Apparently, Bryce Harper will not play in the World Baseball Classic. At least that’s what New York Post writer Joel Sherman is reporting. Sherman wrote on Tuesday night that when a preliminary list of 50 players for the United States’ team was submitted in early October, Harper’s name was not on the list because the 24-year-old outfielder for the Washington Nationals would not, “commit to the process.”
While noting that the final list of players doesn’t have to be submitted until January, Sherman wrote that “officials for the US squad have tried, and so far failed, to get anything more than maybes,” from Harper or the LA Angels’ Mike Trout, and though they could be added, “... to put one on now would mean to give someone who has given a commitment the heave-ho, which would be bad form.”
Sherman went on to quote Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, who confirmed that “Harper will not play.”:
“The key thing for players is routine. The key thing [for Harper] certainly is to focus on conditioning and getting ready for the season.”
Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes too, wrote Tuesday night that she’d talked to “people familiar with the situation,” who told her that, “Harper will likely decline the opportunity to play for Team USA.”
Harper is, of course, coming off a down year which saw him put up a .243/.373/.441 line, 24 doubles and 24 HRs in a 3.5 fWAR season after he posted a .330/.460/.649 line with 38 doubles and 42 home runs on the way to a unanimous NL MVP award in a 9.5 fWAR campaign in 2015.
Sherman acknowledges that, “[t]here were reports Harper dealt with right shoulder issues in 2016, when his performance dipped from his 2015 MVP campaign, but he is not scheduled for any surgeries.”
SI.com’s Tom Verducci and others reported that Harper was dealing with an issue with his right shoulder this season, but the Nats, GM Mike Rizzo and manager Dusty Baker, in particular, challenged those reports, explaining that Harper had a neck issue that did force him out of the lineup at one point, but cleared up before he returned.
Boras told WaPost’s Chelsea Janes last month that Harper, “... obviously played with limitations at times this year, no question.”:
“It’s a very different year when you lead the league in walks and intentional walks, making the adjustment about how to handle how the league’s decided to take away what you normally have instead of challenging you.”
When Rizzo talked to reporters last week, he was asked what he thought was behind Harper’s decline in production between 2015 and the down year in 2016, but he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that, “It was a decline from MVP Bryce Harper,” but not a bad season overall:
“He had a really solid season for a lot of players. He was an integral part of our lineup. He was a guy that was identified by every team that comes in here as a guy that: This guy’s not going to beat us.”
Harper, similarly, said he did have his ups and downs, but in the end he would, “... take 24 homers and 86 RBI for a down year. I'll take that any day of the week.”
Before today’s reports, Harper had previously, in April 2016, told reporters, including CSN Mid-Atlantic writer Chase Hughes, that he would play for the US entry in the WBC, if other top stars in the game were going to participate.
“If the guys play that you really want to play with, then definitely I'll play. But if we're not going to have the opportunity to win, then I don't want to play.”
One National was included on the list of 50 players who could suit up for Team USA according to Sherman’s report today: Max Scherzer.
The 2017 World Baseball Classic, which is the fourth, is scheduled for March 9-22, with the first rounds in Tokyo, Seoul, Miami, and Guadalajara, the second round in Tokyo and San Diego and the championship in Dodger Stadium in LA.