Identifying the Face of Every MLB Franchise

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

Identifying the Face of Every MLB Franchise

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    There's no shortage of ways to determine who the face of a franchise is in baseball.

    For some, the face of a franchise is simply the best player on the team, the guy who consistently puts up the most impressive individual numbers on a yearly basis. Others may look to the player that's most quotable, the guy who stands in front of the cameras and answers the questions his teammates avoid.

    Heck, there are some who define a player as being the face of a franchse based on how active they are on social media. It's a highly subjective thing, and there really isn't a right—or wrong—answer.

    But for our purposes, we'll try and encompass all of these things—along with a player's charitable work off the field—to determine which player best represents the jersey that he wears.

     

    *Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Not much has gone right for Arizona in 2014, but if there's one thing the Diamondbacks can hang their collective hats on, it's that they can call Paul Goldschmidt one of their own—and the face of the franchise.

    As team president Derrick Hall explained to the Associated Press' Bob Baum in February, Goldschmidt is the kind of player that team executives can't get enough of:

    Goldy is a franchise's dream. He is as big a star off the field as he is on it. ... He exemplifies what a role model is and goes above and beyond to assist the organization with the recruitment of players, building our community presence and representing it with the highest level of class and dignity.

    Runner-up to Andrew McCutchen in the 2013 NL MVP voting, the 26-year-old is arguably the best first baseman in baseball and continues to put up big numbers for the D-Backs, hitting .321 with seven home runs and 23 RBI on the season.

     

Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman

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    In a perfect world, Jason Heyward would have blossomed into the player that Freddie Freeman has become and lived up to the expectations that he, a local product and not Freeman, a California kid, would take the reins from future Hall of Fame inductee Chipper Jones as the face of the Atlanta Braves.

    But things rarely, if ever, are perfect.

    So on the same day that the team announced a two-year, $13.3 million extension with Heyward, it also announced an eight-year, $135 million deal with Freeman, firmly putting their trust in him as the current-and-future face of the franchise.

    So far this season, the team's decision has proven to be a wise one. Freeman's hitting over .300 with an OPS hovering around .900, while Heyward's batting average is barely above the Mendoza Line with an OPS in the low .600s that impresses no one.

     

     

Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones

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    "Everybody knows I'm not from Baltimore, but this is now my town,'' Adam Jones told reporters during a press conference to announce the franchise-record six-year, $85.5 million contract extension that he had signed with the Baltimore Orioles in May 2012. (h/t ESPN)

    Since arriving from Seattle as part of the 2008 trade that sent Erik Bedard out west, Jones has matured, both as a player and as a person.

    He's produced at an All-Star level on-and-off the field, representing the club in a trio of Midsummer Classics while becoming a fixture in the community and a champion for underprivileged children, earning a nomination for the community service-oriented Roberto Clemente Award along the way.

    Eventually, Manny Machado will replace Jones as the face of the Orioles—but that day is still a ways away.

Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz

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    Dustin Pedroia might be the on-field leader in Boston, but few players in any sport have become as synonymous with the team they play for or the city in which they play than David Ortiz has in Boston.

    He's delivered countless hits in the clutch, becoming one of the game's most feared sluggers in a Red Sox uniform and become the unofficial spokesman not only for the team, but for the city as well.

    Case in point, Big Papi's impassioned speech in front of the Fenway faithful shortly after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, when Ortiz used some highly appropriate, colorful language to make his point:

    "This is our f'n city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong."

     

     

Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein

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    If Theo Epstein had his way, nobody would be talking about him at all.

    “I definitely don’t like being out front,” Epstein told CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney as spring training wound down in 2013. “I have a core belief that the players are the most important people in the organization. That’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s what will ultimately define our success. They have the hardest jobs in the organization. They’re the ones the fans pay to see."

    That's all well and good, but it's Epstein, the team president, who was handed the keys to the kingdom that is the Chicago Cubs, one of the game's most legendary and longest suffering franchises, and it was Epstein who was tasked with tearing down the kingdom's walls and rebuilding from the ground up.

    So while Jed Hoyer is the general manager and high-profile talent like shortstop Starlin Castro and starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija remains on the roster (at least for now), this is Epstein's rebuilding process—and he'll be the one who is either glorified or vilified when it's over.

Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko

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    Age and a balky back have turned him into a shell of the player that he once was and relegated him to a part-time role, but there's no question that the Chicago White Sox are still Paul Konerko's team.

