Bryce Harper’s Age Is Not An Excuse

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There are dueling and diametrically opposed memes at work with Washington Nationals’ rookie Bryce Harper.

He’s been compared to the greatest baseball players in history for what he can do on the field and described in vulgar street vernacular on the social media sites for his behaviors and attitude.

In what appears to be more of an act of contrarianism for the sake of it rather than an impassioned belief that Harper’s misunderstood, the lukewarm defense of Harper’s arrogance is defended by his age, 19.

It doesn’t work that way.

Age is not an excuse any more than talent is a justification. Harper has benefited from the attention he’s attracted since he burst onto the scene after taking his GED so he could go to junior college early, compete against a higher level of competition and start his career fast. A prodigy who reaps the rewards for his skills doesn’t get the pass that a normal teenager does. The oft-mentioned and comic book style lament of “with great power comes great responsibility” holds true.

What precisely is the benefit of turning Harper into this egomaniacal and reviled monster? Wouldn’t it be better for him to have a Tim Tebow-style story of likability, charm and dedication combined with something Tebow doesn’t have—actual on-field upside commensurate with all that attention? Why would anyone want to be seen as an obnoxious, arrogant and spoiled brat whose behaviors have been glossed over as a nod to expediency to maintain the façade and hold true to the brand?

He’s not even a charming bad boy about whom the masses chuckle and nod in a “boys will be boys” acknowledgement that he’s not really hurting anyone.

On the one hand, we hear about his age, abilities and anointing as a future megastar going back years; on the other we have his age presented as a reason to give him a break for acting entitled.

Is it all his fault? No. When someone is held to a different set of criteria because of a series of gifts that are so unique, it’s going to affect his actions. He is a kid; he is 19 and immature.

Those who are saying how stupid they were at 19 probably weren’t in the position where their stupidity was baited, recorded and analyzed by outside influences 24/7.

In short, nobody cared enough about what you or I were doing at 19 to pay attention to it as the foundation of a debate as to propriety.

Harper doesn’t have that luxury.

There’s no reconciliation between the blatantly transparent and crafted biography of Harper, a Mormon who utters self-deprecating and tiresome baseball clichés and the person who engages in interviews like this GQ profile in which his personality comes blasting out as if a cage had been unlocked and, for a brief moment, he was able to be himself.

His heroes are Pete Rose and Mickey Mantle?


Based on what?

Rose was disgraced and banned from baseball three years prior to Harper’s birth; Mantle was a legend who, to Harper, could just as easily have been a fictional character out of Lord of the Rings as much as a real human being.

These are his heroes?

It strikes of intent; of what sounds good; of what’s salable.

He’s not going to discuss the posters he may have had on his wall as a kid, he’s going to try to fulfill the legacy and become comparable to one of the greatest and most revered players in history, Mantle; or one of the hardest-working, intense, maximizers of finite limits like Rose.

Is his favorite actor Laurence Olivier? His favorite singer Elvis Presley? Is he in love with Bettie Page?

Where does it end?

It’s a story. Nothing more.

The rarity of Harper’s ability automatically removes him from the overwhelming masses of 18-21-year-olds who are allowed moments of formative stupidity. He’s one-in-a-million on the field and that automatically implies that he’s not categorized among those masses. On his first major league hit—an impressive line shot double over Dodgers’ centerfielder Matt Kemp’s head—Harper sprinted around first and halfway between first and second flung his helmet off with quick upward flick of his hand.

It was indicative of attention-getting behavior because he’s “special”; because he’s enabled to do what he wants as a result of the things he can do on the field.

It has to be addressed and checked.

He’s held to a different standard, as he should be. That he’s 19 is not an acceptable excuse. For no other reason than to maximize that talent, he needs to be reined in. And that’s before getting to his still-developing brain and future as a human being.


Viewer Mail 8.16.2011

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Todd Boss writes RE Bryce Harper:

Of course its not an “isolated incident of immaturity” on his part. He’s 18. And every day he’s got to deal with a bunch of similarly (but older) immature players in the low minors purposely trying to get his goat.

Again, how is this fair to Harper? You never hear about the guys who started the fight, but if he so much as reacts (the whole kiss incident) suddenly “Harper has make up issues” and “harper is too immature.”

Until you do posts about other 18yr olds who get ejections in low minors games and react to near constant provocations, the you’re just picking on a guy who probably is doing things no differently than anyone else in his situation.

Without even realizing it, you bring up a very important point about Harper—the scrutiny he’s under now and will continue to be until he proves the heckling and button-pushing isn’t affecting him.

The 18-year-olds you’re referring to are unlikely to even get a sniff of the big leagues unless they’re superior talents; barring injury or inexplicable collapse, Harper is going to the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Everyone is going to do the same thing you say they’re doing now, “purposely trying to get his goat”. That has nothing to do with a lack of maturity on their part, nor will it when he gets to the majors—it’s simply baseball and baseball players.

In addition to that, the umpires will test him; the media will try to trap him; fans will goad him. He has to show a bare amount of ability to deal with these issues.

It was only this past weekend when Logan Morrison was demoted, not because of his on-field play, but because he was too self-important and oblivious to warnings he was repeatedly given. He thought his talent would carry him through regardless of what he said and did. Now he’s in Triple A.

Harper’s situation is such that his early career success might depend on how he handles aspects of baseball that don’t encompass hitting, fielding and running, but how he responds to being tested.

That has to be learned in the minors. If calling him a brat and publicly questioning his behaviors helps him toward that end, you should thank me rather than finding lukewarm defenses to justify Harper’s act.


Bring This Brat To The Big Leagues

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Yes. I’m being sarcastic.

Here’s the latest in immaturity and self-importance from Nationals prospect Bryce Harper.

There are two ways to look at this and decide what to do with Harper:

1) Bring him to the big leagues before he’s emotionally ready (whenever that may be) and let the issues work themselves out as the veterans, umpires and opponents put him in his place; or 2) keep him in the minors until he learns to behave appropriately (whenever that may be).

I’d leave him in the minors until he got the message because ostracism and tough-love under the big league microscope would do more harm than good, but he’s gotten away with pretty much everything under the Nats method of development, so why would anyone believe there will be any change in the program now?