National League MVP Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper, blood rolling down his face, stands in the batters box to hit.

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Unanimous 2015 National League MVP, Bryce Harper.

As the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player, Bryce Harper goes into 2016 as a exceptionally skilled and accomplished young man. He is all of twenty three years of age, and playing at the highest level of skill in the highest level of competition in the professional sport he pursues. He's a wunderkind.

Eventually, he may become the highest paid professional athlete on the planet. He's got some years to play before contracts can happen, but you can bet he'll be well taken care of in the District of Columbia. But this MVP award business didn't just up and happen out of nowhere. Bryce Harper already had 3 solid seasons behind him. He got started in the Major Leagues younger than most get a chance to do.

What did he do last year, in 2015, to win MVP? He did a lot. He led the National League in home runs with 42 long balls, he led the National League in runs by scoring 118 of them. Then come the newfangled sexy stats. He had an on base percentage of .460, meaning he was on base almost half the time he made it to the batter's box, and he had a slugging percentage of .649. The slugging percentage was what was truly epic, and then there is the OPS, which is merely on base percentage plus slugging percentage - and it goes without saying, as he led the National League in both those categories, he damned sure also had the highest combination, and this was also an epic 1.109.

Bryce Harper demonstrates perfect swing mechanics for hitting a baseball.

The weight is transferred to the front foot at the very moment the ball hits the bat, and his head and eyes are on the ball too.
The weight is transferred to the front foot at the very moment the ball hits the bat, and his head and eyes are on the ball too. | Source

Bryce Harper is a legitimate America celebrity sports hero.

You look at America here in 2016. You look at the talent-less celebrities our mass media throws at the kids. You look at the horrifying presidential candidates. You know deep down inside of you that America needs some legit heroes. People who you can show to the kids, or to the world, and be proud of. Bryce Harper is that kind of guy. We're proud of him, and the pride we have in him isn't based on him having some stupid rap music, claiming he's a genius, or for him slinging insults at people very publicly.

Remember the Simon and Garfunkel lyric lamenting the absence of Joe DiMaggio? You get the picture. But we've got legit role models right here with Bryce Harper, and Paul Goldschmidt, and others too. Just a decade ago people were saying that baseball was dying. Baseball was done for. They had their reasons for saying things like that, the steroid era messed things up a lot. The steroid sluggers are all gone now. America's national past-time is alive and well, and Bryce Harper is one of the reasons it is so so recovered from the brink of destruction.

Bryce Harper on the cover of 'Sports Illustrated.'

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Bryce Harper was 'the chosen one' even when he was in high school.

There were some angry posts on the internet concerning Bryce Harper when it was announced he would just skip his last two years in high school to pursue professional baseball. Oh there was rue, much rue and bile that day. Well, has it not all worked out in his favor? It has, it has worked out in everyone's favor.

When you are so obviously talented and so obviously committed to a singular goal, then there is no reason to delay the attainment of the goal. Bryce Harper will have plenty of time for education, should he feel the need for more of it, as his life progresses. We live in a highly specialized world, a world where a broad education is always desirable, but not always the best course of action towards the betterment of our future.

Yes, there have been some disasters along the way for young athletes who opted out of education for sports. There has been a lost Josh Hamilton, and then a redeemed one. Sometimes, as in Hamilton's case, the redemption is ongoing. Bryce Harper looks to be the real deal, and for a long time to come. He can always get an education later, or he can spend his life dedicated to a huge business he is already a major part of.

Bryce Harper steals another base.

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Bryce Harper could be stealing more bases, but should he be?

In Bryce Harper's first year of professional baseball, he stole 30 bases in 38 attempts. If there is a legitimate complaint to be found anywhere for a man who is now the National Leagues reigning MVP, it is he isn't utilizing his base stealing capabilities to the fullest. In 2012 he stole 18 Major League bases in 24 attempts. This is a pretty high rate of success, so you can only wonder why he doesn't try more often.

But Bryce Harper has already undergone a knee surgery. So as a high average and high power hitter who also seems to forever just be on base, isn't this enough already? Why risk injury to steal? Should he risk injury just to please rabid fans who're forever in search of their own superman to adore? I think not. I think he should steal bases when he feels he's competent to do so, and at no other times. Like Mike Trout, who Bryce will forever be compared to, he's dropped off in his pursuit of base thefts. Perhaps the Washington Nationals are protecting their star. There are those who'll argue Bryce should be doing a 30/30 stolen bases and homers thing, or even a 40/40. But lets just let it lie, shall we?

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, perhaps the two single best everyday players in Major League Baseball.

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Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper. Who is the single best player in Major League Baseball?

Before the 2015 season, Mike Trout was the single best player in Major League Baseball. Hands down. Everyone would tell you the same thing, Harper and Trout were always forever being compared one to another, but Trout was the single best player in the game. Clayton Kershaw was the single best pitcher, Mike Trout, the single best player.

Now things aren't so certain. Bryce Harper's 2015 season was probably a better season, statistically, than any Trout had as of the time, put together. So now the question is valid again, whereas before it was clearly sided towards Anaheim, California. So in 2016 we get the great comparison and the question asked anew, and with new meaning and vigor, who is the single best player in baseball, Mike Trout, or is it Bryce Harper?

Bryce Harper in high school - with exaggerated eye black.

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Bryce Harper hits 502ft baseball home run in the 2009 Power Showcase

Bryce Harper was a MLB legend while he was only in high school.

