Ken Burns couldn't have said it better when he declared baseball to be a haunted game in his famous documentary.
It's about as true as it gets.
Every player who puts a uniform on today is compared to those of the past.
Do they measure up?
Will the ever be just as good as (fill in the blank)?
Very rarely does a player come along that we can connect to a player that has played "back in the day." Well, that moment has arrived.
Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals is the next Mickey Mantle.
Numbers can't be predicted — I'm not a numbers person myself, I'm all about performance — but what can be foreseen is how Harper plays, how Harper conducts himself on the field.
He's got the speed on the base paths, range in the outfield and the knowledge, strength and hand-eye coordination at the plate. His skills are so evenly balanced that he could pretty much be the Mickey Mantle-type player even Mickey Mantle had trouble living up to.
I don't see Harper as injury prone or doing outrageous stuff off the field to where it would play a role in his job in uniform.
And just like Mantle he's starting at a young age where he'll be around a while so he'll be identified with two different decades of baseball. Just like Mantle was in the '50s and '60s.
The only thing that could hinder this, or if anything could change the course of this Mantle comparison, is if Harper is one day traded or goes to another team via free agency. Personally I would like to see him be in Washington for his entire career, but in this day and age the possibilities are slim.
There are a lot of players who have played for more than one team and still remained popular — Frank Robinson is one that comes to mind — but very rarely is a player identified by two teams. Robinson was great in Cincinnati and Baltimore, but I'll always identify him as a Red.
I hope that doesn't happen for Harper, I think he'll be D.C.'s first superstar since Frank Howard.
As for the Mickey Mantle comparison, he's on a great pace. In fact he may surpass it, and the next young star to come into the big leagues may be compared to Bryce Harper.