The Philadelphia Phillies thankfully avoided getting jobbed out of another end-of-season award today when all-everything right fielder Bryce Harper won his second National League Most Valuable Player Award. Harper’s crowning comes the day after Phillies’ right-hander Zack Wheeler was, to some minds (ahem), wrongfully deprived of the Cy Young Award.
Anyone who watched the Phillies this season saw what Harper was doing, which was forcefully and often seemingly against their wishes dragging his teammates into playoff contention deep into September by refusing to let their failures slow him down:
Bryce Harper looks to win his 2nd career NL MVP and 1st with the Phillies.
Harper slashed .338/.476/.713 after the All-Star break, the best OPS in MLB.
The rest of the Phillies hit .228/.300/.386 over that span. pic.twitter.com/pkhvIpkPrp
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 18, 2021
The statistics didn’t let Harper down, either. Harper played in 141 games and batted .309. His “slash line” – on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS – was a gaudy .429/.615/1.044. That OPS going over one probably sealed the deal for Harper. In his previous MVP season, in 2015 as a Washington National, Harper’s OPS was an even more ridiculous 1.109 in a year where he hit .330.
In what was ultimately a disappointing Phillies season, Harper was a consistent bright spot and a reason to watch the games night after night. It’s trite, but there was an intangible energy around Harper’s at-bats this season, the feeling that he was a threat to barrel the ball into a gap or into a bullpen every time he was at the plate. It had been a very long time since you could say that about anyone wearing Phillies pinstripes. The MVP trophy will look nice sitting next to his 2021 Silver Slugger Award, given to the best offensive player at his position in a season. Harper won the Silver Slugger in 2015, too, so he has matching sets.
The Phillies front office takes a lot of flak, and as usual, if you take a lot of flak you can be sure that at least some of it is warranted. But the Phillies deserve serious credit for breaking the bank for Harper in the 2018-2019 offseason. Harper’s 2019 campaign was a mixed bag, but he hit 35 home runs and drove in 114 runs that season. 2020 was a COVID-19 write-off, which was no one’s fault. And now, in his third season in Philadelphia, Harper has brought home the Phillies’ first National League MVP Award since Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins won the award back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.
Stupid money, but the good kind of stupid. Philadelphia, with Bryce Harper, you got a winner in town.