As the clock ticks to 3:59 PM in the east today for the non-waiver trade deadline, Bryce Harper’s career with the Washington Nationals could end in the last minute like it started at 11:59 PM in the east on August 16th of 2010 when he officially became a Nat by signing his professional baseball contract in the last minute of eligibility. Harper’s entire career has always pointed to 2018 as the date of expiration as many questioned if he had the desire to really stay in Washington. While Harper talks a good game, it’s just talk. Actions speak louder than words, and the former-MVP has never said he would sign an extension. As a matter of fact, Harper made it clear he won’t talk about it.
“I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019 at all,” Harper said as spring training camp opened. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott [Boras] and he can answer you guys. … If you guys do talk anything about that, then I’ll be walking right out the door.”
We’ve all heard how much Bryce loves D.C. and the fans, but he has also missed three FanFests while attending only three. The bigger issue is his on-field production and staying healthy. If anything, Bryce Harper is Mr. April where he has a career 1.055 OPS, and the rest of most seasons in his career has been marred by health issues and declining production. This year, he is batting .203 since April 16th and worse than that has been his demeanor on the field. His defense at times lacks urgency, his baserunning often lacks hustle, and his at-bats have been bewildering as he swings and misses like an overmatched call-up who isn’t long for the bigs.
Here is Bryce Harper's swing-and-miss rate in the strike zone by month. Not great. pic.twitter.com/uZslOl76Du
— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) June 16, 2018
Besides winning the Home Run Derby earlier this month, when was the last time Bryce Harper looked really happy? Besides winning the Home Run Derby, when is the last time you said “Bryce won another game for the Washington Nationals.” That’s the issue here. Harper is not helping his team win yet every game he is back in the front of the line-up. BaseballReference.com has some telling stats that Harper this season is batting only .149 in games that are “late and close” and he is batting .183 in tie games.
“The clubhouse is a mess,” Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan wrote yesterday.
“Something is missing,” Mark DeRosa said on MLB Network this morning.
What started with a pie in the face of general manager Mike Rizzo when former team President Stan Kasten applied the honors in celebration after Harper signed on August 16th, 2010 now wreaks of irony as it could be Kasten’s Los Angeles Dodgers who could trade for Harper today.
“With a full minute to go, Mike and I both thought we were not going to have a deal,” Kasten said when Harper signed in 2010. “Isn’t that fair to say?”
“Yes,” Rizzo said back to Kasten. “Very fair.”
Harper could be the missing link for the Dodgers who fell a game short of winning the World Series last year.