March 5 - Count me among those disappointed that Bryce Harper chose to sign with the Phillies and won’t be returning to the middle of the Nationals’ order this year. For me, Harper’s at-bats were must-see anytime I was able to take in a Nats game.
Several years ago, I took a date to a game and we were late arriving to Nationals Park. Of course, the Baseball Gods punished me and we missed Harper homering in the first inning. A few innings later, painfully-slow bartending at the Red Porch cost me his second upper-deck bomb that day.
After that, whenever I was watching or listening to a Nats game, I ensured I was tuned in to his at-bats. I also stopped seeing that young lady - us baseball guys are superstitious, after all, and there was just too much bad juju involved with missing two Harper homers while attending our first game together.
The emotion shown by area baseball fans over the past week demonstrates how polarizing a figure Harper was while in D.C. - love him or hate him, you were and likely will continue to be drawn to him. He’s a generational talent and has that “it” factor that makes it hard to take your eyes off him when he’s in the batter’s box. Who knows if the Nats will be better or worse off without him - you certainly won’t struggle to find commentary online covering that topic - but one thing is for sure, I’ll miss watching him wear the Curly W on his cap.
While Harper’s exit has resulted in varying emotions locally, it could lead to some positive news for Northern Virginia fans.
Over the winter, Washington signed former Westfield star Brandon Snyder to a minor league deal and invited him to big league camp as he tries to make the Majors with a sixth team. If Harper had re-signed with the Nats, that likely would have sealed Snyder’s fate as a Triple-A guy to start the year. Instead, Snyder, who in spring training has logged more time than anyone in Harper’s old post in right field, could make the club as the Nats’ fifth outfielder and a backup option at both corner infield spots.
Snyder has certainly taken advantage of Harper’s absence. His go-ahead grand slam was the difference in a 10-6 win over the Twins on Saturday, and he entered the day hitting .286 with six RBI in 18 at-bats this spring.
Also affected by Harper’s decision is Brandon Guyer, the former Herndon and UVA standout.
The White Sox were rumored to be in on the Bryce Sweepstakes (as well as Manny Machado), but by not landing him, Guyer’s chances of making the club improved after he was signed in early February to a minor league deal with an invite to camp. Guyer, the former Rays and Indians outfielder, is back in the lineup today as a DH after missing 10 days with right elbow soreness, and he is hoping to make Chicago’s roster in a platoon role against lefties.
Like many baseball fans in our area, I’ll miss Harp. But I’ve already moved on, and I’ve found a new guy that’ll motivate me to get to the ballpark on time. I’ve got my Juan Soto T-shirt on order.
Hopefully, I’ll also have my Snyder and Guyer T-shirts on order early next month.