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Phillie Phavorite: Bryce Harper Wins N.L. M.V.P. Award | tnewst.com Press "Enter" to skip to content

Phillie Phavorite: Bryce Harper Wins N.L. M.V.P. Award

Bryce Harper knew just how to endear himself to the locals when he joined the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019. He signed a contract without an opt-out clause, showing loyalty to a city that demands it. He adopted the Eagles as his favorite football team, dropping the hated Dallas Cowboys. He formed a bromance with the most beloved creature in town, the Phillie Phanatic, paying regular tribute to the mascot with headbands, cleats and even a green sport coat.

“It’s a blast going to play baseball every single day in this great city,” Harper said on Thursday night, adding later, “Being around the fans that we have, all they want you to do is work hard and try to win and try to be a great player each and every night.”

Indeed, the easiest way to the heart of any fan base is to be the best player in the league. The baseball writers certified it for Harper on Thursday, voting him the winner of the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award for the second time of his career, and his first as a Phillie.

Harper, a right fielder, received 17 of 30 first-place votes, ahead of Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals, who had six, and Fernando Tatis of the San Diego Padres, who had two. Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants had four first-place votes but finished fourth in total points.

As well as Harper played, the Phillies finished 82-80 and missed the playoffs to extend their drought to 10 seasons. The American League M.V.P., Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, also played for a team that missed the postseason. It is fairly common for one of the M.V.P.s to miss the playoffs, but this was the first non-strike year since 1987 in which both failed to do so.

The Phillies, who finished six and a half games behind Atlanta in the N.L. East, would not have contended at all without Harper. He played every game in the second half, coming back from a beaning by the Cardinals’ Genesis Cabrera in St. Louis on April 28. Harper missed seven of the Phillies’ next eight games and struggled at times to regain his form.

“Everybody goes through ups and downs in a season; my up-and-down was getting hit with a 97 mile-an-hour fastball right in the cheek, and then it hitting off and tapping into my wrist,” Harper said. “I think for me, once I got hit in the face, I was kind of: ‘Oh, I’m great, I’m fine, I’m pressing my face, I’m OK to get back,’ not knowing that maybe it was a little bit too soon. I had to take a break and understand that my wrist was still hurting, my face, and my mental state probably wasn’t the greatest.”

Harper was passed over for a spot on the N.L. All-Star team, but he rested with family and then punished opponents after the break with a 1.188 O.P.S. — compared to .684 for all of the other Phillies. Overall, Harper led the majors in OPS (1.044) and doubles (42) while batting .309 with 35 homers and 13 stolen bases.

He is the sixth Phillies player to win the M.V.P., after Chuck Klein, Jim Konstanty, Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. With another decade left on his 13-year, $330 million contract, Harper, who turned 29 last month, has time to join Schmidt as the only player to win more than one for the Phillies. Schmidt — who won in 1980, 1981 and 1986 — announced the award for Harper on MLB Network.

This was the best of Harper’s three seasons in Philadelphia, but all have been strong. Since joining the Phillies, he is one of only three players — with Soto and Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman — to have both a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage while playing at least 300 games.

Yet while Soto and Freeman have helped their teams win titles in that time frame, the Phillies have largely squandered Harper’s performances. Hampered by a thin farm system, shaky defense and a weak bullpen, the Phillies are 191-193 since signing him. But Harper is optimistic.

“Being able to have the teammates I have, knowing that I’m going to be with Rhys Hoskins for a long time, knowing that I’m going to be with Zack Wheeler for a long time, J.T. Realmuto for a long time, these are guys I want to be with on a daily basis,” Harper said. “I think we thrive off each other.”

This week brought news that another star is certain to stay in red pinstripes for a while. On Tuesday, the Phillies settled a lawsuit with the designer of the Phanatic, allowing the team to bring back the mascot in his original glory: furry, flabby, and a friend of the M.V.P.

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