There Will Be No Peace

I wish I could say that I was shocked that NYU students Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf cornered and berated Chelsea Clinton at a vigil for the Muslim victims of the terrorist shooting in New Zealand that killed 50 people, but I’m not. I wish I could say these two young people had a point, but they don’t. I wish I could say that I’m glad to see young people engaging the political process, but I’m not. About the only thing I take from this unhinged and unfair behavior is that I told you so.

Chelsea Clinton is not a public official. She has never run for public office. Despite popular opinion, she is not actually her mother or her father. By the way, her former President father isn’t running for office ever again. Her former Secretary of State and Senator mother is also not a candidate for office either. Strange as this is for many supporters of Bernie Sanders, Chelsea Clinton is just a pregnant woman in New York with her own career and a famous last name. You’re not really “speaking truth to power” when you corner her at a public event to attack her views, you’re just using her fame to get yourself attention.

Here’s the real kicker though- Dweik and Asaf are wrong about Chelsea Clinton, and Clinton is right on her criticisms of Ilhan Omar that angered them so much. Now I’ve given my opinion of the good and the bad on Omar already, but here’s the simple fact- Omar has repeatedly used anti-semitic and over the top language in her criticisms. One doesn’t need to say Israel hypnotizes it’s supporters, or that it’s “All About the Benjamins” to allude to Israel buying support, when making the very plausible case that the Netanyahu Israeli Government is ineffective, opposes peace, and is bad for both U.S. and Israeli interests. It is a point that can be made without slurring a whole religion or nation. It is a point that can be made without old-line anti-semitism accusing “the Jews” of using money to control the world. Omar is a smart enough woman to know what her words mean, to choose the words she wants to use, and to understand context. She chose not to. She deserved every condemnation she got for that. Perhaps these young ladies are drawn to defend her though because she aligns with their views- one of them has actually called for Israel to be demolished. I am not a supporter of Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu, but these are radical views that should not be given credence.

Let’s be clear here, the American far-left is radical. It is not just fighting a war against Trump extremism, but against anyone who doesn’t accept their “revolution.” I’ve personally been put on their hit-lists, but worse yet, I’ve seen them bully people in public, like in this case. It doesn’t matter if you are Chelsea Clinton or some private citizen living in Southwest DC, these folks are ready to attack you, and even cause your career harm. Behavior like these NYU students displayed is not an exception, or something to be treated as an isolated incident. This is the norm. This is how they wish to conduct politics. This is what they want the American left to be.

I see no pathway to peace between the Democratic Party and the Bernie-inspired far-left. I’m sick and tired of hearing Democrats say we all need to “unite,” and “be positive” with these folks. It’s not going to happen. They’re never coming to the table to unite. Stop pretending that it can happen when only one side is interested in it. These people wish to destroy the Democratic Party, not work with it.

The Clinton-Sanders primary has been over for more than 2.5 years. Like Japanese troops who didn’t know World War II was over and continued to fight, these students are in the ranks that haven’t stopped fighting yesterday’s war. You can’t make peace with these people.

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Unhinged Trump- Landing a Plane With No Wings

Let’s be clear, none of this is normal. The President of the United States spent his Sunday taking to Twitter to attack dead Senators, special prosecutors, and television personalities. He called for government sanctions against “Saturday Night Live” for making fun of him. Last week Donald Trump said it would be “very bad, very bad” if his supporters are unhappy. Again, this isn’t normal.

I don’t so much fear what an avowed moron can do within the limits of the Presidency, but I do fear the future he is making possible. Many of the limits on Presidential power are created by adherence to norms. They are based on respect for the process and the rule of law. This man doesn’t accept any of that. Fortunately he’s largely incompetent. That will not always be the case.

The bigger fear is the creation of a “generation Trump.” Would a successor, whether it is Don Jr., Pence, or something even worse, find both motivation in Trump, and increased competence in themselves? Could we find his erosion of norms and our government processes becomes a long term problem?

