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Bryce Harper gives Nationals another chance to step forward

Morning roundup

Last year, the signing of Stephen Strasburg felt much more like a referendum on the Nationals than a referendum on the player. The Nationals had lost 102 games. They had failed to sign Aaron Crow, their previous first-round pick. They had a new, temporary general manager running the team after Jim Bowden's final, most devastating folly ran him out of control. The team's competence was on the line.

This season, with Bryce Harper, the narrative seems to be at least somewhat flipped. It has been cast, and seemingly widely accepted, as Harper's call to make. The Nationals' clubhouse has taken the stance that Harper needs to show them he wants to play here. The front office got Strasburg signed to a record deal and this year it has reportedly already agreed to three elite draft picks for well over recommended value. The Nationals may have lost 103 games last year, but the popular notion seems to say it's Harper's reputation on the line.

Should that be the case? The Nationals could have taken any amateur player in the country. They immediately raved about Harper's ability and his character. He was the slam-dunk No. 1 pick. They chose him.

Strasburg has already shown how valuable an elite draft choice can be immediately. Surely, he has already paid for his $15.1 million bonus and then some based solely on the marketing and attendance gains he produced. Even if Harper probably will not make the majors until the end of 2012 at the earliest, his potential to be a financial boon may be even greater than Strasburg's. He plays every day. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16. He turned down "60 Minutes." He's already been made a star.

The highest bonus ever for a 17-year-old is $6.1 million for Justin Upton, and the only conclusion to reach is that Upton exceeded the value. The Diamondbacks right fielder reached the majors by 19, hit 15 home runs by 20 and was an all-star by 21. Even if the Nationals set another record if and when they sign Harper -- and they'll probably have to come close to doubling Upton's bonus -- it will still likely look like a bargain if Harper is the player the Nationals project him to be.

Will the No. 2 pick in next year's draft offer the same potential, in terms of performance or marketing potential? Certainly not.

So, yes, Harper has to decide to sign. (Crow must wish he did.) But it's a two-way street. Washington chose him, and now the Nationals have to decide to give Harper an offer he'll sign. Ryan Zimmerman is right when he says there comes a point when "enough is enough." But the Nationals have taken many steps to assure their fans of their competence, that they really are going in the right direction. They don't want to take a step back.

FROM THE POST

Boz writes the Nationals have aligned themselves with Scott Boras often over the past few seasons.

Stephen Strasburg threw five steady innings as the Nationals beat the Diamondbacks 5-3, winning the series after big hits by Ian Desmond and Josh Willingham and an excellent bullpen performance.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 4, Indianapolis 2: Jordan Zimmermann allowed one run in five innings on six hits and a walk, striking out three. Wilson Ramos went 3 for 4. Leonard Davis went 2 for 4 with a double.

Trenton 3, Harrisburg 2: Aaron Thompson allowed two earned runs in five innings on five hits and five walks, stirking out five. Stephen Lombardozzi went 1 for 3 with a walk.

Potomac 7, Myrtle Beach 5 (10 innings): Nyjer Morgan went 0 for 3. Michael Lozada went 1 for 4 with a walk-off home run and a walk. Tyler Moore went 2 for 5 with a home run.

Hagerstown 7, Greensboro 5: Rick Hague went 3 for 3 with a double and a walk. Eury Perez went 2 for 3.

Jamestown 11, Vermont 5: Jason Martinson went 0 for 3 with two walks. Ronnie Labrie went 1 for 3.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

The Nationals' bullpen deserves credit for yesterday's win, Mark Zuckerman writes.

Jim Callis of Baseball America reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with 12th-rounder Robbie Ray for a pricey bonus.

It's going to be a staredown between the Nats and Bryce Harper, writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.

By Adam Kilgore  |  August 16, 2010; 9:24 AM ET
Categories:  Bryce Harper  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Nats, Harper reach deal
Next: An update on Bryce Harper and the Nationals' draft

Comments

it's gonna be a good night in NatsTown!

Posted by: DCguy7 | August 16, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Well balanced posting Adam.
Strasburg was a record deal, but by all measures, it was cheap. I sincerely hope we don't lose Harper for a few million bucks (and I sincerely doubt we will).

This offseason, picking up Harper, Cole, Ramos and Maya, that's 4 legitimate first rounders, two of whom should be contributing significantly next year.
If we keep Dunn, this is an excellent offseason.

