Boy this guy really gives the term “money talks and bullshit walks” a new meaning…
Tuesday, April 2nd…still.
It had started to rain before I even left home to head for the metro. I excited though to see whether my inclination to boo would prove true but also because my good girlfriend Reesie would be going to the game too. She used to have the seat next to me, but after not attending as many games last year, she opted to give up her season plan holder status for another package…a better seat too! But my hopes were that the seat next to me wasn’t taken and we could sit together again like the old pals that we are.
We arrived at the ballpark to news we already knew: the game was delayed due to inclement weather. IMHO…they could’ve played in the light precipitation. We decided to stay dry by ducking into the team store for a little, then made stops at the Red Carpet Rewards kiosk and Season Plan Holder Lounge. Moving through the concourse I’d see a lot of Phillies fans and would hear an Eagles chant or “We Got Harper”, I guess because they thought it’d be an effective taunt. The energy was frenetic and the tension was THICK. Phillies fans and Nats fans were both deep in number. I saw signs calling Harper out on being a “traitor” and that perhaps “Papelbon was right” to choke him back in 2015 when Harper didn’t run the ball out to first base (against the Phillies guys). Some wore “modified” jerseys with “Harper” completely cut out from the jersey and some with #34 (his old number) but with new names like “Soto”, “Sell Out”,and “Phraud”, courtesy of duck tape and a Sharpie.
Before first pitch however (and as was known), a tribute to Bryce’s time as a National was displayed on the big screen. I wasn’t in view of the screen at the time, as we were making our way to the Social Lounge to meet up with our girlfriend Bleta, her brother Agon, and her new boo, J.
The boo’s continue all the way through to the end of the Phillies line up and got extra loud when Harper’s name was called.
“Bryce, you suck!”
It was game time and still raining by the way. Max was getting the start though and I knew he would have no problem striking out our new opponent, Bryce Harper. Bryce may have seen Max pitch before but what’s the likelihood that he’d ever hit off one of Max’s pitches?!
I hung out in the Social Lounge longer than I expected but also to avoid going to my wet seat. I watched Harper’s first at bat standing, glued to one of the television screens, trying to cheer for Max over the crowd of Philly fans nearby. Max had allowed two hits prior to Bryce’s at bat but now he was facing his former longtime teammate and this match up was much anticipated. Max isn’t a 3x Cy Young winner (and came only 2nd last year) or called Mad Max for nothing though. We boo’d…loud.
Max struck him out. His first time back in Nats Park on the opposing team and his first at-bat. Lawd…I’m emotional just rewatching this video. I remember how intense it was. I wanted this for Max.
Max – 1, Bryce – 0
As for the game, I obviously wanted the whole team to fail but admittedly as the game went on, I only cared about Bryce striking out. I didn’t want him to hit at all in that ballpark and definitely not a home run. However, Nationals Park was his home for SO many years…it would only be a matter of time before he found it.
Reesie and I then made our way to our seats to enjoy the rest of the game. No one ended up sitting next to me so she came up to join me. The rain had slacked a bit but the temperature took a nose dive. So cold, the “Lemonade!” man swapped his lemonade for Baileys and hot chocolate (LOL).
Nats – 0, Phillies – 0
Top of the 2nd inning. Oh and let make it clear here that the boo’s NEVER stopped so yeah…we’re still booing. Then to break the scoreless game, Phillies’ Michael Franco hits a homer to left field to put the Phillies out in front.
Nats – 0, Phillies – 1
Max – 2, Bryce – 0
By the bottom of the fourth inning, a new chant emerged toward Bryce in the outfield…”OVER-RATED!” The irony here being two fold: 1) We had an issue when a National League executive called Bryce “overrated” and a “losing player” and, 2) Bryce was recently voted Most Overrated Player, BY HIS PEERS, to be…yep…OVERRATED. He took 48.6% of that vote out of more than 200 MLB players.
Rendon comes through, delivering our first hit of the night. Unfortunately, we don’t get anything going after that.
In the top of the 5th inning, we see Bryce at the plate again but this time he gets a base hit into right field for a double (he makes it to 2nd base), bringing home Segura for another run.
Max – 2, Bryce – 1
Nats – 0, Phillies – 2
Max is done for the night and killed it as only he does. Allowing just 7 hits, 2 runs, and a walk, with 9 strikeouts over 5 innings. He was relieved by Wander Suero.
