Yankees and Mets cannot run from any Bryce Harper regrets
3rd March 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. — After the Phillie Phanatic warmed up the small Spectrum Field crowd, before Scott Boras evoked some friendly groans by saluting the new “Philadelphia Harp-monic,” a blazer-clad John Middleton sat in the blazing sun Saturday afternoon and smiled.

“Does it look like stupid money to you?” the Phillies’ managing partner asked.

To Middleton’s left sat Bryce Harper, the proud new owner of a record-setting, 13-year, $330 million contract to leave the rival Nationals for the City of Brotherly Love. News broke of the agreement on Thursday afternoon, and the Phillies sold 100,000 tickets for this season Thursday and 80,000 Friday, with another 40,000 anticipated on Saturday, Middleton said at this press conference to introduce his new jewel.

No, it did not look like stupid money, not at all, given Harper’s vast talents, his youth (he turned 26 in October), and his dynamic personality. Maybe it’ll go south the way so many of these mega-deals do, yet unlike the Yankees or Mets, I’m betting on Bryce.

And given where Harper landed, geographically and divisionally, both New York clubs will get to see up close whether they goofed in passing on Harper.

“From Day 1, when I got drafted [in 2010], it was all about, ‘He’s going to the Yankees. He’s going to the Dodgers. He’s going here, he’s going there,’ ” Harper said. “ ‘After six years, he’s going there.’ That’s all anyone wanted to talk about.

“… Nobody in the next 13 years is going to talk about, ‘He’s going to the Yankees, he’s going there.’ At 39, if I can prolong my career, that would be great, but for me, it’s about going somewhere for a long time.”

Yup, he mentioned the Yankees twice, unprompted, and he also discussed his love of the uniform number 7, which traces back to his idolization of Yankees icon Mickey Mantle; he will wear number 3 as a Phillie because his Nats number 34 (3+4=7, The Post confirmed) is not worn out of respect to the late Roy Halladay, and Harper didn’t want to take 7 from third baseman Maikel Franco.

Alas, as you know, the Yankees passed on Harper, choosing to diversify their expenditures and trail the Red Sox in 2019 payroll.

“It was really never a thought,” Boras said of the Yankees, “because we knew going in, because of the structure of the game, only certain houses were to be looked at as far as potentials. So the Yankees were really not [factors] … other than Hal Steinbrenner calling me once — to talk to me about something different.”

As for the Mets, who will continue to face Harper 19 times a year in the National League East, new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said over the winter that he wanted to leave playing time in his outfield open for converted infielder Jeff McNeil, and COO Jeff Wilpon expressed a lack of enthusiasm in adding a second highest-tier annual expenditure on top of the injured Yoenis Cespedes.

Throw in the Dodgers’ willingness to do only a short-term deal and the Giants’ pitcher-friendly ballpark, and Harper finds himself in a city that prides itself on its toughness and accountability.

Harper probably didn’t thrill that base with pleas for patience, saying, “I think this organization, us, can be very successful for a long time, but it’s going to take some time. It’s going to take some time for guys to get going and understand how to win.” With Harper joining Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, David Robertson and Jean Segura as new Phillies, all those folks buying tickets surely are hoping it won’t take, like, 13 years, long. That’s not why Middleton, who first used his “stupid money” phrase to USA Today in November, committed to this level. But Harper’s actions will matter more than his words, and I’d bet on those actions paying off.

“What we do know in Philadelphia is, if we put a winning team on the field, they’re going to pack the house,” Middleton said. “… They’re behind you 1,000 percent.”

The same goes for New York. Will the Big Apple pair regret not spending this smart money? They won’t be able to miss the answer.

Source: Read Full Article