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Harper deserves to be All-Star

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Harper deserves to be All-Star

The notion was first offered about two weeks ago, and it's since picked up considerable steam. There remain 17 days until Major League Baseball announces its 2012 All-Star teams, but let's just say this now for the record.

Bryce Harper deserves to be an All-Star.

And not simply as a token publicity stunt to boost ratings. No, he truly deserves to be named an All-Star.

Start with the raw numbers. Following a monster road trip to Boston and Toronto, Harper now boasts a .303 batting average, seven homers, 19 RBI, a .384 on-base percentage, a .548 slugging percentage and a .933 OPS in 41 games with the Nationals.

The only statistical argument going against Harper is that he hasn't played in enough big-league games yet. And that's true. But he's going to play in a lot more before the Midsummer Classic rosters are announced July 1. In fact, he's on pace to amass enough plate appearances to qualify for league leaderboards in the next 7-to-10 days.

If you've played enough to qualify for the batting title, you've played enough to qualify for the All-Star Game.

And once he does qualify, Harper is going to find his name littered all over the National League offensive leaderboards. His current numbers would rank in the top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

Harper's merits, though, extend far beyond the numbers. His defensive play has been superb, especially for a rookie who has been asked to bounce between all three outfield positions since he debuted. His baserunning skills and overall hustle have been lauded from every corner of the sport.

Harper's ability to learn on the fly, meanwhile, are second to none. Is there any hitter in baseball -- no matter the age or experience level -- who is able to make in-game adjustments the way Harper does? In his first at-bat against an opposing starter, he's hitting a solid .273 with a .375 on-base percentage and .809 OPS. In his second at-bat against those same starters, he's hitting an incredible .419 with a .500 on-base percentage and 1.468 OPS.

All of that makes Harper worthy of a trip to Kansas City come the second week of July.

But if you needed any more convincing, here it is, plain and simple: Harper right now is the best everyday player on one of the best teams in baseball. Shouldn't that by definition make him an All-Star?

Harper is far from the only deserving player off the Nationals' roster. For the first time since it arrived in town, this franchise merits at least three (perhaps more) All-Stars, with co-aces Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez at the top of the list. Cases can also be made for Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche.

But with each passing day, it becomes more and more obvious that Harper has as strong a case as anyone for an All-Star berth.

Not because of his star power. But because he truly deserves to share the field with baseball's very best.

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Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Wieters aren't the only important guys within the Nationals organization becoming free agents in 2019.

President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo is also becoming a free agent when his contract expires on October 31st.

In the final year of his five-year contract, the 57-year old is set to make $2.5 million.

RELATED: HOWIE KENDRICK RETURNING TO NATIONALS

Since joining the organization, Rizzo has turned the team into a legit World Series contender. They've won four division titles in the last six years under his guidance, but have been unable to get over the NL Division series hump. And even though that's a glaring red mark on his resume, Rizzo knows the success he's brought to the organization. 

When you look at what we accomplished,’’ Mike Rizzo said in a recent interview, “it’s really unsung and underappreciated. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished here. I like it here. I love the city. I love the team I put together. I like being a GM in the NL East. And I want to stay here. I just think I deserve to be treated like some of the best GMs in the game are, too.

Rizzo is talking about GM's like Cubs' Theo Epstein and Yankees' Brian Cashman, who've received big paydays over the last year.

I know we haven’t won the World Series, but I get tired of hearing how we can’t win the big one, or we can’t get out of the first round. We haven’t had that many chances.

Does Rizzo deserve an extension? The Sports Junkies think he does, but with GM's like the ones above cashing out, they can also see him wanting to test the open market.

"Why wouldn't they?", said Jason Bishop, noting his track record.

"There's a sense he wants to test the market," said Eric Bickel. That's the vibe I'm getting from him."

Rizzo is a weekly guest on the Junkies and has said that the organization will figure it out. However, the 2018 season may be the last time for a long time the Nats have a real shot at making a run before they lose some of their stars to other teams. If Rizzo does take that into consideration and decides to go elsewhere, the Junkies don't see him having any issues finding employment.

"If there was a time to roll, it would be after this season when you get your last run with this group," said Eric Bickel. And then If they don't pay you what you think you deserve, he'll be snatched up in 22 seconds."

RELATED: BEST OF NATS' RACING PRESIDENT TRYOUTS

If they do decide to sign him to an extension, will it be a long, drawn-out ordeal? The Junkies disagree on that one. 

"He is too valuable, Jason Bishop said. He's too valuable. You gotta ink him to a deal sometime during the season."

Luckily for D.C. sports fans, long, drawn-out extension talks aren't foreign to them.

To see their full discussion, click the media player above. 

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

WASHINGTON  -- The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with outfielder Howie Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical.

Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday. USA Today was first to report the deal.

Kendrick, 34, hit .293 with seven home runs and RBIs in 52 games with Washington after he was acquired from Philadelphia. The versatile right-handed hitter got just three plate appearances off the bench in the playoffs.

In 12 major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers, Phillies and Nationals, Kendrick is a .291 hitter with a .755 OPS. He's now primarily an outfielder for Washington after playing left field, second base, first base and other positions throughout his career.