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What happened to Bryce Harper

Aug 7, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT

Bryce Harper AP

There is no question mark on there because I’m not asking. I’m linking to Adam Kilgore’s excellent, perspective-providing piece on the downfall — however temporary it may be — of a kid who was killing it early last season and looked to be on the verge of an MVP run. Money quote:

In late April 2013, Harper was conquering worlds. Over the past 15 months, he has undergone surgery twice to repair injuries that forced him to change the swing he had honed his entire life. He is two months shy of his 22nd birthday. Tuesday night, Javier Baez made his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs, and for the first time since Harper made his debut in April 2012, a player younger than Harper appeared in a National League game.

Before he finished his radio appearance, Williams told the hosts, “He’ll be fine, you guys.”

Kilgore also contexualizes that little dustup Matt Williams had with the media yesterday over the possibility — raised by a radio host — that Harper could be sent down to the minors. We’re just as guilty, if not more guilty, as anyone in reacting in a kneejerk fashion to quotes and things. But Kilgore provides some nice perspective on all of this.

  1. proudlycanadian - Aug 7, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Is that a clown question bro?

    • karlkolchak - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      No, but using the term “clown” when discussing Harper is at least 18 months past being tired.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        It was a clown comment when he made it and will always be a clown comment.

      • recoveringcubsfan - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        Easy, big fella. They just heard that joke in Canada.

      • bisonaudit - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        Wasn’t he in Canada when he made it?

      • someguyinva - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        @proudlycanadian – Here’s the thing – It really was a clown question.

        A reporter in Canada asked a 19 year old Mormon if he was willing to violate the teachings of his religion and have a beer just because he was in Canada, where it was legal to do so (as opposed to the US, where he was still too young to do so).

        What do you call such a question?

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 7, 2014 at 12:06 PM

        It was an honest question by a reporter who had no idea that he was a non drinker. The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19 and most of us have tried beer before that age.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 7, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        By the way, if Harper really is a practicing Mormon, why hasn’t he gone on a mission to find new converts?

      • someguyinva - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        Article on why Harper hasn’t gone on a mission is here –

    • philipharmonic - Aug 7, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      and I wouldn’t blame him if he fornicates with that hot girlfriend, which is also probably against mormanism

  2. echech88 - Aug 7, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    Isn’t this part of the issue with Harper though? Wouldn’t most players his age struggling so badly be expected to be sent to AAA to work out the kinks and continue to develop?

    Part of the problem with Harper is that since Day 1 he has carried himself as being different and for the most part, the Nationals have followed that lead.

    He is immensely talented but what other 21 year old coming off injury-riddled seasons comes back and publicly dictates where he should bat, what position he should play, who else should be benched to make room etc.

    By the way, the guy he wanted to bench, Denard Span, is running circles around Harper currently so maybe little Bryce Harper should focus on himself for a while and stop talking.

    This is his THIRD year in the big leagues. No more “maturity” apologists please. We don’t hear about this crap from anyone else, much less guys who aren’t doing ANYTHING on the field.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

      On Day 1, Bryce Harper — at age 19 — was the best hitter on a first-place team.
      On Day 1, Bryce Harper — at age 19 — was the best hitter on a first-place team.

      Here, look at his splits in 2012, especially by month:

      In his rookie year, he had an OPS over 800 in the first half, and an OPS over 800 in the second half. That is the picture of a future Hall of Famer. That the Nats let him decide when he was ready to come back from his injuries is an outrage. He is obviously still hurt.

      For Pete’s sake, the man can’t rent a car without his parents’ permission, but the Nationals have let him decide when he’s ready to come off the DL. Malpractice.

    • bisonaudit - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      Ummmm, Bryce Harper isn’t dictating anything. He’s playing left field and he’s batting 6th. He popped off in the media once, 6 weeks ago. It was a mistake.

      He is immensely talented. So much so, that even with this recent struggles as he recovers from the thumb injury he’s a contributor on a playoff team.

      I heard some non-sense this morning about how the Angles sent Mike Trout down. They did no such thing. He played 40 games as a rooking callup in 2011 and was on the roster all the way to the end of the regular season. He started 2012 in the minors, before getting promoted permanently the last week of April.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      This is his THIRD year in the big leagues. No more “maturity” apologists please. We don’t hear about this crap from anyone else, much less guys who aren’t doing ANYTHING on the field.

      It’s easy to say the kid has maturity issues when you make up incidents that never happened. You say he’s been treated differently since day 1, and that’s an issue? Was it when the Nationals asked him to swap from his natural position as C to RF, which he had never played before, and he didn’t make a peep about it? Was it when he hit the bigs, and he got hit by Cole Hamels, just because…, and Harper didn’t make a peep?

