Bryce Harper's first season in Philadelphia wasn't quite what he or fans expected. As Harper prepares to embark on his second season as a Phillie, he's making it clear the City of Brotherly Love's frustrated response to his struggles in 2019 haven't done anything to alter his love of the city.
Harper told Angelo Cataldi and the 94WIP Morning Show:
"I just knew that coming into Philly they want you to work hard and they hold you accountable, and I love that.
"My dad and my family always held me accountable growing up, they always wanted me to work hard and do everything I could to be a good person, a good baseball player and that's what I want to do for this city. I want to go out there and be the best baseball player I can be each night and I want to run hard, I want to play hard, and I want to run through a wall for this city."
The 27-year-old hit .260/.372/.510 with 35 home runs and 110 runs batted in last season. While those are fine numbers, they were nothing near the MVP-caliber expectations that came after Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract last offseason.
Fans began booing Harper as early as May, which comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the famously contentious Philadelphia crowd.
"I don't want it to be easy. I really want it to be a grind every day," Harper said of his expectations for his second season with the Phillies. "I want to do everything I can to help bring this city a championship, on the baseball field of course. I want to grind and do everything I can each day to help this team win, but also I want it to be easy on the family side."
The Phillies, who won only one more game (81) last year with Harper from the previous season, enter 2020 as contenders in a wide-open NL East. They added Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius to help fortify their roster around Harper, and Andrew McCutchen is expected to return at some point early in the season from a torn ACL.
The Miami Marlins are the only team not considered a playoff contender in the division; much of the Phillies' ascent will be dependent on Harper reaching bigger heights as he gets more comfortable in Philadelphia.