The700Level

The Angels' tampering claims about Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are hilariously pointless

The Angels' tampering claims about Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are hilariously pointless

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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Bryce Harper meets some Philly sports legends at the Sixers game

Bryce Harper meets some Philly sports legends at the Sixers game

The new big man in town, Bryce Harper, went to the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night to take in the Sixers game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He rubbed shoulders with some of the previous biggest (little) men in town.

Harper was in attendance and rang the bell prior to tip-off — something he'll surely do many times during Phillies games across the street this summer.

When Harper made his way to his seat in a suite, he was seated alongside Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Rhys Hoskins was also in the suite as were all of the aforementioned players' significant others. Talk about some serious Philly sports firepower right there.

And then later in the game, the Sixers shared an image of a couple of legendary No. 3s meeting in the bowels of the Center. I'd love to hear the conversation between Allen Iverson and Harper.

Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was also in the building, sitting a bit closer to the court. Rapper Meek Mill was also in the building and took a photo with A.I. Which got me wondering: What's the perfect storm of Philly sports stardom in a Rat Pack sort of way? Obviously you had Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the court last night. In terms of the Flyers, aside from Gritty, you'd have to go Claude Giroux or maybe a fun-loving guy like Scott Hartnell from years past? Recently retired players that could fit the bill from other teams would have to include Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and maybe Pat Burrell just for fun. Is anyone in recent Eagles memory a bigger name than Brian Dawkins? He'd fill the fedora quotient. Nick Foles could be fun in a clean and wholesome sort of way.

My Philly sports Rat Pack would consist of A.I., Simmons, Embiid, Kendall Jenner, Wentz, Jason Kelce and Gritty. We got a good portion of that in the building last night.

Who is in your Philly sports Rat Pack?

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Nationals fans don’t get to be mad at Bryce Harper

Nationals fans don’t get to be mad at Bryce Harper

They can boo him. They can even hate him. But there’s absolutely no way Washington Nationals fans can fault Bryce Harper.

Sportswriters instructed Nats fans not to show up to the stadium unless they plan to boo Harper. Metro TV personalities smashed a pinata with the six-time All-Star’s photograph. Fans destroyed their No. 34 jerseys and showed up to the ballpark with signs that read “traitor.” The mayor of Washington D.C. took to social media to compare a baseball player to Benedict Arnold.

And yet, on Monday it was revealed in The Washington Post that the Nationals didn't just offer Harper less money and fewer years than the Phillies. The structure of the 10-year, $300 million contract proposed in September would’ve deferred payment on $100 million – 33 percent of the total value – until 2052. Then, in January, the club followed up with an even worse deal: 12 years, $250 million that wouldn’t be fully paid until the year 2072.

Harper would be 79 in 2072, assuming he lived that long.

There’s loyalty and hometown discounts. Then there’s situations that just don’t make sense.

Now seems like a good time to point out the Nationals are owned by Ted Lerner, whose own net worth is estimated to be in the multi billions. The team has done pretty well for itself at the gate, finishing 11th in Major League Baseball in average attendance in 2018 despite some of the highest ticket prices in the game. And while the TV contract is in dispute, the organization will eventually claim hundreds of millions of dollars in right fees dating back to 2012.

The money was there. Even without Harper, the Nationals have the seventh-largest payroll in baseball this season – never mind management’s inability to construct a winning team with that checkbook.

Why is this coming back on the player?

It’s one thing for fans to suggest a professional athlete should consider taking less money. It’s quite another to argue the athlete should sign a contract where a sizable portion of the cash might be paid when he’s living in a nursing home.

On some level, this is all reminiscent of when Jayson Werth pulled a reverse-Harper and left the Phillies to sign with the NL East rival Nationals in in 2011. The Phillies chose to allocate finances in such a way the club decided it would only retain Werth for below-market value, so he left. Fans weren’t happy, and he was booed every time he came to town.

But Werth wasn’t a generational talent. He was a cog, people ultimately understood he got a better deal, plus letting him go meant the Phillies could re-sign Cliff Lee, for example.

The Nationals let the face of baseball leave D.C. without a serious offer, and all they got was the money to sign Patrick Corbin.

Hey, it happens, and Nats fans should boo Harper for all 13 years in red pinstripes, the same as any Philly fan would in their shoes.

Just don’t cry Harper is a traitor. He’s in a Phils uniform because the Nationals screwed up, and the only place fingers need to be pointed is directly at the front office.

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