By Dan Schlossberg
When the Philadelphia Phillies came to Atlanta for a final-week, three-game series that could have tilted the balance of power in the National League East, Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler failed to deliver.
Harper and J.T. Realmuto were a combined 0-for-22 before the catcher clouted a solo homer in the last game, while Wheeler was unable to win the opener.
As a result, the Phils were swept right out of contention, leaving them with 10 straight seasons without a playoff appearance.
For that letdown alone, neither Harper nor Wheeler deserve award consideration this fall.
Harper’s final figures (.309, 35 HR, 84 rbi) make him valuable only to the Phillies, who finished second to Atlanta with an 82-80 record that left them 6 1/2 games behind. In fact, they were closer to the third-place Mets, who finished 77-85, than the first-place Braves, who wound up 88-73.
When Harper totally deflated in Dixie, he lost all claim to the MVP award he once won with Washington. Just for starters, there are 10 players more deserving of that trophy. In alphabetical order, they are Ozzie Albies, Brandon Crawford, Adam Duvall, Max Muncy, Austin Riley, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., Trea Turner, and Julio Urias. As Casey Stengel once said, you could look it up (their stats).
As for Wheeler, he led the NL in strikeouts and innings pitched but won only 14 games to go with a good-but-not-great 2.78 earned run average, fifth-best in the league. Since baseball operates on the theory that it’s not what you did for your team but what you did for your team lately, here are 10 more deserving Cy Young choices than Wheeler, again in alphabetical order: Walker Buehler, Corbin Burnes, Max Fried, Kevin Gausman, Josh Hader, Mark Melancon, Max Scherzer, Julio Urias, Adam Wainwright, and Brandon Woodruff.
Because the Phillies had a terrible bullpen — again — manager Joe Girardi was often forced to stick with Wheeler far longer than he should have. That gave him more innings and therefore more strikeouts.
Before somebody writes in that I have a W.C. Fields aversion to Philadelphia, that is hardly the case. I love the city, the stadium, and even the Phanatic. But, at the same time, I hate to see undeserving people win awards. Unfortunately, Harper and Wheeler both fall into that category this year.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, Ball Nine, Sports Collectors Digest, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and Here’s The Pitch, among others. His e.mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.