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By Randy Miller
MIAMI — Yankees fans, are you getting a kick out of Bryce Harperfiring back at heckling Mets fans?
The Washington Nationals one-time MVP right fielder lashed out this week by calling them “rude” to the point he’d like to “punch somebody in the mouth.”
Now it’s your turn to be disappointed if you’re dreaming of Yankees superstar rookie Aaron Judge and Harper being in the same outfield come 2019.
Here’s a possible strong hint that Harper won’t consider signing with the Yankees when he becomes a free agent after the ’18 season:
He’s apparently no fan of New York City.
During All-Star Workout Day at Marlins Park on Monday, Harper was asked what he thought about the Yankees’ tradition and New York City before Judge won the 2017 Home Run Derby.
Here’s his response on the city:
“Going to New York City for a couple days … I want to get out of there in about three days. You go there for three days, it’s pretty crazy and hectic and I want to go back home. I want to go back home to DC. There’s nothing like (DC).”
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner wants to get under baseball’s luxury tax threshold by 2018, which would make it more cost effective to go above it again the next season, and it just so happens that the 2018-19 offseason could have a free agent class that includes Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, Baltimore Orioles star third basemanManny Machado and Bryce Harper.
The Yankees and Harper have been linked in rumors for years because the Yankees would be a team that could afford Harper, and Harper, who hits left-handed, seemingly would be a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium with its short porch in right field.
Harper was asked Monday if he’s ever wondered how many homers he could hit in a season if he played half his games at Yankee Stadium, and his answer cast more doubt that he’ll someday be a Yankee.
“I hit the ball to left field a lot and Yankee Stadium is pretty big in left field,” Harper said.
Also, the Yankees now have a superstar right fielder in Judge, so Harper joining forces would force one of them to move to another position or DH.
Harper’s heard the rumors.
Here’s his take:
“I don’t really think about it much. I try to focus on what I can do to help my team on a day-to-day basis. Judge is a great player. (The Yankees) have a lot of young talent out there with (Gary) Sanchez,(Clint) FrazierandDidi (Gregorius). Greg Bird, when he comes back … he’s a great player.
“They’ve got a lot of great talent, but that’s their team and Judge is doing a great job being a leader of that team. He’s paving the way for all of those guys out there. But I just try to focus on doing what I can to help my team win on a daily basis.”
Media guesses have Harper moving on by ’19 due to speculation the Nationals won’t pony up whatever the big dollars are that it’ll take to get his monster contract done.
“I would love for Harper to stay in a Nationals uniform,” Nationals All-Star right-hander Stephen Strasburg said. “He got drafted by them. I grew up a huge Tony Gwynn fan and he stayed on one team for his whole career. I think there’s something to that. You don’t really see that too often.”
Harper thinks there’s something to that, too, and he’s saying he’d like to become to the Nationals what legends such as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter were to the Yankees.
“They’ve got tradition,” Harper said of the Yankees. “That’s the thing I want to do in DC. That’s why it’s so amazing to be able to start with a team that you can build the most tradition you can with. You look at a guy like Cal Ripken who stayed with the Orioles forever. You look at a guy like Derek Jeter who stayed with the Yankees forever and (helped continue) that tradition of having such great fans and amazing teams and things like that.
“With DC, the guys that we have right now with (younger stars such as third baseman Anthony) Rendon and (shortstop) Trea Turner and (center fielder) Michael Taylor and having the veteran guys that we do in (All-Star starting pitchers Max) Scherzer and Strasburg … (Outfielder prospect Victor) Robles in the minor leagues is one of our best guys. We’ve got a lot of great talent coming up.”
Are those hints that Harper may give the Nationals a big hometown discount to stay?
Maybe, but probably not.
Meantime, baseball fans will continue to speculate where Harper will end up.
“I think that’s human nature,” Harper said. “It’s part of the way the world ticks. I don’t even worry about it much. I try to focus on what I can do that day to help my team win. I don’t want to look into the future. It’s not fair to myself. It’s not fair to my team. I’m a guy who wants to win in the moment. I want to help my team in DC play and win. We’ve got a great club there.”