Phillies need more from Bryce Harper

Eliot Shorr-Parks
June 24, 2019 - 8:46 am

A disappointing Phillies season hit rock bottom over this past weekend as the team was swept by the lowly Miami Marlins in embarrassing fashion at Citizens Bank Park. 

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The latest loss was their seventh in a row, and dropped them to 2-11 in last 13 games. The result is the team is now 6.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, a division they have led the majority of the season. 

For a team that spent “stupid money” this past offseason, the latest results are unacceptable — and there is plenty of blame to go around for what is quickly becoming a debacle. 

Near the top of that list? Bryce Harper. 

Harper has had his moments this season, but overall, there is absolutely no denying he has been a disappointment on the field. Harper currently has 13 home runs, roughly on pace for his lowest total since 2016. He has an OPS of .825, his lowest since 2016 as well. He is fifth in the majors with 94 strikeouts so far, only six behind the league leader. 

Many will bring up that Harper is not even a half-season into a 13-year deal. That is true. What is also true is that the Phillies paid $330 million to get Harper’s best right now, not 13-years from now. Harper should be outplaying his annual average — $25 million — this season. Not only are they not getting Harper’s best, they might be getting close to his worst, as his current WAR of 0.8 is worst of his career.

What has been especially disappointing is how Harper has played during this latest stretch. Harper has only two home runs and eight RBIs in his last 13 games, with just one double and no triples during that span. He has 10 hits and 11 walks in his 55 plate appearances. In a time where his team has needed him to step up and somehow stop this ship from sinking, he hasn’t been able to. 

It is also noteworthy how silent he has been during this losing streak. 

Harper has expressed he doesn’t like losing, and of course, he isn’t happy with the outcomes. He isn’t happy and to his credit he speaks after every game. His statements, however, has been mostly hollow and typical for any player during this kind of slump. He certainly hasn’t gone off or tried to send any real message of substance through the media. 

While many have asked why Gabe Kapler hasn’t done anything about players not hustling, it is fair to wonder why Harper hasn’t either. Kapler might be the manager, but Harper has more power in the franchise than anybody other than owner John Middleton. The players know that. That isn’t a slight on Kapler — it is just the reality of a $330 million man vs. a manager not even through his second season.

When Harper signed with the Phillies he expressed that he wanted to sign a 13-year deal so he could be committed to the franchise and help them build something special. That goes beyond what he does on the field. That comes with the expectation of being a leader in the club house, and from the outside looking in, it is hard to see that happening. 

The responsibility of expecting Harper to help police the club house and build the culture isn’t something being heaped upon him — he asked for it and proudly said he wanted it after signing his record-setting deal. 

The time to start building that winning culture, and earning the money the team committed to him both on-and-off the field, is now. 

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