Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

Kris Bryant to the Phillies: Would he really be worth the cost?

Buzz regarding the possibility of a trade that would send third baseman Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs to the Philadelphia Phillies has once again re-surfaced in recent days.

Some of that is simple wild speculation, fueled in part by the pending three-team trade involving the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Minnesota Twins. That deal would send superstar outfielder Mookie Betts and veteran southpaw David Price to Los Angeles.

One thing that a big trade in Major League Baseball frequently does is spur immediate talk of the next big player that might be dealt. So, that is certainly a part of the equation here.

But another part of the equation is the building reality that, despite oddsmakers seeing the Phillies as a leading contender entering 2020 spring training, many baseball talent evaluators still place the club no better than third-best in the National League East Division.

It has also become common knowledge around the game that Chicago is shopping Bryant, who can become a free agent following the 2021 season.

Bryant could become a pivotal player in that NL East race should the Cubs really decide to actively shop him. All three of the Phillies top division rivals, the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and New York Mets, could use an impactful starting third baseman.

Players are scheduled to report for spring training beginning next week. The Phillies enter their preparations for the coming season with Scott Kingery slotted in as the starting third baseman, keeping that position warm for top prospect Alec Bohm.

In a recent evaluation of the position among the NL East clubs, I generously slotted Kingery in at third in my ranking of those players currently slotted in as hot corner starters. Adding Bryant would give the Phillies the top player at the position in the division.

The scheduled starters for the defending World Series champion Nationals and two-time defending NL East champion Braves are among the biggest question marks for those teams at this point. Adding Bryant would push either club, already arguably better overall, further ahead of the Phillies.

So, when considering a deal with the Cubs that would bring Bryant to Philly, there are three questions that need answering. I’ll take a stab at asking and answering each.

What would Kris Bryant add to the Phillies?

Bryant was the first round pick of the Cubs in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of San Diego as the second player taken overall.

He reached the big-leagues in 2015 at age 23 and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award for a season in which he slammed 26 homers, 62 extra-base hits, and drove in 99 runs.

The following season, Bryant became the National League Most Valuable Player. He slashed .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs, 77 extra-base hits, 102 RBIs, and 121 runs scored. Bryant capped his season by fielding a grounder and firing to first baseman Anthony Rizzo for the final out as the Cubs won the franchise’ first World Series title in nearly a century.

Bryant is a three-time NL All-Star. Over five seasons in Major League Baseball he has produced 138 homers and has a career .284/.385/.516 slash line. He has also shown some versatility defensively in handling work at both corner outfield spots, as well as playing in a few games at first base with Chicago over the last couple of seasons.

The Phillies would not be adding Bryant to play left field or first base, at least not on a regular basis. Not at this stage of his career. He would be their third baseman for years to come. While Bryant will likely never contend for a Gold Glove, neither would he hurt the club at third base.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Bryant is a long-time good friend of Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper, also a Vegas native. The two are virtually the same age, with Bryant having just turned 28 last month. They have known one another since they were children, and played both with and against one another while growing up.

Bryant would add another All-Star caliber ballplayer to the Phillies starting lineup. He and his family would bring true friends for franchise cornerstone Harper and his family to socialize with. And he would add another marquee name to help attract even more Phillies fans out to Citizens Bank Park.

What would it cost to bring Kris Bryant to the Phillies?

This is a big question for a few reasons. One of the biggest is that element of competing against both the Braves and Nationals for his services. Atlanta in particular would seem to have the prospect assets to at least match any Phillies offer.

Each of those clubs arguably has as much of a need at the position as the Phillies, if not more so. Each of those clubs is a legitimate contender already. Bryant would push either of those teams closer to making a long October run. Motivation for both to be involved in talks with the Cubs would appear to be there.

What this does is raise the price for the Phillies if they seriously want their package to win out in a bidding war for Bryant with Atlanta and Washington.

A package for Bryant would absolutely start with top hitting prospect Bohm, who could then become the third baseman of the near future in Chicago. But Bohm alone would not be enough.

The Phillies would have to send at least two more players in such a deal. One of those would need to be a pitcher with some upside. Another would have to be some other prospect with upside.

