There’s a perception that because I try to pull the cover off the exaggerations in the legend of Bryce Harper that I want him to fail and enter the netherworld of “can’t miss” first overall picks who missed.
That list is long and, in some cases, quite sad.
Some were ruined by self-inflicted and team abuse: David Clyde.
Others got injured in off-field mishaps: Brien Taylor.
Many were all tools, no substance: Matt Anderson; Shawn Abner.
A few were taken for ancillary reasons: Steve Chilcott; Matt Bush.
I don’t want Harper to fail. But I don’t want to hear these ridiculous stories about his exploits to put him in the superhuman category at 19-years-old. The desperation to make him something he’s not can lay the foundation for a stalled or ruined career.
In his weeklong tenure in the big leagues, Harper has shown his massive talents with a deadly strong and accurate throwing arm; plate discipline; skillful defense at a position—leftfield—he’s rarely played; plus speed and aggressiveness. He’s also shown teenage arrogance (flipping off his helmet on his first big league hit) and stupidity (playing softball in a Washington DC park).
But last night, when Phillies’ pitcher Cole Hamels drilled him in the back with a fastball, Harper was cool and ruthless.
Hamels inexplicably said he was throwing at Harper—ESPN Story.
Of course he was throwing at him, but only an idiot says so after the fact. Now he’s going get suspended. Deservedly so.
Jordan Zimmerman retaliated by hitting Hamels, but the true retaliation came from Harper in the immediate aftermath of his plunking.
In what was quite possibly the most impressive thing that I’ve seen Harper do—more impressive, in fact, than the hitting, fielding, running and throwing—was a display of maturity that precludes the helmet-flip and softball participation.
After reaching first on the 2-out HBP, Harper went to third on a Jayson Werth single; Hamels tried to pick Werth off and with a quickness of thinking, anticipation and baseball instincts unheard of in veterans let alone a 19-year-old, Harper didn’t hesitate in taking off for home. He stole it relatively easily.
In addition to that, given Harper’s reputation, one would’ve expected him to glare at Hamels or mutter to himself; one would’ve expected him to flaunt his steal of home and victory in the war of machismo.
But he did none of the above.
He did his job and his silence and professionalism was explosive in its impact. The HBP was an attempt to get a rise out of the rookie and he answered by not answering in the way Hamels wanted. He answered on the field. It was a message to the rest of the league that he’s going to shove it to those who push him and do it without the histrionics that made Harper a YouTube sensation for his attitude, tantrums and ejections.
Hamels welcomed him to the big leagues.
Harper followed it up by proving he belongs.