Why Nats fans should still root for Bryce Harper

Photo Courtesy of the Philadelphia Phillies

Jacques Nissen

Following Bryce Harper’s decision to leave the Washington Nationals and join the Philadelphia Phillies on a 13-year, $330 million deal, many Nats fans were outraged. So when Harper visited Nats park a mere week into the season, it was not surprising to see him showered in boos by his once-faithful DC crowd.

As crazy as it might sound, Nats fans should actually root for Bryce Harper. That does not mean cheering for him as he steps up to the plate at Nats Park, but simply rooting for him to have a long and successful career. The main reason to support Harper is simple: it is good for the game of baseball. As has been the case for the past 20 years, baseball is dying. The sport has by far the highest average age of fans of any of the major American sports and is failing to attract younger audiences.

When comparing other popular sports to baseball, you can immediately see how removed baseball is from the national media. While Zion Williamson and Patrick Mahomes are household names, not many casual fans know who Ronald Acuña is outside of Atlanta. So when stars like Harper come along, baseball needs for these stars to succeed in order to remain entertaining and attract new fans. Harper, in particular, has made it a goal of his to “make baseball fun again,” citing the lack of expression in baseball.

And Harper has certainly accomplished his goal of making baseball more entertaining. In the first month of his career, after being drilled in the back by Phillies starter Cole Hamels, Harper responded by stealing home. Furthermore, Harper’s triumph in the 2018 Home Run Derby at Nats Park is a moment that will remain etched in the minds of many DC baseball fans. And of course, Harper had some memorable quotes during his tenure in DC, including “That’s a clown question, bro” and “Where’s my ring?”

The case to root against Harper comes almost exclusively from his landing spot: Philadelphia. The Phillies have been a rival of the Nationals since the Nats moved into town in 2005, but the rivalry stepped up a notch in the early part of this decade, when Philly fans would routinely make the two-hour drive south and invade Nats Park, due in no small part to the Nats’ former owner, Stan Kasten, inviting Philly fans in to help struggling attendance numbers.

Harper’s decision to go to Philadelphia is definitely a slap in the face of DC fans, especially considering that his contract contains no “opt-outs” that would allow him to leave before the end of his 13-year agreement. Harper has committed his career to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia has committed a large portion of their payroll to him.

Despite Harper’s decision to leave the District, Nats fans should hope that Harper continues to be a star in this league, simply because stars are good for the league. In Philadelphia, the second-largest single-team market in the MLB, Harper should be in a perfect situation to ascend as a player, while also bringing the prominence of the sport along with him.