For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain. Welcome to the 2016 MLB Preseason Primaries.
Bryce Harper was fresh from being attacked on all fronts by the entire baseball ecosystem. Hall of Fame pitcher Rich "Goose" Gossage had called him a "young punk" and San Francisco Giants' relief pitcher Sergio Romo referred to him as "putting his foot in his mouth" and told him to "just shut up." Now, two weeks removed from his inflammatory words of honesty that was shared with ESPN's Tim Keown about how baseball has evolved into a "tired sport," his actions reminded many why HIS particular game is anything but.
In a recent Washington Nationals' game versus the St. Louis Cardinals, Harper leisurely strode into second base after knocking a first-inning double that probably could have turned into a triple after the center fielder fumbled the ball. It was clear that the 2015 National League MVP realized he'd let a prime opportunity slip. In his third at-bat, Harper sprinted out an infield single in the fifth inning, then busted it from first to third on a Ryan Zimmerman single to shallow center. Of course, his signature move of knocking his helmet off his head mid-stride occurred during the feat. It was peak Bryce, full of hustle while letting us all know he's hustling.
Afterward, Nationals' manager Dusty Baker was effusive with praise.
"All I can say is: That's how the game was intended to be played. You don't get the MVP cause you can't do those things. We expect them all to do that kind of stuff. I mean, we've been running the bases pretty good. We've been thrown out sometimes. But hey, if you don't ever try, you'll never get thrown out. We're going to try to take it to the opposition vs. them trying to take it to us."
As Harper stated to Keown, he'll forever be sorry that he's not sorry, and that makes him the best prepared to lead baseball into the next frontier. He is as talented as a hitter as he is divisive as a personality; you either love him or hate him. In a time where the future of America's pastime is considered to be in danger, Harper is the star best served to keep things afloat.
When Bryce Harper entered Major League Baseball in 2012 with all the pomp and circumstance was only rivaled by LeBron James in the National Basketball Association nine years earlier. Harper had already been on a Sports Illustrated cover at the age of 15, and when asked as a man-child teenager his goals as a baseball player, he made an absurd statement that only an overly cocky and arrogant 15-year-old could make.
"Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can't wait."
Harper's career goals at the time seemed like the thing any kid would say as it sounds preposterous and egregious. Of course, he's a 15-year-old kid, so you'd never tell him that it ain't ever happening. Then the teenager quickly evolved into a man before our very eyes.
- At the age of 16, he decided to leave high school to play junior college because the prep game simply didn't challenge him.
- At the age of 17, he hit .443 and lead all of junior college baseball in both homers and RBI.
- Almost two months before his 18th birthday he was signed by the Washington Nationals for nearly $10 million, and chose #34 because he "always loved Mickey Mantle, three and four equals seven."
- At age 19, SB Nation's Grant Brisbee eloquently summed up Harper's first game as, "You saw him make adjustments, rope a ball, rifle a perfect throw to home, speed down the line like Pete Rose on meth, and do something to make you wonder if he's really that much of a jackass. It was the Bryce Harper game we expected. I, for one, can't wait for the next two decades." (Also, a guy mooned the national TV camera during his first hit.)
- By the last day of this age-20 season, only three players in MLB history had hit more home runs than him at his age.
- At the age of 21, with 1,185 plate appearances, Harper was still the youngest player in Major League Baseball.
- As a 22-year old, only two hitters in the history of Major League Baseball had as good of a season at that age as Harper did. Ted Williams and his idol, Mickey Mantle.
It is a constitutional law of the United States that the "Leader of the Free World" must be at least 35 years of age. However, the next man who must step up to be the "Leader of Baseball's Free World" need not worry about age, only experience and perspective.
The President of the United States is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress. The Leader of Baseball's Free World is responsible for standing up for a generation, a vibrant group of minorities and a progressive viewpoint that flies in the face of baseball's unwritten rules.
Mr. President must also lead as America's Commander-in-Chief, although the role does not give one the power to declare war. The Leader of Baseball's Free World is not only given that responsibility, but can press the "red button" by tweeting off a secret code of emojis on Twitter.
The Leader of the Free World has approval to appoint key personnel, such as ambassadors, justices of the Supreme Court, and “all other Officers of the United States.” The Leader of the Baseball's Free World has already assigned key personnel to his cabinet. Those people include LeBron James, Cam Newton and Jose Bautista.
In 2016, my fellow Americans, there is only one choice to help make America's Pastime great again. His campaign slogan reads, "Sorry, Not Sorry." His beard game is strong, and that pompadour salad on his head is stronger. He loves to pimp his home runs and rile up old people to refer to him as a "young punk". In 2008, Barack Obama stated to the Democratic National Convention that, "Change doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington."
That change has a name, and it is Bryce Aron Max Harper. Vote for him forever.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”