Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Few players have entered Major League Baseball with the pressure surrounding Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper. Some would say that whether Harper has met expectations is debatable, but Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is not among them.
“He’s one of the best players in the game. There’s only a handful of people in modern day baseball that can sort of talk about trying to live up to expectations and anticipation,” Roberts said before the second game against the Phillies.
“I can think of Ken Griffey Jr., certainly Bryce, maybe Alex (Rodriguez). There’s very few guys that were that young coming into the game, to have that pressure to be the face of an organization, a face of an industry, and to perform.”
Harper, 28, assumed the national spotlight at only 16 years of age, when he muscled a 502-foot home run at the 2009 Power Showcase Home Run Derby at Tropicana Field. He went on to win the Derby that day, defeating several Minor League players in the process.
By 17 years old, Harper graduated high school early and began playing collegiate ball at the College of Southern Nevada. In 66 games at the junior college level, Harper shined and earned himself a Golden Spikes Award, which is the most prestigious honor in all of amateur baseball.
If there were any fans who didn’t know Harper’s name upon his MLB debut in 2012, that changed quickly. In his rookie campaign with the Washington Nationals, the prodigy earned his first career All-Star appearance and took home National League Rookie of the Year honors.
Harper coincidentally played his first career big league game at Dodger Stadium. In seven season with the Nats, he compiled six All-Star Game appearances, a Silver Slugger and a NL MVP Award.
Upon his rookie contract expiring in 2018, Harper had the opportunity to test free agency for the first time in his career. After months of bidding by several clubs — including the Dodgers — Harper’s productivity was rewarded by the Phillies, who locked the slugger up for 13 years and $330 million
Since signing with the Phillies, Harper’s productivity has remained consistent. His batting average has climbed each year in Philadelphia, and he has consistently driven in runs and put homers into the bleachers.
Harper’s fiery attitude has made him one of baseball’s most polarizing figures throughout his career, garnering both adoration and contempt around the league. For Roberts, however, there isn’t much to debate.
“I love the way he plays the game of baseball,” Roberts expressed. “Got to know him a little bit over the years. He’s great for the game and love watching him compete.”
Roberts’ latest look at Harper was cut short as he was removed in the fourth inning on Tuesday night due to lower back tightness and missed the series finale.
Dodgers closing in on NL West lead
The NL West has been one of baseball’s most competitive divisions in 2021, boasting three powerhouse teams between the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. The division standings have been scrambled throughout the season, and another shift could soon occur.
The Dodgers currently sit in second place in the division but trail the Giants by only two games. Los Angeles has gained considerable ground over the past week, performing well against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers.
The Giants have also played well as of late, but not well enough to fortify their place at the top of the division.
The two teams won’t meet again until the end of June, but the Dodgers have a highly consequential series against the third-place Padres next week. The Giants also have a tough slate of opponents ahead, as they face the Phillies, L.A. Angels and first-place Oakland Athletics.
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