Mark DeRosa says Bryce Harper should ‘just shut up and play the game’


DeRosa and Harper, in happier times. (John McDonnell / TWP)

Bryce Harper told reporters what he thought the Nats should do with their lineup, and the establishment disapproved. A lot.

So if I asked you what Mark DeRosa — one-time gritty Nats veteran, now an analyst for MLB Network, and very much a part of  baseball’s conventional wisdom  – thought of Harper’s comments, you could probably have guessed. You’d have probably been right.

“He needs to keep his mouth shut,” DeRosa said on Monday. “I’m being honest with you. As a guy who played in the league for a long time, a 21-year-old kid popping off like this? I know what he’s saying. He doesn’t realize its impact. He doesn’t realize Denard Span is impacted by this, Ryan Zimmarman’s impacted by this, Adam LaRoche. Just play the game. Just shut up and play the game.”

Host Brian Kenny suggested that the Nats should want Harper to have a stake in the way the team is constructed.

“He’s not ready to handle it,” DeRosa disagreed. “I think he’s proven over the first couple years in the league, he’s not ready to handle it on a maturity level.”

And Kenny suggested that Harper was “a 21-year-old superstar just being honest.”

“I’ve thought a lot of things in my career that I never said,” DeRosa disagreed. “And he’s not a superstar. He’s a superstar in the making. He’s not a superstar. Check the back of the baseball card.”

By Tuesday, DeRosa — Harper’s teammate in 2012 — seem to have moderated his views.

“It’s not good. It’s not good,” he said on MLB Network, when asked about Harper’s comments. “I’m gonna give him a pass — and I hate saying this, because there are guys that are probably yelling at me at the TV in the clubhouses right now — with his age. He never got a chance. The things we did in the minor leagues and the things we learned and the failures and  acting immature, all those things kind of flew under the radar. You were kind of cultivated in the minors to arrive in the big leagues and be ready to go.

“He hasn’t been able to mature,” DeRosa went on. “His his talent has superseded his maturity level. He doesn’t realize that his comments impact the entire organization, the city. They’re under a microscope. So he’s basically putting Denard Span — a guy who’s been in the league for multiple years, and has posted every day — he goes to the bench, in [Harper's] mind. Adam LaRoche might have to move. Ryan Zimmerman might have to move. It’s just a situation where nothing good is going to come out of this. Just say ‘Hey, I’m here to help the team win, let Matt Williams and Mike Rizzo construct the lineup the way they want to construct it, and let my play dictate where I hit in the order.’ ”

DeRosa was asked what he would say to Harper were they still teammates.

“I’d take him to dinner and I’d talk to him,” DeRosa said. “Bryce is a guy that I feel, from my time in there in 2012, he’s a very good guy. You need to love on him and embrace the talent that he brings, but also teach him. He’s young. This is a guy who burst on the scene at 19 years old. He’s done a lot of things. None of us have ever walked in his shoes. He’s kind of a revelation…You’ve got to put yourself in your own mind, what were you doing at  19 and 20 and were you the face of a franchise like he’s been asked to be?”

So Harper should just offer cliches to the media?

“Don’t give me the cliches; give me an honest answer,” DeRosa said. “But don’t tell me how the lineup’s gonna be constructed, especially when the team played better with you on the DL than when you were healthy. I just feel like Bryce [needs to] just relax, enjoy the game, realize he’s a lightning rod for the media and guys like me and you, and just not say anything that’s going to excite not only us, the fans, but his own teammates.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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