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On why Bryce Harper needs to get off my damn lawn

Hey, everybody! Look! Bryce Harper is saying controversial stuff again! GET EXCITED FOR BASEBALL!

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"Baseball's tired. It's a tired sport, because you can't express yourself. You can't do what people in other sports do. I'm not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it's the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that's Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig -- there's so many guys in the game now who are so much fun.... You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days? Football, basketball. Look at those players -- Steph Curry, LeBron James. It's exciting to see those players in those sports."
-- Bryce Harper.

Dear god, no. Just... No. Yasiel Puig is "so much fun"? That would be breaking news to his own team-mates, some of who can't stand the guy. One famously called him, "The worst person I've ever seen in this game," and Clayton Kershaw reportedly told the then-new Dodgers GM, "The first thing you need to do is get rid of Puig." The others listed by Harper may not be quite at the same level of astronomical jackassery, but the mere mention of Puig as some kind of role-model pretty much destroys all credibility for Harper's opinions on the topic of "flair". I would say it's like a children's party entertainer citing John Wayne Gacy as inspiration, but that's a clown comparison, bro'.

The wrongness here does not stop with Harper's specific selection of players - even though I'd say we have a "young guy:", here in Arizona, who is far more worthy of praise than those he listed. I guess Paul Goldschmidt doesn't showboat enough for Bryce's tastes. Also warranting further examination, are the assertions that we must "want kids to play the game" and that baseball must, of necessity, become more like football or basketball, because that's what kids are "playing these days." Hold on a moment there. I'm not sure either of those actually stand up to actual scrutiny.

The assertion "you want kids to play the game" only makes sense if you think baseball has to remain mass-market entertainment, which isn't the case in my opinion. It's understandable Harper would think that way - because if baseball were suddenly to stop being popular, he wouldn't get the $$$$-contract on which he is intent. When asked about a potential, record shattering $400m-plus deal, his response was, "Don't sell me short. That's what you're doing right now to me, so don't do that." Gotta keep that big money train running, until it makes its stop in Harperville.

Me? Not so much. Popularity has never been a bellwether of my tastes, in any field [if it were, I would hardly be a D-backs fan!] The enjoyment I get from baseball is completely independent of its mass appeal. It wouldn't matter to me if it became as popular as ice-hockey, or hell, even arena football, and the major leagues only actually need about 1,200 kids a year - the number of players picked in the draft. Frankly, I got more fun out of watching Clefo and his friends roam a field in Glendale, than from anything Bryce Harper has ever done. It's the sport I love, and I'd far rather see baseball retain its character with integrity, than sell out because we "want kids to play the game".

I say this also because there are reasons I pay absolutely no attention to the NFL and NBA, and the grandstanding arrogance all too often seen there is a definite part of the turn-off. If that's what it takes for baseball to attract the younger generation, my carefully considered opinion is this: fuck 'em. That's why the process is called "growing up" and "maturing," because from politics to art, your opinions when you're young are often downright wrong: I recall the SnakePitette telling us, with a completely straight face, that Transformers was the greatest movie of all time. Harper's 23-year-old views seem little better, and society should not feel any need to pander to such tastes.

Also have to question, what does it say about "kids today," if they are apparently not interested in a sport, because you are expected to treat the opponent with respect? And again - let me see if I've got this right - the problem here is the sport? Perhaps it's a reflection of the shallow egocentricity of the young, oblivious to the reality that even the most talented of show-offs often tend to be despised by others. Before both last season and 2014, Harper himself was voted baseball's most over-rated player by his peers. And who came second, on both occasions? O HAI PUIG. But I was assured he was such "fun"!

That certainly isn't to say the game needs to be played by soulless automatons, and I'm not going all Goose Gossage on you - his opinions are, to me, about as wrong-headed as Harper's, in the opposite direction. I, for one, loved Jose Bautista's bat-flip in the playoffs. But part of the reason for that is because it was so abnormal. If that kind of thing becomes the norm, with at-bats turning into epic stare-downs more befitting a WWE contract signing, nobody will pay attention any more. It's why the NFL needs specific rules against "prolonged or excessive celebrations", and MLB doesn't.

While he's entirely free to express his opinion. I'm glad to see push-back against Harper from others involved in the game - even the likes of Sergio Romo, whom you'd expect to side with Harper, given his fairly demonstrative tendencies. Instead, Romo politely advised Harper to "shut up," emphasizing the (legitimate, to me) difference between expressing emotion and showing up an opponent. Romo added, if a hitter "was to stare at me the whole way or make words toward me, then that’s crossing the line. That’s not expressing emotion. That’s just being an arrogant prick." Indeed. If being an arrogant prick forms any part of your plan to get kids on board, count me out.

The bottom line is, Bryce Harper needs baseball an awful lot more than baseball needs Bryce Harper. If he ever finds cashing those very large checks to be "tired," I'm sure he can always locate another sport in which he can amuse himself better. And, now, if you'll excuse me, there are some clouds I need to go and yell at.