By Sam Bush
Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper was reflective after yesterday’s elimination loss to the Nats, his former team.
But he was magnanimous.
“I have no hard feelings toward them at all,” Harper said. “They’re a great team.”
Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in February in part because he believed they could win a World Series. Things need to improve. Things need to change.
But what exactly?
“I’ll let you guys know in about five days after the end of the year,” he said.
What about Phillies manager Gabe Kapler? There is a real possibility the organization could make a managerial change, as well as other changes to the coaching staff.
“I think that’s a conversation that if it needs to be had, then it will be had,” said Harper, asked what he would say if somebody from the Phillies asked for his opinion. “But at this point, he’s our manager and I think all of the guys in this clubhouse back him with what he does every single day as a manager. The staff that we do have with [Rob Thomson], and Paco [Figueroa], and Dusty [Wathan] and everyone down. If that conversation needs to be had, that’s way over my head. There’s guys above me that make those decisions. If we do need to have that conversation, I’ll be all ears.”
“[When] we went into Spring Training this year, I said it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be this year or next year or the next. It takes time to build something special.
“I think this whole organization, we value winning. I think [managing partner John] Middleton has shown that in the past. And [general manager Matt] Klentak, going and getting guys in the offseason and doing that. Getting Cutch [Andrew McCutchen] back next year is going to be huge for us. Getting the bullpen back, we didn’t really have our stud guys in our bullpen this year. Doing the things that we can as an organization to get better. We have a lot of guys in the Minor Leagues, if that’s Spencer Howard or [Alec] Bohm or anybody else who can come up and help us. For the first couple months, you let them enjoy their time in the Minors, but then get them up here if they’re ready. I think we have the pieces to really complete the puzzle and do the things that we need to do to win as an organization. I think this offseason is going to be huge for us. If we can do that and keep the pieces that we can to win, we’ll be OK.”
“We’re eliminated, but we’ve still got to go out and win,” Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola said. “We can’t just give up.”
The Phillies rested Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto, who has an injured right knee, for Game 2. Brad Miller hit two home runs against Nationals ace Max Scherzer to take a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning. Nola loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth — the Phils thought he struck out Howie Kendrick twice on borderline pitches — and Trea Turner crushed a grand slam against Phils right-hander Jared Hughes to give the Nats a 6-4 lead they would not relinquish.
The Phillies’ dugout was incensed that Nola didn’t get a called third strike.
“For a lot of reasons, we felt like we should have won that baseball game,” Kapler said. “It’s incredibly disappointing.”
The Phillies could say that about a lot of games this season, which is why they are where they are.
Maybe next year.
“We just have got to be better,” Harper said. “We have got to be better as a team. We have to do what we can to get better as a team.”