Following our famous W in MLB

A short article this week from our roving correspondent in the US following the ‘W” in MLB.

The All-Star break is behind us, and in Tuesday night’s 83rd MLB All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri;  Washington Nationals “w ” Rookie Bryce Harper got to put on a colourful show……….. who would be game enough to wear cleats that colour ? Harper would !!!  More important , National League All-Star Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals “w ” pitched a fourth inning scoreless frame.

The second half of the 2012 MLB season will soon begin. That, of course, means playoff races will become the singular focus. With the expanded wild-card format, we have a healthy number of teams that have realistic designs on the postseason. In fact, right now 23 teams — 23 out of 30 — are in or within five games of playoff position. In other words, it’s going to be a hotly contested stretch drive.

Following the w though, it’s worth remembering that no major league baseball team in Washington has made the postseason since 1933. But this year’s Washington Nationals “w ” hit the break at 15 games over .500 and with a four-game lead in the NL East and are looking like World Series contenders in September.

Strasburg (the “w ” ace) has now thrown 100 innings after coming back from Tommy John surgery and says he has “ no clue how many innings I’m going to throw this year,………. I feel great right now.” The All-Star right-hander keeps hearing the question because he’s in the middle of a real head-scratcher. If the Washington Nationals make the playoffs, will they really follow through with the plan to shut down their ace a month early? That’s been the plan all along. It’s the accepted medical norm for a pitcher post an elbow reco (Tommy John Surgery) . The plug will be pulled somewhere around 160 innings, just as it was last year for TJ-comeback teammate Jordan Zimmermann, whose season came to an abrupt halt when he hit 161 1/3 on Aug. 28.

The Strasburg plan seemed OK back in spring training when optimistic scenarios had the “w ” perhaps in the mix for the brand new second wild-card berth, but now they might have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give the city a championship. Last year the w almost got to .500, and manager Davey Johnson felt for sure the progression was the w could come close to winning 90 games if everything fell into place “We got us more arms during the offseason, and they really helped with the bench. There are more weapons here now to where we have progressed more rapidly”, Johnson said.

Regardless, the “w ” aren’t budging on The Strasburg Plan – at least not so far. General manager Mike Rizzo figures this young roster is poised to be a contender for years to come, so there’s no use risking a gifted talent like Strasburg by pushing him too hard with a freshly reconstructed elbow. Johnson, who usually doesn’t analyze the schedule far in advance, said he’s already looked at the September slate to figure out how to approach it without his best pitcher. “I was curious as to who we were playing and what our schedule was that last month – absent Strasburg,” Johnson said. “What type of pitcher might fit in best for going against the clubs that we’re going to play that month.”

Strasburg threw 99 innings in 17 starts before the break, going 9-4 with a 2.82 ERA. At this pace, he would probably hit his innings limit around the first week of September. Of course, it’s not as if the w would suddenly fall off the earth without him. They’ve had the top rotation in the majors for much of the season with fellow All-Star Gio Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler all sporting ERAs under 4.00.

The upcoming MLB All-Star Game creates a buzz for the fans and a host of argument over who makes the final rosters

No young player has created more buzz this season than Harper. (Getty Images)

A question being asked right now is how can the 2012 All-Star Game not include Bryce Harper from the Washington Nationals?

Harper, didn’t make the National League roster in the fan vote, the player vote or the managerial vote — but is one of five players for the last NL roster spot, alongside Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn, Aaron Hill and David Freese.

The All-Star game determines home-field advantage in the World Series but is not why this game is scheduled. This game is scheduled for the fans. And we want to watch the combination of the best, most popular and most entertaining baseball players in the world.

In 2012 we should see Bryce Harper.

He might or might not be one of the 34 best players in the National League, but he has to be one of the most popular, and one of the most entertaining..

David Freese? He’s not interesting. Sorry, but he’s not. He’s very good, and he’s very nice, but he’s not very fun. Same goes for Aaron Hill. Michael Bourn? Interesting player there. Chipper Jones? Hall of Famer. So there are two decent names for fans to pick, assuming they don’t pick Bryce Harper.

But why would you not pick Bryce Harper?

When it comes to All-Star spectacles, the bigger the spectacle, the more you want to see it in the All-Star game. Entering the 2010 MLB All-Star Game there was no bigger spectacle than Stephen Strasburg. Entering the 2012 NBA All-Star Game there was no bigger spectacle than Jeremy Lin.

And entering next week’s MLB All-Star Game, there is no bigger spectacle — not in the National League — than Bryce Harper.

Harper has been the most hyped young player since, well, period. Ever. He has been the most hyped young player ever, even more than Strasburg, who was hyped in college and the minor leagues, which is child’s play compared to Harper, who was hyped when he was a child. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, skipped his final two years of high school to get to junior college, dominated guys two and three years older at that level, and then was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010 at age 17.

Harper has lived up to the hype, too. I mean, look, the guy can’t reach the Hall of Fame in his first season in the big leagues, but he did get here at age 19, and with an .822 OPS he has played exceptionally well. Harper has started in all but one of the 57 games the Nationals have played since he was called up on April 27. The one game he did not start – on June 10 in Boston he scored the winning run as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning.  Statistically, he has hit as well as any 19-year-old in big-league history, other than Hall of Famer Mel Ott in 1928 — and he has played with all kinds of buzz. Harper has eight home runs and eight stolen bases in 219 at-bats, and last summer his Double-A manager suggested Harper just might hit 50 home runs and steal 50 bases in the same big-league season some day.

Harper is the real deal, but again, he’s more than that. He’s fun. He’s exciting. Harper is the guy we want to see next Tuesday night. Harper was third in voting results released by Major League Baseball on Tuesday, trailing Jones and St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese. The voting ends Thursday at 4 pm so get on line and vote………………

Give me Bryce Harper.