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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

Bryce Harper Abandons D.C. for Record Contract in Philly

After rejecting The Washington Nationals contract offer for $300 million over 10 years in October, Bryce Harper spent the entire offseason listening to offers and letting rumors fly. After entertaining offers from the Nats, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the San Francisco Giants, among others, he finally signed with Philadelphia on Feb. 28 for $330 million and 13 years. The deal has a full no-trade clause, but no opt-out clauses.

While Harper now holds the record for the largest MLB contract in history, he did it at the expense of abandoning an entire fanbase, and looked like a jerk in the process. Given the way MLB contracts are trending, he likely won’t hold the record for too long anyway.

Former teammate Juan Soto, along with reigning Rookies of the Year, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Shohei Ohtani, will be free agents before we know it, and are likely to demand similar deals. Harper has also come under fire in the last few days for trying to lure Mike Trout to Philly when his contract with the Angels expires in 2020.

This is not the first time Harper has made plans that would allow him to make more money than he could otherwise earn. He entered the MLB draft in 2010, a year earlier than many initially expected, so that he could sign his rookie contract under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was due to expire less than one year later, and many suspected that it would limit rookie contract amounts. Harper, with the aid of agent Scott Boras, entered in 2010, to ensure that he could get the biggest deal possible- which he did. He received $9.9 million, for five years.

The Nats probably won’t suffer without Harper, but that isn’t the point. With Soto, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Stephen Strasburg, and Max Scherzer, this is still a team that is prepared for a playoff run. However, to many — excluding former Phillie Jonathan Papelbon — Harper was a beloved member of the team, and was a part of several of the most memorable moments in team history.

Bryce was on the first playoff team in 2012. He brought excitement to a fanbase that had little to cheer for. He was a six-time All-Star and won the 2018 home run derby at Nationals Park. Leaving that all behind for an extra $30 million contract from a division rival just isn’t something someone loyal to their team would do. It paints him as a disrespectful teammate and athlete.

Although Harper signed with one of our NL East rivals, we can take comfort in knowing that he didn’t sign with the New York Yankees, as many predicted he would. For fans of baseball in general, it is an exciting time because the NL East is shaping up to be one of the toughest divisions this season. With the Braves, Mets, Nats, and Phillies all stacking their line-ups, games will be worth watching, even if it is just to boo Harper.

He was officially introduced as a Phillie on March 2 in a press conference at Spring Training. All was going well until Harper said he wants to “bring a title back to D.C.” He then corrected himself and said he wants to walk down Broad Street, but the Nats are clearly still on his mind.

It seems like his heart is in one place, and his bank account is in another. Let’s just forget that he went to the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Finals game in a Golden Knights jersey. Fans were loyal to Harper, and he seems to have been loyal to DC, but he followed the paycheck and abandoned everything he had. If he doesn’t miss it yet, he probably will soon.

The Nats play the Phillies at home April 2-3. Nats fans are less likely to boo than their Philadelphia counterparts, but it will be interesting to see Harper in front of the home bullpen in a gray Phillies uniform.

-Arielle Gordon

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