Would the Phillies ultimately have to decide on whether to part with both Bohm and top pitching prospect Spencer Howard in such a deal? Normally I would say no. That is especially the case when considering what the Dodgers had to part with to get the Betts deal done.

Los Angeles is reported to be sending 23-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo to Boston and veteran pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota in order to get the deal done.

There was rumored to be some element of competition for Betts in this deal as well. The Dodgers up-and-coming division rivals in San Diego were also said to be interested in Betts, and the Padres have a strong minor league system from which to offer a prospect package.

What is not known is exactly how high a price the Padres were ultimately willing to pay. Also, the Dodgers are reportedly giving Boston some salary relief in the deal, taking on half of the $96 million still owed to Price over the next three seasons. So it’s a different kind of deal.

If the Phillies aren’t willing to put Howard into such a deal, and the likelihood is that they would not, then could they still offer enough to beat out the Braves or Nationals potential offers?

The Phillies could put together a package of Bohm, Kingery, and either of two other pitching prospects, Francisco Morales or Adonis Medina. Morales has a higher ceiling at this point. But by including Kingery, they might be able to get the Cubs to go for Medina instead. Chicago might prefer young infield prospect Luis Garcia, which might alleviate putting Kingery into the deal.

Is Bryant worth the price it would cost?

The Phillies would be getting a player with five years of big-league experience. A three-time All-Star, including last season during which he slammed 31 homers, slashed .282/.382/.521, and scored 108 runs. A former NL MVP who has already won a World Series championship.

While Bryant would only have two seasons of contractual control left it isn’t difficult to see him agreeing to a long-term deal. That would keep he and Harper together as the Phillies 1-2 lineup punch for at least the next seven or eight years.

There is an old baseball axiom that says prospects are prospects. While evaluators can gauge their potential, there is no way to know how a kid with no big-league experience is going to perform against the best players in the world under the glare of the largest spotlight on the biggest stage.

I believe that the Phillies need something even more than another strong offensive weapon. It has been and remains my assertion that the Phillies need another proven, talented, winning veteran starting pitcher for their rotation more than anything else. But that is a difficult piece to acquire, and should not keep general manager Matt Klentak from making his team better right now.

Bryant has proven himself to be one of the top offensive performers in baseball. He is in his prime. He is a lifelong friend of the Phillies resident superstar. He would help close the gap even further between the Phillies and the top teams in the National League. This is a deal they should find a way to get done.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

 

Philography: Tony Taylor

My Philography series of mini-bios highlighting the careers of the most interesting and important individuals throughout Philadelphia Phillies history continues with this 23rd entry.

Links to the previous 22 entries, which include such notables as Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Richie AshburnDick AllenJim BunningLarry BowaDarren Daulton and many more can be found below.

In 2002, Tony Taylor became the 24th person overall and the first-ever Hispanic player to be honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He has since been joined by Juan Samuel (2008) and Bobby Abreu (2019) as Hispanic players honored among the franchise immortals.

Sports columnist Milton Richman, who became the sports editor at UPI and was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame with the Taylor Spink Award in 1981, said of Taylor back in 1975: “Tony Taylor has a special way with people. It doesn’t matter who they are, other ballplayers, fans, or the press. He’s to the Phillies what Ernie Banks was to the Cubs.

That “special way” – his friendliness, positive personality, and willingness to share a knowledge of and passion for the game that he loves – is what has always endeared Taylor to Phillies fans, especially those who got to enjoy his years as a player with the team during two stints and a long-time association with the club as a coach and goodwill ambassador.

Taylor played for 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, 15 of those in a Phillies uniform from 1960-71 and then from 1974-76. Though his career ended more than four decades ago, Taylor is still 12th on the Phillies all-time hits, 16th in steals, and 17th in runs scored on the franchise leader boards. Only four men – Schmidt, Ashburn, Bowa, and Jimmy Rollins – have played more games in a Phillies uniform.

Born Antonio Nemesio Taylor Sánchez on December 19, 1935 in Central Alava in the Matanzas province on the island of Cuba, Taylor was raised there and began playing baseball as a young boy. He would eventually get to enjoy the game alongside his younger brother, Jorge.

