WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper acknowledged Sunday that he idolized Barry Bonds as a kid and called him the greatest hitter on the planet because of the way he could swing the bat. Winning seven National League MVP Awards can be convincing to a youngster like Harper.
"There is nobody better than him in this game," Harper said about Bonds after collecting two doubles in Sunday's 4-2 Nationals win over the Marlins. "It's something I was able to watch when I was younger. I tried to take things from him as far as what he did with is approach. He was the greatest player when I was growing up and watching."
The respect appears to be mutual from Bonds, who is now the hitting coach with the Marlins. Bonds admired what Harper accomplished during his NL MVP season last year. Last season, for example, a lot of experts were saying that Harper put up numbers similar to what Bonds put up in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Harper is the only player in Major League Baseball history with at least 42 home runs, 124 walks and 118 runs scored at age 22 or younger, and he is the youngest player in MLB history with at least 42 home runs and 124 walks in a season. Harper put up those numbers without having any protection in the lineup.
"When you are good, you are good. You don't need anyone behind you," Bonds said about Harper. "Bryce doesn't need any one hitting behind him. If he wants to be impatient and swing at everything, it's going to make it worse on him. But he is patient. He is a great hitter who doesn't need anyone behind him."
Bonds went so far as to call Harper "a beast," but said not to compare Harper to Bonds when it comes to longevity. Harper has to be great a few more years in order to open his eyes.
"He doesn't compare to me yet. He has a long way to go [in order to be compared] to me. He is not even close to me," Bonds said. "But he is one [heck] of a ballplayer. I watch him, I admire and I look at him and I'm in awe. You don't see it that often. For my eyes to get real big and go, 'Wow,' you have to be something special. ... It's longevity that [I have to be] over-wowed about. Short-term don't do much for me. Longevity is where it's going to be. When I see these guys -- seven, eight, 10, 12 years down the road still doing what they are doing, then you will hear the real 'wow.' Right now, I'm impressed."
Harper agrees with Bonds. Harper said he has a long way to go in order to match what Bonds accomplished during his career.
"He has seven MVPs, I don't know how many Gold Gloves. I can go on and on how good he was," Harper said. "He is somebody you looked up to [the moment he went into the batter's box]. Hopefully, I can learn some things from him as well and see what happens."
If Bonds had to give Harper advice, it would be to stay healthy. According to Bonds, Harper has already set the bar high because of what he accomplished last year.
"To repeat that every year, people are going to come out and the expectations are going to be high," Bonds said. "Do it for a long time, because it goes by fast. ... Take care of your body, manage yourself right, stay healthy. Your body is your No. 1 investment. Give these people what they want. It goes by so fast."