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Revisiting Old Phillies Hall of Fame Odds

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, January 03, 2016 01:59 PM Comments: 3

(AP)

(AP)

On Wednesday, we discover just who will be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016. Currently, according to this live count overseen expertly by Ryan Thibs, we’ll be inducting Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines (31 percent of ballots were in when I checked, so it’s still early), who are all receiving more than 75 percent of the popular vote.

I agree with all four choices. Griffey is one of the greatest players ever; Piazza is arguably the greatest offensive catcher ever; Bagwell was an elite offensive player for many years; Raines was criminally underrated and excelled in multiple facets of the game.

That leaves out some notable names, like Barry Bonds (49.6%), Roger Clemens (48.9%), Curt Schilling (60.3%) and Mark McGwire (14.2%), whom I would also elect myself.

All the handwringing about the hall of fame gets tired, but in a way it’s justified because we hold this honor up to a lofty standard. Whatever the case, this is the hall, this is what we do every year, and here we are again.

And just to show you how much we value the hall, I want to revisit a post I wrote in December 2008 – more than seven years ago – that assessed the hall of fame odds of then-current Phillies. Let’s see what’s happened since then.

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Will never make hall of fame

Chris Coste, Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, J.C. Romero, Matt Stairs, Pedro Feliz, Geoff Jenkins, Chad Durbin, So Taguchi, Clay Condrey, Carlos Ruiz, Scott Eyre

I’m pretty confident that these are secure. Most of these players won’t even be on the ballot. Stairs will, and as he’s one of the game’s good guys, may receive a couple votes when he is eligible in 2017. But he won’t get the 5 percent necessary to stay on the ballot.

I suppose there’s a small chance Ruiz could get 5 percent whenever he’s eligible (earliest 2022), but better players have been tossed aside before. A career line of .266/.351/.396 is pretty good for a catcher, but he hasn’t quite accumulated anything substantial offensively (65 home runs, 855 hits). Chooch’s highest value is in intangibles (he caught four no-hitters, has good postseason numbers, was top-30 MVP thrice, won a World Series and was Roy Halladay’s all-time favorite backstop). That doesn’t go for much. He’ll get a few votes, especially from Philadelphia media types, but probably will drop from the ballot after one year.

Small glimmer of hope

Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, J.A. Happ

All of these guys, sans one, are still contributing to major league rosters. Let’s start with the guy who isn’t. Myers finished his 12-year career with a 97-96 record, 40 saves, a 4.25 ERA and 1,379 strikeouts. No, he won’t be in the hall of fame. If he’s on the ballot in 2019, he won’t be on for long.

Werth is entering the final phase of his career. His numbers are nice (.272/.365/.463, 198 HR, 701 RBI) but are nowhere near hall-worthy. He’ll get a couple courtesy votes, like Ruiz, and likely be dropped after one year.

Victorino, trying to get back on track after a solid 2013, won’t make the hall either. He has four Gold Glove awards to tout, but his offensive numbers don’t stack up. Unless he has a Bonds-like late-career renaissance, I can’t think enough voters will put him over the 5 percent threshold necessary to stay on the ballot after one year.

Blanton is a no. Madson is a great story, but also a no. Happ is basically a left-handed Blanton.

Looking good so far.

Varying levels of realistic

Pat Burrell, Brad Lidge, Jamie Moyer, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins

Guess who’s eligible next year? Burrell will be on the ballot in 2017, along with Vladimir Guerrero (he should get in one day), Jorge Posada (bubble candidate at best), Manny Ramirez (should get in but who knows), former Phillie Arthur Rhodes (won’t get in) and Ivan Rodriguez (should also get in).

Back in 2008 I wrote that Burrell needed to move to the American League and bash 30 home runs per season for five or six years if he wanted to make the hall. He did move to the American League in 2009, but he only hit 14 dingers in Tampa Bay, as his bat slowed to a crawl. He picked things up after heading to San Francisco in 2010, helping the Giants win the World Series that season, but his numbers fell plenty short. He finished his career with 292 home runs.

Burrell won’t be a hall of famer. The question is whether Burrell gets a second year on the ballot. Currently first-timer Garret Anderson is on pace to be dropped from the ballot, and I see Burrell as a decent comparison. It’s likely Pat the Bat gets one year on the ballot, a couple courtesy votes, and a quick ride off into the sunset.

2018 will be fun. Quite a few former Phillies will be on the ballot for the first time (Lidge, Moyer, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome, Kevin Millwood). Thome will get in, if not in 2018. Millwood won’t get in but should get a couple courtesy votes. Rolen? That’s a longer examination for January 2018. Let’s instead focus on Lidge and Moyer.

Lidge is not going to be a hall of famer, much as we love the guy. Maybe he’ll get a couple votes. Otherwise, we should debate his case for the Phillies Wall of Fame when that moment arises.

Back in the day I wrote that Moyer needed to have another season or two like his 16-7 2008 campaign to tempt hall of fame voters. He didn’t quite have those seasons, going 12-10 with a 4.94 ERA in 2009, and 9-9 with a 4.84 ERA in 2010. He returned in 2012 and flamed out with Colorado, finishing his career at age 49 with a 269-209 record, a 4.25 ERA, 2,441 K and a league-record 522 home runs surrendered.

The “Mike and the Mad Dog” system of determining a hall of famer is this: you count the number of very-good seasons. You need a good ratio of very-good to not-very-good seasons to be a candidate. My Moyer count: 11 to 14, and that’s being charitable. He compiled. He pitched for a long time, longer than anyone. He had an amazing late-career renaissance (he really didn’t get going until he was 33). But ultimately Moyer falls short. He was never one of the game’s best pitchers, just good enough for a long time, but also pretty mediocre for a long time, too.

I think Moyer could get enough votes to stay on the ballot after a year, especially as he was one of the game’s most beloved players and a testament to longevity. But Moyer won’t make it.

Ryan Howard. In 2008 I wrote that he needs to hit another 200 home runs over the next five seasons to have a real chance. He actually started strong, with 45 dingers in 2009. His 31 and 33 longballs in 2010 and ‘11 weren’t too bad, either. Then it all went to hell. Howard has hit 357 home runs. His career numbers are still good (.262/.349/.519) but he just collapsed way too soon.

For a few years Howard was a potential once-in-a-lifetime talent, a prodigious slugger who felt bigger than the game. That wasn’t the case. He simply settled into a one-note slugger with poor defensive skill and a bloated contract.

Maybe Howard swats a bunch more homers for a few more years, but it’s much more likely that doesn’t happen. He has the MVP, the Rookie of the Year award, the three all-star appearances and big-homer seasons. That may get him past the 5 percent mark after one year, but honestly, it may not.

Hamels, however, could get serious consideration when he’s eligible for the hall. In 2008 I wrote this:

“He gets in if: He does his thing. Sure the wins are lower than they should be, but as long as his ERA hovers in the low 3s and his strikeouts continue on their current path, Hamels should be sitting pretty. By his current path, he’ll record 1,500 strikeouts by age 30, meaning he’d hit the milestones like every other Hall of Fame pitcher. Oh, and the postseason record doesn’t hurt.”

He’s still on track, and in fact, raised his game in the seven years since the write-up. After 10 years, at age 32, Hamels has a 121-91 record with a 3.31 ERA, 1,922 K and 515 BB. Again, the win total will be low, but that matters less with each year that passes. The strikeout total is superb – he could absolutely reach 3,000 before his career ends. His postseason numbers are strong. He has a no-hitter to his credit. He has been one of the game’s top-10 pitchers since basically 2008.

For Hamels to be considered for the hall, he’ll need to stay on track another six to seven years. If he does, he’ll be finishing his career with more than 3,000 strikeouts and one of the most consistent, lasting careers in recent pitching history. Plus, among his pitching peers (age 30-34) he’s arguably the best case to make the hall. As of right now, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do it.

Here’s what I wrote in 2008 about Chase Utley:

“He gets in if: He rules the bag for the next six years. A second baseman doesn’t have to be an offensive beast to win a Hall ticket, but it certainly helps. Utley is on his way to being the most prolific offensive second baseman since maybe Rogers Hornsby, and with a few more seasons of 100 ribbies and 170-plus hits (10 years is the magic total), he’ll be in elite company at the second sack. It will be difficult for Utley to knock 3,000 hits, but if he’s dominant, he won’t have trouble getting votes.”

Utley never again drove in 100. He never again notched 170 hits. Injuries defined the years since, morphing Utley from an elite second baseman to simply one of the better second basemen in the league. And most recently he’s become a fringe starter, having his worst season yet in 2015 with the Phillies and Dodgers.

So let’s see. A .281/.365/.479 line with 236 HR, 925 RBI and 1,648 hits. Six all-star appearances. Four Silver Slugger awards. Top-20 MVP voting five times. Good postseason numbers highlighted by an outstanding 2009 World Series. Great, but not hall-worthy, right?

But Utley’s case will be one of the most heated concerning the use of advanced metrics. Utley has attained a career fWAR of 62.3, one of the highest marks ever for a second baseman and higher than current inductees Bobby Doerr, Billy Herman, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri and Johnny Evers. JAWS, which measures career WAR against peak-career WAR, has Utley 12th among all second basemen. From 2005 to present, only Albert Pujols has a higher fWAR among hitters. Some will tell you Chase Utley has been one of baseball’s top three players over the last 11-12 years. That’s hall-worthy, right?

But Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich are second basemen with high metrics numbers and lower compiler numbers. They’re not in the hall. Chances are when Utley becomes eligible, his candidacy will become the most heated hall discussion in years. Advances in player evaluation may help his case, too. Will it help enough?

My guess is Utley doesn’t get into the hall right away. In fact, he may need to wait like Raines, as arguments develop and opinions sway.

Of course, he could also have an impressive final year or two of his career and hammer home his case a bit more. Either way, I think his peak is too impressive for his position. I think he gets in one day, though in the distant future.

Finally, Jimmy Rollins has another interesting case, which has been debated a bit more recently. Here’s what I wrote in 2008:

“He gets in if: The hits keep coming for another decade. Tall order, but … besides Adrian Beltre (got a two-year head start) and Albert Pujols (out of this universe), Rollins is the active leader in hits, 30 and younger. He’s practically halfway to 3,000 hits, and as he steps into his true prime, he’s capable of the feat by age 40. Add in the potential for 500 steals (11th active) and his 2007 MVP, and there’s no reason to think Rollins couldn’t enter the Hall of Fame.”

So Rollins didn’t keep up that hitting. He’s now at 2,422 hits, good for the Phillies’ all-time mark but not close enough to 3,000. He’s closer to 500 steals (465) and his power numbers at shortstop are among the best ever (229 HR, 503 2B, 928 RBI). But he’d have to play another five years to compile 3,000 hits, and even that means signing onto a team that’ll take a late-30s shortstop whose bat is slowing down.

So let’s look at metrics. Since 2001 very few players have the fWAR Rollins has attained (56 fWAR). That number is 11th over that period, with some surefire hall of famers above him (Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera, Ichiro Suzuki). Rollins is also the top full-time shortstop on that list. (Baseball Reference has him at 46 WAR, by the way).

The litmus for Rollins seems to be Barry Larkin, who reached the hall in his third year of eligibility, almost without question. Larkin’s compiler numbers (2,340 H, 198 HR, 960 RBI) were actually worse than Rollins’, but his averages were far better. Larkin was a far better metrics player than Rollins. Plus, Larkin was a top-two shortstop in an era of relative dearth at the position; Rollins had to play in an era with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez (first half of his career), Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, Edgar Renteria, Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki.

Garciaparra is an interesting measuring stick for Rollins. While Garciaparra was often injured throughout his career, he has a pretty decent resume (1,747 H, 229 HR, 936 RBI, .313 AVG). Basically Rollins had more speed and a better glove, and Garciaparra had better contact). Currently Garciaparra has one vote in this year’s round of hall voting. That’s it. That seems crazy.

But it’s not crazy when you consider Garciaparra has to fight for votes with Griffey, Piazza, Raines and Bagwell, plus Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, McGwire, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez and plenty more.

Larkin, meanwhile, had to vie for votes with Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Raines, McGwire and Martinez. Maybe in that year Garciaparra gets the 5 percent necessary to survive a ballot.

Rollins will get more votes than Garciaparra. But whether he has the same fate as Larkin depends on where he falls in.

Here’s the good news: the list of players likely to be entering eligibility with Rollins is not deep (Pujols, Beltre, maybe Utley). And by the time Rollins is eligible, the field should be relatively clean. I say, ultimately, Rollins gets into the hall relatively easy.

Maybe, just maybe, voters will put in Utley at the same time, bringing about the biggest celebration Cooperstown has ever seen.

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Top-10 September callups of the last 20 years

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, September 01, 2015 01:00 PM Comments: 10

120312-darin-ruf-600Sept. 1 is one of my favorite days on the baseball calendar, as teams begin calling up new faces to help pad the major league roster. Historically teams may use the September callup season to give fans a taste of a top prospect ready to become an everyday player. Most of the time, though, it’s more conservative than this, as teams are usually hoping to add depth, or even protect a player from the dreaded Rule V draft.

The Phils are no different. While many of the Phils’ September callups have been for depth (especially between 2007 and ’11), a special few have been hotly anticipated. I went back 20 years to 1995 to determine the top-10 September callups of the last 20 years, focusing mostly on younger players getting their first taste (or close to it) in the majors.

So this isn’t a scientific ranking. More a combination of hype and production. Enjoy.

