On Monday, an anonymous “top” NL executive blasted Bryce Harper as – among other things – a “selfish, losing player” that he would not sign to a huge contract after this season. The comments struck me as either way over-the-top or entirely disingenuous (or both), and a reminder that anonymity can engender a whole lot of ridiculousness, even as it offers candor.
As you might expect, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo – who hopes to keep Harper in the fold as he heads into free agency this offseason – was even more pointed in his criticism of those comments. Very pointed.
After defending Harper as a winner, a good member of the clubhouse and the community, and a tremendous player, Rizzo took issue with the report existing at all, and the executive who spoke anonymously.
“We’ll never see this person, this National League executive,” Rizzo told the Washington Post, as part of a long response. “Obviously, he’s never been with Harper or knows Harper because if he was then he would not have said what he said about him being a loser and about he cares only for himself. It’s total bull**** and it’s something that should be exposed for what it is. And it’s either just being a hater or — it’s certainly unprofessional. If I found out someone in my organization said that, they would be fired the next day. And hopefully when I find out who this guy is, I’ll take care of that in my own way, but he should be fired also because, first of all, he can’t evaluate …. For another team’s executive — if it happened, if it was said — if another team’s executive to lambaste a player and denigrate this player’s ability level, his character, and his integrity, and not have the balls to put his name on it is cowardly and chicken s***. And he should be exposed for it.”
Anonymous sources in the news serve an important check on power (and in the sports world, it often is the only way for us to receive and evaluate information about the sport we love), so you won’t find me eagerly pushing for their outing any time soon. But I do think Rizzo is quite right that there has to be some vetting done at the reporter/editor level, not only about the quality of the sources and the reliability of their information, but also about the value of what they’ve offered up as meriting “anonymous source news” protection. I’m not gonna put anyone on blast in this situation, I’m just saying: Rizzo has a point.
As to the subject of the commentary, I remain of the mind that Harper is a generational talent who’ll be hitting free agency as he turns 26, and any well-operated, financially-sound organization would be committing a sin not to check in whether they might be a fit to sign him. A losing player? A selfish player? I don’t see it. An extremely valuable player? I see that.