So, as Rizzo knows, all these things don’t have to move in a straight comfortable line. Hard knocks don’t hurt the great ones much, but they can do real damage to the merely good ones. That’s the danger with Harper.
If Rizzo ends up “rushing and ruining” Harper, he’ll never live it down. And Rizzo knows it — but he’s already jumped off that roof.
“This is not optimal,” Rizzo said. “This is not the coming-out party we had planned for Bryce Harper. But this is a team decision to help the major league club. We still have a developmental plan for Bryce . . . Establish yourself at every level . . . A lot of players say it’s easier to hit in the majors [than AAA]. I don’t buy into that . . . I’m a scouting and player development guy at heart. We have a plan. I haven’t abandoned it.”
Cue the laugh track.
Could Harper make you abandon that plan, I asked.
“He certainly could. It’s a distinct possibility. I hope he does,” Rizzo said. “But this may not be his break-out moment.”
So why take the risk? Partly, in three days in Rochester, Rizzo thought he saw Harper getting hot, finding his stroke and looking comfortable in left field. But, mostly, this is about makeup, personality, athletic character.
“He’s a very confident person,” Rizzo said. “He’s not the type to be derailed . . . He’ll handle anything that is thrown at him. We didn’t bring him up to sit on the bench . . . Davey will treat him like any of the other young stars he’s handled.”
Harper says he’s “stunned.” Rizzo says he’ll “monitor” everything and if Harper needs to go back to AAA, no problem, that’ll fit into his mythological “plan.”
Now, Davey Johnson, and millions of baseball fans, have only hours more to wait for a moment they’ve long anticipated: The night the Nats manager writes out his lineup card and, on it, two names appear together for the first time: Strasburg and Harper.
Ready or not, here he comes.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/boswell.