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: Sep 28, 2006
Posted on: July 26, 2011 7:20 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

What a silly attempt to make something out of nothing.  Waste of time.

Since: Feb 21, 2007
Posted on: July 26, 2011 7:14 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

You know the only people upset about this is black people. I Think its a joke. Bryce is being wacthed and monitioried by everyone like Jackie but for different reasons. People want to play the race card whenever they get the chance. The fact is there are more africian americans in pro sports(football,basketball,and baseball) making more than whites. Quit the crying. You get all the public aid, county jobs, city jobs and always cry. Keep shooting each other too, it helps us white people with crime. Slaverly was 200 years ago. Let it go my Negros, let it go.

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: July 26, 2011 7:11 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

If Harris had just added the qualifier at the start rather than clarifying at the end it would make more sense.  If he could rephrase it, I'm sure he would in order to be clear it's baseball scrutiny not more than that.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: July 26, 2011 7:11 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

I believe this is just a bit premature he has yey to play 1 game in MLB . Talking heads getting ahead of them selfs

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: July 26, 2011 7:00 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

evets207 - You are exactly correct.  Some people look for any reason to find controversy where there is none, and defend people (or their legend) when it doesn't require defending.

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:59 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

Nope not angry, Matt.  Just annoyed at people leaping to conclusions or getting whiny over nothing.  So, Harper and Robinson were NOT compared, but somehow it's wrong to include them in the same sentence.  Makes zero sense, and represents nothing but your own indignation at the thought of some player, any player undergoing the most intense scrutiny since Robinson.  The fact Harper is heavily scrutinized has no impact whatsoever on Robinson's legacy, and clearly isn't the same.  But if you ask a guy "who else has faced this kind of scrutiny?", what would be an acceptable answer?  Probably Robinson, unless you know of someone else.  But you didn't offer that.  You just offered a baseless overreaction, as if some heretic had invoked Robinson's name improperly.  It's just silly and completely broken logic.

Since: Oct 8, 2006
Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:46 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

"Since" and "as" are two totally different words.  What a joke.  Everyone is so quick to make things controversial.  I am the tallest person in my family since my great-grandfather.  He was taller, but nobody has been as tall as me in our family besides him.  Now go get a life. 

Since: Nov 23, 2009
Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:44 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

WTF?  That's crazy talk.  Don't they have any understanding of history whatsoever?!? 

Since: Jan 18, 2007
Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:35 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

When this kid's 50 and in the Hall of Fame, will these hecklers remember the time they got drunk and tried to belittle the best player of our generation at a minor league park 32 years ago?  If they do, they'll either laugh about it or be ashamed anyway, right?

Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:23 pm

Harper facing most scrutiny since ... Jackie?

Just b/c you say you aren't comparing someone doesn't make it free from scrutiny. Bryce Harper is a millionaire at age 18 and hears taunts from fans that all major leaguers do. There's no reason to dip back into history and name Robinson like that. I didn't get sanctimonious or freak out. I simply said there's no reason to do so. Your overreaction to my comments comes off as angry. If you really are angry, well, that's a whole issue in and of itself.

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