Central Alava was “a quiet place,” Taylor said in 1970 per a more detailed bio piece on him by Rory Costello and Jose Ramirez for SABR. “Nothing to do but play ball or swim in the river. As a boy I went to school and worked in my cousin’s butcher shop. I liked chemistry. If I didn’t go into baseball, I would have become a chemist for a sugar company.

During the mid-late 1950’s, Taylor turned professional. He was officially a member of the San Francisco Giants beginning in 1954, and played the next few years in both the Cuban professional league and in the U.S. minor leagues, building a reputation as a slick-fielding shortstop.

After playing with Dallas in the Texas League during the 1957 season, the Chicago Cubs selected Taylor from the Giants in the December Rule 5 minor league draft. He was then immediately installed as the Cub’s starting second baseman and leadoff hitter at just age 22.

Taylor’s glove proved far more advanced than his bat during his rookie 1958 season in the Windy City. But that glove was good enough to keep him in the starting lineup. The following year, Taylor’s offensive production took a step forward. His average jumped 55 points to the .280 mark and his slugging percentage rose nearly 80 points, with Taylor nearly doubling his number of extra-base hits.

He opened the 1960 season still as the starter at second base with the Cubs, but that wouldn’t last long. On May 13, 1960, Taylor was dealt to the Phillies along with catcher Cal Neeman, with the Phils sending their starting first baseman, Ed Bouchee and young starting pitcher Don Cardwell to Chicago.

Taylor quickly became a fan favorite at Connie Mack Stadium. He hit .310 over his first 56 games as new manager Gene Mauch‘s starting second baseman with 16 extra-base hits , 17 RBIs, 31 runs scored, and a dozen stolen bases. That performance earned Taylor his lone career National League All-Star nod.

The young Phillies won just 59 games in that 1960 season, finishing in last place in the National League. But over the next few seasons they slowly built a contender under Mauch.

A core group of players that included outfielders Johnny Callison, Tony Gonzalez, and Wes Covington, catcher Clay Dalrymple, shortstop Bobby Wine, and pitchers Chris Short and Art Mahaffey all grew up together during the early 1960’s with the Phillies.

In 1962 the club finished 81-80, their first winning season in nearly a decade. The following year they upped it to 87 wins and a fourth-place finish. Then two big moves set the Phillies up to become legitimate contenders.

A big trade with Detroit in December 1963 brought in the veteran ace starting pitcher that the team needed in right-hander Jim Bunning. And a 22-year-old Dick Allen was handed the starting third base job as a rookie.

The addition of that big arm and bat to the maturing, talented, tight-knit core proved to be an exciting and winning mix and they led the National League for much of that summer. On Father’s Day, Bunning tossed the first Perfect Game in Phillies history as the Phillies downed the Mets by 6-0. An incredible play at second base by Taylor with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning helped make that historic gem at Shea Stadium possible.

Holding a 6 1/2 game lead with just a dozen left on the schedule, the Phillies organization printed up tickets for their first World Series appearance since 1950.

As even Phillies fans who weren’t around to experience the disaster are well aware, that Fall Classic appearance wasn’t meant to be. The team suffered through an infamous collapse, losing 10 straight games and 13 of 15. Though they won their final two games, the 1964 Phillies would finish a tantalizing one game out, in second place.

That group would never win a pennant, but they were a winning ball club. The Phillies enjoyed a winning record for six consecutive seasons from 1962 through 1967. Taylor was a starter during that entire period. As the 1960’s came to a close, that winning core began to age and was traded away, the club’s performance deteriorated on the field, and Taylor slid over to third base. In 1969 the Phillies would win just 69 games.

During spring training in 1970, the SABR bio describes what Taylor called “the biggest moment in my whole life.” His mother and sister, and his sister’s husband and children, arrived in Miami from Cuba. Taylor had been trying to get them out since 1962. “They led a difficult life. They did not believe in the Communists and were not given food and clothing. They had to buy things in the black market.

