PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It didn’t take long for disgruntled Philadelphia Phillies fans to voice their frustrations about Bryce Harper. Just two months into the season, the $330 million man has been hearing the boo birds at Citizens Bank Park.
It’s obviously not a majority of Phillies fans who are unhappy, but there has been a sizable enough portion who have voiced their displeasure that the national media took notice.
The main issue behind the frustrations has been Harper’s high strikeout rate. He’s struck out 63 times in 207 plate appearances, whiffing just over 30% of the time.
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He’s also batting .229, but he does have an .832 OPS, with nine home runs and 31 RBI on the season.
And despite the low batting average and the strikeouts, he is getting on base as he’s drawn 35 walks.
It was hard to imagine this happening on Feb. 28 when Philadelphia learned Harper was coming to the Phillies after signing a 13-year deal. The city went into a state of euphoria, with fans clamoring to get their hands on anything and everything Harper.
“Like vodka and milk, a $330 million player and the Mendoza line don’t mix. It’s that simple,” said CBS3 sports director and anchor Don Bell. “You can’t have the richest contract in North American sports history and struggle like this. Bryce knows it and so do the fans.”
Bell said he’s “actually surprised” fans didn’t turn on Harper sooner, but that some have “taken it too far.”
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“I think he should be under the microscope given the hoopla, but some fans have taken it too far. Some say he’s not worth the money. It’s way too early to make that assessment. I mean, the dude moved here days before the season began. We just entered the second quarter of the season. Patience is needed,” said Bell.
Even making great plays in the field is still not enough for some fans. During a game against the Milwaukee Brewers last week, Harper received a standing ovation after making two sliding catches, but then was booed afterwards after striking out.
Not only can you hear it at the ballpark, some have also voiced their displeasure like you do nowadays – on social media.
Matt Leon, sports anchor and reporter for KYW Newsradio, told CBS Philly that some fans “will have no patience for any kind of failure.”
“I don’t know that they have turned, I think there’s a portion of the fan base that is much more reactionary than the rest and is frustrated with his struggles, which to be fair are pretty significant right now. Also, you have to expect when you sign that kind of contract, people are going to have consistent sky-high expectations,” said Leon.
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In an interview with SportsRadio 94WIP last week, Harper acknowledged he has to start playing better.
“Of course, I don’t want to struggle. I don’t want to go out there and go 0-4 and punch out two or three times. I mean that’s not who I am, that’s not how I want to be. I gotta get better, I gotta be better, and everybody knows that,” Harper said. “I know that myself and when I walk off the field at night, the game is over. I gotta turn the page and get back to the next day and I think that’s the beautiful thing about baseball.”
Bell said Harper just needs to weather the early storm and that he will be OK. As for the fans booing, Bell shared Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins’ perspective on it.
“He told me Philly fans don’t boo because they hate you, they boo because they know you can do better. I agree with him,” Bell said. “This can be an incredibly demanding place to play. However, when they’re behind you, I don’t think there’s any fan base that’s more capable of willing a team to a win.”
The Phillies are currently sitting atop first place in the National League East with a 28-19 record, holding a 2.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves.