With the MLB season suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are no baseball games and limited baseball news. So I’m creating a hypothetical season — complete with news and recaps — until baseball resumes. All news and recaps will have the hypothetical tag, so you can at least know when you’re suspending reality. And you can click “hypothetical season” above the headline to see everything that has happened in this “season.”
I often wonder what would have happened if Bryce Harper gave the San Francisco Giants a rose prior to the 2019 season. Harper narrowed his decision down to the Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies, with both teams seemingly as all-in as all-in can be.
13 years and $330 million later, he was setting up camp in Philadelphia.
There’s no indication that he’s unhappy, but it’s safe to say 2019 didn’t go the way either team had hoped for when they were courting the former MVP, or the way he envisioned it. Lacking a foundational piece like Harper — and a whole lot more — the Giants sputtered and spat and finished well below .500.
And despite adding Harper and other reinforcements to an 80-win team, the Phillies finished with just 81 wins in 2019, missed the playoffs, and watched Harper’s former team finally break through and win the World Series.
But Harper seems happy, the Phillies are set up for long-term success, and the Giants rebuild will align with them having all kinds of money to spend. So I don’t think anyone is feeling particularly regretful or like they missed out.
Still, from the Giants perspective, it’s easier to feel that way before he puts a ball into McCovey Cove while wearing someone else’s jersey. That doesn’t change the process or the reality, but it does make your mind wistfully wander a little bit. You think about the Splash Hit counter rising in numbers at a rate you can barely keep up with.
You think about his chiseled jawline that just has a way of pissing people off as he runs around the bases after a delightful dinger, and find yourself dreaming of being on the other side of this:
Yes, that side looks nicer.
Then you wake up from your daydream to see Harper high-fiving his teammates, who are not Giants, and getting his butt slapped by his buddies, who are not Giants, and silencing the players on the field, who are Giants, and you remember that he’s Philadelphia’s exciting toy and potential long-term liability to take joy in and worry about.
All that is to say, Harper hit a two-run home run off of Johnny Cueto on Monday, and it was so majestic that you couldn’t help but crack the outline of a smile. Sometimes baseball is so beautiful that you forget that you’re invested in the outcome. Oddly enough, this never happens when the Giants are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, but against any other team? Sometimes you get a little caught up in the moment, admiring a sport you love, forgetting — or perhaps not caring — that it’s hurting your team.
Harper’s home run was, indeed, a beauty, as was the eye and patience exhibited in both of the walks that he drew.
Cueto was wildly fun in his own right, striking out 7 batters in 6 innings, working a lot of ground balls, and even making a terrific sliding defensive play to get the force out on a bunt. The man has charisma, and boy is he fun to watch.
But in the battle of players who are fun to watch, Harper got the better of Cueto, and that was all the Phillies needed. It occurred in the fifth inning, and broke a 1-1 tie, giving Philadelphia a 3-1 lead. The Giants would cut the lead in half in the eighth inning when Brandon Belt doubled off the bricks, and scored on a Buster Posey single, but they gave a run back in the ninth, and went down in order in the bottom half of the inning, to lose 4-2.
They’ve now lost four in a row, which happens to be the same number of games in a row that the Dodgers have won. So this was the absolute Monday of baseball games.
San Francisco is now 11-18.