Harper giving off Mr. October vibes ... AGAIN

October 12th, 2023

When it was  becoming Mr. October and doing all those Mr. October things, you never just measured him in how many World Series he helped his team win. You measured him in the way he practically demanded we watch him, before he made another one of those home run swings. Moments kept finding Reggie at this time of year, and when they did, he knew what to do with them. And that is the way it is with .

Harper didn’t need Orlando Arcia of the Braves to have chirped at him about the way Harper had been doubled up to end Game 2 of the NLDS. All he needed was another big-game moment to remind us that while there are other players hitting home runs all over the place, it is Harper who is arguably the biggest baseball star we have right now.

He’s also the one with the most Reggie, and not just because of the two home runs he mashed against the Braves as the Phillies were mashing the Braves, 10-2. Harper showed us that he can also be as salty as Reggie used to be, the way he was when he gave Arcia looks both times he rounded second base after his home runs.

“I can’t control where he looks,” Arcia said through an interpreter when the game was over.

Harper can look, after the rest of us just watched the flight of the ball and where it landed in the seats. We knew Phillies vs. Braves was going to be fun. Now we’ve found out just how much fun as the Phillies try to close the Braves out again, and the Braves try to win another game and get back to Atlanta with their season on the line.

"There’s a reason why we call him 'The Showman,'” Harper’s teammate Trea Turner, who hit a Game 3 home run himself, said when it was over.

Everybody knows about what Arcia said after the ending to Game 2, Michael Harris II’s catch and the relay and Austin Riley doubling up Harper -- who’d gone around second on the belief that Harris wasn’t going to make the catch he made against the wall -- and that he, Harper, was going to tie the game. Arcia reportedly laughed and said, “Atta-boy, Harper” in the Braves' clubhouse. It wasn’t the baseball crime of the century. But the comment got out -- because everything does -- and so it wasn’t just Arcia’s teammates who heard, it was Harper and the Phillies, too.

Harper responded by launching a three-run homer and then a solo shot later. The Phillies ended up hitting six home runs in all and rocking the ballpark they call The Bank all game long. But it was Harper’s swings everybody was talking about and will remember from this game. He hits October home runs like that. It was in the last October that he hit what was his fifth home run of the postseason at the time, a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth against the Padres that provided the winning runs on the night when the Phillies punched a ticket to the World Series for the first time since 2009.

This is what he said later about his two home run swings against the Braves and then the two looks he gave Arcia.

“I enjoy commentary and things. ... Anytime anybody says something, right? I mean that's what it's all about," Harper said.

And this is how Chris Bassitt of the Blue Jays joked about what happened between Arcia and Harper on X (formerly known as Twitter) after the game:

“Pitchers love it when position players on your own team piss off the superstar player on the other team.”

Reggie Jackson played in five World Series, and Harper has still only played in one. Reggie hit more October home runs. But there is still plenty of time for Harper to keep doing the kind of thing he did on Wednesday night, and the kind of things he did when the Phillies made their World Series run in 2022. Harper has been playing postseason baseball games since he was 19, the age he was when he made his Major League debut with the Nationals. He has been a baseball star since then, never more of a baseball star than he is right now with the Phillies.

And here is something that is easy to forget about Harper, just because it feels as if we have known about him for half his life: He doesn’t celebrate his 31st birthday until Monday.

He’s absolutely not the only one hitting big postseason home runs in baseball these days. Yordan Alvarez of the Astros is made for this time of year every bit as much as Harper is, and he keeps proving it every chance he gets. José Abreu has hit a couple for the Astros that still haven’t come down. The D-backs hit four home runs in one inning on the night when they ruined another postseason for the Dodgers. Mitch Garver of the Rangers hit a grand slam against the Orioles that might have been the punch that really began to finish them. 

But Bryce Harper was the one to talk about on Wednesday, demanding we watch him. Again. That’s the way it is with baseball stars. Moments find them. Then they know what to do. And keep doing it.