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Sunday, March 3, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If we are to believe the Philadelphia Bryce Harper, the D.C. Bryce Harper never wanted to leave Washington.

So why isn’t he still a Washington National?


“When I was in D.C., I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Harper told reporters Saturday afternoon at his introductory Phillies press conference in Clearwater, Florida. “I didn’t want to be part of two organizations or anything like that. That just didn’t work out for me.”

Apparently, the decision to leave Washington after seven seasons was made by somebody else — the Philadelphia Bryce Harper, I guess. The D.C. Bryce Harper was an innocent bystander.

“Didn’t work out” sends the message that this was somehow beyond his control — that Harper, 26, had no choice but to leave Washington. Give him credit — he’s got the Scott Boras party line down pat, a victim of the cheap and insincere Lerner family, the Nationals’ owners who embarrassed Harper with an offer that was fair until Boras got the deal he and Harper wanted from the Phillies.

Then somehow, the Nationals’ offer became offensive.

This is a fairy tale, a dark one Boras spread throughout hours and days following the news Harper had reached a 13-year, $330 million contract with Philadelphia. This compared to Washington’s woeful 10-year, $300 million offer made in late September that, according to those buying the Boras tale being pitched privately, was an illusion — that it was really an offer with so much evil “deferred” money that was in reality worth about $180 million.

Except this wasn’t true — not even close.

USA Today reported in late January that the deferred money put the real dollar figure of the Nationals’ offer at about $284 million — a figure that is much closer to the truth, according to sources.

But it serves Boras’ purposes to tear down the Nationals’ offer — to make it seem small — once the deal with Philadelphia was made public. The further distance in the amount between what Harper could have had to stay in Washington — where, let us remember, he professed his heart was at the end of last year — and what he took to play in Philadelphia, the more successful Boras and Harper would look.

The timing of the campaign plays to that strategy. There were no such leaks about the devalued Nationals’ offer until it suited Boras’ purposes. Actually, when the Boras camp leaked the news about Washington’s $300 million offer in late September, it helped them. The Nationals’ offer out there in the conversation gave Boras and Harper a bottom line to work with — a figure to present a starting point to bidders.

The Nationals’ offer did Boras and Harper a favor.

Another part of the misinformation campaign is this notion that the Nationals never came back with another offer — even when Boras, with Harper accompanying him, made his annual December trip to Ted Lerner’s Palm Springs home to try to bilk the owner out of money his baseball people did not want to spend. This time, it didn’t work.

Why would Washington make another offer when Boras and Harper never came back with a counter to the $300 million offer? That is not how negotiations work — negotiating against yourself. Boras and Harper had more than two months from the time they received the Nationals’ offer until when Washington began spending in a different direction with their signing of free agent pitcher Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million contract in early December to come back to the Nationals with a counter offer. They never did.

I keep referring to Boras and Harper together, because Harper is far from innocent in this fake news campaign. Remember, as Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, another Boras client, put it so well in his talk to the media two weeks ago in spring training about his contract year and facing free agency, Boras works for them, not the other way around.

Harper continued his sad story at Saturday’s press conference about how he was driven from Washington when he, for all intents and purposes, said his departure was fueled by media and fan speculation that he would leave Washington someday — as if it was spoken into existence.

“From Day 1, when I got drafted, it was all about, ‘He’s going to the Yankees,’” Harper said. “‘He’s going to the Dodgers. He’s going here. He’s going there.’ For six years, it’s all everybody talked about. It’s all anybody wanted to talk about.”

This is rich. He arrived in Washington in 2010 with the agent known for taking nearly all of his clients to free agency. When you share the stage as the No. 1 pick in all of baseball with Scott Boras, the clock is ticking on your departure from the moment you arrive.

Unless, of course, if you really didn’t want to leave.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings.


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