Harper's vision for Phillies on the verge of reality

Two-time NL MVP dreamed of taking club to World Series when he signed monster deal in 2019

October 23rd, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- “You're always remembered for winning, and what better place to do it than Philly? This place is somewhere where fans and blue-collar people thrive on winning and thrive on being a family.” -- (March 2, 2019)

Nearly four years ago, Harper made the life-altering decision to sign a 13-year, $330 million contract -- then the most lucrative guaranteed deal in North American sports history -- with the Phillies. In his introductory press conference, he expressed his desire to bring a title back to the City of Brotherly Love, travel down Broad Street in a parade and hold the Commissioner’s Trophy over his head for the Phils faithful.

Harper and the Phillies are one win away from his first Fall Classic after Saturday night’s 10-6 victory over the Padres in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park. Philadelphia last went to the World Series in 2009, losing in six games to the Yankees.

“This is what we play for, this is what you work for each offseason and going into Spring Training,” said Harper, who produced a pair of RBI doubles. “This is what you want to do. Our organization, they believe in us, and they want us to do this each year. I think Mr. [John] Middleton has done a great job of bringing the pieces in we've needed -- if that's [Dave] Dombrowski or Sam [Fuld] or anybody else. They believe in us, and we believe in them, as well, to make us great and to give us every opportunity to be great. And we owe that to them.”

Harper, 30, has waited 11 years since his debut in April 2012 as a 19-year-old for this moment, even witnessing his former organization, the Nationals, capture a championship the same year as his departure. When Harper signed with the Phillies, he did so wanting the opportunity to play deep into the postseason. He understood it would take a few seasons for the organization to discover its identity.

That time is now.

The two-time NL MVP Award winner is batting .410 with six doubles, four homers, nine RBIs and a 1.311 OPS, with multihit games in six of 10 contests this postseason. The former prodigy is shining brighter than ever, while climbing the single-postseason leaderboard in Phillies history:

• 10 extra-base hits, tied for most
• Nine-game hitting streak, one shy of Lenny Dykstra
• Seventh Phillie with a 10-game on-base streak
• Needs one more hit to tie record (17, Jayson Werth in 2008 and Shane Victorino in ’09)
• Four homers, tied for fourth most

“It's really cool; it's awesome,” said , who went deep for the third time in the NLCS in the sixth. “Seeing the way that he's in the box, taking control of his at-bats, it's truly fun to watch. That's what everyone kind of strives to be right there, being that locked in and putting in those quality at-bats every single time. He's been phenomenal this whole postseason. We've got to keep going.”

Harper has been in the thick of everything, including Saturday’s go-ahead four-run fifth inning. Once Harper pulled up at second with an RBI double to make it a 7-6 ballgame, he shouted, “This is my house,” as the sellout crowd of 45,467 erupted into a frenzy.

"Stages are relative, right?” said right fielder , who was Harper’s teammate at the 2009 Pan American Junior Championships. “We were 18 years old and playing for a gold medal. That's the biggest stage. We were there and he was locked in, too. That's kind of the nature of the competitor. The whole spotlight is on, and when it's the brightest, usually the best are able to be the calmest. He's shown that."

Keep in mind had the universal designated hitter not been implemented in 2022, Harper’s season likely would’ve ended on June 25, when he fractured his left thumb on a hit-by-pitch. He missed two months, then returned as the Phillies' DH in time for the stretch run on Aug. 26.

First baseman , the longest-tenured Phillies position player, remembers looking at a photo of the 2008 World Series-winning club after the organization signed the superstar. It feels like they’re now living it.

“You have a guy who has a chance to go out and win MVP every single year,” said Hoskins, who became the sixth Phillie to record a multihomer game in the postseason. “There's not that many of those guys on the face of the earth that can do that at the highest level. It's incredible to see him really perk up and do this on the biggest stage in this game. I'm sure he's got more in store for us, because that's the type of ballplayer he is. It's been awesome to see what he's doing in the dugout as well and keeping guys going. Obviously, he's rolling, but just to have that energy in the dugout when he can't be on the field, I think has been a big factor for a lot of us.”