10. Cesar Hernandez – 2013
We were told Cesar Hernandez had outstanding infield defensive ability upon his first cup of coffee in midseason 2013. But it was in September that we saw his true range, as he started almost exclusively in centerfield. He did okay, displaying average-at-best ability in center while singling pitchers to death to a line of .289/.344/.331. He remains with the club today, starting at second base after the Chase Utley trade. His future remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

9. Vance Worley – 2010
Vance Worley made his major league debut in a July blowout against Colorado, but he had an extended stay in September, helping the Phillies give some rest to a pitching staff that cruised through a dominant 2010 campaign. Worley had a solid first start against the Marlins, then started once more, against Atlanta, twirling five shutout innings. Worley would become a great fifth starter in an awesome 2011 pitching staff, before being dealt to Minnesota for Ben Revere. He’s been a league-average pitcher, most recently throwing out of the Pittsburgh bullpen before being optioned to AAA.

8. Carlos Ruiz – 2006
While Carlos Ruiz had a cup of coffee in May (and July) of 2006 because of injury, he was brought up to the Phillies for good in September. Starting a few games, Chooch had his finest offensive run of the season, collecting eight hits, including two home runs. Ruiz would stay with the Phils in 2007 and beyond, turning into one of the franchise’s most revered catchers.

7. Gene Schall – 1996
Back in 1996 we had two major callups: Calvin Maduro and Gene Schall. Maduro, 21, pitched decently well, but his contribution was small. Schall – a 26-year-old Abington kid who went to La Salle High and Villanova – had a little more room to grow in 1996, getting 41 plate appearances in his September stay. He did well, too, hitting two homers, three doubles and a triple en route to a line of .306/.390/.611. I mean, that’s seriously good. Sadly, though, Schall was traded for Mike Robertson (yes, THE Mike Robertson) and never made it to the majors again. He had a solid AAA career, however, retiring in 2002 with 125 career homers at the top minor-league level.

6. Gavin Floyd – 2004
Rewind to 2004. Citizens Bank Park is glistening and new. Jim Thome is rocking homers into the seats. And the Phils have two surefire stars ready to reach Philly in Ryan Howard and Gavin Floyd. At just 21, Floyd was a big deal upon his arrival in Philadelphia in September 2004. He lived up to the hype, tossing a decent seven innings in a win over the Mets in his major league debut. He would move to the bullpen during his time in Philly, but return as a starter in 2005 and ‘06, all to pretty bad results. (Maybe Floyd was best known as the pitcher on the mound when Aaron Rowand slammed his face into the fence to catch a would-be Xavier Nady grand slam.) Floyd would find some success in Chicago, traded in the wonderful Freddy Garcia deal. Memories.

5. Darin Ruf – 2012
And it was on Sept. 14, 2012, that 26-year-old super prospect Darin Ruf got his first action in a Phillies uniform. After tearing up the minors with his power, Ruf started slow, but on Sept. 25 hit his first major league homer in a win against Washington. He’d hit two in one game a week later, ending his 2012 callup campaign with three bombs, 10 RBI, and a good line of .333/.351/.727. Ruf has been a mainstay on the Phils bench since then, playing respectably, but especially good against left-handed pitching (.291/.378/.518).

4. Marlon Anderson – 1998
Sept. 8, 1998. The Phillies are blasting the Mets, 12-3, in the seventh inning. Manager Terry Francona motions to 24-year-old Marlon Anderson. It’ll be his first career plate appearance, right there in front of a crowd of maybe 10,000 at Veterans Stadium. Against Mel Rojas, Anderson works a 2-2 count, then knocks it deep to right. It clears the fence. Marlon Anderson’s first career appearance is a home run. He’d finish 1998 with solid numbers, and would win the starting second base job for 1999. That year began with a sterling 3-for-4 day in Atlanta. That was pretty much his peak as a Phillie.

3. Ryan Howard – 2004
With the Phillies under .500 on Sept. 1, 2004, they opted to call up top prospect Ryan Howard, who was blocked as an everyday player by all-world slugger Jim Thome. Howard would mostly pinch hit through September, garnering just a few starts toward the end of the season. He homered twice, doubled five times and finished with a good line of .282/.333/.564. This, coupled with his solid 2005 season – during a Thome injury – allowed the Phils to deal Thome to Chicago and start Howard for good.

2. Bobby Estalella – 1997
Imagine a hyped catching prospect reaching the major leagues at age 21 as a September callup. Imagine him swatting two home runs late in the season, finishing with a 6-for-11 performance in three games at Shea Stadium. Then imagine, a year later, he’s called up and starts in Montreal. Second inning, against future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez … home run. Then, down two, sixth inning, against Martinez … home run. Finally, in the ninth, he leads off … a third home run. That was Bobby Estalella, 1997.

What you can’t imagine is the excitement on a 12-year-old’s face when this veritable child socks three homers in a game. “He’s the future!” I thought. Estalella never again matched the magic he sparked that evening at Olympic Stadium.

