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Who decides if Harper makes club?

Dec 6, 2011, 1:16 AM EDT

DALLAS — Davey Johnson has never been afraid to throw a supremely talented prospect to the wolves and let him play against big-league competition while still in his teens. Johnson, you may remember, was a driving force behind Dwight Gooden's promotion to the Mets at age 19 despite the fact he had never pitched above Class A.

"I had to fight for a young pitcher, who was 19 years old in New York," Johnson said today, recalling his conversations with Mets GM Frank Cashen in 1984. "Just keep an open mind, and let's see what he does in the spring and then evaluate whether he makes the club or not. And after many conversations, I finally got him to agree to that. And the rest is history."

So it's not surprising Johnson is perfectly willing to let Bryce Harper compete for a spot on the Nationals' Opening Day roster this spring. The outfielder only turned 19 in October and has only 37 games of experience at Class AA, but he thrived against top competition in theRead more »

  1. Stranded_in_Philly - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:33 AM

    One other issue. Look what happened to Dwight Gooden's career and personal life. Being thrown into that kinda spotlight at that age may have played into it.

  2. Feel Wood - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    Ultimately, the one person who will decide whether or not Harper makes the club is…Harper. Rizzo has always said he'll be brought up when he shows that he's ready to be brought up. Nothing that you or Kilgore are writing now will change that. Nothing in your quotes from Johnson or Rizzo is any different from what they have been saying all along. Nothing is going to be determined on this until March. Why not give it a rest and quit trying to drum up a story that's not there?

  3. Just wonderin' - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:53 AM

    Earlier, did I hear someone asking for a right-handed hitting back-up first baseman?FROM MLBTR: Dmitri Young is attending the Winter Meetings in Dallas, searching for a contract offer. Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweets that Young has lost 70 pounds and would go to Japan if he can't land a job with an MLB team. The 38-year-old last appeared in the bigs in 2008 with the Nationals.

  4. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:01 AM

    Why not give it a rest and quit trying to drum up a story that's not there? Yeah, because blog posts are so expensive to produce. Save the Pixels!

  5. Waddu eye no - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:07 AM

    If bryce starts early and we lose him for a year later on, davey will be gone anyway, so why would he care about that? Rizzo gets paid to care and does. He wont trade a shaky year from harper now to lose a better harper latet

  6. Natty Dog - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:22 AM

    Is everyone certain that Bryce can hit MLB left-handed pitching?

  7. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:29 AM

    Why not give it a rest and quit trying to drum up a story that's not there?Uhhm maybe because IT DOES IMPACT HOW the 201 & 2013 ROSTERS are CONSTRUCTED? Uh are you one of those people who waits until the very last minute to study for exams or get jobs done? You must drink an awful lot of coffee dude?If bryce starts early and we lose him for a year later on, davey will be gone anyway, so why would he care about that?Mike Rizzo sez: As long as I am GM of the Nationals Davey Johnson has a place is a member of the Nationals family.Whether he's manager or not he is going to be one of Rizzo's consultants along with his dad, Roy Clark, Minniti, Harris et al. Give that a rest will ya?

  8. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:33 AM

    Here's one for ya?Jim Duquette: Source- Nats are the team offering 6th year to CJ Wilson.

  9. Section 222 - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:40 AM

    Wow, nothing the beat writers write, or we comment, will impact when Harper arrives in the majors? Really? I had no idea. Oh my, I guess I'll stop thinking and commenting about the Nats. I thought my opinions made things happen. Might as well go watch football or something. In all seriousness, I'm not sure I get the concern about Super-2 for Harper. He's going to be a big draw for the Nats, certainly more than your average rookie. For every 1,000 additional season ticket holders the Nats can sign up by putting him on the opening day roster, they make $2.43 million in ticket sales alone (that assumes $30 per ticket, which might be low), not to mention concessions, merchandise, and additional game day sales in the 31 extra home games before June 15. And if Harper makes the Nats more competitive and helps put them in the hunt for a playoff spot, don't they make up the millions for his first arbitration year pretty easily? A winning team will make the Lerners, who are BILLIONAIRES, even more money. That really should be the goal of this kind of decision, not nickel and dime-ing Bryce Harper.

