You ever been to Oklahoma City? There's a lot of stuff named after Mickey Mantle there. That's where a steakhouse is, at least one road, the plaza of the minor league stadium (Dodgers AAA) along with a big Mantle statue outside. Mantle actually, as far as I can tell, didn't really have an association with Oklahoma City. He was born (Spavinaw) and raised (Commerce) in far NE Oklahoma, closer to Kansas City than Oklahoma City. He played semi-pro in Kansas, minor league ball in Missouri. After his career he opened up restaurants in Texas and NY, invested in land development in Texas, hotel management in Missouri, lived in Georgia, and died and is buried in Texas. Even his eponymous steakhouse that now does, as far as I can tell, pretty well in downtown Oklahoma City, opened a few years after his death. Compare that to someone like Bobby Murcer, who was born and raised there, lived there, supported businesses there, owned the minor league team there, died and is buried there. No statue, no road, just a bust alongside other Oklahomans. It just goes to show you that what you do on the field, ultimately trumps all.
Just an aside really before talking a bit about Bryce Harper. Bryce won't have the Mantle problem. He was born and raised in Vegas and I'm sure at some point there will be roads and statues there and probably some themed slot machines as well.* Why am I sure about it? Because he just had one of the greatest offensive seasons ever. By OPS plus (a fair enough metric in my mind) there have only been 60 or so seasons by anyone this good or better, never by someone younger. The ones to do it within three years of Bryce are all HALL OF FAMERS, and the capitalization is on purpose. These are no doubters. Williams, Cobb, Foxx, Mantle, Ruth, Gehrig. That's it. Go to age 26, 27, 28, 29 and you find the first non HOF player (Norm Cash**) but you also find more HOF names. Lajoie, Hornsby, Frank Thomas, Bagwell, Musial, Brett, Bonds.
Think about that for a second. A handful of baseball players in 100+ years of history have had an offensive season this good and done it under 30***. All but one are Hall of Famers. All but one did it while being older.
As for MVP you look at the other hitters around as young who won it and you see the same thing. Bench - HOF. Musial - HOF. Ripken - HOF. Trout - on track. Mays - HOF. Aaron - HOF.
I just noted how much he affected the Nats. (I really am going to do more with that. I promise!).
This guy is great. This guy is so young. That's important because usually when you see a season like this you are seeing a player's peak. A 22-27 year old at his baseball physical peak combining with health and overall luck to produce something special. Bryce is young enough that this may NOT be his peak. That's obvious just because no one had a season this good at a younger age, but it's also true looking at some of the youngest performers. Mantle would have a better season a year later. Cobb around 30. Ruth would have multiple better seasons. Even for the ones where the youngest season was the best, it was not the only season they had that was around as good.
Unless Bryce is the next Norm Cash, and no one thinks he is, the downside isn't down. The floor, where this past season was the peak, would likely be something like 6+ years of MVP caliber performance slowly degrading after that. More than half a decade hitting like Trout, Stanton, Cabrera dropping down to something like say... Ryan Zimmerman's best for a few years. The ceiling would be over a decade of performances that add a few more entries into the "best ever offensive seasons" club. Assuming health of course.
The Nats can pay him a ridiculous amount of money now and work around that. They can keep not paying him and work payroll (most likely adding very few big contracts) with the hope of signing him later. Or they can keep not paying him, assume he's gone, and add some big contracts now. If I were a Nats fan I'm hoping against hope they take that first road.
13/500 oh ok 15/500 make it "for life"
Oh yes, don't forget to ask me any questions below. Should you break up with your boyfriend because he hasn't proposed? What about asking for a raise? What's the best way to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner? Maybe even something baseball related!
*Fun fact : There's a Mickey Mantle Ct in Las Vegas. There are no other baseball/sports themed roads around it so I got nothing on why it's there. I assume someone living there picked it out. Good for you, sir or ma'am!
**Cash was partially a victim of war - he spent some time in Korea - and got a late start on his career. His first 120+ game season coming as an "old" 25. Partially it was just a once-in-a-generation lucky season. Even he realized that season was something crazy too noting everything was just dropping in (.370 BABIP when his career was like .270). Basically at his power peak, he had the luckiest season of his career average wise, and at the same time pitchers walked him because he was doing so well. Perfect Storm really. Cash also did this.
*** At 30-34 you add a mix of HOFers and almost HOFers career years. Frank Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Honus Wagner show up here, along with Jim Thome (probably a HOFer) and Dick Allen. You also get a couple of... you know, those guys. Giambi, McGwire, Sosa.