Every once a while, a player enters the baseball landscape you just can’t ignore. Stats and numbers tell only a portion of his story. The rest is encapsulated in mystery, intrigue, envy, and success. He’s also about to become the highest paid player in the history of major league baseball. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The adjectives come quickly with Bryce Harper – brash, gifted, mature beyond his years, intelligent, and soon to be, wealthy beyond means unimaginable.
Harper, in all likelihood, will be playing his final season in our nation’s capital, after which he will, under the guidance of superagent, Scott Boras, embark on a tour of twenty or more major league cities,to the tune of the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Beatles descended on America a half-century ago.
Bryce Harper will be feted, cajoled, taken on tours featuring neighborhoods where he and his wife can raise a family, introduced to the best restaurants in town, wined and dined as in the tradition honoring visiting kings and queens.
But for Bryce Harper, the Lone Ranger of Baseball, none of it will matter. Because Bryce Harper has his personalized mind and his individual way. He has been waiting for this moment since the early days of his career when he let fly with off-the-cuff remarks he was a Yankee in waiting with the full intention of becoming professional sports first man to sign a contract for $600 million
He was young then, barely ranging out of his teens, and most of us took notice, but for the most part quickly dismissed the taunts as a kid a bit too big for his britches, and a long way from putting up some numbers worthy of seriously entertaining the conversation.
Five years later at the tender age of only 25, Bryce Harper has put those numbers on the board, and they speak for themselves. Moreover, Bryce Harper speaks for himself. Ask him a question, and you will get a thoughtful and honest answer, even if it creates some waves for those who don’t understand the man.
Take, for example, Harper’s comments he made Monday during his opening press conference at Nationals camp, questioning the direction of the Marlins under new CEO Derek Jeter. Bryce Harper being Bryce Harper could have taken the Derek Jeter approach to the question by saying something like, “Well, I don’t pay much attention to that kind of stuff. My job with the Yankees is to do everything I can to bring them another championship”, and blah, blah, blah.
Not so with Harper who offered a thoughtful response…
Now hold on here for a second. Isn’t that precisely what you have been thinking – the world of baseball, and me too?
But we’re not the Lone Ranger of Baseball, Bryce Harper is, and he took a couple of jabs from Marlin’s manager, Don Mattingly, who quickly replied, “Take care of your business, and we’ll take care of ours.” Ouch. Guess Mattingly won’t be promoting the Harper Tour next November.
Mike Trout, who is without argument the best unknown player in all of baseball, has taken a track to remain hidden. Trout stands alone in contrast to Harper in never having the chance to perform on a national stage, where Harper has yet to excel.
Trout is the Wheaties man while Harper has gone the way of Under Armour, which also has deals with other top young stars such as Warriors star guard and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry, NFL MVP and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and PGA Tour Player of the Year Jordan Spieth.
Bryce Harper is a forward thing young man and he will not be denied or cajoled into not speaking his mind. This should take nothing away from Mike Trout, who simply has chosen a different avenue, while still lucrative, to pursue with his career. Harper, though, is of a different sort and he is destined to control baseball’s next offseason in the same way Shohei Ohtani did in this one.
The bidding will start with Giancarlo Stanton‘s $325 million number and go up from there. Way up there. And there’s no reason to believe the Yankees will not go all out in spending some of the money they print every day to sign Bryce Harper, while a host of teams including the Dodgers, Cubs, and even the Nationals themselves up the ante in the competition. After all, this is supposed to be the reward for the Yankees tightening their belt-buckle to reset the luxury tax next season.
Harper will play the next ten seasons of his career where HE wants to play them. It was thought Ohtani dreamed at night of playing with the Yankees. Turned out otherwise, though. Or maybe he put that desire in second place when push came to shove? We’ll never know.
But with Bryce Harper, we will know – and wherever he winds up – we will understand how and why it ended up that way. Because the Lone Ranger of baseball doesn’t fire silver bullets. He’s real. Which, in turn, makes him very refreshing in an era when teams issue “talking points” to their players, ensuring they don’t go off the reservation.
Bryce Harper doesn’t go off the reservation, and what we will come to learn about this young man is that’s it’s been his reservation all along.