With today’s 9-3 win to sweep the Marlins in this series, the Washington Nationals have at least guaranteed that they cannot have a losing season. The last losing season for the Nationals was back in 2011 when they finished at 80-81, and the Nationals streak is now at 7-years and counting without a losing season.
The team will finish this season this weekend in Colorado with a 3-game series against the Rockies. The bigger story of course is Bryce Harper might have played his final game in a Nats home uniform in Washington, D.C. which will be mentioned daily by Nats media outlets until Harper is signed on his next contract. Nationals fans gave him several standing ovations today — they wanted to cheer him one last time with a possible send-off, but the game was cancelled after the 7th inning due to rain.
For Nationals’ fans who wanted to give Harper a send-off, they were treated to a further glimpse into the future as Victor Robles dominated today with 5-RBIs on a 4-5 day and a triple short of a cycle. In a great irony, Robles who was rumored to be offered in a trade package for J.T. Realmuto was reportedly rejected by Marlins’ owner Derek Jeter. Robles dominated the Marlins with a .545 batting average this season. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but a good look at what Robles will do to bad pitching. Robles is now batting a respectable .275 on the season with a very impressive .850 OPS.
“I’m very pleased and happy,” Robles said. “It’s an important game because it’s the last game of the season. It’s not a game that’s going to take us into the playoffs, unfortunately, but nonetheless very important the fact that we finish here strong at home, and I was able to do well.”
Robles along with teenage teammate Juan Soto have created what some call a future “Dream Team Outfield” with Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper, and even Andrew Stevenson has stepped up. The odd man out seems to be Michael A. Taylor but there is no guarantee that Bryce Harper will return.
“This is my home. This is my city,” Harper said of Washington D.C. “Being able to come here — of course I root for the [Vegas] Golden Knights, and I root for Duke [basketball] and I root for the Cowboys [football team] and things like that — but I’m a Washington National. At the end of the day, I love this city. I enjoy coming here. I enjoy playing here. And that’s what it’s all about.”
The announced crowd of nearly 29,000 fans will be able to say they were there when… Harper acknowledged the crowd many times as they clapped and yelled for him and held up creative signage in his honor. There is a love-hate relationship but mostly love for Harper. He, more so than Soto, grew up in Washington, D.C., and there will be time to tell stories and reminisce. But there is also a decent chance Harper will return while a better chance he won’t, and that is just how the odds work. The Nats, many feel, have the best chance to retain Harper — that chance today could be 33% which means there is a 67% chance he goes somewhere else. The competition for the 25-year-old Harper will be complicated with some in the running just to push up the price on the eventual team that bags Harper.
The rain delay kept the crowds there who wanted to cheer Harper on in the 8th inning as he was due to lead-off. That would have been the obvious crescendo to a fitting send-off. It never happened as the rainiest year on record in D.C. shortened another Nats game and drenched the fans with a heavy dose of showers.
“We have a great team — a great organization, and a bright future ahead,” Bryce Harper said. “…My heart lies here.”
The applause started before the game started as Harper accepted his Player of the Year Award as voted on by the D.C. media as the best Nats’ player of 2018. Sure, Anthony Rendon deserved that more, and the team’s best player, Max Scherzer, took best pitcher honors. The boisterous crowd cheered Harper again as he ran out to his familiar spot in right field for the top of the 1st inning, and they cheered him as he walked to bat in the bottom of the 1st inning, and again in the 2nd inning, and the 4th and 5th innings. Maybe Mother Nature was foreshadowing that Harper will be back in a Nats uniform and fans didn’t need to cheer anymore for the Las Vegas showman.