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Phillies justify Bryce Harper signing with Twitter poll


Philly Twitterati spoke, and John Middleton listened.

The candid ballclub owner admitted a tiny social media poll, conducted by a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, supported his brass’ belief that Phillies fans preferred Bryce Harper over Manny Machado.

That confirmation led the team to hand the largest contract in American sports history, a 13-year deal worth $330 million, to the superstar outfielder rather than the dynamic but ever-controversial third baseman.

Bryce Harper (Getty Images/Twitter)

"There's very little room to separate these guys," Middleton on Tuesday told 94WIP Radio. "They bring different skills, but they bring elite skills."

So, he put his “stupid money” — Middleton’s prose from November to hype up his team’s free agency plans — in the hands of the fan base.

"The one thing that Bryce had over Manny, clearly, is the Philadelphia fans loved him," Middleton said. "That was abundantly clear throughout the offseason. Part of the reason we walked away from Manny at the end there, was that reason. We just felt that taking Manny when Bryce was still available just wasn't going to play well with the fan base. And so we passed."

As for that aforesaid poll, coincidentally conducted one February morning before Machado signed with San Diego: It collected just 9,553 votes, a blip in the Twitterverse, but was nonetheless overwhelmingly in favor of the Phillies signing Harper (87 percent, to be exact.)

“That just tells you something,” Middleton said.

That such a high-profile executive is surveying social media for fan reactions isn’t totally shocking. Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen is on Twitter all the time, noting as much in an offseason interview with the Daily News’ Kristie Ackert.

Rendering a decision based off their musings, though, is a little out of left field.

Fans have certainly answered the Liberty Bell, setting ticket and jersey sales in the signing’s aftermath. A jaw-dropping 100,000 Phillies tickets were sold in the 24 hours after the most nauseating free agency saga came to a close in late February.

But we won’t know until November whether the pricey signing will heed D.C. — errr Philadelphia — a World Series title.