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Bryce Harper plays the game the right way

Jun 7, 2012, 12:30 PM EDT

Bryce Harper AP

Ken Rosenthal has a feature up about Bryce Harper that’s worth a read today.

In it, everyone who is quoted and every opinion expressed is about how hard Harper plays. How respectful he is. How he plays the game the right way and, even at age 19, sets an example for others while still making a point to learn from the veterans. I’m struggling to think of a faster turnaround in terms of perception, persona and attitude than the one Harper has undergone since even last season.

What I’d like to know is if this is merely a product of natural maturity — think about how different you were when you were 19 than when you were 17 — of if there is someone or many someone’s in the Nats organization or in Scott Boras’ operation who made it a point to help the young man along in his maturity process.  It’s probably both, but to the extent there is a lot of the latter, those people deserve some serious kudos.

  1. nolanwiffle - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    He has quickly become one of those guys whose at-bats are must-see.

    • dcistoodamnhot - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      I live just a few blocks from Nationals Park, and can see it from my balcony. Even in the cheap seats, the “just here for the hot dogs and beer” crowd is on the edge of their seats for his ABs. In the bars, you get an awed hush. No one but Strasburg has ever had this effect in Washington. The kid is electric. He plays as hard as anyone I’ve seen. A year ago, he was a talented kid with a bad reputation. But these days, he’s the guy I’d want to play like. He runs like Pete Rose, and seems genuinely dissatisfied whenever he gets stuck at first on a bloop single. I’m excited to watch the next 20 years of him.

    • marshmallowsnake - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      I have watched all of his hits this season on MLB.TV, and I am surprised at some, as he kills the ball, and others he floats it. Being only 19, it will be interesting to see how he hits at 22, 25, 28, etc.

      I am just glad that he ditched the mohawk.

      • natstowngreg - Jun 7, 2012 at 5:22 PM

        As much as we focus on his hustle, which is refreshing, his approach at the plate has been a pleasant surprise. He takes more pitches, swings at fewer bad pitches, and goes the other way more often than I expected. This bodes very well for a continued high level of offensive production.

      • marshmallowsnake - Jun 7, 2012 at 6:03 PM

        If he continues to progress as a hitter, he will be a beast by 23.

  2. stex52 - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    My gut feel is that we were always overreacting to what we heard. He was and is a kid. Probably a few others of us on this blog were pains in the butt at 18. But we didn’t have people shoving microphones in our faces.

    I hope he is a hall of famer before he is through.

  3. davidpom50 - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    I think the perception turn around probably has more to do with visibility. We can watch him play every day now, whereas before we’d only see him when he was being a douche and there was an uproar about it. Those episodes might have been rare, but they were 100% of what most of us saw. I feel like I’m rambling… am I making any sense at all?

    • stex52 - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:47 PM

      What you say makes sense. But that’s not required for this site.

    • natstowngreg - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      Excellent point. Harper’s behavior as a Major Leaguer has defied the prevailing narrative of him as an immature jerk.

      Though, let Harper do one immature, 19-yearoldish thing. The haters and the narrative will be back in full force.

    • hittfamily - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      Great point. Our exposure to him last year was when he tweeted something stupid, or blew a kiss. Our exposure to him this year makes his hustle and passion visible. I saw him take a purpose pitch to the back, take his base, then steal home. Gamer! If he had the same coverage this year, as he did last year, all I’d know of him is that he slammed his bat into the wall and had to get 10 stitches because of it, when in reality, that is a minor blurp on his year.

      After his first at bat, when he made a routine 1-3 groundout the most exciting 1-3 groundout I’ve ever seen, I knew my perception of him was wrong.

  4. poreef - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    I dunno, is he still a Duke fan?

  5. bobulated - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    We all did incredibly selfish, dickish things when we were 17 and during our college years, it’s just that we didn’t have thousands of people waiting for us to make a misstep so they could use it as content in their blog, twitter feed, etc. I expect a stud athlete to be hyper-competitive at that age, the maturity will come and his case has come pretty quickly. You still see the edge occasionally like when he got cut down trying to extend a double into a triple vs. the Braves (throw beat him but looked like he got under the tag) and was very demonstrative about it although I wasn’t sure if was mad about the missed call or making the out at third.

    • hittfamily - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      When I was 17, I thought I was king ding-a-ling because I had a letterman’s jacket, a vehicle, and a pretty girlfriend. I can’t imagine how much more cocky I would have been if I had a baseball card, my autograph on Ebay, and 5 million in the bank (plus lots of pretty girlfriends undoubtedly)

  6. natstowngreg - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    So Rosenthal acknowledges that he’s a chimpanzee? Interersting.

  7. El Bravo - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    NL East is a friggin’ powerhouse. Step aside AL East, we have some serious competition over here and the pitchers take the plate, so it’s better than your designatedhitterball(1) competition.

    (1) “Designatedhitterball” courtesy of Old Gator.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 7, 2012 at 2:52 PM

      Well, we’re about to have some interleague match-ups between the Eastern division teams, which will help support or kill your argument.

      I’m guessing the AL East will win 60 percent or more, and I don’t understand how anyone could argue that the NL is the superior league. I’m as confused as anyone about how far Albert Pujols has fallen going from the NL to the AL, but it’s pretty much typically, isn’t it? Prince Fielder’s lost 50 points on his slugging percentage. Gio Gonzales and Edwin Jackson are suddenly all-stars.

      I’m sure that someone has calculated the difference, but it’s pretty clear that the AL is vastly superior.

      • El Bravo - Jun 7, 2012 at 3:49 PM

        There’s way too many factors other than NL to AL switch to attribute that factor as the main reason….new SPs, new parks, new everything. Give those two time and I bet their numbers are similar in both leagues. We shall see! I just love the NL b/c my teams are there. Usually how it goes…

  8. heyblueyoustink - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    ” Bryce Haper!!!???!!! Squuuueeeeaaaaalllllllll!!!!!!!”

    ( THUD ! )

    Groupie passes out on the floor.

  9. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    How do you play baseball the wrong way? Hold the wrong end of the bat? Run away from the ball? Pitch using your mouth instead of your hand?

    • nolanwiffle - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      Do you remember Carlton Fisk chasing and barking at Deion Sanders to run hard to first on a flyball. Fisk was on the opposing team…..Deion played baseball the wrong way.

  10. humanexcrement - Jun 7, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    I think Harper tends to come off the wrong way to some people the same way Paul O’Neill did. O’Neill pushed himself hard and expected his every at-bat to be a success. I remember hearing stories about him being the first one in the batting cages HOURS before a game, cursing every time he didn’t hit the ball as well as he thought he should have. Sometimes that drive led to a blowup–hell, often it did, but there was a man who got every ounce of talent out of his body that he had to give. Harper will almost certainly be a better player than O’Neill (barring injury), but he looks like he has that kind of fire in his heart. he also looks like he realized he was starting to get a bad reputation and decided to turn things around. And he isn’t anywhere near his prime yet. This guy is going to be fun to watch for years to come. So are the Nationals.

  11. Utley's Hair - Jun 7, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Something makes me think Kenny’s gonna get an earful from Timmy the next time they’re on FOX….

  12. joewilliesshnoz - Jun 7, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    He plays clean and hard , a Phillies beater for years to come .

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