Sportress of Blogitude

Bryce Harper: Mets are the ‘team to beat’ in NL East

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Bryce Harper has developed a reputation over his career of storming onto the spring training scene full of bravado and braggadocio. But this season it appears the Washington Nationals superstar and reigning NL MVP is taking a different tact and perhaps even showing some humility instead of hubris ahead of the 2016 Major League Baseball season.

After watching his “Where’s my ring?” boast during spring training last year blow up in his face as the Nationals collectively fell on theirs after being touted as World Series favorites following the offseason acquisition of Max Scherzer, Harper appears to be utilizing a more conciliatory approach by touting the New York Mets as the prohibitive favorites to win the National League East.

“We’re definitely looking forward to the challenge,” Harper said from Nationals camp, via ESPN. “The team to beat are the Mets. That’s what it is right now. They kicked the crap out of our division last year, and hopefully we’re going to come in this year and do what we can to knock them off, or anybody else off in all of baseball.”

Harper is right in rattling off the Mets’ many successes last season, from their trade deadline acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets’ dominance of the NL East to the tune of a 47-29 record (although the Nationals were a respectable 44-32).

Harper also said during the postseason last fall that he was pulling for the Mets to win it all, although that didn’t come to fruition.

All told, it could be suggested that Harper’s less over-the-top and boastful demeanor heading into the 2016 season is a sign of newfound maturity and that he’s ready to take the next step as a team leader. It was only last March when 23-year-old made the “Where’s my ring?” proclamation and only last April when he bragged that the Nationals were the “team to beat” despite the fact they had proven nothing at that point.

And now he’s calling the Mets the “team to beat.” Funny how a year — and some maturity to go along with the passage of time — can change one’s perspective.