The Tenth Inning Week 4 – Bryce Harper ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic
My cousin is a huge sports fan and an avid reader of this column. In a discussion last night, he asked me what my topic was going to be for this week’s edition. I told him I was leaning towards something on Bryce Harper, since I had the chance to see him in person for the first time on Saturday and figured it would be a pertinent choice for this week’s analysis. His text back to me said simply, “He is something.” And that’s exactly why I’m writing about him.
The first overall pick in the 2010 draft, Harper has already had a huge impact on the game of baseball. His rookie season saw the Nationals make the playoffs for the first time since moving from Montreal, and it was just about this time last year that Cole Hamels of the Phillies ignited a bit of a firestorm when he hit Harper with a pitch and said after the game that it was intentional. Hamels received most of the backlash for that, but some astute observers wondered if maybe the star lefty pitcher wasn’t the only person who held those types of feelings towards the star lefty hitter. With that backdrop, perhaps it’s not out of the question to think that this budding young superstar that can’t even legally drink alcohol (not that he would anyway, he’s a Mormon) may already be the most polarizing figure in the game.
So what words come to mind first when the name “Bryce Harper” is mentioned? First and foremost, it has to be talented. Say what you want about the kid’s demeanor and perceived arrogance, he can flat out play. In a lefty-on-lefty matchup Saturday afternoon at Citi Field, Harper sat on a first pitch fastball from Josh Edgin in the top of the seventh inning of a tie game and drilled the offering deep into the bullpen crevice in right-center. Now I haven’t been to nearly as many games at Citi as I had at good ole’ Shea Stadium, but with the exception of one Carlos Delgado bomb off of Hamels back in 2008, that may have been the furthest homerun I’ve ever seen hit in Queens. Off a lefty. For full disclosure, he’d already hit a homerun in the game, and finished with a nice little line of 3-3 with a double, 2 homeruns, 3 runs scored, and 3 runs batted in. He’s now hitting .369 with 7 homers and 14 RBI’s this season, and has a career line of .281 with 29 homers and 73 RBI’s in just 156 games – just under a true full season. And he’s 20 years old. He was named NL Rookie of the Year last year, and without the unbelievable year from Mike Trout last season, Harper would have received even more media attention. So it’s pretty clear this is one heckuva baseball player.
Beyond talented, though, people have described the Washington phenom with words like ““cocky,” “brash,” “obnoxious,” and my personal favorite, “punk.” My sister, who will being a very savvy baseball fan is still a teenage girl, couldn’t muster more than “ew” when Harper took off his helmet, showing his full beard, shaved head along the sides, and a massive wave atop his head big enough to surf on. He also enjoyed the homerun I detailed about just about as much as the Nationals fans in the ballpark Saturday – enough to stand and watch it for a bit before beginning a rather slow trot around the bases. Being New York, the Mets fans did what they were rightfully supposed to do the next time he came up and showered Harper with a nice chorus of boos. With the exception of the people in right field who seemed to have a special fascination with hating on Jayson Werth, it was clear that the most reviled player in the ballpark Saturday afternoon was also the youngest player in the ballpark – Bryce Harper.
And then there’s this little gem, sent out by a Nationals fan who obviously agrees with all respectable baseball fans and wants to stop the wave. The memo reads:
Dear Sir or Madam,
On behalf of the Washington Nationals fans and all baseball fans, we kindly ask that you refrain from doing “the wave.”
By doing “the wave,” you are:
Even Washington Nationals pitcher Ryan Mattheus agrees:
And so, to help support our Washington Nationals and for the sake of all baseball fans, we ask that you please kill the wave. Thank you.
What relevance does this have to Harper? Well, I took a cross-country road trip to visit all 30 MLB stadiums back in 2007, and my friend that did the trip with me used to complain about the wave incessantly. So I showed this to him over the weekend and asked if maybe that would make him change his allegiance from the Phillies to the Nationals. Without missing a beat, he replies, “Almost, except you can replace ‘doing the wave’ with ‘having Bryce Harper on your team’ and it fits perfectly.”
I’ll wait while you scroll up and read it again…
Maybe that’s how he likes it, though. Maybe Harper is one of those players that simply thrives on being despised, so he puts on the show of being the cocky, brash superstar with the better-than-everyone attitude just to rile up the opposing team and fans. Or maybe that’s just him, and what some perceive to be an ignorance of the traditional baseball hierarchy is simply a personality trait of one of the most talented players to enter the game with the combination of power, speed, and athleticism since Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. Certainly making those comparisons predicts a long, illustrious career for someone that needed apple cider for a division championship celebration last year, but even if he doesn’t reach the same milestones as those two behemoths from the 90’s, there’s no question that one statement about Bryce Harper.
“He is something.”
Three series to watch this week…
Three series to watch this weekend…
Check out my weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday at ultimatecapper.com
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