Bryce Harper celebrated his 27th birthday Wednesday. As he did so, his former team, the Washington Nationals, celebrated winning their first National League pennant in franchise history Tuesday evening. They'll now await the winner of the ALCS, where the Houston Astros currently lead the New York Yankees 3-1.
The Nationals made Harper the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. He spent the first seven seasons of his career in D.C., making six All-Star teams and winning the 2015 National League MVP. The Nationals made the playoffs four times during Harper's tenure with the team, but never advanced beyond the NLDS. He admitted in April that there was a point during his long anticipated free-agency that he expected to return to the Nationals. It didn't ultimately happen, and the division-rival Phillies were glad to pay for his services, inking him to a 13-year/$330 million deal.
Though there was a lot of excitement early on, Harper and the Phillies ultimately finished at a disappointing 81-81 in 2019. The Nationals swept them in a five-game series in late September, ending their chances to reach the playoffs. The Phillies are currently in a search for a new manager after firing Gabe Kapler. The Nationals are preparing for Game 1 of the World Series, which will begin next Tuesday.
But on Harper's end, there hasn't been any second guessing or envy.
“No [there's no jealousy], because like I said, I made my decision, and that was my decision," Harper told Jayson Stark of The Athletic. "And it was the final decision that I made. You know, jealousy isn’t good. For me, it’s about having the gratitude to go out and do what I do each day and not having an attitude towards anybody else.
“I think it’s about being able to be the person that I am,” he continued, “and not saying to myself, `Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m not a National.’ Or, `Oh my gosh, those guys are doing what they’re doing. I can’t believe it. I’m so jealous.’ No. I’m so happy for them. You know how hard it is to get into the postseason and win games. For them to be able to put it together this year the way they have, it’s an amazing thing.”
Harper was given a king's welcome to Philadelphia, where fans dreamed about the idea of signing him after the 2018 season for years. He was given a standing ovation nearly every time he trotted out to right field. He didn't have the best individual season of his career, but he slashed .260/.372/.510 with 35 home runs, a career-high 114 RBIs and a 4.6 fWAR. He had a pretty damn good first season in red pinstripes, even if the team didn't reach the postseason. Before the final game of the Phillies 2019 season, he thanked fans for welcoming him and his family to Philadelphia, and predicted that the Phillies will "reign again."
Perhaps at the end of Harper's career, he'll have time to reflect on what may have happened if he had re-signed with the Nationals after the 2018 season. And after a very public free-agent stint that lasted over 115 days last offseason, he and his wife, Kayla, are likely enjoying a quiet offseason with their newborn son, Krew.