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Harper's play in right field has made difference

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Harper's play in right field has made difference

PHILADELPHIA — The lion’s share of praise heaped upon Bryce Harper this season has been for his accomplishments at the plate. And deservedly so; Harper’s 1.134 OPS entering play Wednesday is the best compiled by a major-league hitter since Barry Bonds’ outrageous 1.422 mark in 2004.

Harper’s performance in the field, though, deserves some attention as well, because it has helped make him into the complete player who enters the season’s final two weeks as the odds-on favorite to win NL MVP honors.

The Nationals moved Harper to right field this spring on a permanent basis, a move that had been considered since the day he was drafted but was pushed back until Harper had a few years of experience and until Jayson Werth’s legs and shoulder made him a better option in left field.

The end result has been encouraging. After a bit of a feeling-out process early in the season, Harper has taken well to right field and blossomed into one of the best defenders at his position in the majors. According to the Elias Sports Bureau and Baseball-Reference.com, he ranks third among all MLB right fielders in both range factor and defensive WAR.

Harper’s eight assists rank eight among right fielders, but that number might be diminished in part by the fact opposing runners are taking fewer chances against him, respecting his arm.

“The reputation precedes itself a little bit,” manager Matt Williams said. “And you want that as a player, certainly. Knowing that when a guy leaves the batter’s box on a ball down the line, he’s thinking twice about going to second. He’s got a strong arm. He’s accurate. …  That just helps our team. If they turn first but just stay there, then we’re always a pitch away from a double play.”

It has perhaps helped that Harper has been able to stay in one position the vast majority of the season, after bouncing around the outfield at times the last three years. Aside from nine fill-in starts in center field when both Denard Span and Michael Taylor were injured, Harper has played exclusively in right field, logging 1,095 2/3 of his 1,161 innings thre in 2015.

“He’s been able to settle in there and play the same position every day,” Williams said. “Understanding ballparks helps. Getting a chance to play within the division in all those ballparks, he gets a sense of where he’s at. And he can play accordingly. So, it helps, yeah. He loves to play center field, too. But I think he’s really comfortable where he is now.”

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Max Scherzer thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience in D.C.

Max Scherzer thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience in D.C.

All-Star Weekend is entertaining for fans and provides and much-needed break in the 162-game MLB season.

It’s not all just for fun, though. Following his start Tuesday night, Max Scherzer shared the benefits of being able to spend a few days sharing a locker room with players from across the league.

Being in the clubhouse, talking to veterans, talking to guys who have been here, getting to know everybody, getting the personalities, you can actually learn a lot from the other players in the league. They’re watching you, they’re watching your team and you get these conversations and it’s great. You’re talking about everybody and you find little things in the game that make them successful and what made you successful and see if you can get better.

Scherzer also didn’t hold back when talking about how great a job the city and his team did hosting the rest of the league. This is his sixth season as an All-Star, so he's speaking from quite a bit of experience.

It was awesome, what an atmosphere. I thought we were a great host team, all the other players in here loved the facilities and the treatment they received - D.C. did it right.

So according to Max Scherzer, the All-Star Game is great, but All-Star Weekend in D.C. is as good as it gets.

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All-Star effort once again proves Washington, D.C. is, in fact, a sports city

All-Star effort once again proves Washington, D.C. is, in fact, a sports city

It’s been an exciting summer for sports in the nation’s capital. 

The Caps won the Stanley Cup for the first time ever and the city celebrated accordingly. The narrative regarding Washington D.C. as a mediocre sports town began to shift.

A city known for its overwhelming number of transients was overflowing with civic pride. 

About a month later, D.C. hosted the MLB’s annual All-Star Game, and all the festivities that come along with it.

And it was a huge hit.

Sidewalks and restaurant windows were plastered with the All-Star Game logo, welcoming visitors to the city. 

Tens of thousands of people attended FanFest at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center downtown. The Convention Center was practically converted into an MLB shrine offering countless interactive exhibits, facetime with former pros and masses of signed memorabilia.

Plenty of locations, particularly in the blocks surrounding Nats Park, offered food and drink specials to baseball fans, providing great alternatives to people who couldn’t make it to the game.

Most importantly, the whole event got a huge stamp of approval from the players. Bryce Harper did an exceptional job creating a great experience for the fans, from his Home Run Derby win to his walk down the red carpet.

Afer his start, Max Scherzer said verbatim "D.C. did it right." 

Several other D.C. athletes, including Ryan Kerrigan and John Wall, were out celebrating in support of their city.

If there was any doubt before D.C. could handle big-time sporting events, there isn't anymore.

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