This past November, in an effort to bolster their veteran depth, The Phillies agreed to terms with two-time All-Star, Josh Harrison, on a Minor League deal — thus patching a glaring hole presented during their disappointing 2019 campaign.
Personally, this acquisition had me excited beyond words. In the early 2010’s, Harrison was a particular favorite of mine. The way he carried himself, how he (and Pittsburgh teammate, Andrew McCutchen) were always able to have fun on the field while, somehow, remaining professional — and, of course, Josh’s famous golden cleats.
See, Josh Harrison is more than some “value at the margins” grab. We’re talking about a guy who gives 110% every day. A man who’s famous for his incredible handles on the basepaths, and his ability to dip and dodge out of rundown scenarios. A player who, above all else, values family, friendship, and has tremendous respect for the game of baseball.
Further on in the offseason, Harrison would join the likes of Logan Forsythe, Neil Walker, Ronald Torreyes, and many others who will, seemingly, be fighting for bench spots on the Phillies’ 26-Man roster heading into 2020.
While the Phillies have been frugal in their spending over the remaining months of Free Agency, it is undeniable that they’ve managed to obtain some intriguing depth options on the cheap — many of which could wind up making a big-league impact during the regular season. Josh Harrison, without question, is one of those options, and, if given the opportunity, will undoubtedly make a splash for the Phillies in 2020.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Josh this past week, and asked him what it was about the Phillies that made him forego competing offers to join the club:
“[They] were definitely one of the first ones who were interested from the beginning.” Harrison said, “For me, just weighing my options and looking at the make-up of certain teams and where they’d see me fit, I felt like I had a pretty good opportunity here… Not to mention, I’ve got a pretty good friend on the team in Cutch.”
Harrison and McCutchen’s friendship stems all the way back to 2011, when they played for the Pittsburgh Pirates together. Another recent signee of the Phillies, Neil Walker, was also part of that 2011 Pittsburgh team, and, two years later, Phillies’ Spring Training invitee, Francisco Liriano, became the ace of the Buccos’ 2013 pitching staff.
In fact, in 2013, the Pirates had NINE players on their roster that are currently, or were previously members of the Phillies — those nine being: Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, Francisco Liriano, AJ Burnett, Marlon Byrd, Charlie Morton, Jeanmar Gomez, and Jared Hughes.
When I asked him about the prospect of playing with old friends like Cutch, Walker, and Liriano, Harrison replied, “It’s always exciting… we were together all those years in Pittsburgh and had a good stretch, and, to this day, whenever we talk to each other, it’s still always love… I’m sure we won’t have to worry about forcing any team chemistry and what not.”
Josh and I then went on to talk a bit about the Phillies’ new manager, Joe Girardi, and he revealed to me how excited he was to play under such a well respected entity:
“I’ve heard nothing but great things,” Harrison said, “I’ve had the chance to talk to him and understand that he’s genuine. As an athlete, you want to feel genuine, and know that they have your best interest at heart, and, ultimately, want to win.”
Further on in our conversation, Harrison and I got to talking about just how dangerous he was on the basepaths a few years ago — and, believe me when I say, this guy was impressive. If you haven’t already, educate yourself:
At one point, when I referred to Josh as ‘The King of Rundowns,’ he emphatically shot back,
“There’s goods and bads to that. I mean, you don’t want to be known for getting yourself into rundown situations… but, y’know, that’s still something I’ve got in my bag. I’m gonna make them shuffle on you. When I’m on the paths, I’m going to try to reach… I’m the youngest of three, I’ve got two older brothers… I had the opportunity to be the observant one growing up, I’m always very aware of my surroundings.”
Obviously, in order for Josh to return to his remarkably agile self for the Phillies in 2020, he’ll need to make sure he’s 100% ready to go this year, and he assured me he is:
“Definitely 100% now. Ready to go. The past couple years, I’ve had my fair share of injuries, and probably played through some things I shouldn’t have… That’s what happened to me last year, having to have surgery. It was a frustrating year for me in the sense that I didn’t get to play, but, at the same time, it was the time I needed off to get my body fully healthy.”
It’s worth noting that a certain Phillie left fielder also underwent a pretty heartbreaking surgery process in 2019 as well, to which Josh added:
“Oh yeah, [Cutch and I] talk quite a bit, we talked to eachother even before our surgeries. Both of us had some serious leg injuries, and we just talked to eachother throughout the rehab process. Talked about certain processes of it that sucked, but that’s part of it.”
Now that he’s fully healthy, I asked JHay where he felt he would best fit in with the club — knowing that he has a rich history at both second and third base:
“That’s something that I’ll be able to address at Spring Training,” Harrison said, “Getting down there talking to Joe [Girardi], he knows I can play multiple positions, and I know they make some moves, guys have bounced around, and I just know, given that I’m healthy, I’ll be able to make an impact, whether that’s second, third, who knows? Shortstop, outfield, I’m able to do it all.”
In conclusion, Josh and I segued into some more personal matters. We talked about the recent loss of Kobe Bryant, which, I learned, effected Josh as both a parent AND a player. We talked more about his family and his kids (who I even got to say a quick hello to!) and then put an end to what was a remarkably enjoyable conversation.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about Josh. It was clear from the moment he picked up my phone call that the Phillies are getting a hard working, dedicated individual who puts his heart and soul into the game of baseball — and then puts double that love and support into raising his family.
If that doesn’t scream “Philadelphia,” I don’t know what will.