With Max out, everything just turns to shit. I’ve said this in previous posts. We CANNOT be successful if every time our starting pitchers exit the game (and rightfully so) not a single reliever can hold the opposing team. Just absolute trash, the bullpen is.
It’s now the top of the 6th inning. A pitching change has Matt Grace at the mound now. After Franco’s homer in the 2nd inning, he’s intentionally walked to first base, eliminating his shot at doing it again. However, they also eventually load the bases. Segura doubles and all 3 Phillies on base come home.
Nats – 0, Phillies – 5
Still the top of the 6th, we see Harper for the 4th time. He hits again, doubling, allowing Segura to run home.
Nats – 0, Phillies – 6
Full disclosure: The crowd was thinning. I left around this time too. It was getting late having had the rain delay and the temperature had dropped into the 40s. Not to mention, we didn’t have a chance at winning this game.
Rendon and Difo would put up runs to finally put us on the board. However, in the top of the 8th, Bryce would homer and top it off with his signature bat flip.
Harper would go 3-for-5 (meaning he managed make contact with the ball 3 times out of 5 tries in the batter’s box) with a home run and 3 RBIs.
It wasn’t the night I hoped for. I wanted Bryce’s night of showing his new team around his former home to be a total fail. But Max proved again while he will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Bryce makes baseball fun. I will never take that from him despite my disappointment and how poorly he handled his opportunity to show some appreciation.
Nats – 2, Phillies – 8 (FINAL)
Until we meet again…
Tuesday, April 2nd
“If you would have told me 5 years ago…” That’s how his Instagram post started.
View this post on Instagram
If you would have told me 5 years ago I would be walking into Nationals Park as an opposing player, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. Five years later, I’m doing just that. I remember the first day I walked into Nats Park. My first base hit. My first home run. And, of course, my first standing ovation. Nationals fans delivered that first ovation. The things that I will miss most are the relationships I gained on a personal level with so many of the Nationals staff and workers around the ballpark. Every day I walked in, I got a smile or shared a laugh with you. I especially want to thank The Lerner Family and Mike Rizzo for the unwavering support they showed me during my tenure in DC. The city of DC was home. Filomena’s, The Silver Diner, The Italian store, and countless other places helped make it feel like home. You, Nationals fans, made me one of your own for the entire time I was a part of the Nationals organization. I’m so blessed to have been able to play for a fan base that cared so much about our team each and every night. You will always hold a special place in my heart no matter what. I look forward to continuing Harpers Heroes with LLS in the DMV as well as making sure the legacy fields bearing my name are the best youth fields in town! When I run on the field tonight I am sure to hear some boos, but I will always remember the cheers and the screams that are still with me right now, as I start my new chapter. So for that, DC, THANK YOU.
We’ll come back to this.
The day before, on April Fool’s Day, I noticed an Instagram post by both Bryce and his wife Kayla, announcing that they would be expecting. Congrats to the parents-to-be! That was my initial reaction, but then I thought whether this was the first of many things to come in order to invoke empathy from disappointed Nationals Fans before we would face the Phillies and Bryce on April 2nd. Of course I could have totally read into that but the timing seemed oh so…well…convenient?
On that same day, an article came out detailing why Bryce is no longer a National. To note, the Lerner’s (owners of the Nationals) first offer to Bryce was for $300 m/10 years with deferred payments until 2052, made in 2018 during a damn rain delay. Wait, is this how it’s normally done?! Silence. Still Bryce was apparently excited and hopeful he’d remain a National when he met with the owners in December. Sometime went by and no one said anything again until January, when the Lerners extended yet another offer, but this time for less and with payments deferred 20 more years than the first offer. Well we know how that ended. You can read all about that elsewhere. We could also speculate why the Lerner’s did what they did but we won’t get into that right now either.
For a moment, I felt bad for Bryce. According to the article, he wanted to stay in DC. But Bryce was going to test his free agency, also.
Let’s get back to this Instagram post…
I read the post. In its entirety and full disclosure, it made me shed a little tear. Not because he was gone and I longed to have him back. Not even because he’s a Philly now. I cried because after all of the time that had elapsed…that’s all we got. I was so disappointed. Beyond disappointed really. Maybe I wasn’t managing my expectations but that post came just before he made his return to Nationals Park in a different uniform…seriously it was the day he was returning.
It was literally too little…too late.
