US Presswire photo
Bryce Harper rounds the bases after hitting one of his two homers last night.
This just in: The kid is heating up again, and last night's two-homer performance during the Nationals' 8-4 victory in Miami was only the latest example.
Yep, over his last 11 games, Harper is hitting .293, slugging .610 and posting a .920 OPS that has suddenly turned him into a formidable threat at the plate again.
Sure, there have been some less-than-spectacular performances during that span. His golden sombrero last week against the Braves was certainly a low point. But as he displayed last night, Harper is always a threat to do something significant when he steps to the plate with bat in hand.
He's also a threat to do something that rubs someone the wrong way. That someone last night was first base umpire C.B. Bucknor, who ejected Harper after he threw his helmet to the ground upon hitting into a double play in the top of the ninth.
(By the way, was that the first-ever example of the Bryce Harper Hat Trick: two homers and an ejection? Or should that honor need to include one homer, one outfield assist and one ejection?)
Was Bucknor justified in giving the Harper the heave-ho? He didn't appear to be, unless the player said something directed at the umpire. It looked like Harper merely was upset at himself for grounding into that double play and spiked his helmet out of frustration, not a reaction to anything Bucknor did or said.
At the same time, Harper knows by now he's not being judged like any other rookie in the big leagues. His reputation precedes him, fair or unfair, and he's probably being held to a higher standard than anyone else in the sport.
It's unfortunate, but it's reality. And the sooner Harper accepts that, the better off he and the Nationals will be.
Look, he may go through slumps at the plate. But he's still doing things few 19-year-olds have ever done in this sport. The only teenagers ever to hit more than Harper's 14 home runs: Tony Conigliaro (24), Mel Ott (18) and Ken Griffey Jr. (16). He's scored more runs (69) than any teenager since 1940 and legged out more triples (six) than any since 1936.
Harper has made significant contributions to a Nationals club that has sat in first place nearly every day since he arrived, and this team is going to continue to need his contributions down the stretch.
If he can keep driving the ball the way he has over the last two weeks, and if he can keep his emotions in check, Harper will wind up playing as big a role on a pennant contender as any teenager since Mickey Mantle with the 1951 Yankees.
That's no small feat.