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Am finally getting around to reading the Jayson Stark story in the Athletic on Bryce Harper and his reaction to the Nationals making the World Series without him.
First of all, it’s a good story by Stark and it is a story that someone had to write, so I understand why Jayson wrote it in the first place.
But it’s a deeply flawed premise, right up there with “when did you stop beating your spouse?”
Whatever the truth is – and I believe both Harper and the Nationals made their peace with the separation a long time ago – nobody is going to say anything negative. If Harper said if he had to do it over again he’d stay with the Nats, he alienates his current team and gets to answer that question a million times in the off-season.
If any current Nationals player or executive were to even hint that the team is better without Harper, that too would make headlines for months to come and make the Nats look petty, something that is very important they don’t look like. They’ve created an incredible clubhouse atmosphere, they’re in the World Series, and to potential free agents, they look like a very attractive place to consider. They don’t want to do anything – no matter how small – to tarnish that.
Truth is, I like Bryce Harper. I would have preferred he stayed and been a part of all this. I know there are people who don’t like him because they think he’s cocky, brash and full of himself, and I get that. He was a star early in his life, he had people telling him since he was very young that the rules didn’t necessarily apply to him because of his talent, and that has certainly led to some regrettable behavior.
For a further example of this, check out Ralph Sampson in his younger days. I got to cover him in high school and college and he was not the most collegial fellow around in those days.
But I do think Harper is a good person at heart. I also think as he grows older, he will grow out of some of the temperamental things he does. It happens with all of us. The biggest step usually comes for most men I know when we become fathers. Harper just became a Dad, so it will be interesting to see how that progresses.
Truth is, the deal ended up being a good one for both teams. Harper got the financial security he wanted. The Nats had an outfield of Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Adam Eaton at a fraction of the cost of what Harper would have needed to be paid, and if Harper stays, one of those guys doesn’t see any at bats. The money saved in the outfield bought more starting pitching, and at the end of the season, that may be the factor that allows the Nationals to possibly win a World Series.
Jayson Werth said it best in The Athletic story by saying “Look, he’s got a flair for the dramatic. He’s Bryce Harper. But I don’t really agree that they’re better without him. I just think they’re better.”
For us old folks, we’ve all made decisions about a job change or even a career change, and the worst time to ever look at it is in the first six months after it happened. You can’t really tell until 2 or 3 years later if it was a good deal or a bad deal. In time, we will all see if it worked out for Bryce.
I hope it does. No matter how many years he plays in Philadelphia, he will always be a National. I laugh at the Harper jerseys with the duct taped slogans over his name or jersey number, and certainly smile when he faces the Nationals and strikes out. That’s just the competitive nature of sports.
But I certainly don’t mind him having a lot of success if it’s not at the expense of the Nationals. He gave us all a lot of things to cheer about while he was here. He wasn’t an angel when he was here, and he’s not a demon now that he’s in Philadelphia.
It’s just as Werth said: He’s Bryce Harper.