Nov 9, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT
An awards season that figures to elevate Bryce Harper’s dominant performance to new levels kicked off Monday night when the Nationals’ young star was selected as his league’s best player in 2015 by a group that may carry more weight than any other: his peers.
Harper was voted NL Outstanding Player of 2015 by fellow big leaguers as part of the annual Players Choice Awards, revealed Monday night. The 23-year-old beat out Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in voting among all major leaguers near the end of the regular season.
“I’m definitely very fortunate to play this game every single day. I absolutely love doing it,” Harper said in accepting the award on MLB Network. “And to have the respect of players in different clubhouses, in my clubhouse, it’s just been a lot of fun this year. I couldn’t have done it without the guys in my clubhouse. … It’s just been a great year. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Harper’s season, historic as it was, wasn’t quite enough to earn him MLB Player of the Year honors. That award went to Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who beat out Harper and Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke in the same players vote.
There’s still a bit of an ironic twist to all this: The same players who voted Harper as MLB’s “Most Overrated Player” in an ESPN poll during spring training have now voted him the best player in his league.
Harper earned the respect of his peers with a dominant season. The young right fielder hit an NL-leading 42 homers with 118 runs scored and an MLB-leading .460 on-base percentage, .649 slugging percentage and 1.109 OPS. He’s only the ninth player in history to hit .330 with 42 homers and a .460 on-base percentage, the first since Barry Bonds in 2004.
“I truly think it’s always been there,” Harper said of his breakthrough performance. “I just think I was healthy this year. I was able to stay on the field this year and not have those little nagging injuries of sliding into third base and [tearing] my thumb or running into a wall at Dodger Stadium. I was trying to be as smart as I could out there, and just play the game the right way. It’s the experience of knowing when to go hard, when not to go hard, and just being smart about everything I do.”
This is likely just one of several major awards Harper will win over the next two weeks. Already named recipient of this year’s Hank Aaron Award as the NL’s best offensive player, Harper also is a finalist for his first career Gold Glove Award (results will be announced Tuesday night) and is the overwhelming favorite to win his first NL MVP Award (results will be announced November 19).
Harper spoke glowingly about newly hired Nationals manager Dusty Baker and the first members of his coaching staff that have announced to date.
“I think you see that smile on my face,” he said. “I’m definitely very excited to have him. Being able to play for a guy like Dusty, somebody that’s been around the game for a long, long time … and being able to do the things with him and learn from him. Also learning from a guy in Davey Lopes, one of the best first base coaches in the game and one of the best baserunning coaches in the game also. I’m very excited for that. And also Mike Maddux. Being able to pick his brain about pitchers and seeing the tendencies that other pitchers throw with. I’m very excited to have the team that we do. We finally have an All-Star staff, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m very excited.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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