  10. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:40 AM

    Well, if they get Wilson will they follow with Fielder and a propitious trade with La Roche or use La Roche as a PH backup outfielder on the bench to replace Nix?

  11. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:43 AM

    A winning team will make the Lerners, who are BILLIONAIRES, even more money. That really should be the goal of this kind of decision, not nickel and dime-ing Bryce Harper.Precisely, nicely done! Yes, Mark now, aren't you the one that first did the analysis that disclosed the fact the Lerners could no longer draw from the lucrative revenue sharing pool by keeping the payroll low? Apparently, the Marlins are on top of that notion … what makes you think the Nationals wouldn't? And if Harper makes winning a reality now by putting fannies in the seats and more national TV exposure? Wouldn't he be more valuable on the field than in the minors?

  12. SCNatsFan - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:47 AM

    I just don't see him before mid June because of the financial efforts.

  13. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:58 AM

    Jim Bowden: "Mike Rizzo just told me the Nats did not go to 6 years on CJ Wilson"Looks like JimBo is verifying what Mark and Kilgore are saying? That's a switch!

  14. Slidell - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:14 AM

    Spring Training baseball is not equivalent to Regular Season. Let H. work on his ball-hawking and give him time to succeed against the 3A and 4A pitchers in the International League. When he has taken care of that business, bring him up and turn him loose to wreak all the havoc he can wreak.

  15. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:43 AM

    Let H. work on his ball-hawking and give him time to succeed against the 3A and 4A pitchers in the International League. There may be an advantage to seeing what Tyler Moore, Bryce Harper and Derek Norris look like in the same lineup? Could be a very interesting year in Syracuse eh?

  16. Unkyd - Dec 6, 2011 at 4:17 AM

    Really enjoying all the yak, here……But….I'm ready for some NEWS!!!

  17. Drew8 - Dec 6, 2011 at 5:59 AM

    Stranded wrote: "One other issue. Look what happened to Dwight Gooden's career and personal life. Being thrown into that kinda spotlight at that age may have played into it."I loved watching Dwight Gooden. His combination of grace and power was thrilling — a wonder to behold. That said, Dwight's mistakes are on Dwight.Al Kaline, Robin Yount and Junior were quality major leaguers at 19 without getting into that kind of foolishness. (So was the Mick — he saved his foolishness for later.)Everything we've read about Harper's family indicates that he has a strong foundation — values, work ethic, encouraging indications of character that will outlast teenage brashness.That's not to say that Harper should come up before Super 2. I can't wait to see the Kid, but I'd just as soon wait until June and get another big-time year on the back end.It's not about stinginess. It's about control. I'd rather have another year before the Steinbrenners back up the truck.

  18. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 6:18 AM

    Anonymous said… Well, if they get Wilson will they follow with Fielder and a propitious trade with La Roche or use La Roche as a PH backup outfielder on the bench to replace Nix? —————-This almost made me pee myself. The Nats spending money? Now we get to finish behind the Fish next season. Reyes is a beast and now he is a Marlin. DAMN!

  19. Big Cat - Dec 6, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    Dimitri Young is in Dallas and is looking for a job. He has lost 70 lbs. Funny how guys set the Twinkies down when all the money is gone

  20. baseballswami - Dec 6, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    The Phils and the phish have jumped in early and so it feels like panic is necessary. Good thing Rizzo is a good poker player. Everyone expects us to be very active but the opposite may happen – we might not do anything at all this week. All that sitting on the edge of the chair and constantly checking the internet could be a waste of time. Mark – anyone good out there in the rule 5 draft, which I think is Thursday? On Harper – always an intriguing story, Rizzo seems pretty definite about him paying his dues. I think a token amount of time in Syracuse is going to happen no matter what. A June call-up would give him most of a full season. I think Rizzo has known Johnson long enough to let him blather in public and then ignore him.

