Many believe that the Philadelphia Phillies will only go as far as their superstar right fielder, Bryce Harper, takes them.
Entering his third season with the Phillies, Harper will be tasked with carrying his club to its first playoff appearance in nearly a decade — no easy task considering the question marks around the depth chart and the difficult division they play in.
“That’s everybody’s goal when you get into spring training,” Harper told MLB Network. “Of course, you have individual goals and things like that that you want to try and get to but the main goal of myself and this team is to win multiple World Series and get deep into the playoffs.
“I know when I’m playing well, we win more games so hopefully, we can keep that going this year, keep feeling good, and see where that goes.”
In terms of individual goals, Harper didn’t necessarily delve much into the stat sheet. Instead, his 2021 goals are headlined by the one thing we all have been hoping for over the last year—health.
“Just stay healthy right now,” Harper said. “I know if I stay healthy and play hard… I hope my numbers will be there. I just want to stay as healthy as I can, stay in the lineup every day, find consistency of course, and help my team win ballgames.”
With that health — for all, not just Harper — could come a semblance of normalcy as some fans prepare to get back to the ballpark, which is something the Phillies could use.
“It was definitely different of course, not having the fans is huge,” Harper said of the 2020 season. “I think our team really thrives off the fans in Philadelphia… We weren’t the only people going through it last year, everyone did. So it wasn’t poor us. We just tried to go out there and control what we could.”
The Phillies came up just short of making the playoffs in that 60-game season as their bullpen — which was one of the worst units in baseball history with a collective ERA over 7.00 — headlined the club’s issues.
“Last year was just tough. I know those guys were going out there to grind and be the best they could and sometimes, that’s the way the ball rolls,” Harper said. “We were one game away and it didn’t happen so we were sitting on the couch when we should’ve been there.”
The Phillies were able to address the bullpen to acquire some upgrades this winter — shedding the notion that the team would be passive in the market after losing $145 million because of the pandemic.
It was sparked by the arrival of new president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, who salvaged an offseason that did not look promising in November.
“I think bringing in Dombrowski… being able to have guys that want to win and have done it in the past, you know what he did in Detroit and Boston as well,” Harper said. “As a team, we should be very excited about who is at the top of our group. We’re looking forward to it.
“I thought they were able to do a great job bringing in the guys that we needed… It’s great to have competition and know we have a couple extra guys that can be at an alternate site starting out… you can never have enough pitching, pitching wins championships.”
Most importantly, especially to Harper, was that Dombrowski and the Phillies were able to bring back All-Star catcher JT Realmuto, who the right fielder championed for throughout the final weeks of the season and well into winter.
“He’s one of our leaders,” Harper said of Realmuto. “We call him QB1 for a reason. He’s one of our guys. He comes in every day, works his butt off… is a great person on and off the field, and is one of the guys you want inside your clubhouse.
“When we hired Dombrowski, he was able to bring JT back and we were all excited. I know our pitchers were excited because he’s a great guy to throw to. He knows how to work back there and calls a game very well.”