Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bryce Harper is right about everything

Washington, D.C. hates superstars.

President Obama rode here on a wave of enthusiasm unseen in 40 years and has been reduced to the “worst” president in 70.

bryce harper running
Alexander Ovechkin is the best goal scorer on the planet yet is the reason why the Capitals haven’t had success in the playoffs.

RG3 revived the Skins and single-handedly led them to the playoffs. A year later, he was the object of scorn for coming back too soon from an injury. There were people in this city who wanted Kirk Cousins to play quarterback.

Re-read that last sentence and you will understand the almost maniacal aversion the fans and media in this city have to hero worship. Kirk Cousins! Over RG3! The Skins tried to trade Cousins all offseason for a late-round draft pick and found no takers. They were trying to give Cousins away and the entire league said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Yet no one in the District – politician, athlete or otherwise – receives more unfair blame than Bryce Harper.

The thing about Harper, which endears him to fans and drives old white guys crazy, is that he is not about playing baseball “the right way,” but instead playing baseball “his way.”

He is 21 years old. He is the younger position player All-Star in the history of baseball. He already has 43 home runs. What were you doing during your 21st year on the planet? I was a cub reporter for the Willimantic Chronicle trying to figure out life and making many, many bad decisions. Bryce Harper is a two-time All-Star.

The media in D.C., of course, hates this. Imagine if Harper was playing in Los Angeles or New York or Boston, where the media and fans engage in hero worship on a daily basis? He would be a God amongst men. Instead, he ended up in the only American city where a prodigy would be vilified.

It reached a new high – or new low – when Harper returned from the Disabled List and walked right into a trap.

With Harper’s return, the Nationals have 9 everyday position players for 8 spots. There is one guy who will not play every day now with Harper in the lineup. When everyone is healthy, it comes down to two guys – Denard Span in CF and Danny Espinosa at 2B – one of whom will have to sit.

Harper was asked what his lineup would be. Remember, regardless of how Harper answered this question, he would have theoretically insulted Span or Espinosa. He can’t put both in the lineup. Even if Harper gave a no comment, that would be insinuating Espinosa wasn’t good enough to play every day. Here’s his answer:

“I think [Zimmerman] should be playing left. Rendon’s a good third baseman. He should be playing third. We’ve got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa,” said Harper. “Of course, we want the best-hitting lineup in there. [But] I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that would be good for this team. I think that should be what’s happening.”

To me, that seems like a pretty reasoned and well-thought out answer, right?

Wrong!

Here’s a sample of the responses from the Washington Post in the past three days:
It’s nauseating, right? Harper was asked a question, gave an honest answer and has been absolutely slaughtered for it. Everyone has taken his answer has a shot at Denard Span when Harper didn’t say one word, negative or otherwise, about Span. The media took the slight and run the story into the ground.

Yet, here’s the craziest part – Bryce Harper is right.

You know, I hate to do this, but I need to: BRYCE HARPER IS RIGHT!

On Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of sitting in right field at Nationals Sauna to watch the Nats sweep the Rockies. Up 1 in the ninth inning, manager Matt Williams sat 3B Ryan Zimmerman, moved Anthony Rendon from 2B to 3B and inserted Danny Espinosa at 2B. With the game on the line, Matt Williams put out the infield that Bryce Harper was vilified for.

Maybe Matt Williams needs to stop acting like he’s 12?

I know a lot of people, myself included, like Denard Span. He’s a good player. He was born in DC. He’s made some big plays. But there is a simple truth the Nationals need to accept and they need to do so before the playoffs.
denard span out
They have one big issue. And that’s issue is Denard Span batting lead-off.

The pitching is there. The bullpen is solid. When everyone is healthy, the lineup is stacked and strong defensively. There is no doubt with Span playing every day; the Nationals will make the playoffs relatively easily.

But the Nationals are good enough to win the World Series. This is why they shut down Strasburg. It is for this year. If they stay healthy through October, they should be the favorites to win the National League pennant.

World Series champions do not have leadoff hitters who bat .266 or have an OBP of .316. In terms of getting on-base Span is the worst in the National League right now. I truly do not understand how Bryce Harper is receiving the brunt of criticism for suggesting that maybe the Nationals should not start the worst leadoff hitter in the league.

By no means should you feel sorry for Bryce Harper because everyone in the Nationals organization and everyone that goes to Nationals Park understand he’s the real deal. Sorry, Mark DeRosa, but Harper is a superstar – not one in the making.

Everything great about Bryce can be summed up in the 4th inning of Wednesday’s night game. Jayson Werth had hit a two-run home run to cut the Rockies lead to 3-2. Then LaRoche struck out and Zimmerman flew out to right. It felt like the inning was about to be over, but no one went to the bathroom.

Harper hit a bloop single to left. Except he left the batter’s box like he was shot out of a cannon and was rounding second before the ball was back in the field. He took third on a wild pitch. He scored easily on an Ian Desmond single. He made that run happen. It was the superstar play of the night – the type of play only a few in baseball make.

Bryce Harper is right, about everything. 

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