Bryce Harper, who entered Tuesday hitting .218, will join the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and Atlanta’s Nick Markakis in the starting outfield for the NL. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Sports Columnist

Bryce Harper doesn’t deserve to start in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The Nationals’ outfielder entered Tuesday night’s game — which ended after Express’ deadline — batting a measly .218. That doesn’t warrant a spot in the Midsummer Classic, let alone one in the starting nine.

The All-Star Game returns to Washington next week for the first time since 1969, when Senators slugger Frank Howard belted a home run. Fans voting on the internet chose Harper to start, even though he is in a career-worst slump.

There’s no question opponents respect Harper. Entering Tuesday, he led the NL with 76 walks and had blasted 22 home runs — one shy of the league lead. Miami even walked Harper on Sunday to pitch to Mark Reynolds, who a day earlier had clubbed two homers and matched a Nationals record with 10 RBIs.

A pitiful batting average doesn’t represent Harper’s total worth, but let’s be honest — it has been a mediocre year for the former NL MVP. Harper, who got his sixth All-Star nod, picked a contract season to have the worst three months of his career.

It’s commonly said that players need an extra year of greatness to get rewarded with All-Star recognition and then get one more appearance than they deserve.

This is Harper’s freebie.

Fans have the right to vote players into the game as MLB tries to stay connected to its base. But managers should have the right to select the starters, and Harper should let somebody who is at least batting his weight take the field first.

Baseball officials are happy, at least, that Harper will add star power to the Home Run Derby on Monday.

And the game could be a high-profile farewell of sorts for Nats fans who fear Harper will leave as a free agent after the season.

Harper, 25, could be seeking up to $400 million in his next contract. Some Nats fans aren’t convinced he’s worth the price, despite the fact that he’s just entering his prime.

Harper has never driven in 100 runs in a season; he had 99 RBIs when he won the MVP in 2015. He’s hit at least 30 homers only once, when he hit 42 that MVP year. Harper hit just .243 in 2016 and missed 51 games last season, but his average returned to a robust .319.

As far as we know, Harper is healthy this year. But an average day for him seems to be going 0-for-2 with two walks.

The Nats are floating around .500, partly because Harper can’t carry them. Don’t blame opposing defensive shifts like his agent Scott Boras did. That’s just a whiny excuse.

At the All-Star Game, Harper should tip his cap to a crowd of grateful fans who value him for more than what he’s done this season. Then take one at-bat and let someone else play.

There will be other All-Star Games for him to relish more than this one.

Read more columns from Rick Snider:

The Nationals’ season is rapidly approaching the point of no return

If the Nationals look to baseball history in D.C., Bryce Harper is worth the investment

Alex Smith is still adapting to Redskins, but his competitive fire is an immediate fit

Until Redskins figure out Josh Doctson, it doesn’t matter what receivers they sign