It seems like every other week, Bryce Harper is trying to shoehorn his own agenda into the game of baseball. He could just allow his play on the field to speak for him, and easily raise his star power by becoming this generations’ Barry Bonds.
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Both players have had their own issues within the game. Bonds was indifferent and surly with the press, Harper uses the wide-eyed media members to push his agenda of changing the game. Bonds didn’t find out until late in his career how important a good relationship with the key people who follow the sport really was.
He always had the ear of the hometown fans, and even packed road games, if only to see history.
Harper, however, has the ear of the media, but is driving a wedge between himself and the fans who have passed “this brand” of baseball down for many generations.
It could be that a player doesn’t like the sport they play in. That is ok for them and they have to deal with it. Yasiel Puig came out in favor of the “make baseball fun again” movement that Harper started. Does that mean that every fan of Yasiel Puig will share the opinion that baseball is not fun?
This is just an excuse to place blame on everyone but yourself when you fail to win the ultimate prize in your sport. And if anybody wants to tell me that an MVP award is more important than a World Series ring, than you may want to stop reading anything I write from this point on, because your priorities are out of whack.
Last night, Harper was tossed after repeatedly showing up the home plate umpire, and excessive barking from the dugout. After a walk-off by Clint Robinson, Harper reappeared on the field, and not to celebrate implicitly with his teammates on a great win. But to first and foremost berate the umpire who had tossed him.
So, we are supposed to think that allowing players to act out in aggression toward their opponents, coaches, and umpires, is just normal behavior. This behavior, and his inability to show contrition in his post-game interview, is a clear indication that the player believes his actions were warranted.
But this game is played in front of impressionable children who shouldn’t see outright disrespect and think that it’s ok to just win with class.
History is not on Harper’s side if Bonds was his predecessor.
As Giants fans found out a few years after Bonds’ exit, the TEAM aspect became the focus, and so did winning.
That isn’t to say that Harper is not committed to winning. But when you want to be considered the sun that all the planets revolve around, you must understand that you risk success if you fail to stay humble.
Towards the end of his career with the Giants, Bonds was able to take less money and allow the team to find more talent. This isn’t to say that the team nor the player never broached the subject. But his salary took up a great portion of the payroll, and individual success, while exciting, can’t compete with winning championships when it comes to keeping fans and attracting new ones.
Harper is heading down a path in which he is marketing himself out of the budget for 80% of the teams, and forcing his own team to spend more than 75% of its budget on one player.
It’s fascinating to think that a player transcends its sport so much, that they end up resenting the sport because they never were able to win it all and taste the champagne.
How gnawing is it that Eugenio Velez has a ring and Bonds doesn’t?
The point here isn’t that Harper is a terrible guy, or a jerk. He is a young player, who ten years ago would be completely put in his place by a veteran making ten times less than he is. And it would be encouraged by the organization.
But this generation sees its young entertainers as having a better opinion about things than anyone else. Think about all of the actors and actresses, as well as musicians. Everybody wants to listen to hear what their opinions are, and those become the trends. Does Nicki Minaj really have a better opinion about the state of the music industry than Paul McCartney? I mean who are we listening to? Kids, and it’s not their fault, they have microphones shoved in their faces every day.
We don’t really need to hear about players like Harper and Puig feel about where they see the game headed. It’s important to get feedback from people who have been in the game for a little bit longer. And just because they can play the game at a high level, doesn’t mean they know what’s best for the game.
If that were the case, Isiah Thomas would still be coaching or in the front office in the NBA.
There plenty of other opinions out there that should hold more water anyway. Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, players with a ring, or even ones who take blame but deflect praise.
Harper has tried to align his situation of changing the game to that of what Steph Curry has done in basketball. But aside from the affiliation with Under Armour, these two MVP’s couldn’t be more different.
Curry takes all the praise and uses it to raise up his teammates. His focus is on elevating his play to the highest level, and everything else will fall in line. Harper on the other hand is focused on his own name and branding, and trying as hard as he can to maximize it.
If a player as good as Harper speaks out against the sport they play, they put that sport at risk of fracture. The traditionalists who have grown to love the game in its most basic form (those who love a 2-0 two and a half hour nail-biter) are fans of the game first and foremost. So the “ME” part is not what brings them out to the ballgame. It was in San Francisco for many years, but even being a former MVP and perennial All-Star, Posey limits his exposure outside the lines, which is great.
The reason this is so important is that the next crop of players are watching. The youth baseball leagues have plenty of kids who are idolizing players who aren’t backing their product 100%.
Both Harper and Puig should be conforming to the way the game is played, not the other way around. Focus on signing a contract that keeps a quality team together, not based entirely on what the presumed “market value” is. The game thrives in places where teams win. And players on teams that win are generally happy. There is no need for a change of the game in San Francisco, where AT&T is sold out every game. Nobody is complaining there about the state of the game.
It is up to the superstar to decide how happy they are with the sport they were gifted to play. The game has been here, gonna be here, and gonna stay here.