Newly christened Philadelphia hero Bryce Harper threw out yet another piece of catnip for crazed Phillies fans when he claimed that he was going to call Mike Trout in 2020 about the Angels' star taking his talents to South Philly in free agency. Trout, the Millville, New Jersey, native who has seemed destined to play in red pinstripes since his Rookie of the Year season in 2012, is set to become a free agent ahead of the 2021 MLB season. Trout’s unwavering Eagles fandom and praise of Philly itself to Harper have only fueled the flames of Philadelphians’ burning desire to see the two-time AL MVP share an outfield with Harper.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (how is that name real?) have contacted Major League Baseball about concerns that the Phillies and Harper have been tampering with their player while he’s still under contract with the club through 2020. I pity the Angels for thinking that their complaint makes even the slightest difference about how the Phillies' organization and Harper are going to treat the Trout situation over the next two years.
I wrote last month about how Magic Johnson and the Lakers’ clear tampering of Sixers star Ben Simmons was infuriating, as I hate that the organization just plays the “We’re the Lakers” card and feels entitled to have every great player around the NBA. Being a lifelong Philadelphian with a severe inferiority complex, it feels totally on-brand to be angry over something like that. When the situations are finally reversed, however, and a Philadelphia team finally has the chance to be a premier franchise that is the one wielding power and swaying its influence around the league, I’m going to go full Cersei Lannister and revel in sitting on top of that throne.
I’m the embodiment of “I’m not mad, I’m actually laughing” when it comes to the Angels’ tampering claims. Who cares? Los Angeles (or is it Anaheim? I don’t even know what city I’m supposed to be slandering here) has had seven full seasons of quite possibly the most talented baseball player to ever live on its roster and it has a single playoff appearance, a quick three-game sweep at the hands of the Royals in 2014, to show for it. Trout is wasted there. The organization has surrounded him with slop rosters for his whole career and it still owes a trillion dollars on Albert Pujols’ contract through 2042 (all numbers are approximate).
What is MLB going to do to the Phillies and Harper as punishment? Last offseason, MLB called the Yankees and outfielder Aaron Judge to tell them he’s not allowed to tamper with other teams’ players after he said Manny Machado would “look good in pinstripes.” That’s it? That’s the price to pay? What would Rob Manfred or whoever has this duty in the league office say to Harper?
“Hey, pal, you’re the face of baseball and our most public star. You’re revitalizing the sport in one of our biggest markets. Can you please not tell Mike Trout, the best player in the world, to come to Philly anymore?”
It’s meaningless! Putting aside the fact that Trout having a homecoming in a big baseball city on the East Coast would do wonders for the league’s profile, it just doesn’t matter. It’s hilarious that the rules are this simple to manipulate with little to no repercussions. Hypothetically, let’s say the league goes beyond just a simple phone call to Harper. Is it going to take draft picks away from the Phillies? Take ‘em! Tons of first-round picks don’t even make it to the majors. Is it going to fine Phillies managing partner John Middleton? Good luck with that. I doubt penalizing a dude who just spent $330 million on one player is going to make any difference in Middleton’s mind. He’s got stupid money.
In a city that’s played the underdog role an innumerable amount of times over the last half-century, there’s something deeply satisfying about being the big, bad villain that other fan bases presumably hate. When Dallas Goedert’s handing Trout a football after scoring a big fourth-quarter touchdown this fall at the Linc with Harper right by his side, I’ll crack a smile knowing there’s nothing MLB nor the Angels can do to prevent the prince who was promised from playing every day at Citizens Bank Park in 2021.
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