Washington Nationals Editorial: Does Bryce Harper Have To Be A Leader?


While Bryce Harper doesn’t think he is a leader, does he have to be for the Nats in 2016?

On Monday, the reigning NL MVP, Bryce Harper, had his first press conference of spring training down in Viera. One of the issues that Harper talked about with the media was about being a leader in the clubhouse. While Harper is only 23, he is heading into his fifth professional season. Here is what he had to say about the topic:

“I don’t think I’m a leader,” Harper said. “I think I’m more just a guy playing the game. I think [Werth] and [Ryan Zimmerman] and all those guys are the leaders.” (h/t Chelsea Janes, Washington Post)

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Throughout his career, Harper has been one of those players that have been criticized for his maturity. But, last year, he took great strides, outside of a few ejections for arguing balls and strikes.

Jayson Werth and Zimmerman are fully healthy this year, so those veterans are the leaders in the clubhouse. Plus, the Nationals lost one of their key leaders in the clubhouse in Ian Desmond. Also on Monday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network talked to Harper about Desmond still being a free agent:

“I don’t think there is a draft pick out there who is better than Ian Desmond. I don’t there is a draft pick out there who is a better guy or person in the clubhouse than him.”

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Again, Harper is only 23 years old, so there are going to be players who won’t take to a 23-year-old telling them what to do or how to act. But, you don’t necessarily have to be a vocal leader to be a leader on a team. Sometimes, you just have to lead by example, even though Harper set the bar high in terms of on-field examples with his MVP season last year:

"“I’m still looking at Zim to do everything they can to make the best for this team. Then play as hard as I can out there and lead by example.” (h/t Janes)"

While you can’t teach leadership, Harper’s maturation of taking pitches at the plate and staying healthy is a good example of growing into a leader. The Nats won’t need him to be the leader now, but it will be interesting to continue watching his growth and to see if he eventually becomes that leader. Hopefully, for the Nationals, all of that happens while he does a curly W uniform, which as we saw Monday, the Nats are at least exploring a long-term deal with their superstar, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

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Plus, Harper has come a long way from being the player who asked where his ring was last spring. He’s shown a lot of maturity over the last year and now is the time where it needs to keep growing.