Donald Trump may lose in 2020 on the strength of pure opposition to all he stands for. The only way for his ideology to be defeated and sent to the scrap heap of history is for conservative Americans to reject his unhinged behavior. I hold out little hope that he loses the Republican nomination in 2020, but I do hope that 20 or 30% of Republicans will choose to vote for someone, anyone else in 2020. It’s the only way to destroy this dangerous ideology.

What is it About White Guy Candidates and Messianic Fantasies

I like Beto O’Rourke. Sure, I have questions and doubts about him, but that shouldn’t be construed as opposition. If he’s nominated by the Democrats, I’ll vote for him. I’ll even give him a look while I’m considering my primary candidate right now. He’s an impressively talented campaigner, he’s got some charisma, and he’s motivating some people.

There’s something rather Bernie-esque though about his support. No, I’m not just talking about the $6.1 million he raised in his first day in the race either. I’ve heard people compare him to RFK, and even say he’s a better speaker than Obama. Commentators have said he creates “the greatest contrast” with Trump. I’ve had friends tell me he’s “the only way” to move the country forward. Hell, even Beto has pronounced that he was “born to run.” There’s some heavy destiny talk happening here. The only other candidate I hear talked about like that by his people? Bernie Sanders.

Let me pour a little cold water on all of this- as great as Beto is, he did lose the 2018 U.S. Senate race in Texas to a deeply unpopular Ted Cruz (over 10% under-water approval), in the greatest Democratic year since Watergate. Sure, Abraham Lincoln lost the 1858 Senate race in Illinois, so I’ll give Beto a singular pass there, even though I’m not totally buying the Lincoln comparison with anyone. Part of Beto’s appeal is his normalcy, which I like, but it means he comes with a checkered past- like any real person. I do like what I hear from him too, but he needs a lot more substance yet to keep up with this field. He’s a talented candidate, but he ran a very unorthodox campaign in 2018, and came up short. Perhaps he would have won if he done some of the more traditional “blocking and tackling” of a campaign. Again, he’s very talented, but not perfect.

Now look, I’m a white, straight, Catholic male, and I’m willing to vote for a white guy for any office (if I agree with them), but I do think it’s fair to ask the question- why is it only white dudes getting the “Messiah” treatment from their supporters right now? I’m not saying it’s always limited to white guys (This happened at times with President Obama in 2008, although to be fair, he lived up to more of the hype than I then expected), but it seems to be that way a lot. Berners think he’s politics version of Luke Skywalker despite his many flaws that prohibit him from winning over many of us. I’m hearing some of the same sounds from Betotes now.

This is far less a criticism of Beto himself, who I’m generally more favorable than not about, and more of a commentary on white liberals and progressives and their hero worship. In 17 years in politics, I have never met or seen a perfect politician. Bill Clinton had his infidelity, Barack Obama his naivety on Republican opposition, and Hillary had her campaign’s strategic mistakes. I supported all three of them, and would again, but I don’t argue their infallibility. For some though, they think their “great white hope” is the savior we need. It’s just weird to me. You’re electing a person, not a God. These guys ain’t Gods.

The Enemy of Your Enemy is Not Your Friend

Chuck Schumer’s defense of the Netanyahu Government in Israel has consistently disappointed me. Schumer is arguably the most powerful Jewish government official in American history, and yet he has done his best to defend a leader who has openly spited his own political party, repeatedly.

If I am being honest, I do not believe Benjamin Netanyahu has been a good leader for Israel, or the United States. His leadership has set back the cause of peace. His hard-line position on the Palestinians has alienated their leadership, both in the Knesset and in the West Bank and Gaza. He has sought no ally. He didn’t seek to work with President Obama towards peace at all, and actually sought to undermine him on both policy and politically. He has embraced President Trump’s policies that make peace less and less possible. I find it disappointing that Democrats like Schumer, and even my former boss Bob Menendez, defend a failed government under Netanyahu. I find it even worse, given Netanyahu’s personal corruption.

Notice something there- I never referred to Jewish “money,” “hypnosis,” or any other nefarious scheme by the Jewish people to “buy support.” No “All About the Benjamins, Baby.” My position is that Netanyahu, Likud, and his government are all doing a bad job, and that they are mistreating the Palestinian people. I made that point without making a singular anti-Semitic statement. I used no old-line Nazi slur against Jewish people. I played into zero negative stereotypes. I made the point, no less.

