It seems that the Washington Nationals 20-year-old superstar, Bryce Harper, has become, “Public Enemy No. 1,” in the National League East. His Pete Rose-like on-field persona has people in two camps, those who like and appreciate his all out style of play, and others, who find Harper to be a punk who is way over hyped.
You can count the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies fans in the “I Hate Bryce” camp. In Atlanta, the announcement of his name brings a shower of boo’s. While in the City of Brotherly Love, they also boo his every move, but former Phillies star, now Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth still gets the loudest response.
Nationally outside the NL East Harper is one of the most marketable stars in baseball.
According to MLB Properties, Harper’s N0. 34 Nationals Jersey ranks 6th on their best seller list. He recently passed a guy who plays for the New York Yankees, perhaps, you have heard of him. His name is Derek Jeter and Harper passed him by miles as his jersey is trending quickly.
But why is Harper the target of wrath for some fans?
Early this season, I spoke to former Phillies star and MLB Network analyst Larry Bowa. We talked Harper and the fans reaction’s to him.
JW: What are your thoughts on Bryce Harper?
Bowa: I love the way he plays the game. He is a throwback and I feel that he would have fit right in on our Phillies team very, very well. He respects the game and has a great historical understanding of those players who played the game before him. That is rare but great quality in a young player that is why he is respected by a number of former players, not just me.
JW: Why do you think he gets booed?
Bowa: That was a badge of honor in my day. If the fans in another city were booing at you, that meant you were very good and that they cared enough about you to hate you. I mean if you were no good, why take the time to boo? Look, if Harper played in any of the cities where he is booed, trust me, he would be just as big a hero there as he is now in Washington.
As someone who has covered Harper since he got to the big leagues, I can tell you that it is hard not to like the kid. At 20, he is very mature, has established a local charity and tirelessly signs autographs before and after the game.
His teammates love him and protect him like they would a kid brother. So, to my friends in both Atlanta and Philly, get used to booing him because he will be a pain in your necks for years to come.
Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award winning, producer, director and writer. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc