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In a tight NL Wild Card race, the Philadelphia Phillies are on the outside with no view of the inside. Thanks to a 4-1 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday afternoon, the Phillies were officially eliminated from postseason contention.
And based on how the NFL constructed the Philadelphia Eagles' first part of their schedule, where they're on the road for Weeks 5-7, it appears they assumed the Phillies would be in postseason contention.
According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury, who joined the Nationals Talk podcast, Bryce Harper-mania might have caused the NFL to re-jigger the Eagles schedule.
"If you look at the Philadelphia Eagles schedule, they go on the road the next three weeks and the reason the NFL did that is because of Bryce Harper-mania," Salisbury explained. "They anticipated that the Phillies were gonna be playing October baseball after that Bryce Harper, after that big winter. And they're not, so overall a disappointing season for the Phillies not going to play in October but a good season for Bryce Harper."
But Philadelphia hasn't soured on Harper, despite a rocky start.
"Off the field, he's created a buzz. The fans really love him, he's kind of been from a media standpoint great to deal with," Salisbury said. "He does a great job connecting with the fans, you know comes out every night, gives them a big bow, throws balls into the stands into the upper deck. Every kid in Philadelphia wants Bryce Harper to throw them a ball. So I think from a marketing PR standpoint, you know home runs, he's created a buzz about the team."
One way he's created that buzz is because he "roots for the Sixer's, roots for the Eagles," Salisbury noted. Harper is a noted Vegas Golden Knights fan, and rocked a jersey during their Stanley Cup run in 2018 against the Capitals.
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 24, 2017
Eventually, Bryce wants to be embraced by Philly fans like Allen Iverson, Bobby Clark, and Julius Erving were. But there's only one way to get there.
"Ultimately to be embraced like those guys in this city, like Iverson, he's gotta win," Salisbury stated.
While his new hometown fans have embraced him, he's angered opposing fans when he steps up to the plate.
"He gets booed in every stadium, he comes to the plate every night to chants of 'over-rated, over-rated,' and I think he gets a little bit of fuel out of that, I don't think it makes him nervous," Salisbury said.
That fuel might have hampered him early in the season when he was trying to do too much.
"He missed a lot of fastballs early in the season," Sailsbury explained. "I do think there's a difference between being nervous and pressing. Wanting to prove to a new community you're worth $330 million, wanting to put your best foot forward early, make a good showing. Yeah I do think he was trying to do too much too early."
The Phillies might expect even more from him during the next season after they've flamed out of the Wild Card race.
"I think they need a better season," Salisbury said. "They need more from Bryce Harper, they need more consistency from Realmuto early, they probably could use another bat, they probably could use two starting pitchers and help in the bullpen. There's quite a few holes on this team, but you know I still think ownership is ready to get back out there and mix it up again this winter."
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