For the second year in a row in an anonymous poll done by ESPN the Mag of MLB players Bryce Harper was voted the most overrated player. Harper has become a polarizing figure. For some reason he’s that guy who you love as a teammate but hate as an opponent. Maybe his personality rubs people the wrong way. Maybe people don’t like the way he carries himself or the way he handles the media. Regardless of the how I think fans have been manipulated into believing that he is not just overrated but not good for baseball. Here are 3 reasons you’ve been sold on the idea of hating Harper and why you shouldn’t.
1. Bryce Harper was declared the “Chosen One” at 16 years old
Why you hate: Sports Illustrated ran a feature article when Harper was 16-years old with the statement that Harper was, essentially, going to save baseball. I’m sure the established MLB players and veterans did not appreciate a 16-year old being called the “Chosen One”. Nobody likes a young player to show up and expect to be the man. When asked about his Major League aspirations Harper told SI “Hopefully as soon as 18 or 19. The fast track. … Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can’t wait.”
Why you shouldn’t: Harper, however, did not write the article nor did he call himself the “Chosen One”. He said he wanted to play Major League Baseball by the time he is 18 or 19. He said he wanted to be in the Hall of Fame and be consider the greatest to ever play the game. That pretty much sums up what every aspiring athlete hopes for. What he has done since that interview is play in 363 games, won the NL Rookie of the Year, been selected to two All-Star teams and accumulated a WAR of 9.6. Not bad for someone who hasn’t yet celebrated his 23rd birthday.
2. Bryce Harper is cocky and arrogant
Why you hate: He blows a kiss at a minor league pitcher after homering, tells a reporter “That’s a clown question, bro.”, and most recently said to Ken Rosenthal, “Where’s my ring”. For the most part, the former two antics are a part of Bryce Harper’s past. Things done by an immature player who was learning how to live with the world watching his every move. His most recent statement, the one made to Rosenthal is an example of people who want to hate him taking something out of context in order to call him arrogant. In reality, that statement had little to do with Harper and everything to do with his team, the Washington Nationals, signing 2013 AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
Why you shouldn’t: Harper plays the game as hard as anyone. This is an overused cliche. And yes, I am aware that Nationals Manager Matt Williams sat him after he failed to run out a grounder in the sixth inning of a game last April. I’ll call that an anomaly because it is contrary to everything he has ever shown us. He plays the game with the type of reckless abandon not seen since Pete Rose ran over Ray Fosse to win the 1970 All-Star game. Some people don’t know any other gear. Harper is trying to find that mix of reckless abandon and smart play that will allow him to play 150 plus games for the Nationals. He might just deserve to have a little swag if he wishes. After all, since he entered the league in 2012 he has the second highest WAR of any Nationals player at 9.6 behind only Ian Desmond. And when compared to all players during that time frame Harper ranks 61st in total WAR even though he ranks 110th in plate appearances. All indications are if he wants to be confident in his abilities he has the game to back it up.
3. Bryce Harper is not Mike Trout
Why you hate: Unfortunately, for Harper, he will probably always, to some extent, be compared to Mike Trout. 2012 was supposed to be Harper’s coming out party. He was going to show the world the future of baseball. Except, this centerfielder from the Angels showed up and stole the show. Trout is questionably one of the best players in the game, maybe the best. He set all kinds of rookie records and already has one MVP trophy in his trophy case. Hating Bryce Harper for not being as good as Mike Trout is like hating Hakeem Olajuwon for not being better than Michael Jordan. Both were superbly gifted and accomplished though one was clearly better than that other. And yes, Mike Trout has yet to do anything as silly or juvenile as blowing a kiss to a minor league pitcher.
Why you shouldn’t: Not being Mike Trout doesn’t make him a failure nor does it give reason to hate simply for not being…well Mike Trout. Before coming to the show to stay Trout played in 40 games in 2011. He also played in 286 minor league games including 91 at double-A. Harper, on the other hand, played in 139 minor league games with a combined 63 at double and triple-A. Despite getting half the preparation for the Major Leagues Harper has netted the Nationals nearly 10 wins during his first 3 seasons that they wouldn’t have had with a lesser player taking his spot. Through 2013 Harper had the sixth most runs scored, second most homers, and third most walks by a player through his 20-year old season.
Love him or hate him he’s hear to stay. Consider this; Harper is nine months younger than star in waiting Kris Bryant, yet the Nationals found a way to get Harper and his exceptional skills to the Major’s 3 years ago. Harper’s all-out style of play leaves him vulnerable to injury which could affect his performance. If he’s able to stay healthy Harper will make the impact that all those scouts raved about 6 years ago when SI decided to write a cover story on a 16-year old baseball prodigy. At this point, Harper is overrated by so many that he may just be the most undervalued asset in all of baseball.