Weekend Reflections:  Parents, Prodigies and Meltdowns

This is my first piece for Talk Nats, and I do not have the baseball IQ or acumen of Ghost, Don, 222 and countless others, so, if you are looking for a stats recap or analysis, you might as well just wait for the next post.

First, some brief personal background:  I am a psychologist and divorced (yes, even Sigmund Freud had his issues) father of two young adult children; a twenty-one year old daughter and a seventeen year old son.  My son and I have spent the last ten or so years bonding over this game, and I will always be a glass half full guy regarding this team, no matter HOW good or bad they are.

This team has allowed me to become closer to my son in many ways.  So, this post will be a bit about human nature and a bit about parent/child relationships as it relates to Bryce’s Saturday afternoon antics.   I was a bit disturbed about this latest meltdown by Bryce this past weekend, and I opined on one earlier post that Dusty should have benched Bryce for the Sunday game.  No one player is above the team, and Bryce did just that in my opinion.   There were comments regarding his age, his brain not being fully developed etc.  So, I decided to look a bit deeper into some of these comments. 

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One set of comments focused on his age.  He is “only 23,” but he should know better by now.  Others commented that he is “not a robot” and that his brain is not fully developed yet (which is a true statement).  I want to address these comments from a professional standpoint and from a parental standpoint, with a side of prodigious talent and the trimmings that come with this. Bear with me (those of you who are still here).

Bryce is, in my personal opinion, now beyond the age of us saying, “He’s just a kid.”  And, while his brain is not fully developed, the brain at 23 is developed enough to know right from wrong.  At 23, I was in graduate school part-time and working full-time.  Was I perfect? No way.  Did I know right from wrong? I believe I did.  So, what separates someone like myself at age 23 from Bryce Harper?  Let’s see…Talent.  God-given ability.  An opportunity to let that talent flourish.

The expectancies from my parents when I was 23 were simple:  Pay your way through school, pay for your transportation, don’t screw up, and you can live in the family home rent free.  In short, the expectancies placed on me at this age were pretty typical.

In 2016 at the age of 23, Bryce has more money now that 99.9% of the rest of us will ever see in a lifetime.  He is known everywhere he goes and, oh, yes….he has this expectancy to lead his team to the Promised Land in October.  Just a bit more pressure to say the least.

We’ve seen many generational talents fail due to many different reasons.  Players go broke (pick any number of professional athletes that fit this), burn out and even walk away due to the pressures.  Many of these athletes were placed in an adult world at a very young age and were not necessarily equipped to handle these pressures.  Many of those who have failed had little to no familial support, especially from father figures.  Yes, Bryce is just a kid, relatively speaking, and some of the pressures may be getting to him, especially after last year’s MVP performance.

Bryce is clearly not a robot.  He is passionate about the game and plays hard (despite what J. Pap will say).  There is, however, a difference between being passionate and being overly self-absorbed.  His comments about the umpire missing the call appears to be a case of, “I know better than you.”  It’s even been said by Bob and F.P. during the games (Mr. Harper will let us know if it’s a strike).  Bryce HAS to know that people are saying this and, as a younger player, why WOULDN’T he think that he has a better overall knowledge of the strike zone?

This brings me to the combination of balancing prodigious talent with a sense of humility.  But, how does someone who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of SIXTEEN even get a sense of humility?  This is a kid who, since he was a young child, has been told how great he is and how great he will be.  Somewhere along the line, a reality check was needed.  This is where I need to look at parenting.  Believe me, I am not throwing Mr. and Mrs. Harper under the bus, but one can opine (and the key word is “opine”) that the parents needed to let their son know that, despite all his talent and ability, he is still just a kid and needs to show some deference to others.  Maybe they did this and it was scuttled by the myriad of coaches, talent evaluators and agents telling Bryce not to worry about humility.

Right now, Dusty Baker is part manager and part parent to Bryce.  Again, in my opinion, the parent needed to sit the young man down and let him know that such actions are unacceptable and detrimental to the team.  One has to wonder, though, if this (being sat down for a game as a consequence) has ever occurred to Bryce before, excluding suspensions.

As I look over this, I submit that I have provided NO answers, just opinions.  So, in that spirit, I will close with this opinion:  Bryce, you are a generational talent and have the potential to be one of the all-time greats.  But with greatness comes leadership.  You are not a leader yet, not if you are getting tossed from a game in late August with an eight-game lead.  I truly hope that the real leaders on this team (Dusty, Jayson Werth and even Ryan Zimmerman) are letting you know that your emotions are all good, but that you do the team no good whatsoever when you gets tossed.

The team cannot win the WS without Bryce.  Then again, Bryce needs to understand that he cannot win the WS without his teammates.

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