VIERA, FL. — There was no 'where's my ring?'-type soundbite from Bryce Harper in his first spring training media availability on Monday. He instead gave deference to the New York Mets, who enter 2016 as the defending NL East and National League champions.
Harper knows the Nats are not predicted by most to win the division as they have been in years past. It's now their turn to try and supplant the champs from the season before.
"We definitely have a challenge. The team to beat is the Mets and that's what it is right now. They kicked the crap out of our division last year and hopefully we can come in this year and do the best we can to knock them off," he said.
Many around baseball forecast the Mets as the favorites in the NL East given they retained Yoenis Cespedes and boast one of the best starting rotations in recent memory. Harper explained the challenge of facing their starting staff.
"The Mets are a great team," he said. "They're a great staff. Definitely don't want to give them too much credit, but they're incredible."
The Mets made it all the way to the World Series in 2015 with their rotation leading the way. They have three young stars in Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Harper is looking forward to the challenge of facing them again this season.
"That's what's fun about baseball. You have guys like that and you get to face guys like that."