“You need to look at what you just did.”
That’s what Bryce Harper’s wife, Kayla, told him when he returned home after his special 2021 season.
The Phillies superstar claims he avoided looking at his stats at all costs during the season, feats such as joining Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and Stan Musial as the only outfielders in baseball history to have 100 runs, 100 walks, 40 doubles, and 35 homers in a season.
Those are the numbers that led to another MVP for Harper, who Thursday night became the first Phillie since Jimmy Rollins in 2007 to win the award.
Harper finally did look at his numbers, but he lamented one accomplishment he missed out on.
“Our main goal for the team, the organization, and myself is to win a World Series,” Harper said. “That’s what I want to do. But also I’m going to come in each year and be ready to play a full season and do everything I can to be a part of that.”
— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport
Tell us what your reaction was to Harper winning the MVP: email@example.com
The only reason the Phillies were relevant until the final week of the season was the guy wearing, and batting, No. 3. And MVP or not, Harper has proved he is worth every penny of the $330 million contract he signed in 2019, Marcus Hayes writes. Critics might say he hasn’t led the Phillies to the playoffs or even made an All-Star team during his three seasons in Philadelphia. But Harper isn’t the problem with this Phillies team. In fact, he was best when it mattered most this season. And he does all the Philly stuff Philly fans want Phillies to do. He revels in his successes, pointing at the dugout, egging on the spectators, and respecting their feelings. He’s an MVP in every possible way.
Three years ago, a player poll conducted by The Athletic voted Harper as the most “overrated” player in baseball. After this season, the most commonly used adjective by his peers to describe him was “underrated.” But after winning his second MVP, Harper is simply one of the best players of his generation.
Winning a second MVP before his 29th birthday is another significant entry on Harper’s Hall of Fame resume. Here’s how he stacks up against similar players at this stage of his career.
The Eagles offensive line has suffered through major physical injuries this season and seen Lane Johnson miss time while taking care of his mental health. Still, the unit has done its part to help jump-start the team’s running game that went from virtually nonexistent to something opposing defenses have had to account for.
Will the Saints be up to the challenge? They have the best run defense in the NFL, and that has our beat writers wondering how effective the Eagles can be Sunday.
Check out Gameday Central on Sunday morning as we preview Eagles-Saints, and join the conversation during the game with the Inquirer reporters.
Next: Saints at Eagles, 1 p.m. Sunday on Fox29.
Off the Dribble
The 2020 NBA draft was unlike any other, and Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, and Paul Reed are acutely aware of that. The Sixers selected all three players one year ago, and they embarked on a journey that bonded them and created a relationship they expect to last for the remainder of their careers.
The Inquirer’s Gina Mizell gathered with Maxey, Joe, and Reed and compiled an oral history that reads like the group chat the Sixers’ young players share and utilize on important matters such as Steak n’ Shake trips.
And there was good news for the Sixers: They ended their five-game losing streak with a 103-89 victory over the Nuggets in Denver.
Next: The Sixers play on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers at 10 p.m. Saturday, facing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, two players who have been rumored as targets in a Ben Simmons trade.
On the Fly
Have you ever been a member of an exclusive club?
As one of just 14 players from the state of Alaska ever to play in the NHL, Flyers winger Nate Thompson has. But don’t be fooled into thinking Thompson has gotten a big head or forgotten where he comes from.
On Wednesday, Thompson proved his bond with his home state remains strong by making a bunch of 16-year-olds’ day.
The Flyers received bad news on the injury front Thursday, as Alain Vigneault announced that defenseman Ryan Ellis will be out four to six weeks with a lower-body injury. Ellis has missed 10 of the last 11 games.
The Flyers certainly missed him in a shootout loss to the Lightning.
Next: The Flyers complete the homestand Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Boston Bruins (NBCSP). Thompson will face off against the only other Alaskan in the NHL, Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman.
Trinity Rodman has led her NWSL team into the playoffs, following in the footsteps of her father, Dennis, who also went to the playoffs his rookie year in the NBA. However, Trinity has done him one better, as she is in the finals, with a chance to be a league champion.
O Canada! Look at who is on top of the Concacaf World Cup qualifying rankings — yes, it’s the land of hockey. Not many expected that the international window would close with that result, but the unexpected is often what’s good about sports. Now that players are back with their clubs, however, our Jonathan Tannenwald is also back with the ultimate soccer viewing guide for the weekend.
Next: The Union are in the MLS playoffs! They’ve also got a key player getting hot at the right time.
Worth a look
Short stay at Temple: Quarterback D’Wan Mathis, who transferred from Georgia last year, will enter the transfer portal after one season with the Owls.
Swarthmore is back: The Division III power, ranked eighth nationally, hadn’t played since March 2020 but got back to its winning ways against Neumann.
Center fits: The St. Joseph’s men’s basketball program picked up a gem in Ejike Obinna, who transferred in and is transitioning well.