Bryce Harper lives up to the hype, earns NL ROY honors in extremely close vote

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Big League Stew

For Bryce Harper, 19, the path to the NL Rookie of the Year award was a little bit tougher than Mike Trout's in the AL— as evidenced by the mere seven point difference between himself and runner-up Wade Miley — but there's a very good reason for that.

During the season, Harper actually went through stretches where he looked human, and at times even his own age. Those symptoms of growing pains kept him from matching Trout's historic season statically, but Harper still finished with an exceptional .817 OPS, 22 home runs and 18 stolen bases.

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Honestly, most years those numbers will position you to be an overwhelming favorite, but the fierce competition from the left-hander Miley (12 first place votes), who won 16 games and finished 10th in the NL in ERA, and Cincinnati Reds versatile slugger Todd Frazier, made it a down the wire decision. In fact, Frazier was already named the player's choice for the honor last week, so despite the distant third place finish here, he has clearly earned his respect around the league.

[Related: Mike Trout unanimously voted AL Rookie of the Year]

With those two finalists and other contenders such as Norichika Aoki and Wilin Rosario nipping at his heels, there had to be something that put Harper over the top in the voter's eyes. Actually, I think there were several factors involved, beginning with the insane hype that preceded his arrival in Washington. All things considered, he lived up to that hype, which is an impressive feat in and of itself.

Harper also had his share of signature moments. In fact, barely a week after his callup, he stole home on Cole Hamels as a direct response to the Phillies left-hander drilling him square in the back with a message pitch. A few weeks later, "That's a clown question, bro" was born, and immediately became the most repeated catchphrase and punchline of the year.

That ability to turn heads with his energy and passion on the field, and garner attention with his magnetic personality off it kept Bryce Harper fresh in everyone's mind all year long.

But beyond all of that, it was the undeniable role he played in the Nationals winning the NL East, finishing with the league's best record, and making their playoff appearance as a franchise since 1981. Yes, he struggled through rough patches, but he was the very definition of a beast over the final month by hitting .330 with seven homers and 27 runs scored.

All of those ingredients put together gives you the Rookie of the Year, and a superstar for years to come.

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