Philadelphia’s bond with Bryce Harper can’t be broken

The Phillies’ 2023 Season Ends in Disappointment, But Bryce Harper’s Relationship with Owner John Middleton Gives Hope for the Future

How the Diamondbacks Defied the Odds to Reach the World Series

USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale Breaks Down the Diamondbacks’ Journey and their Upcoming Matchup with the Rangers

Sports Pulse

PHILADELPHIA — Bryce Harper stood in front of a crowd of reporters and tried to make sense of the Phillies’ unexpected early exit from the playoffs. Instead of preparing for Game 3 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers, Harper and his teammates were at home, reflecting on a disappointing season. The loss was particularly difficult for Harper, who missed a crucial opportunity to hit a go-ahead three-run homer in Game 7. He apologized to the Philadelphia fans and expressed his devastation over letting the team and the city down.

The fans appreciated Harper’s honest and heartfelt apology, and their love for him only grew stronger. Phillies owner John Middleton spoke highly of Harper, stating that he has never seen an athlete connect with the Philadelphia fanbase as strongly as Bryce. Middleton believes that Harper’s commitment to the team is what sets him apart.

Harper’s contract played a crucial role in solidifying his connection with the fans. Unlike many players who include opt-out clauses in their contracts, Harper chose to sign a 13-year deal with no opt-out. Despite the financial risks, Harper wanted to show the fans that he is here for the long haul. This decision resonated with the Philadelphia fanbase, who value loyalty and commitment. They want players who are equally dedicated to the team and the city.

By foregoing the opt-out, Harper became one of the lower-paid players in the league, earning $26 million annually until 2029, and then $22 million in the final three years of his contract. He may not be among the top-paid players by the time his contract expires, but that was never his motivation. Harper’s focus was on building a championship team and showing the fans that he is fully committed to their success.

This commitment from Harper inspired Middleton to invest further in the team. After signing Harper in 2019, Middleton continued to spend on free agents like Zack Wheeler, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Trea Turner, and Taijuan Walker. Harper played a significant role in recruiting these players and building a strong team around him. This investment paid off, with Harper winning the MVP in 2021 and leading the Phillies to the brink of back-to-back World Series appearances.

Harper’s dedication to the team extends beyond the field. He has developed a close relationship with Middleton, with regular communication and collaboration on team decisions. Harper offers his input on potential trades and helps recruit free agents. His leadership and baseball knowledge make him an invaluable asset to the organization.

As the Phillies look towards the future, Middleton remains committed to Harper and the team’s success. He recognizes the impact that Harper has had on the organization and feels a deep obligation to fulfill his end of the bargain. Middleton believes that with Harper’s leadership and the team’s continued investment, the Phillies will be back and competing for championships.

Bank on it.

Around the Basepaths

– MLB executives anticipate that the San Diego Padres may trade All-Star outfielder Juan Soto this winter. The Padres need to reduce payroll, and Soto’s expected salary arbitration figure of $33 million makes him a candidate for a trade, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

– Former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter is being considered as a potential candidate for the team’s managerial vacancy. Hunter, known for his leadership and baseball acumen, spent five years playing for the Angels and is highly regarded by owner Arte Moreno. Other former players, including Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon, are also under consideration, along with former managers Ron Roenicke, Buck Showalter, and Angels coach Benji Gil.

– The Texas Rangers are still upset over a play in Game 7 of the playoffs where Houston Astros reliever Bryan Abreu hit outfielder Mitch Garver. Abreu had previously hit outfielder Adolis Garcia in Game 5, resulting in a two-game suspension for the start of the 2024 season. The Rangers have urged their pitching staff not to retaliate, but they will have the opportunity to face the Astros again in April 2024.


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