It had been reported Monday night when the Braves beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLDS, ending on a critical base-running play involving Bryce Harper, that Atlanta shortstop Orlando Arcia taunted about the Phillies’ star in the clubhouse after the game.
That report wound up generating plenty of controversy.
Fox Sports’ Jake Mintz, one of the two brothers that runs the popular Cespedes Family BBQ account, reported that Arcia had been celebrating after Atlanta’s 5-4 win by saying “Atta boy Harper” in the Braves’ clubhouse, jeering at the fact that Harper was doubled off on the basepaths after an outstanding catch by Michael Harris in center field and an impressive relay to get Harper at first to end the game.
The comments wound up coming back to bite the Braves two days later, with Harper homering twice — staring down Arcia after each — as he powered the Phillies to the 10-2 Game 3 win. When the Phillies beat the Braves in Game 4 to eliminate Atlanta and advance to the NLCS, players in the Philadelphia clubhouse celebrated by repeating, “Atta boy Harper.”
While the comments became a spark for the Phillies, it also became a subject of controversy. Players, including the Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman, decried the situation as a mistake by Mintz to report the comments, which were said out loud in the locker room rather than said in an interview setting. Others defended the situation, saying that anything in the clubhouse is open to be reported on.
MORE: Why Arcia’s comments motivated Harper after NLDS Game 2
But perhaps the biggest backlash came from MLB Network’s Alanna Rizzo, who blasted Mintz on “High Heat” for reporting on the incident. Following a BBWAA statement, Rizzo both publicly and privately apologized to Mintz for her reaction.
Here’s what you need to know about the controversy.
Bryce Harper Atta Boy controversy, explained
It all begins with the play. In Game 2, Harper led off the top of the ninth in a one-run game with a walk. J.T. Realmuto flew out to center for the first out, but on the next play, Nick Castellanos lifted a deep fly into right-center. It appeared it would be extra bases, and if Harper took off, he’d be able to score the tying run on the play.
The problem for the Phillies was that Harris made a leaping grab up against the wall to rob Castellanos of the hit. Harper had well since rounded second on his way to third, but the throw from Harris missed both cut-off men by second. Austin Riley, however, ran in and scooped the ball and made an impressive throw to Matt Olson to nab Harper and end the game.
After the game, Mintz wrote a well-reported story on how the Braves pulled off the improbable comeback, coming back from down four runs at one point, to win the game, and deep in the article, wrote the following:
Kevin Pillar’s young son, sporting a custom “Money Mike” headband, waddled over to his favorite center fielder for a fist bump. Third-string catcher Chadwick Tromp strutted by Harris’ locker offering a congratulatory “Mike is him!” All while Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia cackled emphatically about Harper’s misfortune, bellowing “ha-ha, atta-boy, Harper!” repeatedly as reporters circled the room.
As Mintz pointed out, he was not the only one to allude to the celebration from Arcia. The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes also wrote about it, saying that one of Harris’ teammates was yelling, “Atta boy Harper.” The only difference was that Janes did not name the player.
— Jake Mintz (@Jake_Mintz) October 10, 2023
The reporting of Arcia’s comments proved to be divisive across the baseball community. Among the most prominent to call out Mintz was Rizzo. The “High Heat” co-host said she was irritated by “bloggers or podcasters” going into the clubhouse and “ruining it for the rest of us” when “some jackoff comes in at the end of the season that gets a credential, God only knows why.” She called the clubhouse “a sacred place” and defended the players who were upset by the reporting of Arcia’s comments, before she called Mintz out by name.
MORE: Every time Nick Castellanos has interrupted a somber moment with a home run
“First of all, this guy, Jake Mintz, that’s not even a reporter,” Rizzo said. “That’s taking away from true reporters and true journalists. Where were you on the random Tuesday in April in Cincinnati when this team was playing in Cincinnati? Where were you on a rain delay, and you have to sit in the press box for all of this time? It’s ridiculous.”
“And then some jackoff comes in at the end of the season that gets a credential, God only knows why. And the clubhouse is a sacred space.” Alanna Rizzo went off on Jake Mintz’s clubhouse reporting on MLBN’s “High Heat” Thursday. pic.twitter.com/6dooqeLPnh
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 12, 2023
Rizzo’s comments immediately drew heat from the baseball journalism world, including from Janes, who posted a thread defending Mintz. Janes reported that cameras and recorders were recording, and that Arcia yelled the comments while they were recording and with more than a dozen reporters around. She said that reporters abstaining from writing on his comments would be akin to “protecting players from themselves.”
She also went on to say that what Arcia said wasn’t a slur or hateful, and added the only reason anyone was concerned about it was because “they know it would motivate Harper to beat [the Braves]. Which implies the Braves do not feel they can handle a motivated Bryce Harper and are willing to suggest that is why they lost the other day.”
“I didn’t say something sooner because I thought this was overblown,” Janes continued. “And frankly, I thought it wouldn’t help. But I am genuinely disgusted by the way some media members are acting like a reporter was in the wrong for this. He wasn’t.
“And if the Braves let this be the story of their series, that’s on them. Win and it goes away. Period.”
The incident elicited a response from the Baseball Writers Association of American (BBWAA), which defended Mintz, a BBWAA member.
“For the record, Jake is a BBWAA member in good standing and has earned the right to be credentialed through his hard work and quality baseball coverage,” the BBWAA wrote in the statement. “To assert otherwise, in vulgar terms, is both unprofessional and unacceptable. The BBWAA is deeply troubled that the league’s own network would permit the disparaging of one of our members in this fashion. Scrutinizing our work is part of the territory but comments such as these should have no place on MLBN.”
Following the backlash to her comments, Rizzo apologized on “High Heat” to Mintz and the BBWAA. She said her comments were “completely inappropriate, it was inaccurate and it was beyond unprofessional. I got caught up in the heat of the moment.”
“What I said was completely off base and I’ve had an interesting 24 hours and I’ve learned a lot more and I apologize to Jake. I talked to him already, I apologized to him privately and I also apologize to him publicly,” Rizzo said. “They do a good job in the clubhouse and I was completely inaccurate in my assessment of what went down there.”
Alanna Rizzo gave “a very heartfelt apology to Jake Mintz and the entire BBWAA” pic.twitter.com/rT9tjSWLY3
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 13, 2023
Mintz, though calling her initial comments “incredibly hurtful/uncalled for,” wrote on X saying that he was “glad she apologized,” and asked people not to toss hate to her.
“Thanks to all the reporters, journos, baseball twitter weirdos, acquaintances and friends who had my back over the last 48 hours,” Mintz wrote. “And also, of course, the BBWAA. Community feels good, humbled to be a part of this one. Now, let’s enjoy some ball.”