Important off-season dates for the Phillies and Major League Baseball

Rob Manfred leads MLB into a big off-season
It has finally arrived, one of the most anticipated Major League Baseball off-season periods in years. Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have been led to believe that the team will be a major player in the free agent market during this ‘Hot Stove’ season.
As of 9:00 a.m. EDT on Monday morning the contracts expired for dozens of players. They are now free to negotiate for deals covering 2019 and beyond. Their former team has exclusive negotiating rights for the first five days. After that, it’s on to the open market.
The list of available names at this point includes Bryce HarperManny MachadoJosh DonaldsonCraig KimbrelMichael BrantleyPatrick CorbinAndrew McCutchenDallas Keuchel, and World Series MVP Steve Pearce among dozens of others.
The list of big names could increase by midnight on Halloween, as star pitchers Clayton Kershaw and David Price have until that point to decide whether or not to exercise player options on their contracts. If either or both turns down the option, they would also join the free agent ranks.
A number of players who appeared with the Phillies during the last few years are also available as free agents. That list includes Freddy GalvisWilson RamosAsdrubal CabreraClay BuchholzCharlie Morton, and Jake Diekman.
Other names available on the market and very familiar to Phillies fans from their time with the team include outfielder Hunter Pence, starting pitcher J.A. Happ, and reliever Ryan Madson. The latter two own World Series rings from the Phillies 2008 championship team.
Here is an exhaustive list of the important dates to look for as we move through the MLB off-season and into the start of the 2019 season:
OCTOBER 31: Halloween. Okay, okay. Besides candy, the majority of contract options must be exercised by teams or players for the following season. Already picked up were team options on players such as Madison Bumgarner and Carlos Carrasco. Shortstop Elvis Andrus exercised his player option. The big name here is Clayton Kershaw with the Dodgers. He has until the clock strikes midnight after the trick-or-treaters are tucked in bed to make his decision.
NOVEMBER 2: This is the deadline by which MLB teams must tender a qualifying offer (click link for detailed explanation) to eligible free agents. The one-year offer this season would be for $17.9 million. For example, the Nationals could make a qualifying offer to Harper. He could accept and play with them next year on a contract worth $17.9, or decline and become a free agent. If a qualifying offer is made, players have 10 days maximum to make their decision. However, players acquired in mid-season deals cannot have such an offer made. Therefor, the Dodgers cannot make a qualifying offer to Machado. He is automatically headed to free agency.

Phillies are expected to be major players in the bidding for free agent Harper.
NOVEMBER 3: The date on which the full and open free agency period will begin. This would, for instance, be the earliest that the Phillies could formally negotiate with Harper or Machado. It is also the earliest that free agents can sign with a new team, though you won’t see that happen in most instances since the player would need to negotiate a contract first. That would likely happen after entertaining multiple offers.
NOVEMBER 4: Rawlings and Major League Baseball will announce the winners of the 2018 Gold Glove Awards.
NOVEMBER 5: Finalists will be announced by MLB for each of the major awards, including the Most Valuable Player in each league, the Cy Young Award, the Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year. Also, the MLB Executive of the Year will be announced on this date.
NOVEMBER 6-8: GM meetings held in Carlsbad, California. Big deals don’t usually happen here, but the groundwork is often laid for those consummated later, including at the later Winter Meetings.

NOVEMBER 7: Winners of the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year announced.
NOVEMBER 8Silver Slugger Award winners announced.
NOVEMBER 8-15: MLB Japan All-Star Series tour with games against stars from NPB.
NOVEMBER 11: The IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America) begins announcement of their annual MLB award winners with the AL & NL Top Relief Pitcher honors. The IBWAA will announce their further award winners over the next few days on the same schedule as the BBWAA.
NOVEMBER 12: The BBWAA official NL and AL Rookie of the Year Awards announced.
NOVEMBER 12: Deadline for free agents to accept or reject any qualifying offers that may have been extended. Those who accept will play for their 2018 ball club again next season at a $17.9 million salary. Players who reject the offer will have draft pick compensation attached to any new team signing them as a free agent.
NOVEMBER 13: The NL and AL Manager of the Year Awards announced.

