I had the privilege of catching a game at Citi Field this weekend between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals with some of my friends from Rising Apple. It was a fun day at the park, even if the Amazins weren’t able to complete a comeback, losing to the defending NL East Champions, 7-6.
One of the bright spots for the Nationals was outfielder Bryce Harper, who went 3-for-3 with a double and two home runs. His second long ball ended up being the game winner for Washington. As a baseball fan, it was a privilege to watch him hit, as the bat jumped off his bat. However, it was tough to watch it unfold as a Mets fan. That sparked a conversation between us all that we’ve had before, but get reminded of every time the Mets face Harper…is he turning into the next Chipper Jones?
The retired switch-hitting third baseman will be a strong candidate for the MLB Hall of Fame in a few years, but it seemed like he used to truly enjoy making Mets fans squirm. In 1,019 plate appearances against New York (245 games played), Chipper continually was a thorn in the side for New York, hitting .309/.406/.543 with 49 homers and 159 RBI. Those 49 long balls are tied for the most he’s hit against any one team (along with the Philadelphia Phillies), and only the Miami Marlins saw him drive in more runs against them (165 RBI).
It didn’t matter whether Chipper was having a good or bad season, or if he was in the middle of a dreadful slump; if he was playing the Mets, it seemed as if he would always come up with a big hit. I mean, he enjoyed playing against New York so much that he named his son Shea. With him retiring at the end of 2012, fans were hoping to finally breathe easier now that the most well-known Mets killers (Jones and Pat Burrell) had both hung up their spikes for good. Just when we thought the nightmare was over, we get thrown right back into it with Bryce Harper.
The 20-year-old outfielder had a historic rookie season; his .270/.340/.477 line with 22 homers and 59 RBI was punctuated by his first All-Star selection and the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He’s already making noise in the major leagues before he can legally have an alcoholic beverage! I remember a few times when the Mets and Nationals went head-to-head last season, and analysts were talking about how Harper couldn’t buy a hit. However, by the time that series was over, he was back to doing damage in the middle of a solid Washington lineup.
Through 18 games played against the Amazins in his young career, Harper has put together a .310/.380/.620 line with five home runs and 14 RBI in 80 plate appearances. He’s tallied a total of 22 hits against New York, and nearly half of them (10, to be exact) have gone for extra bases. It seems as though he normally comes up to bat during a crucial point of a ballgame, and has been successful more often than not.
It’s very early to say whether or not Harper is taking place of the void Chipper Jones left by retiring, but the young superstar is well on his way to being a pain in the behind for Mets fans in the coming years. What we know for sure is that last season was no fluke for the young slugger. He’s gotten off to an amazing start, hitting .369/.431/.738 with seven homers and 14 RBI, along with nine multi-hit games. This kid is the real deal.
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