For the second time in franchise history, the Washington Nationals (the franchise formerly known as the Montreal Expos) have won a postseason series, and their stunning come from behind victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers is the first time since 1981 and since moving to Washington that the team has enjoyed playoff success. It is also the first season since joining the majors that Bryce Harper was not a member of the Nationals … are the two events related? I think YES.
There is no one more annoyingly intense on the baseball field than Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies; and during his days down Interstate 95 with the Washington Nationals, he was known for rubbing people on both sides of the diamond the wrong way. This season, Harper took his talents north to the City of Brotherly Love, and the Phillies fired their manager and the team underperformed, just like what happened during his time in Washington. Also, with the aura of Harper out of the Nationals clubhouse, Harper’s old team won a playoff season; and it is impossible to imagine that the two event are not related.
Sometimes a player’s personality can overwhelm a team’s clubhouse, his teammates and even the coaches and front office. While it might be only one season of information, I truly think that without Bryce Harper around, the Washington Nationals became a team that was having fun again, which is how, and why, they were able to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers this week and advance to the National League Championship Series. If the long-haired Harper had still been running around the outfield for the Nationals, history says that they would have never made the playoffs, or, at best, would have never defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild-Card game.
Is it fair to give all the blame to Bryce Harper for the past failures of the Nationals? Probably not; with that said, however, it is difficult to ignore the fact that without him on the team, it took Washington one season to advance to the NLCS, something that he was never able to achieve. It is also easy to look at how Bryce Harper changed the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that just fired a manager that Harper himself said wasn’t to blame for the team’s disappointing 2019 season. Well, if you’re not going to blame the manager, who should we blame Mr. Harper? The first place I might look is at the new players on the Phillies’ roster this season, beginning with you, sir.
So was 2019 a fluke, or will success only follow Bryce Harper in his wake after he leaves a team? We will soon know how much deeper into October the Washington Nationals will play; and history will be able to use 2019 as the starting point to judge how much better, or worse the franchise ended up performing without Bryce Harper on the team. Early returns, however, show that the team that plays in our nation’s capital might be better off now than they were in recent years.