BTW, the one thing in Boz's article that did not surprise me one bit.
Boras doesn't like Stan K.

Does anyone outside of Bud Selig like Stan?

Posted by: Sunderland | August 16, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Place your bets...

The over/under on what time Bryce Harper signs is set at 11:58:30 PM EST.

Posted by: Kavorka | August 16, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Kavorka - I'm definitely taking the over. Boras wants to be the last one, to create sensation.

11:59:35

Posted by: Sunderland | August 16, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm assuming Ramos gets called up next month, and if he does, I hope he gets some serious playing time. Looking at his defensive stats, it looks like Pudge won't have to teach him much about throwing out baserunners - he's thrown out over 50% this season - 23 out of 45 attempts.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 16, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Sunderland: "Does anyone outside of Bud Selig like Stan?"

I'm guessing Mrs. Stan does.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 16, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Adam you are correct, people like Harper and Strasburg don't cost you money they make you money! People like Marquis and Kennedy cost you money.

Posted by: sdrappa | August 16, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a big Lerner fan, but I've never liked the repeated references to the Nats "failing to sign" Aaron Crow. As I recall, they made him a very good offer, he asked for much more, and the Nats chose to not sign him.

Because Strasburg agreed to $15.1 million last year, the Nats "succeeded." But had he passed on the same offer at the last moment, the Nats would have "failed."

If a team does not make a good offer, call it a failure. Otherwise, it's the two way street.

Posted by: KenNat | August 16, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Probably the rest of his family and friends, too. Perhaps Stan doesn't give a rat's patoot what Boras thinks, so long as he's able to do business with the man. It being business, not personal and all that... :-)

---

I'm guessing Mrs. Stan does.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 16, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

"[T]his year it has reportedly already agreed to three elite draft picks for well over recommended value."

Huh? What does this mean? You are a reporter, Adam. So are you reporting this? Or not?

Since Ladson is reporting that Cole--one of the 3 you are presumably referring to--is actually not signed, your reporting on this is something that some of us might in fact be interested in.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | August 16, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone really anticipate Harper being in the bigs by 19?

Come-on this is NatsTown, its only fitting that your prized possesions are floundering in the minors or show-cased for 5 innings or 90 pitches which ever comes first. Your bargain basement failures take up endless innings of first pitch-swings, called third strikes, give up countless outs and the never ending misplayed balls in the field.

If Harper signs tonight is he in Vermont or Hagerstown tommorow?

Posted by: TippyCanoe | August 16, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Since Harper is only 17 now I can see him in the majors by age 19. He really may be something special. It's not a failure if he is not here in two years but I would expect a to see him by the end of the season after next.
Let's play two, oh yea, and let's sign Harper..and Dunn.

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | August 16, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Is the bloom off the rose? Home attendance is down for Steven Strasburg's last several starts. It could be the weather, or it could be that fewer Nats fans are willing to dole out money for tickets to see a 5 to 6 inning pitcher. Maybe attendance will pick up when he becomes a 7-8-9 inning pitcher.

Posted by: jlustig1 | August 16, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Sunderland: "Does anyone outside of Bud Selig like Stan?"

The Lerners clearly do. Likewise I would presume many Nats fans do too - although a case could be made that more Phillies fans like him than Nats fans do.

And for the record, I like him. Doesn't mean I think he never makes a mistake, but his successes greatly outnumber them. And I like the fact that he doesn't care whether you like him or not. Having an executive who's always striving to be liked usually means you've got the likes of Bowden running your team.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 16, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"Is the bloom off the rose? Home attendance is down for Steven Strasburg's last several starts. It could be the weather, or it could be that fewer Nats fans are willing to dole out money for tickets to see a 5 to 6 inning pitcher. Maybe attendance will pick up when he becomes a 7-8-9 inning pitcher." jlustig1 ++++++++++++

None of the above. Everyone was at the Montgomery County Fair. ;-)

Posted by: twinbrook | August 16, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"Is the bloom off the rose? Home attendance is down for Steven Strasburg's last several starts. It could be the weather, or it could be that fewer Nats fans are willing to dole out money for tickets to see a 5 to 6 inning pitcher. Maybe attendance will pick up when he becomes a 7-8-9 inning pitcher." ++++++++++++

None of the above. Everyone was at the Montgomery County Fair.

