Legacy at a crossroads: Will Harper be Ovechkin or Cousins?

Ben Krimmel
September 26, 2018 - 2:34 pm
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Two paths lay before soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper: Stay in Washington, the only sports city he has known, a place he has grown to love, and continue to grow up with a fan base who adores him? Or leave Washington, test whether the grass really is greener elsewhere, and start from scratch with a new group of fans? 

"This is my home, this is my city," Harper said Wednesday before what could be his final home game at Nats Park. 

His home, but for how long? The two main questions that get us to an answer: How much does GM Mike Rizzo and Nationals ownership value Harper as a player? And how much does Harper value his growing legacy as a superstar player who plays the prime of his career in one city? How long does Harper want to keep D.C. as his home? His city? 

When it’s all over, will Bryce Harper be Kirk Cousins or Alex Ovechkin?

"Harper pulled a Kirk Cousins," Grant Paulsen said on 106.7 The Fan. "And he really did his best to position the team, I don't want to say as the bad guy, but certainly as the decision making element. The ball is in (the team's) court."

Ovechkin ended the city’s championship drought. Did Harper grow envious of the outpouring of love, the type that’s so overwhelming it could only come from the longtime face of a franchise exorcising decades’ worth of demons? Or is Harper Cousins’ kindred spirit? Spending his last years in the DMV preparing for his exit and the inevitable breakup with the fans?

"Bryce Harper should want to stay," Danny Rouhier said. "The most iconic players in the history of this game... when you think of good old time baseball, when you think of the superstars, when you think of the first ballot Hall of Famers, the guys that are in the elite of the elite. You think of Gwynn, you think of Ripken, you think of the one-team guys, where there's a statue outside."

Harper, who values baseball history, has already demonstrated the on-field ability to join that elite company and as he enters free agency, can join the elite group of one-team superstar players.

"There's something to be said for being the mayor and the owner, really, of a sports town," Paulsen said. "And that is an endangered species anyway. I mean you don't really get that anymore, it is a dying breed. But Harper could be that guy for this generation."

"If it is me, I'd do everything I can to stay here," Rouhier said. "I would do that thing that makes me extra special."

"If Bryce Harper were to stay here and win a World Series," Paulsen said, "he would be iconic in a way that like only Joe Gibbs probably is in Washington, D.C."

Rizzo and the Nats may end up making Harper's decision for him and let him leave without a fight. But right now for Nats fans, Harper's legacy remains up in the air.

Is this just the end of his first act in Washington? Or is it the end of the road, and will those many memories that formed his legend become bittersweet reminders of what could have been?

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