We here at Baseball Nation, along with the rest of you, have been waiting for the Nationals' Bryce Harper to become the nasty boy we thought he might be at the major-league level. About three weeks ago, in fact, Jeff Sullivan wondered whether that was ever going to happen; the gist was that nothing was happening and that was a bit of a surprise. Not only that, but Harper appeared to be doing everything the right way.
Then Sunday, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen got into a bit of gamesmanship regarding what was supposedly too much pine tar on Harper's bat, and Grant Brisbee wrote that Harper was good-natured about it.
The next day, Harper's teammates got into the act. Juan C. Rodriguez picks up the story:
Monday, some of the Nationals veterans who are friendly with Guillen used the opportunity to punk him.
They had the unknowing Harper sign a bat and added a message along with a generous amount of pine tar before sending it to the Marlins' clubhouse.
"It had pine tar all over the place," Guillen said, laughing. "They put the rest: 'To my hero, Ozzie. Love you.' I thought it was funny."
The Nationals involved were Edwin Jackson, who pitched for Guillen when Ozzie was White Sox manager, and Adam LaRoche, whose dad, Dave LaRoche, was at one time White Sox pitching coach during Guillen's playing days.
This incident had two benefits: First, it trolled Ozzie Guillen, and second, it showed how Harper's teammates have clearly accepted him as one of them. That wasn't something that could necessarily have been predicted when Harper was first recalled to the major leagues, given the "welcome" to the big leagues he was given by the Phillies' Cole Hamels, as well as the reputation he'd gotten from the kiss he blew at a South Atlantic League pitcher against whom he'd just homered, which led Grant Brisbee to write this a year ago:
But it's more likely that Harper is probably just a brash, unbearable, once-in-a-generation talent -- a fascinating combination that will get tiresome after about two months. He’s going to come up and be LeBron crossed with A-Rod and birthed by Lady Gaga.
Not in the least, it seems. From what we've seen in Harper's two major-league months is a player with immense talent who respects the game and his peers and who's gotten that respect back from his teammates, who, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, appear headed to the postseason. You can't help rooting for someone like that.