  21. natsfan1a - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    In other news, I'm kinda worried about global warming what with all the hot air in here sometimes. (Oh, no, I didn't. :-)Sec 3, My Sofa said… Why not give it a rest and quit trying to drum up a story that's not there? Yeah, because blog posts are so expensive to produce. Save the Pixels! December 5, 2011 9:01 PM

  22. natsfan1a - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Speaking of Meat Hook, WTOP's Craig Heist posted a pic of the slimmed-down Young, along with his pal Robert Fick.(I got your Yule Log right here, sec3. ;-))

  23. Sunderland - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    Mark Z or anyone else, help me out on the issue of Super 2. Because I think in Harper's case, it does not matter. Super 2 status does not get you to free agency sooner. Super 2 status gets you to arbitration sooner.Harper is under an MLB contract through 2015. So his first unsettled contract year is 2016. And this is going to be an arbitration negotiated year, whether Harper is Super 2 or not (unless of course they sign a contract extension), unless Harper stays in the minor leagues through all of 2012 and half of 2013. So it seems to me like the Super 2 concern for Harper does not apply.And he will become a free agent after completing 6 years of MLB service like anyone else (again, presuming no extension).Am I missing something?

  24. sjm308 - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    I love Anon at 1:18AM (No less) already having us finishing behind the fish and to my knowledge, not one game has been played!! They lost 90 games, have a totally new situation with both players and manager and you think they are all of a sudden going to catch fire because of a few signings? Please remember that both Ramirez and Reyes have attitudes and no one is sure they will work well together. Both also get hurt a bunch and Heath Bell is on the down side of a great career. Ozzie is a firecracker waiting to go off and you just don't know how that whole situation will turn out but go ahead and think the worst. Probably how you attack most of life's problems.

  25. sjm308 - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Just had another thought about the Marlins – didn't everyone figure the Eagles wouldn't even have to play a game to make it to the super bowl? Where are they now??

  26. Joe Seamhead - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    The Marlins are still a long way from being serious contenders in the East.As for the Nats, I wake up every morning, and come home every evening to see if there's any trades announced, just like the rest of you. But, I honestly think that even if we don't make any headline making deals we still are serious contenders,, with a couple of tweaks made, with what we already have. I don't want to trade Clip or Storen, and I think that we already have four very good starters, maybe five, with a couple of more right behind them. Now, I'd love to see any one of the big three available pitchers mentioned on our team, but not at too much long term commitment. As to trading our rising stars, that is a dangerous game. Ask Philly. They have basically called in the dogs, and sold the farm, on a couple of trades amounting to a "win now" mentality that has left their minor league system nearly bankrupt of future stars.They are getting old quick. Rizzo has stated repeatedly that he has a plan to build an on-going, strong organization from top to bottom, beginning with a firm foundation. He has made tremendous headway towards that goal in a very short time. He will trade a prospect, but only if the return is a positive. I see the "win now" at the cost of the future to be a Daniel Snyder mentality. Just another Joe Seamhead editorial…GYFNG!!!

  27. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    Joe Seamhead = the voice of reason

  28. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    So, Harper needs to polish his raw skills in the minors while Desmond tries to figure out his game in the Bigs?

  29. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Joe… I agree totally but still expect Rizzo to pull off something none of us saw coming. It may not necessarily be a headline story but it will be something that answers a question or two that we've all been asking.I still think that B.J. Upton is in play but it would be unwise to make the deal until the Rays realize their only option to improve payroll will be to non-tender him. At that time Rizzo could maybe pick up that starter (if he can't get Buehrle) AND Upton for a reasonable package.I have all kinds of problems signing C.J. Wilson to the kind of money he's asking. And I certainly don't want him for 6 years.As for "The Kid"…. Davey will labor long and hard for him to be on the 25 man but it would take some incredible outfield play and an improved plate discipline during Spring Training when the every day lineups are playing to show everyone that he's ready.

