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Ever since Bryce Harper burst upon the sports scene as a brash 16-year old who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the expectations for greatness have been high. Harper has heightened the pressure with his periodic pronouncements about his potential and seemingly programmed focus on the game.


A Steep FallBryce Harper

However, after winning Rookie of the Year accolades in 2012 and his first Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for the Washington Nationals last season, Harper’s game has struggled in 2016 since the calendar turned to May. His performance in April saw him hit nine home runs and knock in 24 runs, numbers that looked to make him the favorite to repeat as MVP.


Since then, the numbers have been miserable. While he’s hit 11 home runs, his overall hitting performance has offered up a weak .220 batting average. Those types of statistics have given his critics some gleeful comfort, with the hope that such a downturn will evoke some level of humility in him.


Possible Issues

Usually, when a player begins sliding offensively, it’s because pitchers have found his weakness. At least for the time being, that weakness with Harper relates to his inability to hit the four-seam fastball. The belief by some is that Harper has become too patient at the plate and needs to offer up a little more aggressiveness when it comes to swinging at the ball.


With close to five years’ worth of statistics on him, teams also have a better sense of how to play him. That means more shifts, which ends up reducing his efforts in getting on base.


When it comes to gauging the odds of seeing a reigning MVP come back with a poor campaign, online sports betting sites don’t get too worked up about the prospect of such a slide becoming permanent. That’s because they know that it’s a long season and that slumps are an inevitable part of the game.


Laser-Like Focus

A Las Vegas resident like Harper is well aware of all sorts of odds, which is why he’s always projected a certain swagger when it comes to his game. Since that appearance on Sports Illustrated’s cover, he’s focused on continuing to the next level, whatever that might be for him.


In order to speed up his selection when it came to the Draft, Harper earned a GED after his sophomore year in high school. That way, he could put in a year at a local junior college and gain his eligibility. That plan worked to perfection when he was the top pick of the 2010 Draft, signing a five-year deal for $9.9 million, which included a $6.25 million bonus.


Motivation Isn’t Lacking

Harper’s drive to be the very best has rubbed many people the wrong way, with one of those instances being this past offseason. Asked what kind of contract he might ask for when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season, Harper indicated that the rumored $400 million might only be a starting point.


One of the other reasons that Harper tends to be a lightning rod is his annoying habit of occasionally failing to hustle. It’s not something that occurs with any regularity but the perception of it is enough that it sparked an absurd dugout brawl with Jonathan Papelbon last September.


Patience is a Virtue

In reality, Harper’s work ethic is such that he’ll eventually either figure out what the true problem is or tweak his swing to adjust, which might not actually happen until the offseason. In the interim, his performance hasn’t hurt the Nationals, who are comfortably in first place in the National League East and likely headed to the postseason. A few timely hits by Harper in those circumstances and all will be forgotten.



Greg Dastrup is a world traveler and professional writer with a passion for learning new languages. He’s spent most of his career consulting for businesses in North America.


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