This week, Bryce Harper sat down with ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown to speak about something that is sure to ruffle a lot of feathers around the game of baseball.
It was a conversation about the game as a whole. I think now more than ever, we’re seeing a huge split between old school and new school in Major League Baseball. Maybe now we’re seeing guys come up that grew up in the fast paced world of social media we live in today. You can clearly see a contrast in styles of baseball between Bryce Harper, and an older, more veteran player. That’s why the guy gets so much crap for the way he plays. Baseball fans, by the statistics, are older. In comparison to the NFL, and NBA, baseball fan-hood as a whole is just much older. I think this is a conversation that needs to be had, and I’m glad Bryce is the one giving it some life.
Here’s what Bryce Harper had to say about the state of the game and its unwritten rules
“Baseball’s tired,” he 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.
“Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. 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.”
He stops, looks around. The hell with it, he’s all in.
“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. You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days? Football, basketball. Look at those players — Steph Curry, LeBron James. It’s exciting to see those players in those sports. Cam Newton — I love the way Cam goes about it. He smiles, he laughs. It’s that flair. The dramatic.”
This is going to be a tough one to sway people on, I understand that. But again, I think it’s a conversation that needs to be started. Goose Gossage ha already spoken out about the topic, expressing his displeasure with guys like Jose Bautista. A lot of the older guys are going to feel that way, and a lot of baseball fans are going to feel that way. Baseball fans are OLD. It’s just facts. And the young baseball fans have been taught about the game from those same OLD fans. But now that we’re seeing this culture shift with the young guys, I think it’s coming. And I think it’s about that time for change.
If you love the game of baseball, you want to see it succeed into the future. If you want it to succeed into the future, you should be concerned with how the game is appealing to the younger demographic. What’s the game going to do when all these current old baseball fans are gone? I’m not suggesting turning MLB into the NBA or NFL or some version of a real life MLB Slugfest. I’m just saying old habits die hard, and I think we’re hanging on to an idea of what baseball should be for no other reason than that’s how it’s always been. That’s a tight line to walk. Keep baseball how it’s always been? We’d be playing in the dead ball era, with no helmets, oven mitts for gloves, and players would be doing cocaine between pitches in the outfield. Things change, culture changes, and baseball needs to change with it.