Yes, Howard had a more impressive September statistically, but when you hit two homers off a future Hall of Famer, you earn the spot.

1. Jimmy Rollins – 2000
Highly rated shortstop prospect James Calvin Rollins joined the Phillies in mid-September 2000, immediately making his presence felt with a triple, stolen base and two runs. He would only notch one more extra-base hit that year, but he accrued 17 hits in 53 at bats, good for a .321 AVG.

The 21-year-old became an instant fan favorite, proving the hype, and would quickly be penciled in as starting shortstop. Thirteen years later, would break the franchise record for career hits.

Rollins is the best measure of a September callup. He was given a chance to play everyday, made the best of it, and set the table for an outstanding rookie season. For that, he’s the best Phillies callup of the last 20 years.

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An ode to ‘The Man,’ Chase Utley

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, August 20, 2015 09:41 AM Comments: 12

PHOTO: AP/Kathy Willens

PHOTO: AP/Kathy Willens

As a smallish kid in Port Richmond, I grew up idolizing infielders. I loved what little of Mike Schmidt I remember, and soon I was intently following guys like Ozzie Smith and Dickie Thon. Then Mickey Morandini came aboard. I began playing second base, shortstop, and third base for the Port Richmond Leprechauns and Port Richmond Tigers, and proudly wore No. 12. I was a small white kid. Guys like Morandini were small and white. That made sense to me. I could be him one day. That could work.

My favorite player during those years, however, wasn’t a Phillie, but Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles. I adored Ripken. He could hit, hit for power, run, field his position, and of course, he played every single game without rest. I cheered and cried on Sept. 6, 1995, the night Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-game streak. Retrospectively it’s odd – we cheered and honored a man because he came to work every day. He battled through injuries, had some luck, and played well enough to never need to take off. So he never took off. That was worth hours of celebration, a historic moment with balloons and streamers, a 25-minute game stoppage.

Ripken retired in 2001. Luckily the Phillies had a player a lot like Ripken – except for the perfect health – in Scott Rolen, and naturally I had grown to admire him. For maybe a year Rolen was unquestionably my favorite baseball player. Then he was traded. So for another small moment Bobby Abreu became my favorite player because I loved his level, fluid swing.

And then came Chase Utley, called up from Scranton in 2003 to ride the pine while Placido Polanco manned second base. He socked his first major league hit – a grand slam – and toiled in Phillies purgatory until he was officially named starter in 2005 after Polanco was traded to Detroit. And for 10 seasons, Utley remained the starting second baseman of the Philadelphia Phillies, until he was traded Wednesday night to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chase Utley is, unquestionably, my favorite baseball player ever.

I met him once, on St. Patrick’s Day 2009 in Clearwater. We attended the Moyer Foundation’s St. Patrick’s Day barbecue outside Bright House Networks Field. Coming off the 2008 world championship, this provided the opportunity to tell every Phillie near and far how much I loved him. Like Chris Farley to Paul McCartney, I sidled up to Geoff Jenkins. Continue reading An ode to ‘The Man,’ Chase Utley

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The 7-year battle: Accepting Ryan Howard

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, August 13, 2015 11:30 AM Comments: 21

(Eric Hartline/ USA Today Sports)  Via Philly.com

(Eric Hartline/ USA Today Sports) Via Philly.com

Jimmy Rollins is gone.

Cole Hamels is gone.

Chase Utley may be gone soon.

And all that’s left from that 2008 team is Carlos Ruiz

Wait. Oh yes. There’s him, too. Him, standing there at first base, now folding his arms as he’s watching me. He’s aggravated, isn’t he? It’s Ryan Howard, who thanks to Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera, we sort of forgotten. Of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? Let him just fade into obscurity and just ignore the $25 million the Phillies are paying him this year … and next year … oh, and there’s a 2017 club option, too. Hooray.

I should go on record. On April 14, 2008 – way in the beginning of what became a legendary season – I published a piece that helped put Phillies Nation in the national eye. It was titled “Why I Would Trade Ryan Howard.”

“It sounds almost ridiculous that a team in the top half of the payroll list contending for a World Series would want to trade its biggest power hitter, a man capable of hitting 60 home runs,” I wrote at the time. “But there are reasons to think heavily about dumping Howard.”

Those reasons, I continued, included that Howard “is an average at best first baseman in the field.” I said he’d be a logical designated hitter for an American League team. Moreover, I wrote, “Ryan Howard wants to make big bucks, especially if he’s not getting a long-term deal. This season he’s making $10M, the largest arbitration victory ever. Experts say a $20M arbitration prize before 2010 isn’t out of the question. That means a long-term deal would mean potentially $25M per year.”