Posted by: twinbrook | August 16, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I still think the Nats should have signed Crow. The difference at the end was only $500,000, chump change as we have seen. The fact that he has underperformed in the Royals organization doesn't mean alot. That year layoff (except for playing in Ft. Worth) almost certainly affected his development. And yes, we got Storen with the compensation pick but he was a signability pick (a great one I admit) and we probably could have taken him in the second round. For all of their bluster, I think the Nats management learned something from the Crow debacle (it probably contributed to Bowden's downfall for one thing).

I fully expect Harper to sign (11:59:10 is my guess in the pool), and hopefully the Cole deal gets done too. If so, that's a darn good draft. If Harper doesn't sign, that's a big failure, and there will be no way to sugarcoat that with complaints about the player or his agent.

Posted by: Section222 | August 16, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Harper will sign becase the option is another year of Juco or Independent League ball that gets him to the majors one year later than he wants and costs Boras money. I doubt that Rizzo is lowballing Boras but it's doubtful the Nats are offering more than $10M for a kid who would be going into his senior year of school. He's going to be in the minors through at least the end of next season (and likely part of 2012), so don't expect that he'll be helping the Nats full time until 2013.

Posted by: wizfan89 | August 16, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

sdrappa, as Bill Veeck said, it isn't the high price of stars that kills you, it's the high price of mediocrity.
Or words to that effect.

******************
Adam you are correct, people like Harper and Strasburg don't cost you money they make you money! People like Marquis and Kennedy cost you money.
Posted by: sdrappa | August 16, 2010 11:22 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 16, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Strasburg was a record deal, but by all measures, it was cheap. I sincerely hope we don't lose Harper for a few million bucks (and I sincerely doubt we will). Posted by: Sunderland | August 16, 2010 10:25 AM

That's a good point about SS's contract being a good value. It included 4 years of salary. The 4th year (first of arbitration) is usually worth at least $3 million for a decent player, right? (That's what Willingham got.) So that means the contract's signing bonus could be considered under $12 million. As Boz points out, SS has already reaped that for the franchise. Harper figures to be a similar bargain, whatever he signs for.

Posted by: EdDC | August 16, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

And I would speculate that attendance is down for Strasmas because 1. most of the people who would come just to "see the elephant" have probably already done so, and 2. the team loses a lot, and that's not much fun

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 16, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I had a guy tell me at Nats' Park yesterday he doesn't think the Nats will go the extra mile to sign Harper if he gets ridiculous, considering next year is a deep draft and the Nats would be compensated...

But to be honest, it's either that or dumping a ton of money into a Jason Werth or the like, and we all no the Lerners prefer the cheaper option (and more marketable). And thats Harper.

It gets done.

Live coverage tonight in studio 9pm till we get news on 106.7 the fan. Call in talk to me (CJ) and talk Nats!!!

Posted by: CJArlington | August 16, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm assuming Ramos gets called up next month, and if he does, I hope he gets some serious playing time. Looking at his defensive stats, it looks like Pudge won't have to teach him much about throwing out baserunners - he's thrown out over 50% this season - 23 out of 45 attempts.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 16, 2010 11:13 AM

---------------------------------------

I'm with you. I know all the talk is about Harper, but after he signs tonight, it'll be at least a year or two before we see him with the big club.

Ramos is much more exciting -- right now. His defense has always been excellent, and since joining Syracuse, he's been tearing it up at the plate, as well. The change of scenery -- and being handed a legitimate shot at making the big club -- seems to have done him good.

I'm looking forward to seeing him up in September, and I hope they give him a lot of work. He very well could be the Nats' starting catcher by the middle/end of next year, and a fixture in the lineup for years to come (fingers crossed).

Posted by: js_edit | August 16, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Is it midnight yet? Man, I hate the wait. This sucks!

Posted by: trezmartin | August 16, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I still think the Nats should have signed Crow. The difference at the end was only $500,000, chump change as we have seen. Posted by: Section222 | August 16, 2010 1:36 PM |

I definitely agree. Of course you should sign your top pick. And if you don't, it is a huge danger signal for the organization.

The fact that Crow is flopping so far means nothing. If you liked the guy when you drafted him, then you follow through.

It 's not like the Nats said, "We are learning some new info on Crow. He may not be so good after all. So let's offer him X. If he needs Y, then let him walk. Looking at the 2009 draft, we see several guys who will likely be better. Sure, they may be cheaper--indeed, half the price--but this is a baseball decision. We will just add a better baseball player next year."

