HOUSTON -- Rules changed, and lives changed forever.
Think back to the offseason, when Major League Baseball and the MLBPA implemented the designated hitter in both leagues and expanded the postseason from 10 teams to 12. It seemed like a good thing at the time to a lot of people, although there were detractors because sports are sports and change is hard. Those two changes altered Phillies history, because Bryce Harper’s season would have ended in April after he tore the UCL in his right arm, and the Phils were the 12th and final team to clinch a postseason berth in the expanded field.
But because those rules changed, the Phillies will play the Astros on Friday night in Game 1 of the 2022 World Series.
“It could be a lot different,” Rhys Hoskins said. “What could be, if a lot of things that changed this year didn’t change? Those two were obviously two of the most prevalent factors. But yeah, I mean, the DH affected us immediately. We were able to keep the MVP in the lineup.”
Harper suffered the injury throwing to the plate on April 11. He tried to rehab the injury. He received a PRP injection.
(Harper has not announced an official decision, but he likely will require surgery to repair his UCL after the season.)
Thankfully for Harper and the Phillies, the torn UCL never really affected him at the plate. So Harper kept hitting. He is batting .419 (18-for-43) with six doubles, five home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.351 OPS in 11 postseason games. He earned NLCS MVP honors following his go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth inning in the Game 5 clincher on Sunday. Harper’s OPS is the eighth highest in postseason history. The names ahead of him: Manny Ramirez (2008 Dodgers), Barry Bonds ('02 Giants), Carlos Beltrán ('04 Astros), Rickey Henderson (1989 A’s), Nomar Garciaparra ('99 Red Sox), Paul Molitor ('93 Blue Jays) and Willie Stargell ('79 Pirates).
Without the DH, Harper is sitting in the Phillies’ dugout, watching the action.
That is, if Philadelphia made the postseason at all.
Again, they finished 87-75 to win the third and final NL Wild Card. They were the last team in baseball to qualify for the postseason.
Thanks to that 12th spot, Phillies fans are clamoring for World Series tickets at Citizens Bank Park. Merchandise is flying off shelves and out of warehouses at a record pace.
“They’re actually my two favorite rule changes I’ve had in a long time,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said.
Before or after the fact?
“I’ve been a fan of having the DH for an extended period of time,” Dombrowski said. “I did not think it was good to have both leagues playing differently. I understand maybe years ago, but now it got to the point that your pitcher is going to get hurt swinging the bat or running the bases. I did not like that. I thought it was unfair, where all of a sudden you’re in the postseason or in the World Series and the rule is not the same for both.
“And I was a fan of expanded playoffs. They’re good for the game of baseball.”
Phillies manager Rob Thomson said: “As far as the expanded playoffs, to be honest, I really like it. I think the more teams that have a chance to get in the playoffs coming into September, the more people will come out. There's more interest in the game in more cities. I thought it was great.”
Upsets and underdogs are two of the best things about sports.
The Phillies have been the underdog throughout the postseason. It is a big reason why Phils fans are so excited.
Who can complain about that?
“Passionate fans,” Thomson said. “They've fallen back in love with this ballclub and I love that.”