Son of a …

I then outlined a number of potential returns in a Ryan Howard trade. In retrospect, most of them would have turned out dreadfully. My best hypothetical return was from the Yankees: Ian Kennedy (12.7 fWAR since 2008), Austin Jackson (16.9 fWAR), Chris Britton (-0.2 fWAR), David Robertson (10.8 fWAR) and Marcos Vechionacci (0.0 fWAR). Compared to Howard’s 9.3 fWAR since 2008, it would’ve been a steal. Maybe with Kennedy the Phillies don’t pay hefty prices for starting pitching. Maybe with Jackson the Phils trade Shane Victorino and restock the system. Maybe with Robertson they can shift easily from Brad Lidge and never sign Jonathan Papelbon. And look, I basically would’ve traded Howard around the peak of his value.

Seriously, why didn’t they make this deal?

A month later, in May 2008, Howard was hitting .183. In May. I attempted to lambaste Howard. Continue reading The 7-year battle: Accepting Ryan Howard

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Coping with the end of an era

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, August 06, 2015 09:17 AM Comments: 5

Please welcome back Tim Malcolm! Tim was the editor-in-chief of Phillies Nation from 2006 to 2009.

The struggle to cope through change has been documented for centuries. In one moment your experiences marry the ongoing popular culture and the people carrying influence; then, in an instant, no longer. You’re a dinosaur. Your views aren’t those of the youth. Your experiences are merely shared with your peers, and become nothing more than history, something that collects dust in the basement.

Cole Hamels speech

Cole Hamels’s speech after the 2008 World Series parade

It was only seven years ago when I walked through a pattern of red bodies gathered happily on Broad Street waiting for the Phillies to parade a world championship. On that day Cole Hamels uttered words that will grow dust in my brain forever:

“If there is one thing I cannot wait to do, it’s go down that Broad Street parade again, and again, and again.”

Again, and again, and again. The boldness! The swagger!

Admittedly, others shared similar sentiments, but it was Hamels’ words that stayed. He was 24, just a year older than me at the time. His first major league start was May 12, 2006, which I remember clearly. I was standing in my parents’ Boston hotel room, the first night of commencement weekend at Boston University, checking blog comments for updates on Hamels’ debut. This was before Twitter and, really, before the advent of streaming content that allowed a range of game-following experiences. We took whatever we had.

After that debut I’d graduate, and after that I’d start writing regularly about baseball. My interest in the team would grow to something beyond simply watching games. Starting in 2006 I’d watch every game I could, follow every game regardless, analyze statistics, write about the games, and attend as many games as possible. My favorite players were now around my age. I wasn’t looking up to personal icons like Thome, Abreu, Rolen, or Daulton. I related – at least on one small level – with these new guys, especially Hamels. We “graduated” on the same week. We would grow through our new careers, hopefully find success, and reach new heights together.

It’s 2015. I’m 30 and Hamels is 31. My career is shifting, as I’m about to throw myself into full-time self-employed writing; his is changing, as well: recently we saw him standing on the pitcher’s mound in Arlington, Texas. For a few years I stepped back from following the Phillies fanatically; recently Hamels has seen a major transformation with his team. His words from the 2008 parade are now simply history; they will likely never come to fruition.

A day after Hamels was traded, sweating while standing on the stage at Citizens Bank Park, Pat Burrell accepted his place in the Phillies Wall of Fame humbly, but not without a reminder of the surreality surrounding the weekend.

“I’ve played with some great players,” said Burrell, “but the guy I enjoyed playing with the most is actually still here in the dugout. And I hope that all of you realize how special of a player, and a man, Chase Utley is.” Continue reading Coping with the end of an era

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Nola’s Start Stands Out Among Phils Debuts

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Wed, July 22, 2015 11:30 AM Comments: 2

Nola had a solid debut last night for the Phillies. He stacks up well against debuts in Phils history. Photo: Philly.com

Nola had a solid debut last night for the Phillies. He stacks up well against debuts in Phils history. Photo: Philly.com

Aaron Nola went six innings last night, striking out six while giving up just five hits and just one run, a solo homer to pitcher Nathan Karns. While Nola ended up on the wrong side of the ledger of a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the recently-22  Nola showed promise in locating pitches and wasn’t phased by base runners or by a tight early strike zone.

Here are how some other notable Phillies’ home-grown starters fared in their first starts.

Curt Simmons: September 28, 1947 – 9.0 IP, 5 H, 9 SO, 6 BB, 1 ER, W. The Gold Standards of Phillies’ debuts, Simmons’ contract forced the Phillies to keep the 18-year old on their roster through 1947 after signing him. Simmons, just a few weeks removed from pitching a gem in Egypt, PA against the Phillies in an exhibition, held the power-heavy New York Giants, with catcher Walker Cooper (35 HR), first baseman Johnny Mize (51),  and outfielders Willard Marshall (36) and Bobby Thompson (29) patrolling the middle of the line-up, to one earned while striking out nine.