Principal owner John Middleton will take part in the owner’s meetings. He will have some big financial decisions to make this off-season.
NOVEMBER 14: The NL and AL Cy Young Awards announced.
NOVEMBER 14-15: MLB owner’s meetings held in Atlanta, GA. Usually just off-field matters discussed here.
NOVEMBER 15: The NL and AL Most Valuable Players announced.
NOVEMBER 19: The NL and AL Comeback Players of the Yearannounced.
NOVEMBER 20: The AL Designated Hitter of the Year Award announced. Also, my birthday, a far more important event.
NOVEMBER 20: Deadline for MLB teams to add eligible minor league players to their 40-man roster in order to protect those prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.
NOVEMBER 26-29: Meeting of the MLBPA in Dallas, TX. The player’s union key figures are already gearing up for the expiration of the current CBA, which still has three years to run.
NOVEMBER 30: The non-tender deadline. This is the deadline for teams to offer contracts to arbitration and pre-arbitration eligible players.
DECEMBER 9: The Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Today’s Game” committee (1988-present) gets their turn this year. This is the date on which they will announce whether or not they have selected anyone from that period for enshrinement. Leading contenders being considered include Mark McGwireWill ClarkDavid Cone, and Bret Saberhagen.
DECEMBER 9-132018 Winter Meetings will take place at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
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The Flyin’ Hawaiian was a big pickup for the Phillies in the December 2004 MLB Rule 5 Draft.
DECEMBER 13Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies have cashed in big at previous Rule 5 Drafts with players including Grover Cleveland Pete AlexanderShane VictorinoPinky WhitneyClay Dalrymple, and Odubel Herrera.
JANUARY 8-13, 2019Phillies Vacation to Paradise trip to the Bahamas. Six days at the Royal Bahamian Resort & Spa with Greg LuzinskiRhys HoskinsScott Kingery, the Phanatic, and more.
JANUARY 11: Contract salary figures must be exchanged by this date between teams and those players eligible for arbitration. Despite the exchange of arbitration figures, the teams and players are still free to continue negotiating to try and reach an agreement up until the actual arbitration hearing. Those will take place at individual dates set by the arbitrators.
MID-JANUARY 2019: Results of the voting by the BBWAA for the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2019 will be announced. Leading contenders for enshrinement include Mariano RiveraEdgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina. Among the interesting candidates who should receive wide support are Barry BondsRoger Clemens, and the late former Phillies star pitcher Roy Halladay.
FEBRUARY 1-20, 2019: Salary arbitration hearings will take place during this period.
FEBRUARY 13, 2019: Spring training camps open for most teams with pitchers and catchers due to report.
FEBRUARY 21, 2019: Play begins in the Cactus League in Arizona.
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Before you know it the Phillies and their fans will return to Clearwater, Florida for spring training 2019.
FEBRUARY 22, 2019: Play begins in the Grapefruit League in Florida. The Phillies will open play that afternoon by visiting the Tampa Bay Rays at the Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida.
FEBRUARY 23, 2019: Phillies first home spring training game at 1:05PM EST hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.
MARCH 20-21, 2019MLB Opening Series in Tokyo, Japan between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners.
MARCH 23, 2019: Ninth annual Phillies Charities 5K.
MARCH 25, 2019: Phillies close spring training by hosting the Tampa Bay Rays at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.
MARCH 28, 2019: Opening Day for the Phillies and all other teams across Major League Baseball. The Phillies will open up by hosting the defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
Keep following us here at Phillies Nation all during the fall and winter months. We’ll be covering and giving our take on all of the top news regarding the ball club, especially any free agent signings. You’ll also get to enjoy a number of Phillies history pieces over the off-season, including my own “Philography” series of Phillies biographies.

