Today, in Sports on Earth, Mike Lupica writes that the game needs more exciting young players like Bryce Harper. I think I am coming down with something because I can’t remember the last time I agreed with him. Yes. The game does. It needs buzz. It needs fun.
There’s no recession in baseball. But there is the idea that the other sports have the stars to watch. Baseball needs Bryce Harper to continue to be great and to be somebody to watch the way golf Tiger Woods became somebody the whole country wanted to watch when he first came along. Baseball needs Bryce to be a one-name star like LeBron, or Steph.
Baseball has a problem. I work with some guys who watch sports–basketball, football (these are not my baseball loving doctors). The other day, I mentioned Bryce Harper. They honestly had no idea who I was talking about. “You have got to be freaking kidding me? You’re teasing me, right?” No, they were serious. Blank looks. I was floored. This is arguably baseball’s most marketable star. “Look, we’re friends. If we’re going to continue our friendship, you need to know who Bryce Harper is.” I proceeded to tell them.
Most of you have probably already read the excellent ESPN feature that Lupica refers to in his blog post, in which Bryce Harper says that baseball is tired because players can’t express themselves.
And he’s right too.
“Baseball’s tired,” Harper says. “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.”
Finally, this story from Bryce’s profile made me chuckle:
A lady was going around asking kids in his middle school what they want to be when they grow up. Bryce Harper said, “I want to be a professional baseball player.”
“Well,” the lady says, a jagged shard of disapproval seeping into her tone, “I think maybe you should pick a new profession. You know that doesn’t happen very often.”
I had an 8 year old boy, the grandchild of one my patients, tell me today at work he wanted to be a baseball player when he grew up. I smiled at him and said, “I will cheer for you when you make it.”