WASHINGTON — Lots of people love the Home Run Derby. Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper isn’t one of them. At least not right now.
“I just don’t want to, plain and simple,” Harper said when asked after Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Milwaukee why he wouldn’t be participating in next week’s Home Run Derby in San Diego. “I just don’t really wanna do it. I just want to enjoy my time, sit on the side and watch it a little bit.”
The reigning MVP also stayed on the sidelines last year, when he opted out in part because his father Ron — who was Harper’s pitcher in 2013, when he finished as the runner-up during his first and only Derby appearance — was on the shelf after suffering a torn rotator cuff. This time, it’s more about fatigue than family, though.
“I don’t know about draining,” said Harper, who got off to a scorching start in April but has struggled over the past couple of months. Since May 1, Harper’s .397 slugging percentage ranks 126th out of 163 qualified major leaguers. On Tuesday, he went 1-for-4 — including a bases-loaded strikeout that killed a seventh-inning rally — to drop his average to .258. “Definitely it’s a lot of swings and what not. Yeah, you could say draining — why not? But it’s just, I don’t know, I don’t want to go out there and swing and swing and swing, I guess.”
Last year, Harper went on record as saying he’d probably do a double-duck on the Derby and skip both 2015 and 2016, but that he might reconsider in 2017 and beyond. If he takes part in the 2018 tater tourney, he’ll do so as host, since the 2018 Midsummer Classic will be held in DC. It’d be the same role that reigning Derby champ Todd Frazier filled last summer, when the former Reds slugger mashed his way to glory in Cincinnati.
“I enjoyed watching Frazier win it last year,” said Harper, who will be making his fourth All-Star appearance in five years after finishing fourth among National League vote-getters (2,865,095) and first among NL outfielders.
For now, though, the 23-year-old slugger is content to spectate, even though he likes the way Petco Park plays.
“It’s a good park to swing it in,” Harper said. “You’re gonna get a lot of homers to left and a lot of homers to right. It’s a fun event, but I don’t know, I just don’t care for it.”