MLB

How Is Bryce Harper a Winner in the Houston Astros Scandal?

Baseball observers point to Aaron Judge and Mike Fiers as individuals who suffered irreparable damage in the mess that the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal has created for Major League Baseball.

Judge arguably deserved the 2017 American League MVP honor over Jose Altuve, who allegedly often knew what pitch was coming courtesy of the Astros’ elaborate scam during home games. Fiers’ future in the sport is uncertain because he blew the whistle on the Astros.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper rates himself a winner in the scandal.

Bryce Harper is enjoying a low-profile spring

Bryce Harper became the biggest story in baseball early in 2019 because of the astonishing contract he signed after leaving the Washington Nationals as a free agent.

Upon arriving at training camp with the Philadelphia Phillies at the end of February, Harper was besieged by media wanting to know what he could offer in return for his 13-year, $330 million contract. The spotlight stayed on him through much of the season.

Harper showed up at his second Phillies training camp recently and was relieved to find little in the way of a media presence other than the Philadelphia beat writers.

“It’s actually kind of nice,’’ he told USA Today. “Cameras aren’t all over the place. You’re not seeing ESPN and Fox every single day. You don’t have all of these trucks and craziness going on. Everybody can just focus on our team and not really just focus on myself. I think it’s better for everybody in this clubhouse.’’

There’s still interest in Harper and the Phillies, but the Astros scandal is dominating the news as baseball enters the 2020 season and is causing the national media to camp at Houston’s spring base in West Palm Beach, Florida.

A welcome change for Bryce Harper

The Phillies only played .500 baseball and finished in fourth place in their division in Bryce Harper’s first year there under his monster contract. He has much to prove to the organization and new manager Joe Girardi, but at the age of 27 he also has time to do so.

And based on what stars like Mookie Betts figure to make in upcoming contract negotiations, Harper’s $25 million average salary over the duration of his deal could look like a bargain for a power hitter in three or four years.

Harper batted .260 with 35 home runs and 114 RBIs last summer. The biggest knock on the hard-hitting right fielder was the 178 strikeouts in 573 at-bats, continuing a trend that emerged in his seventh and final season with the Washington Nationals. Still, his slugging percentage and OPS were right in his previous range.

“Being in Philly last year, I loved every moment of it,” Harper said. “You see what a fan base can do, how much they understand, and the passion and drive and just the history of this organization. It’s just fun.”

Harper missed out on the Nationals’ magical season

Money makes up for a lot of disappointment, but the downside to leaving via free agency is that Bryce Harper missed out on a history-making season for the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals went 93-69 during the regular season to finish second to the Atlanta Braves by four games in the National League East before running the table in the postseason and beating the Houston Astros in seven games for the franchise’s first World Series championship.