The First of Many?
Larry Thornberry
by

It was just luck that I abandoned my office/man-cave about 1:30 Thursday for lunch. I flipped on the tube in the kitchen and dialed in MLB-Network, which was featuring a spring game between the Phillies and the Blue Jays from Clearwater. The second batter, when I sat down to my left-over pot roast with okra and onions (I’m a son of the South), was the much discussed and now very wealthy Bryce Harper. (Though it must be said, not as wealthy as Mike Trout will be, even after paying California income tax, which is set at a rate the mob would admire.)

Young Bryce dug in, still looking for his first dinger as a Phillie. Neither he nor I had to wait long. On the first pitch from the Jays’ Sam Gaviglio, the Future of the Phillies hit a bullet over the right field fence at Spectrum Field. It left the yard faster than you can say preposterous contract. There’s a closed-in area between the outfield fence at Spectrum and where the fans are, and this is where the ball landed. So it appears no fan will get the sure-to-be-really-valuable ball Harper hit for his first Phillie home run.

It’s a spring game, so the blast doesn’t really count, save for making Harper feel good about how his game is progressing, and Phillies fans feeling like perhaps their team is getting what team executives thought they bought for the operatic amount of money they will be sending Bryce’s way for the next 13 years. If Bryce hits 330 regular season home runs over the course of the (current) second priciest contract in sports, giving him, with his Nationals production, a total of 514, each of these dingers will have cost the Phillies one million dollars.

I’m a fierce defender of free markets, so I won’t criticize Harper, the Phillies, or even Harper’s pit bull agent, Scott Boros, for what the Phillies are paying for what they hope to get. But you don’t have to be a fan of the Gospel According to Bernie Sanders to feel there is something nuts about how Major League athletes (all sports) are currently compensated. With $300 million scheduled to go to Manny Machado, $330 million to Bryce Harper, and $430 million to Mike Trout, how much will that $60 ticket, $20 parking, and $9 beer cost next year? I feel a rant coming on, so I will withdraw…

UPDATE: Harper did it again in the 6th off Tom Malone. OK, Phillies fans, feel free to go crazy. Two dingers, three ribbies in one game. This is indeed what Phillies executives hoped they had purchased.

Larry Thornberry
Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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