"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The New New King of Swing

Will Leitch on Bryce Harper in the new issue of GQ:

What makes Harper far more anticipated than your typical phenom is a sense that he not only recognizes the vastness of his potential but also feels plenty comfortable telling you about it. One minute he informs me that “baseball needs more superstars.” The next, while discussing Albert Pujols signing with the Angels, he offers thoughtlessly, “Albert and I know each other and respect each other.” In a sport in which “paying your dues” is practically in the job description—an institution that once made Michael Jordan ride around in a bus for five months—Harper seems to have emerged fully formed to piss off the baseball establishment.

On his way up, he didn’t shrink from his sometime moniker, the LeBron of baseball. He poured vats of eye black on his face to make himself look like a professional wrestler. In a minor league game last year, after hitting a home run, he blew a kiss to the opposing pitcher. (Harper tells me, “It was an ‘eff you’ from the mouth.”) That’s the sort of business that will get a major leaguer a fastball in his ear. As Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt put it: “I would think at some point the game itself, the competition on the field, is going to have to figure out a way to police this young man.”

In other words: Harper is awesome—exactly what baseball needs. He’s essentially a throwback: a cocky, ornery cuss who can back it all up. Ty Cobb minus the racism and chaw, Lenny Dykstra before the bankruptcy. He tells me Pete Rose, a.k.a. Charlie Hustle, is his favorite player and that “I want to play the game hard. I want to ram it down your throat, put you into left field when I’m going into second base.”

[Photo Via The Baseball Analysts]


1 RagingTartabull   ~  Mar 15, 2012 9:31 am

Jesus, where do I begin with this kid?

I think it's great that he's his own person and isn't just some "welp ya gotta take 'em one game at a time!" clone. That's fine, guys like this make sports fun. But I also wonder how much of this is a product of growing up in the age of ESPN, social media, insta-celebrity, and the like. LeBron was "The Chosen One" before he could shave, Sidney Crosby was "The Next One" when he was still in Juniors, at some point we need to pull back from this a little bit.

At the end of the day we're talking about an 19 year old kid. A 19 year old kid, no matter what he can do to a baseball, is very rarely going to be a deep thinker on any sort of subject. And one who has been molded from the time he could walk to be a "Star" (paging Gregg Jeffries and Todd Marinovich) is likely to be even less fully formed at that age than your average college sophomore.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 15, 2012 10:41 am

Man, Jeffries was a Candy Ass.

3 bags   ~  Mar 15, 2012 11:09 am

i actually am pretty sure that LeBron could shave when he was five.

4 RagingTartabull   ~  Mar 15, 2012 11:43 am

[3] this is a fair point.

5 Ben   ~  Mar 15, 2012 11:44 am

[3.] ... days old.

6 RagingTartabull   ~  Mar 15, 2012 11:47 am

I just think of it in these terms:

There is a decent chance he ends up a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, I'd say it's at least 50/50. But it is a MORTAL LOCK he ends up an emotional trainwreck by the time he's 30.

7 Dimelo   ~  Mar 15, 2012 12:40 pm

[2] All this article has done is make me a huge anti-Harper fan. I hope he fails, and continues to fail.

I don't know, I love humble athletes like Derrick Rose, Grandy-Man, Jeter, Eli. This week when I was watching Rose play against the Knicks, all I keep saying to myself is how much respect I have for him, his humility, the fact that he has his head on straight. It doesn't bug me at all to see the Knicks lose to a superstar like him. I was glad to hear Fraizer heaping a ton of praise on him. What mother wouldn't be proud?

Even when the Knicks lost to the Spurs in '99, I had a serious soft spot for Duncan, and still do. I like athletes that aren't trying to bring extra attention to themselves, their game does it all for them.

People (mostly from opposing teams) get angry at all the camera attention national telecasts put on Jeter, but he's not doing anything special where he's asking for it, he'll open his mouth to tell Robbie that he has to cover second if the runner from first takes off, FOX, Buck, and McCarver start to jizz in their pants to point out how great he is. Did Jeter do anything special? No. Did he ask for the attention? No. Did he reinvent the sport? No. He was just playing his game.

Too bad Harper, the fucking neophyte, has yet to figure out that he should let his game do the talking. Again, I have no love for the guy. Fuck him!

8 RagingTartabull   ~  Mar 15, 2012 1:42 pm

[7] Rose also paid someone to take his SAT's for him, so...

but that's a whole other discussion about the absurdity of the NBA rookie age limit.

9 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Mar 15, 2012 2:48 pm

Harper is not a throwback, Ty Cobb would have never blown a kiss to the pitcher, Pete Rose would not have said he was a superstar; as Raging said his attitude must have been shaped by the 24 hour sports news cycle and the televised on field/court celebrations for the most mundane successes. Make a tackle, do a dance.

When Kirk Gibson hit that hobbling home run in game one of the '88 WS, his fist pumps were about as demonstrative as allowed at the time in baseball.

Harper's attitude is not the Yankee, or Dodger, or Braves, or Red Sox, or Cubs, or Cardinals (etc) way. I guess there is not enough history for a Nationals way. We'll see how well he does, and how long he lasts

10 RagingTartabull   ~  Mar 15, 2012 3:02 pm

I wanna make it clear I love players who are "characters," from Dennis Rodman to Ocho Cinco to Bill Lee. Not a damn thing wrong with that.

What I can't stand is petulance and entitlement.

11 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Mar 15, 2012 3:42 pm

[10] I like characters who do their own thing too. And Bill Lee was something, and his work in Cuba is very cool. But, his disrespect for Zimmer was disheartening, and he should have treated him better

12 Dimelo   ~  Mar 15, 2012 4:03 pm

[8] I didn't know that one factoid, still doesn't change my opinion of Rose. It's sad that he had to do that, the fact that the media isn't constantly reminding us of this means he is genuinely a good guy trying to do good things. Thanks for bringing it up, had to be said.

13 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Mar 15, 2012 8:23 pm

Wow..some serious old-fogey commentary in this thread..I want the kid to mash and stay cocky. Bland atletes can be boring, and lord knows baseball needs more characters. Remember: it ain't bragging if it's true!

14 The Hawk   ~  Mar 15, 2012 8:54 pm

He doesn't seem petulant nor entitled to me. He does seem like a cocky bigmouth but that's different.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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