Pete Rose isn’t one to keep his opinions to himself, but it was only a matter of time before he was asked about a player whose hustle and grit is reminiscent of his own style of play.
Bryce Harper has taken some heat in the past about the all-out effort he gives on the diamond — especially after violently crashing into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium in May and receiving 11 stitches — but the young phenom hasn’t shown any interest in dialing it back.
Harper has praised “Charlie Hustle” in the past, admiring the way he played hard every single game, but Rose insists there’s a fine line between playing hard and being reckless, and the Nationals outfielder may have crossed it.
“Here’s Bryce’s problem, okay?” Rose told CJ Nitkowski and Mike Ferrin on Sirius XM’s MLB Network Radio. “Bryce growing up, I was his dad’s favorite player. I mean, that’s a fact. And there’s a difference in playing hard and playing recklessly. And Bryce plays recklessly. And there’s a reason for that. He was a catcher when he was here [in Las Vegas].”
Predominantly a catcher in high school and his one year of college, Harper was drafted as an outfielder to prolong his baseball career. Rose attributes the changing of positions and the learning process that comes along with it as part of the reason the 20-year-old has trouble differentiating a dangerous play from one worth making.
“Now all of a sudden they’ve got him in the outfield, and he don’t understand warning tracks, and he don’t understand every [ballpark] the caroms are different, the walls are different,” Rose said. “Some are padded, some aren’t. You can’t turn around and run into the wall at Dodger Stadium face first. So what I would tell Davey Johnson — and he knows more about his team than I do — I would play Bryce Harper as deep as he possibly could, where anything over his head goes out of the ballpark. And that way he’s not gonna run into fences until he gets used to the different ballparks.”
Known as one of the most intense players to ever play the game, Harper imitates Rose’s style of play, but when it comes to modern-day players, Rose points to Angels outfielder Mike Trout as the quintessential model of playing hard, but responsibly.
“And Mike Trout plays hard, he don’t get hurt like Bryce Harper, because he’s been there a couple years now and he understands where the walls are and where the fences are and different things like that,” Rose said. “Bryce’ll be all right. Bryce’ll learn. He’s only a 20 year kid. He’s got a lot of talent.”