With debates swirling in the last week about whether or not Nationals fans should boo Bryce Harper upon his return, questions have arisen about where the blame truly lies for his departure.

The Washington Post profiled the journey Harper took from expecting to return to landing in Philadelphia, and the reported final contract offer from the Nationals was low enough for many fans to turn their anger towards ownership, instead of Harper himself.

Of course for many in the fan base, going to Philadelphia is an unforgivable offense, given their standing as rivals in the National League East and the storied history between the two cities as rivals across multiple sports.

According to longtime National Ryan Zimmerman, there may not be anyone to blame in this case.

“It’s okay if nobody did anything wrong,” Zimmerman told a small group of reporters Tuesday. “Nobody has to be a bad guy. I know it’s boring, but that’s okay. It is okay. Everyone can be happy.”

It may not make for the most compelling headlines or the hottest takes, but in the end, Zimmerman is probably right. 

It’s difficult to blame Harper for accepting a record-breaking contract, no matter where he’d have to play. Depending on your calculations on the deferred money, the difference in offers from the Nationals and Phillies ranged from $80 million, to more than $200 million. It wouldn’t be fair to be upset with anyone for taking that kind of life-changing money, especially when it means making history.


At the same time, it’s completely understandable why the Nationals didn’t want to make Harper the same record-setting offer. They have a whole, expensive team to worry about. Not only do they have expensive players already on the roster (each of the top three starting pitchers signed deals worth at least $140 million), but they have more negotiations coming up soon, including Anthony Rendon.

Not to mention, the Nationals are blessed with two of the best young outfielders in the sport in Juan Soto and Victor Robles, giving them the perfect tools to replace Harper’s production in both the short term and long term.

It’s unfortunate for Nationals fans that it came to this point, but as Zimmerman points out, sometimes there isn’t an obvious culprit. This seems like one of those cases.