I do not believe Rep. Ilhan Omar is stupid. I also don’t necessarily entirely disagree with her general argument- though I do support the existence and defense of the state of Israel as American policy. Just because we may have some general, partial agreement does not mean that I should defend her though. She is smart and accomplished. She chose her words. She chose ugly, anti-Semitic language and stereotypes to attack a whole nation and it’s people. She chose the oldest, most hateful, negative language in the book. We’ve seen where her language leads in the past.

I don’t want to stand with her disingenuous right-wing critics. We know their agenda. That does not mean I want to stand with her either. Using hate language should be beneath the Democratic Party, Congress, and the country. Stop telling me she doesn’t know better. It’s demeaning to her and her office. She’s said what she means, and we all get the point. Her attacks calling President Obama our for “getting away with murder” only underline the point that the Democratic House Caucus should stop sponsoring the microphone she’s speaking into. Just because she opposes some enemies that we oppose too does not mean that we should support her. Take her off the Foreign Affairs Committee and make a point. Yes, it’s sad- you want her to succeed as an inspiring person that came here as a refugee and won higher office. That ship has sailed now. Make it clear you don’t support her words.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

Handicapping the Phillies Opening Day Roster

It’s only 17 days until Opening Day baseball in Philadelphia. Bryceadelphia and Phillies mania is coming back north with a 25 man roster to face the Braves on Opening Day. The only question is, who will be on it?

Starting Rotation-

Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin- No real surprises here, despite a lot of people thinking out loud that they could use one more upgrade. Earlier in camp I was wondering if Jerad Eickhoff was ready to come back and challenge here, but it sounds like he had a January setback that makes it for more sense to keep him him in AAA to start. Drew Anderson, Enyel De Los Santos, and Cole Irvin have all thrown quite well at times, but are likely to join Eickhoff in AAA. My guess right now is Ranger Suarez joins them in AAA, while JoJo Romero and Adonis Medina anchor down Reading. Why so little change here? I think in part the Phillies want to let this situation play out longer, to give them more clarity. I also think Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez might still cost too much.

Line-Up:

  1. Cesar Hernandez-2B
  2. Jean Segura-SS
  3. Bryce Harper-RF
  4. Rhys Hoskins-1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto-C
  6. Andrew McCutchen-LF
  7. Maikel Franco-3B
  8. Odubel Herrera-CF

Believe it or not, I think this killer line-up will come north healthy by the end of camp. I’m a little concerned about Cesar, and could absolutely see him starting on the DL, with McCutchen replacing him up top and Kingery playing second and batting eighth. Yes, Odubel has missed time too, but they seem to believe he’ll play this week. I’m betting on health when push comes to shove.

Bench:

  • Back-up catcher- Andrew Knapp
  • Utility Man- Scott Kingery
  • 4th Outfielder/Left-Handed bat- Nick Williams
  • 5th Outfielder- Aaron Altherr

The Phillies bench is not exciting to anyone, particularly because of injuries and players being out of options. Roman Quinn brings a dynamic on-field presence that they need, but he’s hurt. I prefer Cozens to Altherr, but Altherr is out of options and Williams already gives them a lefty pinch-hitter. Williams is on because they don’t know what to do with him, and his centerfield issues don’t matter with Cutch getting most of the back up reps- plus he pinch hit well last year. I’d like to see the Phillies keep another versatile utility option like Sean Rodriguez or Trevor Plouffe, but neither is on the current 40 man roster, and they are out of spots.

Bullpen:

  • Closer- Seranthony Dominguez
  • Set-Up 8th inning- David Robertson
  • Set-Up 8th inning- Hector Neris
  • Set-Up 7th inning- Pat Neshek
  • Set-Up 7th Inning- Juan Nicasio
  • Lefty- Jose Alvarez
  • Lefty/Long-Man- Adam Morgan
  • Lefty- James Pazos

Yes, I’m predicting an eight man bullpen with three lefties. Gabe Kapler is still the manager, last I looked. There’s certainly a question about who will close or pitch the 8th, Nicasio hasn’t locked up a spot yet, Hunter’s health, and even just how many spots will exist, but I came to this group factoring health, options, and needs. I doubt the Phillies will just cut an expensive Nicasio early, or that they would bring a Victor Arano north given his options and early performance. So, we get this.

