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  • Hustle Doesn't Last – The Bryce Harper Problem by Jon Anderson

I'm a baseball writer. There are thousands of us all around the country, and we seem to all be writing about one player recently – Bryce Harper. This kid's been hyped up since he was a young teenager, and he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16. He's 19 years old now and he's taking the major leagues by storm. The way I look at it, the hype itself has done more than anything to capture all those eyes.

He's an unreal athlete. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have been on that magazine cover. He has been clocked throwing a baseball at 96 miles per hour, he's hit a 517 foot home run (with a metal bat), and he'll beat most players in the league in a foot race. That's a set of tools that not many people have, especially at the age of 19, so it's understandable that people are excited about him.

But what has he done in his first few weeks in the major leagues? Nothing other players couldn't do. The highlights of his extremely young career have been a couple of laser beam throws from the outfield, a steal of home, and a couple of doubles that he ran really hard on. Good arm, good speed, good hustle. He's not the only player in the league that can do all those things. Rick Ankiel, who plays right next to Bryce Harper, has a similarly spectacular arm. Dexter Fowler and Jacoby Ellsbury have as much or more speed than him. So what's the big deal?

Major League Baseball is full of outstanding athletes. They could all have this same exact effect on the league if they were hyped up like Harper has been. Hype doesn't come randomly though, Harper earned it with his freakish set of skills. Eventually we'll probably see Harper do some things that nobody else can do, but for now we haven't seen them.

What we have seen is an extraordinary amount of hustle. That's been his calling card thus far. He's made some big plays and caused a lot of excitement just by giving all he's got. Why don't we see that more often? How much more fun would this game be to watch if everybody was playing like it was the World Series all the time? It's interesting to think about.

However, we'll never see the game turn into anything close to that. The more you hustle, the more likely you are to injure yourself and lose money in the process. The 162 schedule is too grueling to be able to give 100% every single night. These guys already have more money than they know what to do with, so what's the point in putting forth more effort than they need to? Those are all limiting factors that have held baseball back from being as great as it can be for years.

Eventually, Bryce Harper is going to calm down. It seems impossible for one person to hold that amount of intensity for more than a few weeks. He'll settle in, his days will become routine, and he won't be as jacked up to play every game. He'll still be a fantastic player, but he's not going to be going as hard as you see him going right now. That's a sad fact, but it is indeed a fact.

It's probably uncontrollable. I'm not saying that it's physically and mentally possible to play like Harper has been playing every day, but it would be something else to see it happen. You're seeing one of the most talented athletes in the world play as hard as he can right now – enjoy it while it lasts.

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