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Are Phillies regretting Harper’s millions?

Columnist Bruce Penton looks at Bryce Harper's struggles in Philadelphia
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Philadelphia Phillies may be wishing the strikeout-prone Bryce Harper had a different kind of streak — a stubborn streak.

Had the ultra-hyped free agent outfielder been stubborn and refused to sign a contract calling for less than $400 million, the Phillies today might be saving $30 million this year on a guy batting .225 and striking out more often than anyone else in the National League.

Stubborn? You want stubborn? Relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel and 2015 Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel are being stubborn. They’re not willing to sign one-year deals for their version of chump money and are working out on their own while waiting for their agents to finalize deals with desperate or optimistic teams.

Kimbrel, 30, is a fireballing relief pitcher who helped the Red Sox win the World Series last year, but he had control problems last season and his skill level is on the decline. MLB teams are reluctant to throw out huge money on a long-term deal on a relief pitcher, many of whom have been known to ‘lose it’ overnight.

Keuchel, meanwhile, turned down a one-year $17.6 million offer from his former team, the Astros, but is now finding that the grass is not always greener on another field.

Shortly after the June 19 amateur draft, however, both players will likely finalize deals with willing suitors. After that date, any team signing a free agent won’t have to relinquish an amateur draft pick as compensation. And teams will be that much closer to knowing if they have a chance or not to challenge for the World Series.

For instance, the Tampa Bay Rays, the surprise team of the year, are leading the American League East, have a fairly low payroll and not a stopper in sight. Hence, Kimbrel and the Rays could be a perfect fit. Keuchel, still an A-list starter, will have contending teams drooling over his down-the-stretch potential and he will probably earn more than the $17.6 million he turned down from Houston.

Harper, meanwhile, is getting booed in Philly, even though his team leads the National League East. Through May 18, he was hitting .225 with 61 strikeouts in 45 games (tied for the major-league lead). He is playing good defence, however, and his on-base percentage is close to his career average, thanks to an extraordinary number of walks.

Perhaps Harper’s struggles pertain to pressure related to trying to live up to expectations that go with a 13-year, $330-million contract. Perhaps he’ll settle down and return to form after the all-tar break. Who knows, he might even have Keuchel and Kimbrel as teammates by then.

  • Comedy writer Jim Barach: “A report says Bryce Harper is getting desperate batting only .220. Although not as desperate as the executive who insisted they sign him to a $330 million contract.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “John Daly has been given a cart to play in the PGA Championship because of a bad knee. No, a golf cart, silly — not a beverage cart.”
  • Janice Hough of, on the Daly news: “Will the cart come with a designated driver?”
  • From an editorial in the Charlotte Observer,via Patti Dawn Swansson in the River City Renegade: “Front-runners, if you haven’t figured it out, is Canadian for bandwagon fans. Don Cherry is Canadian for ‘get off my lawn.’” 
  • Janice Hough again: Russell Wilson, who just signed a four-year $140 million with a $65 million signing bonus, bought his mom a house for Mother's Day. Wilson didn't say where the house is but we know it's not in San Francisco. He'd have needed a bigger contract.”
  • Barach again: Tiger Woods took a shot at John Daly using a cart in the PGA Championship, saying he won a major on a broken leg. Even worse is the hydraulic lift needed to get Daly in and out of the cart.”
  • RJ Currie of “Boston swept Carolina out of the NHL playoffs with a 4-0 Game 4 shutout. The Bruins defence was so numbing, they turned the Hurricanes into the Novocaines.”
  • Headline at “Michigan’s John Beilein has agreed to become the future ex-coach of the Cavs.”
  • Dwight Perry again: “TV cameras captured Sixers centre Joel Embiid sobbing inconsolably after his team’s buzzer-beating Game 7 loss to the Raptors.Tears were streaming out of both i’s, in fact.”
  • Another one from RJ Currie, on the newly opened Mascot Hall of Fame: “Essentially it’s a bunch of clowns in costume who aren’t the New York Knicks.”
  • Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, on the downside of the Raptors playing the Bucks in the NBA Eastern Conference finals: “I’m going to have to learn how to spell Antetokounmpo on deadline.”

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