Hey Bryce Harper, the jerk store called…

It’s hard to look at a line of .342/.435/.623 for an 18-year-old in the Sally League and find fault. However, go beyond the ridiculous numbers and we see that is the case with Washington Nationals farmhand Bryce Harper.

Harper is playing with Class A Hagerstown, and making a mockery of it. He has 14 home runs through 56 games. But, it’s that latest home run that draws people back to what seems to be the only negative anyone can find with the kid.

Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein covered Harper’s profile as a prospect back in April of 2010. In that article, Goldstein relayed concerns of many scouts surrounding Harper’s makeup. Among the unflattering traits was a concern over on-field behavior “that includes taunting opponents.”

Harper did just that last night after hitting a home run, when he blew a kiss at the Greensboro pitcher he had just taken deep.

Goldstein’s article prompted some at the time, especially those who might downplay things such as clubhouse chemistry, to opine that any concerns about Harper’s makeup are squashed by the amazing talent he possesses. Rob Neyer, Tom Tango and Hardball Times guys noted that the Nationals wouldn’t pass on a once-in-a-lifetime hitting talent because he’s cocky. And they were right. The Nationals made him the No. 1 one pick anyway.

There is no way to know how Harper, a teenager who’s been in the spotlight since before he could get a driver’s license, will act once he gets called up to the Nationals. Maybe this situation gets handled by his managers in the minors, as Jim Bowden suggests. Mike Schmidt believes big league pitchers will stick one in Harper’s ear if he brings that act to the show.

Presumably, those who are the best at what they do all carry a certain amount of confidence that may even tilt toward arrogance. It may also mean they are sometimes egomaniacs who obsess over their craft, which is sometimes what makes them so good in the first place. Didn’t we learn this from guys ranging from chess prodigies like Bobby Fischer to ace fighter jet pilots like Pete Mitchell?

So, any major league player likely dominated his competition for years as a youngster. Any player who dominates his peers in professional baseball must surely know how good they are. These guys all possess a tremendous amount of confidence. Isn’t that why it’s so hard to believe All-Star pitchers might get “rattled” when a runner’s on first, or that a tie game in late innings will unnerve a top-flight slugger? So, we’ve suspected for a while that Harper knows how good he is. If he didn’t, the Sports Illustrated cover at age 16 may have let the cat out of the bag. If he didn’t then, he may have figured it out when he destroyed the competition at his junior college.

What the Nationals have to figure out is how much of the bad they can take with Harper. Here’s a quick guess: They’ll take a lot.

That’s the scary part for them. There’s a ton invested in this kid. Not just the money, though it is significant, but the hype that follows this particular kind of talent. And the hope of ticket sales that accompany a guy who may grow into the type of player fans make it a point to watch hit, even in batting practice.

They have to ride with Harper ’til the wheels fall off, and they better hope that his attitude doesn’t derail his track to the majors.

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Comments

  1. Joe said...

    What a waste of an article. You didn’t earn your pay on this day. Over analyzing something so insignificant is embarrassing, for you.

  2. ribman said...

    How sure of you of the facts? or is this a rush to judgment. ESPN has a counter explanation (not that they could not be completely wrong either) but if the pitcher was taunting all game the bench then this changes the dynamics. Having watched the video I can say this with confidence, it’s just not a big deal- the kiss was only discernible if you were on the infield or slow mo camera – so I agree with above poster it’s a non story at best and at worst you didn’t check your facts about what happened prior to this.

  3. Bruce Markusen said...

    David, this was a good and well-reasoned article on a story that has received significant publicity in the last 24 hours. There’s nothing embarrassing about it.

  4. David Wade said...

    Joe- sorry you don’t think the greatest prospect in our lifetime’s on-field behavior (and history of it being poor, according to scouts) is significant. 

    Maybe I can earn my pay with my upcoming piece on Derek Jeter.  A lot of people think he is a team player, and i’m going to agree because I saw him give A-Rod a high five the other day.

  5. David Wade said...

    ribman- I wasn’t there, so all I know is the video, that’s why I had to tag this under “commentary”.  I’ve only seen him play one game, and despite his striking out three times, he was well-behaved.

    But, I can’t help be see that pimped homer, and think back to earlier this year when he pimped another homer and got into with a pitcher, plus comments from scouts.

    I’m sure he has a big target on his back when he faces guys.  And no one pitching against him is going to give in to him just because he’s Bryce Harper. 

    But, when you are big time like that, and all the eyes are on you, I think it helps if you show you can handle it. 

    APPEAL TO AUTHORITY ALERT- If Michael Jack thinks he needs to tone it down, I tend to agree.

    Thanks for the read, but I didn’t provide references because this is my opinion.

  6. Matt said...

    If Tiger Woods trips walking down the street, you can bet there will be an article about it (if someone saw it). So, when you have the biggest name in the minors do something arrogant/cocky/out of the norm, it’s definitely news.

    David, it doesn’t sound like you’re comparing him to Milton Bradley, so I’m not sure why the negative comments came through. But, as we see in the “Comments” section of most websites, anybody can hide behind a screenname and try to be a contrarian.

    It’s pretty simple – if everyone tells you that you’re the best ever since you were a teen, it’s fairly likely that these sorts of moments are bound to happen. ARod has been pretty cocky his entire career and I think he turned out okay.

  7. Lee said...

    David- I agree with you. There has been enough evidence so far to say he needs to “drop the tude”. Be a baseball player and act like you’ve done it before.  Maybe after he takes a few pitches in his right ear, he will figure it out.

  8. Twinzdad said...

    David, I concur with you on Harper’s behavior. Its just a matter of time before this young man gets humbled in front of his peers. It will come soon or maybe somebody will get into his head besides a high and inside fastball and tell him to be real.

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