MLB Japan Series roster will include two members of the Philadelphia Phillies

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Hoskins will likely play the outfield and first base in Japan

The roster for the team representing Major League Baseball in the 2018 Japan All-Star Series against stars from Nippon Professional Baseball was announced today.

Two Phillies players, Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana, were named as members of the MLB squad. They will take part in a series of seven games to be played between the MLB and NPB stars from November 8-15 at various ball parks across Japan.
Santana was named as an infielder, with Hoskins listed as an outfielder. Other infielders named to the MLB roster were Whit MerrifieldChris TaylorEugenio Suarez, and Amed Rosario. With none of those as natural first basemen, you could see both Santana and Hoskins man the position in a platoon.
Others listed as outfielders on the roster were Mitch HanigerKevin PillarEnrique Hernandez, and a pair of exciting young players from Phillies division rivals, Ronald Acuna of the Braves and Juan Soto of the Nationals. The catchers for the MLB squad will be Yadier MolinaRobinson Chirinos, and J.T. Realmuto.
The MLB pitching staff will feature two members of the World Series-champion Boston Red Sox, left-hander Brian Johnson and righty Hector Velazquez.
The only southpaws on the MLB staff will be Daniel Norris and Vidal Nuno.
Also on the MLB staff will be right-hander Kenta Maeda of the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Maeda hails from Senboku-gun, Japan, which is in the northern part of the main island, about 350 miles north of Tokyo.
MLB will be sending an experienced coaching staff under manager Don Mattingly. The staff will include former playing greats Edgar Martinez and Hideki Matsui, the latter of whom was the 2009 World Series MVP in the New York Yankees six-game victory over the Phillies.
This will be the 37th time that MLB stars have toured Japan dating back to 1908. MLB Network will provide live coverage of most of the games and many events. The games will take place in the Tokyo Dome, at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium in Hiroshima, and at the Nagoya Dome in Nagoya.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Two Phillies named to MLB Japan All-Star Series roster

Phillies favored by Vegas odds-makers to land free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock

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Pollock joins dozens of players as MLB free agents

This morning at 9:00am Eastern Daylight Time, dozens of Major League Baseball players officially became free agents. Those players are now free to negotiate and sign with any team they like.

In the coming days their ranks will swell as a few more players and teams decide whether or not to exercise contract options for 2019 and beyond. The biggest name making such a decision is Los Angeles Dodgers lefty ace Clayton Kershaw, who has until the clock strikes midnight on Halloween night to make his decision.
Much of the speculation regarding the Philadelphia Phillies has centered around two players, shortstop Manny Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper. The Phillies have been widely regarded for months, if not years now, to be among the leading contenders to land one or both of those in-their-prime superstars.
However, the odds that the Phillies will actually land both players would be long. Each is expected to command a massive contract. And judging by social media response, Machado has seriously damaged his reputation among Phillies fans with his comments and antics during this postseason.
If the Phillies decide that Machado is indeed not for them, they could turn their attention to upgrading the starting pitching rotation. I wrote previously here at Phillies Nation about 29-year-old left-hander Patrick Corbin, who seems like a perfect fit for their needs.
What happens if the Phillies are out on Machado, and then lose out in the bidding on Harper? Does that mean there is no way to upgrade the lineup for the 2019 season and beyond? Not necessarily.
Bovada released its odds this morning of certain big-name MLB free agents signing with a particular organization. The Phillies were indeed listed as the favorites to sign both Harper and Machado.
That doesn’t mean the odds-makers in Vegas feel that the Phillies are favorites to sign both players. It just means that, individually, the Phillies are favorites. If John Middleton and Matt Klentak were to actually get either player’s signature on a contract, the odds against the Phillies then signing the other free agent would likely rise substantially.
Bovada also listed the Phillies in regard to a few others. They are listed at the third-best odds to land closer Craig Kimbrel, tied for the fourth-best odds to land starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel, and tied for second on the odds to land third baseman Josh Donaldson. While they list odds on six teams for Corbin, the Phillies are not one of those.
Interestingly, Bovada has listed the Phillies as the co-favorites to land outfielder A.J. Pollock as well. Should the Phillies fail in their efforts to land Harper, the soon-to-be 31-year old Pollock could be a backup plan.


