Bryce Harper: Why Harper's NL All-Star Addition Is a Total Farce
Almost immediately after news broke that Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton will miss the All-Star Game due to a knee surgery (h/t Joe Frisaro, MLB.com), there was breaking news out that young Bryce Harper will replace Stanton in the game (h/t Dayn Perry, CBSsports.com). This makes Harper the youngest position player to ever become an All-Star, and the third-youngest player overall.
While Harper, just age 19, has come up and done a good job for the injury-plagued Nationals to help keep the team in first place, this All-Star selection is a farce. This article takes a look at exactly why Bryce Harper being named an All-Star is a total farce by Major League Baseball.
Before I get into this article I just wanted to give a disclaimer that I am personally a fan of Harper and his ability. I've seen him in person and believe he will become a huge star in time. However, he hasn't earned a spot in the All-Star Game in 2012.
No Rookie Deserves Preferential Treatment
Excluding the starters, as they were voted in by fans, Bryce Harper isn't the only All-Star that hasn't really earned a spot in the game. However, the other player in that category is Chipper Jones, the future Hall of Famer from the Braves who is in his final season before retiring.
The Chipper Jones selection is a lifetime achievement award for everything that he has done in the game. Jones has been an MVP, batting champion, World Series winner, face of one of the most recognizable teams in the game and one of the best switch-hitters in the history of baseball.
Chipper is also fairly deserving of his All-Star selection this year as he has hit when healthy, though he has missed time with injuries as well. In his last year, Jones has put up a .318 average to go with six homers and 33 RBI in 48 games. Over the course of a full season that projects out to 18 homers and 99 RBI if he was able to play in 144 games.
Bryce Harper has done nothing for any such award by the league, as he hasn't truly achieved much in his young life yet. No player with 61 games of big league experience under his belt deserves special treatment from the league.
Sure Harper will create extra attention as the media and fans love him, but there are plenty of other National League outfielders deserving of this spot based on what they have produced on the field instead of the hype they have received off of the field.
Jason Heyward Deserved a Spot More
While I may be a Braves fan it's hard to argue that Jason Heyward isn't more deserving of a spot in the All-Star Game than Bryce Harper. Heyward has successfully bounced back from a disappointing 2011 season and has re-emerged as one of the top outfielders in the league in addition to being a complete player.
Heyward is hitting .276/.344/.507 with 16 doubles, four triples, 14 homers, 41 RBI and 11 steals. Heyward hits for average, power, uses his speed to his advantage and comes up with clutch hits. He's also a strong defensive outfielder and his strong arm has led to six assists from right field this year alone.
Heyward is just one candidate that is more deserving than Harper is. He's a complete player with better numbers all around and has been with the Braves for the entire season. He's also just one example of a Braves outfielder that is more deserving than Harper, as Martin Prado is hitting .321/.381/.457 with five homers, 35 RBI and nine steals as one of the key cogs at the top of the order for a contender in the National League.
Harper's Numbers Aren't All-Star Caliber
Take one look at the numbers that Bryce Harper has put up and tell me that they are All-Star-worthy numbers. His triple slash line in 61 games is .283/.357/.479 for an OPS of .836. He's also added eight homers with 15 doubles and four triples to go with eight stolen bases. Then in the field he has made five errors to go with just one assist.
Those offensive numbers are very solid numbers for anyone, but they aren't elite. In fact, the only way that those numbers look to be anything more than solid is when you take his young age into consideration, but that isn't how All-Stars are picked.
Here is a list of the other National League outfielders to have been named to the All-Star game and their stats. The players elected by the fans are the first three in the table, while everyone else is listed in alphabetical order. There is an asterisk placed by those that are out with injury and a plus sign by injury replacements.
|Matt Kemp*||.355, 12 HR, 28 RBI in 36 games|
|Melky Cabrera||.358, 8 HR, 48 RBI, 118 hits|
|Carlos Beltran||.304, 20 HR, 65 RBI|
|Michael Bourn+||.305, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 23 SB|
|Ryan Braun||.304, 24 HR, 60 RBI, 13 SB|
|Jay Bruce||.253, 17 HR, 54 RBI|
|Carlos Gonzalez||.339, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 11 SB|
|Matt Holliday+||.317, 14 HR, 56 RBI|
|Andrew McCutchen||.360, 16 HR, 56 RBI, 14 SB|
|Giancarlo Stanton*||.282, 19 HR, 50 RBI|
Bryce Harper's numbers just don't compare to any of these other players. To put him in the company of these guys is all about publicity instead of really earning a spot. In addition to not matching up statistically, Harper hasn't used one special skill to separate himself. He doesn't have a ton of homers, isn't a table-setting leadoff hitter and isn't a superior defensive player at this time.
Harper Didn't Even Win the Fan Vote
A big part of why Bryce Harper was selected as an All-Star is for the fans. Major League Baseball believes that the fans want to see Harper on this big stage against the best players in the game. However, the fans already had their chance to put him in and didn't take advantage.
