Blog Entry

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

Posted on: July 26, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 10:55 pm

By Matt Snyder

I don't doubt that Bryce Harper is facing pretty heavy hype and scrutiny as the game's top prospect makes his way through the minor leagues in the Nationals' system. He's reportedly faced lots of profanity and heckles from fans at nearly every stop. Unfortunatly, that's what comes with being a famous athlete these days. What is even more unfortunate is when a pair of his coaches decide to make a Jackie Robinson mention. From an upcoming story in Sports Illustrated:
Harper, a travel-baseball phenom out of Las Vegas at 10, an SI cover boy at 16 and a $9.9 million signee at 17, is the most well-known minor leaguer since Michael Jordan. But Jordan was a novelty, not a prospect. Harper is the most scrutinized prospect since....

"Jackie Robinson," says Tony Tarasco, a former major leaguer and a Nationals minor league coordinator who has become Harper's player-development Yoda. "You have to go back to Jackie Robinson to find anybody who goes through this much scrutiny. It wasn't like this for [Stephen] Strasburg. Wasn't like this for Alex Rodriguez."

Jackie Robinson? Surely Doug Harris, the Nationals' director of player development, with 21 years in pro ball as a player, scout and executive, would find a different comparable for Harper.

Independent of Tarasco, Harris offered, "This is really unfair and it's totally different, but if I can make a comparison to one guy that has been scrutinized like this, it would be Jackie Robinson. And it's unfair because it was a different standard. He was under a microscope in an era when we didn't have Internet, didn't have cellphones.

"Now, Jackie Robinson had his life threatened. I'm not comparing Bryce to that. But as far as nonstop scrutiny? Absolutely. Day to day."
I'm glad Harris qualified his statements and made sure to point out that what Harper faced and what Robinson faced are two completely different things, but that doesn't make the mention any less absurd. As 'Duk at Big League Stew pointed out, Strasburg faced tons of scrutiny and hype just last season.

What exactly is Harper hearing that draws the mention of a man who had to endure brutal racism, death threats and more day-in-day-out that few of us can even imagine?

"Some of the stuff I hear, I can't say," Harper said (from the above linked SI article). "It's bad stuff. I do hear stuff like 'moneymaker,' 'moneybags.' ... I get 'overrated' a lot -- that's just old. It comes with the territory, I guess. I'm not going to let it bother me."

I'll avoid getting sanctimonious or worked up here, so let's just bottom line it. That's nothing the overwhelming majority of major leaguers don't hear on a daily basis during road trips. Harper himself said it doesn't bother him.

This is not the stuff of Jackie Robinson. Let's leave his name alone in discussions like this.

UPDATE: Harris has followed up on the conversation with a mea culpa: "In talking to Tom[Verducci of Sports Illustrated], my sole intent was to speak to the scrutiny that Harper faces on a daily basis," Harris said. "That said, the hardships that Mr. Robinson endured in/around 1947 were unique and historical in context. While Harper's current situation is extraordinary by most measures, it pales in comparison to the life of Mr. Robinson, nor will it approach the lasting impact. I regret making this ill-fated correlation." (CSN Washington)

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Since: Apr 28, 2011
Posted on: July 27, 2011 2:51 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

no man in the history of american sports had more pressure  to perform than jackie robinson, he was playing for his entire race. had he failed, who knows how long it would have taken  for another black man to get a chance. his every move on and off the field was scrutinized. bryce harper is just another hotshot in a long list of hotshots already a rich man trying to make it to the majors. to put him in the same conversation as robinson is one word STUPID!!!

Since: Mar 12, 2008
Posted on: July 27, 2011 10:13 am

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

Bryce Harper is a good kid, the operative word being KID. He's just 18 years old and out on his own for the first time in his life, facing unspeakable pressure, pressure that would break just about anybody at any age. I'm 40 years old and would likely go after anybody who directed any of the slurs that he hears constantly on a daily basis. And remember, the KID is just 18. I spent the first few months of this season photographing him at every home game in Hagerstown. I also spent many games talking to his father and other family members who happened to join his Dad for the games. They are all good folk. Bryce has a great foundation and the support of a great family behind him. If you step back and view Bryce in a more human light, you'll start to feel for the kid and all he's going through. I guess I'm in the minority in that I'm rooting for this kid and wish him well at every stop. I just pray that he can stay grounded as he navigates his way through this maturing process.

Since: Apr 23, 2011
Posted on: July 27, 2011 9:37 am

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

Let's face it, the kids good. That all being said, he is in the Minor League system.  What is going to happen when he makes the big leagues and goes to NY.  Who knows if he can handle the pressure.  Keep in mind that Harper is young.  Stuff like this probably hasn't really happened to him before.  He is very cocky, i think its going to get worse.   Maybe he will crack under all the pressure.  Only time will tell.  Thanks

Since: Feb 10, 2010
Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:32 am

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

How does garbage like this make a CBS front page?  Every professional gets heckled in away games.  Look at some other guys like LeBron and Rocker.

Since: Feb 1, 2009
Posted on: July 27, 2011 7:42 am

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

It has NOTHING to do with "growing a pair"!  It is simply an asinine comparison to make to the horrors that Jackie Robinson dealt with when Bryce Harper is a white kid!  No matter how bad the things Bryce Harper hears at the ballpark are, they pale in comparison to the racial slurs and threats on his life that Robinson had to deal with everyday.  Bryce Harper isn't even bothered by it, so why is this even a story?!?  Must have been a slow news day... 

Since: Jul 14, 2011
Posted on: July 27, 2011 3:03 am

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

Why the Fk are people so damn sensitive? Mr. Harris CLEARLY said that Bryce Harper has faced the most Minor League scrutiny SINCE Jackie Robinson. He didn't say that he faced more, just the most SINCE. I got. A lot of people got it. It's a shame he had to act like a Pu55y and give an apology statement. He shouldn't have had to. People, "GROW A PAIR!"

Since: Jul 12, 2007
Posted on: July 27, 2011 2:25 am

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

Jackie Robinson wasn't allowed to react to any derogatory statements or retaliate if he was racially attacked for three years due to a deal he made with Branch Rickey.  Bryce Harper is blowing kisses to pitchers as he circles the bases.  To compare the two isn't just ridiculous, it's disrespectful to one of baseball's real heroes.  Watch a documentary on Jackie Robinson and you'll understand why this is so offensive to some.  

Since: Aug 29, 2007
Posted on: July 26, 2011 9:30 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

"Slaverly was 200 years ago." And spellcheck was invented about 30. I'll give you this link, but I'm not sure you can read. But it's a free country. A mind is a terrible thing to waste....if you chose to....Google it.


Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: July 26, 2011 9:22 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

Even the link to this story is a bad joke.  Nats coaches compare Harper to Robinson.  No, they didn't.  They compared him to every player SINCE Robinson in one single aspect.  This is garbage, and you have to question the agenda of the author.  Particularly in light of the laughably bad link title, it seems more like the guy has an issue with Harper than anything else.

Since: Jun 3, 2011
Posted on: July 26, 2011 7:53 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

The comparison between Harper and Jackie Robinson may be accurate but needs to be immediately qualified.  Any parallel between their development and how they came up through the minors is alright, but comparing Harper breaking into the minors at a young age and Robinson breaking the color bearier in progressively racial and prejudiced times is completely out of line. 

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