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December 07, 2022

Eytan Shander: Stars want to play in Philly

Trea Turner came to Philadelphia to play with his friend Bryce Harper. A.J. Brown did the same with Jalen Hurts.

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Trea-Turner-Bryce-Harper-Phillies-Dodgers-UST Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Current Phillies teammates Trea Turner and Bryce Harper.

It’s not you. It’s certainly not me. It’s not something in the wudder, the Jersey Shore, or some hidden cuisine that only we do right.

It’s not even the money.

The dictionary defines magnet as “a piece of iron (or an ore, alloy, or other material) that has its component atoms so ordered that the material exhibits properties of magnetism, such as attracting other iron-containing objects or aligning itself in an external magnetic field.”

Philadelphia has two magnets.

They’ve come by different means but fundamentally they define what free agency ultimately comes down to. There are outliers in every scenario. Sure, some guys will take more money to play for losers, but those aren’t the ones making impacts on the game. They may even flash hollow numbers and be fun to bet, but they don’t impact championships.

Bryce Harper and Jalen Hurts just have something different going on and other players have noticed. Now, we will get to you and the rest of the fanbase in a minute  you do play a role in all of this  but let’s not overstate the value of friendship.

We root for human beings. They make up teams that wear the jerseys you wear. You’re not walking around the parking lot before a football game wearing the “Howie Roseman” suit. So often we forget for a myriad of reasons that we are always and simply rooting for people to do things.

It sounds so silly, to strip this down to such a molecular level, but anyone who bets understands how often these same people make mistakes. All of this adds up to having the right type of people on your team  but it’s truly just having the one right person. Both the Eagles and Phillies have that.

There is no doubt in my mind that both A.J. Brown and Trea Turner were aware of their soon-to-be clubhouse leaders when they pushed to join the Eagles and Phillies, respectively. The same was said about both Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos before Turner, the same will be said for anyone after Brown.

This is awesome. Truly fantastic to see that two of the top players in their respective leagues are magnets for other top talent. There are players  people  in disgruntled relationships with their GM, coach, captain or fanbase that are looking at what Turner just did, hell even Taijuan Walker getting a paycheck as the four arm and are telling their agents, "GET ME TO PHILADELPHIA!"

Think about that. There are top players around the nation in the NFL and in MLB who are actively trying to get to Philadelphia – if not now then in the next year. This level of “want” doesn’t happen without having a leader like Harper and Hurts who are also performing at an MVP level. That combination is unstoppable in the offseason. But it’s not alone in team building, it’s just the most necessary first step in doing so.

Jalen Hurts and Bryce Harper are the foundation for acquiring the best players in their respective leagues. They don’t do it alone, as some other factors certainly play a role. But those two names are more vital than anyone else in the process, more important than the bean counters and the fans who provide their beans.

One second  we will get to you in just one second.

The human part of this is pretty cool. Seeing players actively want to play with the best in leagues governed by constant change and roster turnover. This happens elsewhere, stars banding together to win championships  especially in the NBA, just for whatever reason not in Philadelphia. Maybe just not yet.

But what Hurts and Harper have behind them is smart money. In MLB it’s easy to see a person write what seems to be blank check after blank check, but there’s nothing wrong with overspending for targeted acquisitions. The Phillies did just that with Turner and Walker. There’s less pressure for Dombrowski to wheel and deal in baseball as he can incur more salary and costs while ownership pays a tax. Roseman has this incredible level of support behind Hurts to ensure he can get the right players around his most important one.

Look at the building of the offense alone, picks coming via trades, trades, drafting, free agency. All of this with a proven plan  they have only one loss to date this year  to build around Hurts. That’s where this process becomes so deadly compared to other teams. The Phillies don’t have the winning history of the New York Yankees  but they have the most likeable player in baseball who happens to be an MVP and a front office looking to spend. The Eagles aren’t lining up trophies like the Steelers or Patriots but have the most likeable player in football and a front office looking to deal.

Nothing is good enough for the Phillies and Eagles  which is f****** fantastic.

We have the amazing cake batter  the foundation of which to create this masterpiece in both Hurts and Harper. We have the chefs to make this pop  something world class on a five-star level. Now we need the optics. Something way better than just toppings or frosting  we need the type of stuff you see on "Cake Boss" or "Cake Wars."

That’s you.

It’s one thing to have everything above, but what makes this a winner is the completion of the fans into this mix. Other players aren’t just seeing what Hurts and Harper’s teams are doing. They are seeing the reception. They may have misconceptions about what it’s like to play in Philadephia. Nobody can ignore what’s happened here over the past few months  seeing the city and fans light up for a World Series run. Now it’s happening again for a Super Bowl run.

I imagine anyone playing in MLS is well aware of how Jim Curtin continues to put together a masterclass in team building, along with one of the best defensive unit/goalie pairings in the sport’s history. How could any soccer player this year not see the magic captivated each home game as the Union pushed all the way until the MLS Cup.

The fanbase in Philadelphia is nothing to be discarded or overlooked as to why any player of importance would choose to play here. Keep doing exactly what you are doing. Supporting players and cheering as loud as possible, making it fun to play at home, and being vocal in your disappointment. We do our best even if our impact ultimately is minimal, a lot of other cities don’t even have that.

It’s a pretty cool thing to see and I’m grateful to be here for it. We are a long ways from an alleged phone call to Frank Gore.


Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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