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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

‘Duk: Yes, someone just compared Bryce Harper to Jackie Robinson

Woo-hoo! Can’t wait for the Bryce Harper: Rookie on Trial comic book to come out!

Straight from the files of Terrible Perspective 101 comes this unbelievable gem: Two members of the Washington Nationals organization tell Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci that Bryce Harper is baseball’s most scrutinized prospect since ... Jackie Robinson.

Let’s go to the tape, shall we?:

  Nats 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.”

  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.”

Verducci notes that both men made these comments independent of each other and I assume everyone is going to jump to conclusions and believe that they’re trying to draw parallels from Robinson’s impact to whatever mark Harper will leave on the game.

I see that they are not. I also note that one of the comments comes with heavy qualification. Still, that doesn’t make the comparisons by Harris and Tarasco any less ridiculous. One man was selected by Branch Rickey for the unenviable task of integrating baseball in a time of heavy racism and before the dawn of the civil rights era. The other is a teenage prodigy who made the choice to graduate high school early and has to deal with a few more cameras, a few more autograph-seekers and a few more people talking about him on iPads and smartphones as a result.

Repoz Posted: July 26, 2011 at 09:06 PM | 46 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fantasy baseball, history, minor leagues, nationals, prospect reports, scouting

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   1. Steve Treder Posted: July 26, 2011 at 09:25 PM (#3885899)
Fully agreed that the Robinson comparison trivializes what Robinson went through and accomplished, and is entirely silly.

That said, the point that they're laboring to make -- that Harper has been exposed to a degree and intensity of scrutiny AS A BASEBALL PROSPECT that might be unprecedented -- is valid. Now, whose problem that is (if it's a problem at all), and why we fans should care about it, is a separate question.
   2. Guapo Posted: July 26, 2011 at 09:38 PM (#3885902)
We're gonna need more eye black.
   3. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 26, 2011 at 09:39 PM (#3885904)
Then you agree with what they said. No one said he was Jackie Robinson or directly compared their importance, or accomplishments, the word "since" is all you need.
   4. Sam M. Posted: July 26, 2011 at 09:50 PM (#3885908)
Two words.

Bo. Jackson.

Two more words: Michael. Jordan.

STFU about Bryce Harper.
   5. Steve Treder Posted: July 26, 2011 at 09:53 PM (#3885910)
Then you agree with what they said. No one said he was Jackie Robinson or directly compared their importance, or accomplishments, the word "since" is all you need.

No. The point is that invoking Robinson as a comparator in any useful way is a non-starter. Leave him the F out of it. Then feel free to elaborate on what a dizzying mediafest surrounds Bryce Harper, and how that might or might not be different from what's come before.
   6. birdlives is one crazy ninja Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:00 PM (#3885913)
Let's forget the Jackie Robinson nonsense. Has Harper been under more scrutiny than any other hyped prospect like Strasburg? It doesn't seem like it.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:17 PM (#3885921)
That said, the point that they're laboring to make -- that Harper has been exposed to a degree and intensity of scrutiny AS A BASEBALL PROSPECT that might be unprecedented -- is valid. Now, whose problem that is (if it's a problem at all), and why we fans should care about it, is a separate question


Really? not Mark Prior, not Kerry Wood or Van Poppel etc. but this kid on a team that nobody cares about? I don't see it.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:24 PM (#3885927)
Let's forget the Jackie Robinson nonsense. Has Harper been under more scrutiny than any other hyped prospect like Strasburg? It doesn't seem like it.


I think that both Harper and Strasburg are on a level that other super prospects (Andruw Jones, Ken Griffey Jr, Van Poppel, whoever) did not reach. Probably more a commentary on the state of the baseball media today than their uniqueness. But the hype around each feels bigger, and feels different, to me.
   9. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:25 PM (#3885928)
Every prospect is the most scrutinized prospect since the last one.
   10. Sam M. Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:28 PM (#3885931)
I repeat: in all the years I've been following baseball, there has never been a prospect who got the attention and scrutiny that accompanied Bo Jackson. (Except Michael Jordan, but he was completely different as the world's most famous athlete already.) His decision to play baseball after winning the Heisman was huge, and the speculation about how this amazing athlete would do in baseball was just incredible. I don't think there's much doubt he remains the greatest athlete to play major league baseball in my lifetime.
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:39 PM (#3885937)
Let's forget the Jackie Robinson nonsense. Has Harper been under more scrutiny than any other hyped prospect like Strasburg? It doesn't seem like it.

It's hard for someone in Washington to compare him to anyone but Strasburg, but up to this stage in his development I'd say that Harper's gotten more ink. But once Strasburg got to AAA and the Majors, that's when it really took off in Washington, and Harper's going to have to go a ways to match that, though I'm sure that he will.

And forgetting Robinson, while the two Nats and maybe Bo Jackson have been under the most "scrutiny" of any non-Major League player, neither of them have yet received remotely the amount of hype that Mickey Mantle got during his 1951 Spring Training, when he was hitting 400 and even "500" ft. home runs at a pace of what seemed like every other day. It'll take about half a dozen serious tape measure home runs against Major League pitching for Harper to even get within the ballpark of the hype that Mantle brought with him to Opening Day that year. Seven Manhattan daily newspapers plus The Sporting News (then read by every baseball fan in America) were more than a match for ESPN and Twitter in terms of saturation and created levels of expectation, hard as that may be for people under a certain age to comprehend.
   12. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:39 PM (#3885938)
It's fine to quibble over whether their statements are true, i.e. whether Bryce is as scrutinized as Bo Jackson (obv. He's way beyond Prior), but it's pretty pedantic to demand that use of the term "since 1947" than the egregious sin of invoking the holy name of Jackie Robinson as a shortcut.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:53 PM (#3885942)
maybe since I'm not on the East Coast, but Harper has not entered the local consciousness in the same way that Prior did, and Strasburg might have an argument, but even then, Prior was the perfect mechanics pitching god who was able to get major leaguers out coming straight out of high school and would have a Cy Young within 5 years of reaching the majors. There was no hedging bets when it came to Prior, by Strasburgs time too many high profile pitchers had flamed out and people started talking about "if healthy"
   14. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 26, 2011 at 10:56 PM (#3885943)
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.”


Wasn't like this for Jeffrey Maier, unfortunately.
   15. JC in DC Posted: July 26, 2011 at 11:11 PM (#3885946)
I don't think there's much doubt he remains the greatest athlete to play major league baseball in my lifetime.


Completely agree with this (and with the prior point about scrutiny). I'd add that Bo Jackson might be the greatest athlete I've ever gotten to watch. He was just amazing.
   16. TerpNats Posted: July 26, 2011 at 11:12 PM (#3885947)
What a terrible comparison, and in the last market where you should make an ill-founded racial remark. You want to compare Harper in the hype? It's not the best of analogies, since one is an everyday player, the other a pitcher, but how about Bob Feller?

Speaking of the Nats, they just acquired Jonny Gomes from Cincinnati for cash and two farmhands that didn't register high on Washington's radar. Hmmm...
   17. Morty Causa Posted: July 26, 2011 at 11:16 PM (#3885949)
Post 11: Yes, it was almost too much for the kid. It almost undid Mantle.

But the hype Feller got was unprecedented and is pretty hard to beat.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: July 27, 2011 at 12:22 AM (#3886005)
From a logical standpooint, obviously somebody is the most scrutinized prospect since Robinson. Whether it's Harper is obviously debateable but it's a pretty silly thing to get in the least upset about especially given one of the guys quoted is making it as clear as possible that he is not comparing what Harper's going through with what Robinson went through (other than in "level of scrutiny"). I will continue my logic and English pedantic role by noting that anybody who says the level of scrutiny Harper is under is less than that of Robinson is still comparing the two. What's annoying folks is that they read the statement as "equating" which, especially the first quote, is not happening.

