WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Hall of fame catcher Johnny Bench lauded Bryce Harper of the Nationals for his talent in a recent interview, while also taking a shot about his durability and inability to avoid running into outfield walls.
The 14-time All-Star and 2-time NL MVP was asked about the 21-year-old slugger by the Junkies, on 106.7 The Fan on Thursday, and more specifically, about the Nationals decision to convert him into an outfielder upon drafting lifelong catcher out of high school in 2010.
“It was a good thought,” Bench said. “Here we are seeing [Joe] Mauer to first base, and we’re seeing guys and everything else for the longevity.”
On Harper’s detractors:
“Here’s a kid that had so much hype, you almost didn’t want to like him,” Bench said. “You couldn’t be that good. You can’t be that good. And he’s brash, but of course, then I was cocky. If I said the same things I said back then – if I said them today – I’d be getting probably the same. ‘I want to be the greatest. I want to be the best ever. I want to do all this stuff.’ This is a kid that’s just cocky, he’s got a lot of belief; a lot of self-confidence; he’s saying this stuff, and so what happens is, he’s written about.
“And every pitcher is challenging him. He’s never gonna go under the radar. He’s gonna be a kid that’s just absolutely is right on the front and center, and he’s gonna to do it. And he kind of backs it up. He got hurt last year, so it kind of laid down.
“Now he’s gonna put on 30 or 40 pounds and play at 250. It seems simple enough, he said, but if you tell somebody, they’re going to write about it. And they’re going to Google about it.”
Later, when Bench was expanding on his previous thought about natural catchers playing other positions in the interest of extending their careers, he would take a running-into-the-wall dig, in reference to Harper running into two outfield walls in 2013.
“You got to remember, too, there’s a lot of money about there today,” he said. “So their agent, his agent is telling him, ‘Hey, you don’t want to be a catcher. You don’t want to be a catcher. Play in the outfield somewhere, where the only thing you can do is run into a wall.’ And so unfortunately, the kid has done that a lot.”
“He’s exciting, he’s dynamic, and he’s got a heck of a lot of talent,” he added.
Bench did also say the possibility of Harper being the NL MVP this year is “not out of the question.”
Listen to the full interview in the clip above.