Pollock is a right-handed hitter and fielder who has spent the vast majority of his seven-year big-league career as a center fielder. He has played the entirety of that career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who made him their first round choice at 17th overall out of Notre Dame back in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft.
Harper reached Arizona in 2012, and collected his first big-league hit against the Phillies on April 23 of that season. With a career slash line of .281/.338/.467 and with 74 homers and 103 stolen bases across 2,507 plate appearances, Pollock is certainly not comparable to Harper.
He has also proven to be an injury risk, with his 2015 National League All-Star season as his lone full campaign in MLB. This past season, Pollock again missed a long stretch from mid-May through the entirety of the month of June. When healthy he produced 21 homers, 21 doubles, and 65 RBI with 61 runs scored in 113 games.
An outstanding defender, Pollock won an NL Gold Glove Award for his play in center field during that 2015 All-Star campaign. He committed just one error in each of the last two seasons.
His ‘Total Zone‘ mark fell into the negatives this season for the first time since 2014. This may be a sign that as he enters his 30’s and considering all of his various injuries, Pollock isn’t going to cover the same ground that he did in his youth.
Any signing of Pollock would have to be considered a major disappointment for Phillies fans. He is a nice player, a gamer, the kind that would go over well at Citizens Bank Park. But his signing would likely mean that the club failed on Harper and was just settling.
It’s past time that the Phillies can be settling for second-best when it comes to battling for a legitimate superstar. Middleton needs to do what it takes to woo Harper and leave the Pollock’s of the world for the runners-up on Bovada’s board.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Outfielder A.J. Pollock another possible Phillies free agent target

A look at the 10 dramatic Philadelphia Phillies postseason extra-innings games

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Maddox was in the middle of the action during  the decisive1980 NLCS Game Five

The Los Angeles Dodgers season was on the brink as Game 3 of the 2018 World Series staggered into the bottom of the 18th inning at Dodgers Stadium. The Boston Red Sox had a 2-0 lead and would take a nearly insurmountable 3-0 stranglehold on the series with a victory.

The Dodgers were rescued when Max Muncy lofted a lead-off, walk-off, opposite-field home run to give Los Angeles a 3-2 win, pulling them back from the precipice and cutting Boston’s lead in the Fall Classic to a 2-1 margin.
In the 136-year history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise the club has reached postseason play on 13 occasions. They have been involved in 103 games across 22 different series during those playoff appearances.
Just ten of those games reached extra-innings. The Phillies have an even 5-5 split result. While none lasted nearly as long as last night’s marathon, each held its own drama and importance, and revealed its own heroes and scapegoats.
Let’s take a quick look back at each of those five Philadelphia Phillies extra-inning postseason victories and defeats.

1950 WORLD SERIES – GAME TWO

The Phillies were swept by the powerful New York Yankees in four straight games in this Fall Classic. But the young ‘Whiz Kids’ didn’t go down without a fight. They battled the Bronx Bombers evenly during the first three games, losing each by a single run.
After the Yankees had taken the opener by a 1-0 score, Game 2 of the 1950 World Series would again be held at what was still in those days known as Shibe Park. The Yanks went up early when Gene Woodling‘s ground single off Robin Roberts scored Jerry Coleman in the top of the second inning.
Mike Goliat left off the home 5th with a single off Yankees pitcher Allie Reynolds. He rolled around to third base on a one-out base hit by Eddie Waitkus, and then raced home with the tying run on a sac fly to left from Richie Ashburn.
Roberts and Reynolds would battle into the 10th inning, both pitchers going the distance in what is a complete antithesis to today’s game. In the top of the 10th, Joe DiMaggio crushed a lead-off home run out deep to left field for what would prove to be the game-winner.

