Tuesday was a brutal day for the Philadelphia Phillies. They were swept in a double-header against the division-rival Washington Nationals, with the first game officially eliminating the Phillies from postseason contention and extending their playoff drought to eight years. The Nationals held on to defeat the Phillies 6-5 in the second game of the double-header, with the Phillies forced to watch their division rivals celebrate clinching one of the two National League Wild Card spots.
If there was positive to takeaway from Tuesday, it was the tape measure home run that Bryce Harper hit off the bench in the second game of the double-header. It was the 26-year-old’s 34th home run of 2019, and he scalded it:
116.4 mph ⚾️💨
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) September 25, 2019
So while manager Gabe Kapler – whose future is uncertain – admitted that he had trouble sleeping Tuesday, he couldn’t say enough about Harper’s first season in red pinstripes.
“Bryce has been an exceptional player across the board for us,” Kapler said to Angelo Cataldi on SportsRadio 94 WIP. “Last night was a pretty cool example of that. He’s come up clutch for us so many times, [he’s] performed at the plate, we see that he gives everything he has in the outfield and on the basepaths.”
Though Harper failed to make the National League All-Star team for the first time since 2014, his full season numbers are going to look pretty All-Star worthy. With five games left in the 2019 season, Harper is slashing .258/.374/.505 with 34 home runs, a career-high 109 RBIs and a 4.5 fWAR.
On ESPN‘s telecast of Sunday Night Baseball last weekend, Alex Rodriguez predicted that 2020 will be the best season of Harper’s career. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine him ever topping his 2015 National League MVP season, when he hit .330 with 42 home runs and posted a staggering 9.3 fWAR. That was one of the great offensive seasons in baseball history. But it does stand to reason that without having to deal with the distraction of where he will play and his new family will live this offseason, he could have an MVP-caliber season in 2020.
As far as who his manager will be next season, Harper says he won’t speak unless he’s spoken to.
“If that conversation [about Kapler] needs to be had, that’s way over my head,” Kapler told the collective media, including Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “There are guys above me that make those decisions. If we do need to have that conversation, I’ll be all ears.”
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