WASHINGTON, DC – With a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals clinched the NLCS and earned the team’s first ever World Series appearance, thus completing a nine-year prank on former teammate, Bryce Harper, by purposely waiting until he was no longer on the team to achieve this goal.
What started as a simple high school joke among Harper’s teammates became an elaborate prank for his 27th birthday involving several major players, including Scott Boras, MLB’s top agent. “At first I thought it was a stupid, impossible idea,” stated Boras, but once I learned how much money was involved, I couldn’t say no.”
Boras reached out to the Washington Nationals, a team in a town known for pulling pranks on people, like having Trump as president. Owner Ted Lerner agreed and drafted Harper as the first overall pick of the 2010 draft at the age of 17. Within two years, Harper made his MLB debut at 19 years old. The pieces were now in place. “The goal was to make Harper the face of the Nationals,” said Lerner. “We’d pay him a ton of money, sell a ton of his #34 jerseys, and keep him out of the World Series. It was a beautiful plan.”
For seven seasons, the plan worked beautifully. Harper won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, and by 23, became the youngest player to win the NL MVP. With huge sales of his jerseys, shirts, and bobble heads, Harper immediately became the face of the Nationals. Now he wanted to bring DC a championship.
In 2014, after an NL league best 96-66 record, the Nationals were the team to beat, and Bryce Harper had his eyes on the prize. Unfortunately, he had no idea the games were fixed to lose to the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. In that series, Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland almost blew the whole prank by giving up multiple home runs to Harper. Luckily, Nationals Manager Matt Williams stepped in and purposely made what appeared to be stupid pitching changes that fixed the situation and allowed the Giants to defeat the Nationals 3-1.
Over the next four years, Harper would experience more heartbreak. In 2015, the team failed to make the playoffs after Harper had arguably his best hitting season. In 2016, they reached the playoffs, only to be defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLDS after blowing a 2 to 1 lead in the series.
In 2017, The Nationals won the division title for the fourth time in 6 years, only to lose to the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS in another heartbreaking Game 5 loss where manager Dusty Baker was paid millions to blow the game to keep the prank alive. After feelings of guilt set in, Baker tried to tell Harper the truth, but before doing so was fired at the end of the season.
In 2018, Boras, Lerner, and the rest of the organization started the transition of moving Harper to another team to complete the prank. Harper, feeling confused as to why the team couldn’t win in the playoffs, began to question his own abilities. Through 90 games, his batting average was at an all-time low at .219 (somehow still good enough to make the All-Star team – probably because the game was held in DC) and doubt started to set in. With his stats down and signs he wasn’t happy in DC, trade talks began swirling.
“We knew we had him exactly where we wanted him,” stated Lerner. “We basically pushed him away by allowing other teams to offer him millions more than we could. Boras really worked his magic finding Harper a new home.”
In 2019, Harper joined the Philadelphia Phillies with a 13-year $330 million contract, setting the stage for the Nationals to pull off the prank. They defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in the Wild Card game due to a 9th inning, bases-clearing double by Juan Soto on a “misjudged” ball by outfielder Trent Grisham, who later admitted under media scrutiny that he too was involved in the elaborate joke. The Nationals would then go on to defeat the Dodgers, in the NLDS where Clayton Kershaw purposely gave up back-to-back homers in Game 5.
The plan was for the Nationals to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS, which was Harper’s 27th birthday. Unfortunately, Howie Kendrick was never informed of the prank and drove in too many runs resulting in a sweep of the Cardinals in only four games, completing the prank exactly one day before Harper’s birthday.
Regardless, the team was thrilled they managed to pull it off almost exactly as planned. “We did it!! This is the greatest moment in the history of this ballclub!” exclaimed Manager Dave Martinez. “This was the result of over nine years of believing in ourselves and perfect execution. Oh, and going to the World Series is pretty cool, too.”
When asked to comment on this nine-year elaborate prank, Harper charged our reporter, trying to throw his helmet at him, but luckily, it slipped out of his hand and went far off to the right.