  30. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Philly is in a win always mode, not a win now mode. They are the Yankees in the NL. If the Nats think that they can wait-out the Phils and win some day when the age catches up with them and they fall back to the pack, that day, if it ever comes, is far, far in the future.dfh21

  31. Joe Seamhead - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    Oh, yeah. Regarding our young Sultan of Swat, if Davey says that he's ready in April, then, by all means, let the games begin. Bryce may start slow at the plate, that's his m.o. but if somebody is throwing a pitch to him, he can hit it pretty consistently at any level, IMHO. By all accounts the kid is a freak of nature.He seems to still have a lot to learn regarding the OF, and he may cost us a game or two out there, but somehow on the scale of things, I think that he'll win more for us with the bat then he'll lose for us with the inexperience in the field. I can't wait to see! GYFNG !

  32. ehay2k - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    My take on Harper's promotion (probably not worth the pixels, but whatever.)If he is able to play skilll-wise, he should play, even if he still needs some development. Davey has proven he can help young players improve at the MLB level. If it impacts his Super-2 status, that means as much to me as impacting his ability to rent Super-8 at the local Redbox. Both are financial decisions made with someone else's money, and I never worry about those things. I cannot believe the angst here over payroll. We are not paying for it. (Don't start about ticket prices, because what we HAVE been paying for is a bad team.)Lastly, if there is ONE thing the Nats are clearly very good at, it is managing media exposure to, and pressure on, young stars. And if a guy needs a Nats-nanny to keep him the straight and narrow, then they have shown they can do that too. IIRC, Elijah Dukes only had one major dust up while here: reporting to a game late after doing a charity event. All other issues were confined to the locker room. As soon as he was free of his Nats-nanny, he seemed to constantly work to move into the Big House. (Did he make it yet?)So, let the managers decide. Let the owners decide. As long as the decision doesn't hurt the team on the field for the sake of getting fans in the seats, I'm good.

  33. Section 222 - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    If Sunderland is right about Super 2 and how much he makes in arbitration, then all the beat writers obsessing about how the new CBA will affect Harper and the Nats owe us an apology. Hopefully someone can offer clarification. But he is definitely right about Super 2 and arbitration having nothing to do with team control. Keeping him down for an extra two months does not give us an extra year of team control before free agency. The two are completely unrelated.I have no idea if Harper will be ready to play in the bigs come opening day. I'm just saying that if he is, he should be on the 25 man roster, regardless of the cost. And I agree with dfh21 — Standing pat is not going to win us championships. It just isn't.

  34. Joe Seamhead - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    dfh21,the difference between the Yankees and Philly is the Yankees still have a good farm system. Come on. Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome, and Nix are upgrades? Those guys are ready for rec league softball teams! And I'm willing to bet that they made a mistake in the Papelbon move, too. Many of the fly ball outs he had in the AL will be HR's in Philly. Screw Philly. Stick a fork in 'em. Oh, yeah, and everybody here, let's Occupy Half Street for the Philly games, especially!

  35. Joe Seamhead - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    I don't see replacing Nix with Harper as standing pat.

  36. Knoxville Nat - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    I always thought that Rizzo was of the mind set that he wanted Harper to dominate at one level before moving up to the next level of baseball. We saw him do just that at Hagerstown but I don't think we saw Harper "dominate" at the AA level in Harrisburg. Nor do I equate six weeks or so of the AFL to a regular AA schedule what with travel seeing different pitchers more frequently, etc. Unless Harper absolutely excels against the top flight pitchers in ST (I'm talking about the #1 and 2 types) I'm guessing he starts the season in Syracuse and possibly even Harrisburg again before there is any call up in June.