Here’s a timeline for context:
- September 30, 2018 | End of the Nationals 2018 season
- October 29, 2018 | Harper’s free agency starts
- February 28, 2019 | Harper signs with the Philadelphia Phillies
He could have gotten in front of this months ago! There was plenty of opportunity to address us Nats fans…even if the language was something along the lines of, “I don’t know what the future holds but…” Does Bryce Harper not have a PR person?!
To be clear, there were levels to how Nats fans felt about this whole situation. Some stopped caring for the guy a long time ago, some destroyed their jerseys, some hated him for going to Philly, some immediately wished him the best. For me, it was never that he signed elsewhere, and after a while I had pretty much moved passed the fact that he was now in Philly (our division rival). But this thank you/walk down memory lane/ode to DC felt rushed, inauthentic, definitely half-assed, and did nothing but slap us on the other cheek.
WE DESERVED BETTER BRYCE!
I was there the year he made his MLB debut. I, along with thousands of other people, flocked to the ballpark with excitement to see this young prodigy and hopes of witnessing him hit a home run then flip his bat like a boss. Bryce had so many good times and some bad through the years. And us fans were there through it all.
So, if you would have told me 5 years ago…
…that Bryce not only wouldn’t be a National, but would end up 4 hour drive NE to our division rival…
…that he would come to be an immediate turncoat, declaring love for a city whose fans disrespected him year after year, and go on to unnecessarily spell words with “Ph” like “Phamily”…
…that he would live up to the douche bag label everyone else fought to give him that we undoubtedly defended…
…that the day would come when his first fan base, the only fan base he knew would feel betrayed and then non-existent…
…that I’d come to witness what seemed like all of the DMV root for him during the Home Run Derby, all to be given an 11th hour thank you later…
I would have told you that you were crazy.
But here we are.
So for that, Bryce, no thank you!
It happened today and not nearly how it played out in my mind. My guy sent me a message as I was leaving work that said “Uh-oh. Don’t look at the news.” I didn’t have to. I immediately knew what happened. That gut feeling you know? Harper had finally signed a contract and it wasn’t with the Nationals. It hit me and hard. But I’m a G, so I kept it moving…walking down the stairwell from the 3rd floor to the ground floor, out the door, and to the garage. Stopping periodically to jump on social media to take a temperature reading and to scan the details about this deal…
Bryce Harper had signed a 13-year (damn that’s a long time), $330 million dollar (cool) contract having no opt-out and trade clause (interesting), with the Philadelphia Phillies (F@*$!). Yep…that’s the part that stung.
Nats ownership had offered him 10 years for $300 million at the start of his free agency to no avail. So I had concluded and was quite resolved that he wouldn’t be back at Nationals Park in a Nationals uniform. But the Phillies? The F!@#$%* Phillies?!?! That’s the part that I took the hardest. That’s the part I couldn’t let go.
In the almost 9 years of going to Nationals Park, I have yet to experience a game against the Phillies where our players, including Bryce, aren’t heckled and boo’ed or some reduction in fan experience due to their unruly fans. Don’t believe me? Just peep this article. It just didn’t make sense. Bryce…you were there! Did you forget?!
I was fuming with disappointment. I finally made it to the car, started it and as usual WTOP News (a local radio station in the DC Metro area) came through the speakers. With breaking news at that. Great…now I get to hear about it. I was already overwhelmed and when WTOP offered their comment line to hear fans’ opinions…I…RAN…WITH…IT!
I might have pulled the car over or maybe I was still sitting in the same spot, I don’t remember, but I dropped them the best 30 second synopsis of my raw feelings that I could muster. I wasn’t sure they’d even listen to my comment so I proceeded to drive but kept tuned in. And then I heard my voice on the radio:
OMG! OMG! OMG!
At the next stop, I readied my phone to record this sound bite:
I don’t dislike Bryce because of this. I won’t be burning or otherwise destroying anything with his name on it. I continue to stand by my hopes that he made the decision that he thought was best for him. However, as a Nats fan that has watched this guy from his MLB debut through the 7 seasons he was a National, I’m disappointed. Big disappointed. I don’t know what my response to him will be when he returns to Nationals Park in a Phillies uniform. Perhaps he’ll get booed or be met with a standing ovation…perhaps nothing at all. At the end of the day I thank him for his part in making baseball fun to watch and I’ll ultimately wish him the best.
But until then…F**K Bryce and F**K Philly!