Bryce Harper is everything baseball has been afraid of for years.  He’s the opposite of Buster Posey in attitude.  He’s pretty damned opposite from Mike Trout.  He’s incredibly athletic and talented, he’s fiery and fight-prone, he’s kind of an asshole…which isn’t unusual in the sport.  And he’s very, very outspoken.

And he’s a douchebag.  It’s why you almost want to side with Jonathan Papelbon, who is a douchebag with significantly less talent.

But…he’s not wrong.

Baseball holds itself back.  It has for a while.  It was the last to truly adopt most modern technologies, like Instant Replay.  It was the last holdout on things like expanded playoffs.    It holds to tradition, like Linus to a blue blanket.

And it’s by far the last to embrace players with emotions on top of their personality.

Bryce isn’t the first to make this argument and be right.  Chris Rock made this argument last year.  There were many voices before him.  Will Bryce get listened to more?  Perhaps.  It may get made into an uncomfortable comparison, though Rock didn’t do himself many favors connecting with everyone when he suggested the San Francisco Giants fanbase had no people of color in the stands.  My friends with heritages from places like Japan, El Salvador, Mexico, Korea, China, Taiwan, Curacao, Brazil, and even Canada would disagree with that (not to mention my African American friends that Rock was focusing on).

But there’s a bigger difference between Bryce Harper and Chris Rock that matters more: Bryce is a player.  And the players will be the only one who will change the unwritten rules to the forgotten rules.

The Giants’ own Sergio Romo had his own response to Harper, disagreeing.

“As emotional and as fiery as I am, I do my best not to look to the other dugout,” he said. “I look to the ground, I look to my dugout, to the sky, to the stands. It’s warranted to be excited. But there is a way to go about it to not show disrespect, not only to the other team but the game itself.”

Romo’s also not wrong.  There are ways to be excited that’s not showing disrespect…but even then, there’s different lines of disrespect.  Was Jose Bautista’s bat flip disrespectful?  I…don’t think so.  I’m sure I stand on the opposite line from Romo and Madison Bumgarner on that one…but I don’t see how it’s different than a football spike, or for that matter, a shimmy from Steph Curry.

Harper is also the worst at not knowing that line.  Wait, no, I’m wrong.  A.J. Pierzynski is still a thing in this league.  But Harper’s way over the line when it comes to most of baseball.  But maybe it takes the guy who is way over the line to pull everyone else across it.

Romo had one other true statement.

“These rules were set well before you arrived. Sorry, there’s not one person who’s going to change this game. There’s not one person who has that power, not even the head honcho (commissioner Rob Manfred).”

The rules were set long before Harper arrived, and long before the generation that played ahead of Harper arrived.

But one day, there will be players who arrived *after* Harper.  And Harper could be one of the ones who will set the new rules.

Now that one of their own, one of the best of their own, is ready to speak out for changing the rules, rather than just have their celebration and take the retaliation.  Others might follow him.  Maybe even pitchers.

I love baseball hanging on to its traditions.  I like that Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal and Will Clark pop up all the time, compared to most of the football greats I grew up with.  In all honesty, I’ve seen more of those football legends in real life than on television (TV analysts aside).  Keep in mind I’ve been to maybe 4 football games in person in the last decade.  BTW, Jerry Rice is a hell of a guy.  I love that Baseball embraces its unique stadiums, even when teams try and fail badly (I’m looking at you, Miami).  I like that baseball pretends it’s the same game its always been, even when its not.  I mean, sure, it’s always been 90 feet between the bases…just don’t get picky about the height of the mound.  And I like that the players have stayed humble enough, and the owners reasonable enough, that the sport has labor peace that actually seems like America and Canada

But baseball can change.  But it won’t be the fans who change it.  It’ll be the guys on the field.

Bryce Harper’s an asshole.  Still gonna boo his ass.  But I won’t mind if some things start with him.