There are some who follow baseball who believe that Bryce Harper compares most favorably to Barry Bonds. But fans of the Giants and baseball in general in the 1980’s into the 1990’s may see Harper as closer to Will Clark, and that is why it hurts more when he disrespects the game.
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It really had me wondering lately, “Why does what Bryce Harper say matter so much?”
It wasn’t the feeling that the superstar would change people’s minds about what good baseball is. We have had the game thrive for years without taunting and the “Me, Me, Me” attitude.
But it turns out, the reason why I was so disappointed with Harper’s comments on the game is that his persona reminds me a lot of my favorite player, Will Clark.
Clark made a name for himself prior to entering the Giants clubhouse by dominating at the college and Olympic level.
Looking at the stats between the two players, both hit .300 in the minors. (Well technically Clark hit .301, but it’s close enough to make it even.) And some may look at the 74 games that Clark played to the 139 for Harper. But that just means Clark had less seasoning. Also, Clark had 10 home runs in those 74 games, so if you double the games, you double the home runs, so his 20 would be on par with Harper’s 23 career minor league jacks.
A look at Harper’s career numbers up to this point:
108 Home runs, 277 runs batted in, .286 batting average, and a .522 slugging percentage in 2310 plate appearances.
And now Clark:
98 home runs, 352 runs batted in, .304 batting average, and a .524 slugging percentage in 2410 plate appearances.
Very similar indeed.
Some will say that Harper’s age should make his work more valuable. Why is that? A player is ready when they are, ready. So to say that Harper’s brilliance on the field is somehow more amazing because he is younger is asinine. He has been on track to play in the big leagues since high school. It wasn’t a surprise.
This isn’t to say that Harper will have the career that Clark had. WHether you believe that to be a good or a bad thing is up to you.
But at this point, the only thing that I can tell you is he isn’t having Clark’s career when it comes to selflessness.
Clark too was a heralded prospect, chosen to lead a team back to prominence. A motivator who could use his mouth and his body to coax his team, and its fan base along. He was outspoken at times, but generally chose the right thing to say, unless it was an exuberant swear word before a champagne shower in 1987.
This is where the similarities unfortunately end. At least up to this point in Harper’s career. Both players have rubbed teammates the wrong way. But Clark still knew his place as a young star, and he knew he still had a lot to learn.
You would be hard pressed to find a player who personified intensity on the field like Will Clark. And I am sure that some would argue that Harper is even more intense.
But it is the character side that really shows how much respect the player has for the game. His ability to grow within the game, as opposed to playing for himself, and his “brand”.
Harper has a chance to have a Hall of Fame career. But even with Clark’s career numbers of 284 home runs, 1205 runs batted in, and a .303 batting average, it wasn’t enough to get him in.
So another question is, if Harper were to finish his career with equal numbers, is he a Hall of Famer?
Clark in his prime was an ambassador of the game and handled it with respect and grace. Hopefully Harper is given the opportunity to grow as a player and present the game to the country in a way that promotes TEAM and respect.
The youth are watching, and they want a champion. Thanks Thrill, for being mine.