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We imagine there’s no greater feeling for professional athletes than silencing their critics, and that might be doubly true when the critics are the people they share the field with day in and day out. That’s the situation Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper finds himself in after being voted the most overrated player in MLB by his peers. But it didn’t take him long to author an authoritative response.

During Friday’s Grapefuit League game against the Houston Astros, Harper tagged a Jake Buchanan offering and launched into a jet steam headed directly for right-center field. About 420 feet later, the ball landed in some trees beyond the outfield wall for his first home run of the spring.

Your browser does not support iframes. Silence requested.

Silence granted, if only for the short time that baseball needed to travel from his bat to the forest.

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Harper didn’t square the ball up perfectly, otherwise we would be discussing a 470 or 480-foot blast, but that power should serve as a reminder of Harper’s capabilities when healthy and locked in. The problem, as the The Stew’s Mike Oz pointed out on Thursday, is Harper has proven to be neither as frequently as the Nationals need him to be, or as baseball fans expected given the hype.

To silence his critics for good, Harper must prove to be a consistent force, not a streaky hitter whose lows match his highs. One loud home run on March 20 won’t fix that, but wouldn’t it be fun to look back at that swing as a turning point? ‘That’s the moment that Harper finally put his foot down and start putting everything together. The home run right after his peers put him in his place.’ That narrative writes itself and would live on forever in baseball lore.

The timing would be perfect for the Nationals as well, because their roster might be a Harper breakout season away from getting over the hump and getting to the World Series. The world class starting rotation guarantees they’ll contend, but they’ve always lacked an offensive force when it mattered most. That should be Harper’s role to fill, and if he does, the silence will be deafening.

For now, though, we just admire the sight and sound of Friday’s home run and continue pondering about what could be.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

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