With another “incident” involving Bryce Harper hitting the airways, and another round of media members using no originality or doing any analysis and immediately judging Harper based on his “make-up,” I thought i’d comment. This relates to a benches-clearing incident at West Virginia on 4/26/11.
Here’s two video links of the latest incident. One from the RF stands, another from behind the plate (thanks to Zuckerman’s natsinsider site and csnwashington.com). Watch very closely the first video; the strikeout occurs, Harper stands in place dropping his equipment, and while showing no reaction, no emotion and saying nothing the plate umpire advances towards the opposing pitcher, takes off his mask, and starts to tell him (the opposing pitcher) to back off. Only after all this happens does Harper hear some “magic words” and react. By which time both benches were starting to run towards each other. There was no brawl, just some general milling around.
Now you tell me: how is that POSSIBLY Harper’s inciting anything? Yes, perhaps it started with Harper’s solo shot in the first, with him and the catcher clearly trading words. Again; who is to say who said what to whom first? For all we know Harper may have been talking trash, and for all we know the catcher may have said something along the lines of, “lucky hit you punk*ss” to Harper as he crossed the plate.
Because of his bonus, his precociousness, his 40-man roster spot, his SI cover and his accomplishments to date, Harper has such a massive target on his back that its almost impossible to judge these incidents unless you’re there, one the field, taking in the whole context of the incident. It is absolutely unfair to post stories about what happened in Charleston with headlines like, “Harper sparks brawl in minor league game.” Then starts the whole nonsense about his “makeup.” Each incident gives National pundits more ink to post their “concerns” over his make up, his maturity, blah blah.
People want to talk about the kid’s “makeup.” Fine; lets talk about it. Lesse; he graduated high school 2 years early, he’s devoutly Morman and reportedly has never drank, smoked, chewed or otherwise caroused in his life (how many of these stud-athletes-all-their-privileged-lives can say that?). He’s got an incredible work ethic and has yet to show one iota (as far as I can tell) of behavior that indicates he’s resting on his laurels or that he’s entitled to anything that he has been given. The Washington Post magazine did a fantastic article on Harper, his family and his upbringing a few months back, and I dare any reader to come away from that article with anything but the utmost respect for this kid and his family.
He had two ejections in his college season; one was clearly, absolutely the result of his jealous opposing team lobbing baseballs at him and doing other bush league BS in the pre-game to try to get his goat. The second ejection was a ridiculous over-reaction from an umpire who couldn’t wait to show this hot-shot kid who was boss after he made an egregiously bad 3rd strike call (on a ball that may have been in the opposing batters box it was so far outside). Harper didn’t slam his helmet, he didn’t turn around an scream at the umpire; he showed some displeasure over the call and then drew a line in the dirt.
You watch the videos and make your own conclusions.
Perhaps you can argue something along the lines of, “well he should know better. He should turn the other cheek and take all this abuse because he should know how the media is going to spin it.” Really? At the age of 17, during your senior year of high school, were YOU that world-weary and have that kind of wisdom? I seriously doubt it. The problem with the media’s TMZ-esque coverage of our young athletes these days is that we continually forget that, well, they’re KIDS. If you did something dumb as a 21yr old, well you’re a dumb*ass 21-yr old. If a 21-yr old 2nd year NBA player does something dumb, its yet another example of a privileged athlete setting a bad example for kids who look up to him. It is never fair reporting, and never takes into account the realities of any of the situations these kids find themselves in.
As it stands, yeah Harper probably will continue to get into jawing matches with guys who are jealous of where he has gotten himself so early and so well. Its human nature to covet that which you so desperately want but do not yet have. And yeah, perhaps Harper needs to turn the other cheek better. But to blame him for these incidents and lay them at his feet whenever he naturally stands up for himself is just lazy reporting.
I’m a Harper fan. I’m continually amazed at what he accomplishes at his age. His college season was amazing. So far in low-A he’s recovered from a slow-start and is currently hitting .323/.425/.645. Playing against guys routinely 3-4 years older than him. If he were any other normal baseball prospect in the country, he’d be finishing up his senior year in high school and getting ready for the draft. Instead, he’s tearing up low-A ball and may very well end up in Potomac on the fast track to the majors before his 18th birthday. All that being said, I WANT confidence and swagger out of my future slugger. The clean-up hitter is never a soft-spoken, lead by example guy. It is always the ego-driven, confident big-hitter who leads the way offensively for his team.
But lets try to put things in context before we judge him.