After 18 homers, 61 RBIs and a .290 batting average in 129 minor league games played, Harper made his highly anticipated MLB debut on Saturday with the Washington Nationals. In that game, the 19-year-old converted outfielder smacked a double and chipped in with the go-ahead RBI on a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning off Dodgers closer Javy Guerra.
The Nats would go on to lose that game, but it will likely be remembered as the kid's debut, not potential future Hall of Famer Matt Kemp's dramatic walkoff home run.
Despite being less than a week into his major league career, there's a very good chance you already have a strong opinion about Harper, who has been dubbed "the next big thing" for quite some time. His talents have been recognized for a while now, starting with a 12-under All-American award and even bagging the Golden Spikes Award in 2010. He really turned heads in 2009, during his high school career when he opted to earn his GED as a sophomore so he could be eligible for the 2010 draft. At 17, he attended the College of Southern Nevada of the Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) in National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
But there's a good chance you knew all this, since he was flexing his muscles on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old and the baseball world's been following him closely ever since.
And here's what everyone knows: He can mash. His left-handed swing is resplendent, almost Griffey-esque. He's a boy in a man's body. He's got the tools to pull a Tony Conigliaro-like rookie year. He was transitioned from catcher to outfielder to save his knees to prolong what will likely be a long and successful baseball career.
He's teaming up with the game's best young pitcher in Stephen Strasburg to form one of the most dynamic combos in recent memory. With these two, the first-place Nats will bring added spark to the already intense NL East. Just picture Harper battling it out up to 18 times apiece with the game's best pitching staff on the high-flying Phillies, the Amazin' Mets in Gotham City and the darlings of the South, the Atlanta Braves. There's also the Miami Marlins, who are changing the culture of baseball in Florida with one of the sporting world's most aggressive and entertaining franchise facelifts thanks to a new roster and state-of-the-art stadium.
To no one's surprise, he's already a huge hit in Washington and received a standing ovation as he approached the plate for the first time in front of his home crowd on May 1. It may take a while for folks outside of the nation's capital to cheer Harper on, as fans like to boo more than they like to cheer.
It also doesn't hurt that Harper's the perfect target for boo-birds everywhere.
First of all, it's the jealousy that tears our society to shreds. The kid's great and we all typically hate that. Secondly, it's his arrogance. Or, as people in D.C. likely call it, his "confidence" or "harmless swagger." While Nats fans dig it, the rest of the country won't — think Jack Parkman's "little shimmy" in Major League II — it drove "the women in Cleveland crazy" when he was on the team but made them sick when he joined the White Sox. Harper's actions already make a lot of people sick, and that won't change. For some people, they get a sour first impression at his appearance: the over-smeared eyeblack and his ridiculous skullet hairstyle that he made a point to show off while running into second on a his first MLB hit — a stand-up double — when he whipped his helmet off between bases.
And there's his hot temper, which never goes over well in America's Pastime no matter who you are or what year you were born.
Harper's collegiate career ended after he was suspended for the second time that year. In his team's JuCo World Series, he argued a strikeout call and drew a line in the sand. Since it was his second suspension of the year, he had to sit for two games. His team lost without him and that was it.
Last April, he cleared both benches after arguing with and approaching an opposing pitcher that just struck him out to end the inning.
Last June, he smacked a towering Single-A homer and admired it over the fence while slowly walking to first base. As if that wasn't immature enough, he blew a kiss to the pitcher as he neared home plate.
There are bound to be incidents during his MLB career — it happens to everyone (see: Varitek-A-Rod, 2004). But that's what makes Harper so intriguing and that's part of the reason while he'll make baseball better. People are interested in stars and they'll be yearning to see what he does next, whether in the batter's box, in the field, off the field, or inches away from the face of an opponent or ump.
Yes, Bryce Harper will learn. He'll get hot, he'll go cold and he'll likely offer baseball fans everything in between. Everyone will be watching with joyous smile or guilty smirk and the MLB will only benefit.
Powered by WordPress.com VIP