Everyone apply eye black liberally to your cheeks. Here comes the most-anticipated rookie debut since Ken Griffey Jr.
Bryce Harper, ready or not at 19 years old, is being called up by the Washington Nationals. He’ll play left field Saturday night at Dodger Stadium in a game started by right-hander Stephen Strasburg, a recent phenom in his own right.
Boy, what an event: Strasmas meets … Harpsgiving (or is it Brycester?) inside of what stands as the Roman Coliseum of Major League Baseball. And Vin Scully, the Edward R. Murrow of sports broadcasters, will call the action. Oh, this is big.
The Nationals wanted to wait to promote Harper from Class AAA Syracuse but, GM Mike Rizzo said in the Washington Post, they have a need with Mike Morse and Ryan Zimmerman out because of injuries. Alternatives included Mark Teahen and Jason Michaels, major league veterans, who played with Harper at Syracuse. Yeah, Harper’s an OK choice, even now.
“The decision is really a team decision,” Rizzo said. “It’s to support the major league club when we need an offensive player to play corner outfield. … This wasn’t the coming out party for Bryce that we had in mind. This wasn’t the development plan we had in mind.”
And he might very well fail, at least at first.
Listed as the top prospect in the majors by Baseball America for the past two seasons, Harper has not dominated in short stints at Double-A and Triple-A, hitting a combined .254 with a slugging percentage just under .400. So this might take time. It’s worth noting Harper has started a little slow wherever he’s been as a professional. Also, as Yahoo!’s Brad Evans of Roto Arcade noted, use Griffey’s rookie season in ’89 as a guide — and don’t expect Harper to equal those numbers.
And if Harper fails, there’s always the example of Mike Trout, who didn’t excel in a stint with the Angels a season ago and is back in the minors — but dominating there, and ready to come back at any moment.
And failing wouldn’t be the worst thing for Harper, who might have an overabundance of confidence in his own abilities. He was a Sports Illustrated cover boy at 16 when he quit high school, took his GED and went straight to junior college. He was the top pick in the draft two years ago. He seems to have been made for this moment. Failure would put things in perspective. Of course, if he succeeds … we’ll have created a monster. And it’ll be an awesome thing to watch.
Saturday can’t come soon enough. Presents to be opened at 10:05 p.m. ET.