That said, from a PR perspective, you know that some people will take the statement that way. Furthermore, assuming it's not simply ignored, any statement like this only increases the scrutiny of Harper -- who will now probably have to issue a publc statement praising Robinson and making it clear he doesn't compare. Some of this could have been avoided or lessened if they had simply said "the most scrutinized since the beginning of the draft" or some such.
   19. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: July 27, 2011 at 12:40 AM (#3886025)
Harper is the most hyped prospect in my viewing lifetime (say mid-80s on) and it isn't all that close.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: July 27, 2011 at 12:49 AM (#3886037)
Harper is the most hyped prospect in my viewing lifetime (say mid-80s on) and it isn't all that close.


Where do you live? As I said from my perspective it's not even close, Prior's hype is massively higher. Heck to be honest Harper is barely a footnote in comparison to the hype that Strasburg got at the national level. Only way I can see Harper being hyped is if you are going out of your way to look for hyping. Heck this is possibly the only time I've heard of Harper mentioned in the past month. Even when Prior was in the minors, every single start was reported on .
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: July 27, 2011 at 12:52 AM (#3886040)
Sidd Finch?
   22. NJ in DC (Now with Wife!) Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:00 AM (#3886050)
Harper is the most hyped prospect in my viewing lifetime (say mid-80s on) and it isn't all that close.

This.
   23. Bourbon Samurai Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:11 AM (#3886058)
What, you guys don't know Harper is gay? Crazy barriers to be broken, man.
   24. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:24 AM (#3886065)
Durham NC. So, east coast but the Nats are a non-issue in these parts and he hasn't come to town to play.

Heck this is possibly the only time I've heard of Harper mentioned in the past month.
What, since his write-up in Time magazine a month ago?
He does get less day to day attention, being a position player rather than a starting pitcher, and because he's farther from the bigs. Still, he gets (afaict) more national media exposure...

As for Prior, I loved Prior but he was less hyped than Strasburg (imo).
   25. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:28 AM (#3886070)
I certainly heard at least as much about Prior, and more about Strasburg.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:39 AM (#3886084)
Strasburg and Prior were both called "the best college pitcher ever," but the craziness surrounding Strasburg's debut was unique.
   27. Accent Shallow Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:42 AM (#3886087)
I didn't realize Harper has yet to hit in AA: .228/.274/.281. Of course, it's only 63 PA, and he's freakin' 18 years old!
   28. PreservedFish Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:58 AM (#3886100)
Not that this necessarily proves anything, but I checked out Prior vs Strasburg in the NY Times archive. I think we can agree the Times is basically neutral when it comes to the Cubs and Nats, with one exception that I'll note below.

There are five pre-professional mentions of Prior. Two of them date to the period that the Yankees owned the draft rights to him, and concern whether the Yanks would be able to sign him. We might be able to ignore those.

He is mentioned twice in a college world series wrap-ups and once in a draft wrap-up, which says he was "generally considered the best prospect" and could possibly go straight to the major leagues. He then gets three mentions for the Sullivan Award. One mention in a Chass-penned preview that doesn't say much about him except that he's a rookie that could help the Cubs.

As a prospect he gets two mentions for general ass-kicking, and one mention the morning of his debut. Then he debuts, wins, and gets some of the following prose: Touted as one of the best college pitchers ever ... Prior has had a meteoric rise ... he dazzled the Cubs and their opponents with his potential. After his debut there Chass rears his ugly head again with an article called "Suddenly, Pitching Has Come Back in Style" which amusingly leads with Jason Simontacchi and Rodrigo Lopez, barely mentioning Prior.

So to round up:

5 mentions before he signs his pro contract (2 are questionable)
3 concerning an amateur award he won
2 about him kicking butt in the minors
1 about his debut

Let's move onto Strasburg!
   29. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: July 27, 2011 at 02:03 AM (#3886105)
I'd love to see the contemporary reaction to a David Clyde-type situation.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: July 27, 2011 at 02:04 AM (#3886107)
I think this is going to be a beat down. The very first mention of Strasburg is an article titled "A Pitcher With the Talent to Take On the World." He already has more ink than Prior ever got, and he hasn't been drafted yet.
   31. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: July 27, 2011 at 02:11 AM (#3886121)
Proof that Bryce Harper was more hyped than Mark Prior.

