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Turning Negatives Into Positives: Ryan on Bryce Harper

In the last few days, there has been an outpouring of anger, disappointment and disbelief directed at Nationals 18-year-old wunderkind Bryce Harper. The source for the outrage is the video below, which shows Harper rounding the bases after his 14th home run of the season at Hagerstown, sending the tiniest of smooches toward the pitcher that had just served up the meatball.

As you can imagine, the video went viral and countless baseball people and media personalities have linedup to take shots at the young man.

You won't read any of those shots in this blog. Do I agree with what Harper did? No, of course not. Do I think that the next time he came up, the opposing team would’ve been well within their rights to plunk him? Absolutely. But what I choose to focus on in this situation is not the kiss, which incidentally was not exactly newsworthy. Granted, it was more exciting than the first kiss shared by Prince William and Princess Kate, but it was still little more than an inappropriate nod in the pitcher's direction.

What I choose to focus on is that, like it or not, this kid has got some serious fire. Sure, he has swagger, and maybe from time to time it is misguided, but if you give me a choice between a guy who plays with a passion that can sometimes get out of hand or a guy who plays disinterested, I'll take the guy with passion.

I get that Harper is 18-years-old. Instead of using that as a reason to hold him back, I don't understand why the Nationals don't take advantage of the fact that, at this point in his career, Harper is still young enough to mold. He is as coachable as he will ever be right now, and according to all of the reports I read in spring training, he is eager to learn. Since it is clear to everyone that he has accomplished all he can at low-A Hagerstown, perhaps it's time to move him to AA and allow the older, more mature guys in that locker room help him learn the nuances of the game. The lower classes of the Minor Leagues are there to teach fundamentals; to teach the kids fresh out of high school who need to learn how to adjust to life in the real world and how to properly hit the cut off man. Harper's age belies the fact that he is not one of those guys. Because of his unique path to professional baseball, he needs to be treated as a more advanced prospect.

In my opinion, it could be the very guys he's sharing the locker room with who are encouraging his immature behavior. He is on a team right now with a group of guys who love and envy him because he is the ultimate bonus baby, but comes off as (according to multiple players on the team) just another one of the guys. That attitude is something to be commended, but it can also lead to Harper trying to impress guys he calls friends. By moving him up and putting him with guys who have been around a bit more and are a little more serious about their craft, I think Harper would respond by calming down his antics and focusing on becoming the player he is clearly meant to be.

Though I doubt it will affect him, seeing as how the scrutiny he has had to face already in his career is substantial, this particular incident has inspired some pretty harsh criticism. If I were running the Nats, I would use this incident as the platform to launch Harper to the next level in his development. Say to him, "We realize you made a mistake, but we also know you're still young. Move up to the next level, learn your lesson, and keep your head down."

Turning this negative into a positive could be the best outcome for the Nationals, who may be feeling the pressure of having a young man develop a lot faster than even they had dreamed. If they handle it right, Harper could be in line for a September call-up. For a team that will spend all of 2011 without its other All-World prospect, that could be just the medicine they need.

In the last few days, there has been an outpouring of anger, disappointment and disbelief directed at Nationals 18-year-old wunderkind Bryce Harper. The source for the outrage is the video below, which shows Harper rounding the bases after his 14th home run of the season at Hagerstown, sending the tiniest of smooches toward the pitcher that had just served up the meatball.

As you can imagine, the video went viral and countless baseball people and media personalities have linedup to take shots at the young man.

You won't read any of those shots in this blog. Do I agree with what Harper did? No, of course not. Do I think that the next time he came up, the opposing team would’ve been well within their rights to plunk him? Absolutely. But what I choose to focus on in this situation is not the kiss, which incidentally was not exactly newsworthy. Granted, it was more exciting than the first kiss shared by Prince William and Princess Kate, but it was still little more than an inappropriate nod in the pitcher's direction.

What I choose to focus on is that, like it or not, this kid has got some serious fire. Sure, he has swagger, and maybe from time to time it is misguided, but if you give me a choice between a guy who plays with a passion that can sometimes get out of hand or a guy who plays disinterested, I'll take the guy with passion.

I get that Harper is 18-years-old. Instead of using that as a reason to hold him back, I don't understand why the Nationals don't take advantage of the fact that, at this point in his career, Harper is still young enough to mold. He is as coachable as he will ever be right now, and according to all of the reports I read in spring training, he is eager to learn. Since it is clear to everyone that he has accomplished all he can at low-A Hagerstown, perhaps it's time to move him to AA and allow the older, more mature guys in that locker room help him learn the nuances of the game. The lower classes of the Minor Leagues are there to teach fundamentals; to teach the kids fresh out of high school who need to learn how to adjust to life in the real world and how to properly hit the cut off man. Harper's age belies the fact that he is not one of those guys. Because of his unique path to professional baseball, he needs to be treated as a more advanced prospect.

In my opinion, it could be the very guys he's sharing the locker room with who are encouraging his immature behavior. He is on a team right now with a group of guys who love and envy him because he is the ultimate bonus baby, but comes off as (according to multiple players on the team) just another one of the guys. That attitude is something to be commended, but it can also lead to Harper trying to impress guys he calls friends. By moving him up and putting him with guys who have been around a bit more and are a little more serious about their craft, I think Harper would respond by calming down his antics and focusing on becoming the player he is clearly meant to be.

Though I doubt it will affect him, seeing as how the scrutiny he has had to face already in his career is substantial, this particular incident has inspired some pretty harsh criticism. If I were running the Nats, I would use this incident as the platform to launch Harper to the next level in his development. Say to him, "We realize you made a mistake, but we also know you're still young. Move up to the next level, learn your lesson, and keep your head down."

Turning this negative into a positive could be the best outcome for the Nationals, who may be feeling the pressure of having a young man develop a lot faster than even they had dreamed. If they handle it right, Harper could be in line for a September call-up. For a team that will spend all of 2011 without its other All-World prospect, that could be just the medicine they need.