Is Bryce Harper a jerk? And does it matter?

24 Comments

Bryce Harper2.jpgThe more we hash over the physical and mental tools of a 17 year-old kid the more creepy it feels, but he’s put himself out there and it’s gonna happen anyway, so there’s no sense in ignoring it.

The latest: Bryce Harper is apparently a jerk. Really. That’s the story according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus who spoke with scouts about the guy, one of whom called Harper “one of the worst amateur players he’s ever seen from a makeup standpoint, with
top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement,
and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents.”

The first impulse is to say “hey, he’s 17, let the kid grow up a bit.” But then you realize that the scout is comparing him to other amateur players, which includes high school players Harper’s age. We have no way of knowing if that report is accurate, but it’s hard for me to fathom why someone would simply invent such a tale from whole cloth. He might very well be a jackass.

The question is, assuming he is a jackass, does it matter?  It’s possible that the alleged sense of entitlement and arrogance stems from the fact that he’s always been treated as something special. Bad thing!  But if he gets drafted by the Nats this summer, signs quickly and is sent to Vermont or Hagerstown, he’ll be out of that privileged environment and placed alongside other kids who, while never the star that he was, were all the cat’s meow back in their hometowns. And he’ll be coached by guys who have seen it all before and will not, assuming the organization has instructed them properly, put up with the primadonna act. How he responds to instruction and correction with respect to any bad behavioral traits he possesses is far more significant than how he acts when he’s the BMOC out in Las Vegas.

But how can the Nats (or whoever) know if he’ll respond?  If I were reading Harper’s scouting reports I’d pay less attention to whether or not he taunted some guy once or showboated and pay more attention to how he responded to negativity.  When he slumped (if he slumped) did he sulk or did he put in more work?  When someone brushed him back did he get agitated and distracted or did he get back up and go back to work? Based on Bryce Harper’s unique
circumstances, it’s entirely possible that no one has ever told him to
quit being a jerk. In light of that, if I was the Washington Nationals
and such reports gave me pause, rather than be scared off, I’d look past
the manifestation of his alleged character traits and look to see
whether the kid is teachable on the most basic level.

Being an idiot is not some unique thing in the world. On some level it’s all a function of a given person’s self-awareness and how they respond to stimuli,and there may be ways to suss out whether the kid is correctable or not. Anyone who simply reads Goldstein’s scout’s comments and writes off Harper is akin to a doctor hearing a patient cough, assuming it’s TB and sealing off the ward. We’re hearing about symptoms here, not the disease.

Twins pitcher barfs before almost every appearance

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18:  Ryan O'Rourke #61 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after loading up the bases in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees on August 18, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images
5 Comments

Twins righty Ryan O'Rourke has pitched in 54 big league games. He has barfed before almost every one of them.

No, really:

Through his first 54 big-league outings over the last past two years, O’Rourke estimates he emptied the contents of his stomach close to every time.

“I don’t do it in the public’s eye,” O’Rourke said Tuesday. “I go in the bathroom, or sometimes it’s just on the back of the mound. But, yeah, it happens.”

I wonder if I’ve barfed 54 times in my entire life. I doubt I have. Then again, I’m not doing anything in front of tens of thousands of people with potentially millions of dollars at stake.

Yet he who is without sin hurl the first, um. Well, never mind.

The new intentional walk rule isn’t a big deal but it’s still dumb

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 06:  Anthony Recker #20 of the New York Mets calls for an intentional walk as Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on during the eighth inning at Chase Field on June 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Getty Images
21 Comments

Let us preface this by stipulating that the new rule in which pitchers will no longer have to throw four balls to issue an intentional walk is not a big deal, objectively speaking. Teams don’t issue many IBBs to begin with. A couple a week, maybe? Fewer? Moreover, the times when a pitcher tosses one to the backstop or a batter reaches out and smacks a would-be intentional ball may be a lot of fun, but they’re extraordinarily rare. You can go years without seeing it happen.

So, yes, the intentional walk rule announced yesterday is of negligible consequence. We’ll get used to it quickly and it will have little if any impact on actual baseball. It won’t do what it’s supposed to do — speeding up games — but it won’t harm anything that is important either.

But let us also stipulate that the new rule is dumb.

It’s dumb because it’s a solution in search of a problem. Pace of play is a concern, but to listen to Rob Manfred and his surrogates in the media tell it, it’s The Most Pressing Issue of Our Time. Actually, it’s not. No one is abandoning baseball because of 5-15 minutes here or there and no one who may be interested in it is ceasing their exploration of the game because of it. And even if they were, IBBs are rare and they’re not time-consuming to begin with, so it’s not something that will make a big difference. It’s change for change’s sake and so Rob Manfred can get some good press for looking like a Man of Action.

It’s also dumb because it’s taking something away, however small it is. One of my NBC coworkers explained it well this morning:

I agree. Shamelessness is a pretty big problem these days, so let’s not eliminate shame when it is truly due.

Picture it: it’s a steamy Tuesday evening in late July. The teams are both way below .500 and are probably selling off half of their lineup next week. There are, charitably, 8,000 people in the stands. The game is already dragging because of ineptitude and an understandable lack of urgency on the part of players who did not imagine nights like this when they were working their way to the bigs.

Just then, one of the managers — an inexperienced young man who refuses to deviate from baseball orthodoxy because, gosh, he might get a hard question from a sleepy middle aged reporter after the game — holds up four fingers for the IBB. The night may be dreary, but dammit, he’s going to La Russa the living hell out of this game.

That man should be booed. Boo this man. The drunks and college kids who paid, like, $11 to a season ticket holder on StubHub to get into this godforsaken game have earned the right to take their frustrations out on Hunter McRetiredBackupCatcher for being a wuss and calling for the IBB. It may be the only good thing that happens to them that night, and now Rob Manfred would take that away from them. FOR SHAME.

And don’t forget about us saps at home, watching this garbage fire of a game because it beats reading. We’re now going to have to listen to this exchange, as we have listened to it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since the 2017 season began:

Play-by-Play Guy: “Ah, here we go. They’re calling for the intentional walk. Now, in case you missed it, this is the way we’re doing it now. The new rule is that the manager — yep, right there, he’s doing it — can hold up four fingers to the home plate umpire and — there it goes — he points to first base and the batter takes his base.”

Color Commentator, Who played from 1975-87, often wearing a mustache: “Don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. There was always a chance the pitcher throws a wild pitch. It happened to us against the Mariners in 1979 [Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice: it didn’t] and it has taken away something special from the game. I suppose some number-cruncher with a spreadsheet decided that this will help speed up the game, but you know what that’s worth.

No matter what good or bad the rule brings, this exchange, which will occur from April through September, will be absolutely brutal. Then, in October, we get to hear Joe Buck describe it as if we never heard it before because Fox likes to pretend that the season begins in October.

Folks, it’s not worth it. And that — as opposed to any actual pro/con of the new rule — is why it is dumb. Now get off my lawn.