In all seriousness, BA (unbiased?) has said of Harper "No draft prospect ever has had more power or more hype," while noting that Strasburg (among others) was a better draft day prospect (I'd concur on all counts).

I can't see Prior being close to Strasburg, as PreservedFish is finding out.
   32. PreservedFish Posted: July 27, 2011 at 02:17 AM (#3886131)
3 mentions for Olympic career
8 for his collegiate career
Stephen Strasburg is drafted by the Washington Nationals as the greatest pitching prospect baseball scouts have ever seen
about 10 between the draft and the signing of his pro contract
more than 12 in the offseason
a few in spring training

I'm going to stop here, there is absolutely no comparison, Strasburg easily had more than 10 times more words spilled on him.
   33. PreservedFish Posted: July 27, 2011 at 02:44 AM (#3886173)
Also, I wanted to pick out the best detail from my post in #30, which some may skim past.

After [Prior's] debut there Chass rears his ugly head again with an article called "Suddenly, Pitching Has Come Back in Style" which amusingly leads with Jason Simontacchi and Rodrigo Lopez, barely mentioning Prior.
   34. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: July 27, 2011 at 02:49 AM (#3886176)
I saw that, it was great.
   35. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 27, 2011 at 04:22 AM (#3886222)
They should retire Bryce's uniform number throughout the minor leagues.
   36. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 27, 2011 at 04:28 AM (#3886228)
Either that or sell his replica jerseys on behalf of the Childrens' Myopia Foundation.
   37. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: July 27, 2011 at 04:29 AM (#3886229)
After [Prior's] debut there Chass rears his ugly head again with an article called "Suddenly, Pitching Has Come Back in Style" which amusingly leads with Jason Simontacchi and Rodrigo Lopez, barely mentioning Prior.


What a sad state of affairs that Lopez has "helped" the Cubs more in the last five seasons than Prior has.
   38. LargeBill Posted: July 27, 2011 at 04:31 AM (#3886232)
I don't have a problem with invoking Robinson's name. He was a great athlete who played baseball with an intensity only rivaled by guys like Cobb. Yes, he put up with a lot of crap and should be and has been recognized for the restraint he showed in not responding to the crap. However, it is not sacrilegious to note that a minor league player or two is facing similar levels of scrutiny to what Robinson faced in Montreal and then Brooklyn. Sure the scrutiny is for a different reason, but that doesn't mean it isn't real. Bringing his name up, even if a poor comparison, helps educate the next generation of what he experienced. Players in the past could party all night or bang a different woman every night. All players today are under a lot more scrutiny than players in the past. Every jackass with a cell phone camera thinks they are an investigative reporter. As a junior in high school Harper was on the cover of SI with an article about him leaving school early to go pro at 17. At that age I don't think I was mature enough to not let the praise and adulation go to my head. Jackie put up with worse crap, but he was 10 years older and more mature so I'll call that a wash on the self-control meter.

Bottom line: Invoking Jackie Robinson's memory or experiences should not be treated with the same attitude as calling someone Hitler like in an internet discussion.
   39. Ron J Posted: July 27, 2011 at 05:05 AM (#3886249)
#19 David Clyde is probably the top of the list in my viewing lifetime in terms of hyped prospects. And Bo Jackson was under the greatest scrutiny.

Many (most?) people forget the venom. An awful lot of people were weirdly angry with Jackson's decision.
   40. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 27, 2011 at 05:24 AM (#3886264)
There's a lot of things fun about Bo Jackson, but to me the most amazing thing is him coming back to hit well (at least in 1994) following his hip replacement.

From wiki:

During the 1990 playoffs, Jackson was tackled by Kevin Walker of the Cincinnati Bengals, causing a serious hip injury that ended Jackson's football career and seriously threatened his baseball career. After Jackson was tackled and lying in pain on the ground, he allegedly popped his hip back into place. In an interview on Untold, his Royals' teammate George Brett, who attended the game, said he asked the trainer what had happened to Bo. The trainer replied "Bo says he felt his hip come out of the socket, so he popped it back in, but that's just impossible, no one's that strong."
   41. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: July 27, 2011 at 05:33 AM (#3886270)
Seven Manhattan daily newspapers plus The Sporting News (then read by every baseball fan in America) were more than a match for ESPN and Twitter in terms of saturation and created levels of expectation, hard as that may be for people under a certain age to comprehend.