1978 NLCS – GAME FOUR

The Phillies had tied the franchise record by winning 101 regular season games for a second straight season. And for a second straight year they would meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
The Dodgers had taken the series the previous year by breaking the hearts of Phillies fans on what has become known as ‘Black Friday’ in team lore. Now a year later, LA appeared on the verge of doing it again, taking the first two games.
The Phillies fought back to win Game 3 on the road. And now Game 4 of the 1978 NLCS went to extra-innings with the Phillies looking to tie it up, and the Dodgers looking to advance to a second-straight World Series.
Trailing 3-2 with two outs in the top of the 7th, Bake McBride had blasted a home run off Rick Rhoden to tie it up and force extras. In the bottom of the 10th, Tug McGraw retired the first to Dodger batters, but then walked Ron Cey.
The next batter, Dusty Baker, reached on an extremely rare error by Phillies center fielder Garry Maddox. Dodgers light-hitting shortstop Bill Russell then looped a first-pitch single cleanly to center, with Cey racing around to score the series-winning run.

1980 NLCS – GAMES TWO thru FIVE

For my money, the 1980 National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros remains the greatest NLCS in baseball history. After the Phillies won the opener 3-1, each of the final four games went to extra-innings.
In Game 2 of the 1980 NLCS at Veteran’s Stadium, Maddox’ single scored Lonnie Smith in the bottom of the 8th inning to send it to extras. The Phillies then had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the 9th, but the Astros Frank LaCorte wriggled out of the jam. Houston then scored four times in the top of the 10th and evened the series with a 7-4 victory.
In Game 3 of the 1980 NLCS at the Astrodome in Houston, Larry Christenson of the Phillies and Joe Niekro of the Astros dueled through shutout starts. In fact, Niekro lasted 10 innings. Joe Morgan led off the bottom of the 11th with a triple off McGraw.
After Phillies skipper Dallas Green ordered two intentional walks to load the bases, Denny Walling lifted a sac fly to score the game’s only run. The walkoff victory gave the host Astros a 2-1 lead and put them within one game of the first World Series appearance in franchise history. This remains the longest postseason game by innings in Phillies history.
Game 4 of the 1980 NLCS saw the Phillies trailing 2-0 with their season on the brink into the top of the 8th inning. But Verne Ruhle surrendered four straight singles to start the frame, and then a Manny Trillo double scored Pete Rose with the go-ahead run.
Houston battled back to tie it in the home 9th inning. Then in the top of the 10th, back-to-back two-out RBI doubles from Greg Luzinski and Trillo gave the Phillies a 5-3 win, tying the series at two games apiece and setting up the dramatic finale.
Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS is perhaps the most dramatic postseason game in Phillies history. It easily includes their greatest playoff comeback. For a second straight game, the Phillies season appeared to be ending as the game entered the top of the 8th inning, but this time it looked even more bleak.
Entering that top of the 8th, the Astros lead 5-2. Not only that, they had future Hall of Fame ace Nolan Ryan on the mound. But the Phillies somehow scratched out a pair of runs without hitting a ball out of the infield. Then huge hit from Del Unser tied it, and Trillo ripped a triple to left to put the Phillies incredibly ahead by 7-5.
This dramatic game and series were both far from over. Houston rallied back to score twice in the bottom of the 8th off McGraw to again tie it up, and the teams rolled into extra innings for a fourth straight game.
In the top of the 10th, Unser doubled with one out. Then with two outs, Maddox dropped an RBI hit to center field. Usually a starting pitcher, Dick Ruthven retired Houston in order for a second straight inning to finish it off and send the Phillies on to the World Series.

