Speaking on 106.7 The Fan, the same station where Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins regularly answered questions about his uncertain future — and managed to rarely offer anything new on the subject — for the past three years, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper explained why he doesn’t have the patience for such queries this season.
“It’s not fair to my teammates or myself to look forward,” Harper told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Wednesday about why he opened his first spring training news conference with reporters Monday by saying he would walk out the door if anyone asked a question about his pending free agency. “Every single year I’ve always tried to come in and win ballgames. That’s the biggest goal for myself, that’s the biggest goal for my team, and I want to come in here and be the best player I can for the Nationals organization, and be the best teammate I can for all my teammates and all my brothers inside that clubhouse. We’ve got a great team, got a great environment in there. Everybody in the world knows I’m going to be a free agent next year. That’s just how the game works, how sports work, and that’s how it is.”
Harper, who has been in the spotlight since he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old, said facing daily questions from the media is “just part of it,” but he doesn’t want talk about his future to distract from Washington’s quest to win the World Series, or even just an NLDS, before he leaves … or doesn’t.
“When I say that I want to come in and try to win ballgames, that’s what I want to do,” Harper said. “It’s something that I enjoy doing. I grew up winning a lot of baseball games and I want to do that for the Nationals, and I want to do that for Dave Martinez, the Lerners, Mike Rizzo and all of our fans out there. I enjoy playing this game, I love the city of D.C., I love playing in the nation’s capital, and I’m excited about getting there this year.”
With veteran Jayson Werth a free agent after spending the last seven years in Washington, Rouhier asked Harper if he feels the need to take on a bigger leadership role in the clubhouse this season.
“I think for me, I was super fortunate to have the guys that I did around me,” Harper said. “Jayson Werth, of course. Rick Ankiel. Xavier Nady. Mark DeRosa. I mean, you throw out these names and you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh. You played with some of the best veterans in the game.’ Chad Tracy. You go on and on and it’s like, wow. I was super fortunate to learn from some guys that went through some struggles as well in their careers and being able to learn from those and talk to those guys and really lean on ’em, I’m able to do that with some of the guys in our clubhouse now. If it’s [Victor] Robles coming up, or Trea Turner or [Michael A. Taylor], or anybody. Anybody that wants to talk, I’m all for it.”
Unless, presumably, they want to talk about 2019.
Harper said he’s excited the Nationals are hosting the All-Star Game this summer and thinks “six or seven” Nats have a chance to make the National League roster.
“I think the fans coming into D.C., if they’ve never been to D.C., are going to have a lot of fun,” Harper said. “Seeing the monuments, knowing that the White House is right there, Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s really cool. It’s such a fun city to go to, but also knowing that you have the Caps or the Wizards or the Nationals in town, it’s a lot of fun. Sorry, I won’t say the Redskins, but no, it’s a lot of fun.”
Harper, a Cowboys fan, laughed after that last line. Perhaps rather than walking out the door the first time a reporter dares ask him about his future beyond 2018, Harper should say he’d like to play for the Rangers so he can be closer to Dak Prescott and favorite NFL team.
Listen to the entire interview here or below.
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