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Does Bryce Harper really need to grow up?

Feb 15, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

harper futures getty Getty Images

I give Bryce Harper a fair amount of hell, but it isn’t serious hell. It’s more like me shaking my head and smugly smiling at the folly of youth while simultaneously (a) understanding that young people act like young people and that’s OK; and (b) being slightly jealous that I’m an old man now and couldn’t get away with most of that stuff.

Point is: while I cringe — often — at the things Harper says and does, it’s no different than me cringing at the kids riding their skateboards around my neighborhood, imploring them to get off my lawn and the like.  Sure, it’d be cool if a young stud athlete like Harper had an unnatural maturity because it would be interesting to witness, but really, the kid is just being a kid and that’s OK.

But it’s not OK with everyone. Specifically, Jason Reid of the Washington Post, who took to his column yesterday to implore Master Harper to grow up:

Bryce Harper needs to grow up. When you’re the future of the franchise, being 19 will only get you so far. Sometimes, you need to show maturity beyond your years … Obviously, Harper is entitled to his views. After already paying Harper like a star, the Nationals want him to become one. Harper hasn’t said or done anything outright alarming. Repeatedly, though, he has exercised questionable judgment — and the Nationals know it.

The evidence cited for this is all the stuff we’ve heard about before: his desire to be like Joe Namath. The fact that he roots for teams that happened to be good and popular when he was growing up. The fact that he showboated in a couple of games last year, says goofy things on Twitter and drives an oversized Hot Wheels car.

None of which I personally approve of, of course. But as we’ve established: I’m an old man and I know it and I don’t think for a minute that Bryce Harper should do what pleases people like me because, man, that would be pretty depressing.

As long as they’re not abusing drugs and causing real chaos, let youth be young. As long as we don’t get consumed with bitterness, let old people roll our eyes at it. That’s the natural freaking order of things, and I really hope that never changes.

  1. captainwisdom8888 - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    this article said a whole lot without saying anything at all. good work

    • azafl20 - Feb 15, 2012 at 4:17 PM

      What a bunch of MORONS!!…The first tip was when it starts out saying…”I give Bryce Harper a fair amount of hell,” Tip #1!
      Than he goes on with “being slightly jealous that I’m an old man now “….LOL!!! BINGO!

      Than the clown from the Washington Post says “Harper hasn’t said or done anything outright alarming.”…Uh,maybe you TOO “slighly jealous being an old man”!??
      But wait!…Jason Reid than points out…..” says goofy things on Twitter and drives an oversized Hot Wheels car.”…OH DASTARDLY!!..A 19 yr old drives a 4 wheel drive tricked out pick up truck!!!…The horror of it!!
      Is this an example of “objective reporting”?..LOL!
      To those of you that are bad mouthing this young man,you`re idiots.And to those who also say he doesn`t sign for kids,as an employee of the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League,I watched this young man spend countless hours signing.And if anyone ever pays attention to the playing of our National Anthem,take note of how some players stand rather disrespectful during it.NOT this young man! He will stand at attention,hat over heart and head bowed.TOTAL respect!
      Guess that`s a sign how he “needs to grow up too”?
      I have complete admiration for Bryce and his Dad Ron.I thoroughly enjoyed watching you in the Fall League Bryce throughout the past season,and it was a joy and pleasure meeting your Dad who is a fine young man as well. {yeah,I`m one of those “old men”,who is NOT jealous of this young man however!}
      May you have a GREAT succesful career Bryce,and just ignore the jealous ranst of some idiots in the media!

      • hemiguy08 - Feb 16, 2012 at 7:33 PM

        Wow 18 “thumbs down”? I think I’d believe the guy who’s watched Harper everyday than some columnist who hasn’t.
        Or maybe it was because you called someone a “Moron”…nah can’t be, not in this era of our politically correct, oversensitive society.

        For all those “thumbs downers”, I’d really hate to see what you were doing with your lives at 19; because I’m sure it wasn’t half of what Harper’s done.

  2. jason1214 - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    Why is anyone surprised? He hasn’t spent a day in the Bigs, and he ALREADY has an autobiography.

  3. lyon810 - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Since day 1, this guy has been oozing with dooooouuuuccchhhheeee

    • baseballisboring - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      I read comments like these a lot. Rarely do people explain any further than “he’s a douche”. Can someone please humor me?

