At just 16 years of age, Bryce Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Dubbed "the most exciting prodigy since LeBron" by reputable baseball writer Tom Verducci, Harper was taken first overall by the Washington Nationals. The Las Vegas native carries more hype than even Alex Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr. With all that praise comes a sense of entitlement. This pretentiousness was on display Monday night. Harper hit a sixth-inning home run off of Greensboro Grasshoppers pitcher Zachary Neal in a Class A South Atlantic League game. He slowly trotted out of the batters box, marveling at his 14th round-tripper of the year. As Neal expressed his discontent at Harper's display, the 18-year-old phenom puckered his lips, showing up Neal.
Last night, there was more demeaning post-home run jubilation. In the top of the fifth inning of the series opener of a crucial three-game set between the Yankees and the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, Ortiz was resentful at rookie Hector Noesi's inside fastball. In all likelihood, the pitch was a response to Boston starter Jon Lester's hitting Russell Martin and Mark Teixeira earlier in the game. The next pitch, Big Papi hit a two-run shot to right field then flipped his bat. Ortiz called it "just another home run for Papi."
Are either of these celebrations justified? I'll give you a hint. Only one of these two players has 363 career home runs and two World Series rings.
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is arguably the best in sports. Big Papi is a proven slugger, one who has terrorized the Yankees for years. After being brushed back by an inside fastball, Papi was taking pride in his handiwork. So what if he wants to take his time leaving the box? He's David Ortiz; his job is to irk the illustrious pinstriped ball club. He wasn't showing up Mariano Rivera, it was Hector Noesi. Joe Girardi can cry all he wants (the Yankees manager said "I didn't care for it", regarding Papi's celebration): in probably the most heated rivalry in sports, hot-dogging is fair play.
Mr. Harper is a different story. Today is the one-year anniversary of Stephen Strasburg's debut, in which he struck out 14 over seven innings. He was pitching a game in the Major Leagues. I'm pretty sure I didn't see him celebrating as he dominated the overmatched Pirates lineup. Bryce Harper hit a home run in a Class A South Atlantic League game. Harper has talent - his .342 avg, 14 hr, and 43 RBI are a testament to this. Regardless, he's still just a prospect. At 18 years old, what right does he have to show up opposing pitchers? When he gets called up, this incident will be remembered by his Major League teammates. Before he gets to the Bigs, Harper has to learn what humility is. As talented as he may be, the future Nats star needs a reality check.