Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant finally met on a professional baseball diamond the past three days as the Washington Nationals took on the Chicago Cubs in the Windy City. I don’t think any baseball fans left the series feeling cheated one bit. Harper and Bryant, who grew up as childhood teammates in Las Vegas, lived up to every possible expectation baseball fans could have had for them going into this series.
Can we have Harper vs. Bryant for every remaining game this season? Please?
— Woe, Doctor! (@woedoctor) May 28, 2015
I can’t help but agree with the good Doctor here. I would happily watch Harper and Bryant square off every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Both went 3-for-10 in the series with two home runs. The Nationals won the series, but that really wasn’t the most important takeaway. These two phenoms are fully ready to assume their rightful positions as Major League Baseball faces of the future.
Harper was always going to be a face of the future, but who could have predicted he would break out in such a big way this season. He now has 18 home runs, only four shy of his career-high. That career high, by the way, was set when Harper was all of 19 years old.
Bryant, too, was expected to put his name right up there with the Mike Trouts and Giancarlo Stantons of the world. Since his callup on April 17 (service time, schmervice time), Bryant has shown an incredible level of maturity, poise, and polish. It took some time for his first home run to come — 20 games to be exact — but since the seal was broken, Bryant has hit seven in 18 games.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch was the marked difference in the demeanors of these two players. Harper has no problem showing emotion on the field, as highlighted by his thrown bat on a lazy flyball that wound up being a home run thanks to that wonderful Wrigley Field wind. Bryant, on the other hand, has a much more reserved air about him. After blasting a home run 477 feet into the Chicago night sky on Tuesday, Bryant barely reacted, putting his head down and rounding the bases as if nothing special had happened.
Here’s the study in contrasts of which I speak:
Major League Baseball has something incredibly special on its hands with these two young players. Harper has fully established himself as the all-out, boisterous, in-your-face force that baseball so desperately needs to reach a younger generation that views the game as stuffy. Harper can no longer be portrayed as a villain. He’s now a man-in-full, and his sometimes over-the-top antics should not be viewed as a problem.
Bryant, while more vanilla right now, has just as much power and upside as any young player I have ever seen. His swing on that home run Tuesday night was purely effortless. Reigning American League MVP Mike Trout has described Bryant’s power as “Stupid Pop.” Who am I to disagree with the player Bryce Harper has referred to as the best player on Earth?
The league has not had a group of young superstars this marketable since it was blessed with three revolutionary shortstops in the late Nineties — Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra. Baseball fans were given just a small taste of how great the Harper-Bryant matchup the past few days, and expectations will only grow higher leading into their next matchup, which will take place June 4-7 in Washington. The game of baseball sometimes suffers from an inability to market individual matchups, but from here out, every Harper vs. Bryant matchup will be a marketer’s dream.
Follow Josh Sadlock on Twitter: @JoshSadlock