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Bryce Harper felt he was 'able to just be Bryce' in his first year with Phillies

Bryce Harper felt he was 'able to just be Bryce' in his first year with Phillies

In Bryce Harper’s first season in Philadelphia, the Phillies jumped out to a 33-22 start before surrendering hold of the NL East lead to the Atlanta Braves in June and eventually falling out of the playoff race by the end of September. It was the Phillies’ best season since entering their lengthy rebuild in 2012 but still fell well short of their preseason expectations.

Despite the team’s shortcomings, Harper arrived at the Phillies’ spring training complex in Clearwater, Florida, on Sunday with nothing but good things to say about his club.

“I feel like I was able to just be Bryce,” Harper told reporters during his first media scrum. “It’s funny, in the offseason, all my buddies were like, ‘How’d you like Philly?’ and I was like, ‘Dude, I loved it. Like, it was unbelievable.’ So I think people might look at me and go, ‘Yeah, right, you’re crazy.’ But no, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fans. I enjoyed the people.

“That blue-collar feel, that blue-collar mentality. They want you to work hard, they hold you accountable and that made me a better player. It made me want to work hard in the outfield. It made me want to work hard as a hitter. It made me want to play every single day.”

Harper’s defensive numbers took a steep dive in 2018, his final season in Washington. Those metrics may have been attributed to Harper playing it safe in the outfield and going for fewer big plays in order to stay healthy ahead of free agency. After accruing -16 defensive runs saved in right field (a career low) with the Nationals in 2018, he picked up nine DRS in right last year (a career best).

His offensive numbers in 2019 would’ve been considered strong by most players’ standards, but for Harper they probably weren’t as high as the Phillies were hoping to get for what they’re paying. He hit 35 home runs with a career-high 114 RBIs but also struck out (178) more than he ever had in a season and failed to make the All-Star team for the first time since 2014.

Were his comments a shot at his former fan base? Only Harper really knows that. He did congratulate his former teammates on winning the World Series without him, though.

“I watched through the whole series and I never have before,” Harper said, per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury. “I’m so happy for those guys over there. I played there for eight years and enjoyed my time with the players, but I’m happy to turn the page and be here in Philly.”

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MLB return: Union fires back at owners in latest statement, reject additional concessions

MLB return: Union fires back at owners in latest statement, reject additional concessions

The latest whack of the negotiation tether ball came Thursday night when Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, issued a statement of discontent.

“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone,” it began.

Clark went on to cite the league’s most recent suggestion of a “dramatically shortened” season “unless Players negotiate salary concessions.” The league suggested a 50-game season would be reasonable for the amount of money players agreed to in salary following a late-March negotiation.

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The statement went on to refer to the league’s stance as a “threat,” as opposed to the players' proposal, which in Clark’s view, was designed to move the negotiations forward. He rattled off the various items in the union’s proposal, which was framed around a 114-game season: more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals and the exploration of additional “jewel events” (All-Star Game, etc.).

Clark said a conference call with the MLBPA’s eight-person executive board, which includes Max Scherzer, and several other player leaders concluded “the league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”

Clark went on to say the players are ready to compete and get back on the field.

The union’s reaction to MLB’s non-reaction is not a surprise. Players are adamant they are not taking further salary cuts. The league solidly believes salaries should -- and need to be -- negotiated if there is to be some form of 2020 season. Everyone continues to wait for a solution.

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Mike Rizzo: ‘I am horrified by the murder of George Floyd’

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Mike Rizzo: ‘I am horrified by the murder of George Floyd’

Mike Rizzo released a statement Thursday in response to the social unrest currently convulsing through the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

“I am horrified by the murder of George Floyd. My heart goes out to his family and friends. I strongly believe that silence is unacceptable and words are meaningless without action.

“Washington, D.C., is my home. The people of D.C. are my people. I am listening. I stand with you, and I am committed to being part of systemic change so every citizen here can say we are D.C. and D.C. is us.”

Rizzo made a statement, first provided to the Washington Post, separate from the team’s statement Tuesday.

Protests are expected to continue in Washington, D.C. this week.

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