In a feature story on Bryce Harper running in this week’s Sports Illustrated, two Nationals officials compared the scrutiny the 18-year-old mega-prospect has faced to what Jackie Robinson endured when he broke baseball’s color line.
In trying to describe the pressure facing Harper, Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris gave this quote to SI writer Tom Verducci:
“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, who is as close to Harper as any Nationals employee, made a similar comparison to SI independent of Harris’s remarks:
“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.”
UPDATE 9:30 P.M: On Nationals Journal, Adam Kilgore writes that Harris issued a statement clarifying his intent and regretting making the correlation.
(H/T Dan Shanoff at Quickish)