Bryce Harper, when he finally makes it to the major leagues, is going to be a great baseball player, of this there is little doubt. If he can get over his arrogance and self-inflated sense of worth, he may even go down as one of the greatest players of all-time, providing his career plays out the way most experts think it will. Because of this, and because of the age we live in, Harper is easily one of the most scrutinized athletes on the planet. His life, on and off the field, are dissected under a virtual microscope by fans, journalists, and bloggers alike.
But comparing the level of scrutiny that Harper faces to what Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson had to go through is not only preposterous, it’s downright insulting.
But that’s exactly what a pair of Washington Nationals officials did in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself and prepare to be amazed and outraged.
From Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris…
“This is really unfair and it’s totally different, but if I can make a comparison to one guy that has been scrutinized like this, it would be Jackie Robinson. And it’s unfair because it was a different standard. He was under a microscope in an era when we didn’t have Internet, didn’t have cellphones. Now, Jackie Robinson had his life threatened. I’m not comparing Bryce to that. But as far as nonstop scrutiny? Absolutely. Day to day.”
And minor league coach Tony Tarasco…
“Jackie Robinson. You have to go back to Jackie Robinson to find anybody who goes through this much scrutiny. It wasn’t like this for [Stephen] Strasburg. Wasn’t like this for Alex Rodriguez.”
Even though you knew it was coming, it still was a kick in the teeth. The problem I have with this, and it’s fairly obvious to most people, is that Harper’s level of scrutiny, besides the time we live in, has a lot to do not only with Harper’s baseball skill and acumen, but his character issues and lack of humility. If he were just a quiet, humble player with off the chart baseball skill, there would be a lot less invasion into his private life, and a lot less backlash when he acts out. But Harper’s personality is a product of his own making, and the scrutiny that comes with being that type of outwardly arrogant person is one of the drawbacks of being such a person.
The scrutiny Robinson faced was a product of the segregationist era that the United States suffered through, and had nothing to do with the kind of person Jackie Robinson was. The death threats to not only himself, but his family as well, the taunting from fans and opponents alike, the throngs of people hoping he failed just because of the color of his skin was on a totally different level than anything Bryce Harper has faced, or will face, as he makes his way to the big leagues.
Shame on Harris and Tarasco for having the unmitigated gall to make such a ridiculously stupid and insulting comparison.