    He's spent 16 years in Chicago as one of baseball's criminally underrated stars, appearing in six All-Star Games and establishing himself as one of the franchise's all-time greats.

    In the final year of his career, Konerko's days as the face of the franchise are numbered, and he'll be replaced in the same way that he replaced Frank Thomas, perhaps by staff ace Chris Sale or Jose Abreu, the hotshot rookie that has taken over for Konerko at first base.

     

Cincinnati Reds: Brandon Phillips

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    While he's pushed the "media mute" button for the second time in his career (boycotting Reds beat reporters) and been vocal in his criticism of the team in the past, Brandon Phillips is the face of the franchise in Cincinnati, whether he (and the team) likes it or not.

    He's lost a step at age 32, though he's still capable of delivering big hits and making spectacular plays defensively, and sure, he probably thinks more highly of himself than anyone else. But it's that cockiness, that arrogance if you will, that makes him such an endearing figure to the fans.

    "The thing is, man, I'm playing for the city of Cincinnati," Phillips told MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince earlier this year. "I'm playing for the fans. People can think what they want. I know I've got fans, and they love me. I don't have 800,000-plus Twitter followers for no reason, and I don't have almost 300,000 Instragram followers for no reason. People know I'm real, and I keep it 100." 

Cleveland Indians: Jason Kipnis

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    It hasn't taken Jason Kipnis long to establish himself as one of the best second basemen in baseball, a fact that the Cleveland Indians realized when they signed the All-Star to a very team-friendly six-year, $52.5 million contract extension this spring.

    While the 27-year-old got off to a slow start in 2014 and has spent the past few weeks on the disabled list, recovering from a strained right oblique, his scrappy style of play has not only endeared him to fans of the club, but makes him a perfect face of a franchise in a blue-collar town like Cleveland.

     

Colorado Rockies: SS Troy Tulowitzki

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    Even before Todd Helton officially retired at the end of the 2013 season, Troy Tulowitzki had taken the reins as the face of the Colorado Rockies.

    Signed to a seven-year contract extension worth nearly $160 million before the 2011 season began, Tulowitzki's career since has been up-and-down, with injuries limiting the shortstop to only 47 games in 2012 and 126 games in 2013.

    But a healthy Tulowitzki has been the driving force behind Colorado's resurgence in 2014, as he's putting up MVP-caliber numbers at the plate, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense and making that extension look very much like money well spent.

Detroit Tigers: 1B Miguel Cabrera

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    You couldn't go wrong with picking Justin Verlander here, and he's a homegrown talent, which in most places would give him a leg up on the competition.

    But not in Detroit—not in Miggy's house.

    Regardless of how you view the eight-year contract extension that Miguel Cabrera signed with the Tigers, a deal that will keep him in Detroit through his age-40 season, it's hard to argue against Cabrera being the face of the franchise.

    I mean really, how can you argue with three consecutive AL batting titles, two consecutive AL MVP Awards and a Triple Crown?

    You can't.

     

Houston Astros: 2B Jose Altuve

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    It's entirely possible (and highly probable) that hotshot prospect George Springer overtakes Jose Altuve as the face of the Houston Astros before the 2014 season comes to an end.

    But until that happens, the team's diminutive, underrated second baseman, Jose Altuve, reigns supreme as the face of the rebuilding franchise.

    Standing only 5'6", Altuve has been Houston's most consistent performer over the past two seasons, hitting for average and getting on base where he's been able to flash his above-average speed and baserunning skills.

     

Kansas City Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer and DH Billy Butler

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    Billy Butler has been the face of the Kansas City Royals for years, while Eric Hosmer, the man who pushed Butler off of first base and into the role of full-time DH, is the player that the Royals hope will take the reins and make the team his own.

    That transition may be taking place before our very eyes in 2014.

    Butler, affectionately known as "Country Breakfast," has seemingly forgotten how to hit or get on base, hitting .242 with a .295 on-base percentage while Hosmer continues to improve in both categories, hitting .320 with a .360 on-base percentage.

    The lack of power from the duo, however, is a bit disappointing—as is Kansas City's sub-.500 record (18-19)—making them the ideal faces of a franchise that has disappointed its fans for nearly 30 years.

Los Angeles Angels: CF Mike Trout

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    When you think of Albert Pujols you see the St. Louis Cardinals.

