Bryce Harper won’t be playing in Baltimore this season. Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract on Thursday.
Wait, you don’t think I was suggesting that Harper might have signed with the Orioles, do you? We all knew he was never going to contain that audacious hair flip under a cartoon bird cap.
The news here is that Harper’s annual visits to Baltimore are taking a pause. He won’t visit Camden Yards again until the Interleague schedule pits the O’s against the N.L. East. Until then, O’s fans will continue waiting for the big Bryce Harper moment.
Okay, to be entirely accurate, Harper could visit Camden Yards prior to Philadelphia’s next trip to Baltimore. For example, perhaps he’ll take a ballpark tour to see all of the Eutaw Street baseballs that don’t bear his name. Adam Dunn and Roger Bernadina are the only Washington Nationals players represented on the walkway.
My personal obsession with Eutaw Street home runs aside, why do all of those blasts not by Bryce Harper matter? Here’s why: The big Bryce Harper moment in Baltimore, like the team’s long presumed rivalry with the Nationals, never really arrived.
It’s not that the Orioles held Harper in check between 2012 and 2018. He posted a .271/.397/.467 slash line with four home runs and 12 RBI in 30 career games versus the O’s.
Harper stole some bases (four total), made some plays in the field (here’s one from last May), and generally contributed respectably to a “rivalry” that USA Today described as lacking “the palpable intra-city fervor” of, say, a Mets-Yankees or Cubs/White Sox match-up and therefore serves as “more of an undercurrent.”
That last comment comes from a December 2018 article where the publication examined the case for Harper signing in Baltimore because, well, they did that for every MLB team no matter how inconceivable the pairing.
(Note: I almost used the word unconceivable in the prior sentence because I listened to Run DMC as a kid. But again, I digress.)
Harper is a pretty solid baseball villain. The thin line between love and hate for fans is determined by his uniform color. If anyone could have given the nascent Orioles-Nationals match-up some juice, he was the guy. And yet ….
Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro wrote the following prior to a Nationals visit to Baltimore early in Harper’s career: “They might as well order the plaque now. Sooner or later, he is going to hit that warehouse.”
Harper came up short. So, too, has the rivalry.