The Phillies cannot waste Bryce Harper’s prime
When the Philadelphia Phillies inked Bryce Harper to a 13-year deal in 2019, the expectations were to build a team around him that would compete for at least one, ideally several World Series titles.
Unfortunately, despite numerous great moments from Harper, which included the “Oh my God” walk-off grand slam against the Cubs and the MVP season last year, the Phillies haven’t sniffed the playoffs.
Entering season four of the Harper era, the Phillies added some bombers to the lineup in Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. With a somewhat-improved bullpen, the Phillies figured to be in the mix, particularly with an added third Wild Card. However, things didn’t go as planned through the first two months under manager Joe Girardi. They couldn’t find their way under a manager who had five seasons with at least 90 wins and nearly 1100 for his career.
Exit Girardi and enter interim manager Rob Thomson and the Phillies have been on a roll, going from seven games under .500 to 36-32. Thanks to the new universal DH, Bryce Harper has been in the lineup despite a UCL tear in his right elbow which has kept him out of the field most of the season. Despite the injury, he’s putting up monster numbers again, among the league leaders in home runs, RBI, OPS, slugging percentage, and batting average. The Phillies need to find a way to maximize his prime.
By and large, the offense has held up its end of the bargain, ranked third in the NL in home runs and OPS, and second in runs scored and slugging percentage. They’re above-average with a team ERA of 3.90, and despite having a painful-to-watch defense, are only one mishap above league average in errors.
The bottom line is that the Phillies need to make the playoffs this season and build upon this and bring home a title. Harper is among the very best in baseball right now and is in his prime years. Barring severe injury, Harper should be at or near his peak for the next four or five years. The Phillies owe it to themselves, to Harper, and to the fans to do whatever it takes to reach the pinnacle that has only been reached by the 1980 and 2008 clubs.