    • jeffchadwick - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      Harper’s played a smidge over 50 games this season and has been right around league average. Given the injuries, what good is sending him down to AAA going to do? Guys stick around with way worse peripherals for way longer periods of time than Bryce Harper in 2014. See Francoeur, Jeff.

      • recoveringcubsfan - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        Good point. Anyway, as long as the Nats keep playing .500 or better, he doesn’t need to be the star. Plenty of great players have had bad seasons, or in this case been a lesser part of a great lineup. Harper can be the most frustrating player on a good team. That’s not a problem. It’s only a thing for people who want to talk about him, particularly, even when there’s no point to be made.

  3. rbj1 - Aug 7, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Let’s see, he’s had to change his swing due to injury and now there’s enough data so that pitchers can make adjustments.

    Ball is now in Bryce’s court to adjust to the adjustments. Syracuse won’t help him with that.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM

      Or he’s still hurt and all the adjustments in the world won’t matter.

      • apkyletexas - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        Or he’s never batted above .275 for an extended period and folks need to start adjusting their expectations downward.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        .275? Interesting!

        Willie Mays had a batting average of .274 as a rookie.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        Carl Yastrzemski: .266 as a rookie.

        Harper was an AMAZING ballplayer. The Nationals are in the process of making sure he never fulfills his potential.

      • apkyletexas - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        Harper was a rookie in 2012. Mays hit .345 in his 2nd full year (after his career was interrupted by service in the Korean war), Yaz hit .296 in his 2nd year, .321 in his 3rd. Mays went on to bat above .275 for the following 13 straight years, Yaz for 7 straight years.

        You boys should be looking to Trout to be the young super-hero of your dreams – .326 in his first full season.

    • shadowshand - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      Seems like he’s been hurt–some cases pretty badly–fairly often early in his career, when most guys are reasonably durable. He’s immensely talented but I’d wonder if the injuries will have some lingering or cumulative impact and his career will unfortunately never be all it could/should/might be.

  4. kingme30 - Aug 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    Yea but the kid has over 1,500 plate appearances and is an immense talent. Have to let him find his stroke in the bigs given the situation. In sports, not all players are created/treated equal. Just the reality.

  5. philipharmonic - Aug 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    missing from the discussion is whether he was brought up too soon. He was 19 and has played in only 130 minor league games (not including rehab stints). The Anti-Harper (whose birthday is today. Happy Birthday Mike Trout) played in 286 minor league games. That’s about a full year of minor league games.

    I’m not suggesting sending him down, because doing that, regardless of the merits, would be a total PR disaster and would further alienate Harper and Boras from the Nats.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      It’s not missing from the discussion at all, though: Harper was dominant upon his call up, so it clearly was not “too soon.” Going to AAA now would do little but boost his ego – which some people say is impossible because it’s as big as it can be already (not me saying it) – so letting him work with the MLB hitting staff and figure it out at the plate seems like a better plan.

  6. Francisco (FC) - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Anyways, the Nats can afford to let Bryce Harper work out his issues at the MLB level, it’s not like they have other teams breathing down their necks in the standings, like say.. the Braves…

  7. pete2112 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Maybe it’s too much, too soon. It certainly doesn’t bode well that he’s already had two surgeries and his swing has been altered due to them at this young of an age. I don’t lack his heart or desire to play hard, but there is something to be said about maturity and earning your place on a team. He’s been way too outspoken for my tastes and his current level of play doesn’t help his cause. Maybe the Nationals would be better off sending him down to AAA to work on things and take some of the pressure off of him.

    • someguyinva - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      I don’t get the “too outspoken” claim here; I’m not trolling, I honestly don’t get it.

      When it comes to Bryce Harper, the verbiage expended on him by people, both professionals and otherwise, is exponentially greater than anything he’s said himself. I honestly can’t remember him saying anything noteworthy to the press since his expressing his thoughts about lineup construction (in response to a direct question) six weeks ago, and proudlycanadian up above there is still recycling a quote from two years ago.

      Did he choose his words poorly in answering the lineup question? Yes, absolutely; he should’ve stuck with the Crash Davis cliche menu and just said “I’m here to help the team” and been done with it. Show me other examples of recent vintage where he’s said anything inflammatory.

      There is lots and lots and lots and lots being said about Bryce Harper, but very little being said by Bryce Harper.

      • pete2112 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        In my opinion, the outspokenness is in regard to what you use as example in your comment. By no means should a twenty-one year old kid think it’s alright to dictate where he should be hitting or where certain players should be on the field. Those type of comments would be wrong for a 15 year veteran, so yes, I find that to be outspoken and quite arrogant and perhaps a bit ignorant for someone so young to be saying.
        Imagine being at your job for twenty years and you’re the boss of some kid fresh out of college and he starts telling you how to do your job better and where he belongs in the company.

