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A Bryce Harper update from the Instructional League

Bryce Harper has had his share of good days and bad during his first professional experience at the Florida Instructional League, and Tuesday counted as one of the bad ones.

"He had a tough day," Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris said. "He was eliminated in the opening round of our Maize Madness tournament."

What, you're surely asking, is that? At the Nationals' player development complex in Viera, Fla., the officials running the Nats' Instructional League team set up a bracket-style tournament in which pairs of players compete in the game Cornhole, in which teammates try to throw beanbags filled with corn into through a hole in a wooden board. "Just to break up the monotony a little bit," Harris said.

They started today, and Harper -- the first overall pick, apparently, for reasons other than his skill at Saturday morning tailgates -- did not make it out of Round 1.

Joking aside, the first three weeks to Harper's career have been, not unexpectedly, a mixed bag. The Nationals are finding what they thought: He is incredibly refined for a 17-year-old, and yet still raw by the standards of even the lowest levels of professional baseball.

He is still learning a new position, and he is facing the most advanced pitching of his life. One day this week in Lakeland, he turned a 95-mile-per-hour fastball into a tape-measure homer. There are also games when strikeouts pile up more than highlights.

"Good days and bad days," Harris said from Viera in a phone conversation. "He's had some days with a couple homers. But he's also swung through some balls. He's still a 17-year-old. As physical and athletic as he is, it's easy to overlook that at times. He looks like a 21-year-old college kid. He's taken a lot in regarding defense, base running, his approach to hitting, all the finer points of the game."

Harper, a catcher for most of his life, has spent much of his time in Florida learning the outfield. Minor league instructor and Class A Hagerstown coach Tony Tarasco has drilled into him the basics of the position: reading the ball off the bat, throwing to the proper base, where to set up before certain pitches.

"He's so athletic," Harris said. "It's fairly natural for him. You could probably put him at any position, and he's going to look like he has any chance to play there."

Offensively, the Nationals have not altered Harper's swing to comply with their "no touch" policy with draft picks -- they wait a period of time before overhauling anything with any of their prospects, so as to not overload players receiving their first experience. They have focused on the mental side of hitting -- "how to control an at-bat," Harris said.

The Nationals' Arizona Fall League season will begin a week from today. It's highly likely that it will begin without Harper. It seems probable it will end without him, too. Harris said the Nationals have not formally discussed sending Harper to the AFL.

For Harper to attend the fall league, they would first need to obtain a special exemption from Major League Baseball. Each team can choose only two players who have yet to reach Class AA, and the Nationals already have theirs in Sammy Solis and Derek Norris. But they have one AFL roster spot available and they can petition MLB for one more, a hurdle the Nationals would almost certainly be able to clear.

A few officials in the Nationals' organization said they'd be surprised to see Harper out in Arizona. The collection of talent is no joke; some of the players last year were Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, Mike Leake and Jason Heyward. Throwing a 17-year-old, even one as talented and confident as Harper, may be setting him up for unnecessary failure.

"That's a pretty significant jump for any player," Harris said.

For now, down in Florida, Harper is fitting in with his new teammates. Harper, a self-described "baseball rat," missed several months while waiting to sign his contract. He relished the chance to start his career. Despite the obvious attention on him, Harper has not stood out, Harris said.

"He's having a blast," Harris said. "The best part is here, this group of kids that are around him, I think it's a special group. There's no separation. There's no sense of, 'he's the big man on campus.' He's blended in exceptionally well."

One final non-Harper note: When I asked Harris what stood out to him in Florida, the name he mentioned was Solis, the Nationals' second-round pick this summer. Solis, a left-handed starting pitcher from the University of San Diego, started fast in two brief starts at Hagerstown, where he allowed two hits, no walks and no runs in four innings. Solis has continued to show good fastball command, Harris said, and his changeup has been especially effective.

By Adam Kilgore  | October 5, 2010; 7:07 PM ET
 
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Comments

A lone bright spot in yet another dark, dark season for the Natinals.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 5, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Sending Harper to the AZL this year would be foolish, imo. Let him face a year of professional pitching in Spring Training, GCL/NY-P or even South Atlantic league first. Test his mettle first before you really push him.

Posted by: BinM | October 5, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

The Solis news is great. If he and Cole turn out this could be a great draft, one that really sets the franchise going strong in the right direction.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | October 5, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

SCNatsFan:
The 2010 draft will prove out over the next 2-3 years. However, Solis could be of value quickly imo, while Cole, Ray, Holland, Harper, Kelso, Hague, Freitas, Oduber & others are still a distant hope.

Only time will tell.

Posted by: BinM | October 5, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

McP:
Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?
W-L record: Washington 69-93, Baltimore 66-96. Advantage = Nationals (+3).
Total Runs scored: Washington 655, Baltimore 613. Advantage = Nationals (+42).
Total Runs Allowed: Washington 742, Baltimore 785. Advantage = Nationals (+43).
Run Differential: Washington -87, Baltimore -172. Advantage Washington (+85).

It may well be that Washington under-achieved based on these numbers, and Baltimore seems to have over-achieved, based on the same crieria over 2010. The bottom line is neither team was very good this year, and both teams still have a 'hard row to how' to climb back to respectability.

Posted by: BinM | October 5, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

>Sending Harper to the AZL this year would be foolish, imo. Let him face a year of professional pitching in Spring Training, GCL/NY-P or even South Atlantic league first. Test his mettle first before you really push him.

Posted by: BinM

Look at it this way - he strikes out twice as much, but he hits a couple 450 feet. Gets 50 ABs, starts to relax. He also shows the ability to wait and go the other way. Can't lose. I don't see why they couldn't make an exemption and use him some, even if it isn't full time. I mean, he's naive, but how else do you get experience? Mickey Mantle couldn't pack a suitcase at 17 when he got drafted. So what. Harper's already turned around 95 mph gas for long distance. I'm tellin you it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to move this kid forward IMMEDIATELY

Posted by: Brue | October 5, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

I live down here in Viera and went to the Nats game this past Saturday. Harper was having one of the "bad" days: 0-4 1K, GIDP, groundout and flyout. Was still fun to see a glimpse of someone that has a chance to be a big part of the Nats future. The standout guy for me that day was AJ Morris. He only pitched to two batters (late in the game), but he struck them both out in about 7 total pitches. His first pitch was a smoking fastball that the catcher (after catching the pitch) actually had to stand up and pull his hand out of the mitt to examine for broken bones. If you're ever in the area for a instructional league game, it's a blast! It's like being at a Little League game...a set of bleachers behind the plate are the only seats. You can stand along the fence behind the backstop, mingle with the players, etc. The young guys are all working hard to improve and make the team and all were very willing to sign autographs for the limited (less than 20) fans that were there. Yes, even Harper was signing away after the game. BTW, ran into Chien Ming Wang after he finished some throwing on the side. He's still in the picture and trying to come back (Flores was down there too and caught half the game I watched).

Posted by: g3jr | October 5, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

g2jr, sounds like there is more talent in Viera then in Washington! Thanks for the report, sounds fun.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | October 5, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice to see Solis in 2012 but I would hope that they give him a chance to strengthen his arm in the minors rather than pressing him into duty too soon.

Harper in 2013 at the earliest seems reasonable.

Posted by: natbiscuits | October 5, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Okay Poop,tell us why the Orioles are so much better.You're quite adept at criticizing the Nationals,yet I don't see any examples of the superiority of the "Oriole Way."Could it be that that"way"went away 20 years ago?

Posted by: seanmg | October 6, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game in Lakeland, if you want to see a video of his home run you can see it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7FHLUA6ckg

Posted by: brothbart | October 6, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

"Look at it this way - he strikes out twice as much, but he hits a couple 450 feet. Gets 50 ABs, starts to relax. He also shows the ability to wait and go the other way. Can't lose."

And of course, those titanic moonshots, which will come about entirely due to his making a lucky guess about where to put his bat when someone throws a Not-Terribly-Fast fastball, will be the only thing he thinks about, not the many times he strikes out in very embarrassing fashion. He's far more likely to get extremely uptight than he is to relax.

The worst thing you can do to a kid like this is force him to play at a level he isn't even close to being ready for. The shock of going from being the best player on the field to someone who obviously doesn't belong is a terrible one for anybody, especially for someone who hasn't yet reached his 18th birthday.

Realistically, Bryce Harper cannot be expected to reach the major leagues until 2013 at the earliest, and even then he'll only be 20. What this organization and its fans need to realize is that he is a long way from being ready, and the process of preparing him properly is bound to be frustratingly long.

"Mickey Mantle couldn't pack a suitcase at 17 when he got drafted. So what."

Yes he could, and he didn't get drafted. They didn't have a ML draft in those days. He'd also been playing semi-pro ball for a few years prior to his signing, started his pro career in D ball, and even after making the Yanks starting roster was sent down to Double A for a pretty long spell (mid-July through late August) because he was having a lot of trouble hitting ML pitching.

Mickey Mantle began his professional career over 60 years ago. The world of pro baseball then has more in common with the era of 1900 than it does with that of today. For one thing, by the time he signed a pro contract Mantle had probably played baseball many, many times the number of hours Harper has. Even today's ML players (the American ones that is) didn't go out and play with their friends at the park or in someone's backyard as often as kids of that era did. When was the last time you saw some kids using the baseball fields in the local park or school for a casual pickup game with their friends? When Mantle was a kid, you probably had to run down there at the crack of dawn to be able to use them, and then would play for hours on end.

This franchise has a very bad habit of rushing its prospects. This would be a terrific time to stop.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 6, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Ok first of all he's 18 in 10 days so you can all get off the 17 year old kid stuff. Like I've said before he would've been a senior in HS this year here in the DC area. HS players are drafted all the time.

If it weren't for Ramos I'd think the Nats are nuts moving him from catcher - Joe Maurer anyone? - Drafted out of HS? A catcher?? Stop with the stupid Oh he'll get up here faster stuff.

I think Ramos was a steal and he will be a terrific catcher for the Nats who need to get over the I-Roid thing.

In other Nats news they need a frontline starting pitcher - answer - Zito. They need a really good outfielder - answer -Rowand. Just show them the money!!!

Posted by: Dog-1 | October 6, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Well I pretty much disagree with everything he just posted. age does matter, Harper is not Mauer. Zito is not the solution. And Rowand is another low OBP player. Showing limited players the money is not a solution.

Posted by: natbiscuits | October 6, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Fairfax, I agree with you that Harper probably isn't ready for the Arizona Fall League. There is a reason that the MLB has a rule that players must have reached AA before going to the AFL except for a few special exceptions (Strasburg, Storen, etc.) basically college players that recently got drafted and are obviously close to MLB-ready.

However, I disagree with your comparison to Mantle. Sure, Mantle played in the park with his friends. But his only exposure to organized baseball and coaching probably came in high school, where he also probably played other sports such as football and basketball, (I haven't researched Mantle's amateur history so I don't know about this for sure).

But Harper has been focusing strictly on baseball since he was 5 years old. He has been exposed to some of the best amateur coaching in the country and has played literally hundreds of games every year against some of the best competition that was usually several years older than he was. Not to mention all the practice hours developing specialized skills to prepare for those hundreds of games.

You say "For one thing, by the time he signed a pro contract Mantle had probably played baseball many, many times the number of hours Harper has." That is ridiculous. A guarantee Mantle never played baseball at night when he was a kid, so we can rule out all the hours after the sun went down. Mantle grew up in Oklahoma, where I'm sure they did not play baseball for most of the winter months. Harper played baseball year round on highly selective teams that travel around the country and the world to play.

Basically, I agree that Harper is probably not ready for the AFL, but he is much, much, MUCH more prepared for professional baseball than Mantle was when he signed his first contract. That is why Harper was the #1 pick as a 17 year old should be high school junior.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I'm with Splash on this. Sorry, Ffx6. This is, IMO, one of the things wrong with baseball today (yeah, I'm an old geezer), they play kids too much.

I know that Harper is an exception, because he went into the draft so early, but most of the HS rising Jrs. & Srs., who live in FL, TX, AZ, CA play 160 - 170 games per year. This isn't counting practice, tutoring, etc. That is games.

I blame this for many of the TJ surgeries. In some cases, a pitcher will have the surgery while in high school. Think about that.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | October 6, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

The question of whether to send Harper to the Fall League should be determined on the basis of what would make him better faster, not what would coddle his precious ego. From everything I've heard, his ego could benefit from being knocked down a couple of pegs.

I am a strong believer in the notion that one learns from experience, and the faster one obtains that experience, the quicker one learns.

Send the kid to the Fall League. Give him a taste of what it's REALLY like in something resembling the bigs. It will make him listen to his teachers.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | October 6, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

"Ok first of all he's 18 in 10 days so you can all get off the 17 year old kid stuff. Like I've said before he would've been a senior in HS this year here in the DC area. HS players are drafted all the time."

So? Those HS players take years to reach the ML also. And apparently, the level of baseball he played in his junior college was significantly lower than that to be found in many areas of the country.

The whole point is he's a kid who's got a very great deal to learn, and should be brought along with tremendous care and patience.

SpashCity:

You might have a point about the number of hours Harper has played v. those Mantle did, but Mantle was still getting far more sophisticated coaching at a very young age than you think was the case.

Mickey Mantle was playing semipro baseball during the summer in his high school years (with the Baxter Kansas Whiz Kids, and please note that he did not live in Kansas but in Oklahoma). Many players did in those days. By doing that, he would have faced a number of significantly older players who, while not of ML caliber, would have known how to throw all sorts of junk-variety pitches that most kids today don't see until they've already started their pro careers. He was also tutored from a very young age by his father, a semi-pro player of some renown. His father taught him how to switch hit when he was a little kid. This last point is very well known to anyone who's read anything about Mantle's life.

As it happens, Mantle did play both basketball and football (the U of Oklahoma offered him a scholarship in the latter sport). Anyway, by the time he was able to sign a pro contract, he'd already had a good deal of experience that was comparable to playing in todays low minors -- Rookie League at the very least, possibly even low A ball.

I might point out that his great friend and teammate Whitey Ford also played in similar semi-pro, or club leagues in Astoria, NY before he signed a pro contract. One of my uncles used to play against him. Another pitcher who came out of that vaguely pro environment was Billy Loes, who pitched for the Dodgers. He was considered a far better prospect than Ford at the time due to having a terrific fastball. Then Ford signed with the Yankees and Eddit Lopat taught him how to cut a baseball and make it do things a non-doctored ball couldn't.


Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 6, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

@FergusonFoont

From everything you've heard, his ego could benefit from being knocked down a couple of pegs, huh? Did you even read the article above?

Just a few quotes for you:

"Minor league instructor and Class A Hagerstown coach Tony Tarasco has drilled into him the basics of the position: reading the ball off the bat, throwing to the proper base, where to set up before certain pitches."

"down in Florida, Harper is fitting in with his new teammates."

"There's no separation. There's no sense of, 'he's the big man on campus.' He's blended in exceptionally well," says Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris.

Doesn't really sound like that super huge ego you have "heard" so much about in your countless hours of scouting Harper is showing up a whole lot down in Florida.

Playing any level of professional baseball is a huge jump for somebody who should be a senior in high school. Let him prove himself at the lower levels first. He is on the 40-man roster, so he will be at Spring Training with the rest of the team in 2011. If he hits .350 with 10 homers his first month at Hagerstown, then we can start talking about moving him up to Harrisburg or Syracuse, and a possible starting RF spot in 2012. Until then, let him learn how to play RF and hit a real slider.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Please make the kid take at least three or four 2-3 week vacations STARTING NEXT MONTH for the next couple of years, until he's an adult. He needs to go to Sarasota and Jamaica, not Arizona. He's too young. I think he will be Micky Mantle, but we want a happy kid, whose well balanced. We know he loves baseball and is a rat. But enjoy being a teenager. Geesh.

