The Phillies must protect Bryce Harper at all costs, even if it means more days off

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No, it isn’t strange at all to schedule an off day for your most important player on the third day of the season. It is smart.

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper watches from the dugout as the Phillies play the Braves at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday, March 31, 2024. Harper didn’t play in Sunday’s game.Bryce Harper is not a man who enjoys the sidelines. You could see it on his face as he stood in the middle of the clubhouse on Sunday evening. Frustration? No, not really. More like under-stimulation. Boredom.

The concept of load management has come under considerable fire in recent years, so much so that the NBA has taken steps to “encourage” its star players to eschew off days. The antipathy is understandable for folks who remember the days when the Michael Jordans of the world would play 82 games per season and, sometimes, 48 minutes per game. Baseball’s ethos still harbors much of that old-world attitude. The pride in the grind is real.

But now that we mention it, maybe load management should be more of a thing in a sport that packs more games into fewer days than any other league on the planet. The human body did not evolve to withstand three hours a day of the sort of pounding that ballplayers inflict on their joints. A 162-game season can wreak particular havoc on preexisting conditions. In fact, Sunday’s win over the Braves was a shining testament.

 

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