After winning his second NL MVP award and his first with the Phillies, Harper used one word to describe how he was feeling:
Bryce Harper is hungry for more.
Over the weekend, the Phillies posted an illustration of Harper in front of his well-stocked trophy case to their Instagram. They captioned it “Impressive collection.”
Harper replied, “Hungry.”
Harper led MLB in doubles, slugging, OPS, and OPS+ this season. He hit over .300 for the first time since 2017, and won his second Silver Slugger award. But none of this is not enough for Harper, because he’s not thinking about himself.
Bryce Harper has emerged as a team leader who is determined to bring the Philadelphia Phillies back to the postseason
Early in his career, Harper was labeled ‘overrated,’ a diva, a superstar. The Washington Nationals, who drafted him and with whom he debuted, never won a championship during his seven years at their major-league level. That they won their first World Series in franchise history in the first season after his departure only fueled the speculation that Harper’s star power was actually holding them back, that they hadn’t needed him. He wasn’t the key, he was the lock, keeping them out of October.
But Harper isn’t the same 19-year-old who debuted and developed a less-than-kind reputation. He’s a team leader, a father of two, and a player Phillies rookies and prospects look up to. He’s a friend and mentor to top prospect Bryson Stott, who is also from Las Vegas and is expected to debut for the Phillies at some point in 2022. Harper carried his team deep into September, keeping them relevant despite their appalling bullpen and plethora of struggles. He was Most Valuable, without a doubt, but it’s not enough for him, which says a lot.
Harper has made it clear that he signed with the Phillies to bring glory back to the franchise. He’s focused on team success, not personal accolades. The MVP award is what he deserves, but not what he wants. After all, he already had one.
What eludes Harper is what has eluded the Phillies since 2008, and for the majority of their franchise history, which stretches back to the 1880s: a World Series ring and Commissioner’s Trophy. It took the Phillies 97 years to win their first World Series, and they’ve only added one more since. That was over a decade ago, two years before Harper was even drafted.
Harper is focused on his team, not himself. He’s spoken openly about why he took a long-term deal with the Phillies and how they need to fortify their farm system. The MVP award brings glory to his team by association, but it’s not something he can share with his teammates.
Three former Phillies MVPs sent congratulatory videos to Harper last week. But Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Mike Schmidt each have World Series rings to go along with their MVP awards. Each of them felt the triumph of that final out in October, the crush of their teammates celebrating together as one, and the roar of a jubilant crowd. Harper has scaled quite a few personal peaks, but he’s ready for baseball’s Everest.
The Phillies need to sign big free agents to build around Bryce Harper
As proven by Harper’s star power this season, he can’t do it alone. If he could, the Phillies would be reigning champions, not their division-rival Atlanta Braves. Harper’s front office needs to spend the offseason buying and building.
Harper is hungry. What will the Phillies bring to the table?