Although the Washington Nationals miss Bryce Harper, the on-field performance has not missed a beat. They can succeed in October if his rehab is delayed.
Of all the injuries suffered by the Washington Nationals this year, losing Bryce Harper figured to hurt the most.
In the middle of an MVP-caliber season, Harper tripped awkwardly over first base following a three-hour rain delay at home August 12. As we watched in horror on that Saturday night versus the San Francisco Giants, the worst was feared.
Thankfully, everything remained structurally sound. Nothing was torn. The bone bruises in the knee, however, are taking longer than expected to heal. With September around the corner, Harper has not started any running program.
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If there is any good news, Harper no longer limps. But, the longer it takes to heal, the chances of returning before the regular season ends dwindles. There is a real chance his return comes during the playoff if at all in 2017.
When you lose the best player on offense, and one of the top in Major League Baseball, it stings. A slash line of .326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs and an OPS of 1.034 is impossible to replace in full. The Nats have carried 47 players on the active roster at some points this year. This was the one long-term injury Washington could not afford.
Since that fateful night, the Nats are 12-6. In that stretch is the three-game thrashing of the Miami Marlins at home along with the return of Jayson Werth, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer off the disabled list. Suddenly, Washington is a different team.
Do they miss Harper? Of course. Aside from his ability to change a game with one swing of the bat or a strike from right field, he is a leader in the clubhouse. At 24, he is a true role model who loves baseball and his team.
Because the Nats are so strong, they have not missed a beat in the standing. The bullpen is healthy and revamped. Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo are productive in the lineup. Because Werth is a natural right fielder, Kendrick and Adam Lind can play left.
Although the Nats are a dominant team with Harper, his absence will not doom Washington in the playoffs. With the never-ending parade of injuries, those bench players with low expectations raised their game. As long as there are no more injuries to starting pitchers, DC remains a championship club.
A healthy Harper—even one who strictly pinch hits—gives Washington an extra dimension of power to match their speed and on-base percentage game. You bet the Nats miss him. Almost as much as you do.
If he cannot return in time for the National League Divisional Series, the Nats remain in good shape. The record shows it after three weeks.