Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper Needs a Serious Attitude Adjustment

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIJune 8, 2011

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Washington Nationals prospect Bryce Harper #34 playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions warms up on deck during the AZ Fall League game against the Phoenix Desert Dogs at Scottsdale Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals are becoming accustomed to having top draft picks litter their farm system.

Nationals fans have something fans of other struggling teams don't—the knowledge that no matter how embarrassing the team might be at the major league level, help is most assuredly on the way.

Stephen Strasberg continues his path back to the majors after Tommy John surgery derailed his instantly promising career.

Drew Storen has given the team a legitimate power arm in the bullpen and possible closer of the future.

Yesterday, the Nationals added another top pick, taking third baseman Anthony Rendon with the sixth overall pick in the First Year Player Draft.

With all this talent floating around, brighter days are ahead for the Nats.

And no star is brighter than that of Bryce Harper, currently destroying opposing pitchers at Single-A Haggerstown.

Since being drafted with the first overall pick last year, Harper has not disappointed.

Through 56 games, Harper is hitting .342 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI. Baseball American ranked him the No. 1 overall prospect at the start of 2011, and rightfully so.

But despite his obvious talent, there were questions regarding Harper's mental makeup.

At just 18 years old and with millions of dollars already in his pocket, it's not hard to understand why Harper might have a bit of an attitude problem.

After all, when you crush every pitch thrown to you, how can you be humble?

Harper showed just how immature he is recently in a game against Greenboro.

He hit a home run off starter Zach Neal, whose displeasure was visible. Harper reacted by blowing Neal a kiss as he rounded third base.

The incident was caught on video and has made its rounds on the internet.

Needless to say, reactions differ from fan to fan, but the general consensus is that Harper's immaturity shown through and could be a serious hindrance to his development. 

But what are the Nationals supposed to do?

Harper is clearly too developed for Single-A and his numbers warrant a promotion.

But perhaps the Nationals should send Harper a message and let him ride the bench for a while, just to show him who's boss.

Let's be real here: Harper is the boss. The Nationals sign his paychecks, but it's Harper who will put fans in the seats and it's Harper who is giving those few loyal Nats fans reason to buy tickets even before he puts on a uniform.

It's the Bryce Harper show, and he knows it. Thus, the ridiculous attitude and justifiable overconfidence.

But the Nationals do have to find a way to give Harper an attitude adjustment. He needs to figure out that he won't be able to hit .364 against major league caliber pitching his whole career. He's going to strike out and he's going to experience 0-for-15 slumps.

What is Harper going to do when he finally makes his debut and the Nationals are still not a playoff contender?

Harper will make a difference, a big difference, but he's not the sole factor in shaping the Nats into a World Series winner, or even a division winner.

Can he stomach a season or two of finishing third place? Or getting rung up by a Cliff Lee curveball?

That remains to be seen.

If the Nationals want to speed up Harper's development, not because he's THAT good, but because he's THAT BAD, then they should do so.

Let Harper taste some pitching closer to major league ready. Throw him into the deep end of the pool, Triple-A for example. Maybe stiffer competition will be good for him.

Either Harper continues to dominate, in which case the front office can consider him major league ready sooner, or he doesn't experience as much success, and eats a bit of humble pie.

Either way, it's a win-win for the Nationals and for Harper himself.


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