As the playoffs rage on with only four teams remaining, we will go over three reasons why Bryce Harper is already a Hall of Famer. This season, he did what he could never do while with the Washington Nationals in winning a playoff series. But, in my opinion, playoff performance should not factor into whether or not a player is Hall of Fame caliber, especially in baseball the ultimate team sport.
Bryce Harper is an extremely polarizing figure in the game, and there is no middle ground on someone’s opinion of him. Generally, if he plays for your team, you love him, but if he plays for any of the other 29 teams, you hate him. There are the few stragglers, of course, who still love him despite not being a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, but there is a heavy emphasis on the word “few.” Despite the size of his personal fandom, he should be considered a Hall of Famer, and we’ll now dive into those reasons why Bryce Harper is already a Hall of Famer.
3 Reasons Why Bryce Harper Is Already A Hall of Famer
1. His Trophy Case
Bryce Harper was one of the most heralded prospects in the history of baseball. From the time he was 16 years old, he was already donning the cover of Sports Illustrated and teams were counting down the days until they were eligible to draft him. The Nationals had the lucky distinction of being the worst team in baseball in 2009, so they were awarded the first pick of the 2010 MLB Draft and it was all but official that they would be taking Harper with that pick.
He spent a total of 130 games in the minor leagues before making his debut on April 28th, 2012, a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he went 1-3 with a double and a sacrifice fly in a game that the Nationals lost on a walk-off in the 10th inning. He finished his rookie season with a line of .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs, a 118 OPS+, and the first of his many awards a Rookie of the Year trophy, something that his short-term replacement in Washington was unable to win.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) September 4, 2021
Fast-forward to 2015 and you’ll find one of the best single-season performances in the history of baseball to that point. In his best season to date, Harper hit .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs and a 198 OPS+. He led the National League in home runs and runs scored (118) while leading all of baseball in OBP, SLUG, OPS (1.109), and OPS+. He brought home his first Silver Slugger award and his first MVP that year.
Jump ahead six more years and a jersey change somewhere along the way and you’ll find yet another historical season at the plate from Mr. Harper. In 2021, his third season with the Phillies, he hit .309/.429/.615 with 35 home runs and a 179 OPS+. Not as good as 2015 was for Harper, but still otherworldly while leading all of baseball in doubles (42), SLUG, OPS (1.044), and OPS+. He brought home his second Silver Slugger award as well as his second MVP.
Just going off of his still-growing trophy case alone, you’ll find a Rookie of the Year, two Silver Sluggers, and two MVPs. There will be more trophies added to that case across the rest of his career, of that there is no doubt, but that is just one reason why Bryce Harper is already a Hall of Famer.
2. Turning Around Organizations
Bryce Harper has long held the stigma of not being able to win the big one, a stigma he garnered while with the Nationals as they never won a playoff series while he was on their team. But are people looking at things in the wrong light? Bryce Harper’s inclusion on a team or within an organization can be seen as the turning point of two different organizations now and the launching pad for their rise back into relevancy.
The Washington Nationals came into existence in 2005 after the disbanding of the Montreal Expos following the 2004 season. The Nationals finished their inaugural season with a record of 81-81, but from 2006-2011 they were unable to reach that .500 plateau again. Harper debuted for them in 2012 and the Nationals finished that season 98-64. I’m not saying that all of that was Bryce Harper. But, coincidence? I think not. In fact, the Nationals did not finish a season below .500 once while Bryce was still under contract.
Fast forward to 2019 and Bryce Harper is entering his first season with the Phillies after signing a 13-year, $330 million contract with no opt-out (unheard of in this era of baseball). The Phillies are entering 2019 having not made the playoffs since 2011, a streak that would continue until this season, and having finished below .500 in every season from 2013-2018. The 2019 Phillies ended the year with a record of 81-81.
Again, Bryce Harper himself does not turn entire organizations around, but just having his intensity and his drive to win in your clubhouse will entice others around him to play harder and to want to win every time they step on the field, no matter the cost. Once you get that mindset in your core group of guys, you can bring in better talent from outside to fill holes (I.e Zack Wheeler, Kyle Schwarber) in signings you would not make as a bottom-dweller. This is yet another reason why Bryce Harper is already a Hall of Famer.
3. His Ability To Block Out The Noise
As mentioned above, Bryce Harper has been in the public eye since being a teenager. He is one of the many to ever have that be the case, but he is one of the few that have not cracked under the pressure.
Every year in every sport there are prospects making their long-awaited debut that has been talked about for years prior to it actually happening. I’m sure that you can think of at least one bust from each of the Big Three American sports right now! Bryce Harper is the antithesis of that.
Harper has definitely had his ups and downs, but strictly going off of OPS+ alone, he has never had a single season of league average (100) or lower. In fact, of his 11 years thus far, he has only had two seasons with an OPS+ below 120 and only three seasons with an OPS+ below 130. His career OPS+ currently sits at 142, which means that over his career he has been 42% better than the rest of the league.
If you want classic stats, he has those too! He ended the 2022 season with a career line of .280/.390/.523 with 285 home runs. He is 15 home runs away from 300 in his career, and he is also 87 runs away from 1,000 (913) in his career, two milestones he will reach in 2023.
Bryce Harper has been of the best hitters in baseball for the entirety of his career in spite of the noise surrounding him. He has the ability to block out all of the noise, all of the hate, all of the vitriol that is directed at him and go out on the baseball field and be great. That is yet another reason why I believe that Bryce Harper is already a Hall of Famer. And you can’t teach that.