Injured List- Roman Quinn, Tommy Hunter

Bubble Players- Sean Rodriguez (non-roster), Trevor Plouffe (non-roster), Dylan Cozens, Victor Arano, Mitch Walding

Optioned to the minors/On the 40 man- Eickhoff, De Los Santos, Suarez, Anderson, Edubray Ramos, Yacksel Rios, Edgar Garcia, Arano, Austin Davis, Adonis Medina, Walding, Cozens, Arquimedes Gamboa

Markets and Political Rhetoric- They’re Not Talking to You

A week or two ago, one of my best friends growing up, a teacher and football coach at our old high school text me and asked me “why are the Democrats putting up a candidate” against our popular local Mayor? Easton’s Mayor is a long time incumbent, running for his fourth consecutive term in office, and sixth term overall. His primary opponent is a younger local activist and Vice-Chair of the Northampton County Democratic Party. She happens to be younger, Pakistani, Muslim, and female. He happens to be older, Italian, and male. I stayed away from the demographics in my response though- I went with explaining that sometimes the activists and the commoners want different things, politically. Some of it is ideological. Some of it is identity driven. What I meant to say is that we are moving towards at least three different ideologies in this country, while still living in a two party system.

Let me just get this out of the way early in this piece, because most political people don’t get this, and actually will try to argue otherwise- people involved in politics have very little in common with the rest of the public, politically speaking. I’ve seen this play out in many forms over my 17 years in politics, and it never ceases to amaze me how clear it is. I remember how shocked I was when George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, despite the huge crowds I had seen at rallies and protests against him, despite the success of movies and documentaries against him, and despite the seething passions I had seen while volunteering for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. I distinctly remember the shock of a State House candidate in 2008, when I explained to him that his name identification was 32% in his poll, despite the fact that he was a local elected official, or that his mother was the Dean at a college located in the district. Perhaps nothing struck me more so than learning that 30% of New Jersey’s likely voters had never heard of Bob Menendez, when I was working on his re-election campaign there in 2012. There’s a simple truth that “political people” don’t really understand- they’re different than most voters just because they do read the New York Times, watch cable news, and go to local political events. You aren’t like your neighbor, even if they vote, and even if they vote like you. To be clear, social media and the internet are beginning to narrow this gap, but rather than informing our electorate, they’ve become an outlet for propaganda, partial truths, and insane clickbait.

Politics has become a hellscape since I got involved in 2002. Our politics divides us in ways that we never would be in our every day lives. The level of discourse has fallen off a cliff. To be fair, one could point back to any number of points and say “it began there,” but I think it’s fair to start wondering out loud if somewhere in the last few years we crossed a line that took us past the point of no return (2016 in America). You can see the general public recoiling in real time- it’s why most people identify as independents in America right now. It’s why people across the political spectrum are choosing to not register with a political party. Despite high turnout in elections, much of the public hates to discuss politics, and even avoids it with their family and friends. America hates it’s body politic, and yet both parties are increasingly embrace it. Even their members embrace it, increasingly. Over two in five Republicans still believe President Obama was born in Kenya. For real. Only 38% of Iowa Democrats are sure they would be satisfied if the party nominated a straight, white man. A majority are fine with a more socialist nominee though. I will just remind you that the country as a whole doesn’t really agree though, with any of these positions.

So why is it that partisans are increasingly embracing people, issues, and messages that don’t resonate with the broader electorate? Why is it that the faces in the news for the Democrats recently include Bernie Sanders, AOC, Beto O’Rourke, and Ilhan Omar, and that President Trump makes real-time policy decisions based on the content of Fox and Friends, Ann Coulter’s Twitter, and Sean Hannity? Why did virtually every National Democratic figure call for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s resignation when past racist pictures of him emerged, even while the Virginia electorate was divided, and a solid majority of Virginia African-Americans wanted him to stay as Governor? Why do Republicans that previously opposed Donald Trump openly, and endured his open mockery of them and their families (Senators Graham and Cruz), still fall in line behind him? Why does it seem that both parties embrace their activist base at the expense of broader popularity?

