BY DAVE CECCONI   |   15 AUG 2017

That sigh of relief you just heard came from the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse.

I hate watching knee injuries. It doesn’t matter if I’m watching in the privacy of my own home or out in public at a bar: If someone tweaks their knee even the slightest on a televised sporting event–and heaven forbid I catch a glimpse of it–my reaction falls somewhere in between accidently eating a popcorn jellybean and being on the receiving end of a 50,000-volt taser. I scream out in empathetic agony, hide my face in my hands, and proceed to lash out at anyone whose eyes remain glued to the broadcast that deems it necessary to show how “the knee shouldn’t bend that way” from fifty different angles.

I’ve torn my ACL twice playing basketball. And if you were in earshot for either injury, you’d have thought someone had been whipped across their back by a rolled-up wet gym towel. It’s likely the root of my squeamishness. In fact, it has to be, because none of my friends ever need to break line-of-sight with the TV the second a player goes full-on ragdoll.

I wouldn’t call Bryce Harper’s first-base slip from Saturday Night the worst knee injury I’ve ever seen. The “worst” category is reserved for clear and defined compound fractures like the ones suffered by Redskins’ QB Joe Theismann, Swedish soccer great Henrik Larsson, or the Irish national soccer team’s captain Seamus Coleman. But something about the sight of Harper’s entire leg buckling like a schooner mast in a hurricane still made my stomach turn in the worst way, from what I can remember of course (I don’t do replays).

So, given the circumstances, the Washington Nationals and Bryce Harper really dodged a bullet when it was announced that the injury is being called a bone bruise. No one knows exactly how long Harper will be out (I’ve seen some suggest ten days, while others just hope he’ll be ready for the playoffs). But with a 14-game lead over the next-closest NL East club, the Nats have the kind of safety buffer where they won’t have to risk bringing the star back too early.

On the other hand, the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Harper, who was the likely bet for NL MVP going into Saturday night. From a pure stat-totals perspective, it’s going to be tough for Harper to measure up to Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt if the former is out for an extended period.

But 2017 means more to Harper and the Nats than MVP trophies and I’m sure he’d be the first to say it.

Don’t forget that we’re a little more than a year away from Harper becoming a free agent after next season. It’s hard to imagine the atmosphere in Washington’s front office this week had the Harper injury news been dire, especially in a year when the organization has put together arguably the strongest all-around lineup in club history. From perennial MVP candidate Harper and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, to Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth (close to returning, allegedly) Michael Taylor (close to returning, allegedly), and Stephen Strasburg (Class A rehab start this evening), and now with the good news regarding Harper’s knee, this needs to be the year that Washington pushes its stack to the middle of the table.

What is most important now is that Harper manages a full recovery. Not for the split result the Nats got in yesterday’s doubleheader. Not for a series with the Dodgers in September. Not for a shot at the MVP – These are mere frills for a team with a 14-game division lead in mid-August. The thing that matters most for the city of Washington is that Harper’s Saturday night trip over first-base is a disruption–and not a disaster–for a ball club with its sights set on October.

Dave is the Creator and Editor-in-Chief for The Benchmob. He primarily writes about Soccer, the NBA, esports, and Pop-Culture.