2022 World Series: Bryce Harper’s had a historic postseason. He can thank the DH

PHILADELPHIA — Another chaotic night at the center of baseball’s world.

You now know the story. Philadelphia The Phillies, a club mired in quicksand four months ago, are sinking day by day under the weight of $242 million in expectations, winning a playoff baseball game. again. Another magical night in a month filled with them.

Bryce Harper hits a home run. So did four of his friends. Starting pitcher Rangers Suarez was excellent. The 45,712 crowd at Philadelphia’s first World Series home game since 2009 was unexpectedly unhinged, louder than a rock show. So the rock stars in red pinstripes won 7-0 against the Astros. The Phillies are now two wins away from the most unlikely championship.

But this joyous journey, this exciting October, hardly happened. In another year, this whole beautiful blur is nothing but a pipe dream. That’s because the most critical part of this team isn’t Zack Wheeler or Kyle Schwarber or JT Realmuto or even Harper, whose nightly miracle feats continue to be jaw-dropping. No, you see, all…this *crazy gesture* is only possible by adopting the National League designated hitter — the true MVP of the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies.

Bryce Harper cranks two-run homer in first inning

Bryce Harper cranks two-run homer in first inning

Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 2-0 lead over the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the World Series. They went on to win 7-0.

Back in mid-April, Bryce Harper felt a tingling in his right elbow.

It’s not a good feeling for anyone, especially a player. Thankfully, the Phillies superstar can still swing the bat without much discomfort. Throwing is another matter.

As the team’s daily right fielder, throwing baseballs hard and on target is a key part of Harper’s day-to-day duties. For the first time in his career, the man who once fired up at 96 mph at the age of 16 had no noticeable pain in his dominant arm.

Short-term plan: Harper will rest his right arm and avoid all throws while continuing to hit Philadelphia in the middle of the DH’s lineup. The club will reassess in a few weeks. It all started on April 17, the first nine games of the season. Then, a reassessment two weeks later brought more dire news: Harper’s problem, initially diagnosed as a strain, was found to be a small tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.

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This is terrible news for pitchers. Tommy John surgery, then 12-18 months of recovery. The batter’s schedule is less dire, in the 5-7 month range, but still disastrous, taking months to completely change the trajectory of a season. Surgery on Harper’s torn elbow meant the season was over — for him, and likely for the Phillies as well.

But he can still hit the ball like Bryce Harper, so they DH’ed him. That makes his bat a factor that wasn’t possible a year ago.

As part of the new CBA agreed ahead of schedule in March 2022, National League teams will be allowed to designate hitters for the first time in history — except for the 2020 season, which was impacted by the coronavirus. After more than a century of NL pitchers trudging to the plate to flail or bunt helplessly, they can finally spend their offense elsewhere. Almost immediately, National League teams began rebuilding their rosters in the image of their senior Tour opponents. Not everyone likes their new reality.

“Honestly, I’m really not a fan,” Nick Castellanos shared after Game 3. “One of my favorite things about the Nations League is the management skills and the strategic side. I think [the DH in the NL] Keeping baseball pure is very important”

Ironically, Castellanos, who is statistically considered a sub-par outfield defender (save for October’s heroics), was almost certainly a mere Because DH gets additional variation. The Phillies invested five years and $100 million in Castellanos, in part because they planned to get him and recent free agent Kyle Schwarber through designated hitting spots. Without DH, the Phillies certainly wouldn’t get either of those players, and probably neither.

“We probably won’t be able to sign Schwaber and Castellanos at the same time,” admitted Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on a recent episode of the Baseball Bar-B-Cast podcast. “We couldn’t have done that because we didn’t have the space to play both of them.”

Even with the NL DH around, there have been plenty of jokes online about Philly’s possibly bad outfield defense. What do they expect to happen? The club has added two defensively restricted sluggers to an already defensive-minded roster in two days. Even some Phillies players wondered where on the court everyone would line up.

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“When we all signed [Schwarber and Castellanos]rookie shortstop Bryson Stott told Fox Sports. “Honestly, I thought we were going to play Bryce in midfield. But then I was like ‘ehhh no. no way. ‘”

Stott is right. Harper hasn’t played a single inning at center in 21 years and has only started three games as a Phillies. When he joined the organization ahead of the 2019 season, Harper made it clear that he wanted to avoid midfield pastures as much as possible. John Fogarty, eat your heart. As his spring training roommate and longtime friend Stott put it: It’s never going to happen.

Still, an unexpected position was uprooted and required the Phillies to face. At first, the transition to DH was difficult for Harper, who has only started there twice in his seven years at DC despite his defensive inconsistency, ever since the Nats told him to put his catcher gear aside. Maybe one day, in the twilight of his career, he might be forced to live a more docile lifestyle, of course. But Harper, who turns 30 in October, clearly expects him to still contribute on both ends of the floor and believes his past defensive duties will allow him to maintain better focus throughout the game.

“It was an ordeal for me.” Harper Announced in early May about his new role. “Just worry about playing all day and not going out and playing the sides.”

At some point, things changed. Harper learned to see his situation as a blessing, not a curse. He became obsessed with batting and became hyper-focused on his batting, often watching videos of Phils batting coach Kevin Long mid-game. Whenever his spot in the next inning expires, Harper heads to the underground batting cage for some swings. Even during the tense ball game in October, he kept up the ritual.

“Harp thinks about his abs all day,” reserve infielder Nick Marton said.

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“The fans believed in us and we believed in them.”

"The fans believed in us and we believed in them."

Phillies slugger Bryce Harper spoke out for the home fans after yesterday’s game was postponed and said the team is driven by the belief the fans have in them.

As he sat on the bench and watched the Phillies defense, Harper wouldn’t let him distract him. He almost never gets up front, chatting with his teammates. His focus is on the game, on his next AB. One Philly roughly compared it to the laser-focused energy a starting pitcher carries in a dugout between innings.

“He knew he had no choice right now,” Stott explained. “So you have to figure out a way to make it work. He did.”

Everything Harper did to keep the lockdown apparently worked. So far this postseason, he’s hitting .382/.414/.818 with six home runs, 1.232 OPS and more base hits than strikeouts. Quite simply, it was one of the most impressive playoff performances in baseball history.

All thanks to DH.

Imagine if Harper’s exact injury happened a year ago when the Phillies couldn’t have moved him to DH. He’s either playing in incredible discomfort or more likely to undergo surgery in May and miss most of the season. Any Phillies fan like Castellanos who enjoys the tactical intrigue of old-school National League baseball or the folly of a rare pitcher’s home run must have a different opinion now.

No DH? No Harper. No Harper? No Phillies October Magic.That means no “dancing myself”; no celebratory club cigarettes; no ridiculously wet Brandon swamp; no sold-out crowds They register too loudly as seismic activity.

“Yeah, the timing of DH was incredible,” backup catcher Garrett Stubbs said. “It sounds like fate to me.”

Jake Mintz, Loud Half of @Chespedes Grill is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan who lives in New York City, so most October he lives a lonely life. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding a bike. Follow him on Twitter @Jack Mintz.

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