  37. Binx Bolling - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Mr. Seamhead is right. The Nats need not make any big deals and still improve substantially in 2012. How? 1) A full season from LaRoche. 2) A full season from Ryan Zimmerman. 3) Morse starting and hitting clean-up from Opening Day. 4) A full season from Strasburg. 5) A season not limited to 160 innings from J. Zimmerman. 6) Ramos starting as catcher from Opening Day. 7) A better season from Werth. 8) A full season from Wang. 9) Jumps to the major leagues by any of the young pitchers.Not to say bad things might happen. Just ask a Giants fan how their season went south after Posey was knocked out for the year.

  38. Mark Zuckerman - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Just to clear this up, here are the different scenarios for when Harper debuts and how that affects his arbitration/free agency status…– If Harper is on the Opening Day 2012 roster (and if he stays in the majors for six years without any demotions), he would become a free agent after the 2017 season.– If Harper starts 2012 in the minors and is promoted before roughly mid-June, he wouldn't become a free agent until after the 2018 season but would qualify for Super-2 status in 2015. Though he's already scheduled to earn a $1 million salary that season, there's a provision in the contract that allows him to earn an arbitration-level salary if he qualifies. So this scenario could cost the Nats several million dollars.– If Harper starts 2012 in the minors and is promoted after roughly mid-June, he wouldn't become a free agent until after the 2018 season and wouldn't qualify for arbitration until after the 2015 season. This scenario both saves the Nats money because it eliminates the Super-2 possibility and ensures another season of team control before Harper can become a free agent.I know it's all confusing — believe me, sometimes I can't even get it all correct in my head — but hopefully this helps clear it up a bit.

  39. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    It's not that posters here are worried about payroll as if it's their money (well, maybe the ones complaining about where their season ticket receipts go), so much as an awareness that the team does have a budget, and will act accordingly. The angst may be somewhat misplaced, in that we don't know what that budget is, really, but it's a legitimate consideration if you are trying to come up with realistic scenarios. Not that I think everyone here is doing that, or should have to.

  40. sigmund freud - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    sec 3, sofa:The angst may be somewhat misplaced, there's always room for angst on my sofa

  41. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    Thanks for clearing up Harper's contract status Mark.Sunderland

  42. Tcostant - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    I pulled this gem as proof (http://www2.newsadvance.com/sports/2008/apr/11/simply_amazin_the_rise_of_the_lynchburg_mets-ar-225728/)This in from the bottom of the article link:A fitting finishThe first of September was a bittersweet day. The Mets had a doubleheader with Hagerstown, needing only a single vic-tory to clinch the second-half title and avoid a divisional playoff. Gooden was slated for the start, his last in Lynchburg. Everybody knew it, too.He entered the game with 286 strikeouts with his eye on a nice, round number. Gooden delivered a masterpiece, giving up four hits in a 1-0 win. He entered the seventh (and final) inning needing two strikeouts to reach 300. After the leadoff man grounded out, Gooden notched strikeout No. 13. That’s when the Suns brought in pinch hitter Paul Croft.“It was like, ‘This is over,’” Graves said. “You can’t come off the bench and hit him. You’re coming up cold. And he struck the last guy out.”The Mets front office called immediately after the game. Gooden was headed for Triple-A Tidewater, where he’d eventu-ally pitch the Tides to the International League title and the first-ever Triple-A World Series. Tides manager Davey Johnson, who would manage the Mets’ big league team the next year, was so impressed with the youngster that he lobbied hard for Gooden to be on his staff in ’84. Management reluctantly obliged and Gooden won National League rookie of the year.

  43. Tcostant - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    Just to be clear, my I don't see my orginial cooment. I saw here and at the Washington Post that Gooden made the 1984 Mets "had never pitched above Class A"; which is just not true, see above.

  44. Harper_ROY_2012 - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    Davey has evaluated young talent before with the Mets, he knows a good player when he sees one. Rizzo might be able to pull the wool over other eyes but Davey will call a spade a spade and if Davey wants Harper in RF opening day (which if he has a good camp he should be there), Davey should take what he wants #HoneyBadger

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