Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper struck a chord among sports fans.
Harper was the unanimous choice for National League MVP last season when he batted .330, and led the NL in runs scored (118), on-base percentage (.460) and slugging percentage (.649). He also tied Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for most home runs with 42.
There’s been talk of a potential $500 million contact for Harper, who is just 23, when he becomes a free agent.
Harper is one of the game’s biggest stars, and he is not shy to get on a soap box. In a profile for “ESPN The Magazine,” Harper decried that lack of individuality in baseball.
Here is what he said:
“Baseball’s tired. It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that’s Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig — there’s so many guys in the game now who are so much fun.
“Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn’t care. Because you got him. That’s part of the game. It’s not the old feeling — hoorah ... if you pimp a homer, I’m going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot ... I mean — sorry.”
Harper added that a little self-expression might be just what baseball needs.
“If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I’m going to go, ‘Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.’ That’s what makes the game fun. You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days? Football, basketball. Look at those players — Steph Curry, LeBron James. It’s exciting to see those players in those sports. Cam Newton — I love the way Cam goes about it. He smiles, he laughs. It’s that flair. The dramatic.”
You know baseball team doesn’t suffer from a lack of expression? Yep, the Royals. With the Gatorade showers, the hand gestures on the bases and the occasional Jarrod Dyson backflip, the Royals have fun on the field.
Sam Mellinger wrote about this a year ago when the Royals were being hit by pitches at an alarming rate. Here is an excerpt:
In an age of enormous video boards at stadiums, and the ability to watch highlights instantly on our phones, this is a part of the baseball code that should’ve died out long ago — with standard-definition broadcasts, if not wool uniforms.
Because if the Royals are being targeted for over-celebrating or showing too much emotion — and there are people around the game who believe this to be true — that says more about baseball than it does about the Royals.
Lighten up, in other words. The code is outdated and misguided. Other sports don’t do this.
Read all that Sam wrote here and see how well it matches up with what Harper said in the ESPN article. Fans seem to want more expression, too. The most-played highlight from last year’s playoffs likely was the bat flip by Toronto’s Jose Bautista.
Maybe Harper just needs to come play for the Royals.
Here is a very sample of what people were saying about Harper: