Tue Jul 26 04:56pm EDT
Straight from the files of Terrible Perspective 101 comes this unbelievable gem: Two members of the Washington Nationals organization tell Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci that Bryce Harper(notes) is baseball's most scrutinized prospect since ... Jackie Robinson.
Let's go to the tape, shall we?:
Nats director of player development Doug Harris: "This is really unfair and it's totally different, but if I can make a comparison to one guy that has been scrutinized like this, it would be Jackie Robinson. And it's unfair because it was a different standard. He was under a microscope in an era when we didn't have Internet, didn't have cellphones. Now, Jackie Robinson had his life threatened. I'm not comparing Bryce to that. But as far as nonstop scrutiny? Absolutely. Day to day."
Minor league coach Tony Tarasco: "Jackie Robinson. You have to go back to Jackie Robinson to find anybody who goes through this much scrutiny. It wasn't like this for [Stephen] Strasburg. Wasn't like this for Alex Rodriguez(notes)."
Verducci notes that both men made these comments independent of each other and I assume everyone is going to jump to conclusions and believe that they're trying to draw parallels from Robinson's impact to whatever mark Harper will leave on the game.
I see that they are not. I also note that one of the comments comes with heavy qualification. Still, that doesn't make the comparisons by Harris and Tarasco any less ridiculous. One man was selected by Branch Rickey for the unenviable task of integrating baseball in a time of heavy racism and before the dawn of the civil rights era. The other is a teenage prodigy who made the choice to graduate high school early and has to deal with a few more cameras, a few more autograph-seekers and a few more people talking about him on iPads and smartphones as a result.
As Robinson's league-wide retired number suggests, he is completely singular in baseball history and any similarities shouldn't be drawn lightly. That's not to say that a lot of people aren't watching Harper and how he fares in the minor leagues. He's receiving a lot of attention for a lot of reasons, including people making hyperbolic statements like these two.
But do Harris or Tarasco really believe that Harper's reality is that much different from Stephen Strasburg(notes), who was selected with the first pick one draft earlier and received a record signing bonus from that same Nats team? The Harper hype doesn't really seem all that different from Strasburg's, so why even feel the need to drop a Jackie Robinson mention and make the kid's supposedly tough path even more difficult?
Big BLS H/N: Washington Post