It's been a whirlwind career for Harper, who earned the right to play in his first career World Series. PIC: MLB.com
Remember this? It was a wild offseason in 2019. The Phillies were all in on their next-generation star, who was to be the face of their organization for years to come.
His name was Manny Machado.
Phillies owner John Middleton had aggressively pursued the left-side infielder, fresh off a stint as a rental with the Dodgers. Although it was expected Machado would be a reason the Dodgers could go all the way, it ended with him being the last out of the 2018 World Series, striking out on a Chris Sale breaking ball. (I don't want to discuss the team that won.)
Machado inked a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres in February 2019. It was a long offseason for many ways, as stars like Machado waited until the precipice of Spring Training to sign a contract. Now, Middleton and the Phillies management were under fire. Would they really go the whole offseason without signing a single star? Was that what a team that hadn't been to the postseason since 2011 needed?
Many meetings with Scott Boras later, and many weeks into Spring Training, Harper finally got his money. He signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with Philadelphia.
Now, this finally was shaping up as a Phillies team that could compete with the best. They'd upgraded at catcher, grabbing JT Realmuto in a trade with the Marlins. Shortstop Jean Segura waived his no-trade clause to come to the Phils' in a trade that sent veteran Carlos Santana and prospect JP Crawford to the Mariners. They'd moved Rhys Hoskins back to his natural position of first base, and had a free spot in left field for Harper to play every day.
After three straight seasons of not cracking .500 in the pythagorean win percentage column, the Phillies had something to look forward to this year. The buzz was a bit more palpable. Newly-minted manager Rob Thomson gave a fresh perspective and a new voice. Kyle Schwarber looks the best he ever has. The pitching core of Aaron Nola, Zach Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and others performs like it's league-leading at its best.
And with the pressure not squarely on Bryce Harper, he rose up to the occasion even further.
How's this for a postseason so far? He's hitting a whopping .410, with 4 homers and 9 RBI's. And of course, it just seems to be clutch hit after clutch hit with the $330-million-dollar man. This one punched their ticket tonight.