Stephen A. Smith Pulls Race Card When Discussing Bryce Harper

What do the two above athletes have in common?  They both passed up some form of higher-level education to pursue a career as professional athletes.  What does the athlete on the left lack in common with the one on the right?  Race.  According to Stephen A. Smith, that’s a very significant factor in examining the way the public portrays 17-year-old phenom Bryce Harper.

By now we all know what Harper is capable of physically. We also know a bit about the type of person he is — or at least that he has a pretty brutal temper from what we can see.  What some of us may not have thought about yet is any racial implications that go along with the way we look at the future Nationals superstar.  Cue Stephen A. Smith, who isn’t exactly the most respected analyst in the industry and I’m still not sure I can agree with his latest rant.  In his article for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Smith refers to all the buzz and positive coverage surrounding Harper as a “clear case of hypocrisy.”  Like many professional athletes have done in the past, Harper has foregone higher education by dropping out of high school to to get his GED, which has allowed the road to Major League Baseball to shorten.

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Harper, Strasburg Are The New Faces of the Washington Nationals

It’s no surprise that the Washington Nationals chose 17-year-old prodigy Bryce Harper with the first overall draft pick on Tuesday, but it was exciting to finally see it happen. Last year, the Nats chose pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the same pick and he’s already set to make his major league debut Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you’re a Nationals fan, you have a couple of legitimate reasons to be excited about the future. Heck, if you’re a Washington sports fan in general we gave you a list of reasons why you should be optimistic just a few weeks ago.

I think it’s awesome how Harper and Strasburg have yet to play a game for the Nats and they’re already becoming the faces of the franchise. The only concern could be that these two kids will have a lot of pressure looming over their heads. I’m personally not concerned because I believe this duo is phenomenal, but making the majors is something that every little league player dreams of. When it finally happens, there’s added pressure to be the best — especially when people are already calling you the best.

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The Bad Side of Bryce Harper

We’ve talked about the good side of MLB prospect Bryce Harper, like when he went 6-for-6 with four home runs in a game. Unfortunately, it’s been well documented that the 17-year-old phenom also has a bad side, that being his cocky attitude. This side was clearly on display Wednesday at the JUCO World Series when Harper got tossed for showing up an umpire. Here’s the Bryce Harper ejection video:

In an April article on Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein had these cautionary words about Harper:

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Bryce Harper Goes 6-for-6 with Four Home Runs and 10 RBIs

Washington D.C. sports fans have a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the future. The Redskins made strong additions, the Wizards won the lottery, the Caps have Ovechkin, and the Nats may end up with the top pitching and catching prospects in all of baseball. Already with last year’s top pick pitcher Stephen Strasburg dominating in the minors, the Nats will have the top pick in this year’s draft and will likely take 17-year-old catching phenom Bryce Harper who was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. With the kind of gaudy statistics Harper’s been posting at the College of Southern Nevada, it will be hard (not to mention idiotic) to pass him up.

Harper had already hit for the cycle on Friday before busting out again on Saturday. With his team losing earlier in the day on Saturday in the double elimination tournament, they had to beat Central Arizona in order to advance to the Junior College World Series. Bryce used his bat to ensure his team’s season wouldn’t come to an end. Aided by 45mph winds, Bryce Harper went 6-for-6 with four home runs, a triple, a double and 10 RBIs. His team won the game 25-11 as the squads combined for 10 home runs in the second game. Proving how much of an impact the wind had on the scores, Central Arizona won the first game 21-14 and the teams combined to hit 11 home runs.

Even with the winds blowing out and aiding the offenses, you still have to square the ball up well and get some air under it to hit four home runs in a game. Think about it — 6-for-6 with 10 RBIs? That’s the type of stats you only get in video games — if you’re lucky. I know Bryce won’t be seeing 45mph winds blowing out of the stadium at Nationals Park in D.C. but I’m sure his 29 home runs in 62 games will translate well. It’s exciting times in D.C. and I’m looking forward to seeing their future stars play. And once again, the Bryce Harper legend continues to grow.

Harper lifts CSN to Junior College World Series [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Bryce Harper and Nyjer Morgan Show Promise, Petulance of Nationals [The Sporting Blog]

Sports Illustrated Places High School Sophomore Baseball Player on Cover

I had some reluctance in even doing this post because I fear that I’m playing right into Sports Illustrated’s hands by mentioning their cover this week — the more buzz about the issue, the more people will want to buy it and purchase or renew subscriptions, the more it reinforces poor behavior by SI. Let it be known however, that I talked about their cover when Zach Johnson got the snub in favor of Tiger Woods following the Masters, and I talked about it recently when Royals pitcher Zack Greinke made the cover. To get back to it, SI decided to place a 16-year-old high school sophomore baseball player you nor I have ever even heard of on the cover of its storied magazine. The athlete prodigy to whom he’s compared in the article is LeBron James. I’m not sure exactly what SI’s trying to accomplish here — to prove to people that they were “first” in on the kid when the guy strikes it big, or to just start dumping all the hype and corresponding pressure on him so that they’re the first to ruin him?

I’ll admit that I went to go read the story because there was an element of shock to it, almost like hearing that a golf magazine put a noose on the cover or something. What’s so damn special about a kid who might not even be able to drive, considering he’s in a sport where most players need years of development in the professional ranks to blossom and that he’s so far away from the top level. There are two points I’d like to make here. The first is that I’ll read the magazine and talk about it anytime they have a good article — it can be something simple on a player like Albert Pujols who has earned the spotlight; I don’t want them to feel as if they need to “shock us” in order to get extra eyeballs. Secondly, I think it’s downright despicable that they’re using their powerful platform to promote and hype up some 16-year-old kid who could wind up discovering weed and booze by July, or worse yet, cocaine, crack, and tats. I’m sick of the A-Rods and Josh Hamiltons who couldn’t handle all the pressure and became either extreme unlikable or pissed everything away. If this guy really is that much of a prodigy, then I don’t appreciate respected outlets like SI ruining him at such a young age. At least let him win a Rookie of the Year award before you start singing his praises. How is it the that kid gets a cover while Jorge Posada wins four World Series rings, hits about 25 bombs and drives in around 90 runs a year for a solid decade, and never makes it into the front page? Something about that just isn’t right.

Oh yeah, and I can’t let this kid’s family get away without criticism. They’re equally responsible as SI for allowing this to happen — all they have to do is say “no” and the story doesn’t come out. Maybe they’re blinded by the fame, the luster, the hype, the buzz, and the money that can come with being on the cover of a magazine. It’s unfortunate because they’ve already lost sight of what’s most important for their son in the long run.