Bryce Harper has yet to play two full seasons with the Washington Nationals, but he has already been injured several times. While it’s too early to say that Harper is injury prone, it’s obvious his style of play leaves him susceptible to twists and collisions that other players might not have to worry about.
It would be ridiculous to criticize Harper for going all-out in the field, but Pete Rose believes there is a fine line between playing hard and leaving yourself vulnerable. Rose talked about that during a recent interview with SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio.
“Here’s Bryce’s problem, okay?” Rose said, via Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog. “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. Some are padded, some aren’t. You can’t turn around and run into the wall at Dodger Stadium face first.”
Rose was referring to the play in LA when Harper seemingly had no idea where the outfield wall was and ended up with a bloody face because of it. Harper even admitted when he returned from injury that he was afraid of slamming into the wall again and hurting himself.
“So what I would tell Davey Johnson – and he knows more about his team than I do – I would play Bryce Harper as deep as he possibly could, where anything over his head goes out of the ballpark,” Rose said. “And that way he’s not gonna run into fences until he gets used to the different ballparks.”
There are few players in MLB history who played the game harder than Rose, but he said playing hard will lead to more bumps and bruises that great players play through. Playing recklessly, he says, can lead to more significant injuries.
As a comparison, Rose pointed out that Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout also plays hard but doesn’t seem to get hurt like Harper.
“And Mike Trout plays hard, he don’t get hurt like Bryce Harper, because he’s been there a couple years now and he understands where the walls are and where the fences are and different things like that,” Rose said. “Bryce’ll be all right. Bryce’ll learn. He’s only a 20 year kid. He’s got a lot of talent.”
Trout doesn’t have a lot more experience than Harper, though he was called up in 2011 and Bryce joined the Nationals in 2012. The point Rose seemed to be making is that Harper lacks field awareness, which should come as he plays more games in the outfield. The Nationals want Harper to light up the highlight reels and give 110% at all times, but they also want to protect their franchise. Hopefully his luck changes a bit going forward.
Here’s the audio of Rose talking about Harper:Google+