Hustle rubs some wrong way

By Gene Collier
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
May 13, 2012

Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper slides in safely for a steal of home, avoiding the tag by Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz in the first inning of a game on May 6. It was the rookie’s first major league steal. (Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)

A full week has passed since Charlie Manuel's off-handed comment about Bryce Harper, and thus a full week to reflect on the 21st century profile of that quaint baseball protocol known as hustle, a week to wonder where it all went, to marvel at its occasional reappearance, perhaps even to lament its dismal future.

What the Philadelphia Phillies manager said is that Harper, the 19-year-old whose skills have caused industry analysts and seamheads to burp out the names of the game's greatest players for comparison, has his game crammed with hustle in that vaguely dangerous way that actually courts embarrassment.

Not for himself, for everyone else. When someone plays as hard as Harper, Manuel said, he makes other players look bad.

Don't ask me, "Has it come to this?" I'll only say, "Oh yeah, and it got here decades ago."

Manuel certainly wasn't complaining. As the sayin' goes, he was just sayin'.

"He impressed me with his hustle," Manuel told the gathered media in Washington. "I was impressed when he almost caught the ball in left field. I was impressed with that. I was impressed with the way he dove and how quick he got up.

"You know what, that's setting a real good example. I hope the kid always plays that way because that's the way you're always supposed to play. That's a good example of how to play. And you never take nothing for granted by playing like that."

This was the night after Harper became the first teenager to steal home in 48 years, the week after he'd run into the fence at Dodger Stadium with breakneck speed and avoided its literal implication, and by the time Harper brought the show to Pittsburgh for a delicious three-game series, the kid already had powered the hustle train toward the abandoned station at the end of its rusty line.
Pete Rose.

Only Harper is much bigger, much faster, much stronger and, perhaps, the expanse of time permitting, much smarter. And, oh yeah, he has a much better arm.

When Rose was an icon rather than an exile, he wore shirts under his uniform blouse that read "4,256 hits: Hustle made it happen."

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