It’s time to call out Bryce Harper


Before you read this post, no one who has ever read this blog at any length can simply say we’re being ‘haters’. We have stated numerous times that Bryce Harper is the greatest young talent we’ve ever seen enter the game of baseball in our lifetime. We never thought we would make a post like this.

Since the relative beginning, we’ve been following Harper. Knowing what he could mean to the game, we’re naturally rooting for him. But now he’s gone the route of a primadonna, and it’s time to question what’s at his core.

These quotes before today’s game are very telling, and pay particular attention to the different pages that he and his old school manager seem to be on.

“Tuesday, that’s kind of early,” Harper said. “I’m thinking Wednesday or Thursday maybe. I’m not sure. We’ll see how I feel. If I feel good, then I’ll go play. If I feel something isn’t right, then I’m not going to go play. It depends on how I’m feeling.

“I would like to be at six or seven games (on rehab assignment),” Harper said. “I want to get my timing back. I don’t want to come back one game after I play against High-A ball and come back facing (hard-throwing Mets starters Zach) Wheeler and Matt Harvey or something. They’d blow me away right now. That’s something I don’t want to do. I’m going play as many games as I can down there, see how I feel, and try and get back.”

He continued:

“I’m full speed, every single day,” Harper said. “It’s going to be hard playing at 70 percent if they want me to play at 70 percent. I’m not going to do that. I want to come back 100 percent and get back as quick as I can.

“I don’t want to just rush into things. If I play Wednesday or Thursday, that’s great. If I don’t, I’m not going to. If it takes five days, it’s going to take five days. If it takes two, then it’s going to take two. If it takes more than that, that’s how it’s going to be.”

These quotes are not signaling that of a player itching to get back out there and into the middle of a lineup for a team that is all-in for this season, fighting for their lives every night (the Nationals have been playing better and harder lately, seemingly winning games on guts and guile and running on an empty tank for long enough).

Harper said that if this were September or October, he would be out there. So what’s the deal? This is the season. These Nationals can’t wait until then. They’ve emptied the chamber waiting for their centerpiece to return. They won’t survive much longer without Harper. What this seems like is a player looking out for his best interests first – which is nothing new in sports, there’s nothing wrong with that. Except, it’s the opposite of what Harper always has preached he would be in the big leagues.

His manager Davey Johnson’s quotes are even more telling. If you read between the lines on this one, his manager seems like he wants Harper to get back out there for the good of the other guys in his clubhouse. We’re with Johnson on this one. Don’t be surprised if the organization reigns in Johnson and he’s singing a different tune by tomorrow. But here are the telling quotes.

“When a player starts playing, it’s really up to me, what I think they need. Not up to the player,” Johnson said Saturday. “I’m always trying to do what’s best for the player. But at the same time, it’s my job to know when they’re ready and when they’re not. The most I’m concerned about is is he going to be able to bounce back after playing a nine-inning game.

“He’s probably worried about timing and everything being letter-perfect. All that changes from if you’re in Potomac. You may never get your timing there because it’s a whole new ballgame there, guys don’t have command as well as they do up here, and there’s a big variation in how they pitch to guys. So I’m more concerned about just how they recover from when they come off the DL than I am about what they hit. Since he’s never really been on the DL or done rehab, I think his concept might be different from mine.”

And here are the real meat and potato quotes:

“All this stuff here, the right turns and the left turns in the outfield, hitting the base and all that, that doesn’t mean anything,” Johnson said. “What matters is: can you run out there, catch fly balls, come back in and go hit, and how that’s going to affect the knee.

“I trust players too. They know more about their body than the medical staff. But when you come back from injury, are you ever 100 percent? No. The body has a wonderful ability to heal itself. The more you get the blood flowing, the more you have to heal.”

You know what – Johnson is right. This is his last chance at getting back to the World Series. It could be the Nationals only chance. Maybe Harper has lost sight of that with Scott Boras in his ear about his next big contract, or the fancy dates that he takes his college girlfriend on. Or the tweeting he does almost daily of his sponsors. Or the soccer games or NBA Finals he’s watching while his Nats are getting shut out on the road. But this team came dangerously close to something special last year. Harper has missed 35% of this season, yet he and his family are openly lobbying for his All-Star Game votes. We thought that the hunger of getting back would be worn on his sleeve this year. After all, he was a guy who said all he cared about above all was winning titles.

Davey Johnson ended his quotes with a cry for help.

“Bursitis, it could come back with one slide,” Johnson said. “It could come back bumping into the wall. But is it going to get any worse from regular playing? That’s the only thing I have concern with… We’re going to make sure that what he does and anything he does with baseball activities doesn’t set him back. That’s my main concern. As far as his timing, he probably has got better timing than some of the guys in the lineup right now.”

He knows the Nationals are dead in the water without Harper. Yet another week or ten days is probably the end of their season, he knows time is of the essence and the Nationals are going under.

Harper has been out a month. If he could have played when the injury first occurred – his own words and no one else’s – then what the Hell is all of this talk of taking his sweet time getting back? What is six or seven rehab games going to do?

This is not like Mickey Mantle, the man Harper reportedly shapes his career after. Mantle played on one knee his entire career. I’m reading a Mantle book by Jane Leavy right now. Mantle would have cut a limb off rather than miss time at leisure and tweet about his dates with his recovery time off.

What this is; is a 20th century ballplayer worrying more about himself and his future than his team’s fortunes and the present. The present would go a lot further to define his legacy then he will in his Yankee years when he’s signed his $400 million dollar contract and made Scott Boras and the Yankees both very happy.

Baseball needs Bryce Harper right now. The Nationals need Bryce Harper. I don’t know how a player who has intestinal fortitude and a will to win could sit back and watch the way Ian Desmond has gutted it out in his absence; while putting the Nationals on his back; and say the things Harper said in these quotes.

What has been a confusing story from day one just took another conflicting turn towards odd-ville. Harper is not the embodiment of the game as we once thought. He is not the real article. He is the social media superstar, a model of the 20th century ballplayer who tells us one thing; sells us on his image and then does something completely different.

He is not the ‘no guts, no glory’ player he pretends to be. He is a fraud in the year 2013, and he’s going to have to show at least one blogger what he’s made of going forward.