The Phillies were last really good in 2011. Since then they’ve won 81 games in 2012, 80 games in 2018, and lost north of 88 games every year in-between. Yes, they got a giant TV deal from Comcast in there, but they’ve seen their once full stadium empty out. They’ve lost the airwaves of talk radio to the Eagles entirely, partially because of who listens, but also because the product fell off. Philadelphia is still one of the better cities for MLB, with passionate fans that make them good money, but it’s not 2009 anymore either. The World Series heroes are gone, the ballpark is turning 16, and at least two other teams in the city are currently getting the attention as real contenders.
All of that could change though, as we saw yesterday. The internet rumors of Bryce Harper’s impending signature on a Phillies contract sent the club trending on Twitter, getting the talk radio talk, and skyrocketing in Vegas as a World Series contender. Was it all just people guessing? Maybe. It did show the Phillies something though- the road back to baseball heavyweight, the evil empire of the NL East.
The Bryce Harper and Manny Machado saga has dragged on too long, and I say this as someone who understands why both sides are fine with it. Yes, Bryce and Manny are making life-changing financial and personal decisions, and yes the Phillies are making a huge investment. I think we’ve reached the point though where both sides know where the other is at. The Phillies know what these players want- and I think it’s time to start offering it closer to them. It’s not often that 26 year olds with multiple All-Star Games or even an MVP are reaching free agency ahead of their prime. It’s not often you can get a player going into their prime that is this good.
I’d argue for going a step further and not just signing one, but even both. Some are making the argument that the Phillies need to keep some money around for a pursuit of Mike Trout in two years. I love the idea of signing Trout, the best player in baseball. Mike Trout is already over a year older though. He will not be a free agent for two years yet. He will cost even more money, for less of his prime years. Ironically, the best way to pay for Trout may be signing at least one of Harper and Machado, and filling the seats every night. Even the Phillies will need the revenue.
Philadelphia is a top five media market and nearly top five metropolitan market, with a multi-billionaire managing partner. Their credibility as one of the “big boys” in MLB is at stake though. The Phillies should go get their superstar(s) now, to start basking in the rewards. Start selling the tickets and jerseys, rake in the cash. Big market teams do big market things, and with the opportunity in front of them, the Phillies should do big market things.