Nobody can compare to Bryce Harper in the realm of media hype. There's only ever been one. We're talking here about a guy who was on the cover of the nation's preeminent sports magazine while he was still in high school. While his talent is everything it was hyped up to be, what amazes me the most is how he's been able to remain composed. He must have terrific handlers.

He is a creature of ritual. People complain his eye black is exaggerated. He's so good, and has drawn so much attention that people want to say he isn't as good as he is. He's not as good as Stephen Strasburg, they will say. Then there is also pity, people say they feel sorry for Bryce, all that hype, how can he deal with it? How can he live up to it? Impossible, we've seen Josh Hamilton, Bryce will implode. But it doesn't happen.

But Bryce Harper was trained relentlessly for all of this. His father, Ron Harper, never stopped investing time and energy into his son's training. Ron is a steel worker, he knows all about hard work, and when he wasn't on the job, he was working towards his son's future. Bryce has no regrets for leaving high school early. Would you?

In high school Bryce Harper's team plays in Tropicana Field, a Big League stadium. It is a high school game, but he hits the longest home run in the history of the ballpark. Longer than A-Rod's longest, longer than Manny Ramirez' longest, longer than Albert Pujols longest. The ball goes 502 feet.

Bryce Harper - the natural debuts with the Washington Nationals as a teenager.

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Bryce Harper was already 'the natural,' then he got contact lenses.

He is the very first player picked out of all available prospects in the 2010 draft. This surprises no one. He is six foot and three inches tall, and weighs about two hundred and fifteen pounds. He's won the Golden Spikes Award for being the best single amateur baseball player there is.

Accolades and quotations about Bryce Harper get ridiculous very quickly. He spends two years in preparation, and everyone knows he could have gone straight to the Major Leagues, but they are worried about his psyche. Worried about him being another David Clyde or something. He had been a catcher at one point, but everyone knows the position is one where a player's body gets used up too quickly, so he's converted to an outfielder.

As astounding as he has been, it turns out he has terrible vision. So he gets contact lenses, and hits nearly .500 in minor league ball. Bryce Harper would have made a legend even had he never made it to the Major Leagues. He is the natural, the golden child, the messiah of baseball.

2012 Topps Chrome Baseball #196 Bryce Harper Rookie Card

2013-2014 Bryce Harper excels when he is available.

The 2013 season showed Harper excelling at the game of baseball. This is what we expect from the natural. He hits 2 home runs on opening day. He is selected again for the All Star game, and participates in the home run derby. He's breaking Ken Griffey Jr. home run records for players so young. For the games he gets to play in 2013, he puts out exceptional statistics. But he needs knee surgery, and has it during the off-season.

In 2014, Harper injures a thumb sliding into 3rd base for a triple. His all out style of play is forever exciting, but puts him prone to injuries. He has torn a ligament in his thumb, and requires another surgery. So while in recovery, he hits 3 home runs in a minor league game.

Bryce Harper -2012 National League Rookie of the Year.

Bryce will make his Big League debut in 2012. He didn't start the season with the Nationals, but he didn't stay in the minors for long. Cole Hamels wasn't' the first pitcher Harper gets a hit off of, but the real excitement came during a game the great Cole Hamels was pitching against the Nationals. Cole had hit Bryce with a pitch, then Bryce managed to advance to 3rd base, and steal home. Steals of home plate are rare in baseball. They are always very exciting plays to see attempted. Harper pulls it off, becoming the first teenager to ever steal home base in a Big League game.

The Rogers Center in Toronto is a massive masterpiece of architecture. The place used to be called the Sky Dome. In an inter-league game Harper hits a 438 foot home run to dead center that majestically smacks an advertising billboard next to a restaurant. After the game, when asked if he would have a celebratory beer due to Canada's lower drinking age, Harper makes a comment about the question, he says, "I'm not going to answer that. That's a clown question, bro." The retort is promptly turned into an internet meme sensation, and Harper seeks to have it patented.

He will go on to make the All Star team in his rookie season. Only Bob Feller and Dwight Gooden have been younger All Stars than Bryce. He finishes the regular season with the most extra base hits ever by a player in his teens. He would, of course, go on to win National League Rookie of the Year for the season, but not before getting to also play with the Nationals in the post-season.

In 2015 Bryce Harper lives up to all the expectations.

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Bryce Harper, Unanimous MVP in 2015.

On opening day in 2015 Harper again hits a home run. On May 6 he hits 3 home runs in a game. Articles start appearing which compare Bryce Harper to Babe Ruth. None of this is thought to be hysterical any more. Harper is becoming a mythological icon. America needs this. Baseball needs this. By May 6, he's on a pace to hit over one hundred home runs.

Of course he can not sustain that pace. Or maybe he can. We're all waiting to see what Bryce Harper can do in 2013, and he is still several years out from reaching his athletic prime. People talk a lot about how much power Giancarlo Stanton has, and who is the better player. We shall see, please God, make it happen. So we can see.

People start saying Bryce is 'cocky,' and 'polarizing.' Such is human frailty. You see someone with talent so far and away more intense than everyone else's - and the instinct is to criticize them for being so good. It just isn't fair, is it? They have more than you do, more than I do. Bernie Sanders should redistribute some of Bryce Harper's talent to other players. He is now the greatest player since Barry Bonds, but he's not cheating with steroids. Praise God we're not all made the same. Praise God we have people who are far and away superior to the rest in skill. Baseball is America's great national past-time, and the world sometimes needs a superhero.

Bryce Harper 2015 Highlights

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