Is there any greater contrast in Philadelphia sports right now than the chasm between NL MVP Bryce Harper and MIA malcontent Ben Simmons?
Harper basically put a mediocre Phillies team on his back and nearly carried them into the playoffs. As my college Scott Lauber pointed out, Harper’s on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in the second half of the season was 1.188. Meanwhile, his teammates combined posted a .647 OPS.
In fact, Harper’s stats during the second half were so good — 20 home runs, .713 slugging percentage, .338 batting average, 49 extra-base hits — only two players in the live-ball era have matched or beat it, according to the Athletic’s Jayson Stark: Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds.
Meanwhile, I’d say let’s look at Ben Simmons, but he’s nowhere to be found. There are reports he’s been practicing with the St. Joseph’s basketball team, but he’s certainly not with the Sixers, who are paying him $29 million a year (though they fined him for missing their six-game road trip).
Since last season’s disappointing finish in the playoffs, Simmons has demanded that he be traded and done everything he can to avoid the spotlight and the fans in Philadelphia. The team is trying — the latest targets include Jerami Grant and James Harden — but for now the Sixers and its three-time All-Star feel miles apart.
Fans did support Simmons for a long time. They cheered him on when he made infrequent three-pointers and downed Australian meat pies with reckless abandon. But unlike Simmons, Harper honestly and earnestly embraced the city and its fans since his first day here, and choked up Thursday night talking about how much Philadelphia meant to him.
“I love the city of Philadelphia. I’m just so excited to be here and be part of it, and I’m so grateful to know I signed with the right place with the right people and the right organization,” Harper said on the MLB Network after being named the National League’s most valuable player.
Now imagine Simmons saying something like that.