Note: This story was published a few hours before Bryce Harper agreed to a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies on Thursday.
For much of the offseason, the Phillies have been considered the favorites to sign Bryce Harper. Philadelphia brass met with the outfielder in Las Vegas in January and team owner John Middleton, who said the Phillies would be “a little stupid” with their spending in the early stages of free agency, returned to Harper’s hometown last Friday.
Middleton left without consummating a deal and the Dodgers and Giants have since reentered the picture as serious contenders to acquire Harper’s services. Citing a source, former Mets general manager Steve Phillips, now an analyst for MLB Network, reported Wednesday that the Phillies “believe their chances of landing Bryce Harper are remote.”
Judging by the reaction on sports radio and social media, Philadelphians did not take these developments well. Many are resigned to the fact that Harper will sign elsewhere and are already looking forward to booing him mercilessly when he does.
“I’m out. I’m officially out. It is over,” Jon Marks, co-host of 94WIP Sports Radio’s afternoon-drive show, said Wednesday. “[Harper] doesn’t want to come here. We knew he didn’t want to come here, but like no, he’s not going to come here. That’s where it is right now . . . He doesn’t want to come here and the Phillies are being used for leverage and now it’s over.”
Marks and co-host Ike Reese asked listeners to tweet what they would say to Harper if given the opportunity and they opened the phone lines for people to vent about the Phillies’ longtime NL East nemesis. Their callers did not disappoint.
“I say good riddance,” Charlie in Langhorne said. “Pull the plug, let him go. Be done. He played with our emotions too much.”
Steve in Northern Liberties was even angrier: “As far as Harper’s concerned, whether he signs with San Francisco or L.A., when whichever team he’s on comes here, I’m going to make damn well sure that I’m there at the stadium with the other people, hopefully it will be a sellout crowd, because we’re going to boo him so bad. If I had a chance, I would spit in his face.”
(To their credit, Marks and Reese acknowledged that spitting in Harper’s face would be excessive.)
“I don’t know what I’m more tired of, Bryce Harper or the Trump fiasco stuff,” Mike in Havertown said. “If I’m the Phillies, I am pulling the offer right now. Get on every network you can and be like, ‘We’re out.’ I know Harper’s going to have to learn how to live on $300 million instead of $350 million, but it will drive his value down . . . We’re going crazy over a guy who is just a good-to-very good player. I don’t believe he is a difference-maker.”
WIP’s listeners aren’t the only ones prematurely relishing the chance to boo Harper in his next appearance at Citizens Bank Park, whether that’s with the Dodgers, Giants or some other team. Angelo Cataldi, co-host of a morning show on the station, vowed to heckle Harper like he’s never been heckled before.
“He had a chance to play in sports heaven,” Cataldi tweeted Thursday. “Now he can go to hell. When he returns to Philly as an opponent, he will be (sic) receive our full wrath with a boo like nothing he has ever heard. Believe it.”
(If nothing else, Harper’s prolonged free agency has been good for the takes, such as this one from Sam Carchidi, the Flyers’ beat writer for Philly.com.)
Cataldi is something of a boo connoisseur. In 1999, he orchestrated the booing of quarterback Donovan McNabb by Eagles fans at the NFL draft. A few months later, he led a contingent of fans at Veterans Stadium who booed J.D. Drew in the outfielder’s first appearance in Philadelphia since he decided not to sign with the Phillies after being drafted with the No. 2 pick two years earlier. Drew’s agent? Scott Boras.
On Wednesday’s show, Marks predicted that the reception for Harper would outdo the one for Drew.
“It’ll be the biggest boo in Philadelphia history,” he said.
“We’re going to boo him so loud that the whole Citizens Bank Park is going to shake,” Cataldi said Thursday. “This guy has jerked us around long enough.”
Cataldi isn’t the only one who feels that way.
At least one fan suggested a different tact.
It’s going to be super awkward when Harper is wearing a Phillies uniform on Opening Day.
Update: Harper signed with the Phillies on Thursday and Cataldi took back everything he said. The phones at WIP must be ringing off the hook.
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