Bryce Harper weight gain ‘controversy’ continues

January 7

(Matt Slocum/AP)

I want to talk some more about this Bryce Harper weight-gain nonsense, because really, the whole thing is getting a little out of hand.

On Friday, an ESPN story featured a quote from Bryce Harper saying he wanted to take a month off and then get “as big as a house,” starting spring training at around 240 pounds. The quote wasn’t dated and ESPN stated that it was something he said recently.

In September as the Nats season was ending, Adam Kilgore ran with a similar, if not the same, quote from Harper. Now, it’s entirely likely that Harper also made the “big as a house” remarks separately to ESPN. What’s less likely is that he talked about taking a month off in September, and then again in December. Sure, the descriptor “he said recently” can be subjective, but a quote like that probably demands a little more specificity.

That being said, when ESPN presented the quote on Friday, it immediately became fodder for every blog, Web site and sports television station. What’s curious is that people cared more about Harper wanting to gain 10-15 pounds, and less about the fact that one of the baseball’s biggest stars was allegedly talking about taking a month off just two months before the start of spring training.

One of those outlets was MLB Network, who addressed the quotes on Monday night in a segment they called “National Concern.” The debate was over whether or not the Nats should take issue with Harper’s weight-gaining aspirations.

“I think there’s some concern, but I think what tempers that concern is when you’re at that age, when you’re as young as he is, that he could in the process of spring training knock 10, 15 pounds off,” began panelist Dan Plesac. “It looks like this additional weight, if he is able to put it on, and he’s not as mobile as he was before. And I think one of the things that makes Bryce Harper so appealing is the way he plays with reckless abandon. It’s stealing home from third base. It’s going from first to third. It’s covering balls in the gaps, and I think that’s the part that makes him a special player.”

The second panelist, Darryl Hamilton, also had issues with a buff Harper.

“Well, there should be concern but I think you’re right,” he said. “The way he plays the game, he goes all out. And that’s great. But I think he’s learned something the last couple of years being in the big leagues. You gotta tone it down a little bit. I mean, he had a lot of injuries last year and he was a little nervous. I mean, we go back and we look at this guy and what he’s done over the last couple of years, and especially last year. I mean, when he gets out there, he’s worth the price of admission. I mean, he’s going first to second, hair is on fire, he doesn’t care about anything, he’s sliding head first, he’s sliding in the outfield. And this is the one thing I think he’s learned over the last season – when you’re doing all this sliding, you gotta have something on your body to take out the pain. And I think he lost a little bit. It’s amazing that he lost 20 pounds during the season. And going into walls, going into catchers at home plate, that’ll take its toll on you.

“So going into camp 6 foot 2, 230, 235 which he’s normally done. He wants to jack it up a bit, I don’t have a problem with that. But we’re going to lose the player we’ve seen the last couple of years if he does it and it stays on like that.”

Now, Harper has admitted that he loses about 20 pounds during the season. If my Google searching is correct, he started last year’s spring training at around 230, so we’re not talking about a ton of weight here. But don’t let that stop host Greg Amsinger from making assumptions about Harper’s motives.

“Can I throw a theory at you guys?” he interjected. “He’s trying to live up to the hype. Sports Illustrated at 16-years old. I want to become a home run hitter now. I play in left field anyway, so I want to hit 50 home runs. I’m Bryce Harper. I’m going to hit 45 to 50 home runs every year. I’m not gonna go first to third, I’m not gonna steal home on Cole Hammels anymore. I’m just going to be the best power hitter in the game.”

The secret to becoming a power hitter is out: Gain 10 pounds.

“I think he’s a great player,” Hamilton concluded. “He’s got everything going for him, but I don’t want to see him at 245 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. Keep it down, son. Don’t go that route.”

Yeah, this whole thing is ridiculous. But “Twisted Steel and Sex Appeal” would look great on a sleeveless t-shirt.

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