    When you think of Josh Hamilton, you see the Texas Rangers.

    When you think of Mike Trout, you see the Los Angeles Angels—and the best player in baseball.

    Only 22 years old, Trout has been in the thick of the competition for the American League MVP Award in each of his first two full seasons, finishing second to Detroit's Miguel Cabrera both times.

    It's only a matter of time before he wins one.

    Trout carries himself like a seasoned veteran, plays the game the right way and, as far as we can tell, can do anything and everything that a team could ask of a player when he steps onto the field.

    He's the prototype for how a five-tool player is supposed to perform—and the scary part is that he's only getting better. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: SP Clayton Kershaw

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers left little doubt as to who the team views as the face of the franchise when they signed Clayton Kershaw to an eight-year, $215 million extension earlier this year, making the 26-year-old the highest-paid pitcher in the history of baseball.

    Widely regarded as the best pitcher on the planet, with a pair of NL Cy Young Awards and three consecutive ERA titles since 2011, Kershaw's numbers only tell part of the story, as manager Don Mattingly explained to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick last August:

    Kersh is kind of what we're all about. What Kersh has done all year to this point really means nothing. He'll be one of the first guys here tomorrow, blow out a workout and be on track to the next one. He doesn't take a hitter off. Every pitch has a purpose. He wants every out he can get. And he keeps turning the page. Everything in the past is over, and it's about today. He's pretty amazing.

    He's also won the Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable efforts off the field as well, which have focused on helping underprivileged children around the world, especially in Zambia, where he and his wife have built an orphanage.

    Kershaw has quickly become one of baseball's brightest stars—and one of its most recognizable faces.

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Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton

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    Even back when he was known as Mike and the team claimed ownership of the entire state of Florida, Mr. Stanton was the face of the Marlins. Now that he's known as Giancarlo and the Marlins have settled on Miami as their base of operations, that hasn't changed.

    Blessed with perhaps the most impressive raw power that any player in the history of the game has ever possessed, injuries have limited Stanton's ability to put up the kind of MVP-caliber numbers that nearly everyone associated with the game believes he's capable of.

    This year, a healthy Stanton has been a force in the middle of Miami's lineup, tied for the National League lead with 11 home runs and leading all of baseball with 42 RBI, a major reason why the rebuilding ballclub finds itself only two games out of first place in the NL East.

Milwaukee Brewers: RF Ryan Braun

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    Love him or hate him, Ryan Braun is the face of the Milwaukee Brewers and one of the biggest faces in all of baseball, albeit for less-than-ideal reasons.

    The long, drawn-out saga surrounding Braun's failed drug test and controversial 2012 NL MVP Award came to an end last year when MLB suspended him for 65 games, bringing the ugliness of the PED-era, something baseball had worked to leave in the past, back into the national spotlight.

    But Braun had been the face of the Brewers long before that suspension was handed out, signing the slugger to a five-year, $105 million contract extension at the beginning of the 2011 season, a major investment for a small-market club like Milwaukee.

     

     

Minnesota Twins: 1B Joe Mauer

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    He's looking more like a grizzled veteran than ever before, but Joe Mauer has been the face of the Minnesota Twins since the day the team made him the first overall pick in the 2001 First-Year Player draft.

    A hometown hero, having been a two-sport star at nearby Cretin High School in St. Paul,  Mauer only solidified his place as the face of the franchise when he won the first of what would be three American League batting titles in 2006, his second full season.

    His MVP-winning 2009 campaign, when he hit .365 with 28 home runs and 96 RBI, remains one of the best seasons that any catcher has ever had.

    Signed to a team-record eight-year, $184 million deal in 2010, Mauer has been the prototypical team player, bouncing around the lineup—and the field—to help his club. That continues in 2014, as he's finally given up his catching duties and moved to first base on a full-time basis as the team looks to prolong the productive years of his career.

New York Mets: 3B David Wright

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    A consummate professional who quietly goes about his business and doesn't make waves, David Wright has been the face of the New York Mets for years.

    He took less money than he could have gotten on the open market to ensure that he played his entire career with the Mets, agreeing to an eight-year, $138 million deal before the 2013 season began, something that only continued to endear him to the team's fans and ownership alike.

