Baker: Harper boasts wealth of knowledge

Baker: Harper boasts wealth of knowledge

VIERA, Fla. -- Spend enough time talking to Nationals manager Dusty Baker about baseball and he is bound to make references to a number of former players from his nearly 50 years in baseball. Sometimes he'll use households names such as Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds as an example, but he also will name drop more obscure players like Gates Brown, Jose Morales and Jay Johnstone.

Baker's references have been met with befuddled reactions from some of the players on the Nationals, but it is one of the areas in which he has come away impressed by Bryce Harper.

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"He's a very knowledgeable young man," Baker said. "He has more knowledge than anybody his age out there in that room as far as baseball players, history. A lot of guys don't know who this guy is, that guy is. He's got a pretty good idea. I like that."

It served as a direct contrast to Goose Gossage's comments to ESPN about Harper, when he said, "What does this kid know? This kid doesn't know squat about the game, and [has] no respect for it."

In his first few weeks spending time around Harper regularly, Baker knows Gossage's comments are misinformed.

Baker's ability to relate to stars is one of the reasons he seemed like a natural fit in Washington. He is longtime friends with Aaron from their days as players, and he's managed stars such as Bonds in San Francisco, Sammy Sosa in Chicago and Joey Votto in Cincinnati.

"It helps a lot, the fact that I played with some of the greatest stars and was kind of a star there for a while myself," Baker said. "I know what it entails. … Just because they're stars, just because God put a bunch of talent in them doesn't make them any different than somebody else. It's just that we treat them differently."

Baker said he has left Harper to himself for the most part, giving advice here or there, and Harper has been willing to listen.

"He wants to be the best," Baker said. "That's how you be the best -- you got to put the time, the effort, to be the best."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.