Phillies

Bryce Harper hopes Mookie Betts makes even more money than him

Bryce Harper hopes Mookie Betts makes even more money than him

Bryce Harper was the highest-paid player in MLB history for less than one month, quickly moving down a spot once Mike Trout and the Angels reached agreement on a $430 million extension in late March.

Harper could soon move even farther down the list. Red Sox superstar outfielder Mookie Betts is set for free agency after the 2020 season. If Betts does reach free agency, he will have just turned 28. Harper was 26 when he hit free agency.

Betts is a better all-around player than Harper. Betts hits for average, hits for power, plays great defense and has big-time speed. Betts hasn't been nearly as good this season as he was in his MVP 2018 but still has dynamic offensive numbers and leads the American League with 115 runs scored.

Harper has an edge on Betts and practically every other player in marketability. The Phillies have seen in Year 1 how much of a cash cow Harper is. They've seen it in increased ticket sales, jersey sales and with how quickly the Phanatic headband Harper made fashionable has risen to popularity. All over the city, people are wearing those things. Walking in the city Tuesday, I passed three people wearing them in the span of 10 minutes — a little kid on a bike, a middle-aged woman jogging and a man participating in an outdoor workout class. Harper transcends demographics.

Despite that, Harper wouldn't just be OK with Betts making more money than him. Harper hopes it happens.

"Mookie's an incredible player. If he has an opportunity to make more money than I do, then I hope he does," Harper said this week, according to NBC Sports Boston. "Just like Trout did."

If Betts reaches free agency, the bidding war between teams will be intense, not only because of his elite talent but because so many would-be-free-agent-superstars have already signed long-term extensions with their teams. Players in the Betts tier are becoming available less frequently than in the last few decades.

Harper also realizes that the Betts negotiation could take quite a while, just as his did.

"It's going to be a long process for him, but I think he'll be able to handle that. He has a great head on his shoulders and a great family," Harper said. "I didn't mind it. Only having a couple of weeks in spring training was nice, some extra time with family and friends. But it's part of the process. It's part of what teams and players are doing now."

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

On today's Phillies Talk podcast, Jim Salisbury and I discussed what Spring Training II could look like amid Jim's report that the Phillies will likely get to stay home and train in South Philadelphia.

• Benefits of having camp at home.

• Who could Phillies play in Spring Training II?

• What happens to the minor-leaguers? Will there even be a minor-league season?

• Just how big could regular-season rosters get?

• Spencer Howard will likely put pressure on Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez.

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