      • someguyinva - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:48 AM

        I’ve conceded that he chose poorly in responding to a question; here’s how it ran in the Washington Post when it happened:

        “Harper was asked about Zimmerman moving to left field when Zimmerman came off the disabled list in early June.

        ‘I think it’s great. I think he should be playing left,’ Harper said. ‘Rendon’s a good third baseman. He should be playing third. We’ve got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa. Of course, we want the best-hitting lineup in there. I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that would be good for this team. I think that should be what’s happening.’

        Harper also intimated he would prefer to hit elsewhere in the batting order. Williams slotted Harper sixth in the Nationals’ lineup.

        ‘I’m in the lineup. That’s all that matters,’ Harper said. ‘If I had the lineup, it would maybe not be the same. He’s got the lineup card. He’s got the pen. That’s what he’s doing. So there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m hitting sixth tonight. Hopefully I can be able to get some runners on base in front of me and get some protection and hopefully get some knocks.’

        One bad answer doesn’t, to me, equal “too outspoken”. What else ya got?

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:45 AM

        Those type of comments would be wrong for a 15 year veteran, so yes

        He made one comment, one comment, in response to a question. What other “comments” has he made?

      • pete2112 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        Hey guy, it’s just my opinion. I would also classify his excessive eye black as another outspoken trait. No skin off my back if you want to defend a cocky kid. As I stated before, I don’t doubt his heart or desire to play hard and I hope he can regain what he had his rookie season.

      • someguyinva - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:11 AM

        @pete2112 – Kind of ironic that the picture accompanying this article shows no eye black at all, isn’t it?

        I’m not trying to get you to be a fan of Harper here. You’re labeling him as outspoken, and I don’t share that opinion. I also think you’re wrong to label him as cocky; some professional athletes might give off the appearance of being humble or modest when speaking in public, but none of them got where they are today without having a level of self-confidence that matches their extraordinary abilities.

        You don’t need a reason to hate Bryce Harper, as far as I’m concerned; you can just say “I hate Bryce Harper” and be done with it. If it helps you sleep better at night to say “I hate Bryce Harper because reasons”, then more power to you.

      • NatsLady - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        He spent weeks on the DL probably doing nothing but thinking about baseball. The first time he gets interviewed, he pops off with his thoughts instead of a cliché. Several writers (at the time), looking at Span’s numbers and fearing Zim’s play at third base, agreed with him. He was wrong. Span is great and Zim managed to play third base adequately until he was injured. If that’s the worst thing Harper ever does or says in his baseball career, I’m OK with it.

      • recoveringcubsfan - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:18 AM

        Matt Williams already addressed the Span comments and they didn’t seem to hurt the team, so all the folks who want to keep it in the conversation are doing so despite the evidence against their outrage about how awful, just awful it was for Harper to have an opinion. Too bad for them. This was handled the way it should have been: the manager said he supports his players and everyone laughed it off. You laugh at dumb kid stuff, you don’t go nuclear – unless you comment on these boards, I guess. Anyway, no harm, no foul. Remember all the crazy stuff Manny Ramirez said? Destroyed Boston. They don’t even have a team anymore, do they?

      • pete2112 - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:22 AM

        Holy moly! Is Bryce your son? First of all, I never said I hate him and I’m certainly not the first one to call him cocky, which I never said was bad thing I should add. I just think it’s a fine line between cocky and arrogant and sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference, especially from a twenty-one year old kid.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:22 AM

        I would also classify his excessive eye black as another outspoken trait.

        You have got to be kidding me…

        No skin off my back if you want to defend a cocky kid.

        Excessive eye black and making one comment in 4+ years of being a professional ball player = cocky?

      • pete2112 - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        Well I think you’ve quoted me more than Bryce has been quoted. Chill out, it’s just my opinion. And yes, the eye black thing is annoying to me when he looks like he’s going in to battle a dragon.

  8. flyinhighwithvick - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    Overrated. And get a friggin helmet that fits, your not Pete Rose.

    • brandotho - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      You’re* right. Harper doesn’t bet on the games he participates in, as far as we know

    • 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:18 AM

      Bryce Harper is presently younger than Pete Rose was, when Rose made his major-league debut. In Rose’s first 1250 plate appearances, he had an OPS of 677. Harper’s career OPS is presently 811.

      Damn right, he’s no Pete Rose.

  9. brandotho - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    He’s not even 22 yet. I wouldn’t think these injuries will linger for quite a while to furthur stunt his development

  10. [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    By the way, I’m not even sure if Harper could be sent to the minors without some sort of DL stint. He signed a MLB deal which put him on the 40 man roster. The Nationals have already burned 3 options going into this year. Does he even have one left?

    • karlkolchak - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      He still has one option left as he was only sent to the minors in 2011 & 2012. Obviously it could be done or they wouldn’t be talking about it as a possibility.

