Some 14 months after Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies, he still occasionally has to hear that he "never wanted to be here."
Never mind the fact that he requested no opt-out clauses in his contract when that had become the trend for superstars, or that he's spoken about his son getting to grow up and say he's from Philly.
Philly is still smitten with Harper, mostly because of his play but also because he pumps the city up every chance he gets. On Monday, he posted a picture to Instagram of himself in the dugout from last season with the caption:
"Philadelphia just so you don't forget. I love you. Really missing this. The City, my teammates, and the fans!"
Some dude who clearly had intimate knowledge of the negotiation process chimed in, "False! you never even wanted to sign there at first then they swooped in with a deal that was impossible to decline."
Harper responded, but before getting to that response, it's silly to characterize what the Phillies did as "swooping in." They pursued Harper throughout the winter. It wasn't as if he had lingered in free agency and the Phillies said to themselves, "You know what, we might as well sign this guy." (That was closer to how the Jake Arrieta signing happened.)
Here was Harper's reply:
"False. Loved the fans and the ballpark before I even signed that dotted line kid. Playing RF in front of those fans every day is incredible. Nobody like em. They got my back day in and day out."
No Philly athlete this side of Allen Iverson has been so vocal about his love for the city in recent years. Harper knows what he's doing when he says these kinds of things about Philly but there's really no reason so far, outside of cynicism, to say it's manufactured.
It's part of the reason why he'll get a (non-permanent) pass here for the occasional slump, and why when a few fans here criticize him, a much larger group stands up to support him. Much of this fan base already feels like Harper is one of them. He made sure to convey that to them early.
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