And there it is. Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies. Now let me start by saying this whole article may be an overreaction to what has just transcribed a few hours ago, so I apologize if some of my thoughts are irrational.
I have loved baseball my entire life. The sound of the lawn mower cutting those last few blades of grass in the outfield. The smell of the freshly manicured ball field dousing your senses. The subtle noise of the crowd chatter in the background. Honestly, there is nothing like going to a baseball game. You can like whatever sport you want. But baseball is in a class of its own.
Fast forward to 2009. In comes Stephen Strasburg throwing lightning and hearing the thunder of the crowd. I was there against the Pirates when he threw for 14 K’s and electrified this city. Then it happened. The following year, we drafted BRYCE HARPER. The golden boy had landed in D.C.
The anticipation of Harper grew and grew. Strasburg was one thing, but the hype for him was not compared to the intrigue an everyday player who was labeled “the chosen one” brought to the table. After a couple of years, the Nationals surprised us all and headed to the post-season. Then this happened:
Every year since 2012, we have been one of the favorites to win the World Series. Yet, we have been one of the most disappointing teams year in and year out since that year. Missing the playoffs multiple years, and not making it passed the National League Division Series in four tries, even though having one of the best “on paper” rosters in the league was heart wrenching. Yet, one thing remained, Bryce Harper.
With Bryce Harper, anything was possible. Eyes were always on Washington D.C., because we had the rights to arguably one of the Top 5 players in all of baseball. Other cities didn’t get that type of recognition because Harper was an icon at his young age. The hair, the Sports Illustrated Body Issue (see below), the sound bites, and above all else, the monster bombs he hit over countless fences. You never knew what could happen because ANYTHING was possible with this guy.
So here we stand as a franchise, poised to make a deep run this year and for multiple years to come. The average age of the core group for this team is only 22.25 years old (Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Carter Kieboom). That takes into account over half your outfield and infield with only those five guys. Mike Rizzo has built this team for the future and it has started to come to light. The only question, where was the face of our franchise going to end up?
The Nationals offered a “fair” offer at first. (Nationals Initial Offer For Bryce) The Lerners, Rizzo, and the city wanted Bryce back, at first. Then, rumors swelled and the debates began as time passed. “Where will he go?” – “Does he want to stay in D.C.?” – “Is he only in it for the money?” – “Doesn’t he want to win?” These were just some questions that arose in the beginning portion of this Free-Agency period.
But, the vitriol start to arise with the fan base after Bryce turned down Washington’s initial offer. People’s rationale started to decline. Everyone did not understand that if they were in his situation, with his talent, upside and prowess, we would want to get fair market value as well. Now I am not going to say I was happy Bryce was shopping with other teams, because I honestly wasn’t thrilled about the idea. Yet, I saw the bigger picture about how our team was constructed and decided to let the whole Harper thing fizzle out.
After over four months of discussions, four months of back and forth’s, four months of almost pure torture, Bryce Harper has signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Did we expect him moving on? Yes. Did we expect other teams in this sweepstakes? (i.e. Yankees, Cubs, etc.) Yes. Would we have rather him go to any other team besides one within our division? YES.
Okay, here is my view on what this whole process has boiled down too. I wavered so much during these last four months debating in my head the pros and cons to having or losing the face of our franchise. But then it happened. It actually happened. The Phillies were the last team in the running to swoon over “our guy.” Now I could honestly care less about how much money yada yada yada. I am more so hurt by the fact he decided to take the job in Philadelphia, the city in which dreams are shattered because of their fan base. Take a look at some examples of what I am talking about.
NHL PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
(Fans throw TRIBUTE BRACELET OF LONG TIME OWNER on ice and at players)
NFL PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
(Fans pelt opposing fans with countless snowballs for many minutes)
MLB PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
(Fans throw Duracell Batteries and Trash at JD Drew)
Who would ever want to play in front of these fans? I literally hate when Philly fans try to say things like: “Oh we are just passionate people!” or “We love our teams!” No, no you don’t. I am a diehard Redskins, Nationals, Capitals and Wizards fan and you don’t see me throwing beer on a Houston Astros fan or a Miami Dolphins fan. You don’t see other fan bases doing these things year in and year out. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some good fans out there but the majority ruins it for everyone. Would you ever wear a rival jersey in one of their stadiums? Would you ever jump in a pool with piranhas? They are classless and literally will scold you until you break down. I am not sure if Bryce was only in it for the money or not but wanting to play for these fans and that city over ANYONE OR ANYWHERE else is a gut-wrenching blow.
It is free-agency, I get it. But you have to think of your legacy at some point, right? I loved watching Bryce. Every at-bat was something to get excited for. But now, it is over. He has pulled an Anakin Skywalker and turned over to the Dark Side. We are Obi-Wan Kenobi and he is Darth Vader.
The D.C. hero has now become possibly one of the most hated sports figures for all of our nations capital. He went from Washington D.C’s sports “Mount Rushmore,” to our evil Thanos. The rivalry has been ignited once more, now with even more despise and more hatred. I loved Bryce as a baseball icon, but now he is gone and we have to deal with it. Enjoy your next 13 years Bryce. My last thought comes from one of the best movies of all time. There is only one thing left to do now. (Clip Rated: R for Strong Language)