    "We're thrilled for the organization and our fans that David will be a Met for many years to come," Jeff Wilpon told ESPN New York's Adam Rubin shortly after the extension was announced. "As great a player as David's been with us on the field -- one of the greatest and most popular Mets ever -- he's been equally outstanding in the community."

    If you've got any doubts about that last part, take a look at what Wright did for lifelong Mets fan James Lozano in this B/R exclusive.

     

New York Yankees: SS Derek Jeter

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    What, you were expecting Alex Rodriguez?

    It seems silly to fill this page with words about Derek Jeter, who has not only been the face of the New York Yankees, but of baseball, for nearly two decades.

    So rather than wax poetic about the Yankees captain, who is retiring at the end of the 2014 season, I'll let MLB commissioner Bud Selig do it for me (via Fox Sports).

    In the 21-plus years in which I have served as Commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter.  Since his championship rookie season of 1996, Derek has represented all the best of the National Pastime on and off the field.  He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his – or any – era. 

    Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport.  Major League Baseball looks forward to celebrating his remarkable career throughout the 2014 season.

    I couldn't have said it better myself.

     

Oakland Athletics: GM Billy Beane

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    With all due respect to Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Sonny Gray, Eric Sogard and Derek Norris' beard, there's only one face of the Oakland Athletics—GM Billy Beane.

    It's easy to pick Beane for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the A's are a team without a bonafide superstar, with a roster full of secondary and role players that operate as a well-oiled machine.

    With the possible exception of Gray, who is quickly becoming one of the most exciting young starting pitchers in the game, we simply don't hear about individual players with the A's—it's always a team thing.

    Besides, there's nobody else on that roster—or in baseball—that can say they've been portrayed in film by one of the biggest stars on the planet.

    That gives Beane the edge over all of his players.

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard

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    He's not the most talented player on his team—that title goes to either Cliff Lee or Chase Utley, depending on whether you want a pitcher or an everyday player, and he's not the most outspoken member of the club, as Jimmy Rollins owns that title by himself.

    Despite no longer being considered one of the premier sluggers in the game, Ryan Howard has been and remains the face of the Philadelphia Phillies, something the team solidified when it handed him a five-year, $125 million extension in 2010.

    Howard's production on the field may have waned in recent years, but his production off the field has remained at a high level, with his extensive work through his own foundation and countless other charitable organizations focusing on children in the greater Philadelphia area.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen

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    Shortly before the 2012 season began, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Andrew McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension, a deal that in retrospect, looks to be one of the biggest steals in recent memory.

    All McCutchen has done since then is firmly establish himself as one of the game's premier players, leading the Pirates to their first playoff appearance in 20 years in 2013 and winning the NL MVP Award, the first Pirates player to receive the honor since Barry Bonds in 1992.

    He goes all-out on every play, regardless of what the score is—or if the game even counts.

    Per J. Brady McCullough of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who was among the reporters that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon addressed after a spring training game between the Rays and the Pirates in 2013.

    I want to mention their guy, McCutchen. What he did tonight, that speaks volume for all of Major League Baseball. That guy in the ninth inning of a game that means absolutely nothing hits a routine ground ball to shortstop and beats it out. I can't be more impressed. I know how good he is with everything else that he does, but for that organization to have their best player do something like that is extremely impressive. I'm a big admirer. I was, but even more so right now.

    When you are garnering praise for your play in an exhibition game from the opposing manager, you know you're doing something right.

San Diego Padres: Chase Headley

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Chase Headley gets the nod as the face of the franchise in San Diego by default—who else could it possibly be?

    He's the team's most well-known player, someone who has dealt with trade winds swirling around him since his breakout performance in 2012, when he hit 31 home runs and led the National League with 115 RBI.

    You could make a case for either Carlos Quentin or Huston Street I suppose, but both have become something of afterthoughts in San Diego—especially Quentin, who has spent most of his three years in San Diego on the disabled list.

     

San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey

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    This was a tough one for me because, really, Tim Lincecum is still the highest-profile member of the San Francisco Giants, despite his incredible fall from one of baseball's elite starters to a mediocre back-of-the-rotation guy.

    But the Giants left little room for argument when they made Buster Posey the highest-paid catcher in the history of baseball, signing the 2012 NL MVP to an eight-year, $167 million extension before the 2013 season began.

