A season that started with Bryce Harper warning reporters in West Palm Beach, FL that if anyone asked about his future beyond 2018 he would walk out of his first media session, is ending with the Washington Nationals’ 25-year-old slugger joking about what it might take to keep him in the nation’s capital.
The F1RST Residences building across the street from the ballpark, which has had signs on the balcony facing Nationals Park all season (“#JuanPursuit” was our favorite), had a new one for what could potentially have been Harper’s last home game in a Nationals uniform.
“8 more years of 34” the sign read.
Harper was asked twice in his post game talk if he’d seen the sign.
“Yeah, a couple years off,” Harper joked the first time it came up.
“I don’t know, I mean eight more years sounds kind of short,” he said when asked again at the end of his media availability.
So 10 years...? And how much? To get a higher AAV than Giancarlo Stanton it would have to be...
We’re not going to speculate on that now, there will be plenty of time for that this winter, but Harper reiterated today what he’s said in a number of interviews over the last weeks, he’d like to stay if he’s in the Nationals’ plans.
Before and after the game, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick discussed the possibility of returning to the nation’s capital for an eighth season in the only major league home he’s ever known.
“I can’t really stand here and say it’s going to be a farewell or anything like that,” Harper said before the Nationals’ 9-3 win over the Miami Marlins, “because nobody knows.”
“Nobody knows what this offseason holds or anything like that. So, a couple days ago I did that interview and I really was thinking to myself it would be really weird walking in here as an opposing player.”
“I enjoy putting the W on my chest every single day and I have since the beginning,” Harper added. “It’s like I’m standing here like a 35-year-old, but I’m only 25. So it’s the first time going through something like this, of course, I’ve never done it in my life, possibly playing my last game somewhere or anything like that and it really meaning something to me.
“This is my home, this is my city, and being able to come here — of course I root for the Golden Knights, and I root for Duke, and I root for the Cowboys and things like that, but I mean, I’m a Washington National and at the end of the day I love this city, I enjoy coming here, and I enjoy playing here and that’s what it’s all about.”
“In his heart he wants to be back here,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I know that.”
“We’ve got three games left, he’s going to wear a Nationals uniform for three more days and hopefully for many, many years after that, so we’ll see.”
Did anything that happened, or any of the emotions he felt in what could be his final home game in D.C. surprise Harper?
“No, I ran out to right field and did the same thing and did my bow and everything like that,” he explained.
“I felt fine. I think just running out there and I wasn’t really thinking about it being my last game or anything like that, like I said earlier, you never know what’s going to happen so I didn’t really want the farewell kind of treatment.
“I kind of wanted just the normal day to day going about it the right way and trying to play the game and trying to win. And I was able to go out there and enjoy that I guess and not really think about too much of it being my last game or it not being my last game, cause like I said, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Harper went hitless in what could, potentially, have been his last game as part of the home team in Nationals Park, which he admitted wasn’t ideal.
“0 for 4, two punchies, it’s part of the game I guess. I think I was just trying to go up there and have some fun, enjoy the game. I mean, to watch [Victor] Robles do what he did today was a lot of fun, and enjoying that the best I could and just trying to, like I said, take it all in.”
Robles, who could possibly replace Harper in the outfield if Harper signs elsewhere this winter, went 4 for 5 with a three run home run (his 3rd), a run scored, and five RBIs.
He did provide a glimpse of what the future could look like. Will it be Juan Soto, Robles, Harper, and Adam Eaton in the outfield next season?
Soto, Robles, Eaton, and Michael A. Taylor?
A lot of things have changed in the organization since Harper was drafted as a 17-year-old, and he’s grown up in Washington too, so in looking around and taking it all in, what did he see and think?
“Earlier, I said the same thing, I’m still only 25, so still maturing, trying to get better each and every year, each and every day,” Harper said, “so I think as a club, as an organization, I think every year we’ve gotten better. I said it earlier as well, having the guys in the clubhouse that we do, if that’s [Max] Scherzer, [Anthony] Rendon, Trea [Turner], Robles, Soto, you can go on and on, [Stephen] Strasburg, these are all homegrown guys, and a lot of guys that come into the clubhouse every single day ready to play, ready to go, and it’s been a lot of fun. I think the last six years, seven years, we’ve grown into a great franchise and a great team and that goes from the ground up, from the minor league system and Mike Rizzo drafting some of the best players in the country and developing those guys and getting to the big leagues and being able to help out.
“So, we’ve got a great team, got a great organization and a bright future ahead.”
Does he feel like there’s unfinished business? He made four trips to the postseason in his first seven seasons, but he and the Nationals have never made it out of the NLDS.
“I mean, we didn’t win,” Harper said.
“SoI think we had a great couple chances to be able to win some games, every single goal at any given time is to win a World Series and we weren’t able to do that, so I guess we’ll see.”
Martinez said he had plans to let Harper take the field in the ninth and then come off for a sub (Andrew Stevenson, if you were wondering), but that didn’t happen since a rain delay interrupted play in the eighth and they didn’t return to the field to play, only to say thank you to the fans who remained.
So is that it? Three more games in Colorado to wrap up a disappointing campaign and then free agency for Harper?
“I said it earlier, my heart lies here, and if I’m going to play somewhere and have some fun and enjoy that, then hopefully I’m in those plans to stay where I’m at, but if I’m not, I’m not scared of change either.”