      • HitsDingers - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        I don’t understand your comment. Craig started listing things in the article. Being a Yankees/Cowboys/Lakers fan is douchey. Other commenters started listing things. Writing an autobiog at 19 without having ever actually accomplished anything is douchey. Is your problem just that the word douche is a metaphor? That he isn’t physically a feminine hygiene product, but rather just what most people call, in the parlance of our day, a douche bag? Or are you just a fanboy mad because people are calling your favorite player a sort-of mean name?

      • baseballisboring - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:04 PM

        1) Yeah…he’s definitely not my favorite player. Nothing invested in him emotionally whatsoever.
        2) I gotta admit, I only read like half of Craig’s article before I wrote that comment, so I kinda missed some important stuff…the autobiography thing I didn’t know about…that’s pretty douchey. The rest I could really care less about.

        I’m not even trying to argue that he’s not cocky or anything like that. I’m trying to say that he’s a 19 year old multi-millionaire who’s been on the Sports Illustrated cover, and he’s so highly touted that he’s already famous in AA. I mean, really…just *try*, really try to imagine how you would’ve acted at his age with all that on your shoulders.

        The fact is, he’s a kid, and none of us know him. If you want to assume that he’s a douche for some of his actions and whatnot I guess I can’t fault you for that, even though I don’t think that it’s totally fair to assume that, but the vitriol he inspires is just odd to me.

      • HitsDingers - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        I’ll agree with you that it’s ridiculous to get mad at a millionaire teenager for acting like a millionaire teenager. And that’s kind of exactly the point of the article. But it doesn’t change the fact that he does douchey things, as described elsewhere on this page.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think as far as millionaire douche bags go, Bryce Harper is pretty benign. His douchiness is confined to silly antics and opinions rather than actually harming anyone; most of the scorn directed at him comes from jealousy. But, just to reiterate, that doesn’t change the fact that he does douchey things.

      • baseballisboring - Feb 15, 2012 at 2:50 PM

        Yeah, he does some douchey things…I think even those are blown out of proportion, but I know what you mean. I probably could’ve just written “I agree with Craig” if I had bothered to read the whole post, ha.

        (btw…definitely set the record for most uses of the word “douche” and it’s variations in one HBT post. Proud moment in my life.)

      • kinggw - Feb 15, 2012 at 4:57 PM

        @baseball is boring, Thank you for understanding that 19 year olds are 19 year olds. I dont think Harper should act like a PC robot just to placate a bunch of jealous old men. Long story short he isnt a douche, some people are just mad because when they were 19 they couldn’t do what he does.

      • solomon151 - Feb 16, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        Wow, So This isnt America after all. So he doesnt have the right to root for a team of his choice. He’s a Douche if he doesnt like the same teams that you like. Thats so crazy. It’s not like he said, ” Hey, I dont like Washington Sports teams so I’m not going to sign there”. Now, If he said that then yes, I would agree that he’s a Douche. But, he didnt and he signed on time. He’s a Nineteen year old kid. Some of you want to live your life through this kid and take everything so serious. Who cares if his favorite teams are the Cowboys, Yankees or the Lakers. As long as he does his job, he could vote republican for all that I care.

    • baseballisboring - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      Just seems to prove that even fans who frequent a rather intelligent, progressive baseball blog with mostly reasonable posters can still buy into the established narratives way too much.

    • marshmallowsnake - Feb 15, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      I cannot wait until he gets on MLB the Show 2030, so I can hit him with fastballs every time he is up :)

  4. marshmallowsnake - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Justin Upton came up to the D’Backs at a young age, and I cannot recall any news reports here in Phoenix of him needing to grow up.

    • cshearing - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      But was Justin Upton touted as the “Next Big Thing” in baseball before even being drafted? Was he on the SI cover? Did he receive the millions thrown at Harper? These are all factors, make no doubt. Not really defending the kid, but I can see how it happened.

      Plus, Upton already had a brother go through it who could give him pointers.

