In an interview with ESPN Magazine, the reigning NL MVP waxed eloquent about his perception that Major League Baseball has become “tired” as a result of taboos and traditions regarding self-expression.
Bryce Harper posited, “Endorsements, fashion — it’s something baseball doesn’t see. In soccer, it’s Beckham or Ronaldo. In basketball, it’s Curry and LeBron. In football, it’s Cam. Football and basketball have such good fashion.”
The 22-year-old outfielder added:
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. Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn’t care. Because you got him. That’s part of the game. It’s not the old feeling — hoorah … if you pimp a homer, I’m going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot … I mean — sorry.
This was not the first time Harper has called baseball tired; last year, when his own teammate on the Phillies, Jonathan Papelbon, drilled Manny Pachado after Pachado admired a homer he had hit, Harper criticized the ancient baseball revenge code, saying, “Manny freakin’ hit a homer, walked it off, and somebody drilled him. It’s pretty tired.”
In the ESPN interview, Harper explained:
If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I’m going to go, “Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.” That’s what makes the game 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. Cam Newton — I love the way Cam goes about it. He smiles, he laughs. It’s that flair. The dramatic.
A classic example of Harper’s own feistiness: after a fan taunted him while he waited in the on deck circle in Game 4 of the 2014 Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, Harper homered, then stared at the fan as he crossed home plate. Harper laughed, “He was just devastated about life.”
As far as what others think of him, Harper said bluntly, “I don’t care. I … don’t … care. I really don’t. As long as I can look in the mirror and say I played as hard as I could. I think people get opinions when they see me play the game and see the hard-nosed, chip-on-my-shoulder kind of thing. That’s the way I play. I want to kick your teeth in. And after the game I can walk out of those doors and be the happiest person in the world.”