There's an unavoidable awkwardness about this first Harper-Nats series

Chris Lingebach
April 01, 2019 - 4:15 pm

There's a weirdness in the air as the Nationals welcome Bryce Harper into the visiting clubhouse for the first time.

After playing 472 games in a Nationals uniform here, the 26-year-old will don a Phillies uniform at Nats Park on Tuesday. There's something unavoidably awkward about it, seeing the teenaged phenom-turned $330 million-man across enemy lines in what fans have known to be his home park, where he belted 92 of his 186 career home runs.

But there may be a different feeling in the home clubhouse.

"I was talking to somebody that works for the Nats this weekend," Eric Bickel of the Sports Junkies said Monday. "And he talked about how Stras – now, Stras didn't pitch that great – but how Stras was like happy and talking the day of his start, before the start! He was like, 'This has never happened before!'

"Maybe he finally woke up one day and realized how much money he makes," said Jason Bishop.

"Well, I asked him," Bickel said. "I said, 'Do you think part of it has to do with Bryce?'

"And he looked at me and he said, 'Probably.' Not that there's any beef between Bryce and Stras, it's just a different vibe."

Last week former Marlins president David Samson suggested the Nats would be a better team in 2019 without Harper. "Addition by subtraction," as he phrased it. Only three games in, the numbers haven't borne that out so far, with the 3-0 Phillies leading the NL East, two wins better than the 1-2 Nats after the opening weekend of baseball.

But there is something distinctly different about this Nationals club. Only time – and maybe an awkward first meeting on Tuesday – will tell us if that leaves them better or worse off.

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