Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto are Phillies of a feather. They joined the team within a month of each other last offseason. They figure to be foundation pieces for many years to come. Harper on Sunday completed the first season of a 13-year, $330 million contract. Realmuto is under control through next season, but figures to sign a huge contract extension with the Phillies this winter.
Harper and Realmuto both professed their affection for Philadelphia on Sunday.
They also both absolved manager Gabe Kapler of blame for the Phillies' disappointing 81-81 season.
"It hasn't been his fault," Harper said. "He's had some tough decisions he had to make, bullpen-wise, lineup-wise; not having your leadoff guy, not having your setup guy, things like that. A lot of guys have been thrown into the fire this year from Double A and Triple A, it's just how the season goes. It's part of it. We're going to build on that next year, hopefully. I love our staff. I enjoy our staff. I enjoy playing for our staff. They've made me better each day and I appreciate that."
Kapler's future with the club is up in the air. A decision on whether he returns next season is expected in the coming days.
"As of now, I expect to see him back here," Realmuto said. "We feel like he's done a great job for us. He gets the guys to play hard. We all love playing for him. He's been our manager all year and nobody's had anything to say about it. We've obviously had a rough last couple of weeks and fell out of contention. For me, Gabe's our manager. He's a guy that this clubhouse really respects."
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Kapler is operating as if he will be back.
He made that clear when he was asked what things he'd want to work on if he's back next season.
"I think there's a laundry list of things I'd want to address and that I'm assuming I will address," he said.
Both Harper and Realmuto were asked about what the team's biggest needs were.
Harper was somewhat vague, saying teams can always get better in a variety of areas, but he did say that he'd be willing to speak with the people who run the club about any matters they'd like to discuss.
"Whenever they ask," he said. "Whatever it is, I'll be there no matter what. Being through here for a long time ... these are decisions that are going to absolutely need to be talked about with myself, I would think. So whoever calls or asks, I'll be there."
Realmuto offered some specifics.
"I don't think it's any secret," he said. "Probably pitching. We can improve defensively as well. But we definitely need some pitching. We need starters. We need bullpen. You can never have too much pitching so I think that's where we need to go."
Realmuto and Harper both talked about how much they enjoyed their first season in Philadelphia.
"I'm certainly not opposed to staying here," said Realmuto, referring to the possibility of a contract extension. "I love playing here in Philadelphia. I love the crowd. I love the fans. I love my team. So we'll see how that goes in the offseason."
Four days after being harassed by fans in the right-field seats in Washington, the city where he played his first seven seasons, Harper was saluted by the fans in right field at Citizens Bank Park in the ninth inning of Sunday's season finale. Harper, in turn, saluted the fans.
"That was awesome," he said. "I mean, being able to sit back there and hear them support me each and every night, they've done that all season long. I've tried to play hard for them. I've tried to play to the best of my ability. I'm going to continue to do that. These fans deserve that. This city deserves that. I keep saying that and I probably keep harping on it a little too much, but that's what I want to do. I want to build this franchise to the best of my ability. I know that the people up top want to do that as well. I want to play this game as long as I can as hard as I can each night I go out there."
Harper didn't make it to the postseason in Year 1, but he's happy he chose Philadelphia.
"I love this place," he said. "They've welcomed my family and myself like I can never imagine. I'm so excited to be here, I'm excited to be part of this organization. I'm excited to see what's ahead for us."
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