WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Below average sports fans know who Bryce Harper is.
They've seen the highlights: the gambling doubles, the barreling over catchers, the opposite field home runs, the running into walls. His versatile playing style is putting him in position to be handed the torch from Derek Jeter as baseball's golden child.
The reason baseball fans cherish the Home Run Derby is that it can introduce a star player's personality to country. Ten straight minutes of live camera time can reveal a side of somebody. Josh Hamilton won over the country in 2008 as did Ken Griffey Jr. at Camden Yards in 1993.
Harper may have lost the title to Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes in his first ever derby. It didn't matter. His thriving legacy of living up to any pressure situation stood firmly Monday night at Citi Field. No moment is too big for the 20-year-old. In fact, he prefers them at their biggest.
He wanted to win the competition more then everyone else in the derby combined. At the same time he was in his ultimate comfort zone. He paraded around his best friend and father, Ron, who pitched cut-fastballs to his youngest son. The younger Harper's fiery unsatisfied facial expressions after falling short of a home run were observed by millions. The superstar muttered a string of curse words, censored out by ESPN. As his intensity raged, it became apparent that Harper was literally living out a dream crafted long ago inside his head.
Baseball is game where tiny mechanical things are over analyzed while big picture things sometimes go totally untouched. The Nationals need to play the rest of the season mimicking Bryce Harper's style. Being even-keeled is a trademark of Davey Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Denard Span etc. It's the approach taken on by many baseball teams. Some seasons you have to adapt your game plan.
After the all-star break Johnson should sit down with Harper and name him a co-captain of the team. It may not seem like much on the surface, but it will give Harper permission to challenge his teammates to play as hard as he does. It will mean Davey trusts Harper to become more of a police officer, calling out tickets for guys who aren't trying to steamroll each opponent. Fingerpointing can be handled by strong teams like the Nationals. Possibly more importantly, it'll put more pressure on Harper. Like Batman, Harper's abilities seem to enhance when odds are stacked against him. Things slow down.
The Zimmermans, the Werths and the Laroches of the locker room are strong enough presences as it is. This subtle change could shake things up more than a lineup change. Maybe players will start acting like losses are a big deal, the way Harper showed his displeasure at the Derby. Maybe they'll utter some curse words. Being under .500 to start the month of August generally means your season is over. The Nats' playoff run needs to begin Friday at home against the Dodgers.