On Sunday, September 30, an era will end in New York Mets baseball. This will be the last time the team has to face one Larry Wayne Jones, Jr. Yes, Chipper the Met Killer will finally call it quits on his Hall-of-Fame career for the Atlanta Braves at the end of this season. He’ll hang up his spikes, take out the vampire fangs every Met fan is certain he uses to harness his power, and spend more time with his half-sympathetically, half-sadistically named son, Shea Jones. Needless to say, while it’s always sad to see a Hall-of-Famer ride off into the sunset, Mets fans won’t at all be calling after him to come back.
Unfortunately, they won’t get much of a reprieve from being battered multiple times a year by an NL East nemesis. Because not so quietly, another man is preparing to take up Chipper’s fangs, assume the dark crown, and ascend the throne as the new Met Killer: Bryce Aron Max Harper of the Washington Nationals.
Along with fellow rookie Mike Trout of the Angels, Bryce Harper’s first season in the big leagues has been under a massive microscope. He was a late selection to the All-Star Game, and although his stats have tapered off a bit throughout the year (.251/.326/.420, 12 HR, 36 RBI), they become impressive again when you remember the kid’s only 19 years old. That’s two years younger than Trout and seven years junior of another potential Rookie of the Year, Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds.
So why am I devoting an entire piece to someone who’s not a Met? Because this someone is about to weave himself into the fabric of New York baseball and become a painful eyesore for years to come. In his very first game against the Amazin’s he picked up 2 RBIs, including the game-winning bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 12th. In Sunday afternoon’s series finale, he added an RBI triple and solo home run. Add up everything that’s happened in between and you get a .280 batting average, .893 OPS, 3 home runs, and 10 RBIs in 50 at-bats through 12 games. Now of course he still has quite a way to go before reaching Chipper’s numbers against the Mets (.314/.410/.553, 49 HR, 158 RBI), but he’s off to a heck of a start. And the scariest part? Once again, he’s only 19 years old. He’s still got eight or nine years before he even reaches his prime and he’s putting up these kinds of numbers. And if he ends up taking care of himself as well as now-40-year-old Chipper has through his 19-year major league career, you’re looking at Harper potentially being New York’s nemesis for 20 years to come. Oy.
The way some of the analysts have talked about Bryce Harper this season you’d think the kid was already on his way to Cooperstown. It is certainly too early to start writing his Hall of Fame plaque and declare him the next Mickey Mantle or Frank Robinson. But the way things have gone in his first 12 games against his division rival this year, there’s a very good chance Met fans will only see him as something both much better and worse: the next Chipper Jones.