Saturday, November 27, 2021

Mike Schmidt: Harper is the clear MVP, he’s Pete Rose with power

It’s that time of baseball year again, individual awards season. Who is MVP? Who is the Cy Young winner? rookie of the Year?

Does the MVP have to come from a team after the season? Does MVP mean “Most Valuable Player for a Team” or “Best Player in the League”? There was never a clear answer to them.

I have a clear answer for you: Bryce Harper is the most valuable player for his team in the National League. If the definition really is the Most Valuable Player then he is the obvious MVP.

Shouldn’t this award go to the player whose team would be at the most disadvantage without him? The Braves have Freddie Freeman, Ozzy Albies, and Austin Riley, all in 30 or more homes. The brave will fight if they lose one of them. Max Muncie, a Dodgers candidate, has 35 HR and 90 RBI, and Justin Turner and Will Smith each have 25 homers and upwards of 80 RBI, which is a pretty solid threesome.

Fernando Tatis Jr., with nearly 40 HR and 100 RBI, has had a stellar year, some would say an MVP-caliber year. But he is backed by Manny Machado, who will have 30 HR and 100 RBI, and the Padres have been out of contention post-season. The Giants, NL have a nice surprise, with big contributions coming in from Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt.

Bryce Harper is an enigma. You either love him or hate him, as they say. He plays every day and he works hard. He loves pressure and isn’t afraid to fail, and he puts “it” out there – “it” which means he knows he’s the center of attention and enjoys being “the guy.” Most players don’t have that kind of talent, or they don’t want the pressure.

All I can say is this in a nutshell: He is the Pete Rose of today with vigor.

From Opening Day until August 1, Harper would agree that he is a mediocre player. He still looked like the player he was at DC, where he couldn’t get away from that “all or nothing” trap. Sometimes headlines, but constant inconsistency. These days it’s easier to do this by insisting on the long ball.

He didn’t make the All-Star team with a .282 average, 15 HR and 34 RBI – good numbers, but far from leading the league.

In my opinion, this first-half performance was a combination of nagging injuries, poor hitting mechanics and a sense of urgency. He simply changed his approach to include left field, accept the walk and let the game come to him.

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Then came the big change, when the team was under 500. On August 1, Harper hit three doubles and started the Phillies on an eight-game winning streak. He began playing the game, using the opposite field, bunting, aggressive baserunning, intent on giving the team spark, grabbing Citizens Bank Park and the MVP.

The Phillies have been in contention 27-21 more since then. Harper has hit .345 with league-leading OPS of 1.250, 17 HR, 42 RBI, 40 walks, 36 extra-base hits, and OBP over .460. He was scoring .385 runs with the runners, with 13 runs in the batsmen.

To make matters worse, Rhys Hoskins, his safety in the lineup, was lost for the season. Since August, there have been five different cleanup hitters behind Harper. With RISP his at-bat was seventh in the team, his teammates are getting more chances.

Simply put, what Harper has done is incredible. And not just with the bat.

He has run, stole a base, scored a run or helped the team with defense. He is the man whom the opposition won’t let him defeat, but he finds a way. He sees more left-handed pitchers than any left-handed hitter in history other than Barry Bonds, it seems to me. Imagine, about 50% left wing and shift, still .345 from August 1.

He’s the MVP!

Harper and his team have done it right in Philly. The branding genius gifted Harper to the fans. He plays for the crowd, he wears wild colors, his guys know how to accessorize him and create memorabilia-themed ones for all occasions. For each Schmidt jersey, there are 10 Harpers.

Shohei Ohtani and Vlad Guerrero Jr. have separated themselves from the pack in the American League. Ohtani has had a year unlike anyone in history, 9-2 as a starting pitcher and 45 HR as a hitter.

Vlad Jr., around 50 hr and 115 rbi. MVP and Player of the Year in any order. I like Guerrero Jr. as MVP, Ohtani Player of the Year.

The National League MVP is Bryce Harper, who on August 1 got his team on his back, became the best player in the league, and stole it.

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Mike Schmidt was a three-time NL MVP. The Hall of Fame third baseman played his entire career with the Philadelphia Phillies and was MVP of the 1980 World Series when he won his first championship.

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