(Photo: Brad Mills/USATODAY Sports)
Today's Big Winner: Bryce Harper
Clayton Kershaw had a pretty amazing Opening Day -- taking the mound after Sandy Koufax, pitching a shutout, hitting a home run. Not bad at all.
But Bryce Harper staked out his place as the most must-see player in baseball -- and, if you're being honest, the most must-see player in sports.
Harper offers a potent combination: A fresh face and wild charisma, plus the stakes of batting in the heart of the order of baseball's presumptive favorite to win a championship, plus the all-important novelty of never knowing if you are going to see something you have never seen before, like becoming the youngest player ever to hit two home runs on Opening Day.
In those ways, Harper at 20 has achieved the same status as LeBron James, who is nearly 10 years older. But the difference is that LeBron is at the peak of his talents -- his transcendent performances are routine -- while Harper is only beginning to showcase his.
LeBron offers the thrill of the expected, honed to near-perfection; Harper offers the thrill of the unexpected -- we have no idea what might happen, and that's the point.
The Top 5 most must-see athletes in sports right now*:
(1) Bryce Harper
and also, a month ago.
(2) LeBron James
Best individual season since Jordan's prime.
(3) Lionel Messi
The world's most popular athlete?
(4) Russ Smith
There's a reason his nickname is "Russdiculous."
(5) Kobe Bryant
Desperate Kobe is the most compelling Kobe.
Also receiving votes: Steven Stamkos, King Felix, Clayton Kershaw.
* -- "Right now" means no RGIII or Johnny Manziel... until September.
But with two thunderous at-bats yesterday to lead off the 2013 baseball season, Bryce Harper staked his claim as the most must-see show in sports.
Who are your most must-see athletes in sports right now?
Tweet it out with the hashtag #amwin. Best ideas get in tomorrow's Win.
More of today's winners:
Kevin Ware: "Dad, they said I can walk today. They said I can walk." Great news.
Andy Enfield: Parlays Florida Gulf Coast hype into new gig at USC. Great fit. If he wins big quickly at USC, don't be shocked when Enfield is the next coach of the Clippers.
Felix Hernandez: No slouch himself. King Felix has always dominated in every statistical category except "wins," over which he has almost no control. If the Mariners can score behind him, he will waltz to another AL Cy Young award.
Jackie Bradley Jr.: Red Sox rookie OF gets the best of Sabathia -- Boston gets the best of NY.
Ranking Monday's NFL QB moves: Which QB won most?
(1) Colt McCoy: Goes from the NFL's dregs in Cleveland to its mountaintop in San Francisco.
(2) Carson Palmer: Goes from NFL's dregs in Oakland... to slighly less dreg-ish Arizona.
(3) Matt Flynn: Does his move to Oakland mean the Raiders won't draft QB Geno Smith?
Even more winners:
Sean Miller: Made sympathetic by report that Pac-12 refs honcho may have targeted him?
Cal women's hoops: To the Final Four! (Oh, right: UConn, too - ho hum, that's six straight.)
Andrew Wiggins: Whoa.
Doug McDermott: Two-time college hoops All American. (Others on '13 team: Trey Burke, Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo and Kelly Olynyk. Can't argue with any of the picks.)
Sandy Koufax: Still the best.
With apologies to all of the brilliant people I follow on Twitter, my favorite follow is @harperatbat.
The premise is simple: A tweet when Bryce Harper is on deck, a tweet when Harper comes to the plate (with an endearing "!"), a tweet with the result. For example:
That's it. I salute you, anonymous Harper fan.
Good read: First impressions from Opening Day.
Must-Flip Gallery: Opening Day around MLB.
Check out the Morning Win every weekday morning.
Follow Dan Shanoff on Twitter at @danshanoff.