Bryce Harper will make his return to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 2 and the city’s mayor was determined to take a short-lived jab at Harper for his decision to play for one of the Washington Nationals’ division rivals on Monday.
It’s easy to understand why some fans in Washington might feel betrayed. The 26-year-old Harper was drafted by the Nationals first overall in 2010 then made his Major-League debut for Washington in 2012. Harper went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year award, followed by becoming a six-time All-Star and the 2015 NL MVP. Before Harper was set to become a free agent, he turned down an offer to extend his contract from the Nationals that would have been 10 years and $300 million.
After a long off-season, Harper chose to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies at 13 years and $330 million. Not only was Harper no longer in Washington, but to add insult to injury, he would now be facing the Nationals 19 times a year as a divisional opponent.
The first such instance will take place on Tuesday, prompting current Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to tweet – and then delete – this message from her official account depicting Harper as “Bryce Arnold.”
Who was Benedict Arnold?
Benedict Arnold was a general for the colonial forces during the American Revolution. After being passed over several times for promotions, Arnold was appointed to the command of West Point. He proceeded to contact English General Sir Henry Clinton and conspired to hand over the outpost and the soldiers therein to the British. His plot was discovered, however, and never came to fruition.
So far there has been no response from Harper or anyone in the Phillies organization. Bowser had no comment on why she originally tweeted out the image and the accompanying text or why she later deleted it either.
The Phillies enter the series in first place in the NL East division, as the only unbeaten team left in MLB. Harper has gone 3-for-9 with two runs batted in so far on the season, twice hitting balls that left Citizens Bank Park during the opening weekend series against the Atlanta Braves. The Nationals come into the series at 1-2, two games back of Philadelphia, after having lost their season-opening series to the New York Mets.
The 46-year-old Bowser has been mayor of Washington D.C. since 2015. Last week she spoke out in favor of Harper on the Racing Presidents Podcast, applauding his work in the community during his tenure with the Nationals. She denoted she also expected Harper to receive a negative reaction from the Washington crowd when he is announced.
“It’s all in fun. He’s a big boy, so I am pretty sure he knows what to expect,” Bowser said.
That may have been exactly the spirit that Bowser intended her tweet to convey, but perhaps she later changed her mind. Regardless of Bowser’s actions, Harper’s return to Washington promises to provoke reactions in the crowd at Nationals Park on Tuesday.