Latest MLB offensive rankings are an insult to Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies Opening Day isn’t until Friday, but the bad takes are already in midseason form.
This week, The Athletic (subscription required) published their rankings of the top 125 hitters in Major League Baseball. The rankings were divided into five tiers: Franchise Player (1), MVP Caliber (2), All-Star (3), Top Starter (4), and Above Average (5). Those tiers were also halved into A and B.
Bryce Harper, the reigning National League MVP who led all hitters in slugging, OPS, OPS+, and doubles last year, was in Tier 2A, along with Bo Bichette, Carlos Correa, Rafael Devers, Wander Franco, and Aaron Judge. Yordan Alvarez, Xander Bogaerts, Alex Bregman, Manny Machado, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Will Smith, and Kyle Tucker comprised Tier 2B.
Of the 14 players in the “MVP Caliber” Tier 2, Harper is the only one who has actually won an MVP award, let alone two. He’s one of only 32 players in MLB history to win the award more than once. Furthermore, Tiers 1A and 1B are full of big names, but almost none with an MVP award of their own. Mike Trout, a three-time MVP, made Tier 1A.
Of course, awards should not be the end-all-be-all metric by which we judge a player. However, in this case, The Athletic named several categories for accolades, and then placed Harper in a box he has exceeded by said measure. Their justification for placing him in Tier 2 is that it’s “still rarified air,” but considering he’s the only one who’s lived up to the tier’s name, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
Anonymous scout says Bryce Harper doesn’t do enough for his teammates
But the insult doesn’t end there, in fact, it gets much worse. According to one unnamed scout quoted for these rankings, Harper isn’t doing enough for his team:
"“Does any superstar do less to make players around him better?”"
I’d want to remain anonymous, too, if I was this wrong.
Everything about this comment, from the boldness that comes with hiding behind anonymity to the statement itself, makes the blood boil. Above all, it’s supremely unfair. Covering Harper throughout his MVP season in 2021, he carried the lineup through most of the year, especially in the second half. For the first time in a decade, they finished the season above .500, and a significant portion of the credit for clearing that low bar belongs to Harper.
There was plenty of blame to go around in the 2021 Phillies clubhouse. Half the rotation, almost the entire bullpen, a significant chunk of the lineup. And while Harper’s defense wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, on the list of people at fault for the Phillies not doing better while he’s been in uniform, he’s at the bottom of the list of reasons why.
But while this take is absurd and insulting, it’s nothing new for Harper or his fans. He’s been unfairly criticized since he was labeled “Baseball’s Chosen One” on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16 years old. When he struggled in the Phillies’ final series against the Braves last fall, people blamed him for it ruining the team’s chance of contending, as if he hadn’t almost single-handedly kept the Phillies relevant in September to get them there in the first place, and as though there aren’t seven other hitters (pitchers excluded) in the lineup with their own at-bats to handle.
And don’t forget MLB leaving the reigning NL MVP out of their Opening Day week hype video this week.
It’s fine though, everyone can have their bad takes; Harper thrives on them, actually. He particularly enjoys hitting homers while people boo him. And he’ll keep hitting home runs – he led Spring Training with eight of them, including two in the Phillies’ finale on Wednesday – it’s your loss if you don’t want to enjoy the show.