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Comparing and contrasting Joe Mauer and Bryce Harper

Mar 24, 2010, 4:15 PM EDT

Bryce Harper2.jpgI’ve been critical of Bryce Harper skipping two years of high school in order to become draft eligible this year. I’ve done so as a father who has been kind of freaking the hell out recently over just how fast his kids seem to be growing up and as a man who wonders from time to time what happened to his youth.  It’s subjective, I know. I don’t know the first thing about Bryce Harper the young man and even less about his parents. He may wind up being the most well-adjusted guy on the block.  I have no idea, really. When I write about Harper’s life choices I’m fretting, and I admit that.

FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi frets too, for many of the same reasons, and channels his fretting into a compare-and-contrast between Harper and Joe Mauer, concluding that, all things being equal, Harper shouldn’t have left school early:

Harper is probably a nice kid. I don’t know. I’ve never met him. But I
am certain of this: Right now, he is one terrible role model. And that
has nothing to do with the fact that he was recently ejected from a game
for taunting.

In baseball, “staying in school” used to refer
to college juniors who elected not to sign and instead returned for
their senior years. But here comes Harper, bolting from high school
before he could park with the upperclassmen.

It’s not right.
But it’s legal under the current basic agreement. If baseball isn’t
careful, Harper might inspire a legion of followers — and few, if any,
will possess the same ability. That is bad for the game and worse for
the kids. They will be like the teenagers who skipped college to chase
their hoop dreams … only to wind up with the Fargo-Moorhead Beez.

I worry less about the copycat thing than Morosi does, simply because it’s probably a lot harder for a GED-taking high school kid to latch on to a college program than it is for a high school basketball player to simply declare for the draft, so to the extent this is about example-setting I think Morosi is overstating the concern.

Beyond that, I’m not overly-impressed with the Mauer comparison.  I’m sure Mauer is a great guy and everything, but as I read through Morosi’s take on it, I couldn’t help but think that everyone’s situation is different and we’d probably be better off not judging the decisions parents and their children make. At least the not obviously-ridiculous ones. $25,000 sweet sixteen parties are unadulterated evil, but I knew a couple of people who went into engineering school at age 16 and they turned out OK (I’m sure they would have remained virgins at 30 even if they had played out the full high school string). A baseball player who is clearly ready for the next step should be allowed to do it too.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m officially flip-flopping on the whole “let’s beat up Bryce Harper and his folks over putting him into the draft early” thing.  It’s inconsistent I know, but as I tell my children, I always reserve the right to change my mind.

  1. jwb - Mar 24, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    By Morosi’s reasoning, Joe Nuxhall was a terrible role model, too.
    captcha: Atlanta quit

  2. kalarson - Mar 24, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    oh man, an FM Beez reference!
    I used to go to tons of their games.

  3. ecp - Mar 24, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    Hard to get to bent out of shape about Bryce Harper when we’re living in a world where elite athletes on track for Olympic sports often leave school before their 10th birthdays for full time training and teaching by tutor. And tennis and golf prodigies generally enter into intensive training academies in lieu of school by their early teens. Child actors…well, they may never see a classroom in their lives. If these kids get diplomas at all it’s by way of GED, same as Harper. I guess the inclination to hold baseball to a different standard is because it’s one of the major sports and that’s not how the major sports do it, supposedly.

  4. JBerardi - Mar 24, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Poor roll model? Yeah, if there’s one thing I don’t want my kids to do, it’s to be highly motivated and to go to great lengths to maximize their natural talents. God forbid they finish their high school education in three years instead of four in order to start their career sooner. What a tragedy that would be.

  5. Big Harold - Mar 24, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    I get it not. I can see why the Harper kid would be all for this, he’s a kid. I’ve a cousin that, despite his misgivings, he allowed his 14 year old son to skip freshman and JV football and go straight to varsity as a two way starter at halfback and linebacker. But, his son had the size and speed to back it up and was still just another freshman in high school. I keep wondering what this Harper kid’s father is thinking. If he’s that good now, he’ll be that good in a year or two, maybe better. At the end of the day the thing at stake here is the health and well being or your son. So what’s the rush?
    I don’t care how good a ball player this kid is he’s just a kid. Making him wait until he was 18 or at least his class graduated high school would not have retarded or stunted his growth as a ball player. Accelerating his development as a ball player like this may well retard or stunt his growth as a man though. Didn’t anybody see the post today on Doc Gooden?
    Even today, or maybe especially today, kids need time to be kids. This may be legal but it doesn’t seem right.

  6. scatterbrian - Mar 24, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    I’m not really finding a solid reason for Morosi’s argument, aside from his comment that “[i]t’s not right.” Why exactly? Education? Taking pre-Calculus or Civics or another year of a foreign language won’t prepare him any better, especially if he’s already looking ahead to MLB. And if it doesn’t work out? His initial contract alone should set him up for life, even if it’s half of what Strasburg got, and he can always go back to school.
    Is it that he’s missing out on normal teenager stuff, like going to prom and drinking on Friday nights and having a part-time job? I agree that stuff is sort of the underlying education you get in high school, but it’s not critical. If it were, we’d be reading more pieces calling out Olympic hopefuls for eschewing the normal teenager experience for sports too.
    What’s really cliche is the whole role model angle, which should have been obliterated decades ago. Pro athletes shouldn’t be role models for kids. Have we not learned from supposedly squeaky-clean Tiger Woods or Michael Phelps? I mean, using Morosi’s logic Ben Roethlisberger is more of a role model than Bryce Harper.

  7. adam - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    don’t forget doogie howser. how would the tv world have been if he had decided to stay in school and not get fast tracked through med school?

  8. Charles Gates - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    Would I fast-track my kids? Eh, depends but probably not. Do I think what the Harpers did was wrong, definitely not. But raising children is not a one size fits all type of thing. What’s good for the goose isn’t necessiarily good for the gander.

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