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.

White Sox ballpark to be renamed “Guaranteed Rate Field”

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10:  General view as members of the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins stand for the National Anthem before the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images
7 Comments

Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.

Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.

The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:

As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.

That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.48.18 PM

Best work on that, guys.

UPDATE: LOL

 

Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz cleared waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies follows through on a 3 RBI double in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 10,  2016 in Los Angeles, California. Phillies won 6-2.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.

Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.

Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).

Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.