Bryce Harper. The New York Yankees.
Just stew the words up and it's enough to whip baseball's Web-arazzi into a frenzy. So in some ways, tonight's Yankees-Washington Nationals game marks the dawn of an era that will last the rest of this decade.
After all, Harper is already baseball's most notorious young player, and he's on his way, maybe, to becoming its best player, period.
The Yankees have more money than some small countries, and a fan base and media contingent that regard superstars on other teams not as opponents but rather as Inevitable Yankees.
So, when the Nationals and Yanks meet up this weekend in the nation's capital, it will cultivate a Harper-Yankee angle that's already been sown, and surely will mushroom as his career continues.
- Bryce Harper is/was a Yankee fan. During last year's playoffs, he tweeted words of support for the Yankees, which raised some eyebrows since Harper, after all, was already a Washington National. It also sparked a mild debate over whether one must retire his fandom once he becomes a professional athlete. Harper eventually deleted his Twitter account.
- Bryce Harper will be asked about becoming a Yankee. It figures to happen for the first time this weekend, maybe in a matter of hours. Observers such as the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore are confident Harper is smart enough to parry the inquiry without fanning the tabloid flames. Clown question? That's so 72 hours ago.
- Bryce Harper cannot become a Yankee until 2019. Please, everybody, bear this in mind. The Nationals kept Harper down in the minor leagues just long enough this April to ensure that his six-year road to free agency won't begin until 2013. Now, just try to imagine Harper's stature, celebrity and baseball accomplishments by the fall of 2018. All of the above may be staggering. And that may make his impending free agency the Hot Stove Event Of the Century. Oh, you say the Nationals could try to lock him up before then? You do remember who Harper retains as his agent, right?
- The Nationals aren't bad. In fact, they're a hair better than the Yankees, record-wise, right now, and have a fairly savvy general manager who figures to position them well in coming years. This is not Kyrie Irving rotting away on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Harper may actually want to stay with the Nats longer than seven years.
Still, that won't stop the leading questions, projections and rumor-mongering to ensue. We have six years to relish it all. This weekend, there may actually be time to, you know, concentrate on baseball.
By Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY