Don't look now, but the Nationals are winning the Bryce Harper breakup
Breakups are difficult. Sometimes they’re good for one person, while being tragic for the other.
The Nationals and Bryce Harper are one of those breakups.
They were together for seven mostly blissful years. Sure, they didn't reach the World Series, but those four trips to the postseason with Harper were the only ones in the Nationals short history. He won a Rookie of the Year Award under the curly W ballcap; he won an MVP Award plying his trade in Washington D.C. It was a blissful relationship.
It was an amicable breakup -- as far as breakups could go. There were some hurt feelings, sure, and then Harper signed a massive 13-year contract with the Phillies.
"Well, I hope he'll be happy with his new partner," kinder fans may have thought. Harper was still out of practice, and in March, he said he wanted to bring a title to DC while wearing Phillies pinstripes.
Then, when Harper came back to play his first game against Washington, he played it up -- bowing marvelously to his new fans, while the old ones rained down boos. He then launched a home run deep into the night sky and offered up the kind of bat flip that can break a heart clean in two.
Oh, it was on. Things were heated now.
The Phillies were also winning, running out to a first-place spot at the end of April, while the Nationals were languishing near the bottom of the division. In this drawn-out metaphor, Harper was sipping Mai Tais on a boat in Hawaii, while the Nats were laying in bed, surrounded by tear-stained tissues and watching old movies on videotape.
Yeah, it was that dire.
But things have changed. The Nats are red-hot. They've got their groove back. Since June 1, the Nats are 31-13, and, sure enough, they've leapfrogged the Phillies in the NL East. It's only with a game-and-a-half cushion, but it's enough that if the playoffs started today, Washington -- even without Bryce Harper -- would be in. The Phillies? They'd be out. The happy new relationship Bryce was in has even hit the rocks. The outfielder has heated back up, but the Philadelphia boo birds have been out in force when he struggles.
Fueled by arguably the best rotation in baseball, the Nats are succeeding with the pitcher they brought in to replace the star-power of Harper, Patrick Corbin. With him, Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and first overall pick Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals have a rotation that can not only destroy any other lineup in the game, but could make magical things happen in October. There's also outfielder Juan Soto, who is looking ever bit the burgeoning superstar that Washington needed him to become. Things are looking awfully rosy in Washington.
Sure, the team misses Bryce -- who wouldn't. But time heals all wounds. And for now, the Nats are the ones who have emerged from this breakup victorious.