Sportress of Blogitude

Bryce Harper says baseball is ‘tired,’ blasts sport’s unwritten rules


Bryce Harper has taken a swipe at the game of baseball by arguing against the revered notion — at least according to staunch traditionalists — that there are “unwritten rules” governing how baseball should be played.

Not so, says the Washington Nationals superstar and reigning National League MVP in a fascinating profile by Tim McKeown for ESPN The Magazine, in which he refers to baseball as “tired.”

In fact, the 23-year-old Harper appears to suggest the game is in the midst of a sea change in philosophy and that a newer generation of ballplayers are starting to thumb their noses at those so-called “unwritten rules” and making the game their own.

And in doing so, may be livening up a game mired in declining growth and popularity by adding a much-needed punch of personality.

“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.”

Harper cites Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez as a new breed of baseball player who understands that rules, even unwritten ones, are meant to be broken.

“Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist,” Harper explains. “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.”

Harper continues.

“If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I’m going to go, ‘Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.’ That’s what makes the game fun,” he argues.

Harper then mentions NBA stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry and the NFL’s Cam Newton as athletes that inject life, passion and personality into their sports while suggesting Major League Baseball needs more players like them.

Harper is as brash of a baseball player as they come, but he of course has an overabundance of talent to back that up. His cocky personality can rub folks the wrong way, even his own colleagues.

But his carefree but competitive demeanor also endears him to fans — at least some of them — and makes him one of the most popular players in professional baseball.

His latest comments, though, may rile up his critics, especially those aforementioned staunch traditionalists.

But if there is one player who can revolutionize the game by leading a rally against baseball’s “unwritten rules” and perhaps even save the game from itself, it might be Harper.