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Bryce Harper’s a ‘diva,’ and Tom Boswell is cool with that

Bryce Harper during media day for the MLB All Star Game this summer. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Post columnist Thomas Boswell held his weekly on-line chat with readers Monday. Here’s what he had to say about Bryce Harper:

Q: What do the Nats do about Bryce Harper and his outbursts? … Between the ejections and his admiring his own hits rather than running hard out of the box, he seems like a nightmare for a manager to deal with.

A: If he were a “team leader” type, then it would be a problem. But he’s a superstar type. Very different. This is Dusty Baker’s and Daniel Murphy’s team. I don’t even think that Harper, at 23, wants it to be “his” team, except in terms of raw performance.

In that context, two ejections in a season, even if the second one is immature and puts the team in a bad spot in extra-innings, is just one of dozens of surmountable aggravations in a season. He admires too many almost-home-runs. But not as many as [Wilson] Ramos. Again, if you are trying to be a true team leader, someone who never ever lets up, who plays the game “the right way” 99 percent of the time, who sets an example and who is deeply upset when he doesn’t live up to that standard — like Murphy and [Jason] Werth now and [Ian] Desmond in the past — then it’s a problem. That’s not Harper. He plays hard — more than hard enough. And he has bursts of remarkable (eye-catching) intensity. But he isn’t the relentless mature grinder/leader yet that two of his heroes were — George Brett and Pete Rose. Maybe he’ll get there. . . .

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Harper is already 10,000 miles ahead of Reggie Jackson (and plenty of others in the HOF) in self-control, team-first orientation and getting along with teammates. But, of course, he’s a diva. And wants to be. From the glowing shoes to the great (photogenic) hairdo to the wanna-be-the-face-of-baseball ads, that’s all just part of the “Elvis” in him. That’s okay. He works his tail off and he plays when he’s dinged up plenty of the time. His legs are covered with scabs from sliding, diving. Yes, I think he played through some pain in his right shoulder that, to some extent, is still there. The week off that Baker basically forced on him was a good idea. Some more days off in September would make sense. I asked him about the shoulder. He gave a veteran answer: “My right shoulder feels good, my left shoulder feels good, my right arm, my right leg, my left arm and my left leg — they all feel good.” I said, “You mean they feel good for late August in a big-league season.” Harper grinned and said, “Yes.” He can play for my team any day.

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