2022 Phillies: 2 Stars, 1 Leader

Four seasons ago, the Philadelphia Phillies Bryce Harper and the San Diego Padres Manny Machado were two 26-year-old superstars commanding $300 million contracts. But, now, one leader has emerged by willing his teammates to the World Series. Realistically, this is an unnoticed storyline going back many summers before 2022 or even 2018.

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The Determining Factor:

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In 2007, the Phillies had one leader, and he produced at that plate, in the dugout and clubhouse. Yes, he concentrated on defeat’s sour emotion against the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series and had conversations with each teammate. Outcome: His remember-this-feeling approach resulted in a 2008 Fall Classic triumph.

Put Another Way:

“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” – John C. Maxwell

The Phils and the Pads didn’t receive World Series consideration, but the Fightins will be going to the interestingly labeled big dance. Meanwhile, the American League will feature the top club; ergo, the NL team will automatically be the underdog. And, so, the Phillies will face the Houston Astros. A six seed versus a one?

In 2010’s MLB Draft, the first selection was Harper and Machado was third. Geographically, they were both stars in the Baltimore-Washington market. And they were in 2019’s free-agent class. But while Machado was solid on offense and glove work, many forgot Harper’s injuries from all-out defense led to more caution on the grass.

In ’18, Philly finished at 80-82 for third place in the NL East, and San Diego went 66-96 for last in the NL West. Yet their first campaigns with new teams didn’t change much: The red pinstripes improved to 81-81 but dropped to fourth place. Yes, the Padres were four games better but still last at 70-92.

Phillies and Padres Targets (2018 stats):

Bryce Harper:

  • 159 Gms., 695 PA, a .249 Avg., 34 HR, 100 RBI, an .889 OPS, a 3.1 fWAR and a 135 wRC+ (35% over overall offensive production with 100 as average) with the Washington Nationals.

Manny Machado:

  • 162 Gms., 709 PA, a .297 Avg., 37 HR, 107 RBI, a .905 OPS, a 7.0 fWAR and a 141 wRC+ (41% over overall average offensive production) with the Baltimore Orioles.

For those records, the Phillies signed Harper for 13 seasons at $330 million or $25.4 million AAV (average annual value). And Machado inked a $300 million pact for 10 summers ($30 million AAV) but can opt out after the 2023 campaign. Yes, the third sacker can sign for more money and bail on the west coast franchise, when he’s 32.

Phillies and Padres Superstars (2019 stats):

Bryce Harper:

  • 157 Gms., 682 PA, a .260 Avg., 35 HR, 114 RBI, an .882 OPS, a 4.0 fWAR and a 124 wRC+ (24% over overall offensive production with 100 as average).

Manny Machado:

  • 156 Gms., 661 PA, a .256 Avg., 32 HR, 85 RBI, a .796 OPS, a 2.2 fWAR and a 109 wRC+ (9% over overall average offensive production).

The Friars had begun their rotation upgrades for 2020 with starter Mike Clevenger from the now Cleveland Guardians, and the Pads finished at 37-23. But after they had advanced to the NLDS as the victorious wild-card team over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Los Angeles Dodgers swept San Diego in three NLDS contests.

Phillies and Padres Superstars (2020 stats):

Bryce Harper:

  • 58 Gms., 244 PA, a .268 Avg., 13 HR, 41 RBI, a .962 OPS, a 1.9 fWAR and a 150 wRC+ (50% over overall offensive production with 100 as average).

Manny Machado:

  • 60 Gms., 254 PA, a .304 Avg., 16 HR, 47 RBI, a .950 OPS, a 2.6 fWAR and a 150 wRC+ (50% over overall average offensive production).

Despite trading for Jean Segura in ’19 and signing Zack Wheeler for ’20, the Fightins ended in third place at 28-32. And even though eight organizations were in the playoffs, the Phils were one game out after losing seven of their final eight contests, which highlighted their September reputation. Yes, uninspiring cardboard fans!

