Nationals issue statement on Harris’ quotes about Harper and Jackie Robinson

The Nationals just issued a statement from director of player development Doug Harris in response to a story in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated on Bryce Harper, in which Harris said the scrutiny the 18-year-old Nationals prospect faces is unlike anything since Jackie Robinson was coming up through the minors to break baseball’s color barrier.

In the story, which hits newsstands this week, Harris said, “This is really unfair and it’s totally different, but if I can make a comparison to one guy that has been scrutinized like this, it would be Jackie Robinson. And it’s unfair because it was a different standard. He was under a microscope in an era when we didn’t have Internet, didn’t have cellphones. Now, Jackie Robinson had his life threatened. I’m not comparing Bryce to that. But as far as nonstop scrutiny? Absolutely. Day to day.”

Tony Tarasco, the Single-A Hagerstown coach that worked with Harper most during his time there, also compared the situation to Robinson, saying, ” You have to go back to Jackie Robinson to find anybody who goes through this much scrutiny. It wasn’t like this for (Stephen) Strasburg. Wasn’t like this for Alex Rodriguez.”

But a Nationals spokesman said Harris did not intend any malice in his quotes to SI reporter Tom Verducci, and Harris clarified the remarks in the following statement:

“I’d like to clarify my remarks as they appear in Tom Verducci’s recent Sports Illustrated feature story on Bryce Harper. In talking to Tom, my sole intent was to speak to the scrutiny that Harper faces on a daily basis.

“That said, the hardships that Mr. Robinson endured in/around 1947 were unique and historical in context. While Harper’s current situation is extraordinary by most measures, it pales in comparison to the life of Mr. Robinson, nor will it approach the lasting impact. I regret making this ill-fated correlation.”