1980 WORLD SERIES – GAME THREE

The Phillies followed up that dramatic series with Houston by rallying for a pair of victories at The Vet in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. As the Fall Classic moved out to Royals Stadium for the first time ever, George Brett and the home squad were desperate for a victory.
Trailing 3-2 into the top of the 8th in Game 3 of the 1980 World Series, the Phillies once again showed their late-inning comeback resilience when Rose laced a two-out single to score Larry Bowa with the tying run.
The teams moved to the bottom of the 10th, and McGraw allowed the first two runners to reach base. He then battled back to retire the next two hitters, but following a steal and intentional walk, Willie Aikens base hit scored Willie Wilson with the walkoff game-winner.
The Royals would tie the series the next day, but the Phillies would ultimately capture their first-ever World Series crown in six games.

1981 NLDS – GAME FOUR

During a time when there was no such thing as a ‘Division Series’, a lengthy mid-season player’s strike resulted in Major League Baseball deciding to work under a split-season format with two half-seasons separated by the strike date.
The Phillies had the best record in the NL East at that point and were declared first-half division champs. The Montreal Expos took the second-half, and so the two teams would meet in a National League Division Series. The Dodgers and Astros were meeting in another such series, with the two winners slated for the NLCS.
The Expos shut the Phillies down in the first two games at Montreal, taking both by 3-1 scores. The Phillies offense finally awoke for a big 6-2 win in Game 3 back at Veteran’s Stadium. The Phillies needed to win to tie it up, while the Expos were looking to advance into the NLCS against the Dodgers.
The Phillies rushed to an early 4-0 lead in Game 4 of the 1981 NLDS, but Montreal scored in each inning from the 4th through the 7th, and the two teams battled into extra-innings tied at 5-5.
In the bottom of the 10th, Green sent young George Vukovich up to lead-off as a pinch-hitter for McGraw. Vukovich wasted no time becoming a postseason hero, ripping a walk-off homer over the right field wall. The Phillies had tied the series at 2-2, but Montreal would win it the following day when Steve Rogers out-dueled Steve Carlton.

1993 NLCS – GAMES ONE & FIVE

The 1993 ‘Macho Row’ squad went worst-to-first to win the NL East crown in an almost wire-to-wire performance that remains the single most fun Phillies season that I have witnessed in my 48 years following the team.
Waiting for them in the NLCS were the Atlanta Braves, who were then in the NL West Division. Atlanta had won 104 games that year and were seen by most as one of baseball’s up-and-coming teams. Despite winning their division, the Phillies were seen by many as a flaky fluke.
The Phillies sent a message in Game 1 of the 1993 NLCS at Veteran’s Stadium that they were no pushovers. After the Braves tied it by scoring an unearned run off Mitch Williams in the top of the 9th, the Phillies walked off to victory in the bottom of the 10th of the opener.
With one out in that 10th, John Kruk drilled a line drive double to right field off Greg McMichael. Next up was Kim Batiste, who had entered the game as a late defensive replacement for Dave Hollins at third base. Batiste ripped a two-strike, walk-off hit down the left field line to score Kruk with the game winner.
In Game 5 of the 1993 NLCS with the two teams tied at 2-2 in the series, the pivotal game entered extra-innings with someone looking to take the series lead.
With one out in the top of the 10th, Lenny Dykstra stepped in against Braves fireballer Mark Wohlers. On a 3-2 pitch, ‘The Dude’ blasted a go-ahead solo home run to put the Phillies on top. Larry Andersen came on to set Atlanta down in the bottom, and the Phillies had a 3-2 series lead headed back to The Vet. They would win the NL Pennant in the next game.
That blast from Dykstra highlighted what would prove to be the last Phillies extra-innings postseason game to this point. Despite reaching the playoffs in ever year from 2007 through 2011 and playing in more games during that stretch than all previous playoffs combined, the Phillies would not need extra frames again.
Losing the first four times, the Phillies have battled back to even their all-time franchise record at 5-5 in extra-innings playoff contests. When will we see the club back in the postseason? Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before we see bonus Phillies playoff baseball for the first time at Citizens Bank Park.

