Cities

On Bryce Harper

AP NATIONALS GIANTS BASEBALL S BBN USA CA

@Garland_SP

I was gonna write about David Price’s start today, but something else happened today that’s probably more important for now.

If you open anything on the internet, especially social media, you’ll more than likely see an angry, hairy man holding a batting helmet with the intentions of throwing it, the same hairy man putting up his fists at a pitcher. Benches clearing, and fists flying.

Fitting for the nation’s capital’s baseball team on Memorial Day huh? Kidding. The symbolism of camo jerseys and honoring America’s servicemen isn’t going to stop some guys from throwing down. (As wrong and disrespectful a fight is, even on Memorial Day, it’s not gonna stop. That’s beyond the scope of this article.)

Of course, the goal of these pictures is for you to click on the article to find out how it came to this. I’ll do that job for your sake:

  • 8th inning, Nationals-Giants.
  • Hunter Strickland, the set-up man for the Giants, against Washington’s best hitter in Bryce Harper.
  • Strickland throws a mistake pitch with no discernable intent. Harper gets pissed and charges the mound, holding his helmet. EDIT: apparently these guys have a history, and the pitch was a 98MPH fastball. It was at his hip, but it’s possible that there was intent.
  • He doesn’t hit Strickland with the helmet, but he does connect with a fist. And away we go. The benches come out and two Nationals even throw fists at each other accidentally. Good job guys.

What we have now are suspensions, players getting hurt, and yet another internal investigation by the MLB to try and stop this from happening again, all for some cheap entertainment for a percentage of baseball fans.

You may think Bryce Harper’s good for the game. Good for you. Baseball is more fun with players as talented as Harper. There’s more marketable susperstars in baseball now than ever before, all while the MLB struggles to market itself to younger audiences. For as talented as Harper is though, there’s a lot that isn’t so good about him.

He’s been heralded as baseball’s prodigal son ever since the age of 12; the player that will define the game for generations, and an individual player that’s not meant to be treated the same as everybody else, and this makes it impossible for him to swallow his pride and take orders and advice from other people. That’s even if they’re in no position to do so, like Jon Papelbon telling Harper to stop dogging it. Telling Harper to up his game is a personal attack to him. Hitting him with a pitch by accident may result in you getting a fist in your face.

On a somewhat related note, old cranks refer to this wave as the “AAU Generation”, that the kids that grow up with all the training, pickup games, and recruitments that focus solely on individual talent, rather than being a teammate and professional.

Proponents of this theory say that the kids are becoming more entitled and self-centered as a result of all the praise.

This is more the case in basketball players who hope to reach the NBA, but there is also AAU for baseball.

However, the international availability of talent (not just North America, but Central and South America, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, and there are even players from Africa and Germany) lessens the grip AAU has on deciding the talents who will later become pro players, since there’s worthy competition just about everywhere on the map.

That’s not to say that more diverse and worthy competition humbles baseball players, since baseball is even more so a sport that requires individual talent.

Playing college ball in baseball is also not necessary, since players can sign straight to minor league teams or major league teams through the draft. Baseball is an individual sport, but up-and-coming players are humbled by the many trials it takes to make the pros.

Even the biggest egos in baseball are brought down a size at some point, by roster limits, demotions and constant fear of losing their job.

The fact that Harper thinks so highly of himself is impressive, given how tough it is to become a star player. It’s admirable in a way, but what makes him unlikeable is how he makes his egotism control him when shit hits the fan.

When you read into Bryce Harper’s road to the major leagues, you see “No. 1 prospect, player of the year, No. 1 overall pick“, and a bunch of other big accolades.

Not much about him needing to prove himself beyond proving he’s worth all the number one rankings and plus-plus this and that. No humble beginnings for Mr. Harper is what I’m trying to say, and that’s not all his fault.

What he is responsible for, is letting all the absurd achievements and “cream of the crop” rankings to go straight to his head.

