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Jayson Werth: Bryce Harper Is ‘Once-in-a-Generational Talent'

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Philadelphia Phillies World Series champion outfielder Jayson Werth knows a lot about new club outfielder Bryce Harper. Werth and Harper played together with the Washington Nationals from 2012 to 2017, and ironically, Werth left the Phillies for the Nationals when signing his big contract, while Harper has done just the opposite.

Enjoying the "stress-free life" post his baseball career, working on his agricultural organic farm business in Illinois, Werth joined Howard Eskin on SportsRadio 94 WIP Saturday morning to discuss the Phillies' new superstar.

Bryce Harper as a 'Ballplayer' and Teammate:

"As a ballplayer, his power would be his best attribute. He's a dynamic player. He's exciting. When he gets hot and rolling, he's dangerous from a lot of different aspects. He gets on base; he's got a good eye, but the power, especially in that ballpark, I think is something that hasn't [been taken advantage of] since Ryan Howard. ... You're getting prime years. You have to feel going about that. He's 26 years old. ... That's what this is all about. ...  He works hard and keeps himself in great shape.

He's a ballplayer. I think he's dedicated his whole life to playing baseball. You play your whole life to get to this point — free agency. He's stayed out of trouble. He's done all the right things and worked toward this point. Here we are. It was about 10 years ago he was on the cover on Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old. A short 10 years later, he's signed one of the biggest deals in sports history.

I think it laid out the way he had it planned.

From a teammates' standpoint, for me, he wants guys to show up every day to work and be ready to play. In today's game, there's so much extracurricular stuff going on to the point of, you just want a guy that shows up and when the bell rings he's ready to play. Bryce works hard ... he does some commercials and stuff like that. He's a talented kid, but he shows up every day ready to play. There's nothing more you can ask for. He plays hard, he does and says all the right things in the clubhouse."

On Why Bryce Harper and Other Marquee Free Agents Sign Late:

"I think it is a product of the bargaining agreement. Ever since the new bargaining agreement, you kind of see the table [has] turned on the players. You got guys being pressed into situations where they have to hold out. Obviously the money's there. You're waiting this long and the money's there, so it's. not an issue that teams don't have the money, it's a product of the bargaining and how the teams are handling the process now.

... I wouldn't say it has anything to do with the players. It more has to do with the owners and how Major League Baseball wants the process handled. I think at the next bargaining agreement, ... it could be interesting the next time around. ...

You look at last year and J.D. Martinez and the other guys ... they didn't sign until the end of February, so I really believe this is bargaining issue. Ever since the new bargaining agreement, the market's changed, the script has been flipped. This has nothing to do with Scott Boras; this is because of the bargaining agreement. ... I'm glad I'm not involved in that process anymore, but there is some issues going forward for the players."

Bryce Harper 'Well Aware' of High Expectations:

"Obviously the expectations are going to be there. It's Philadelphia, let's be honest. They're diehards. They want to win, so bringing on a player like Bryce with that kind of money and those kind of years, there's going to be tons of expectations. I think Bryce is well aware of that. He's been playing in Philadelphia for his years; he's obviously a savvy business man and sports fan himself.

He knows what's at stake. I'm sure he's well aware of that. It could have been one of the reasons why this whole thing took so long, because it is a big decision and when you're dealing with that many years and that kind of money, you really have to think it through.

I don't expect Bryce not to know what's going on. He's a smart kid, and he's been going about this for however long now. He's an interesting guy. You guys are getting something special. He's a once-in-a-generational talent. It's going to be fun to watch.

For better or for worse, 13 years is a long time in anything. I'm happy for him, and I wish him the best. It's going to be fun to watch."

On What He and Bryce Harper Have Talked About Playing in Philadelphia:

"We talked about a lot of things over the course of the six years [playing together]. There's tons of stuff to talk about ... He's really aware of his surroundings and what's going on. He's got tons of ideas on marketing and all kinds of stuff, as you can see. ... He saw the warm welcome that I would get every time we would come back to Philadelphia. I let him know the fans were 'ever-dearing' and that it would be a good place to play.

Everyone knows how Philly sports fans are; that's no secret. I think he took everything into consideration. The good parts are, Philly is a great sports town. It's a great place to play. In 2012, when he first came up, seats in Citizens Bank were still packed. There was still a lot of expectations in 2012. Looking back, that was the end of their reign, so to speak. It was still buzzing and still and awesome place to play.

This is just one of those situations, you get into free agency and a once-in-a-lifetime chance where you are going to play and spend your time. Obviously, years, money, ballpark, fanbase, division matters. It will be interesting to see how the whole thing works out with him in Washington, and if it will be similar to the situation I went through [coming back to Philadelphia] or not. ... As Charlie Manuel told me, 'if they give you the hammer, make sure you use it.'"

On if Bryce Harper Could Get Boo'ed in Philadelphia:

"Looking back, historIcally if you remember, Chase Utley's first at-bat — I think he hit a grand slam, if I remember right. And then, his second at-bat, he struck out and he got boo'ed. So, if Chase Utley can get boo'ed in Philadelphia, I'm assuming Bryce Harper can get boo'ed also."

Thoughts on Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton Wanting to Make Team a Contender with Harper:

"I've always liked John [Middleton]. He's got a great feel for his club. He's a hands-on owner. I knew that this whole process, when it got started, would be interesting. I knew the Phillies would be in because he's that type of guy. He wants to win. He wants his team to be good. When I was going through free agency, he wasn't the majority owner, so that was a drawback for me.

My first game back in Philadelphia, I was standing on deck when the game ended ... before the final out, John Middleton was on the on-deck circle shaking my hand and giving me a hug, thanking me for what I did in Philadelphia and sorry we couldn't on. That was a pretty cool moment for me.

I knew during this process, he was going to be going after Bryce Harper because he knows what it means to the organization and to the franchise and city to have a player like that.

I think the team will continue to improve. When the Phillies are winning and fans are showing up, it's an incredible atmosphere. It's a great place to play. I would think, with the signing of Bryce, it's just another inkling that's the type of organization [Middleton's] trying to build ... a winning organization where fans show up every night and pack the house."


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