MIAMI -- Ozzie Guillen loves Bryce Harper. He made that point painfully clear during a six-minute diatribe Monday afternoon. While also lambasting Harper for what he believes was a disrespectful act during Sunday's game: Pointing his bat toward Guillen to show he had swapped it out for one with too much pine tar on it, per the Marlins manager's request.
"I like this kid," Guillen said. "I think this kid is good for baseball. He's going to be better. But if this kid continues to do that stuff, he might not make it. Because they're going to fool around with the wrong guy, and that wrong guy will kick his ass. He might not make it."
That was merely one of several verbal shots fired by Guillen at Harper and Nationals manager Davey Johnson one day after the relatively minor pine tar incident between the two clubs.
During the first inning of Sunday's game, Guillen noticed Harper had pine tar well up onto the barrel of his bat. Rule 1.10(c) prohibits the application of it any more than 18 inches from the bat's handle. Guillen says he informed plate umpire Marty Foster and Nationals third base coach Bo Porter and requested Harper use another bat.
When the 19-year-old came to the plate in the third inning, he indeed had a cleaner bat in his hands. He then pointed it toward the Miami dugout, perhaps showing Guillen it was legal. Guillen immediately started yapping at Harper and Johnson, eventually grabbing a bat of his own and pointing it toward the other dugout.
"It's my opinion: I think this kid disrespected myself doing that, and I don't think that was appropriate to do," Guillen said Monday. "I don't think it's right to make a scene, to make a big deal about it. I think he reacted, or acted, the wrong way. I don't care what people say."
Guillen attempted to call Johnson following Sunday's game and explain his side of the story. Johnson didn't care to engage in much of a conversation. According to Guillen, "He told me: 'Get the expletive away from me.'"
"He called me," Johnson said. "I said it wasn't a big deal. Enough said about it. It was an interesting exchange all around. That's Oz."
"I don't think Davey understand why I call him," Guillen said. "Because I was just calling to say: 'I don't want to make a big deal about this. I don't want to make a big scene. I think the kid 100 percent did something he shouldn't.' But I respect Davey. I love Davey. I think Davey's one of the best baseball managers in the game, to be honest with you."
Johnson believes Guillen was trying to "intimidate" Harper when he requested the bat change and later cursed at him from the dugout.
"I just don't like any time an opposing manager talks to my player when he's up at the plate, has any kind of conversation with my hitter," Johnson said. "That's nothing I like to see happen in the ballgame."
Guillen insists he wasn't trying to intimidate Harper.
"He showed me up," the veteran skipper said. "I never showed him up. Not one thing about it. Every time I talk about this kid, I compliment him. Like: 'Wow, he's the best thing. Hopefully people will play like that. People should be playing like him. Whoever teaches this kid, teaches the right way.'
"I wish this happened two years ago. Then I would've told Davey what I feel. And I would've told this kid what I feel. Intimidate? Pfft. I never intimidate people. For what? Do I look like I intimidate anybody? I swear, if we fight, that kid will kick my ass. You think I'm going to intimidate him?"
Harper stayed above the fray when asked after Sunday's game about what happened.
"He battles for his team, and that's the type of manager Ozzie is," the rookie outfielder said. "He's a great manager to play for. He's going to battle for you, no matter what. That's a manager you want to play for."
Do the Nationals expect Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano to retaliate at all during the series finale?
"No," Johnson said. "My guy throws harder than him, anyway."
Right-hander Edwin Jackson, whose fastball averages 94 mph, is starting for the Nationals.