Posted by: mgoldstein2012 | October 6, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Addendum:

"Basically, I agree that Harper is probably not ready for the AFL, but he is much, much, MUCH more prepared for professional baseball than Mantle was when he signed his first contract."

When Mantle was 18, he hit .383 with 26 HRs in C Ball. That was his second season as pro (he hit .313 his first year). I don't know how C level ball would stack up against today's minor leagues, my guess is the equivalent of low A-ball, at the very least. Given that he was able to put up decent number only a year later in the majors, it stands to reason he was far more advanced than Harper when he turned pro.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 6, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

>Posted by: Fairfax6

Your attempts to minimize Harper's experience in relation to Mantle is laughable. All Harper needs is at-bats. Like the Catcher said, Harper has played what amounts to full major league seasons every year, he's had plenty of exposure, he's probably been overexposed and bored for quite some time, and the notion that he's 'not ready' to see anything short of Nolan Ryan is off base. What, he's going to recoil and start crying if someone throws him a 2-0 changeup? He already goes the other way better than anybody the scouts have ever seen, which puts him way ahead of the game. It's all there, the only thing holding him back would be jealousy of some sort. 'He's not ready' is really code for 'I don't want him to be ready, he's just a kid and doesn't deserve it', and has nothing to do with his skills. Yeah back in the day they used to put tobacco juice on the ball. Big deal. Excluding him from the fall league is tantamount to putting up a stop sign.

Posted by: Brue | October 6, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Fairfax -

You have obviously studied Mantle's life in much greater detail than I have, so I'm not going to argue these points with you. I think we can all agree that if Harper can turn into anything close to resembling The Mick, the Nats (and the fans) will be extremely lucky.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

>When Mantle was 18, he hit .383 with 26 HRs in C Ball. That was his second season as pro (he hit .313 his first year). I don't know how C level ball would stack up against today's minor leagues, my guess is the equivalent of low A-ball, at the very least. Given that he was able to put up decent number only a year later in the majors, it stands to reason he was far more advanced than Harper when he turned pro.

Posted by: Fairfax6

See, he went straight from C ball to the majors because all he needed was some at-bats. He was rookie of the year the next year, so he probably could have played AA or AAA ball and been alright. Point is, he played where they put him, not where he belonged. If he was really a class C ballplayer, he would have gone to B level the next year instead of the majors, right?These guys are hostage to wherever they're told to play. If Mantle could have faced AA or AAA pitching in his first year of pro ball, and it's obvious he could have, why not Harper? Harper's as good as Mantle, like it or not.

Posted by: Brue | October 6, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I have a hard time believing that C-level ball in the 1950's was close to what low-A ball is today. There were probably very few, if any black or Latin American players playing against Mantle in those leagues. The talent pool that today's teams are drawing from is so much deeper, that the players who actually make it to the minors must be much more talented.

Brue -

I can't believe you actually think Harper is as good as Mantle. Mantle is probably one of the 10 best players of all time. Harper has played exactly zero professional games. Granted Harper can mash with a metal bat and had one amazing season playing against mostly kids who will never even play in the minors, but let him at least play one season before saying he is equal to a Hall of Famer.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"See, he went straight from C ball to the majors because all he needed was some at-bats. He was rookie of the year the next year . . ."

No, he wasn't rookie of the year. His teammate Gil McDougald was. And as I noted above, in mid-July he was sent down to Triple A (I think I mistakenly said Double A earlier, sorry) because he was in an extended slump. Mind you, this was in the midst of a very tight pennant race in a year the Yanks were desperate for warm bodies to play the outfield. He didn't tear the league apart on his return, but he did manage to hold his own.

So it wasn't a question of "all he needed was some at bats." He needed to face pitchers against whom he wasn't overmatched so he could learn how to hit.

My point is that even though Mantle was far better prepared at this point in his career than Harper is (I should point out this is relative to what was the major league level of competence at their respective times), he still struggled mightily when reaching the big leagues.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 6, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Also, this season Harper will be 18, and there is a good chance he will be in low-A ball. So we will get to see how his numbers compare to Mantle's at the same age.

When Mantle was 17, he hit .313 with 7 homers and a .467 slugging percentage in 89 games (per baseball-reference.com) in the D-League, whatever that was.

When Harper was 17, playing against players 2 and 3 years older than him in what is considered one of the most competitive junior college leagues in the country (especially because they use wood bats), Harper hit .442 with 29 homers and a .986 slugging percentage in just 66 games.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

@Splash...Harper actually switched to a wood bat in HS. During his time at SNCC (no, that has to be wrong) he always hit with a wood bat. I suspect he can shatter them with the best of 'em.

Let's not compare him to Mantle, even in development, just yet. In fact (and this is off Nats) you can't really compare Mantle pre-Majors to MLB Mantle. If he hadn't torn his knee (courtesy of Joe the coffee maker) he would probably be spoken of in the same breath as Bad Henry, or The Babe.

IMO, Ffx6 is probably right, C ball was probably slightly higher than Low A. There was D ball & semi-pro, which was much better (and here, I'm getting myself into trouble) than MSBL or MABL. My guess is that there were some players who were getting payed in Semi-pro and were playing on college teams, at the same time (rules were the same, sort of, but tracking was not as exact).

Splash is right about the talent pool, but it really is iffy. First, there were only 16 Major league teams. Second, there were a large number of returning vets, who played ball to pick up a few bucks. Third, college ball was not really a big thing and the need for a college education was not seen as so great.

As the Sage of Charm City (no, not tha Poopster) said (paraphrasing here): For every difficult, complicated problem, there is a simple answer, and it's wrong.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | October 6, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"I have a hard time believing that C-level ball in the 1950's was close to what low-A ball is today."

Well, believe it. The Pacific Coast League considered itself a third major league in those days, with considerable justice. It was probably the equivalent of today's Japanese Leagues.

Network TV was in its infancy in the late 1940s, available only in a few of the largest cities. There were far fewer options for people to entertain themselves, and one thing they did was go to see the local baseball team, be it professional minor league, or semipro, or local athletic clubs where you can sure a certain amount of under-the-table money was available for the players. The advent of television changed all that. People are aware of the effect it had on movie attendance, but it had a huge effect on sports like baseball and boxing as well. The latter was particularly hard hit, as people stayed home to watch famous pros fight on TV rather than going to the local gym to watch young amateurs face each other.

I'm not saying that the level of play was necessarily better then than it is now, just that to find a rough equivalence, C ball then was to the MLs, what low A-ball is today in terms of respective median skill level. And a rough equivalence is all you can find. It's a completely different world, another point I'm trying to make.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 6, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

While a bit off-topic, the Harper/Mantle argument is fascinating. Fairfax, you sure do know your stuff.

So, suppose Harper goes to AFL and isn't ready. Do you think it'd hurt his development to see a real slider or moving fastball? I really don't know the development sequence for an MLB prospect; it's an honest question. I suspect not, but I can't claim to know.

Personally, I think that he didn't play a game between June (May?) and last week, and considering that he has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to learn and perform very well at every level, it'd be a waste of time to make him wait until March for his next baseball. Another 50 games for us to see his performance would be valuable. The worst that happens, IMO, is that he goes 0-for-25 and gets to stew on that over the winter.

Posted by: Section406 | October 6, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"Bracket-style tournament in which pairs of players compete in the game Cornhole."

heh heh heh. Hey Beavis, he said "cornhole."

(Just wanted to add some levity and make Brue feel at home when he strays from BPG. ;-)

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | October 6, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

SpashCity:

D ball was the lowest level of the minor league farm systems of that era. Keep in mind that there were also various independent leagues of varying quality. As I noted, the Pacific Coast League was a completely independent entity (i.e., no major league farm teams), and very good players often made more money there than in the American and National Leagues - the seasons were longer, once or twice as long as 200 games. Just to give you an idea of the sort of teams that were fielded in the late 1940s, the Oakland Oaks team that won the league title in 1948 included Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi and a very young local product named Billy Martin. Several other former major leaguers were also on the team. The manager was Casey Stengel. Winning that championship got him the top job with the Yankess.

Again, you can only arrive at a rough equivalence, but I'm certain that in the late 1940s D ball was a higher level of play than the junior college league Harper participated in, relative to what ML baseball was then and is now.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 6, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Again, I'm with Ffx6 on this. Also, the bruised ego thing is much more a pitcher's hang-up than that for any other position. Of course, I tend to think that all pitchers are head cases, but then, I'm probably looking from a warped angle.

Let's remember that batters normally fail 7 times out of 10 (if they are really good) so that there is a natural ego buster going on. Also, catchers have so much to concentrate on that the functioning of the game doesn't allow for hurt feelings. Hurt knees, hurt back, hurt fingers, maybe. Hurt feelings, Nah!

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | October 6, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Section406:

First, thanks for the compliment, as to this:

"So, suppose Harper goes to AFL and isn't ready. Do you think it'd hurt his development to see a real slider or moving fastball?"

That really depends on his makeup more than anything. If he's tough enough to face the fact that he's incapable of doing it now but can learn after some hard work, it might help. Then again, some people get very discouraged when they discover that after always being the absolute best player in whatever game they were playing that now there just one more person in the crowd, and a lot of the crowd members are much further along than they are. Some people adapt, some can't. When the second version of the Senators decamped to Texas, they drafted an outstanding high school pitching prospect named David Clyde. The wacko owner Bob Short force-fed him into the starting rotation without any time in the minors, and the kid became so shell-shocked he never amounted to anything. Then again, Al Kaline never played a single game in the minor leagues.

Let's put it this way: I can't think of a single promising ballplayer who was hurt by spending too much time in the minor leagues. A cautious approach never hurts, especially when you're dealing with a player of Harper's potential brilliance.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 6, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Great discussion.

I'd love to see Harper in 2011, but what's the harm in finding out what he can do at each successive level of minor league play? We really don't know yet how much he has to learn, and can't possibly know that until he starts playing regularly against serious minor leaguers. If he dominates the minors the way Strasburg did, he can race through them and come up fast - after he's proven he's ready.

Regarding Mantle: His first trip to the majors went badly when pitchers discovered he couldn't resist rising fastballs - or hit them, either. They then proceeded to work him "up the ladder." Frustrated the hell out of Stengel, who snarled at him, something along the lines of, "God damn it, you KNOW you can't hit those pitches, why the hell are you swinging at them?"