That didn't happen. As 222 said, it was just a money saving scheme that may work out well this time from a baseball standpoint, and save the Nats $1.8 million in the process. Hopefully that will not become SOP.

Posted by: EdDC | August 16, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Right now NOT signing Aaron Crow in 2008 looks like a very good thing for the Nationals. The compensatory pick the Nats received for Crow was used to pick Drew Storen in 2009, who is already up with the big club and doing very well serving as their new closer.

Crow? He piddled around for a year and was chosen by Kansas City in 2009, waited late to sign (unlike Storen who signed immediately)and spent the first 2/3rds of the season in AA N. Arkansas. He had a rough time (5.65 ERA) and was demoted to A level Wilmington. Down there he's had one good start, one terrible start, and one so-so start.

I hope Crow makes it as I think he had bad advice from his agents. But right now, Storen over Crow like a no-brainer.

Posted by: moorich | August 16, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line is that Crow didn't sign. We'll never know who was to blame or in what proportion the blame should be meted out...
Storen did sign. Call it a signability pick, but again the bottom line is that he signed and made it to the bigs in less than a years time.

We all would do well to move on from the Crow non-signing...

Posted by: TimDz | August 16, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

But right now, Storen over Crow like a no-brainer. Posted by: moorich | August 16, 2010 2:45 PM |

Of course, that is true. The point is that you can't as a practice expect to sign guys at half the price and have it work out for the best. This can't be the mode of operation. If it is, then you have to get lucky time after time.

Probably there is somebody a lot cheaper than Harper in the 2011 draft, and Mr. X could even turn out to be a better ballplayer than Harper. Would you be willing to bet that you could identify that kid now? Someone at half Harper's price? If you can do that, just tell Harper to take a hike!

Posted by: EdDC | August 16, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Boras is a master at getting teams to bid against themselves. Would like to see him get burnt a few times to getting too greedy.

Nats should make Harper a fair offer and then stand back and let it happen.

Either he wants to play or he don't.

If the Dude wants to forego the money to play again for some junior college, and risj whatever that might bring, then so be it.

Posted by: Vic1 | August 16, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

"Of course, that is true" posted by EdDC regarding my statement that Storen over Crow is a no-brainer.

A few minutes ago it sounded to me like you were arguing the opposite bemoaning the failure to sign Crow. If we are going to deal in "what-ifs", would we be in better shape if we had signed Crow and then had to demote him on July 31st to Potomac?

And you say the "fact that Crow is flopping means nothing." Well, it may have meant that the Nats scouting team needed an upgrade as well as a much improved GM. And the fact that KC picked him a year later in the first round--to borrow your words "means nothing."

The Nats spent the record big bucks on Strasburg, who is working out fairly well, and had enough left over for Storen. Continuing to cry over Aaron Crow is pointless. I certainly agree that Bowden played a role in messing that up as he did so much else. But he's long gone now, many lessons were learned, and most of us have left the puddle of spilled milk.

Posted by: moorich | August 16, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

>If the Dude wants to forego the money to play again for some junior college, and risj whatever that might bring, then so be it.

Posted by: Vic1

A player like Harper isn't going to come around again in your lifetime. Mickey Mantle's the only comparison, and a scout that saw both Harper and Mantle says that Harper has more opposite field power.

Just a refresher.

Posted by: Brue | August 16, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

moorich,

All I am saying is that you should draft as well as you can and sign your picks. You can't depend on getting lucky, like with Crow and Storen. Baseball should drive these decisions, not money--unless the kid wants stupid money, which Crow and SS have not wanted.

Yes, I am glad for Storen and would pick him over Crow right now. But that exception proves nothing to me. I would like to see this club make baseball decisions, not money decisions, especially in the draft--even if you do get lucky with a below-slot guy like Storen once in awhile.

Posted by: EdDC | August 16, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Jimbo says the Harper signing is a "definite."

Posted by: swanni | August 16, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

A definite what?

Posted by: FeelWood | August 16, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I know that I was. Seriously. If you're going to the fair and are a fan of BBQ, try the big BBQ place on the midway side of the grandstand. All those pig-topped trophies in front of it are there for a reason. mmm...brisket...

---

None of the above. Everyone was at the Montgomery County Fair. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 16, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

A player like Harper isn't going to come around again in your lifetime. Mickey Mantle's the only comparison, and a scout that saw both Harper and Mantle says that Harper has more opposite field power.