Robin Roberts: June 18, 1948 - 8.0 IP, 5 H, 2 SO, 2 BB, 2 ER, L. Roberts would join Simmons on the Phillies the following season and have a pretty nice debut of his own, losing a 2-0 game thanks in part to a Wally Westlake homer. Continue reading Nola’s Start Stands Out Among Phils Debuts

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Race to the Bottom: #2 1928 Phillies

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Tue, July 21, 2015 03:15 PM Comments: 0

Klein had a great start to his Hall of Fame career in 1928 but it barely made a dent.

Klein had a great start to his Hall of Fame career in 1928 but it barely made a dent in the team’s fortunes. Photo: Baseball Hall of Fame

This is the fourth entry in the countdown of the five worst teams in Phillies history. For the introduction and criteria used for this series, please check out the first entry here.

Team: 1928 Phillies

Record: 43-109 (T-4th least wins in any season, T-2nd least wins in seasons with 140 games played or more)

Winning Percentage: 30.1% (4th worst winning percentage in any season, 3rd worst winning percentage in seasons with 140 games played or more)

Run Differential: Minus 297

Burt Shotton managed the Brooklyn Dodgers to 326-215 record across parts of four seasons, good for a 60.3% winning percentage and two pennants. Shotton’s big moment came just three games into the 1947 season: Shotton was appointed manager, taking over for Clyde Sukoforth who was the interim replacement for Hall of Famer Leo Durocher, and successfully navigated the Dodgers to the pennant following the addition of Jackie Robinson and the outpouring of racism that followed Robinson and the team.

But it wasn’t always so easy for Shotton. Shotton’s first managerial gig came in 1928 with the Philadelphia Phillies, beginning a six-year run as the team’s skipper. Shotton’s Phils squads went 370-549, good for a 40.26% winning percentage. It all started with one of the worst Phillies’ teams of all time, the 1928 edition. Continue reading Race to the Bottom: #2 1928 Phillies

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For Rays players, coaches 08′ Series one to forget

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Tue, July 21, 2015 10:59 AM Comments: 13

With the Tampa Bay Rays back in town, memories of the 2008 World Series inevitably surface. For them however, the memories are not fond ones to say the least.

In a piece titled Rays Tales: 2008 memories of PhiladelphiaTampa Bay Times reporter Marc Topkin asked players and coaches to reflect on their time in Philadelphia during the World Series.

3B Evan Longoria (.050 BA with 9 Ks and 2 RBI in series):

“The heartbreak sticks with me the most. The hardest part of it, aside from the losing, was the way we had to do it. It was a little bit easier for them because they were home, and when we had all the weather issues, there we were out of a hotel and we were moving and there was some uncertainty as far as what the plan was.

Just the weather in general was miserable. I’m sure if you ask the guys on that Philly team, although they won and that kind of smooths everything over, it was less than ideal conditions to play a baseball game in. I think just the losing and the way that we ended up losing, that just made it that much tougher to deal with.”

OF Rocco Baldelli (1-6 with 1 HR and 1 RBI in series):

“I hate doing this. This is awful. This is like tortuous thinking about this.

Anybody who talked about the city of Philadelphia at that time, nobody is exaggerating any of those thoughts and comments. Whatever the opposite of hospitable would be to you, that’s what the people of Philadelphia were to us at that time.”

It didn’t seem like the people of the city were happy that their team was in the World Series. It seemed like they were more happy and excited to take out their anger on the opposition and to degrade us”

3B coach Tom Foley:

“It stunk. Not a whole lot of good memories of Philadelphia from 2008. It was a great year, it just ended badly. And it ended there.”

 Bullpen C Scott Cursi:

“It was a very passionate crowd for the Phillies. I’m trying to be politically correct. It was a tough crowd. They were on us from batting practice until the last out was made. There was a kid by the bullpen cursing at us and there was a cop there just laughing. There were a lot of colorful metaphors from the fans.”

Pitching Coach Jim Hickey:

“My ex-wife was there and she was appalled at the behavior of their fans, especially toward ours. At one point she went to get the security guard, who was actually an on-duty police officer, and he laughed at her and didn’t help at all.”

The fans lived up to their belligerent level. They revel in that type of thing. They wear it as a badge of honor, but it really ought to be a source of embarrassment to them.”

