Folks who watch baseball, who know baseball, understand how nonsensical the end-of-year storyline was that the Nationals were finally able to win it all because they were free of Bryce Harper. It was troll-like schadenfreude that existed mostly among casuals. Whatever. We all find our own reasons to enjoy the game.
On MLB Network Tuesday, Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto was asked by Chris Russo about his teammate and the perception that Washington needed to cleanse itself of Harper. The Gold Glover said this:
I feel like Harper's one of the most misunderstood people in baseball. Coming in, I wasn't sure what kind of teammate he'd be just because of some of the things I'd heard. But the guy's an awesome teammate, goes out and plays the game hard as he can every single night. That's the kind of leader you want on your team."
I can't speak to how Harper handled himself early in his career, but he was a pro in every way here in Year 1. He gave full effort every day, didn't want to take games off, took his preparation seriously, took off-the-field stuff seriously, led vocally and by example, came up big in clutch moments. He didn't big-time teammates, staffers or reporters. There was no major sense of arrogance emanating from him. He mostly carries himself like a normal big-leaguer.
Yet still, this idea exists and may always exist that Harper is just the brash, cocky veteran version of the brash, cocky kid who first came up with the Nationals. It's not reality. It's perception. In too many sectors of society in 2019, perception matters more than ever before and reality matters less.
In reality, the 2019 Nationals won it all because they were able to replace Harper with Patrick Corbin, who is arguably as important to a rotation as Harper is to a lineup. The Nationals wouldn't have won the World Series without a third ace.
In reality, the Nationals won it all because they had a ton of very good pieces already in place aside from Harper. When Harper hit free agency, a case could be made that the Nationals already had three players better than him in Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Max Scherzer.
Washington won it all. Hats off to them. It wasn't because the specter of Harper no longer loomed.
"I'm not sure why he's the villain in baseball because really, his personality doesn't portray that in the clubhouse," Realmuto said. "Harper gets a little bit of a bad rap."
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