Here’s the ugly truth- the political parties don’t really want to talk to the center of American political life. Party leaders, operatives, and activists alike aren’t really fond of moderates, the center, or swing states and districts. You don’t get into politics because you have middle of the road or mixed views- you get in because you’re passionate. This is bi-partisanly true, and it’s created a damn near suicide pact between the two political parties. There are no “Rockefeller Republicans” really left in Congress, and there are actually no pro-choice ones left in the House. The “Blue Dog Democrats” are down to a hand full in the whole Congress. If your political views are mixed, or just not that ideological, you probably don’t have a favorite Congressman.

But is that all? It’s beyond passions- it’s ultimately a business decision too. Who’s going to donate their $27 a month? Certainly not people less passionate and engaged. Who’s going to volunteer their three hours to canvass or phone bank on Saturday? The entire political model in the two parties is not fueled by the moderate and middle ground voters who decide which party wins. It’s fueled by the base. Not only does neither party’s decision makers want to direct their messaging towards the middle, they literally can’t. So every fundraising email depicts an emergency, talking points are directed towards the political poles, and deviating from party orthodoxy in the name of representing your district or state is frowned upon. Hence, Republicans call Barack Obama a Kenyan Muslim and Democrats call Donald Trump a criminal. Neither party is even trying to appeal to the middle. They don’t have to, as long as the other party doesn’t either. People will still vote, because they’re patriotic and know it matters, and 135 million people will pick between “Make America Great Again” and “Stronger Together.” What’s your third option? Sit it out and not do your duty?

I have been joking on social media lately about the “fun” 2024 “AOC vs. Don Jr.” election that we’re moving towards. I’m only kind of joking. As I said at the top, we’re moving towards a three ideology state, between the people with the red hats on, the long line at SXSW to meet AOC, and the rest of the people who kind of just want their government to function and try to make their lives better. Both the red hats and the AOC fanboys will tell you they are trying to appease the third group. The rest of the people aren’t buying it though, which doesn’t really matter. They increasingly will be forced to pick between two choices that aren’t really trying to talk to them, and really, actually don’t have to.

So You Want to Drag Rep. Ilhan Omar

I’m not a big fan of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. I’m not a big fan of other more hard-line lefty freshman House members like AOC either. I don’t agree with Rep. Omar’s position on Israel. I’m unhappy with her rhetoric on Israel. In short, I’m not willing to defend her position on Israel.

I also understand a few other things. Rep. Omar represents her very blue district, not my swing district. Rep. Omar holds positions that she ran on. Rep. Omar holds positions that I won’t ever have to vote for, unless she seeks national office. Rep. Omar may be something I consider to be bad, but there are limits to her importance.

Perhaps Rep. Omar is worth rebuke. Before we get there, let’s ask ourselves a few questions. Did you defend the violence in Charlottesville by saying there were “fine people on both sides?” Did you agree with the positions of David Duke on racial issues? Have you supported thinly veiled white nationalist lingo and propaganda? Did you defend putting kids in cages because “they don’t belong here?” Defend Congressman Steve King? Refer to African and non-white nations as “shit holes?” Do you normally talk about anti-Semitic code language, such as “the global elite,” talk about how “the Jews control Hollywood,” or otherwise make light of Jewish people and their supposed ties to money? These are important questions that should tell you a lot about yourself.

If your answer to any or all of the questions I just asked is “yes,” I have a request for you- do not worry about Rep. Omar. There are many of us who never supported or said any of that, and we are perfectly equipped to deal with her beliefs and rhetoric without your help. I’m neither defending her or agreeing with her, I’m simply saying your interest in her is not the defense of Israel or the Jewish faith, but probably rather your biases against her race and religion, and Lord knows that we don’t need anymore anti-Muslim rhetoric out there. If you were fine with President Trump’s hateful rhetoric against any number of people and groups, just sit this one out and let those of us who don’t want to make Rep. Omar into the symbol of anti-Muslim propaganda figure out if her words have become too much. Honestly, just sit this one to the side and let the adults handle it.

