Stupid money? How the Phillies are proving it's more important to be bold than smart

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THERE IS NOTHING elegant or innovative about the Philadelphia Phillies' roster. It has been constructed with all the brute force of a Bryce Harper home run.

Harper? Signed as a free agent for 13 years and $330 million.

Zack Wheeler? Signed as a free agent for five years and $118 million.

J.T. Realmuto? Originally acquired in a trade and then re-signed as a free agent for five years and $115.5 million.

Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos? Signed as free agents this past offseason for a combined $179 million.

Back in November of 2018, John Middleton, principal owner of the Phillies, announced the team was ready to spend big money in free agency, "and maybe even be a little stupid about it." The franchise had just suffered its seventh consecutive non-winning campaign. His comment wasn't about being reckless; it was about taking some bold initiatives.

Four seasons and $742.5 million in contracts (for those five players alone) later, Middleton's stupid money suddenly looks like smart money: The Phillies ended the second-longest playoff drought in the majors, then steamrolled through the National League playoffs with the help of Harper's dramatic series-winning home run against the San Diego Padres. On Monday night, more than 45,000 fans will pour into Citizens Bank Park as the city hosts its first World Series game since 2009.

For two games against the Atlanta Braves and three against the Padres this postseason, the ballpark has been an electric, rollicking stadium full of towel-waving Phillies fans clad in Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton jerseys, in Chase Utley and Cole Hamels jerseys and in Harper and Schwarber jerseys. When Harper mashed his home run, the stadium -- and the entire city -- erupted in a roar of joy.

Isn't this what you should want as the owner of an entertainment product? To win? To have nights like that? As Phillies players poured beer and champagne on one another in the middle of the clubhouse to celebrate their trip to the World Series, their victory anthem "Dancing on My Own" blaring on the stereo, Middleton stood off in the corner giving an interview.