What could be a jam-packed award season for Bryce Harper is already underway.
The Phillies slugger won a Musial Award on Thursday, given by the St. Louis Sports Commission in recognition of moments of exceptional sportsmanship. Harper’s award emanated from reaching out to Génesis Cabrera following a 97 mph hit by pitch to the face in April that removed Harper from the game and sent him to the hospital. Harper texted Cabrera the next day to reassure him he knew there was no intent behind the pitch and to check in on the then 24-year-old Cardinals pitcher’s well-being.
“Whoever’s a fan of Bryce Harper, whoever has children that are fans of Bryce Harper, support that guy,” then Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said at the time. “Because what he sent over in a message today was completely a class act.”
The act is even more notable in hindsight. On top of the obvious injury to Harper’s face, the hit by pitch’s ricochet triggered a more bothersome wrist injury. It contributed to a stretch in which Harper hit .211 with 26 strikeouts in 57 at-bats before landing on the injured list.
Harper’s text also may have deescalated tensions between the two clubs: Héctor Neris hit Nolan Arenado with a pitch the next day — an action many perceived as retaliatory — but no further drama ensued.
The NL MVP frontrunner was also named a finalist for the Players Choice Awards in the “Player of the Year” and “Outstanding Player” categories. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani joined him in the former category; Austin Riley, Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. join as finalists in the National League category for the latter distinction.
Harper isn’t the only Phillie represented on the list of finalists, as teammate and Cy Young candidate Zack Wheeler joined Corbin Burnes and Max Scherzer on the NL’s short list of “Outstanding Pitcher Award” finalists. Wheeler’s 2.78 ERA this season trailed both Burnes (2.43) and Scherzer (2.46), but his 247 strikeouts and 213 1/3 innings pitched both led all of MLB.
Winners, as voted upon by Major League players, will be announced next Thursday at 6 p.m. on SportsCenter.
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