Jun 6, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) singles against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Back with the Nats?
The Nationals shouldn’t be counted out, though. Right now, Washington is still a favorite to contend for a World Series this year. With Mike Rizzo running the team and a deep farm system, the Nationals could be built to contend for a long time to come. The future looks less certain for the Yankees, who are steadily growing older and are currently battling just to remain atop a mediocre AL East division.
Meanwhile, with the Nationals, Harper is maturing and growing into the sort of clubhouse leader that the team can count on to mentor its younger prospects. If he moves on to the Yankees as a free agent, Harper might be sacrificing the sort of goodwill that he’s worked so hard to build up, both with fans and teammates, during his time in the Majors.
But the most important thing here isn’t about Harper’s presence in the clubhouse; it’s about his legacy.
Bryce Harper does not want to be a good player. Bryce Harper doesn’t even want to be a great player. Bryce Harper wants to be THE player. Once he’s finally hung up his jersey and his cleats and made his way into Cooperstown, Bryce Harper wants people to point at his bust and say, “That’s the best that ever played the game.” With every fibre of his being, Harper wants to walk off the field knowing that he was the greatest to ever step on it. That’s why he plays the game with the sort of fire that he does. There’s a desire to be the greatest, not just of his generation, but of all generations both before and after.
That’s why staying with the Nationals has a certain appeal. Prior to the season, Harper spoke about wanting to bring a championship back to D.C., and the words felt genuine, sincere. It didn’t sound like he was playing to the crowd; it felt like he was speaking his mind.
And when it comes to legacy, playing his entire career with one team may have a type of appeal that even the Yankees can’t match. Harper wants to count himself among players like Ted Williams, George Brett, Stan Musial, and, of course, Mickey Mantle. All of those players spent their careers with one team. If Harper wants to follow in their footsteps, he may decide that staying in Washington is the best course of action.
No one knows for certain what the future holds, and there’s a lot that could happen in the three years left before Harper’s free agency that could render all of these arguments completely void. There’s always the possibility of injury, or trades. Another team could step in and outbid the Nationals and Yankees both. Nothing is ever certain in the world of sports, and any speculation should be taken with a grain of salt.
But one thing is for certain: No matter which teams are bidding for Harper’s services, if he keeps playing at his current level, he’s going to make a lot of money.