      • 5thbase - Feb 15, 2012 at 2:13 PM

        Not quite at the level of Harper, but very close. Upton was expected to be a major league star before he was even drafted. Harper got more attention because he was a spaz (and thus interesting to follow) from a young age and was definitely more polished as a hitter at a younger age. However, I don’t know if the expectations are really that much different for the Nats with Harper than they were with the D’backs for Upton.

        The big difference is that by all accounts Upton is a stand up guy and Harper is something much less than that. Nothing against him, but just because you can play baseball well doesn’t mean you’re much different than the general population of jerks out there. It’s the rare guy who is an exceptional athlete and is also an exceptional human being.

      • marshmallowsnake - Feb 15, 2012 at 4:57 PM

        Well, he was the number 1 pick…so he was regarded highly. He signed for $6.1 Million and some scouts have touted him as the best player they have seen. Not quite as hyped as Harper, but pretty darn close.

  5. skeleteeth - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Meh. Though coming from different circumstances, I think someone like Luke Scott’s craziness would be far more concerning than a cocky show-off that just may have the skills to back all that nonsense up. Like, waaay more concerning. Like ‘Holy shit, this guy has guns’ concerning…

    • lostsok - Feb 16, 2012 at 2:14 AM

      Bryce Harper sometimes acts a like douche. Luke Scott IS a douche.

      See the difference…

  6. stex52 - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    I’m sure those AA clubhouses are full of loud mouths who are convinced they are future stars. The problem here is that the press is around listening to him. Probably more of an off-season lack of other news to report. We’ll see how he does when he gets to the MLB. In the meantime, I really don’t care too much what he says, either.

    • wsnydes - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      while i agree with pretty much everything you said, there is a rather large difference between those AA guys that THINK that they’re future stars and those that have already been ANOINTED future stars. Bryce Harper is not your normal AA “future star.”

      • stex52 - Feb 15, 2012 at 2:41 PM

        Agreed. I don’t even object to the anointing, even though that often is a poor predictor. But we still wouldn’t have to listen to his blather if the press didn’t pick up on it.

  7. cbadjon - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    The behavior needs to be put in check by the org, but he is young and will learn when the first major leaguer throws a 98mph fastball at his head.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      Yes, because threatening someone’s life is a great way to get someone to learn.

    • 5thbase - Feb 15, 2012 at 2:17 PM

      Major league pitchers aren’t major league pitchers because they’re stupid. You don’t put a guy on base on purpose who would have less than a 1 in 3 chance of making it to first without your help.

      • stlouis1baseball - Feb 15, 2012 at 2:58 PM

        Oh…but they do so on a regular basis 5th Base. It’s referred to as “restoring order.”

      • 5thbase - Feb 20, 2012 at 1:11 PM

        “Restoring order” has nothing to do with putting someone on base because they are annoying you retard. It has to do with retaliation for the purpose of protecting your own guys.

        If you’re going to try to be a teacher at least know something.

      • stlouis1baseball - Feb 22, 2012 at 12:26 PM

        5th: Wow. “Retard?” “At least know something?” So you are a sensitive guy huh?
        You posted “you don’t put a guy on base on purpose who would have less than a 1 in 3 chance of making it to first without your help.”
        I replied…”it’s called restoring order.” So YES…you DO put someone on who needs to be put in their place (i.e…order restored). Put in their place meaning…if someone show’s up the pitcher. If someone is being disrespectful to the pitcher…his teammate…his Manager…etc..
        So yes…pitchers do “put a guy on base on purpose.”
        That bell you heard is the class ending.

    • stlouis1baseball - Feb 15, 2012 at 2:57 PM

      Cbad: You are on the right track in that these things tend to work themselves out.
      If he is truly a grade A jackass when he gets to the Big Leagues the opposing pitchers (and to a lesser extent) his teammates will squelch a lot of this.
      Thinking back to when I was 19…WOW.
      I always called and said “My I please speak to…” I would also look at my flavor of the Months’ Mother and Father right in the eyes…firmly shake their hands and answer EVERTHING
      with “Yes Sir and/or No Maam.” Then…I would spend the rest of the evening telling their respective Daughters everything they wanted to hear. I finished up the evening by ALWAYS getting them home prior to curfew. The Parents thought I was the Golden Child.
      If they only knew.
      Now…my biggest fear is my (2) daughters will end up with someone like me (back in high school and college.) As they say…what comes around goes around.
      Bryce maybe a douche…but he is 19. Let’s not lose sight of that.

