“But if they’re pitching around him and just walking him there’s not a lot you can do, except be patient.”
Patience has never been one of Harper’s strong suits, which is to be expected of a player whose swing has been described as “controlled violence.”
This year, however, it’s been more “controlled aggression” according to Baker, who didn’t hesitate to draw similarities between his young star and baseball’s home run king, Barry Bonds.
“You have to increase your concentration and patience because you might only get one or two pitches to hit, and when you get ‘em, you can’t miss ‘em,” said Baker, who managed Bonds for 10 seasons in San Francisco. “Barry Bonds was the best at that.”
In even higher praise, Baker made a loose comparison to his former teammate and former home run king, Hank Aaron.
“Bryce is good, but he isn’t Hank quite yet,” Baker said with his signature smile.
Baker batted behind Aaron when they both played for the Braves, and was on deck when he hit the long-ball that moved him past Babe Ruth on the all-time list. Though it was a loose comparison in reference, the fact that Harper’s name is anywhere near Aaron or Bonds’ at just 23 years of age is enough to scare opposing pitchers.
“A lot of pitchers don’t like running from you. Some of these guys have never run from anybody … and they still like the challenge of facing the best,” says Baker. “I saw it with Hank Aaron. They had him set up with an inside fastball because they just wanted to break his bat so they could go and call their father and tell them they broke Hank Aaron’s bat,” Baker said.
An Old West mentality, you might say.
“You ever watch cowboy movies or Jesse James and all them dudes? All those young dudes that tried to kill? I’m serious. It’s the same, it hasn’t changed,” Baker said.
“There’s always a gun-fighter that figures he can enhance his reputation by getting Bryce out or whoever the best is. There are gonna be some young fools out there that try.”
Tread lightly, “young fools.”