There's valid argument on both sides I'm sure. In a majority of game time situations the fans don't like it when it is either evident, or appears, a player shows lack of effort (hustle). Especially when running out a ground ball to 1B. A majority of batters will not run with maximum effort to 1B on plays like that. That's all over the league. I remember when Jr, at times, use to get a lot of criticism from fans for his "jog" to 1B on a "routine" ground ball.
To many fans it appears as if the player is conceding it's a guaranteed out, or in all probability should be, so why put forth the full effort? I was watching the game, and immediately after Harper hit the ball back to the pitcher he hung his head in disappointment/frustration - as most batters would - thus conceding they just made an easy out. So he wasn't happy with himself.
And the other side of the coin, one reason Matt Williams put forth as to why he benched Harper was - Well, you never know. The pitcher could have bobbled the ball, etc.
And that's true.
But did Williams do the right thing - or make a mistake (over-react) - in benching Harper? Because in the 9th, with one out and runners on second and third, and the Nats rallying against the Cards, Harper's spot in the order came up. But alas, no Harper.
As manager, what call would you have made? Me? I'd have pulled him off to the side of the dugout and had a talk with this young player. But I wouldn't have jerked him from the game. Why? Harper is nursing a leg injury (sore quad), even though after the game he said it wasn't an issue. Also, last season, the Nats basically told Harper to "cool it" because he was being "too aggressive" running hard all the time, into players, fences, and getting injured.
Also - after the game, Harper accepted the manager's decision and didn't seem to show any ill-will.
But another reason cited by Williams for him being upset with Harper is the newer, stricter enforcement of the transfer rule. I realize that's referring to the player "transferring" the ball from glove to hand (to throw), it's a "maintaining possession" thing, and it has already caused some controversy this year in games. But someone clarify it better for me as far as this new season is going, and it's stricter enforcement. The stricter enforcement is suppose to clear up those "grey areas", but is it? Is the rule saying, or are umps ruling, that if a player drops the ball during that transfer he is not maintaining possession and it can then be ruled a non-catch?