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The Arrogance Within Bryce Harper
His talents seem endless even as his humility seems non-existent. Admittedly I am making this call from a distance, having never met the "man", but what he presents to America (and the world) is a persona that is far from humble, far from team oriented, far from what I would like for a child of mine to exude.
Harsh words, to be sure: but is this the real Bryce or a front? There is a part of me that wonders if this is a contrived persona, one created to hold back the pressures of media, of cameras thrust into your face beginning before he could drive a car. Of reporters hanging on your every word, action, hit. Of scouts appearing at every game every practice years before he even played in high school. Is this something created to deal with the pressures and trials of constant media attention dating back to his high school days, back to a time when most kids are learning to drive, to date, just being a kid. It appears as though he has appeared on the Baseball Scene fully formed, a veritable phenom born to play the game. And by baseball terms he is exactly that. He does have talent, he does have drive, he is very good.
But along with his admittedly prodigious talent comes an arrogance, belittling in nature to all he deems worthy of it. Opposing players, umpires, even team members have felt his tongue's lash, seen his grimace, been the target of his anger. It has been to the detriment of his team at times and this is what concerns me the most; that he can and does act this way regardless of what his team needs at that moment.
Take for instance the National Junior College World Series game where he was thrown out of the game by the home plate umpire. Disgruntled at having struck out on a called third strike, Harper drew a line in the dirt, seemingly indicating where he felt the pitch actually was and indicating it was not a strike. In and of itself, this seems to not be of great importance yet because he was thrown out of that game, and suspended for the next game due to this incident his team lost both games and thus eliminated from the tournament.
How did this affect Harper? He entered the 2010 MLB Draft and was drafted number 1 overall. He let his team down in the biggest game/tournament of its life and left them behind as he went on to bigger and better things.
Vs St Louis Cardinals 4/29 - 5/1
On April 29 Harper arrived in St Louis hitting .314; he left on May 1st hitting.272. Cardinal hurlers frustrated him holding him to 1 run on 2 walks with 5 strikeouts and an 0 for 11 stretch. Since that time Harper has seen his batting average slide even further as teams have stopped pitching to him, preferring to walk him 15 times in 9 games. Perhaps frustration is setting in on Harper.
But he was a child, a teenager at the time of this transgression, you might say. The world had been laid at his feet before that day having been on the cover of Sports Illustrated; he was unaware of how to act accordingly, properly, with dignity. And, you might be right.
But we see this same arrogance today, his clubhouse "fight" with teammate Jonathon Papelbon late in 2015 being one example. Another example of how he has not grown took place only yesterday in a game against Detroit. With the game tied in the 9th inning, Harper (who had not had a hit that day, only a pair of walks) struck out on a called third strike. He expressed his displeasure to the umpire and was promptly thrown out of the game. In watching highlights later I learned that he had earlier shown his displeasure to this umpire and the umpire had allowed him a little leeway and did not toss him. Obviously, he failed to take heed and was subsequently thrown out.
But the story does not end here. After a teammate won the game moments later, Harper was back on the field celebrating (I thought that when one was tossed one was not allowed to even be in the dugout, let alone on the field) and threw a look at the home plate umpire (the one that had thrown him out) that can only be described as childish in its intensity as he voiced a decidedly vehement word directly at the umpire, a veritable "Na na na na boo boo!". This came from a young man, not a teenager, not a child but a man. Poor sportsman, thy name is Bryce Harper.
Sad to say this is not an isolated incident
In the post game interview aftermath
Later, in the clubhouse Harper was anything but repentant. His comments and facial expressions told a story of total disdain, of smug satisfaction at having acted in this manner. A smile seemed to tug at his lips as he answered questions about the incident and how he reacted; about whether a fine may ensue. There was no sorrow at having acted as a child, no thought given to how those who idolize him might receive such actions and use them in Little League games this week: he was fine with having acted this way.
And that is what bothers me more than anything. He doesn't seem to care how his actions are received. But, to be honest, even the media seems to accept this, on one hand calling it "good for the game" although I fail to see how this type of behavior is even acceptable let alone good; somehow seeing it as a means of injecting fun into a perceived boring game. I'm sorry, but if one is payed millions of dollars to play a child's game and one isn't having fun then get out. Make room for someone who will enjoy the experience.
If this were an isolated incident I might not feel this way but it is not. And as one reporter put it we need to buckle up for she believes he will not, can not change: this is who he is. He will not learn from his mistakes as he feels, and over the years he has been told time and again, that he is great, he is good, and he is right. And while he does have a particular talent to play a child's game and is good enough to make a living doing so it appears as though other, more human parts of his persona might be lacking. This lack of humility will continue to play out until one day, years in the future, he is compared to another former player, one with a prodigious amount of talent yet wholly lacking in humility and kindness.
And Harper would probably be okay with the comparison.