    "If he's not the face of the franchise, he's certainly a player that comes around once in a baseball life, or not that often," GM Sabean said of Posey during the press conference to announce the extension. (h/t MLB.com)

    The team's unquestioned leader, Posey is once again off to a solid start in 2014, hitting .306 with seven home runs, 19 RBI and an .895 OPS.

Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez

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    When the Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal this past winter, we suddenly had to consider that there was a legitimate challenger to the throne that was occupied by Felix Hernandez as the face of the franchise.

    Yet despite Cano's hefty payday and the jersey that he now wears, it's going to take awhile for people to look at him and see "Robinson Cano, Mariners second baseman" and not "Robinson Cano, New York Yankees second baseman."

    King Felix doesn't have that issue, as he's been the face of the Mariners ever since Ichiro Suzuki was shipped out of town (ironically, to the Yankees) and will continue to wear that crown for as long as he remains in the Emerald City—which thanks to the five-year, $135.5 million extension that he signed in February 2013—will be for quite some time.

     

St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina

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    Associated Press

    Despite wearing a mask most of the time, Yadier Molina narrowly beats out one of his battery mates, Adam Wainwright, as the face of the St. Louis Cardinals.

    The best all-around catcher in baseball, Molina's ability to command and control a pitching staff is remarkable, and he's no slouch at the plate either, developing into a .300 hitter and perennial MVP candidate, helping to replace some of the production the team lost when Albert Pujols left after 2011.

     

Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria

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    Evan Longoria told reporters that he had his heart set on becoming the face of the franchise in Tampa Bay even before he signed a 10-year extension with the club in November 2012.

    Per the Associated Press (via ESPN):

    I always wanted to be kind of a benchmark player ... the guy that you could think about or associate with the organization. My goal from Day 1 was to be the first player that played their whole career here, to be the first guy that came into the organization and went out in the organization, and played all the years in between. There's no better place for me.

    Longoria continues to be the catalyst in the middle of Tampa Bay's lineup, providing timely hits and power while playing above-average defense at third base.

    Regardless of the roster moves that the financially-strapped franchise has to make, such as its upcoming divorce from 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, knowing that Longoria will be there when the dust has settled certainly has a calming effect on the team's fans and his teammates. 

Texas Rangers: Yu Darvish

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    He may not be a homegrown talent, and he's only beginning his third year as a major league ballplayer, but there's no question that Yu Darvish is the face of the franchise deep in the heart of Texas.

    With the likes of Josh Hamilton and Michael Young no longer part of the roster and Nolan Ryan no longer a member of the front office, Darvish, who has established himself as one of the game's premier talents—and who continues to get robbed of no-hitters—has become the most recognizable member of the club.

    Darvish has not only solidified the front of the Rangers shaky rotation, but his teammates and fans know that, every five days, the Rangers are going to have a really good chance to win because Darvish is on the mound.

Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista

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    Jose Bautista became the face of the Toronto Blue Jays after he seemingly came out of nowhere to smack a MLB-high 54 home runs in 2011—and signed a five-year, $65 million contract extension with the club only months later.

    It's a responsibility that Bautista doesn't take lightly, as he told ESPN's Jayson Stark shortly after the contract was announced:

    To me, being the face of the franchise doesn't mean that I have to hit 50 home runs every year. You have to reflect what the organization wants its players to be like, when it comes to type of person, personality, work ethic, leadership skills and other stuff. The production is like an added bonus.

    While injuries have limited his production in each of the past two seasons, Bautista has represented the franchise with dignity and class both on-and-off of the field. 

Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper

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    Nobody in Washington is as bold, brash, brutally honest and universally loved—or loathed—than Bryce Harper.

    He'll put a reporter in his place when he feels the need and plays every game as if it's his last, bringing a very old-school feel to the ballpark despite being one of the games youngest players.

    Has he lived up to the incredible hype that preceded his arrival in our nation's capital? Of course not, because nobody could (OK, maybe a guy named Trout could), but the 21-year-old has done pretty well for himself.

    Among players who have appeared in at least 200 games before their 21st birthdays, Harper ranks sixth in OPS (.834) and third in home runs (42), ahead of guys named Griffey, Kaline, Rodriguez and Mantle.

    Toss in a featured spot in two of the better baseball commercials to be produced in recent memory—MLB's "Timeless" spot and Gatorade's "Face Off" campaign—and there's little doubt that Harper is not only the face of the Nationals, but one of the new faces of baseball.