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April 20, 2017

If you don’t want the Phillies to sign Bryce Harper because he isn't a 'Philly guy,' you are wrong

Spare me your self-righteous excuse for fandom.

Bryce Harper, baseball wunderkind and known destroyer of your hometown Philadelphia Phillies, will be a free agent after the 2018 MLB season. The Phillies are expected to be among his suitors.

Incredibly, the conversation in Philadelphia's 24-hour vomit cycle of sports talk has morphed into something other than "Sweet Lord, we could actually sign Bryce Harper."

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B (via Crossing Broad):

Please excuse me while I go hit myself in the private parts with a wooden baseball bat. After all, I'm a Phillies fan, and that seems to be sound logic for a portion of the fan base big enough to win a poll and pull 30 percent in another.

I could use this space to rail on and on about the sports media for creating a story that doesn't exist. As Kyle Scott pointed out, despite most panelists on that CSN Philly shaking their heads at the idea of not signing Harper because of some notion he wouldn't "fit in" here, simply raising the question plants the unnecessary narrative into the mainstream. Same goes for you, local radio station. Your clarifications are worthless.

I could also take this time to wonder about where this mythical, blue collar "Philly guy" exists, and whether Harper fits this undefined title. Justin Klugh of The Good Phight has that handled pretty well. (In all caps, Klugh writes, "NO CELEBRITY WITH A HALF A BILLION DOLLAR SALARY QUALIFIES AS ‘BLUE COLLAR’ EVEN IF HE RUNS OUT HIS POP-UPS.")

And let's even leave out the fact that the reasons Phillies fans — and seemingly other baseball fans — "hate" Harper amount to a list of non-issues, normal MLB behaviors (yelling at umpires and taunting other players isn't unique) and actually pretty badass moments. You're telling me you wouldn't love your best player dragging his foot across the Atlanta Braves' "A"?

Oh, and we can even push aside the not-so-All-Star cast that's littered the Phillies outfield since the team's last playoff appearance in 2011, a group that's included enough "meh" players to fill a jar of mayonnaise. You guys must really miss Cody Asche? 

I’ll even dismiss momentarily that Harper loves playing in Philly.

Instead, let's simplify this for those of you who genuinely think signing Harper would be a bad thing because of something related to our proud sports culture: Bryce Harper is incredibly good at baseball and helping his team win baseball games, and watching the Phillies win baseball games is more fun than watching them lose.

It doesn't have to be more complicated than that. When his current contract is up, Harper will be a spry 26-years old, a phenom likely entering the prime of his already MVP-winning career. You don't want him because of ... his hair? He thought a reporter asking him about beer was dumb? He actually enjoys playing the sport he's paid to play? 

The "culture" and personality of a team swings from pro to con solely on the team's actual performance. You think the "fat and drunk" '93 Phillies would have been so gosh darn lovable if not for an NL Pennant?

In personnel decisions, winning is the one and only thing, barring someone being a legitimate clubhouse cancer — Harper has had his incidents, but let's be honest, Jonathan Papelbon doesn't exactly seem easy to get along with.

Again, it's about winning, period. If you can add Chase Utley-esque lore to it, it's the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

All this is not to say there aren't legitimate, plausible arguments for not signing Harper when the winter of 2018 rolls around. Maybe a surpassing number of the Phillies' outfield prospects pan out as great players. Harper will likely cost somewhere around a half billion dollars, and maybe the Phillies are better off using their big-market money on Manny Machado or dominant starting pitching. Maybe Harper suffers a devastating injury and can never play at the same level again.

Those arguments, however, are not how the conversation is being framed now.

What's best: My sneaking suspicion is that it's generally the same crowd who believe we shouldn't pursue Harper simply because they don't like him are the same people who moan incessantly about our city's relatively bare trophy case, and how team ownership doesn’t do enough to fix that. 

So spare me. If Bryce Harper can help you win baseball games, you pay Bryce Harper to play baseball for you.

If you don't agree, you can sleep soundly at night knowing only the select imaginary few — apparently dripping in elbow grease — get to be considered "Philly guys." Just know that your viewpoint is wrong, and you value some false projection of yourself cast onto professional athletes over on-field success.