Bryce Harper is one of the most talented players in the game of baseball today. Opinions on his talent and skill level are generally consistent across all demographics. However, his personality and mentality are often disagreed upon by fans and media. Is he bad for the game? Or has he grown out of the mindset he once carried, as a young ballplayer?
First, let’s discuss the generally agreed upon statements. At just 24 years old, Harper has firmly planted himself as a crucial part of the Washing Nationals team, and the second-best player in the entire game (behind Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels). He has been selected as an All-Star in five of his six years in Major League Baseball. He was named the NL MVP in 2015, also earning a Silver Slugger award and the NL Hank Aaron Award the same year. Also in 2015, Harper was the National League home run leader. In 2012, Harper was named Rookie of the Year.
Harper currently sits with a career batting average of .286, with an average of .338 so far this year. He carries are career on-base percentage of .390, sitting at .444 currently in 2017. With 25 home runs on the year, Harper is on pace to beat his career-high of 42. He currently carries an impressive 4.6 WAR.
Defensively, Harper’s stats are just as good. He has a career fielding percentage of .981, sitting at .987 so far in 2017. Harper has committed just two errors this season. He’s making his case for the MVP title this year.
Now let’s discuss some of the lesser agreed upon traits about Bryce Harper.
When discussing Harper’s personality, fans and media seem to be split. It’s almost a “love him or hate him” mindset. Some people are enthralled with the intensity and passion that Harper brings to the game of baseball. Others consider him pompous, arrogant, and a problem child. Harper has had his fair share of videos going viral that do not exactly paint him in the most positive light. However, one could argue that his celebrity status sets him up for constant negative interpretation (a la Dallas Cowboys players and their legal issues).
Most recently, Harper gained negative attention for engaging in a fight with San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland. Strickland hit Harper with a pitch, and then chaos ensued. Harper charged the mound and fists began to fly. Immediately, social media took their sides. Some sided with Strickland, saying that Harper shouldn’t have charged the mound and started a physical fight. Others sided with Harper, saying that Strickland intentionally beaned Harper because he was still upset about Harper hitting a long ball off him in the 2014 NLDS.
In 2015, Harper and fellow Nationals teammate Jonathan Papelbon were videoed scuffling in the dugout. Papelbon was shown choking Harper after the two argued over Harper running out a popup. Again, the world of social media took their sides. It’s been a rare, rare, occurrence to see a unanimous siding with Harper in any of his altercations.
So overall, is Bryce Harper baseball’s bad boy? Or has he just been misjudged over his short time in baseball?
In my personal opinion, he’s been misjudged. Better yet, I think he’s been ridiculed too harshly.
Harper is just 24 years old. At his age, I was still making my fair share of dumb decisions. People at his age, and people at his age when he was even younger and making negative headlines, have done things that they wish they wouldn’t have. We all make mistakes. I think the negativity, or bad image, Harper carries should be forgiven. It should be attributed to a young man engulfed into a world of unwritten rules, vigilantism, and a certain level of acceptable behavior. Someone shouldn’t be judged now for the person they were. If that were the case, a lot of us would be unhappy with the results. Harper is a person, the same as anyone reading this article.
When it’s all said and done, Harper hasn’t done anything more than any other player in baseball has done or been involved in. It just happens to be more nationally covered, because of the player he is. I believe he’ll grow up mentally. And when he does, he’ll be beloved by many for the man he is, and the player he will continue to be.
Follow Blake Cole on Twitter (@blakeacole) for more on Bryce Harper, and other Major League Baseball (MLB) news and opinions.