One of the biggest stories of the 2012 season has been the success of the Washington Nationals, and the emergence of 19 year-old Bryce Harper. Harper is going to be a superstar, a franchise cornerstone that the Nationals can build around. While Harper has ruffled some feathers over his young career, he has the swagger, and the talent that baseball needs. There are some great players in the game today, but few bring the raw talent and cockiness that Harper brings to the park every game.
The Nationals have two of the most exciting young talents in the game, with Harper and Stephen Strasburg. As a currently miserable Padres fan, I am truly jealous of what the Nationals have going for them. The Padres have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, which is encouraging, but not terribly exciting. Sure, Rymer Liriano might develop into a useful player, but he is not at the level of a Harper.
The Padres biggest problem right now, is that they do not have a box-office draw– the kind of player fans want to see, regardless of the team’s records. When I started following baseball, the Padres were pathetic. However, Tony Gwynn gave us all a reason to check out the Padres. While Cameron Maybin can be exciting at times, he is not bringing fans into the stadium.
I love what the Padres are doing with the player development side of the business, but the Padres desperately need to develop a superstar. It seemed like the Padres had one on the horizon, when they called up Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo never got his bat going, and was shipped to Chicago. Rizzo got as much hype as any young Padre I can remember. The fans were hoping for a savior, instead they got a 21 year-old with a horrifically long swing. All Padre fans remember the disappointments that were Ben Davis, Khalil Greene, and Sean Burroughs. All of them showed promise, only to break our hearts with disappointment.
Here is hoping that the Padres find that building block–that player that gives us hope for the future. That player that makes us want to check out a game, even though we work early the next morning. That player who will be the cornerstone of the first Padre team to win the World Series. Sure, these types of players do not come along very often, but the Padres have no identity, no swagger. A guy like Bryce Harper can change the perception of a struggling franchise. Here is hoping that the Padres savior is on the way.