Remembering Eric Bruntlett, unsung hero of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies

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Bruntlett dashes home as the winning run in Game 3 of the 1980 World Series

It seems somewhat hard to believe, but it has been a full decade now since the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in five games to capture the 2008 World Series championship.

There were many popular, homegrown heroes on that Phillies ball club. The names and faces jump immediately to mind for every fan who was around to enjoy that incredible team: Jimmy RollinsRyan HowardChase UtleyCole HamelsBrett MyersRyan MadsonCarlos Ruiz.
But even with all of those great players, the Phillies don’t win the World Series that year without the contributions of those brought in from the outside. Many of those acquired from other organizations became extremely popular and are easily recalled by fans as well: Jamie MoyerJayson WerthShane Victorino, and Brad Lidge would quickly come to mind.
But there were lesser contributors, players who didn’t get on the field or up to bat as often but who played a pivotal role in much of the drama that unfolded during that season and in that Fall Classic. One such contributor was utility player Eric Bruntlett.

Born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, Bruntlett played shortstop at Stanford University. He was chosen in the ninth round of the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft by the Houston Astros as the 277th player taken overall that year.
He rose quickly through Houston’s minor league system, reaching Triple-A by the following summer. In late June of 2003, Bruntlett was called up for the first time and would spend most of the season with the Astros from that point as a pinch-hitter and infield backup.
That would prove to be Bruntlett’s primary big-league role over the entirety of what became a five-year stint with Houston. In each of his first four seasons, the Astros finished in second place in the National League Central Division.
He was part of the close-but-no-cigar Houston teams that tried to win the first world championship in Astros franchise history during that run. The team lost a heart-breaking NLCS in seven games to the Saint Louis Cardinals in 2004, and then were swept by the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series.
On November 7, 2007 newly hired Astros GM Ed Wade, the former Phillies general manager, packaged Bruntlett with Lidge in a trade, sending both to the Phillies. In exchange, Houston received relief pitcher Geoff Geary and a pair of prospects, infielder Mike Costanzo and outfielder Michael Bourn.
It would prove to be a coup for Pat Gillick, who had been hired as the Phillies GM to succeed Wade almost exactly two years to the day earlier. In fact, it would end up as one of the most important deals in Phillies history.
Lidge would go a perfect 41-for-41 in Save situations for the 2008 Phillies, then register another seven without blowing one during the magical postseason run. He would strike out Eric Hinske of Tampa Bay to clinch the World Series, dropping famously to his knees before being engulfed by his teammates.
The contributions of Bruntlett were perhaps not as memorable but remained vital all the same.
During the regular season in 2008, Bruntlett joined infielder Greg Dobbs and outfielder Geoff Jenkins as manager Charlie Manuel‘s most frequently utilized and important bench pieces. His numbers were nothing to write home about, slashing just .217/.297/.297 with a dozen extra-base hits across 238 plate appearances.
However, Bruntlett held down the shortstop position for much of the early portion of the schedule as Rollins recovered from injury. Given a chance to play some in the outfield as the summer wore on, he became so trusted by Manuel that the skipper used Bruntlett as his primary choice to close out games in left field as a defensive sub for Burrell over the final month.
That role as defensive sub in left field would continue throughout the 2008 playoffs. Bruntlett did provide a base hit during Game 1 of the NLDS, a 3-1 Phillies victory over Milwaukee. He then went 0-1 in each of the last two games of the NLCS victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was ten years ago today that Bruntlett provided the first of his two most important direct conributions to that title run. In Game 3 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies and Rays had split the first two games. This game would decide which team took the lead in the series.
The Phillies took a 4-1 lead into the late innings. But the usually reliable ‘Bridge to Lidge’ bullpen blew it, surrendering three runs over the 7th and 8th innings. The Phillies and Rays thus battled into the bottom of the 9th inning tied at 4-4 in this pivotal contest.

