Bryce Harper was home in Las Vegas this winter but could not stop thinking about what was going on in Philadelphia. Or perhaps it was what wasn’t going on in Philadelphia.
The Phillies reassigned their general manager after another playoff-less season, didn’t seem to be in a hurry to hire a new one, and appeared committed to reducing payroll in a slow offseason after playing 30 home games without fans.
It had been just 21 months since Harper flew to Clearwater, Fla., hugged the Phillie Phanatic, and said he wanted to ride a “freakin’ boat” down Broad Street. Everything was perfect in the spring of 2019, but this winter the Phillies seemed to be drifting off course.
They certainly did not appear to be steering their boat toward a parade through town.
“I had no idea what was going on,” Harper said. “When we were sitting there kind of figuring out what we wanted to do as an organization, how we wanted to approach this offseason, what was going on, payroll, and things like that. This was my sense of ‘Man, what do we have going on?’ ”
“Of course when you get halfway through the offseason and there’s not really much going on, you’re kind of sitting there worrying about what our identity as a team is going to be.”
But Harper said he never lost trust in John Middleton, the team’s managing partner. You don’t hire Joe Girardi, Harper said, and then tell him a year later, “Hey, we’re not going to do anything.”
So Harper, just like everyone in Philadelphia, waited to see the Phillies’ plan unfold.
“I was wondering what we were going to do,” Harper said.
A few weeks later, Harper finally saw what the team had going on. His trust in Middleton was rewarded in mid-December when the Phillies hired Dave Dombrowski - a two-time World Series champion - as president of baseball operations. A week later, they named Sam Fuld as the new GM.