  8. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    I am terrified that we could be witnessing a second coming of the hell on earth which was the Joba Fist Pump crisis of 2008. Are we all doomed to continuously repeat our own tragic history? Can mankind be saved from such scourges?

    I think a couple of weeks in an MLB clubhouse with some grizzly old vets laying down the law should cure the kid of a lot of this. If not that, facing Halladay, Lee, Hamels, JJ, etc should help him learn a bit of humility. I’m not saying he’ll be bad, but he won’t destroy the competition like he has done in the lower levels.

    • danrizzle - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      “The Joba Fist Pump crisis of 2008” — I laughed.

      I’m not around 19 years olds on a regular basis, and I tend to forget what I was like at that age. What I do remember of myself at that age was that I was kind of ok but kind of a jerk too. If I were a top 5 MLB prospect at the time, what would I be? Probably a super-duper, mega-huge, all-in wonka-donk. Everybody at that age has some growing up to do, I guess is my point, and it doesn’t help when you’ve got 500 ft HRs in your bat and you’re already a millionaire.

      To address Mr. Reid’s apparent problem, no harm no foul man. Harper doesn’t “need to be” anything so long as he generally obeys laws.

  9. baseballisboring - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    A 19 year old exercising questionable judgment? Nahhh…impossible.

    I’m really rooting for this kid. I was obnoxious enough at 18/19 while not being exceptional at anything…I can’t imagine what kind of person I would’ve been if I had his talent. With prospects like Harper, it doesn’t seem like they ever really get fair treatment…either they’re put on a pedestal for being mature beyond their years, or they have attitude problems. You’ll never read about a top, multi millionaire prospect who’s just an OK guy. You’ll never see an article that says “So and so is 19…he acts like it sometimes. But he’s generally a pretty decent guy. Maybe a little immature, but he doesn’t rub people the wrong way very much. He’s at least tolerable”.

  10. cur68 - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    I’m having a hard time seeing what Harper has done that’s so bad. He’s 19. My nephew just turned 19. Nice kid. I love him. Well on his way to becoming an electrician and has ambitions of becoming an engineer. But neither of us seriously expect 9/10ths of the things he talks about to come true or to be real. His world view & opinions change by the month. Harper sounds the same way. So far no drunken partying or misuse of an automobile. No pornstarlettes, trashed hotels, or unwanted pregnancies. If anything he’s in the news for being good at baseball (the showboating) given the level he’s in, and come on man, who wouldn’t drive a nice hot rod if they could afford one? Harper seems about average at 19 to turn out as a successful adult to me.

    • 24missed - Feb 15, 2012 at 4:00 PM

      Hey Stud.

  11. Bryz - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    I’m okay with his attitude. I’m on the side that feels like MLB should have a villain, and one we can justifiably hate more than Logan Morrison or Alex Rodriguez. What’s the knock on LoMo? Oh, he says things on Twitter that we don’t like. A-Rod? He’s just a weird guy that has a centaur painting with his own head on it above his bed, kisses himself in the mirror for photo shoots, and he eats popcorn from his celebrity girlfriend’s hand.

    Harper is a guy you can truly hate for his cockiness, his actions, his attitude, his bandwagon fanaticism in other sports, etc. and I think that’s great. I think it will be fun to see how he reacts to his first brushback pitch in the majors.

  12. itsacurse - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Brett Favre never did. He’s like a kid out there/everywhere!

  13. Kevin S. - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Going to throw my hat in on the “what has Harper done?” train. No drug arrests. No DUIs. No sexual harassment allegations. No dead strippers. He’s brash. Is he more brash than Rex Ryan, who’s three times his age and still says just as much stupid shit (and whose team, by the way, has backed him up with about as much success as Harper’s had, btw)? Hell no. So let the kid grow up at his own pace. Not everybody is going to be Jason Heyward, breaking in before he can legally drink with the maturity of a vet.