Just a refresher.

Posted by: Brue | August 16, 2010 3:43 PM

Just another refresher. Harper doesn't show any sign of having Mantle's speed or defensive ability in the outfield. Of course, he also doesn't have Mantle's bad knee and probably doesn't have Mantle's belief that he'd never make it to 50 because of Hodgkin's disease, which led him to do a lot of his rehab work in bars. So the Mantle comparison is probably pointless.

I also remember Baseball America running a cover story claiming Ruben Rivera was the next Mickey Mantle.

Me, I'll settle for signing the next Bryce Harper. Sounds good to me.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 16, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

> So the Mantle comparison is probably pointless.

Posted by: baltova1

Your control issues know no bounds.

Posted by: Brue | August 16, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Harper will sign. He not only has nothing to gain, the risk greatly outweigh the minimal gains.

He can't be selected higher than one. He can only stay the same or go down in the draft. Furthermore, next year's draft will be deeper. He runs the risk of getting hurt or having a guy like Rendon pass him. Finally, next year is the last year of the current draft rules. He really can't hold out again next year because he would certainly lose money in 2012.

Boras knows this but he is just looking for his moment. Harper will sign at 12:01, with Selig granting 2 minutes of dispensation.

Posted by: jeffreyt211 | August 16, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Heh. Man writes that the only comparison for Bryce Harper is Mickey Mantle and then talks about others' "control issues."

Heh.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 16, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

CJArlington;

No offense but did you have to get special permission from the prgram manager to talk Nats? I mean outside of SS it's been rather Nats lite over on JFK this year!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | August 16, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

A definite yes

Posted by: swanni | August 16, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

>Heh.

Posted by: baltova1

Uh huh.

Posted by: Brue | August 16, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Bryce Harper's not a switch hitter or a centerfielder.

Posted by: 202character | August 16, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I don't put much stock in comparisons of Mantle and Harper by people who claim to have scouted Mantle.

The last time anyone was scouting Mantle as a teenager was 60 years ago. Anyone who was scouting him is therefore almost certainly 90+ years old, or dead. Memory gets really shaky when you're 90, even more so when you're dead.

You can believe me, because I'm not even 2/3 of the way to 90, and I can't even remember where my car keys are half the time.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 16, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Boy and I thought I was the only one with control issues...

Posted by: baltova1 | August 16, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Brue's control issues relate to his bladder.

Posted by: nunof1 | August 16, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I can relate. Usually about 1:00 am.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 16, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

The Nats lost 103 games last year, not 102.

Posted by: greggiebaba | August 16, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

"Yes, I am glad for Storen and would pick him over Crow right now. But that exception proves nothing to me. I would like to see this club make baseball decisions, not money decisions, especially in the draft--even if you do get lucky with a below-slot guy like Storen once in awhile."

Posted by: EdDC | August 16, 2010 3:47 PM

Well, I'm glad to see that you are not having buyer's remorse over Storen, despite your wistful thoughts about Crow.

But you know, my friend, that as much as we would like all the decisions to be made purely on a "baseball" basis, it is a business and when it is your business and not just a spectator sport, money is a consideration.

And as far as building reputations for baseball acumen, do we value signing high draftees no matter what their success over signing high (and otherwise) draftees who get to the big club quickly and provide significant value?

I think you discount the credit due to the Nats for selecting and signing Storen. I don't care if a player is a below slot guy or not. What does that matter!?

For myself, I would rather celebrate the success of the identifying and selection of a Storen than hyper-focus on what is rapidly become a mere footnote.

Posted by: moorich | August 16, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

It will be interesting, once Harper signs to monitor his development, to see how he handles himself at each level how he interacts with his teamates, coach's, and manager.Bryce Harper is very young to be starting a pro career as with a lot phenom's he'll be under a heavy microscope from day one all eyes will be on this kid in and outside the orginazation here's hoping the Nats and Rizzo help him adjust.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 16, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Say what you will about Bowden, but as I recall he offered Crow a contract that was above market. Crow declined, and went right up to the deadline with his hometown Royals the next year. I have the strong impression that the guy (Crow) is a total idiot. The Nats were incredibly fortunate to get Storen rather than Crow. I don't blame Bowden a bit on that deal.

Posted by: zmega | August 16, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

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