When it came to the Final Vote, Bryce Harper was one of five finalists along with David Freese, Michael Bourn and Aaron Hill. Chipper Jones was also a finalist, but was removed from the voting after being named to replace an injured Matt Kemp.
The fans spoke out and didn't chose Harper, as David Freese won the Final Vote and a spot in the All-Star Game. Harper didn't even finish second, as Michael Bourn came in there. Harper finished third out of four, and likely would have finished fourth of five if Chipper Jones had remained on the ballot.
If the fans had really wanted to see Bryce Harper as an All-Star this season, then they would have voted him in during the Final Vote process. There were few enough candidates in the competition for the final spot that Harper was the biggest name on the ballot.
I'm also not even getting into Harper not being voted on by the fans as a starter, as he wasn't listed on the ballot due to not being in the big leagues in time.
Missing a Month
Naming a player an All-Star is based on production in the first half of a season. When a player misses a chunk of that time, it takes away from their ability to make the All-Star team as they just don't have the same body of work that the competitors do. This is similar to the postseason awards, like when writers chose not to vote for a player because they weren't up for the whole season.
Some will point out that Harper isn't the only rookie in the game this year who missed the first month of the season; however, there is no comparison between what Bryce Harper has done and what Mike Trout has done. Bryce Harper has been a solid player, and has been excellent for his age, while Trout has been so amazing that many are calling him the American League MVP up to this point.
Harper may be helping his team with his solid season, but Trout leads the American League in batting average and steals as well as ranking eighth in runs scored and fifth in OPS. He also helped turn the Angels season around by providing the spark that helped them recover after a disastrous April.
Bryce Harper has not been dominant, isn't among the league leaders in key stats and isn't one of the best players in the game right now.
The Future Is Really Harper's Time
Another reason why Bryce Harper didn't deserve the help that Major League Baseball has given him is because he will eventually make many All-Star Games based on his production instead of publicity.
Harper is the most hyped prospect in the history of the game and has generated a ton of press. Ever since appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school sophomore, Harper has been a mainstream personality. After skipping his final two seasons in high school, getting his GED and heading to junior college to enter the draft a year early, Harper became a household name.
Harper's ability certainly deserves the hype. His power and arm are every bit as good as they were advertised to be by Sports Illustrated when he was in high school. In fact, I personally went to one of his minor league games this season to see for my own eyes, and of course left impressed by his raw talent.
Harper is very likely to have a long and great big league career, and the greatness could begin at any time. However, he isn't at that level yet. Major League Baseball should have made him wait his turn and awarded a more deserving player.
Others Were More Deserving
In addition to Jason Heyward and Martin Prado, who were mentioned earlier in this article, there were more National League outfielders who deserved this spot in the All-Star Game. However, these other players were passed over by Major League Baseball in favor of Harper.
Hunter Pence is hitting .284/.350/.485 with 15 doubles, 16 homers and 50 RBI. Even though he plays for the last-place Phillies and isn't a good defender, he has put up very solid numbers for an offense that has struggled without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for the bulk of the season.
Andre Ethier is hitting .291/.357/.491 with 10 homers, 23 doubles and 55 RBI. Those numbers are strong, but it's what is beyond those numbers that makes him deserving. With Matt Kemp going down in mid-May, it's been Ethier carrying the offense for the first-place Dodgers. Sure he's injured and wouldn't be able to participate, but he certainly deserved the recognition.
A trio of Rockies outfielders have put up better numbers than Harper. Dexter Fowler has been having a strong season, hitting .288/.379/.539 with 11 homers, 36 RBI and seven steals. Michael Cuddyer is hitting .263 with 12 homers, 24 doubles and 50 RBI to go with eight steals in his first season in the National League. Even backup Tyler Colvin is hitting .311/.339/.644 with 13 homers and 40 RBI in just 180 at-bats. However, the Rockies are having a very bad season, so these players were all passed over.
It's hard to argue based on what they have done on the field that Harper is more deserving than Ethier, Pence or Fowler, and both Cuddyer and Colvin also have better numbers. This is also without Jason Heyward and Martin Prado being mentioned again.
MLB Wants This Game to Be Taken Seriously
Major League Baseball has gone out of its way to make sure that the All-Star Game is taken seriously by players. The commissioner has made efforts to make this game count for something instead of just a glorified exhibition game.
The first thing that MLB has done is giving home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star Game. That means something very important is on the line in this game, as that advantage could make a big difference to who wins the World Series.
Then in recent years the league has made a real effort to make sure players actually show up and play. In the last few years some stars have declined to play for various reasons that were not legitimate excuses. That again shows that MLB wants the two teams to be at their best.
So it doesn't make sense that MLB takes a player who didn't earn a spot, yet puts him in the All-Star Game when there is something at stake and then they tell their stars that this game needs to be taken seriously. Taking a player for publicity and future performance instead of current production sends a very mixed message.
If MLB really wants this to be a competition at its best, then they should have taken the best outfielder not yet in the game, like Jason Heyward or Andre Ethier for example.