What's a newspaper?
   42. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:09 PM (#3886359)
Harper is heavily hyped but I don't think the hype around him is unusual other than the volume of information we have access to today compared with even 20 years ago. I like the Feller comp just because of the age.

Using Jackie Robinson's name in this is more of a PR screw up than anything else. Even if it's true, any moderately intelligent person should be aware that that is just a can of worms that should not be opened. It's like a Hitler reference, even if it is a PERFECT analogy there is nothing to be gained from making the comparison.
   43. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 27, 2011 at 01:37 PM (#3886375)
Invoking Robinson is stupid because it's impossible to ignore the reasons for the scrutiny: breaking the color barrier vs. Harper's performance and, to a lesser extent, his personality. And comparing those two situations is obviously pointless.

(And I agree with others who have argued that Harper hasn't received any more attention than guys like Prior or Jackson.)
   44. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: July 27, 2011 at 03:39 PM (#3886488)
Well, we've already covered Prior.

Jackson - I'm less sure, in part because of my age at the time (I was a baseball nut, but less plugged into the world - though I remember his SI cover while a Memphis Chick), in part because I don't know how to differentiate his baseball hype v. his non-baseball fame. For instance, Michael Jordan with Birmingham garnered a lot of media attention but that's different than 'hype' ... there wasn't this expectation that he'd be a great baseball player. You could argue that that's a distinction without difference, but I think it matters here.
   45. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: July 27, 2011 at 03:46 PM (#3886499)
I don't know how to differentiate his baseball hype v. his non-baseball fame. For instance, Michael Jordan with Birmingham garnered a lot of media attention but that's different than 'hype' ... there wasn't this expectation that he'd be a great baseball player.


That's an interesting point. Bo got more attention than anyone else but he wasn't "hyped" as much as others.

The thing that always stuck with me about Bo was that when he was introduced for his initial Royals' press conference they handed him his cap and his first act was to bend the brim (as all right thinking people do). I distinctly remember a big deal being made out of that; "see, he's a real baseball guy, he knows to bend the brim" in a way that I had never heard before.

Of course there was the great commercial with Bo in various states of sporting dress and then finally Sonny Bono comes on the screen and says something. The great part of that was my mother asking "who are all the black guys with Sonny Bono?"
   46. base ball chick Posted: July 27, 2011 at 04:07 PM (#3886524)
comparing harper to jackie is silly - the KIND of scrutiny was different. and i have a real hard time believing that the VOLUME of scrutiny (ignore race for a second) was the same seeing as how baseball was a BIG thing in all of america all the time to all the ethnic groups. oops, there goes the no race thingy - sorry. most of america has never even HEARD of bruce whatshisname and don't know what a washington nationals IS. BITGOD they ALL knew what a brooklyn dodgers was

but compared to strasburg and prior, IMNSHO harper hasn't gotten anywheres NEAR ths "scrutiny " because he's been in the low minors - and i would have agreed with this if he had started in the majors, or even at AAA

i wasn't around for david clyde but then again don't nobody in the media notice texas unless it is the stupid Cowblechs. my mama the baseball fan sez that signing nolan ryan - either astros or rangers - wasn't NEAR the scrutiny of poor david clyde (he was from houston even though he played in dallas)
   47. depletion Posted: July 27, 2011 at 04:12 PM (#3886531)
Using Jackie Robinson's name in this is more of a PR screw up than anything else. Even if it's true, any moderately intelligent person should be aware that that is just a can of worms that should not be opened. It's like a Hitler reference, even if it is a PERFECT analogy there is nothing to be gained from making the comparison.

Harper is definitely getting more scrutiny than Hitler. It's unprecedented.

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