Washington Nationals Reaction: Bryce Harper Thinks Baseball is a “Tired Sport,” Players Don’t Agree

Feb 28, 2016; Viera, FL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) poses for a photo during media day at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2016; Viera, FL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) poses for a photo during media day at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports /

Bryce Harper’s open mind can be as loud as the crack of a baseball off his powerful bat.

And just as his home runs don’t exactly make opposing pitchers happy, his quotes can sometimes strike a nerve.

In a recent ESPN the Magazine feature on his mission to change baseball forever, Harper openly gave his opinion on the deeper elements of baseball, the “unwritten rules”:

"“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…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 as if this is just Harper speaking on a whim. He first commented on his national attention to Washington Post writer Barry Svlurga last summer, and echoed many of the same points to Tim Keown and ESPN.

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His point is clear: the other major sports have immediately recognizable figures that aren’t afraid to show their emotions on the playing field (Exhibit A: Cam Newton). Harper’s ascension to an MVP level last season for the Washington Nationals was a huge storyline within baseball media, but he’s not happy with the attention it received compared to other superstars.

"“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.”"

Even though he presented his thoughts without any personal attacks or rash statements, the quotes still drew some ire. First to comment was Sergio Romo, a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

"“Don’t put your foot in your mouth when you’re the face of the game and you just won the MVP. I’m sorry, but just shut up…As emotional and as fiery as I am, I do my best not to look to the other dugout. I look to the ground, I look to my dugout, to the sky, to the stands. It’s warranted to be excited. But there is a way to go about it to not show disrespect, not only to the other team but the game itself."

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Romo is one of the Giants’, and the MLB’s, most emotional players. It’s a simple difference of opinion on how this emotion should be shown within the context of the sport. Both players are coming from completely different perspectives; Romo, 33 years old, is in the latter half of a strong but mostly quiet career (at least on the national stage). Harper is up-and-coming not just within baseball circles, but with fans of any sport. He wants to use his talent and potential for more than just stats and wins.

While Romo disputed Harper’s points with class, Hall-of-Fame pitcher Goose Gossage did not. In an unrelated interview with ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago, Gossage didn’t hold back with his thoughts on Harper and baseball as a whole.

"“What does this kid know? This kid doesn’t know squat about the game, and [has] no respect for it…My career started out on the first strike in 1972, and it ended in the last one in 1994, when we lost a World Series, which should have never happened, but it did. … We fought for everything these players are getting. So let me tell Bryce Harper something: go look at the history, figure it out and quit acting like a fool.”"

Gossage also commented earlier in the week on Jose Bautista and other “problems” in baseball, complete with many an expletive. His message isn’t exactly bothersome, but it’s the way Gossage presented it that’s unagreeable.

Harper is one of the nation’s brightest young stars. He wants to bring baseball into the national stage; who can fault him for that?

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But he should question if this is the right way to go about it. Steph Curry and Cam Newton, Harper’s pseudo-role-models in this area, are doing pretty well for themselves and their respective sports right now. It will be interesting to see if he continues to follow their trail.