Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Bryce Harper and the massive target on his back.


Harper, not quite showing the massive target on his back. Photo: Drew Angerer/The Washington Times

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  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.

Written by Todd Boss

April 29th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Nats in General

5 Responses to 'Bryce Harper and the massive target on his back.'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Bryce Harper and the massive target on his back.'.

  1. 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.

    Adding to that: Zim needs help! And Harper looks to be just what Zim’s doctor’s ordered. Amazing power and driven attitude for an 18 year old. He produces … forget the swagger … all he really has to do is everything in his power to win games and believe me teams will come to fear him! He has the ability to raise the games of those around him once he gets more settled and is excepted as a “veteran” and not the young high school kid. That can’t come soon enough IMHO and an intangible that should be on Rizzo’s critcal-path-to-the-majors list.


    29 Apr 11 at 6:50 pm

  2. I have to keep reminding myself that he should be a senior in High School right now.
    Whenever I do that, his ‘problems’ in Hagerstown don’t seem nearly as big of a deal.

    Mark L

    29 Apr 11 at 8:04 pm

  3. Todd, everything I’ve read about him, haven’t seen anything about him being a practicing Mormon.

    Mark L

    30 Apr 11 at 7:17 pm

  4. Look at his last 10 games line. The kid will be in Potomac on June 1.

    Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

    3 May 11 at 5:53 pm

  5. I tell you what, Harper is doing exactly what I thought he’d do. Tear through Hagerstown and earn his way to a promotion to Potomac mid-season. I dunno if it’ll happen by June 1st though. I read a prediction that I agree with; he’ll stick in Hagerstown til the all-star break then join Potomac for the rest of the season. I see him starting 2012 in AA and joining the club after he avoids super-2 status around June 1st of 2012.

    Now, what I really want is to see him playing center field. He’s infinitely more valuable in center than in right. Plus that way we’re not moving Werth (a plus defender) 2 years into a 7 year deal. He seems to be playing every 5th game or so in center, perhaps to ease him into the position.

    It is fantastic though to see him hitting this well, this soon. Its so much easier to project upper-end hitters in the draft and I’m happy we got him.

    Todd Boss

    3 May 11 at 8:22 pm

Leave a Reply