11/12/2012 5:29 P.M. ET
Harper wins close NL Rookie of the Year race
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was named the National League Rookie of the Year Award winner, as voted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Monday.
Harper narrowly edged D-backs pitcher Wade Miley by seven points, 112-105, the fourth-closest margin in NL voting history. Harper was named first on 16 of the 32 ballots, second on eight and third on eight, the only player to be named by all 32 voters. Miley netted 12 first-place votes, 13 second-place votes and six third-place votes.
2012 NL ROOKIE OF YEAR VOTING
Harper, the youngest position player to win the NL honor, became the first player in franchise history to win the award since Expos outfielder Andre Dawson captured the honor in 1977. Harper acknowledged that he was nervous before finding out that he won the award at 6:47 p.m. ET.
"I was sitting in the chair, my heart was beating a little bit. I found out the way everybody else did," Harper said during a conference call. "It was a great moment for me and my family. ... It was a great moment for D.C. It was a lot of fun to see that and bring that in."
Harper didn't make his Major League debut until April 28, but he made up for lost time, playing all three outfield positions and hitting a respectable .270 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs. At 19, Harper's 22 homers were the second most by a teenager. Tony Conigliaro of the Red Sox had 24 in 1964.
"Upon joining us, Bryce's impact on our lineup and defensive alignment was immediate and came at a great time of need," Nats executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. "His sustained energy and enthusiasm throughout the summer played a big part in fueling our division title. On behalf of the Lerner family and the Nationals organization, I'd like to congratulate Bryce on his historic NL Rookie of the Year season."
Harper also led the Nationals in runs scored (98) and triples (nine), while being named the Rookie of the Month for May and September.
"I just really think this year was a lot of fun. I had a great group of guys around me. They made it the way I wanted it," Harper said. "... I was just trying to be that guy that could come in, play the game hard, play it the right way, come in and get the fans of D.C. excited. That was my main goal -- to try and win a World Series. That didn't happen this year."
Harper's best game arguably came May 6 against the Phillies. Harper showed how to get revenge in a 9-3 loss.
With two outs in the first inning, Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels hit Harper with a pitch, then later acknowledged that was intentional. After getting drilled, Harper advanced to third on a single by Jayson Werth. Harper was then able to get some payback by stealing home while Hamels tried to pick off Werth at first base.
Harper became the second player in Nationals history to steal home and the first to do so on a straight steal. Ian Desmond stole home as part of a double steal on April 20, 2011, against the Cardinals.
Harper was selected as a catcher in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The day he was drafted, the Nats announced that Harper would switch to the outfield. The team felt he would get to the big leagues quicker if he made the position switch.
Considering he was drafted as a catcher, Harper was above average as an outfielder in '12, making eight assists.
"His improvement has come along better," manager Davey Johnson said this past season. "He is getting closer to hitting the cutoff man. He ain't hitting them yet, but he is getting closer. But all the other aspects have improved since he has been out there. ... I think he is getting more comfortable."
Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, was pleased to hear that that Harper won the award. Asked to compare his game to Harper's, Trout said, "We play the game the right way. We're always running out balls, he's always hustling trying to make that big play, and we're doing everything we can to try and help the team win. That's what I like about him. He's 100 percent effort every game. You watch him play, he's running out popups in the infield and making that incredible play at such a young age; it's fun to watch."
The 2013 season hasn't even started and Harper already has set a goal for next year.
"My biggest thing is, I want to win a World Series," Harper said. "I want to put that ring on my finger and give that to the town and city of D.C. They deserve that. I think the organization deserves it. That is what my biggest goal is."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.