CLEVELAND - Bryce Harper, for the first time in his career, will watch the All-Star Game go on without him. He was not voted a National League starter or awarded a spot on the bench. Harper will watch Tuesday night as a fan.
But Harper's presence is still felt this week as his face looms over the downtown Cleveland from signage posted by Major League Baseball. Harper banners cling to light posts, and he's one of seven National League players on a large billboard over Ontario Street.
The other six are All-Stars, making it hard to remember that Harper is not one. And his agent, Scott Boras, thinks he should be.
"My biggest problem with our game is that in our game we have marquees, and marquees need to be certain places at certain times," Boras said Monday afternoon. "We need to take advantage of them. I think we have to do a better job of figuring out how we provide the fan base with what they really want and what the game wants."
Harper entered the All-Star break batting .253 with 105 strikeouts, 16 homers and a .839 OPS. He ranks in the Top 10 among National League outfielders in just RBIs (62) and on-base percentage (.370). It would be a stretch to use stats alone to label Harper an All-Star this season. The Phillies committed nearly a half-billion last offseason to their roster, but find themselves in third place at the break with just one All-Star representative.
"I feel like we have multiple guys who could have been All-Stars," said J.T. Realmuto, the team's lone selectee. "Rhys (Hoskins) has put up really solid numbers, he's just at an extremely tough position (first base) to be an All-Star. It's definitely surprising to me that we only have one guy."
It is not a stretch to label Harper as one of baseball's best-known faces. And that is why Boras thinks he should be in Cleveland.
"I think there's a performance element to it, too. But I also think there's a marquee element, too," Boras said. "I think our selection system has to have a process like, look, we have CC Sabathia here, which is great to see. You have a player with a remarkable career who really represented Major League Baseball well. He's here at the All-Star Game. Those things need to be done more often."
Boras pointed across the room of the convention-center ballroom to where Sabathia was sitting a few minutes earlier among the members of the American League roster. The retiring Yankees left-hander is not an All-Star, but Major League Baseball invited him to Cleveland, where he began his career.
Sabathia was at Monday's media day and attended the Home Run Derby with the American League. He'll be in the clubhouse at Tuesday's All-Star Game and represent baseball at its marquee event despite not being an All-Star. Boras would like to see the same for Harper. Instead, he just got a few banners.
"I think it's one of those things where Bryce Harper is one of the most recognizable names in the game and you certainly want him to be at these events," Boras said. "He's been an All-Star every year of his career, and that's something that happens in Harper's career or (Mike) Trout's career. There's years where you're not an All-Star. It's part of baseball."
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