On March 1st, Bryce Harper signed a massive but also probably too small contract with the Philadelphia Phillies (which is the worst non-racist name in sports) this offseason. This came after he spent the last nine seasons in the Washington Nationals (runner-up for the worst non-racist name in sports) organization and the last seven as the centerpiece of their Major League team. Seven to nine years (Editor’s Note: There’s a Jeff Fisher joke in here somewhere) is enough time for a spectacular baseball player to become integral to the playoff hopes of that team’s fan base.
Losing that player, around whom the World Champion Washington Nationals were to be built, hurts.
Rationally, Harper signed with the Phillies because they offered him more money than any other team. After nine years in the Nationals’ organization, most of which at an absurdly team-friendly rate, there is not a single moral issue with Harper signing with the team that provided him the best offer. He spent seven years playing on a hometown discount. Bryce did not and does not owe his former team or fan base another game at a rate below what the market dictates. In a just universe, the cacophony of boos that rain down on him in (the other) Washington should be directed at the Nationals’ front office.
As much as we might not like to hear it, professional sports teams are run as businesses and the goal of those businesses must be to ever increase profits. Smarter, more informed, and more talented writers than I could craft an eloquent, rational argument for why booing a player who makes pennies compared to the income of the team owner is bad and dumb.
With more and more money flowing into the league from TV deals and less coming from the ballpark experience, winning games is becoming increasingly less important than maintaining and improving profitability. The Nationals chose frugality over winning baseball games and the front office deserves every iota of scorn headed Harper’s direction.
And yet, even when the decision to part is rational, losing a relationship with a player that has been seven years in the making hurts. It hurts regardless of how rational that decision was. And it hurts a lot when you see that player for the first time in some other team’s colors — although it seems like the Phillies (yuck) and Nationals (ugh) have the same color scheme.
So despite it being ridiculous and despite it being directed at the wrong person, boo the hell out of Bryce Harper. Boo because its okay to act irrational. Boo because you will have plenty of time to carefully analyze Harper’s choice. Boo because its harmless. Boo because there is so little we truly control and its alright to be mad about it. Boo because it connects you with the rest of the row, section, and whole damn stadium.
Boo because it feels good and sometimes, that’s reason enough.