In the last couple of weeks, the debate has been constant. ‘Has Bryce Harper lived up to the $330 million dollar contract that he has been given?’ While it is absolutely too early to tell, just months into a 13-year deal, the fans in Philadelphia have seemed to grow a little restless.
Harper was even quoted, saying “I’d do the same thing” regarding boos after a home loss to the Tigers. I was at that particular game. While the boos were not loud, they exist. When a player is paid that kind of money, the fans want instant gratification. However, players slump. It happens. Aaron Nola is turning his season around after not showing his best stuff on the mound. A once Cy Young award candidate looked anything but so, to the point where Philadelphia personalities were second guessing if he could still be the ace in Philadelphia. In the case of Harper, I kept going to each game I could attend and cheered him on.
In the last two weeks, Bryce Harper has shown that he is starting to turn things around, but maybe not in the way that the fans would guess. They naturally want to see home runs and RBIs more often from Harper, but because of our fixation on his struggles at the plate and what we know he can do with the bat in his hands, I believe that observing his defensive plays has taken a backseat. He has stopped games from getting out of hand on more than a few occasions in right field and came up big with clutch plays.
If it’s not a home run, he is hitting a single or double when the team needs an offensive lift. Sure, he may still have been going one for four or two for five on those nights, including walks, but we cannot completely discount that. He is still a disruption for opposing teams to set up other players with RBI opportunities, such as Cesar Hernandez, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and Rhys Hoskins.
Let’s take it back to when the Milwaukee Brewers came to visit the Philadelphia Phillies. In that series, the Brewers won three of four games in Philadelphia. In game one against the Brewers, Bryce Harper was a non-factor at the plate, going zero for four with no walks and three strikeouts. In game two, Harper went zero for two with two walks in four plate appearances. However, Harper had two sliding catches into the right field wall in foul territory that would have kept Brewers batters alive, Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain, who cleaned up in Citizens Bank Park. In game three, Harper went one for four with a double and a strikeout.
This was the game where I felt that Harper started to slowly work back into being able to hit again, which would be evident later in the week. The final game of the four-game series against the Brewers, Harper accounted for a run after Rhys Hoskins drove him home on a sacrifice fly. Harper’s batting stats on the day were one for four, including a single and a strikeout. The trend in this series is that it seemed he became more patient at the plate, began to make contact more often, struck out less often, and produced a run. In a span of one series, that is the difference of night and day.
That series against the Milwaukee Brewers was one to forget at home, but the Philadelphia Phillies then welcomed the Colorado Rockies. This was a team that the Phillies had difficulty with while they were visitors in Colorado at Coor’s Field.
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