One of the game's best super-utility players in recent history is still a serviceable option for the Chicago White Sox. PIC: Paul Beaty/AP
one of my favorite things about Small State Big Takes is their lengthy conversations on past baseball players. Granted, it’s been a lot of talk on the Red Sox and their players of old, but as a baseball nerd growing up, I’m always game for guessing the leading offensive contributors on teams all throughout the 2000s.
Josh Harrison came up in their last episode. Which led me to think, where is Harrison at now?
Born and raised in a small town outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, Josh Harrison was destined to be an MLB player. He stood out at University of Cincinnati, was a Cape League alumni having played for the Cotuit Kettlers, and was the Big East Conference Player of the Year in 2008. We, of course, all know him for his come-up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 2010’s; Harrison got his first hit off R.A. Dickey, broke up a no-hitter by Justin Verlander in the 9th inning, and was immediately a big offensive threat against even the most fearless of pitchers.
Harrison went on to get tabbed to the NL All Star team twice (2014 and 2017), and won the Heart and Hustle Award in 2014. He was the quintessential utility player in 2014 - he played six different positions and logged 143 games played in both the infield and outfield. Add in a .315 batting average, and you’ve got one hell of a weapon.
But what happened to Harrison after his stint with the Pirates? Many thought he just fizzled out, but he actually went on to have some productive years elsewhere.
First, it was the Detroit Tigers in 2019. That was a total bust for Harrison, as he hit .175, strained his hamstring, and then got cut. Not ideal.
The Washington Nationals took a gamble on him in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and he improved greatly, showing his worth as a utility infielder and corner outfielder and hitting nearly .280. When the Nats gave him an extension, they quickly realized they were going to have to shop him when he got off to a red-hot start and their record started to take a nose-dive. So off he went to the Oakland A’s, who needed a utility guy and a catcher in Yan Gomes. While Oakland didn’t make the postseason, Harrison contributed, finishing 2021 with another near-.280 year.
Now, Harrison is still chugging. He’s not at the highest batting average he’s ever had (currently sub-.220), but he’s delivering some solid reps at third base, second base, left field, and DH…and he’s even pitched an inning, even though he gave up a 2-run homer.
He got hate on Twitter for getting off to a slow start. After all, he just hit his first homer earlier this week. But this walk-off against Toronto was all it took for people to start positively talking about Josh Harrison on Twitter again.
At 34 years old, you’d have to think Harrison’s prime is behind him. But it’s clear he still has some juice left in the tank. And he's got the right attitude to do it.