Happy Days

Sunday night we arrived in Clearwater, Florida for a week of baseball, beach, and whatever else fills the time. What a happy time to arrive, just days after Bryce Harper signed in town. After an off-season in which the Phillies brought in three 2018 All-Stars, a former NL MVP, and a former All-Star closer. And all of this while I’m not home in Pennsylvania, dealing with snow, but rather dealing with sunburn on the Gulf of Mexico.

There hasn’t been so happy of a time to be a Phillies fan since the last time I was here, in 2011. J.T. Realmuto, arguably baseball’s best catcher, is here. Jean Segura, a 2018 All-Star and perennial 200 hit threat, may represent the biggest position upgrade on this team since 2018. Obviously Harper has Phillies fans dreaming of championships, in the plural, over the next 13 seasons. David Robertson’s presence as an elite late inning reliever will allow Seranthony Dominguez, Hector Neris, and Pat Neshek to all settle into defined roles, avoid being over worked, and thrive as they have in the past. All of this, and I haven’t brought up the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen, my formerly favorite non-Phillies player and former NL MVP- a player who’s gigantic defensive upgrade in left field will both save runs, and all Rhys Hoskins to return to his natural first base. The team’s defense is wildly improved in at least three spots. Expectations are up.

And not to add to those expectations, but I see why. The 2019 Phillies are built much more like the 2008 and 2009 Phillies than any other roster than any other in club history. They will be expected to hit, a lot, and always have a chance to bash their way to victory. They will have a really deep, effective bullpen to hold their leads and win games they lead in after six innings. Their starting pitching isn’t elite on paper, but they are banking on the young arms improving enough, and the possibility of adding the extra arm they may need later. In both of those seasons, the Phillies were resourceful in finding the arms they need in multiple ways.

None of that has been much on my mind though the last two days. It’s been fun watching prospects like Mickey Moniak stroking a double yesterday in a 9-7 loss to the Blue Jays, or Malquin Canelo getting a walk-off hit to beat the Cardinals, and watching our young, big league ace Aaron Nola make his 2019 debut. I watched the sunset from Fort Desoto State Park yesterday, and had a great dinner in Dunedin at Casa Tina (get the enchiladas en salsa roja if you ever go, you’ll thank me). Trips to Spring Training are not much about wins and losses in exhibition games, and are every bit as much about about getting a sunburn at Honeymoon Island beach. You can’t really experience a game over at Blue Jays camp without getting a beer on Douglas Avenue, in my case at the VFW Post 2550.

Tomorrow this trip will come to an end, unfortunately. We’ll get up pre-dawn and hit the road, driving up to my uncle’s in suburban Raleigh to get dinner and crash for the night. Then it will be back to Pennsylvania. The next time I’ll see the Phillies, the games will count, and I actually will really care about the baseball. However I will be there bringing the good news- the Phillies are back, and built for a very bright future.

Bryceadelphia: Where (Almost) Everybody Wins

Later on tonight I’m going to arrive in the happiest place in Florida these days- Clearwater. With Bryce Harper’s arrival and signing, Phillies fans are practically floating on cloud nine. It’s just my dumb luck that a long planned vacation will coincide with one of the biggest arrivals in Phillies history.

Make absolutely no mistake- the signing of Bryce Harper joins the Pete Rose, Jim Thome, and Cliff Lee signings in franchise significance. Signing Harper re-affirms that the Phillies are in fact among the few mega-markets in Major League Baseball. This is the biggest guaranteed contract in North American sports history, and it came against major competition from Los Angeles and San Francisco, two super markets in their own right. This signing is one of those major moments that make you re-evaluate your view of what your team, and city, are.

The Phillies obviously win here. They got their super-star they coveted. I won’t argue that Bryce Harper is currently the best player in baseball, but he is the face of the sport today. They got him with a little bit of money to spare for future free agents. He joins Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto as the first set of three All-Stars from the previous season to join a new club together. He joins Andrew McCutchen as former NL MVP’s joining the Phillies. He will be one of five different opening day position starters from an off-season where the Phillies transformed their line-up from one of the worst offensive and defensive NL line-ups to an elite one. It is fair to now predict them as a playoff team in 2019.

