I love Bryce Harper.
A player like that has the potential to be great for the game. He’s still a very raw talent, but there are plenty of tools to work with and he plays the game like his hair is on fire. There’s a lot to like. And yet, he takes home a very negative reputation. The stigma surrounding Harper almost leaves a bad taste in your mouth. How has he managed to receive such negative attention? Is there anything he can do about it? Or is this going to continue to be a Johnny Manziel-type “hope you fail” attitude that Harper receives from the fans?
It isn’t too difficult to discern just where that dark cloud of negativity surrounding Harper comes from. He’s always come off as something of an arrogant individual. Whether or not that’s actually the case remains to be seen, but it hasn’t stopped fans from making their judgments. There have also been a few cases of Harper, both on and off the field, helping to sort of re-affirm that type of attitude.
Earlier this season, he was benched for jogging to first base on a groundball. Of course, this isn’t terrible uncommon among Major League Baseball players, but given that it was Harper, it drew attention. Additionally, he appeared to question his spot sixth in the order and when he returned after missing a couple months because of an injury last month, he questioned Matt Williams putting him in left field. He stated his belief that he should be in center, with Ryan Zimmerman in left and Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa both finding their way into the starting lineup, leaving no room for Denard Span.
Naturally, Harper caught some flak for that as well. Most recently, an anonymous (figures) scout came out and said that it wouldn’t surprise him if the Nationals traded Bryce Harper for a young arm. That very statement alone is absolutely absurd. That scout cited the fact that he’s a “distraction” to the team as the primary motivation, as well as some potential issues with his hitting mechanics, in addition to poor numbers and the fact that he plays the game out of control.
Nevermind the fact that Harper isn’t even 22 years old yet and has only appeared in 65 games this season. The idea that the Nationals should even consider trading a premium offensive talent like Harper is absurd in and of itself. The fact that it came from an anonymous scout should come as no surprise and really helps to illustrate how nonsensical an idea it really is. But it really speaks to the negative aura that continues to linger around Harper.
Whether it’s warranted or not, how does Bryce Harper rid himself of this type of negative attention? For one, he puts his past couple years behind him, gets those tools in order, and puts together a helluva year next year. A strong year gets rid of the bulk of the negativity. Just ask Yasiel Puig, who has transformed from reckless distraction into a candidate for the National League Most Valuable Player award.
The bottom line is this: Yes, Bryce Harper comes across as an arrogant dude, accurate or not. Yes, he plays the game at a million miles an hour, which comes with positive aspects, as well as not so positive ones (injury). But until he can put together the season we’re expecting from him, the negative attention from fans and media won’t go away. Even at that point, it won’t quiet everyone down, but it’ll be a glorious thing to behold.