Good morning, everyone.
[Turns on slide projector]
Bryce Harper’s having a really good season: His 155 wRC+ is fourth in the National League, and he’s in the top 10 among qualified NL hitters in batting average, OBP, and SLG. Not to mention his incredible power and flair for the dramatic.
Oh, wait, that’s from last season. Let’s try another one.
Wait, that’s from 2014, as the man who surrendered that home run remembers well. Anyway, we all know Harper’s a great hitter and a master showman, and we’ve known that for years. So today, let’s talk about something else.
Bryce Harper’s got a great head of hair. This we’ve also known for years. It’s an essential part of the Trout v. Harper Rorschach test: The unassuming Trout has traditionally gone with a conservative high-and-tight look, with only occasional forays into fauxhawkdom, while the brash and id-heavy Harper has always had a cool haircut, starting with — next slide, please — the aggressive Home Run Derby fauxhawk from 2013, aided by his signature Suavecito pomade.
By 2015, Harper had grown out his flow on top while keeping everything businesslike on the sides. This — next slide, please — was the pompadour, the hairdo to this day most associated with Harper.
As you can see here, this hairstyle, which Harper claimed took him 30 minutes to do each day, was a throwback, sort of like if you had Kenickie from Grease diving into third base like Pete Rose. The fauxhawk made Harper a star, but the pompadour made him the MVP. I’ll quote here from Ted Berg of For the Win: “Harper has ditched the fauxhawk [for] something with more flow, a sort-of exaggerated pompadour that somehow perfectly captures the way Harper’s game has matured in 2015 even as it remains energetic and aggressive.”
Well said. But the evolution didn’t stop there.
Next slide, please.
Here we see an even more mature Harper. Far from the brash but callow teenager he once was, Harper is now a man, 24 years old and married. Too much a man for trendy white sidewalls; this is an honest, all-American haircut. No fuss, just a well-ordered while nonetheless voluminous coiffure. You’ll notice that Harper is running the bases in this photograph while not wearing a helmet. We’ll see more of this play on the next slide.
Legend has it that Willie Mays never wore a hat that fit him properly so that when he was running down fly balls, his cap would fly off and it’d look cooler. Harper appears to be a devotee of that school of thought, because here we see him, sans helmet, before he’s even left the batter’s box.
And you can understand why he’d want to show off this head of hair, because … [sighs, tosses note cards down on podium in frustration] … look, I’ve got boring hair. Medium brown, stick-straight, uninspiring hair. In order to get it to do anything but wilt listlessly like a Kraft Single on a hot day, I have to saturate it with fistfuls of product, stand in front of a refrigerator-sized speaker playing TV on the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me” on repeat, and light a prayer candle in the hope that it’ll stay energized. But I always told myself it was OK, because straight, medium-brown hair is boring for everyone.
Harper shattered that illusion. His straight, brown hair positively glows, and it’s as thick as the wool on a renegade sheep. Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us, Bryce.
Moving on … there are two impressive things about Harper’s hair. The first is that despite Harper’s best efforts, baseball players spend most of their time on the field wearing either a hat or a helmet, and so hat hair is a real problem, even for players who are generally considered to have good hair. Consider Chase Utley’s Angry Patrick Dempsey look.
Look how squished that is. Or take Mets, whose entire rotation looks like it’s a post-grunge act angling for a spot at Lollapalooza in 1996. Jacob deGrom and Robert Gsellman have stupendous hair — enough volume and waviness to warrant maintaining that length past the age of 22. But under a cap, as you can see here with deGrom …
… it’s constrained, wasted. A light hidden under a bushel. But Harper’s lettuce still fits neatly under baseball headgear, and suffers no ill effects from hat hair. Next slide, please.
The second impressive thing about Harper’s haircut is that it looks good in all sorts of conditions. Chief among them is hat hair, of course, but it doesn’t end there. Here we have what I like to call the Shampoo Commercial.
It’d play in any decade. Here’s a photo of Harper that looks like it was taken for his dossier by an East German intelligence agent.
This photo begs to be printed out in black and white and placed in a folder, only to be removed from that folder and slid wordlessly across the table at an open-air café in Cairo in 1971. Next slide, please.
Here, Harper, presumably having just struck out, is letting the beard eat a little. Put him in white gloves and a gray uniform, but keep the air of defeated puzzlement, and transport him back to 1863, and he’d look like a hunky James Longstreet. Next slide.
What’s this look? Apart from proof that Harper’s haircut works in The Future, I call it Boyd Holbrook in Logan, if Boyd Holbrook were capable of growing more substantial hair and beard.
Harper’s hair is even impervious to his own bad judgement, as this flirtation with the Mike Miller headband shows.
In conclusion, Bryce Harper has incredible hair. I thank you for your time.
Why spend so much time on Harper’s hair? Because he’s hitting .310/.416/.596, with 18 home runs and 44 walks against only 58 strikeouts. He’s the best player on a team with a 9.5-game lead in the division, and there’s only so much to say beyond that.
His hitting ability has been front-page news since before he was old enough to buy cigarettes. Teenage prodigies come and go, but so few deliver on the hype the way Harper has. He went from Sports Illustrated cover boy to getting his GED so he could play junior college baseball for a season and enter the draft a year earlier — and he almost incidentally became one of the best college ballplayers in the country along the way — then delivered a five-win season at age 19. It’s baseball’s greatest called shot since the original.
I’ve had the Harper is this generation’s Ted Williams take already. Why has he returned to form after a down season in 2016? Probably because he’s fully recovered from a shoulder injury everybody’s whispered about but nobody’s talked about in detail. A healthy Harper is one of the best hitters of his generation, and one of the most compelling and charismatic figures in the game. But we knew that already. Eventually you just run out of original things to say about an athlete.
The amazing thing is that it happened to Harper at age 24. Typically, an athlete gets through at least a good chunk of his prime before MVP seasons become routine. He’s already put together the first third of a Hall of Fame career and is en route to his fourth playoff appearance, and possibly his second MVP award, in six seasons. And he’s six months younger than Aaron Judge, who’s three months removed from being a cautionary tale with a career 63 wRC+ and a 44.2 percent strikeout rate.
Why spend so much time on his hair? Because his game speaks for itself.
All stats updated through Thursday afternoon.