Is Pete Rose Right That Bryce Harper Needs to Stop Playing "Reckless" Baseball?
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"Here's Bryce's problem, okay? Bryce growing up, I was his dad's favorite player. I mean, that's a fact. And there's a difference in playing hard and playing recklessly. And Bryce plays recklessly. And there's a reason for that. He was a catcher when he was here [in Las Vegas]."
"Now all of a sudden they've got him in the outfield, and he don't understand warning tracks, and he don't understand every [ballpark] the caroms are different, the walls are different."
As Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reported in 2010, Harper predominantly caught as an amateur. The Nats moved him from behind the plate after the draft to preserve his body from the wear and tear of the position and stick in the everyday lineup.
So much for that strategy.
Following an ultra-durable rookie season, the 20-year-old needed all of June to recover from bursitis in his left knee. He returned on July 1, but needed treatment on the same knee just last week and spent a game on the bench.
The problem, as Rose alluded to, is Harper's inexperience as an outfielder. There's a difference between running with a purpose and running just for the heck of it.
We've seen more of the latter from Harper (courtesy of MLB.com).
He has committed a handful of baserunning blunders, too. Per Baseball-Reference.com, his otherwise impressive 207-game major league sample includes five pick-offs and 11 total outs on base (situtations where runner tries to stretch for an extra base or advance on error/wild pitch/passed ball).
Rose is saying—that for his team's sake—Harper needs to slow down mentally and make more cautious decisions. An anonymous National League executive shared that sentiment with ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required), comparing him to Grady Sizemore for being "overly physical."
Remember what happened to Sizemore? A three-time All-Star with the Cleveland Indians, the athletic center fielder began missing time with serious knee and back injuries in 2009 at age 26. He hasn't played an MLB game in nearly two full years.
Nobody wants Harper to suffer a similar fate.
Say what you will about Rose's notorious betting and disgraced image, but he makes a valid point. We should all join him in urging this budding franchise player to think before he sprints.
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