The Phillies aren’t even close to the only winners though, despite a media bias that is slanted against them. Despite the dismissal of his achievement, Scott Boras is a huge winner here for getting his client a record contract in terms of years and raw dollars. Some have questioned his decision to initially turn down the Nationals $300 million offer, but its worth noting that a third or more of that ten year offer was in deferred money. Boras managed to get his target in dollars, and not manage to make his client look like a money-hungry jerk. He signed a record shattering deal, and still left Harper’s new team to make the moves necessary to win a title. Boras deserves credit, even if the slow time line annoyed you.

What about Harper? Some of the critics of this deal seem to want to make their criticisms about Philadelphia. That would be a top five volume media market, America’s original Capitol, and it’s sixth largest city. Philadelphia, the largest market in MLB with only one team, a city considerably larger than Boston or Washington, and a city with an absolutely rabid and loyal fan base. Yes, his last three choices included Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco- a set of three cities that any man should kill to choose from. Three of the great cities in America, and the world. Bryce Harper went to a young, emerging team that improved by 14 games from 2017 to 2018. He went to a team that has a top third farm system, super rich owner, and mega TV contract. In the midst of this great deal, Harper got a team who valued him enough to give him a record contract, and wants to build around him. Philadelphia is really lucky to have Bryce Harper. Bryce Harper is lucky to have Philadelphia, too. Consider this scenario the equivalent to getting a new puppy, for both sides.

Many people will make this about Harper leaving Washington, and indeed it will be such for 247 days over the next 13 years, excluding playoff games. Let’s be clear here though, this was baked in for months. Harper turned down their offer at the end of 2018. The Nationals owner twice this off-season, before the Winter meetings and last week, made clear that the Nationals stopped pursuing Harper along the way too. Nationals fans can be mad at Harper all they’d like for moving up I-95, but they left him as much as he left them. All in the name of young, emerging prospects.

Let’s be honest here though, Harper in defection delivered to the Nationals what they’ve longed for since signing Jayson Werth before the 2011 season- geographic relevance. Just as Werth gave birth to DC baseball mattering, Harper re-affirms for the Phillies their relevance too. In both cases the opposing fan base sneered at their “neighbors” for paying a boat load of money, but in both cases the added value was worth every cent. The Nationals thought at the time of Werth arriving that it would create a rivalry, but it never did- the two teams barely spent a full season both being relevant together. Now DC has it’s villain, it’s nationally televised games, it’s hated rival– the team that dominated them from inception until 2011, the fans that literally took over their park. From an entertainment value standpoint, if the Nats were losing Harper regardless, losing him to Philadelphia is probably the best case scenario.

What about the San Francisco Giants? The reported runner-ups in the Harper sweepstakes obviously lose by not getting him, right? Sure, but that’s an over simplification. With an aging team, retiring manager, and recently deceased owner, one could have assumed they would re-build and avoided big free agents. A 12 year, $310 million offer to Harper let’s us know that San Francisco remains serious. They’re still the real deal.

So who lost? The LA Dodgers. National reporters who wanted to treat Philadelphia as a “B Market.” Maybe the New York Mets. The Dodgers won the last two NL Pennants, but lost the World Series both times, and now passed on making a long-term offer to a player who could have changed their fortunes. The tire narrative of major athletes avoiding Philadelphia, a favorite of the sports media elite, has again been defeated. As for the Mets, they are in position to potentially watch their natural rival suddenly battle the Nationals as their new rivals. Maybe none of this matters. Maybe it all does.

What I do know is that this is perfect for the Phillies. They got their guy. They showed their might. They had an outstanding off-season. This should be a fun week in Clearwater.

If They Fail? Who Phillies Fans Can Blame.

Let me State this again- if the Phillies have the biggest offer on the table for Bryce Harper, as most people suspect, then I believe they will sign Bryce Harper. In other words, I still believe he’s coming to Philadelphia until he’s not. Could the Giants or Dodgers decide they’re going to come up and match or exceed the Phillies offer? Maybe. Short of that, I still think it’s a done deal. I actually think Harper has zero issue playing in Philly, I don’t think his family prefers going west, or any of the other stupid rumors out there. I think this is purely about cold, hard cash. Scott Boras would have it no other way. That’s why he’s the best at what he does.

