I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper to win the National League MVP this year. I didn’t think his hot streak would last as long as it did, and I certainly didn’t think Harper’s incredible OPS figure halfway through August would be enough to overcome his home run and RBI numbers.
I did become more fond of Harper’s MVP case at the end of the season after Tatís failed to lead the Padres to the playoffs, but the damage had already been done. I’d made myself the fool, because it’s clear that when the winner of the NL MVP Award is announced at 6 p.m. tonight, we will hear Harper’s name. Why is it so clear? Because Phillies legend Mike Schmidt is making the announcement tonight!
On Monday, we already knew that Schmidt was making the announcement, but this week’s string of award presenters really hammered the point home that Harper was going to win MVP.
Who announced that the National League Rookie of the Year Award was going to Cincinnati’s rookie second baseman, Jonathan India? None other than Reds legend Johnny Bench. Who announced the National League Manager of the Year winner was San Francisco’s Gabe Kapler? Bruce Bochy, AKA the man who led the Giants’ dugout during each of their World Series runs in the early 2010s, and also the second-most-winningest manager in Giants history. Coincidence? I think not!
There was a little bit of a hiccup in the theory last night as famed Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser announced that Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes was taking home the National League Cy Young, leaving Los Angeles ace Max Scherzer in the dust, but I’m willing to bet that this decision to have Hershiser announce the award was just to throw us off the Harper scent tonight. I won’t fall for it, I tell you!
On the American League side, things aren’t quite so simple. White Sox legend Jack McDowell had the opportunity to announce Chicago ace Lance Lynn as the AL Cy Young winner, but instead, the award was granted to Toronto’s Robbie Ray. The Manager of the Year award was announced by Mike Scioscia, who never stepped foot outside of Southern California between his playing and managerial careers, yet he declared Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash the winner. Meanwhile, 1975 AL Rookie of the Year and MVP Fred Lynn announced that Randy Arozarena won the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year Award, and he retired almost a full decade before the Rays became a franchise.
So, with all that in mind, am I making too much out of Mike Schmidt announcing the award tonight? Who’s to tell. It makes sense that Major League Baseball would want a legend from one team to hand the award to an MVP recipient on the same team, thus symbolizing the passing of the torch, honoring the game’s past, and respecting the legacies that each player left on their team. On the other hand, why would MLB announce the presenters and then create such an easily recognizable pattern?
There was a lot of mystique and intrigue surrounding the NL MVP Award. Tatís started off super hot and then cooled off drastically, but still led the NL in home runs. Harper started off just alright, then went on an unprecedented historic tear through in the final two months of the season. Meanwhile, Juan Soto never really had a bad stretch of the season, and was reminiscent of prime Barry Bonds at some points with his incredible ability to draw walks, but he also lacked pizazz, y’know? The type of oomph that we expect from MVPs. Soto only launched 29 home runs, and didn’t record a ton of other extra-base hits, so while he was fantastic all year, he wasn’t the same baseball eye candy that Tatís and Harper were.
By giving us, the fans, the info that Schmidt was going to announce the award almost a week in advance, the intrigue has somewhat faded. Unless of course Harper isn’t the recipient, in which case this is expert level trolling on MLB’s part. As much as I’d like to look back at what I wrote a few months ago and say “HA! Look! I was right all along!” I can also admit when I’m wrong. Harper absolutely deserves the award in my opinion and I will gladly eat that humble pie if his name is announced tonight.