He got sent down to Kansas City, where his first AB was a bunt single. Manager told him he wasn't there to bunt; he was there to learn to hit. Eventually he did, and the rest is history.

Posted by: gilbertbp | October 6, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh, so *that's* the problem--I've been playing the wrong position all these years!
How do you throw a slider, again?
-----------
I tend to think that all pitchers are head cases, but then, I'm probably looking from a warped angle.
Posted by: mikecatcher50 | October 6, 2010 11:59 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 6, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Oh, so *that's* the problem--I've been playing the wrong position all these years!
How do you throw a slider, again?
-----------
I tend to think that all pitchers are head cases, but then, I'm probably looking from a warped angle.
Posted by: mikecatcher50 | October 6, 2010 11:59 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 6, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm. not sure what happened there ... sorry.
-------

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 6, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, but ... knowledgeable as I know you are, those are exactly the guys you DON'T hear about--the ones who got hurt or never prospered riding a bus, but might have made it in the bigs.
**************
I can't think of a single promising ballplayer who was hurt by spending too much time in the minor leagues.
Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 6, 2010 12:03 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 6, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

That's basically what the Rule 5 draft is supposed to be for, I think.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 6, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Ok I'm going to show my age here, but I played high school baseball against current Oriole's prospect (and probable McPoopy sweetheart) Brandon Snyder.

Brandon was the best baseball player I ever played against (except for one game against Justin Upton). He was a catcher/short stop in high school and he was unbelievable at both. Every ball he hit was a rocket to the gap.

The Orioles drafted Snyder with the 13th pick of the 2005 draft. I was absolutely sure I would be watching him play short for the O's for years.

Well, it turned out Brandon wasn't that great of a catcher and was too slow to play short, so the O's moved him to 3rd. Then it turned out he wasn't that great at 3rd either so now he is a first baseman. Brandon struggled to hit and bounced back and forth from rookie ball to low A, then made it to high A and then back down again. I'm sure it was the first time in his life he had every struggled, at anything.

Brandon finally worked his way up to AAA and this past September, made his major league debut for the O's. Brandon went 6-20 with 3 RBI for the O's this year, and probably has an outside shot to make the opening day roster next year.

My point is that you can never tell who is good and who isn't until you see them play against the best competition. That, to me, is what makes baseball so much better than other sports like basketball, football and hockey. There are so many LeBron's and Kobe's and Kevin Garnett's that can go straight from high school to the highest level in the world, that they had to make a rule against it. Same deal with football. But just because you are the best high school player around, that doesn't guarantee you anything, in terms of being a good major leaguer.

I think we should hope Harper has a similar progression to the Braves' Jason Heyward. Drafted at age 17 out of high school, he played his first year in rookie ball. The next year he made it to high A. At age 19 he started the season again at high A, but by the end of the year was in AAA. We all know what happened this year, Heyward made the Braves opening day roster at age 20 and has a chance to be Rookie of the Year.

I would have bet anything in 2005 that Brandon Snyder would have taken that path, but it took him longer to prove himself. I would rather see Bryce Harper spend next year moving from low A to high A to AA, demolishing pitching at every step, than to see him be completely overmatched in Arizona this fall.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Boy, just read this little tid-bit over on The Bog, in comparing the O's and Natinals:

"The O's had a larger overall audience in MASN's viewing area, attracting an average of about 78,000 households."

Looks like, yet again the numbers speak for themselves and the O's have more fans than the Natinals do in the DC/VA/MD area. Not that this is anything new.

Also, lord knows why anyone would bring up Mickey Mantle in the same sentence/blog entry as Bryce Harper. 2 can't even be compared.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Actually SplashCity, hopefully Brandon Snyder will NOT be a part of the 2011 Orioles. Too many holes in his game right now to be up at the MLB-level. Sorry to burst your bubble. Obviously Splash doesn't watch much baseball because Snyder has just as much of "an outside shot" of making the O's as I do.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Luckily for Brandon, some people with the Orioles think more highly of him than you do, Poopster, since he is on the 40-man roster, and has actually, you know, played in Major League Baseball games. I didn't realize you were that close to The Show.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love Splash trying to stick up for his old buddy, who probably doesn't even remember who Splash is.

Too bad, in his limited time, Brandon made just too many mistakes both in the field and at the bat to realistically be considered for consideration for the 2011 O's.

I mean, Josh Bell got a very extended look and he'll most likely be in AAA next year, which only means your best friend Brandon will be joining him in Norfolk.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

So to recap, Captain Hershey Stain, thinks the O's are better than the Nationals because they have better TV numbers, even though the Nats were better in every statistical category, including wins, and the O's top prospects aren't even good enough to make the no good team. Have fun Ty Wigginton next year Poopy.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, for the Natinals Ty Wigginton is better than every player on the Natinals not named Zimmerman or Strasburg.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Ok, sorry guys, I'm done with the troll.

Bryce Harper in Hagerstown next year.

Let's Go Nats!

Posted by: SpashCity | October 6, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

So again, if we're mostly in agreement that Harper's ego is safe from the stench of failure at AFL, can someone give me a good reason why he shouldn't go?

The only valid reason I see, other than ego, is that he might take a roster spot from someone who might learn more from it, right?

And he's going to have to learn sooner or later that he's going to have to hit that slider anyway. He's been a prodigy at everything else, so why not give him the opportunity to learn that too?

(I think that's something that's overlooked - not only that the kid can hit the daylights out of the ball, but also that he's done things at 15 and 16 that other highly-touted prospects do at 18 and 19. He's not only good, but practically a baserunning fetus out there.)

Just sayin'.

Posted by: Section406 | October 6, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore is a Dirty Ugly City...a 2nd City

Why don't O's fans go to the Baltimore Sun website to talk about the blOs.

What a joke of a place to live and die.

Posted by: frediemac1 | October 6, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, because DC, what with North and Southeast are just pleasant places to visit.............

Gotta love the commi-style of Natinal posters with their "take it elsewhere" attitude. Sorry buddy but this is America, no matter how much you wish it were different.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Great name for a person from Baltimore.

Later loser

Posted by: frediemac1 | October 6, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Beats getting my "handle" from a government sponsored enterprise, right fredie.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

There are more comments on this blog post then on the Baltimore Sun's entire sports section.

Posted by: alex35332 | October 6, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Actually alex, the Sun has a messageboard which trumps the Posts messageboar....Oh wait, the Post doesn't even have a messageboard.

Oh snap!! Natinals fans wrong again but what else is new.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

"McP:
Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we? "

True dat BinM, the Nats did better than the hapless O's in 2010.

However, the Orioles and their kiddy corps look like they are closer to being competitive than the Nats. Even with the addition of a Sammy Solis and Strasburg at the end of next year. Next year the O's do look better especially starting pitching wise which is key. Without key trades in the offseason the Nats look as if they could possibly regress?

In 2012 (and unlike others I am not including Harper) things could get exponentially better for the Nats as opposed to the O's and many other team.

But it looks to me like the Nats still have another year in losing limbo.

Posted by: periculum | October 6, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Just in CP out 4-6 weeks.
106.7 the source

Posted by: alex35332 | October 6, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Interesting. Harper seems to have what people call a "baseball body" (not applicable to catchers), which makes me wonder why he was placed there all of those years.

Generally, these guys will gain a great deal of upper body strength through ages 18-20. They might also still grow an inch or two, which would force an adjustment in the way they think about the strike zone (or not, since some umpires don't seem able to be consistent with their strike zone).

I don't have any problem with him playing in AFL if he shows that he can hit over the next 10 days in instructional. That actually could move his debut up to Spring 2012.

BTW, anyone think Zimm doesn't make the play that Longoria blew in the 3rd or Espi doesn't make the play that the 2nd baseman blew in the 4th?

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | October 6, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

do posted to the wrong blog.

Posted by: alex35332 | October 6, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

That's okay, alex, Mr. McP does it all the time.

Also, very punny, Kilgore. :-)

---

"Joking aside, the first three weeks to Harper's career have been, not unexpectedly, a mixed bag."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 6, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Harper: not before 2013. 2014 looks more likely. By then he will be all of 20-21.

Posted by: periculum | October 6, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

the reason not to go to a level you aren't ready for is that your development actually slows, no matter what your potential is. better to build your fundamentals and skills one level at a time, give or take, and only move up when you are at least as good as the bottom third of the level you are going to. You will learn to hit the best pitching sooner if you learn to hit almost as good pitching first than if you just keep facing the best until you can hit it.

Posted by: JoeT1 | October 6, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

"The O's had a larger overall audience in MASN's viewing area, attracting an average of about 78,000 households."

Looks like, yet again the numbers speak for themselves and the O's have more fans than the Natinals do in the DC/VA/MD area. Not that this is anything new.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 1:11 PM
==========================================
Got a few questions for you, Poppy:

Do you have to look at the TV listings to know what channel MASN is broadcasting your team's game every night? Or can you just turn to the same channel night after night?

What follows comes from a comment I made to a WaPo story two seasons ago; story said the Nats were only getting about 9,000 viewers per game.

I know that 40 of the Nats' games will be broadcast in HD this year. So the first thing I do is check Comcast's channel listings on channel 226. Channel 226 is something called MoJo, and even if the listing says it's not a ball game being broadcast, you have to check anyway, because it NEVER says there's a game on.

So you check 226/MoJo and find that it's not a ball game, or, worse, that it's a Baltimore game. You curse MASN's owner (who, by some odd happenstance, also owns the Baltimore team)and everyone related to him by blood or marriage, then check out channel 20, because some games are broadcast there. Nope, not there in the listings, but you go to 20 anyway, and, nope, there's no game on 20 tonight, even though there was one last night.

So you jump up to 62. Nope, no game there tonight, even though there was one there two nights ago. So now it's on to channel 77. Channel 77 is C-SPAN2, and Comcast's cable listing generally says "Government Affairs," or something like that. You might think "Government Affairs" means it's a Bill Clinton documentary, but you'd be wrong, because that's the channel the Nats are on tonight.

The Nats are on C-SPAN??? WTF?

So the Nats are locked into some insane deal where MASN controls where the games are broadcast, and MASN and Comcast put the games on different channels every night, and Comcast disguises the broadcast behind a listing that says, "When Weasels Attack!"

And they're puzzled that nobody tunes in. It's as if you went to the grocery store for milk and found it in the produce department today, hidden behind the Hostess Fruit Pies tomorrow, in front of the deli counter on Thursday, and in the dairy case Friday, but mislabeled as apple cider vinegar.

"Safeway Milk Sales Drop Sharply," the ensuing WaPo story reads.

