Bryce Harper: The Next Ken Griffey Jr? Not Quite

The newest edition of Sports Illustrated arrived in mailboxes across the country today, and I could not be more excited to read Tom Verducci's take on the hyped up Bryce Harper. Harper, the 16-year-old baseball phenom has been said to attract scouts in almost a fantasy-like manner.

According to Verducci's article, Harper tops out at 96 on the gun when he pitches, and has clubbed tape-measure home runs down city blocks in high school games. Given the credibility and baseball mind that Verducci has under his belt, I went into the article with hope. Not the hope that I envision my favorite team sandbagging to draft him, but the hope that maybe, just maybe he will be the face that baseball needs.

Not since Ken Griffey Jr., whom Verducci compares Harper to, has baseball had that "LeBron James" type of player. Sure, David Wright and Evan Longoria have proven to be marketable youngsters that have come up quickly, but Junior is in the Tiger and Jordan category of divine skill, and worshippablity. Given the dark cloud that Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez have put on the game of late, baseball could sure use a hero. Hero as in a clean Josh Hamilton(the Josh we love, but minus the troubled past, and younger).

So here you go America, he's Bryce Harper. He's got everything, right? A quick swing, laser arm, and good looks will get you far in this country. And believe me, I was getting as aroused as scouts must get when they see, as I read. I loved the tenacity that he plays with, the determination and hustle.

Then, the Messiah spoke.

"I love showing up the older guys."

"I love how people talk crap," Harper says. "I hear it all the time. Overrated. You suck. I'll just do something to shut them up, like, I'll show you. It's like in regular pregame work. I like to show off my arm. Just so it's like, There you go."

My thoughts and admiration for the next Mickey Mantle went down the drain. Yes, I know he's a 16-year-old punk that has yet to be stopped, and yet to learn how it is to hear the word, "no", but his cockiness sickens me.

His mouth roars pretty loud for a guy that has probably never faced a pitcher that can hit 96, nor a base runner with the speed of Jose Reyes or Felix Pie for that matter. I know he's confident, but he talks a big game for high schooler.

Verducci wrote of his anger, tongue-in-cheek or not, when a television program said that pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg as the next LeBron James.

"What??" Harper exclaimed with playful exasperation. "Hey, they stole that from me!"

Joking or not, that arrogance makes me want to puke. This game needs more Derrek Lees, Sean Caseys, and Griffeys, not Milton Bradleys and Prince Fielders.

Junior got to where he is, "the greatest player of our generation", through not only the most beautiful swing we've ever seen, a knack for hitting home runs, and a great arm and glove, but a humble approach that was based on his respect for the game, deriving through his mentor, his father. He could flip his hat backwards, strut to first on a home run, and yet not be cocky. That's what we need. That's what Selig needs.

I really hope that Bryce Harper can grow up in the couple of pre-MLB years that he has, because I don't want to dub the next legend as a douchebag too soon.

Photo: Baseball Analysts


9 Responses to "Bryce Harper: The Next Ken Griffey Jr? Not Quite"
  1. Matt Clapp said...
    June 4, 2009 at 11:09 PM

    Nice post. I'm gonna give him a pass because he's a 16-year-old kid still maturing and whatnot, but he does have a bit of cockiness to him that he might regret. Maybe that huge confidence could actually be a good thing for him, we'll see. I agree though, he's going to have to learn to act like a professional at some point like Griffey and LeBron(until this last week where he ditched the press conference) did. He has a chance to be the face of baseball, so he better learn to act that way and not like A.J. Pierzynski.

  2. Michael Castillo said...
    June 4, 2009 at 11:11 PM

    Thanks for the support Matt Clapp. Hey, don't pick on A.J., everyone goes after him because he's Polish. Remember?

  3. shiftace said...
    June 5, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    The Harper Brothers (Brian and Bryce) have been been fed a steady diet of baseball fundamentals since they were old enough to grip a bat. I coached other trams in their little leagues 7-8 yrs back. Even at 7-11 yrs old both of these kids had stuff, most high schoolers didn't even have. Their folks are good people and instilled hard work in them. All of the talent Bryce shows is through hard work and natural gifts. Yeah he's cocky, but if you were 6ft+ and 205 of lean @ 16 you'd have some attitude too. Can he survive the hype? probably, he's been proving nay sayers wrong since he was 6. Is he the next Griffey? Hope not,while Griffey is an amazing talent he's also made of glass, too many years of injuries have made him a sentimental favorite by default, not purely on #'s. Hopefully Harper finishes school, realigns his sights to something more palpable, like just making a good show of himself in the bigs and learning to polish his media approach. His big bro did right and is making a great showing at Northridge while holding down a 3.5 GPA. He won't go in the top 5 like Bryce will, but the extra maturity will help years down the line.

  4. Michael Castillo said...
    June 7, 2009 at 3:26 AM

    Thanks for the comment. I agree with you mostly. The Griffey reference had less to do with playing styles and injury trends, it was more or less the labeling and marketability that has been penned to both players. You're exactly right about Bryan. Going to CSUN was a good choice for him, and hopefully Bryce can get some tutorship from him. Times are going to be pressure filled for him, so a big brother to lean on mentally is huge.
    Thanks for the comment again, and I really do hope that both of these guys live up to their hype because like you said, they have an abundance of talent.

  5. Anonymous said...
    June 9, 2009 at 6:47 PM

    Holy cow this guy is amazing, I play AAU baseball myself but I am only 13, if i was even 16 and saw a guy hitting dinners like that, I would be freaked. This guy is goin to be an amazing ballplayer.

  6. Anonymous said...
    June 16, 2009 at 1:13 PM

    this kid only hit 3 home runs in high school and didnt pitch all that much.This is just a hype machine coming out of las vegas. ive seen better players but best of luck anyways kid.

  7. Michael Castillo said...
    June 16, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    Thanks for the comment. I think you're one to something, but I'm going to try and hold out until he's in the Majors. With the developments of him skipping HS and getting a GED, I think it wouldn't be good if he's rushed to the Nationals for instance.

  8. Bob Biscigliano said...
    June 17, 2009 at 10:56 PM

    My name is italian but I'm Polish. Pierzynski makes Pollacks like myself ashamed

  9. Anonymous said...
    June 12, 2010 at 4:07 AM

    If the arrogance is linked to a perfectionist work ethic, Bryce may maximize his potential on the field, as opposed to the gifted Griffey, who was as good as he ever got at age 24, and spent the last decade of his career in a free-fall far from pennant races or individual laurels.

    As annoying as their rhetoric can be, self-centered driven guys like Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, etc often get more out of their natural talent than laid back friendly ones like Griffey, Tony Gwynn and so many others. Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby weren't nice either, but they are immortal players. Now, if Bryce is self-indulgent or sociopathic that is one thing, but just because he ain't nice means very little in the baseball field. So which would you prefer, Castillo, a nice Bryce who is an occasional all-star but great family man, or an immortal who would do anything (including steroids, amphetamines, corked bats, spiking guys) to win?

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