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Bryce Harper points to MVP award after being voted ‘most overrated’ — again — by his peers

The hair is never overrated. (Chris O'Meara/Associated Press)

It would seem that the more things change, as in Bryce Harper going from the Washington Nationals to the Philadelphia Phillies, the more they stay the same, as in Harper being voted by his peers the “most overrated” player in baseball.

Harper has once again earned that dubious honor, for at least the fourth time in his career and across two major media platforms. For this year and in 2018, it has been The Athletic conducting the player poll, whereas ESPN published the results that were less than complimentary toward Harper in 2014 and 2015.

With all that history, one might think that he would have something more substantial with which to answer his critics, but when asked Wednesday about again being voted as the most overrated player, Harper replied, “I don’t really know what to say.”

“I mean, I have no answer. I have no idea,” he continued, in comments to USA Today’s Tom Schad. Fortunately for all concerned, Harper decided he did have a little more to say.

“I knew ESPN did [a similar poll] a couple years back, and I won MVP the next year,” he declared. “So I don’t know. Maybe we’ll do that again this year. We’ll see.”

That’s the stuff! Harper is right — after being named “most overrated” for the second straight year in ESPN’s 2015 poll, published in March, he went out and had his best season, a 42-home run, 1.109-OPS campaign that garnered him National League MVP honors.

However, Harper has not been able to maintain that level of play, although he had stretches of brilliance in a 2017 season shortened by injuries and suspensions. That may have been what caused an anonymous player to tell The Athletic in 2018 that while the then-National didn’t lack for talent, “It’s more like guys are kind of tired of him being put up on this pedestal when from a consistency standpoint, he hasn’t sustained it.”

Harper got 48.6 percent of the “most overrated” vote in that poll, reportedly of more than 200 MLB players, with second place, at 10.8 percent, going to the Orioles’ Chris Davis. This year, after landing a contract with the Phillies worth a whopping $330 million over 13 years, Harper got a massive 62 percent of the vote, with the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman lagging far behind at just 4.1 percent (and suffice it to say that no one is overrating Davis anymore, but former Oriole Manny Machado did make it into the “Also receiving multiple votes” section).

“It’s marketing. It’s star power,” one player said of Harper. “But what has he done besides have one year?”

Considering that he’s now locked up for over a dozen years, that bit of analysis may be the last thing Philadelphians want to hear, making Harper’s MVP reminder all the more helpful. Of course, the pressure was already on for him to perform in his new home, not known to have the most warm and embracing of fan bases, so anything short of an MVP-quality season may quickly dissipate whatever brotherly love Harper is currently enjoying.

On the other hand, 2015 wasn’t the only time the six-time all-star responded well to such criticism. In a game in Cincinnati last season, a fan could be heard loudly yelling “Overrated!” as Harper prepared for a ninth-inning pitch. That pitch got turned around in a hurry, with Harper depositing it over the center field wall for his second home run of the day.

So the Phillies might just want to install a fan or two at every home game to sit near home plate and tell Harper he’s overrated. Actually, you know what? It’ll probably happen anyway.

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