Bruntlett had, typically by that point, replaced Burrell in left field for the top of the 7th inning. He would now get his first appearance at the plate to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning.

Working the count to 2-1 against Rays reliever J.P. Howell, Bruntlett was hit by a pitch. Taking his place at first base, he was the winning run if the Phillies could get him around.
Rays manager Joe Maddon made another pitching change, bringing on Aussie native Grant Balfour to face Victorino. On his second pitch, Balfour uncorked a wild one. Bruntlett took off immediately, and as the ball got behind Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, he bolted all the way around to third base.
As the Citizens Bank Park crowd roared, Bruntlett now stood just 90 feet away as the winning run at third base with nobody out. Resorting to his last-gasp strategy in such situations, Maddon had Balfour intentionally walk both ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian’ and Werth to load the bases.
Bases loaded with Phillies. Nobody out. Rays players and fans praying for a ground ball that their club could turn into a force-out at home plate, maybe even then into a double play. Phillies fans hoping for a base hit, a deep fly ball, anything to get that winning run home.
Up to the plate stepped the hugely popular Ruiz. As the crowd roared, waving white rally towels in the air above their heads in unison, ‘Chooch’ battled the count to 2-2 against Balfour.
What happened next seemed in the first instant to be exactly what Tampa Bay wanted. Ruiz topped a slow-roller towards third base. If a Rays fielder got it and threw home, they could force out the runner, and maybe even have time to throw the slow-footed Ruiz out at first base for that double play.
However, the ball bounced much more slowly than anyone at first realized it would. Third baseman Evan Longoria charged towards it, bare-handing the ball and firing it home. Bruntlett had taken off as soon as the ball left the bat and was racing towards home.
As Longoria’s hurried throw blew high past Navarro, Bruntlett slid in safely with the winning run. The Phillies had the 5-4 victory and the lead in the World Series. Teammates mobbed both he and Ruiz, and the Phillies were on their way to the first championship for the franchise in nearly three decades.

It wouldn’t be Bruntlett’s last big moment in that Fall Classic. In fact, in the clinching Game 5, it would be Bruntlett who would score the World Series-winning run.
Burrell led off the bottom of the 7th inning of that game with a booming double high off the center field wall in what would prove to be his final appearance in a Phillies uniform. Manuel then sent Bruntlett in to run for Burrell.
The pinch-runner moved up to third base on a ground out, then scored when Pedro Feliz delivered a line-drive base hit up the middle. That run gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead, and Bruntlett was in left field as Lidge closed things out two innings later.

Bruntlett returned to the Phillies for the 2009 season, which would prove to be his swan song in Major League Baseball. He tried to catch on with the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees, playing with the Triple-A affiliates for both clubs during the 2010 season, but was unable to get back to the bigs. After that season he decided to hang up his cleats and become a stay-at-home dad.
Before leaving Philadelphia and Major League Baseball, Bruntlett would have one more memorable moment in the sun. In August 2009 he became just the second player in MLB history to record a game-ending unassisted triple play.
Trailing by 9-7 but with runners at first and second and nobody out at Citi Field the host New York Mets were trying to tie and possibly even rally for a comeback victory over the Phillies.
As the Mets tried a hit-and-run, Bruntlett snared a line drive off the bat of future popular Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur for the first out. He then stepped on second base to force out Luis Castillo, and in the same moment tagged out Daniel Murphy running from first.
Bruntlett returned to South Philly this summer, taking part in the festivities as the Phillies honored the 2008 World Series champions on the 10th anniversary of their glorious achievement.
This was just the first of these types of reunions sure to take place in the coming years and decades, so fans of the team should have many more opportunities to thank him and his teammates for those great memories.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “2008 Phillies Flashback: Eric Bruntlett, unsung hero