In today’s digital media age, where everyone is looking for clicks, likes, and subscribers, we see a lot of young talent that we’re told is the next coming of Christ.
We have college analysts who tell us every single year this quarterback and that wide receiver are “generational talent.”

More often than not, those players either become serviceable or fizzle out in the first three years of their professional careers.

But every once in a while, there comes a talent discovered at an early age who is universally understood to be the next face of the league.

Nobody had as much hype around them at 16 as Bryce Harper did. The kid was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the title “Baseball’s Chosen One.”

That issue debuted 15 years ago yesterday.

If you followed the hype around him, you’d know there was so much lore around this kid. A freshman from Las Vegas who hit .590 and 500-foot home runs was just the beginning. Watching that violent swing come from freshmen, that swing that was in the top 10% in major league baseball, you knew there was something. What makes this whole story special is that Bryce became what it appears he was destined to become: one of the most clutch hitters and the greatest showman in baseball.

I love analytics. I love them because I can shut up idiots who don’t know anything about baseball with statistics. Tell me this hitter stinks; you’re wrong. Look at his WAR this season; his OPS+ is in the top 9% of baseball, blah blah blah. One thing analytics still cannot quantify is the clutch gene. When the lights are brightest, the moment is the biggest, and the game is on the line, do they come through? Time and time again, Bryce Harper has been clutch.

It’s the bottom of the 8th inning of the 2022 NLCS. The Phillies trail the Padres 2-3, with a man on first base. Harper hits an opposite-field shot to give the Phillies the lead. He is earning himself the NLCS MVP and giving Red October one of the greatest moments in franchise history.

Game 3 of the NLDS in 2023. Phillies are smoking the Braves 6-1. In game 2, Harper’s aggressive baserunning led to a game-ending double play and some smack talk from Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia. Back to Game 3, Bryce hits a solo bomb and stares down Orlando Arcia as he rounds the bases. A photo that should be hung in the Louvre.

It’s not just what he does but how he does it: the attitude, the grit, the intensity. You can’t write better drama.

The guy broke his thumb in June of 2022 from a 97 mph fastball from Blake Snell, only to come back and hit a go-ahead home run to send his team to the World Series. If that was a movie, nobody would believe it. Even during this London Series, he goes yard and does a soccer slide in front of the dugout, which goes viral all over social media.

Bryce Harper is what baseball needs; he is Philadelphia and the greatest showman.

PHOTO: Sports Illustrated

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