Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper needs to “Make Baseball Fun Again”

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 23: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals takes batting practice before their game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 23, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 23: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals takes batting practice before their game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 23, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Bryce Harper once urged the whole of MLB to “Make Baseball Fun Again.” Two years later, the Washington Nationals superstar might want to heed his own advice.

In 2016, Washington Nationals All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper set the baseball world on fire by wearing a “Make Baseball Fun Again” hat while speaking to reporters after a game.

Before long, Nats fans were buying Harper-inspired hats and shirts at the Washington Nationals team store.

The catchy slogan, which Harper coined in the middle of the whirlwind 2016 presidential election cycle, was about players being able to inspire young fans and future ballplayers by showing more on-field enthusiasm.

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Two years later, Harper is mired in a career-worst slump that has caused his batting average to drop more than 25 points below his single season low.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, is that Harper looks miserable and borderline despondent at times, both on the field and in the dugout.

In Harper’s defense, very few ballplayers have had hundreds of millions of dollars riding on one season. Adding to the already enormous pressure, Harper, who has reached the postseason in four of his first six seasons, undoubtedly wants to follow Alexander Ovechkin’s lead and bring a championship to the nation’s capital. He is a winner chasing his sport’s ultimate prize.

Having closely followed Harper’s career since his first minor league game, it’s fair to say the superstar has never seemed more discouraged. The closest comparison is probably when the Nats fell apart down the stretch in 2015, leading to Harper’s infamous dugout confrontation with Jonathan Papelbon.

Back then, along with other challenging moments in his career, Harper seemed upset but still fueled by his passion for the game and an intrinsic desire to be the best.

Today, he looks lost. The pressure to win and simultaneously become the league’s highest-ever paid player appears to be getting the best of Bryce Harper.

Every American kid who’s ever played Little League has heard the phrase “go out and there have fun” from a coach or parent. Perhaps that’s why Harper’s 2016 slogan hit a nerve and attracted national media attention.

In 2018, with the Washington Nationals still, well within striking distance of greatness, it’s time for Harper to take his own advice. Starting with Monday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees, just go out there and have fun.

Next: Extension for Harper slowly becoming more likely

After all, it isn’t just the Washington Nationals who need Bryce Harper to be an enthusiastic, exciting player who inspires the next generation of stars. Major League Baseball does, too.

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