      • bisonaudit - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        The Nationals aren’t talking about the possibility. A shock jock and a bunch of click baiting psudo-journalist are.

      • karlkolchak - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:13 PM

        Never said who “they” were, did I?

    • natstowngreg - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:44 PM

      It’s not based on optioning someone 3 times. It’s based on optioning someone in 3 different seasons. As noted, Harper has been optioned in 2 different seasons.

  11. pixteca - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    The same is awaiting for Mike Trout.

  12. nsstlfan - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    If he needs to be sent down send him down. Williams needs to suck it up and quit thinking about what Harper, the fans, and media think and do his job.

    • NatsLady - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:07 AM

      Um, thinking about what Harper, fans, and the media think IS part of Williams’ job. Probably a major part.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      The decision to send a player down is made by the GM. The GM sets the roster, the manager decides how to use it.

      I’ve been very unhappy with a lot that Matt Williams has done, but if Harper is not able to help the team — due to injury or performance — then he shouldn’t be on the active roster. If he’s on the active roster, that’s supposed to mean he’s healthy and able to contribute (under the right conditions).

      None of this is the manager’s fault.

  13. mrbiz8505 - Aug 7, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    Mike Trout happened

  14. jwbiii - Aug 7, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    Two points:

    First hand injuries have a long recovery period. He’ll come around but it may take some time.

    Second: The Nationals are in a playoff race, despite the Braves recent slump. If he’s hurting the team, if they have better a option, they absolutely should send him to Syracuse and let him regain his stroke there. I don’t think they do have a better option. Certainly not Scott Hairston. Steven Souza is up, but hasn’t really been given any sort of playing time. Destin Hood is hitting well in Syracuse (294/344/478) but Souza had a Willie Mays in a good year kind of slash line there (354/435/601, Willie Mays, 1958: 347/419/583, obviously disregarding defense), so I don’t really see Hood as an upgrade over Souza, much less Harper. So Harper should stay in Washington.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      If they’re not going to put him on the DL, I’d stop playing him against lefties, and give him off day games after night games (except to pinch hit).

      • bisonaudit - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        Even when everyone was healthy the projections and his career splits didn’t suggest he should sit against lefties, just bat lower in the order. Now if the hitting coach is seeing something specific with his mechanics or approach that’s opening a hole in his swing against lefties that may justify not having him in lineup or managing his off days so he faces fewer lefties while they iron it out, but in order to do that you need a better option at his position as well.

    • thenaturalmevs - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      The hand injury isn’t the issue. It’s swinging with all arms – having a bad swing right now – and not hitting the ball with any authority the other way and teams have built a book on how to get him out. Hard stuff away and he’s getting blown away with it. His swing is bad right now.

      If the hand injury and it ‘sapped power’ like all the poor opinions offered here was really a thing, he wouldn’t have homered three times in a rehab game.

  15. duckyjimpond - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    BRYCE HARPER—STEPHEN STRASBURG. Over hyped. Don’t live up to all the B.S. said about how good they are etc,etc, They are totally unproven in the Majors, They are only good in their minds and according to BORAS and were good in high School and College but that don’t make you good in the Majors. They just have not succeded in the Majors so far–and may never.I’ll take Trout over Harper any day–nicer person better attitude . Harper is a Pima-donna arrogant and a piss-ant. Strasburg jut thinks he’s good in the Majors because he blew ’em away in College. He has’ent learned how to pitch in the Majors and he’s just arrogant

    I’m a Nats fan by the way born and raised 75 years old . Anthony Rendon is the best player on the Nats if Ryan Zimmerman isn’t . GO NATS

  16. thenaturalmevs - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    A lot of really bad discussion in these comments. People are blaming the Nats for ruining him and if you want to say Matt Williams is an asshole (I think he is and I don’t think Harper likes playing for him, fine). But Harper is put in the lineup most nights and he’s responsible for his own play and when I watch him I see a guy who just isn’t very good. As much as I love Bryce Harper I just have to call a spade a spade here. He’s not getting it done. He doesn’t look good. He hasn’t since April 2013 looked all that impressive. He’s been a different player for over a year now. Tha’ts on no one but him really.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      I agree, in part. He doesn’t look like the same player he was in 2012.

      Maybe I’m just HOPING he’s hurt. But I think it’s the most logical explanation.

  17. 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    I’m probably only sharing this because I agree with it. But I agree with it:

  18. GoRangers - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    Rougned Odor just turned 20. He’s the youngest player in the Majors.

  19. observer82ab - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:23 PM

    I accredit this story to a slow news day!

  20. 18thstreet - Aug 7, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Woo! Harper hit a game-winning homer!

    Take that, every other player in major league history! (I kid, I kid!)

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