The700Level

A Philly fan's defense of Mike Trout's mega deal to play in L.A.

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A Philly fan's defense of Mike Trout's mega deal to play in L.A.

Mike Trout’s monster 12-year, $430 million contract extension with the Angels this week simultaneously broke Bryce Harper’s barely three-week-old record contract of $330 million and broke the hearts of everyone in the tri-state area. While I count myself among the Philly fans who were bummed when the Trout news broke given how much of a formality it seemed that he would come here as a free agent in two years, I cannot blame Trout for his decision.

Every East Coast-born person fantasizes about moving to California at some point. I once convinced a Los Angeles-based company to pay for me to fly out there for several days for a job interview (I also saw the Eagles play at the Coliseum, the game where Carson Wentz tore his ACL, and didn’t get the job. It was a bad week!), so I get it. While I was walking around University City in college on 35-degree winter days bundled up like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story, I kicked myself for not going to a school like UCLA.

I too have wished it was 70-something degrees and sunny every single day while suffering through Philadelphia’s two seasons: freezing rain and brutal humidity. I would also be lying if I said offering me $430 million to do the one thing I might be better at than anyone who’s ever lived wasn’t awesome. Trout’s on his way to truly being the greatest baseball player of all time. He may be mired in irrelevance because the Angels seem so incompetent, but is that really the worst thing in the world for him?

Sure, I know Trout is craving a World Series ring. Racking up MVPs, making hundreds of millions of dollars and cruising through SoCal in semi-anonymity because he’s not a Hollywood star or a guy in 100 commercials has its obvious perks though. He can do all that while having his Octobers free because he plays for a bad franchise, leaving him able to attend six Eagles home games every season. It sounds like the most chill life possible.

Yes, Trout is an Eagles superfan, but just look at what he does when he’s at the Linc. He’ll be on the field before the game shooting the bull with Carson Wentz and then sits in a private little end zone box so Zach Ertz can flip him footballs after he scores touchdowns. He’s not sitting in Section 219 next to a dozen dudes from Grays Ferry and cheersing cans of Miller Lite with them after their umpteetnth “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant. I wouldn’t want to hang out with me either!

Whenever a star player, regardless of sport, inches towards free agency, fans and the media alike are quick to speculate that the athlete may go play for his hometown team, but that rarely seems to happen. The idea of growing up in the Philly area and becoming a superstar centerfielder for the Phillies sounds amazing, but if I was absurdly rich, I probably wouldn’t want to spend my entire life in the same place.

Trout would be a messiah figure if he had come to Philly in 2021. He also wouldn’t be able to walk down the street and grab a half-gallon of Wawa Peach Iced Tea without being mobbed by a hundred rabid Philly fans ready to bow down and kiss his feet. He would potentially have more pressure on him than any athlete in Philly history given how unbelievable his career has been so far, where he was born and who his favorite football team is. He could either be in an environment with unparalleled stress or he could face almost zero pressure while surrounded by palm trees in Los Angeles. Just to reiterate: it’s 70-something degrees there everyday.

Who knows, the DH could come to the National League by 2032 and a 40-year-old Trout built like Jeremiah Trotter could become a playoff hero in the vein of Matt Stairs while clobbering 25 homers in the regular season despite barely being able to jog around the bases. We can always dream even if the ideal situation for Trout in red pinstripes is gone.  

Maybe Mike Trout isn’t really about this life and maybe that’s the best thing for him.

Millville’s not even that close to Philly anyway, right?

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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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