June 24, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (34) in the on-deck circle during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
ESPN980's Thom Loverro asked Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo if he thought Bryce Harper would ultimately end up being an All-Star during a 6/19/12 interview on Mr. Loverro and Kevin Sheehan's show, "The Sports Fix." The Nats' general manager explained at the time that he didn't think the 19-year-old rookie outfielder would get voted in since his name didn't appear on the ballot and a write-in vote winning in the fan voting seemed unlikely. "What I do think is more likely," Rizzo told the hosts, "Is Tony La Russa is an extremely intelligent baseball guy. He knows what's at stake with these All-Star Games nowadays."
"It's not an exhibition anymore," Rizzo said, "This thing does count and it can really count towards a team in the National League. So he's going to pick who he thinks is going to help the club and [if] in his mind he thinks Bryce Harper is deserving of an All-Star berth, and can help the team win an All-Star Game, and if he chooses him then he's an All-Star for me and I respect that. But to get voted in, I think it's unlikely. [Harper's] a guy that has All-Star ability and is having a terrific season and we'll see how Tony does it."
What the former St. Louis Cardinals' manager who chose the team after the fans voted for the starting lineup did, was to add Bryce Harper's name to a list of five players he believes are capable of helping the NL squad in this year's mid-summer classic in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. In explaining his decision to make the Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick part of the Final Vote that allows fans to pick the last two members of each league's roster, the 67-year-old La Russa explained to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, he was putting the decision in the hands of those who'll be paying and tuning in to watch the game:
"You've got a great career, Chipper, [who] deserves to be there, then you have some young guys, like Harper, making a big impression," La Russa said. "So let the fans decide, but ... there are five legitimate guys in there. Any one of the five would really help our club and each guy has a different story."
La Russa said he'd likely vote for the veteran from Atlanta. Bryce Harper agreed, of course, telling reporters after Sunday afternoon's game in Atlanta that if he voted he'd cast a vote for the 40-year-old, 19-year veteran who's put up a .292/.375/.455 line with seven doubles and six home runs in 44 games and 176 plate appearances this year. Just being recognized with his inclusion on the list was an, "... accomplishment I guess," Harper told the Washington Times' Amanda Comak in an article entitled, "Bryce Harper is in the Final Vote contest, but he's voting for Chipper Jones," but if it was up to the Nats' rookie outfielder, he said, "'I think a Hall of Famer should be able to go to the All-Star game his last year. If I was going to make a vote, I’d go vote for Chip.'":
"He should have already been in the All-Star game no matter what," Harper added. "He’s an All-Star and has been an All-Star for twenty years. I think Chip should be there and, like I said before, if I had to vote, Chip’s going."
In his first 57 games and 250 plate appearances, Harper has a .274/.348/.471 line with 12 doubles, four triples, eight home runs and eight stolen bases in 11 attempts, and he's been worth 1.4 fWAR and 124 wRC+. Jones? +1.6 fWAR, 130 wRC+. Also on the list along with the Braves' third baseman and the Nats' outfielder are Chipper's teammate, center fielder Michael Bourn (.302/.350/.435, 15 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 22 SB, +3.9 fWAR, 118 wRC+), Cardinals' third baseman David Freese (.279/.330/.478, 13 2B, 13 HR, +1.5 fWAR, 120 wRC+) and D-Back's second baseman Aaron Hill (.300/.360/.512, 17 2B, 5 3B, 11 HR, 7 SB, +2.8 fWAR, 130 wRC+).
So, Harper said he'd cast his vote for Chipper. The Braves' third baseman reportedly appreciated the gesture, telling MLB.com's Mark Bowman (@MLBBowman) he'd contacted the Nats' outfielder to tell him so...
...fans have until 4:00 pm EDT this Thursday July 5th to make their decision. The Nationals are rallying fans using a #BryceIn12 hashtag. You can vote for Harper or Chipper or one of the other guys... HERE. And while you're at it vote for Yu Darvish to make if for the AL team... What?
• Listen to Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talk to ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan: