Philadelphia Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki, who has covered the team since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009, recently spoke about Bryce Harper’s debut with Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo on the High Heat baseball talk show.
As per MLB, Russo began by asking Zolecki what he thought about the apparent love affair between the notoriously tough Philadelphia crowd and Harper.
“Yeah, it was kind of a cool day just to see how Bryce interacted with the fans and how the fans interacted with him. It is a real love affair right now. You know, the honeymoon is still in full effect, and I think the fans love him. Obviously, he’s signed with the Phillies but there’s no out clause, you know, he’s here for 13 years. There’s going to be no speculation in four years — ‘Is he gonna go to the Yankees? Is he gonna opt out?’ Is he gonna go somewhere else?'”
Zolecki said that Harper’s debut brought back exciting baseball to Philly, noting the ballpark atmosphere and comparing it to 2011 when Cliff Lee came back and joined Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt in that rotation. He claims that Harper has started a similar wave of anticipation, excitement, and expectation that they’re going to go to the postseason.
Despite the honeymoon, Zolecki claims that Harper won’t have a free pass. He claims that Phillies fans are notoriously tough, and noted the few boos from the crowd, although he also said they appeared to be good-natured. Zolecki believes that if Harper struggles in the first couple of months, you might hear something from fans. But ultimately, he believes that Phillies fans are comforted and Harper’s track record speaks for itself.
Zolecki added that Gabe Kapler is under the gun due to Harper’s talent and the pressure is on for the team to make it to the playoffs, whether it’s the second wildcard or the NL East title. He claims that if the team gets off to a bad start, Phillies fans will remember last year and could turn on them and put Kapler, in particular, in the hot seat.
Despite the love from Philly, Harper isn’t getting as much from the MLB; he was recently voted “most overrated” player in a poll conducted by The Athletic. As The Inquisitr reported, the poll involved questioning as many MLB players as possible to find hot takes. The poll covered about one-third of the league’s players this year, which makes the results a fairly good representation of the organization as a whole.
Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million record contract with the Phillies on February 28.