If you own the June 2009 Sports Illustrated issue, then you have the first piece of Bryce Harper propaganda. It was said inside that magazine that he hit a homerun over 570+ feet and throws 96 MPH.
SI readers realized how good he was, and then the country realized how serious he was about baseball. He dropped out of high school to get his GED so that instead of playing baseball at a high school level he could play college baseball, where he was awarded the Golden Spikes Award for the best amateur baseball player in the country. He batted .443 with 31 HR’s and 98 RBI’s in just 66 games in college…..as a 17 year old.
After that it was easy to see why the Nationals made him the 1st overall pick in the 2010 draft. From that moment on a lot was expected of not just the 17 year old but also the Nationals who the year before drafted a pitching phenom with the number 1 pick. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were now not only the face of the future of the Nationals but the face of the future of baseball.
Strasburg has delivered on the hype to become one of the best pitchers in the Majors (came into the season with a sub 3.00 ERA).
Meanwhile, Bryce Harper seems to have somehow disappointed America with his play. Last year he was voted “the most overrated player” in baseball by his peers. This after batting over .275 in his 1st 3 years, hit over 20 jacks in 2 of his 3 seasons, and won Rookie of The Year to go along with his 2 all-star appearances. That can be blamed on 3 things.
Mike Trout, ESPN, and Mike Trout again.
Mike Trout is on the list twice because Mike Trout is simply twice the player that Harper is. And that is not a knock on Harper, Mike Trout is just that good. Since 2012 (his and Harper’s rookie season) he’s batting over .310 and averages almost 35 HR’s, 100 RBI’s, and 120 R’s per season. Comparing anybody to Mike Trout is ridiculous, let alone a kid who played most of his professional career as a teenager. But that is exactly what ESPN has done.
ESPN has tried to put Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in the same elite category claiming them together as the face of baseball. Insane! The only player that rivals what Trout has done is former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and even he lacks the speed and defensive skills that last year’s MVP possesses.
To make matters worse, ESPN talked up Harper since 2009 without really mentioning Trout until his rookie season where he took the league by storm. While Harper won the NL Rookie of the Year and became the youngest position player All-Star ever, it seemed to not be good enough considering Mike Trout was head and shoulders better and never talked about before his rookie season. ESPN screwed the pooch trying to put too much on a player that was barely old enough to buy a lottery ticket.
And although ESPN has seemed to back off of the Bryce Harper hype after an injury riddled season, they may have just motivated him to become the player that they tried to create. Harper has raised his on base percentage 60 points (.344 to .405) and his OPS has jumped almost 100 points (.767 to .862). He is also on pace to destroy his career high HR mark of 22, as his current pace would more than double that (46).
He is the leader of a Nationals offense that has under-achieved in the past few seasons, and with his help looks to make a serious run through the playoffs this year. Even though the Nationals wasted millions on pitcher Max Scherzer instead of bolstering a struggling offense, if Harper can continue to improve his game the Nationals will be in the thick of the National League race, regardless of their poor start (13W 15L). The big thing is that Harper is improving and is already one of the best young players in baseball already.
People need to realize that Harper is the third youngest player in the National League, and yes he’s even younger than Major League Baseball’s new golden boy, the Cub’s Kris Bryant. Fans should be realistic and be amazed when viewing Harper’s 2 All-Star bids in his only 2 healthy seasons, his National League Rookie of the Year while other people his age were going to prom, and the fact that he has yet to face a pitcher that wasn’t older than him. Instead ESPN hasn’t given him the credit he deserves because of the unrealistic standards that they created.
What they have given him, is the motivation to be the best player that he can be. And according to the June 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated that is one heck of a player. Not quite Mike Trout good, but still pretty damn good.