media sources are constant targets.

The Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon got into a fight in the dugout during a game Sunday. Papelbon has been suspended for four games without pay. The Star’s Lee Judge wrote about it in a blog post asking, “Should Jonathan Papelbon have choked Bryce Harper?”

It starts: “I don’t know Bryce Harper from Adam, but he certainly seems like a young man who needs an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately he was choked by the wrong guy in the wrong place.” An earlier version read, “…he certainly seems like a young man who needs choking.”

The critics, such as Gawker sports commentary site Deadspin, called the post things such as “psychopathic.”

I reached out to Lee, who it should be noted has also been a political cartoonist for The Star for some 30 years. He’s well accustomed to expressing provocative opinions, sometimes in blunt language. His reply, in which he stands by what he wrote:

Judging the Royals is an inside look at big league baseball; it not only deals with how the game is played, it also reveals some of the game’s unwritten rules. In today’s column I said that if Jonathan Papelbon wanted to choke Bryce Harper, he should have done it in private. Ballplayers have scuffles and arguments more often than fans know, but those scuffles and arguments are supposed to take place out of the public eye. Whether fans like it or not, baseball players throw at each other, do takeout slides on each other and sometimes fight with each other. When they do those things, there’s a right way to do it and that’s what today’s column was about.

My own opinion is that a blog may be a place for frank ruminations on these sorts of topics, and I find some of the Twitter hand-wringing disingenuously genteel. You hear stuff far less considered than this every day on sports talk radio and — for crying out loud — from well-known voices on Twitter itself.

But sure, I also understand the critics, who might disagree with or not want to hear a pundit’s thoughts on those “unwritten rules.” Surely not all MLB players agree they are so.