This past season got better. You got 162 HD games scattered between channels 247 and 844, or standard broadcast games on 50, 62, or 77.

Posted by: gilbertbp | October 6, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

So gilbert you're saying that Natinal fans are just too stupid to find out, on their own and for themselves, what channel the Natinals are on?

Gotcha!

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

You didn't answer my question, Turdy. How many channels do you have to go through to find Baltimore's game?

Posted by: gilbertbp | October 6, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

You didn't answer my question, gilby. Do you just think Natinal fans are too stupid to find out, on their own and for themselves, what channel the Natinals are on?

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

But to answer your question the answer is 2.

MASN or MASN2.

Boy, that's so hard to do. Oh so terribly hard. So hard.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

There is ESPN, ESPN2, and Fox, but the Natinals are never on those channels anyway.

The way the Natinals play, they'd be lucky to get broadcast on The Ocho.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Boy, that's so hard to do. Oh so terribly hard. So hard.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 5:34 PM
============================================
For the charming residents of Charm City, I suspect that may indeed be true.

Tell you what, why don't the Blows play "Hide the Braodcast" the way Comcast and MASN do for the Nats games (read my first post on this topic again (if you can), where you'll see that half the time, the broadcasts weren't even identified as ball games) and let me know how many people tune in to watch the Blows for their fourteenth consecutive losing season.

I'm sure, of course, that the Blows' owner, who also, by strange happenstance, owns MASN, and whose antipathy (look it up, Poppy) to having another team in his territory is well known, has nothing to do with making sure that Nats broadcasts bounce all over the dial.

Posted by: gilbertbp | October 6, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

So gilbert, you need your cable box to tell you the Natinals will be on either MASN or MASN2 at 7pm? I mean, don't a majority of games start at that time?

Wow, that's kinda sad.

And actually, gilbert, your Angelos assessment is kinda, okay totally, moronic. Wouldn't Angelos want more and more people watching the broadcasts to bring in more advertising revenue?

Obviously you didn't pay much attention in Business 101 at Imamoron University.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 6, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Harper's already got the skills, he just needs to see the pitching. He doesn't need to be facing all these hard throwing young bucks who are all over the place. Look, he's never gonna learn to hit the breaking ball until he faces pitchers that can THROW IT OVER THE PLATE. THAT'S what you miss by not putting him against top competition. It most certainly hinders his development. People automatically think it's better for development to face weaker pitching. What he'll be facing is wilder pitching. He needs to face pitchers who are around the plate instead of dancing out of the way of runaway pitches half the time. Get his feet set and get a feel for major league stuff and pitch counts. Holding him back does nothing but delay the inevitable. He's got his own set of rules. He's that good. This guy's a machine. His old man is blue collar, tough as nails. He's not pampered.

Posted by: Brue | October 6, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

"Harper's already got the skills, he just needs to see the pitching."

I've got to say this is just about the most ill-informed post I've seen on these threads.

"He's got his own set of rules." So does the Flat Earth Society.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 7, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Wow. There's some really juvenile idiocy here. Grow up. Get a life.

Posted by: fischy | October 7, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Wow. There's some really juvenile idiocy here. Grow up. Get a life.

Posted by: fischy | October 7, 2010 8:20 AM
----------------------

Cosigned

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 7, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Can you ban SMALL Peter Angelos from the Nationls Journal? Can't he stick to trolling at MASN since he owns it?

Go "F" yourself Poopy McPoop!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | October 7, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

>Posted by: Fairfax6


>By Ben Goessling, MASNsports
October 7, 2010 10:41 PM

Bryce Harper went 3-for-4 today for the Nationals' instructional league team, hitting a homer and driving in five runs against the Braves.

Suck on it and like it.

Posted by: Brue | October 8, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Brue -

If you read all of Goessling's post you would have seen this:

"Harper has been inconsistent in his first taste of professional baseball, and his early inconsistencies, while to be expected, are probably an indicator the 17-year-old isn't ready for the Arizona Fall League yet."

3-4 with a homer and 5 RBI is nice though...

Posted by: SpashCity | October 8, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

>"Harper has been inconsistent in his first taste of professional baseball, and his early inconsistencies, while to be expected, are probably an indicator the 17-year-old isn't ready for the Arizona Fall League yet."

Posted by: SpashCity

That's an opinion. I prefer to stick with the facts. Baseball is a game of numbers. Ben Goessling probably never swang a bat in anger in his entire life. I'm just guessing by the size of his neck.

Posted by: Brue | October 8, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I don't think "Harper has been inconsistent" is an opinion, I think it's a statement. But that's my opinion.

The facts would suggest that Harper has been inconsistent, based on his numbers and the statement by a National's reporter, and that inconsistency suggests that he is not ready for the absolute highest level the minor leagues has to offer.

I want Harper to succeed and help the Nats as quickly as possible, but it seems that by your logic, the Nats should have just made him the starting right fielder on August 27, one day after he signed the contract, because he had nothing left to prove.

Posted by: SpashCity | October 8, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I live in Viera and have now seen 2 games in the last week. Harper is 0 for 6 in those two games. It doesn't worry me, but I'd say the inconsistent label is a fact. It's Rookie ball, he's 17 (still young for a Rookie!) and he hasn't played all season. He's allowed to be inconsistent.

Posted by: g3jr | October 9, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

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