Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Was Harper kiss a big deal?

Bryce Harper's home run trot from last night's game against Greensboro has drawn considerable attention from all over the sporting world today. The video of the 18-year-old blowing a kiss toward pitcher Zachary Neal has shown up on ESPN, MLB Network and countless other TV stations and websites and drawn reaction from ex-ballplayers, baseball executives and talking heads.

But how big a deal was this? Did Harper's actions constitute a major breach of baseball etiquette or signal a major underlying issue about his maturity level? Some say yes, but I'm not so sure.

First of all, we don't know what exactly Neal and other Greensboro players were saying or doing before the home run or as Harper rounded the bases. We do know he has been on the receiving end of plenty of taunting and assorted jabs from opposing teams and fans during his brief time in Hagerstown, as you might expect would be the case for an 18-year-old phenom playing in the minor leagues for the first time.

Second, the Nationals aren't treating this as though it's a major infraction of any kind. Though team officials have spoken to him, he hasn't been benched or otherwise punished.

This, though, is the reason all that talk about Harper catapulting his way through the Nationals' farm system and reaching the major leagues this season was silly. There's a lot more to becoming a big-leaguer than hitting .350 at low-Class A. There's learning how to deal with the mental and physical grind of playing every day, of taking long bus rides, of playing under poor conditions and -- yes -- of learning what actions are and aren't appropriate in professional baseball.

A major-leaguer blows a kiss at the opposing pitcher, and both benches empty. A minor-leaguer does it, he gets talked to by his manager and learns his lesson. This stuff probably happens all the time to plenty of players. They just don't have cameras following every one of their at-bats, nor do they have the entire baseball world pontificating on what their actions mean.

Was Harper right to do it? No. And he probably knew it very soon thereafter. But was his blown kiss evidence of a deeper maturity issue, or worth being analyzed by every media outlet from Washington to Walla Walla? Probably not.


Janner33 said...

I'm more concerned about the state of the peach fuzz on his upper lip than the smooch to the opposing pitcher!

Will said...

No! It's only because he's 18 and making $10mil that this is a big deal. If any other player in minor league did this, it's not even close to a story, even for the local beat writer. But with Harper, the journalists are scrounging for whatever they can get.

It's time to move on.

JD said...

Any idea why Zimmerman is not in the Potomac lineup tonight?

Andrew said...

I am calling it the "Kiss heard 'round the world". Bryce has to realize there are players and people looking to extract anything from him that will propel them into an extra 15 minutes of fame.

He has to toughen up as he is a target much the same way as Tiger Woods, LeBron, and ARod have been. He needs to learn this before it is something that will tarnish him.

This was minor but it gives his detractors ammunition to use and say he isn't a good guy or as some have said he is a punk.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Just saw where the Nats drafted Bryces brother out of South Carolina.

NatsJack in Florida said...

And how come the Marlins can call up a 21 yo right hander from AA with a 3.54 ERA (well, he is 7 - 1) to plug in a starters role and we get Yunesky Maya and Craig Stammen?

JaneB said...

I figured we would draft his brother. Figured we'd draft Pudge's son, too. Did we?

Love & Kisses To Neal and the Greensbora Goofs said...

Ah c'mon guys!

Ballplayers have been doing this nonsense for as long as baseball has been played--its's part of the game.

Imagine what Ty Cobb or the Babe retaliated with in words or actions--it was either a spiked 2nd baseman or a few choice words or both!

I think that this has been blown way outtta proportion.

I think that instead of retaliating with a knockdown pitch, Nats players should hit a HR and blow kisses to the pitch as each base is crossed, with 2 kisses as they touch homeplate.

Harper has to put up with a lot from the opposite benches; blowing kisses is pretty minor retaliation!

Go get 'em Harp & the Suns!!!!

Gonat said...

NatsJack in Florida said...
And how come the Marlins can call up a 21 yo right hander from AA with a 3.54 ERA (well, he is 7 - 1) to plug in a starters role and we get Yunesky Maya and Craig Stammen?

June 7, 2011 8:08 PM

It could have been worse. Could've been a guy named Garrett Mock!

