Quick Links

Harper hits D.C.

750082.png

Harper hits D.C.

Bryce Harper didn't think he'd be stepping onto the field at Nationals Park quite this soon. But he knew the day would be coming sometime soon, so he's had plenty of time to contemplate what it will be like.

"I'm really excited," he said. "Very, very excited. It's going to be a fun time."

Break out your fauxhawk wigs, your eye black and your No. 34 jerseys, because the fun starts tonight when Harper makes his D.C. debut as the Nationals open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks.

Harper is expected to again be in manager Davey Johnson's lineup, starting in left field against Arizona right-hander Trevor Cahill. And if the first two games of the his career are an indication of things to come, don't be surprised if the 19-year-old is the center of attention again.

Harper's imprint was all over both weekend games at Dodger Stadium. His double, sacrifice fly and pinpoint throw to the plate helped put the Nationals in position to win Saturday night until reliever Henry Rodriguez blew the save in the ninth. And his wall-crashing catch on Sunday kept things close and allowed him to step to the plate in the ninth with a chance to tie the game.

Through it all, Harper maintained a level of composure befitting a player with far more big-league service time than two days. He again insisted he wasn't nervous to be thrown into the fire like that.

"No, not much," he said. "Like I said, I'm trying to stay as calm as I can when I go out there. We've got a great ballclub, great veteran guys that really help me out and just talk to me about the game and whatnot throughout the whole game. It's a lot of fun being out there. It's exciting for me."

Harper's performance and veteran approach left some at Dodger Stadium wondering if his first stint with the Nationals might actually extend longer than the club might have intended when it first promoted him.

In announcing the surprising move on Friday, general manager Mike Rizzo acknowledged Harper might only stick around until Ryan Zimmerman returns from the disabled list (the third baseman is eligible to come back as soon as Sunday). Even if his fate isn't tied to Zimmerman's, Harper might not perform at a level consistent enough to merit his long-term stay in Washington ... yet.

"This may not be his breakout moment," Rizzo said. "Like Mike Trout with the Angels, there could be a step sideways to take a leap forward."

Trout, universally regarded as one of baseball's top two prospects along with Harper, made his debut for the Angels last summer at 19 but was sent back to Class AA after only three weeks and a .163 batting average. He returned to finish out the season but didn't break camp with Los Angeles this spring.

Despite the obvious comparisons between the two, Harper does find himself in a different situation. In this case, the Nationals desperately need offensive help, especially in left field where Michael Morse's replacements were hitting a combined .093 with four RBI before Harper arrived.

Though it's only been two games, Harper showed a more advanced approach at the plate than plenty of more experienced teammates have displayed this season.

Which might just mean we might just be seeing a lot more of Bryce Harper in Washington this summer.

Quick Links

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

Quick Links

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others