Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Worth the wait

Posted by Eric Fisher On March 1

Twenty-eight days.

That’s how long we have to wait for Opening Day after the news broke Thursday that the Phillies had signed free agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

Can we wait that long?

Do we have a choice?

All of a sudden that Opening Day ticket has become the hottest ticket in town. As a matter of fact, judging by the burst of activity at the Phillies ticket office after the news of Harper’s signing broke Thursday afternoon, Phillies tickets have become a hot item.

The Harper signing is what Phillies fans have been waiting for the entire offseason. David Robertson solidified the bullpen. Andrew McCutchen was a nice addition. Jean Segura seems like a valuable piece. The Phillies keep calling J.T. Realmuto the best catcher in baseball. The Phillies were undoubtedly improved after all of those additions. But fans were waiting on something more.

The fans were waiting on the signing of either Manny Machado or Harper. Majority owner John Middleton created that expectation when he said the Phillies were willing to spend “stupid money” to acquire a top free agent. The expectation was that the Phillies would sign either Machado or Harper – or both of them.

That’s why disappointment, resentment and even anger had set in with a segment of the fan base this week when it appeared that the Phillies might enter the season without either Harper or Machado. With the Dodgers and Giants visiting Harper in Las Vegas, and with rumors that Harper preferred to be closer to his home in Vegas and spring training in Arizona, or that Harper’s wife wanted to be on the West Coast, frustration set in.

Callers to sports talk radio said they didn’t want Harper any longer. A little more than seven hours before news broke that Harper agreed to sign with the Phillies, WIP morning host Angelo Cataldi referred to Harper as a maggot and began to drum up support for bringing a group of angry fans to Harper’s first game at Citizens Bank Park with his new team to boo him louder than any visiting player has been booed in our city’s illustrious history of booing. Cataldi didn’t have any problem finding fans willing to volunteer their lungs.

Obviously, those plans have changed. Nobody at Citizens Bank Park is going to boo Harper in his first game. Instead, he will be met by a thunderous ovation when his name is announced. He will receive a standing ovation when he runs out to his defensive position for the first time. And, depending on what he does in his first at-bat as a Phillies, he may get another standing ovation when he runs out to the outfield for a second time.

Harper will receive a standing ovation when he steps to the plate for the first time. The first time he hits a home run, especially if it’s on Opening Day, the fans will probably demand that Harper come out of the dugout for a curtain call.

That’s the type of excitement that the Harper signing has generated. The Phillies aren’t simply better, as they were after their other offseason moves. The addition of Harper makes the Phillies contenders. World Series contenders. And they should remain contenders for many more years.

The excitement can get a little out of control. Even though the contract wasn’t even officially announced Thursday, there already was speculation on WIP, the same station on which he was called a maggot earlier in the day, about whether Harper would become the greatest Phillie in history.

Whoa! Let’s pull back the reins a little bit. Harper hasn’t even arrived in spring training yet. He hasn’t taken a swing or caught a fly ball. Let’s at least give him a season or two before we start comparing Harper to Mike Schmidt.

The “greatest Phillie in history” talk is ridiculous, but it demonstrates the wave of enthusiasm that the Harper signing has sent through Phillies Nation.

Yesterday’s signing of Harper is what fans have been waiting for all winter. Now we can’t wait until spring.

Frustration has been replaced by anticipation.

We can’t wait until Opening Day.

Only 27 days to go.

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