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