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Bryce yourself, Clearwater: Here comes the Bryce Harper circus

The 330 Million Dollar Man may come walking across Tampa Bay any moment now.
Bryce Harper agreed to a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. (Associated Press via Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys)
Bryce Harper agreed to a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. (Associated Press via Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys)
Published Mar. 1, 2019|Updated Mar. 2, 2019

CLEARWATER — Bryce yourselves.

Bryce Harper, who hit .249 last season, in on his way to spring training with the Philadelphia Phillies, who on Friday, for maybe the last time, were just another baseball club.

Reports are that Harper landed in Tampa on Friday, then walked directly across the bay to Spectrum Field. He is supposed to undergo a physical at one point. Turn your wallet and cough twice.

There were empty seats here for Friday’s Phillies-Pirates game. Harper will put a stop to that, at about the same time as Philadelphia’s 40-man roster becomes “those other guys.”

Harper might even beat his souvenir jerseys here.

“As soon as he’s signed, they’ll be pressed and on the trucks,” said William at the Spectrum Field Phillies gift shop.

After a slow offseason, baseball is picking up the speed. Harper’s delayed-fuse 13-year, $330-million-guaranteed deal becomes the largest in the game’s history.

And now a shout-out to Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, who worked tirelessly to get those three extra years and a decent working wage for his client. You know, agents are unsung heroes. They never get the credit. And they do it all for free. Aren’t they something? I’m taking up a collection. Give what your heart tells you.

Coming in 2020: Mike Trout, Mr. Half Billion.

That is for then. This was a Friday in Clearwater with the seemingly normal Phillies and their normal morning clubhouse. That could change as soon as today.

“It’s going to be crazy,” Phillies infielder Scott Kingery said. “His face will be on everything.”

Alert the U.S. Mint.

“Certainly, he makes our roster substantially better, he makes our franchise substantially better, he makes us clubhouse much better,” said Phillies manager and former Ray Gabe Kapler.

Whether or not you believe Harper is worth it, there is no denying that the tide is on his side, and it will carry over when Trout decides to leave Anaheim. Until then, we have this circus.

But a point of order in the name of circus everywhere. I have been part of a media circuses before, and while I didn’t like the big shoes or the fact that my pen kept turning into a bouquet of flowers, it wasn’t circus in the truest sense.

“Circuses as organizations are highly coordinated efforts,” said Jennifer Lemmer Posey, Tibbals Curator of Circus at The Ringling museum in Sarasota. “In order to do what they do, and move as effectively as they did, there couldn’t be chaos at all.

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“But, when you talk about a media spectacle as circus, it’s a little bit different, because the circus, when it was a tented show, and it changed towns every day. It was a huge spectacle. If you’re equating it with spectacle, I would compare it to circus. But chaos, confusion, that definitely is not circus.”

A show of hands to have me shot of a cannon?

We are used to great Florida arrivals. But Harper is a biggie. Yes, 13 years is too long. Yes, it makes no sense. And it won’t matter when Harper first takes the field.

If only he’d listened to the Rays’ counter-offer.

Bryce, baby, we’ll be in Vegas in five years, tops. Trust us.

We await the great, overpaid man Saturday. Meanwhile, think of how much school teachers, firefighters and police officers are paid in Florida. Then again, think of all those lousy movies Tom Cruise got $20 million for, plus a percentage. In entertainment, there is no such thing as overpaying. It’s what the market can stomach, though I’m surprised the market isn’t bent over a trash can at this point.

“The first step is to probably have a conversation with Bryce,” Kapler said. “Ask him what he’s been doing over the last couple of weeks, what pitching he has seen. Maybe he has stood in, maybe he hasn’t. Those are conversations we’ll have. I know how he prepares as an individual, I’m placing my bets on him being in very good physical condition and being close to ready to compete.”

There is an earthquake coming to Clearwater. What it will do for the Phillies, who went 80-82 last season with a late death drop under Kapler, remains to be seen. Philadelphia added lots of talent besides Harper in the offseason. It isn’t picked to win the National League East. But the Phillies lead the majors in buzz.

Bryce yourselves.

“I think our job is to always put it on a human scale,” Kapler said. “Baseball players are people first.”

The trucks are rolling for the gift shop.

Heavy load.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly

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