The recent pursuit of 26-year-old, six time All Star Bryce Harper has opened a window into the interesting psychology that sports fans possess. It is easy to mock fans who believe that their choices in apparel have a direct impact on the outcome of their favorite team’s games. The more peculiar, insidious cognitive dissonance revolves around fans’ collective willingness to side with the front office.
In a league without a salary cap, it requires a certain level of mental gymnastics to convince fans, that the year after having the 23rd highest payroll, that the Phillies should hold strong against Bryce Harper’s demands. Last year, the two competing World Series teams possessed two of the three highest payrolls respectively. In 2014, the Phillies and Comcast agreed to a 25 year contract worth over 2.5 billion dollars. It is time for the Phillies to capitalize on their current youth movement and pay Harper what it takes.
Moreover, fans should not begrudge Harper for taking his time. It is agent Scott Boras’ duty to obtain the most lucrative contract possible for his client. Harper has approximately a twenty year window to earn as much money as possible, and should not leave money on the table in a league without a salary cap. Nor should fans cling to the unfounded belief that a player can’t handle the increased media scrutiny that Philadelphia provides. The era of “small market” players is over.
Obviously, not every team in baseball has the monetary capacity to spend copious salaries annually. Smaller market teams should compensate for leaner spending years, but should also compensate by spending more when they feel their team is in contention. No fans like to watch their teams lose, but owners cannot be stingy when it comes to free-agency. The only way to win is to spend.