Eugene in Oregon said...

@ JaneB

The Twins took Pudge Jr. in the sixth round.

N. Cognito said...

Mark said:
"...of taking long bus rides, of playing under poor conditions..."

I keep hearing this (not just NatsInsider) but where in the major leagues, except in Spring Training, are there long bus rides and poor playing conditions?

Andrew said...

JaneB, here is the Nats Draft Tracker, page 1 & 2. Click this link and re-fresh it often!


Richard said...

The Nats drafted Bryan Harper in the 30th round. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Blowing a kiss towards another male has certain connotations that are not usually normal for an athelete. That is something you would expect from Barmey Frank. Even Elijah Dukes, with all his behavioral issues, would not stoop that low. The Nats may have another real head case on their hands.

Richard said...

Sorry NatsJack I hadn't noticed your previous post re the Nats drafting Bryan H.

natscan reduxit said...


... you say, "Was Harper right to do it? No." But I just don't understand why anyone would find fault with it. Maybe I'm a simple socialist from north of the border, but I can't imagine why a silly thing like blowing someone a kiss would be 'against' any unwritten rule of behaviour for anyone, athlete or not.

... last year, the baseball fan community was all up in arms against A-Rod for yelling "watch out" to a runner from the other team rounding third. "It wasn't professional", they said; "it was bush league"; "it showed immaturity". The fact is, of course, it showed great creativity in playing the game - playing to win. Because it was Rodriquez and not some Mendoza flunky, the powers that be that smoke their big stogies and run the show from behind their solid polished oak desks were unable to impose any reprimand. But they'd have liked to, and we all know it.

... if Bryce Harper allows himself to be manipulated into some sort of Bud Light automaton, someone who can be counted on to rock no boats, who wins? Not the fans.

But Go Nats! ...anyway.

Anonymous said...

Line-ups? Is there a game tonight?

rmoore446 said...

Pudge's son was drafted by the Twins. Not sure what round but he was around the 208 or so player taken.

JaneB said...

Thanks Eugene and rmoore446 and Andrew!

Jamie said...

Who cares? The only things that matter are that his teammates get along with him and he keeps playing well.

Feel Wood said...

"Mark said:
"...of taking long bus rides, of playing under poor conditions..."

I keep hearing this (not just NatsInsider) but where in the major leagues, except in Spring Training, are there long bus rides and poor playing conditions?"

Obviously there aren't. Taking the long bus rides is not to get him ready to do the same in the majors. Instead, it's something called paying one's dues.

Harper_ROY_2012 said...

Only a big deal for the media who wants to bring the kid down!

SpringfieldFan said...

It's about paying one's dues, but more than that I think it's about learning to deal with adversity in the context of the game and the profession.

Anonymous said...

Agree completely with Harper-ROY.

Anonymous said...

Here's what that Segway Joy-Riding Leather PANTS destroyer of franchises, Jim Bowden had to say ... be interesting to find out if he is right or if Mark's very valid points were taken into consideration?

The GM’s office in Washington should slow down the player-development plans to promote Harper to Double-A -- not because of talent but because of immaturity issues. A player's maturity is just as important as his talent, something the player must understand. Harper, who is 18, won't just have opposing pitchers throwing at him in the future; he also puts his teammates at risk. When you get to the major league level, blowing kisses won’t be tolerated. He'll see a high frequency of 95 mph fastballs that could put him on the disabled list. Like Barry Bonds in his prime, Harper needs to learn now that his response to taunting or comments from opposing players must be made with his bat, not gestures.

When learning of an incident like this one, the first thing I would do as GM would be to call my director of player development. Hopefully, he will inform me that the manager sat down with Harper, explained why his reaction was inappropriate and possibly fined him behind closed doors. After Harper confessed to the manager that he made a mistake in the emotion of the moment, I would accept his apology. My next suggestion, however, would be for the farm director to travel to Hagerstown, Md., to communicate eyeball to eyeball with Harper so he understands that his promotion to the next level would depend on his avoiding future incidents like the one Monday night. Then I would put the issue behind me and look forward to Harper's next bomb.

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