He’s been convinced that all of this praise automatically makes him the best, and that his own talent puts him beyond criticism, to the point where being his manager is to be his babysitter, and to shove the praise binky in his mouth when he does well so there’s less of a temper tantrum when he doesn’t.

The baseball world flat out doesn’t know what to do with Bryce Harper, because he’s such a special case both for good and for bad.

There’s a clear divide in whether people love or hate Bryce Harper, but there’s a compelling argument from both sides. We really don’t know what it’s like to be a celebrity and a star baseball player, but that doesn’t take away our right to evaluate him as an outsider looking in.

Nonetheless, Harper is one of few baseball stars that are sought out for endorsements, and that’s good news for the MLB.

After multiple instances this season of how immature these conflicts become, like the whole Pedroia-Machado fiasco, it’s unfortunate to see people craving to watch people who don’t know how to fight throw down, but that’s another issue.

If you ask me, there’s no place for that or any of the silly “unwritten rules” that come into effect when the harmony of the game gets broken. It’s up to umpires to bring this down, but guess what? They still can’t.

If you think this has to be a part of the game, just because it always has been, you should turn off the baseball and make your way to WorldStarHipHop. This isn’t how you make baseball fun again, it’s how you make baseball not baseball anymore.

Fierce competition is awesome, and I understand the heat of the moment, but not when players are giving each other haymakers.

Nobody’s impressing me by proving that they’re the “tougher team”, especially if they aren’t winning games. It’s just pathetic.

Baseball players are not role models, but their endorsements and baseball contracts do require some contractual purity. I don’t blame these guys for breaking character every once in a while, but with Harper it’s a recurring theme.

Even back in 2010 while playing in the National JuCo World Series, he was ejected for arguing with the ump, causing his team to lose after he was suspended for two games.

Bryce Harper is no “badass”; he’s a generational talent who’s still learning how to be a professional at 24 years of age. It may take him a while, but it won’t hurt his paycheck.

It may impact what his coaches, teammates, and fans think of him, and it’s not too late to change.

The fact of the matter is, he can be an all-time great player and possibly a winner if he chooses to act more professionally, and make all of his praise and criticism constructive.

There’s nothing missing from his baseball game, but nobody with this much “passion” for the game should be lacking in effort at times.

After all, wouldn’t it be better to translate all that aggression into motivation? A lot of people don’t like you, so it should be a secondary goal to prove them wrong with your play on the field and professionalism.

Sure, any Bryce defender can make the ad hominem argument that we wouldn’t know what to do at his age, but that’s Bryce’s small tradeoff for being paid millions of dollars to live his dream.

And for crying out loud, he asked for all of this, every single bit of it. Don’t believe for a second that he doesn’t embrace it.

He has plenty of growing up to do, all while being expected to accomodate himself to a life of obscene wealth, fortune and fame. None of that is happening overnight, but it’s time for him to grow up.

Despite all that Harper’s done in four odd years as a major leaguer, he’s only had one MVP-caliber season that wasn’t plagued by injury.

He’s looking to break the record for the largest contract in baseball history in about two years, but he can maximize his market value by doing his job and not letting his ego overtake him like it has so many times in his short career already.

The sad truth is he’ll get a fat contract even if he acts like a spoiled brat, but that’s life.

Harper is in every sense the first of his kind. Whether he wants to be remembered as a likeable guy alongside his insane achievements on the field, is up to him. He has Hall Of Fame potential, and that’s the truth.

If the sky really is the limit for Bryce Harper, he’ll know that punching a guy for throwing a mistake pitch is not the way to go. And that’s no clown question, bro.

And so you may ask: is Harper good for baseball? The answer is yes.

The temper tantrums and the fistfights aren’t at all, and nobody who’s a fan of his should ignore that, but they can think what they want.

I don’t want my star players throwing fists over simple misunderstandings, but that’s just me.

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