So I guess that leads to a totally logical question- why hasn’t he signed the deal yet? Again, Scott Boras is his agent, so I don’t buy all the “desired destination” stories- never has Harper been quoted on that anyway. So by my thinking, there’s only one logical problem here- the Phillies offer isn’t good enough. Maybe it’s short of $300 million, or of the Stanton deal, or of $350 million. Maybe they won’t give him a no trade clause. Maybe they won’t give him a three or five year opt out. Obviously they’re not giving him something. So he’s flirting with smaller offers to drive up the price, or maybe out of intrigue for what $40 million a year feels like. No matter what the hang up is, it’s clear the Phillies offer isn’t meeting the asking price.

John Middleton, the very wealthy managing partner of the Phillies will be verbally crucified if the Phillies strike out here, and rightfully so. He said the club would spend “stupid money” to lure major free agents to town. He has the money. The team signed a giant TV deal that added tens of millions annually to the revenue. We know that even a passable product (think 2003-2006) sells lots of tickets to the stadium. The Phillies aren’t cash poor. They let Manny Machado take $300 million from the Padres, a franchise you can count the memorable players from on a few fingers. If they then let Harper go elsewhere because of a couple million per year, or an opt out, the fans will rightfully be angry. Middleton will bare the brunt of that blast as the boss- and the guy who got our hopes up.

I’m here to tell you though, there’s a bigger villain hiding in plain sight- General Manager Matt Klentak, and by extension the team President, Andy MacPhail, Klentak’s boss. It has been hiding in plain sight all along, the awful disconnect between fan sentiment of “SIGN BRYCE” and “front office valuations.” From day one, they’ve seemed more tempered on their wants on Harper, with leaks to the press saying they preferred Machado. Despite that want of Machado, they were unwilling to match or exceed San Diego’s $300 million, ten year offer. Then, speaking to the press after Machado signed, Klentak said there’s a point you walk away, based on your player valuations. I don’t have to remind you, none of that was what Phillies fans wanted to hear. Klentak was never on the “stupid money” script that his boss’s boss was on.

Here’s the truth- the Phillies baseball operations team does not believe in big, long free agent contracts. They had a great off-season, but they did a lot of that with trades for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura. Their deals with Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson were both relatively affordable and short. This is a more “Moneyball” thinking front office than a Dodgers or Yankees type. Matt Klentak probably doesn’t believe Bryce Harper is worth ten years at a record average annual value. If he really liked Manny, and he wouldn’t beat the Padres offer, that just stands to reason out.

This does not quite match up with the owner’s stated direction or past record though. As Middleton’s fortune has grown, so has his role within the Phillies. That has coincided with unprecedented spending for a notoriously cheap and unsuccessful club for most of their history. Over the past two decades, the Phillies have spent big on Jim Thome, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Roy Halladay, Jonathan Papelbon, and Cole Hamels. They sold out the stadium for years, they signed a big TV deal, they made the playoffs five straight years. Philadelphia baseball behaved like the top five television market they actually are. At least a couple of their big expenditures actually did end up being “stupid money”- in the sense the players never even got close to living up to their contract value.

If the Phillies miss out on Bryce Harper, which I don’t believe they will, it will be because they were unwilling to quite offer him enough. John Middleton will rightly be the public face of that failure. The reality is though, the failure will be rooted in the baseball philosophy of his top two hired guys, team President Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak. Clearly, they will have prevailed upon their boss with their vision for the team. If that’s the case, they better damned be right. I won’t call for the immediate firing of everybody involved, or lament the fall of baseball in Philadelphia, but I’ll do both of those things if this team is not playing playoff baseball in October. If their approach doesn’t work, they cannot allow these guys to lead this team forward into a potential Mike Trout free agency in two years. It will be time to get out of their spreadsheets and valuations, and into putting a winning team on the field.

Again- all a big if, and one that I don’t expect to happen.