For the 2021 Pads, the time to add had arrived. They picked up Joe Musgrove from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs, and Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays. Moreover, they inked shortstop Ha-Seong Kim to a four-year deal. But they only finished third at 79-83.

Phillies and Padres Superstars (2021 stats):

Bryce Harper:

  • 141 Gms., 599 PA, a .309 Avg., 35 HR, 101 RBI, a 1.044 OPS, a 6.6 fWAR and a 170 wRC+ (70% over overall offensive production with 100 as average).

Manny Machado:

  • 153 Gms., 640 PA, a .278 Avg., 28 HR, 106 RBI, a .836 OPS, a 4.3 fWAR and a 122 wRC+ (22% over overall average offensive production).

Locally, the red pinstripes finally had a winning record (82-80) and ended up in second place. And, then, they re-signed J.T. Realmuto after acquiring Jose Alvarado from Tampa Bay. In a rare occasion for the Rays, they had given up on the southpaw, who has been dominate since a minor league demotion last May.

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2022’s Challenge:

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The Friars gambled by dealing away their top prospects, but they received starter Sean Manaea from the Oakland A’s, closer Josh Hader from the Milwaukee Brewers, and Juan Soto plus Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals. Result: They had finished at 89-73 and advanced to the NLCS.

They defeated the New York Mets (101-61) in two of three battles in Queens. Then, they bested the Dodgers, their division nemesis: three wins to one. And five of their seven contests were on the road.

Phillies and Padres Superstars (2022 stats):

Bryce Harper:

  • 99 Gms., 426 PA, a .286 Avg., 18 HR, 65 RBI, an .877 OPS, a 2.4 fWAR and a 138 wRC+ (38% over overall offensive production with 100 as average).

Manny Machado:

  • 150 Gms., 644 PA, a .298 Avg., 32 HR, 102 RBI, an .898 OPS, a 7.4 fWAR and a 152 wRC+ (52% over overall average offensive production).

In Philly, Dave Dombrowski, PBO (president of baseball operations), signed free agents Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. And he traded for David Robertson, Brandon Marsh and Noah Syndergaard at the Aug. 2 deadline. Translation: His acquisitions improved the relief corps, rotation and center field, while he simultaneously plugged injury-related holes.

While the Fightins 87-75 record led to a third-place finish, they were the last MLB franchise to secure a postseason berth with the third wild card. Moreover, after they had taken both contests in St. Louis, they beat the Atlanta Braves (101-61): three NLDS victories to one. Outcome: They were 2-0 at home and 3-1 on the road.

In ’07, Jimmy Rollins was the face of the “team to beat” Phillies, while Chase Utley was his lead-by-example teammate. But after the Rockies had swept them, Ryan Howard spoke to each player and reportedly told them to remember this unpleasant feeling for next autumn. Ergo, the ’08 Fightins were triumphant in the World Series.

Behind the scenes, Howard was the slugger who closed his eyes and pictured his next at-bat on the bench. And he implored his teammates to get him to the plate against Colorado in the 2009 NLDS: The leader doubled to tie the score in the ninth on their way to consecutive Fall Classic appearances.

Phillies and Padres Superstars (2022 playoff stats):

Bryce Harper:

  • 11 Gms., 46 PA, a .419 Avg., 5 HR, 11 RBI, a 1.351 OPS  and a 271 wRC+ (171% over overall offensive production with 100 as average).

Manny Machado:

  • 12 Gms., 52 PA, a .271 Avg., 4 HR, 7 RBI, a .910 OPS and a 156 wRC+ (56% over overall average offensive production).

In the playoffs, the red pinstripes were 9-2 and the Padres were 6-6. Statwise, Machado batted .271 with four home runs and seven RBIs, and Harper averaged .419 with five bombs and 11 RBIs.

Before game one against the Cardinals, Harper reportedly stated they were’t going to lose. And the hand gestures with the Phillies on his chest and the “this is my house” vocalization on blast willed the Fightins to the World Series. What was the difference between two evenly matched clubs with a 4-1 outcome? A leader!

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NEXT: Heart And Soul Or Heartbreaker