In that 1970 season the Phillies played their final year at old Connie Mack Stadium. The former Shibe Park had been the club’s home since 1938, and had been the home of the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics from 1909-54. But the brand new Veteran’s Stadium was being built in South Philadelphia and would become the Phillies new home for the 1971 season.

Taylor spent that final year at Connie Mack serving as a utility player at age 34 on a rebuilding Phillies ball club, with youngsters Denny Doyle and Bowa taking over the starting roles in the middle infield.

On a Sunday afternoon in that final summer at the old ballpark, Taylor enjoyed a moment that would live on in Phillies history. It was August 2 and there were just over 10,000 fans at the start. Most were no longer there as the Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning, trailing the San Francisco Giants by 6-3.

Larry Hisle led off with a double off Giants starter Ron Bryant and Doc Edwards followed with a base hit, moving Hisle to third base. When pinch-hitter Terry Harmon worked Bryant for a walk, the bases were suddenly loaded.

Giants skipper Charlie Fox went to his bullpen, calling in southpaw Mike Davison as Taylor stepped to the plate. In his 13th big-league season, Taylor had just 60 career home runs at that point. This moment would produce number 61 as Taylor blasted the first-ever walkoff grand slam in Philadelphia Phillies franchise history.

Taylor would open the first 1971 season at The Vet still with the Phillies, but would not finish the year with the team. On June 12 he was dealt to the contending Detroit Tigers for a pair of minor league prospects, neither of whom would ever reach the big-leagues. He would serve as the backup to Dick McAuliffe at second base with Detroit over the next three years.

It was with those Tigers where he would make his lone playoff appearances, starting and playing the full Games 2-5 in Detroit’s heartbreaking loss to the eventual World Series champion Oakland A’s. Taylor was just 2-15 in that 1972 ALCS, and went 0-4, striking out twice, in the decisive 2-1 victory for Oakland. In fact, he flew out to center field against Vida Blue for the final out with the tying run on base in the bottom of the 9th inning for the final game at Tiger Stadium.

In December 1973, Taylor returned to the Phillies, signing as a free agent at age 38. He would close out his playing career as a utility player and pinch-hitter over three final seasons in Philadelphia as the club finally returned to contending status in the mid-1970’s. This was when I saw Taylor play in person, in that twilight of his career.

Per the SABR bio, a July 1974 AP account included the following: “All Tony Taylor has to do is stick his head out of the Phillies’ dugout and the fans go wild.” This feeling too was mutual. “I love those people,” said Taylor of the Veterans Stadium fans. “If a guy gives one hundred per cent they cheer for you. They know baseball, and they know whether a player is playing hard or not.”

During an early 1976 slugfest at Wrigley Field, Schmidt drilled home runs in four consecutive at-bats during an 18-16 victory for the Phillies over the host Cubs. Per Larry Shenk, the Phillies Hall of Famer and all-time greatest player used one of Taylor’s bats to blast what proved to the the final game-winner in the top of the 10th inning.

As the 1976 Phillies captured the club’s first National League East Division crown, Taylor missed much of the season’s first three months injured, returning for the stretch run. Between games of a doubleheader in Montreal after the Phillies had clinched the division, Allen gave manager Danny Ozark an ultimatum – include Taylor on the postseason roster or Allen wouldn’t play. The skipper forged a compromise, naming Taylor as a coach for the NLCS in which the Phillies were swept out by Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.

Following that season, Taylor formally retired as a player and became the Phillies first base coach from 1977 through 1979. Over the winter in 1978-79, Taylor managed the Águilas del Zulia club to a spot in the Venezuelan Winter League finals.

During the 1980 and 1981 seasons, Taylor served as a roving infield instructor. He won the first of three career World Series rings as a member of the organization when the Phillies captured the first championship in franchise history in that 1980 season.

Through most of the 1980’s he bounced around the organization, serving as a minor league manager and a roving instructor. Per the SABR bio, his personal life suffered a setback during this period when Taylor went through a divorce from wife Nilda during this period. He then returned to the big club in the role of first base coach with the 1988 and 1989 Phillies.

Taylor moved on to become a coach with the San Francisco Giants and the expansion Florida Marlins during the 1990’s. In 1999, the Marlins brought him back to the big-leagues where he served in the role of first base and infield coach. During this period he earned a second World Series ring when the Marlins captured the 1997 title. He would get a third when the Fish again won the championship in 2003.

