The enigma of Bryce Harper
Published: Sunday, May 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 7, 2012 18:05
When Bryce Harper made his debut for the Washington Nationals last week, he brought a pretty thick cloud of controversy with him. Sporting a Mohawk and a scruffy beard, Harper made some enemies the minute he stepped on the field.
His flashy nature, coupled with the reputation he made for himself in the minor leagues, forced many baseball purists to look at Harper with the upmost disdain. But just a week into his career, Harper has already put his mark on the Nationals 2012 resurgence and has forced many to consider the question: Is Bryce Harper actually going to be good for the game?
The most impressive thing I have seen out of Harper in this short stint in the big leagues is the way that he has handled the spotlight, essentially keeping his head down and going about his business. Opening his career in Los Angeles was no easy task, but even tougher was doing so with 40,000 Dodgers fans booing him every time his name was announced.
Harper didn’t care.
He maintained relative focus and recorded his first career hit, going 1-3 in his opening night. Harper also caught the eyes of many when he uncorked one of the strongest arms the league has ever seen from the outfield. But impressing on the field will never be a surprise for those who watch Bryce Harper. What was surprising was his ability to avoid any media scuffles or public reactions towards the outward resistance that he will likely always get from opposing fans. Harper seems to be just a kid enjoying his dream of playing in the MLB.
You could say that its pretty easy to keep your mouth shut, though. Maybe he has a publicist feeding him every line. Maybe the team has limited his media availability to avoid any incident. So take that with a grain of salt. What you can’t overlook, though, is Harper’s hustle. He flat out plays.
Every play of every game, every swing or run or throw in warm ups is done to the best of his ability. In an age when baseball has seen its marquee players evolve into entertainers rather than ball players, Harper’s hustle has become a breath of fresh air. So what if he wears his jersey unbuttoned and his hair looks like a rock stars? So what if he walks around with his shoulders back and his chest out, daring anyone to question his ability? He plays the game the way it is meant to be played, and for that, the rest is just eyewash.
In last night’s game against the Diamondbacks, Harper was inserted into the 3-hole in the National’s lineup. Take a look around the league. The third hitter in nearly every team’s lineup is the power guy, a guy that looks to hit home runs and collect RBI’s. If either of those don’t happen, a majority of these guys flip the bat, jog to first, and set their sights on the next at bat.
Harper is different. He runs out everything. The slow ground ball to shortstop, the lazy fly ball that doesn’t leave the infield. He is always rounding first base, looking to advance, looking to stretch everything as far as he can. You can’t teach this. Harper isn’t worried about looking good between the lines, he’s worried about getting his team wins.
Say what you want about his style and his personality, but what you can’t say about Bryce Harper is that he doesn’t play hard. The Nationals have picked up on a dying breed in Harper and his enthusiasm and energy will likely ensure that the Nationals are contenders in the NL East for years to come. I can only hope that the rest of the league will take notice. Maybe we can get back to the days of hustle small ball and quiet confidence.