  14. craigsimsrules - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    19 years old people. Get off this kids back. I thinks its great the way he acts. As he gets older and makes his way to the bigs, this kid will mature. It may take a few pitchers to bean him in the back but eventually he will grow up. People have always criticized guys like Tiger Woods because he is like a robot and only says the right things and does not share any opinions. I find it refreshing that this kid is the way he is and for moron columnist to say he needs to grow up is just idiotic. Leave the kid alone. He is the best prospect the game has seen in a few years so he has every right to be cocky

  15. snowbirdgothic - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    So the kid is 19, is a multi-millionaire, can hit a fastball further than the Hulk, and has national media following his every move. I can’t imagine why he feels good about himself.
    And with that in mind, I find it deeply reassuring that Harper has not jumped off the roof of a house into a swimming pool shouting “I am a golden god!”, hired the entire waitstaff of a local Hooters branch to follow him around and feed him peeled grapes by hand, or slept with Madonna – much less gotten into bar brawls, coke-fueled orgies, or other serious crap. He’s a kid. We should let him enjoy being a kid, and let him enjoy being a kid who can buy all the toys while he’s at it. Reid needs to stop projecting his middle-aged anxieties onto his subject material and just enjoy the ride.

  16. Old Gator - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    There’s a reason why vampires are only attracted to youth, Craig, and that you and I can walk about unmolested in Transylvania at night without having to rub ourselves down with garlic.

    Werewolves, we still gotta worry about. Little old lady got mutilated late last night, and all….

    • snowbirdgothic - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      But Craig’s hair is perfect. What there is of it.

  17. foreverchipper10 - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:14 PM


    • cur68 - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Lol. Thanks, Bryce.

  18. Gamera the Brave - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    While this is completely off-topic, I just came back over to HBT from the regular Newsvine boards. Must be some masochistic streak in me, because I always come away shocked and appalled by the ignorance, vitriol, and just general mean-spiritedness of the other discussion boards – including, sadly, some of the other sports blogs within the NBC Sports purview.
    I wanted to thank y’all in the HBT family for the funny, insightful, erudite, and relatively troll-free comments I can find here, and truly appreciate the level of discourse.

  19. natstowngreg - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    With all due respect to Jason Reid, but demanding that a 19-year old kid be a role model is just plain ridiculous. Celebrate the rare exception (Junior Griffey at 19 comes to mind), but don’t slam a kid for being a kid. There will be plenty of time for Harper to be slammed if he doesn’t grow up.

  20. Walk - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    The thing i had the most trouble with was him taunting pitchers. I was kinda outraged, then i heard the pitcher started it from some posters who were there. Well the kiss he blowed a pitcher was something i hope he cuts out, but i guess what goes around comes around as far as things of that nature go.

  21. spezzabangsmilfs - Feb 15, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Oh what has Harper done now?

    Oh right NOTHING, just another pathetic hack “journalist” taking another attack to a teenager out of the blue to get press for himself.

    Another “Ill write a scathing piece where there is no story, where in the end my name will be recognized more than the content of the story itself.”

    You should be bashing this Jason Reid and going with the real story.
    How far sports journalism has fallen
    You know, how back in the day when journalists reported stories and you were not supposed to be able to tell which side he is on.

    Seriously, a teenager said he has favorite teams and someone loosely connected to your profession attacks him.
    That’s the story

  22. baboonman - Feb 15, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    I saw Harper play several games last season in lower A ball and was not impressed. He appeared no more talented than other players on the field. He only got one hit in the games I saw him play and he struck out several times…looking bad on a few occassions.

    I saw a ball hit to him and he acted as though he didn’t realize the ball had been hit his way…he just stood there. It didn’t seem as if he lost the ball in the lights or sky because he didn’t even move. It was almost like he wasn’t paying attention and was suprised.

    That being said I know he has much more talent than I saw and will be successful.

    As far as the immaturity for his age that will work itself out in the big leagues.

  23. 24missed - Feb 15, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    I hope I never grow up.

  24. stuckonwords - Feb 16, 2012 at 2:05 AM

    I rarely comment, but I have to say…Craig deserves some credit here. For the most part, everyone seems to be echoing the point of his piece, so obviously he hit the nail on the head.

    You deserve even more credit though, Craig, because you were very self-honest in what you wrote. You not only said, “Lay off him…he’s still a kid,” but you also admitted that being older poses a certain amount of loathing and envy that has to be overcome. Good on ya for writing a good, self-honest piece. The reactions prove that such writing has a positive affect.

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