If there were any lingering doubts about Las Vegas’ status as a hotbed of baseball, those were completely erased during a historic week that would be hard for any other city to match.
On Thursday, Washington Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper won the National League Most Valuable Player award by unanimous decision, garnering all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. That honor came three days after Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was named National League Rookie of the Year, also on a unanimous vote.
Both players first got their spikes dirty years ago on the fields of the Las Vegas Valley, and at around the same time — Mr. Bryant is nine months older than Mr. Harper.
Mr. Harper made a huge national splash when, at age 16, he landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated for an article titled, “Baseball’s Chosen One.” After leaving Las Vegas High School two years early and tearing it up at the College of Southern Nevada, he was drafted No. 1 overall by the Nationals in 2010.
Now 23, Harper is the youngest unanimous MVP in baseball history, and rightly so after his 2015 season. He led the NL with 42 home runs and was second in batting average at .330, and the left-hander led all major leaguers with a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage. Just how good are those numbers? Since 1900, only two players have led the majors in on-base and slugging percentages — Ty Cobb and Stan Musial. By finishing in the top two in his league for average, homers, runs (118) and walks (124), he joined the only other player in history to do so: Rogers Hornsby. Pretty heady company indeed.
Mr. Bryant’s feat is no less sterling. After a standout career at the University of San Diego, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the country’s top college player in 2013, the former Bonanza High star was drafted No. 2 overall by the Cubs that year. He entered 2015 as the top prospect in the majors, but started the season in Triple-A. He was called up two weeks into the season, and he soon left no doubt he was at Wrigley Field to stay. He finished the season with a .275 batting average and .369 on-base percentage, and he belted 26 homers and compiled 99 RBIs in helping the Cubs reach the NL Championship Series.
Along with leading all NL rookies in homers, RBIs and on-base percentage, Mr. Bryant also set the pace in doubles (31) and runs scored (87).
In a city built on hype that often fails to materialize, Messrs. Harper and Bryant have actually exceeded the hype. They deserve a standing ovation for their efforts, and Las Vegans can take pride in these two tremendous, home-grown talents. No doubt about it.