He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was just 16 years old. He left high school after his sophomore year to play college baseball. Before he could vote, he was awarded the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur player in the country.
He was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, still just 17 years old. He was named NL Rookie of the Year in 2012 alongside Mike Trout in the AL. In 2015, he won the NL MVP just a month after his 23rd birthday. In 2018, he won the Home Run Derby in front of tens of thousands of adoring Washington Nationals fans. His pitcher was his dad.
From 2012 to 2018, he was an All-Star six times. His team made the playoffs four times and never had a losing season.
In 2019, he signed the largest contract in baseball history and officially became a Philadelphia Phillie. He has not made the postseason or been named an All-Star since.
In 2019, he watched from afar as his former team won the World Series. For three years he has sat in wait while the Phillies have failed to put together a contending team around him. He has been plagued with a bad back and a reputation as one of the most “overrated” players in baseball.
On April 28, 2021 he was hit in the face with a baseball. It was one of the scariest moments of the season. Miraculously, he returned just days later, seemingly unscathed. But unscathed he was not. He was dreadful throughout all of May, hitting .211/.318/.316 and capping it off with an 0-for-16 run at the end of the month. Finally, the Phillies bit the bullet and put him on the IL. Worries started to creep in. But then the calendar turned to June, and things changed in a major way.
Today, November 18, 2021, Bryce Harper was named National League MVP.
When you look at a list of all of Bryce Harper’s accomplishments, one more MVP seems pretty inconsequential.
Rookie of the Year, MVPs, Silver Sluggers, Henry Aaron Awards, Home Run Derby Champ, six All-Star Games, NL home run leader, four-time NL East division winner, Gold Glove finalist, impending All-MLB selection, biggest free-agent contract in baseball history...
It’s a long list to be sure. But this MVP isn’t just another trophy crowding his shelf. It’s the culminating moment of a truly remarkable season for a truly remarkable player. This MVP doesn’t just celebrate Harper’s dominance on the baseball diamond. It represents him finally overcoming his “overrated” reputation, which was the result of unfair expectations he was burdened with as a teenager. This MVP caps his comeback from what could have been a serious injury and what was surely one of the scariest moments of his career. And this MVP celebrates the fact that Bryce Harper did absolutely everything he could in an attempt to single-handedly carry the Phillies to the postseason. While the Phillies were ultimately unsuccessful, Harper’s incredible September was one of the most dominant months this sport has ever seen.
I could tell you that Harper led the majors with a 1.044 OPS, but I wouldn’t be the first person to tell you that. I could tell you that he also led all of baseball with a 170 wRC+, but you probably already knew that too. I could tell you that Bryce Harper was the only player in the NL to finish in the top three in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. I could tell you that he was the only player in baseball with 30+ home runs, 10+ steals, and a batting average over .300. I could tell you that he led the National League in Win Probability Added and Context Neutral Wins (WPA/LI). I could remind you that he had the greatest offensive season in Citizens Bank Park history. I could even tell you that his expected data (courtesy of Statcast) suggests that he deserved every bit of his success – his .427 xwOBA is almost identical to his .431 actual wOBA.
But I don’t need to tell you any of that. Because today, for the first time in a long time, we can stop citing the statistics and start celebrating. Bryce Harper won. He did it. It’s over. Bryce Harper will hoist the trophy celebrating him as the best player in the National League. He’ll spend next season as the reigning National League Most Valuable Player. The chants of “overrated” will be drowned out with the chants of “M-V-P.”
He is just the 32nd player to ever win the MVP more than once. He’s just the 12th player to have won two MVPs at least six years apart. He joins Barry Bonds as the only players to ever win the NL MVP with two different franchises.
Bryce Harper is a remarkable baseball player who had a remarkable season in the middle of a remarkable career. Bryce Harper is the MVP.
While I can’t possibly say enough good things about Harper’s season, this award isn’t just for Harper. I mean, technically it is just for Harper, but today is also a huge day for Phillies fans everywhere. This is the first big win the Phillies have had in over a decade. It’s not as nice as a playoff appearance would be, but after ten years of mediocre Phillies teams, it’s a well-earned consolation prize.
So Phillies fans, please don’t let anyone take the joy of today away from you. Celebrate your hearts out and scream from the rooftops that the Phillies had the best player in the National League in 2021. Bryce Harper deserves this, and you deserve it too.