Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper currently paces all major league hitters in home runs (7), runs (15), walks (20), and OPS (1.219). As a prelude to his impending free agency after the 2018 season, his run in the first two and a half weeks of the season has been exactly what he would want.
Some say Harper, the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player, could earn a mark near $450 million in free agency. That might come from the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, or whoever can afford such a transcendent talent, a five-time All-Star in — or just entering — his prime. I have a heart, and even in the stone cold nature of sports fandom, my heart weeps for Nationals fans here.
It’s so unfair and unjust to ask a 25-year-old MLB superstar to stick around on a team whose shot at winning a World Series title is weaker, and do it for less money on top of that. He’s a working man in every sense, and I always side with the players on contract-related stuff. But Washington fans do not deserve any more torment — and Harper leaving would be that.
Washington sports fans are perpetually miserable. More than any other large market in North American sports, the four (or five, depending on who you ask) major teams in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area absolutely torture their fans. The Wizards, Capitals, Nationals, and their NFL team have gone since 1991 without a league championship.
The Wizards have qualified for the postseason 16 times since their last league championship, back in 1977-78. For reference, that title came when they called themselves the Bullets and before the NBA implemented the three-point shot. As far as I know, they played on a dirt court.
They’ve lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals in three of the past four years, with the fifth being 2017-18, during which they will likely fall to the Toronto Raptors in round one. To make matters worse, point guard John Wall — whose immense skill is basically their only hope — will almost certainly have his knee scoped for the third time this offseason.
The Capitals have enjoyed the elite run of goal-scoring phenom Alexander Ovechkin, and despite the Russian’s incredible talent, the Caps have advanced past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs … zero times in Ovechkin’s career. Ovechkin’s tenure in Washington has featured four different head coaches and silly general manager moves before postseason success.
The Capitals have six times lost in the second round of the postseason in the past 10 years, including three separate round-two defeats to the Pittsburgh Penguins and arch-rival Sidney Crosby. Down 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in their current playoff series, the Capitals — despite another division championship this season — will perish before any super meaningful hockey is played.Being a fan of Washington sports is a form of torture. The case for Bryce Harper sticking around in free agency is to mitigate this torture.Click To Tweet
The Washington Pro Football Team has been entangled in mediocrity for a long time, with zero postseason victories since a measly Wild Card Game win against the Seattle Seahawks on January 7, 2006, and just five playoff appearances in the past 20 years. That run includes three Wild Card losses in the past decade.
Kirk Cousins, a fan-favorite in the nation’s capitol, signed a three-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason after Washington traded for Alex Smith, a measurably worse quarterback. There’s no direction, there’s no trend — the franchise is just terrible.
Worst of the bunch would be the Nationals, which brings us back around to the subject matter. Bryce Harper has had to endure four National League Division Series losses in a seven-year span, four managers in the same stretch, and constant failure in the biggest moments despite ownership hashing out loads of cash for support like Max Scherzer and Daniel Murphy.
Since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals in 2005, they have won seven playoff games. The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics, two teams that come to mind when you think of perennially garbage clubs, have won more October contests in that span.
Harper shouldn’t stay in D.C., but Washington fans deserve some sort of happiness. They won’t get it from the Capitals, they won’t get it from the Wizards, and they won’t get it from the football team. The former NL Rookie of Year is everything to Washington sports.
If my case for the entire future of Harper’s career and livelihood going forward is just “well, uh, Washington sports suck, and Harper does not suck,” I’m probably not doing a good enough job here. But, I don’t know, maybe fans in D.C. have earned some solace in a sports world that does little but eat them alive.