Since the start of the 2012 season, one of the most talked-about players in all of baseball has been Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. The 21 year old was called up that year at the tender age of 19, and was extremely impressive. His 20 home runs, 58 RBIs and 18 stolen bases warranted him a trip to his first All-Star Game, as well as the Rookie of the Year Award. Since then , Harper’s young career has been something of a roller coaster ride. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but will he ever be the once in a generation talent many experts believed him to be?
Harper’s journey through the Major Leagues
After winning the ROY in 2012, Harper looked to be getting even better in 2013. Through April of that season, he hit .344 with 9 home runs and 18 RBIs. For that first month, he seemed ready to become an MVP-type player, following in the footsteps of fellow outfield phenom and 2012 AL ROY Mike Trout. However, that’s when things started going downhill.
In May of 2013, Harper hurt his knee crashing into the wall in Dodger Stadium. A month-long trip to the disabled list did not turn out to be enough, as he would not be the same player after returning. For the year he actually put up nearly identical statistics to his rookie year, with 20 home runs, 58 RBIs, and a .274 batting average. These were good numbers, but slightly misleading, considering Harper was at his best in April. After his injury, though, he struggled mightily at the plate, partly because of the residual effects of his knee injury.
The Yankees aren’t scary anymore. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the Bronx Bombers were an evil empire, led by George Steinbrenner, that crushed the hopes of any team that dared challenge them. They were an all-powerful and deep-pocketed dynasty that had won five World Championships, seven pennants and 13 AL East titles. But the Yankees have fallen from their pedestal.
In 2013, they failed to make the postseason for just the second time since 1995. This year, they are competitive, but are hindered by issues like age, health and an inability to hit in the clutch. In 2012, the team as a whole hit an astounding 245 home runs, though that number went down to 144 in the following year.
About two thirds of the way through 2014, they have managed just 101. For a club that has traditionally been home to legendary sluggers like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle, that is shockingly few. There are many reasons that help explain the Yankees’ fall from greatness, but age and the lack of a good farm system in particular come to mind.
A team built on aging stars
Out of all the starting position players on this team, not one is under the age of 30. Derek Jeter has been one of the greatest players of all-time, but he is 40 years old and about to retire. Mark Teixeira, 34, has 19 home runs, but is batting just .229. A career .276 hitter, the last time he hit over .256 was 2009. 30 year old catcher Brian McCann was signed in the off season for $85 million, and is batting a disappointing .236 with 12 home runs. Even the usually consistent outfielder/DH Carlos Beltran, another free agent signing at 37, has just a .248 batting average. Finally, former ace CC Sabathia, 34, struggled mightily in his first eight outings, then underwent season-ending knee surgery.
The day of the 2014 trade deadline was one of the busiest in recent memory, as GMs scurried to improve their teams in any way possible. The reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox were a part of multiple big deals, but as sellers, not buyers. Several days prior to the deadline, Boston traded away starter Jake Peavy for Edwin Escobar, a starting pitcher ranked by MLB.com as one of the top 100 prospects prior to the season. But this was only the start.
Boston also traded one of their better relievers, Andrew Miller, for another pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, who was ranked as high as 68th on MLB.com’s top prospects list. More importantly, the Red Sox went on to trade several pieces who were crucial in their 2013 World Series run. Even so, these trades actually were beneficial for Boston in the long term. Starting in 2015, the Red Sox should be in contention, in part because they knew it was the right time to move on.
The genius of trading Jon Lester
The first major move on July 31 was the trade of starting pitcher Jon Lester, left fielder Jonny Gomes and a 2015 compensatory pick for Oakland Athletics right fielder Yoenis Cespedes. The loss of Jonny Gomes is not going to hurt Boston much. After a 2013 season where he produced a multitude of clutch hits, Gomes has slumped through most of the year. At his point, he is no more than an aging fourth outfielder or platoon player.
Earlier this week, the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 was enshrined in Cooperstown, New York. This year only three eligible players received the necessary 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America. This is following a year in which no players where voted in.
A lot has been written and said about the 2014 inductees: Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine. All three were certainly deserving, and made the cut in their first year of eligibility. Glavine and Maddux each won more than 300 games and were dominant for extended periods. Meanwhile, Thomas hit 521 home runs and was a premier slugger for most of his career. Aside from obvious choices like these, however, one has to wonder what a player has to do in this day and age to earn baseball’s greatest honor.
The steroid pariahs
As baseball attempts to move past the steroid era, it is evident that the game as a whole does not want to reward those who chemically enhanced themselves, or are widely suspected of having done so. Several years ago, players like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire became HOF eligible for the first time. Many speculated that their past misdoings would affect their chances, and they were right.
Editor’s Note: Dan Johnson contributed to this post.
Just minutes before the 4 o’clock non-waiver trade deadline, news surfaced that the Rays had traded their ace, David Price, to the Tigers as part of a 3-team deal that also included the Mariners.
Details are rather sketchy at the moment, but it appears that the Tigers will send starting pitcher Drew Smyly and minor leaguer Willy Adames to the Rays and center fielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners. Seattle, in turn, will send middle infielder Nick Franklin to Rays. While this deal shows the lengths Seattle and Detroit are willing to go to win right now, it is also a sign of Tampa Bay giving up on 2014.
Detroit goes all in
This is a deal that will work very well for Detroit. The Tigers reacted to the Lester deal with an even bigger one. Both Oakland and Detroit gave up a big piece of the outfield to acquire that talent, though the A’s had more pitching depth to begin with.