Ever since he was 16 years old, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has had to deal with naysayers and ridiculous expectations as well as fight a reputation he gained through few isolated actions. When Harper was in the Minors, for example, he was hit with a pitch. He then hit a home run in the following at-bat and blew a kiss to the pitcher as he rounded the bases. Nobody acknowledges Harper was hit by that pitcher; they just jump on Harper for having some swagger and showing some emotion.
So, when an anonymous player survey came out and 24 percent of players voted Harper as baseball’s most overrated player, just ahead of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig who had 21 percent of the vote, needless to say it was surprising and disappointing. Harper is coming off a 2013 where he missed an entire month after running into a wall, which spurred criticism of his playing style. This comes after being praised for his old school, all out playing style that reminds everyone of Pete Rose and Mickey Mantle. Even though Harper missed a month, he was able to improve his numbers year to year, pushing his slash line up significantly while posting a second consecutive 20 home run season and also cutting down on his strikeouts while boosting his walk numbers.
If you watch ESPN or MLB Network as much as I do, you may have some trouble finding a story on Harper. Both networks tend to push Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera any chance they can; that’s not to say either of those players are overrated, but it’s hard in my opinion to call a player overrated when they do not get nearly the same publicity as Trout or Cabrera. What’s even more frustrating is Trout and Harper have similar playing styles, yet Trout is lauded while Harper is criticized all because one got hurt and the other has not been injured yet.
The players voting Harper overrated is just a byproduct of his unnecessarily bad reputation. It’s not fair to Harper, who is a player who plays the game hard, has no sense of entitlement on the field and always seems to try and be accessible to fans. The real player who should be voted overrated is Puig, who actually has the bad attitude people believe Harper has. Puig was said to be having trouble adjusting to all the fame and publicity he was receiving during his rookie season. When he was in Arizona, Arizona Diamondbacks legend Luis Gonzalez visited the Dodgers clubhouse. Puig ignored Gonzalez, acting as though he did not know him, and did not even acknowledge him until Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire reprimanded him and demanded Puig show respect. That is something you would never see out of Harper, because Harper respects the game.
Harper is a player who plays very hard, never shows a bad attitude on the field and is respectful to fans and legends of the game. He will argue a call like any other player, but those negatives will be pointed out more often because of who he is. This is both sad and frustrating, because those players who voted Harper overrated would probably give up a limb to have him on their team and they would probably welcome him with open arms. Is Harper overrated? No. Does he have an unnecessarily bad reputation perpetuated by fans? Yes, and that is the most pathetic part.