Seven years later, it sounds like the wounds have not fully healed for the Rays. For the Phillies and their fans, thinking about the 2008 World Series brings back fond memories of achievement, jubilation, and a championship parade down Broad Street. It was the club’s first World Series appearance since 1993, and their first World Series championship since 1980. The fans celebrated, and they had good reason to.

Citizens Bank Park was loud, electric, and alive for those three games. If these comments say anything, it’s that the fans did everything they could to will their team to victory and provide a true home field advantage—making opposing fans feel like they’re in enemy territory is a part of that. It obviously worked.

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The Unlikeliest Phillies All-Stars

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, July 13, 2015 12:40 PM Comments: 6

At age 37, Ibanez's hot start had Phillies fans talking MVP while earning him a starting All-Star election from the fans.

At age 37, Ibanez’s hot start had Phillies fans talking MVP while earning him a starting All-Star election from the fans.

This year, the Phillies will send just one All-Star to Cincinnati. With a 1.60 ERA, closer Jonathan Papelbon is a deserved choice to represent the Phillies but that hasn’t been the case every year. While Mike Schmidt leads the team with 12 All-Star selections among position players and Steve Carlton leads the Phils’ pitchers with seven selections, there have been a number of Phillies All-Star selections that appear to be head-scratchers in hindsight. The criteria to make this list includes age when selected as an All-Star, the volume of below-average play prior to selection, pedigree, which includes high draft selection or high praise as an international signing (sorry Glenn Wilson and Vicente Padilla!), and any additional circumstances (hot start, manager selecting All-Star reserves, etc.)

Here is a list of some of the unlikeliest Phillies All-Stars.

Hersh Martin, 1938 NL All-Star Selection, Center Field

Martin was nearly a career-minor leaguer from Birmingham, Alabama who went to Oklahoma State, OK who caught a break as a 27-year old with the 61-92 1937 Phillies. In his rookie year, Martin hit .283 with eight homers and 11 steals. Martin finished 30th in the 1938 NL MVP race while earning an All-Star birth, hitting .298 with three homers and eight steals. Martin was a .285 hitter with 28 homers across six years in the Majors, playing from 1937 through 1945, spending time with the minor league Milwaukee Brewers from 1941 through 1943 before returning to the Majors in 1944 during World War II. Martin would, perhaps, become most notable for becoming future MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s favorite player but was an unlikely All-Star for the Phillies.

Emil Verban, 1946 and 1947 NL All-Star Selection, Second Base

You may be wondering why Verban made this list even though he was a two-time All-Star selection but his two selections were similarly unlikely. Verban received a Major League opportunity during World War II at age 28 with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the starting second base job and driving in the World Series-winning run in the 1944 Fall Classic against the St. Louis Browns. Verban was traded to the Phillies near the start of the 1946 season for Clyde Kluttz. Verban hit .275/.306/.332 with the Phillies with no homers and five steals. At age 30, Verban made his All-Star debut and returned to the All-Star game with the Phillies at age 31 in 1947 with a slightly improved line of .285/.316/.341 with no homers and five steals. Continue reading The Unlikeliest Phillies All-Stars

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Race to the Bottom: #3 1941 Phillies

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Wed, July 08, 2015 01:15 PM Comments: 2

Left fielder and baseball innovator Danny Litwhiler was one of the lone standouts on an otherwise offensively inept 1941 Phillies squad.

This is the third entry in the countdown of the five worst teams in Phillies history. For the introduction and criteria used for this series, please check out the first entry here.

Team: 1941 Phillies

Record: 43-111 (T-4th least wins in any season, T-2nd least wins in seasons with 140 games played or more)

Winning Percentage: 30.1% (3rd worst winning percentage in any season, 2nd worst winning percentage in seasons with 140 games played or more)

Run Differential: Minus 292

The 1941 Phillies line up was young, promising, and full of potential. The youth was there: with an average age of 26.25 years old in their most common starting line-up, the team started a pair of 23-year olds up the middle with Danny Murtaugh at second and Bobby Bragan at short. The promise was there: left fielder Danny Litwhiler was 24-years old and hit .305/.350/.466 with 18 homers leading the team in hits, doubles, triples, homers, and slugging. And the potential was becoming a reality: 27-year old first baseman Nick Etten would lead the team with a .311 average, a .405 OBP, and 79 RBIs.

Sadly, Lithwhiler and Etten would be the lone bright spots in a line-up that would hit just .244, finishing dead-last out of 16 Major League teams in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and any combination of therefor. Late-blooming, 30-year old third baseman Pinky May continued to play solid defense and was a solid offensive contributor the previous season but saw a 30 or so point drop across his slash line while similarly late-blooming catcher Bernie Warren hit .214 but slugged nine homers.

Continue reading Race to the Bottom: #3 1941 Phillies

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