Send Bryce Harper to the minors? The only people talking about that idea have no idea what they are talking about. The Washington Nationals are fighting for a pennant and think they have enough going for them to advance to the World Series, so it is hard to believe they are considering a move that will weaken the team.
Discussion about the slumping Harper reached a crescendo Wednesday and Washington manager Matt Williams nearly blew a fuse in advising inquisitors that he has no intention of sending Harper down.
“I would caution everyone in this room: The minute you think you can read my freaking mind, you’re sorely mistaken,” Williams blasted Wednesday.
The boy wonder has not been quite so wondrous lately, though everyone has slumps in his career and Harper is too talented to let his poor stretch keep him down for long. Maybe it’s just cosmic karma that he is being a taught a lesson. Up until now, virtually for his entire life, things have come easily for Harper. He sped up his career artificially by leaping levels from high school to the pros, but he proven himself as the National League rookie of the year in 2012.
Still just 21, Harper is viewed as the cornerstone of the franchise, the single most important building block for the Nationals’ future. He has been ahead of schedule, as he has most of his life, and the Nationals’ future may be now as they are hovering around 10 games above .500 and lead the National League East Division.
For the Nationals to be in first place, one would think that they needed major contributions from Harper, but this has not been his year. He had off-season knee injury and earlier this season incurred a hand injury. Injuries destroy timing at the plate and throw off routine. When healthy Harper is an all-around player who can field and run and hit, but lately he has not been able to hit and when you get weighed down by a slump in the bigs people want to know what’s wrong.
Before Washington ships Harper out to the minors, even for just a week, he will have to screw up on a larger scale. There is no particular reason to believe that he can’t right himself right where he is.
A two-time All-Star in his first two seasons, this season Harper has appeared in 53 games with just three home runs and 14 RBIs while batting .250. The Nationals need more production out of their outfielder and Harper, a passionate, intense player, expects more from himself.
As long as he is at full strength, it seems inevitable that Harper will find his groove soon – with the Nationals, not in AAA.