In April 2004, Taylor was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame. Following one final season as the Marlins bullpen coach in 2004, Taylor officially and finally retired from baseball. Since that time he has enjoyed his retirement living in Miami, a home for many in the Cuban-American community.

This past August, Taylor attended the Phillies Wall of Fame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park when his friend Abreu was inducted. While in Philly for those Alumni Weekend celebrations, Taylor suffered a series of strokes.

Per a report by Matt Breen in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 83-year-old Taylor wanted to return to Miami, and was transported from Jefferson Hospital to the airport. The Phillies paid for a team of nurses to accompany him and his second wife, Clara, on a private flight home.

The Phillies have done great,” Clara said per Breen. “They were wonderful. He’s doing therapy and progressing really slow but hopefully well.” Numerous former Phillies teammates and club officials, including owner John Middleton, stayed in close touch on his return home. “It was overwhelming…He’s aware of everyone who has been calling,” said Clara per Breen.

That caring and concern from the Phillies organization and fan base is a reflection on the decades of good will built up between themselves and Tony Taylor. Here is to hoping that he is able to recover and continue to enjoy life, again returning one day to walk out onto the field in Philadelphia and continue this long-time genuine love affair.

 

PHILOGRAPHY SERIES

Click on the “date” in order to read the Philography piece. Click on the individual name to view their stats page at Baseball Reference

10.17.2014 – Greg Luzinski

10.24.2014 – Mitch Williams

10.31.2014 – Chris Short

11.07.2014 – Von Hayes

11.14.2014 – Placido Polanco

11.21.2014 – Jim Konstanty

11.28.2014 – Dick Allen

12.06.2014 – Dick Ruthven

12.12.2014 – Grover Cleveland  Alexander

12.20.2014 – Darren Daulton

12.13.2015 – Larry Bowa

1.09.2016 – Sherry Magee

1.26.2016 – Kevin Stocker

2.10.2016 – Granny Hamner

2.15.2016 – Edith Houghton

12.27.2016 – Bob Boone

1.19.2017 – Mike Lieberthal

2.02.2017 – Red Dooin

11.29.2018 – Richie Ashburn

2.03.2019 – Jim Bunning

2.10.2019 – Mike Schmidt

12.09.19Steve Carlton

Joe Girardi: Right man at right time for Philadelphia Phillies

Girardi receives a three-year contract to become the new Philadelphia Phillies manager.

 

The Philadelphia Phillies have named Joe Girardi as the 55th manager in franchise history. Girardi succeeds Gabe Kapler, who was fired last week after guiding the club to a 161-163 record over two seasons.

Girardi turned 55 years of age just 10 days ago. This will be his third managerial job in Major League Baseball. He was the skipper with the then-Florida Marlins in 2004, and then with the New York Yankees for a decade from 2008-17.

It is the Bronx Bombers with whom Girardi has been intimately related and is most associated by baseball fans. The Yankees went 910-710 under his guidance, reaching the postseason a half-dozen times while winning three American League East crowns and the 2009 World Series.

Of course, Philly fans will remember that it was Girardi calling the shots in the Yankees dugout when they dethroned the Phillies in that 2009 Fall Classic, knocking the defending champs out in six games.

As quoted by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Girardi is excited for the opportunity to join the organization:

I’m excited for this next chapter of my career. The Phillies have a strong commitment to winning from the owners to the front office to the players to the fans. It’s something that I’ve seen up close for the last 30 years of my baseball career. I played against the great Phillies players of the early ’90s — from Dutch Daulton to John Kruk to Dave Hollins — and I managed against their teams during the incredible run they had from 2008 to 2011. To have my name now associated with this great franchise is something that I couldn’t be happier about.

Girardi is a native of Peoria, Illinois. He became the 5th round choice of the Chicago Cubs back in the 1986 MLB Draft out of Northwestern University. That selection was made by Phillies Wall of Famer Dallas Green, who was the Cubs’ general manager at the time.

A strong defensive catcher, Girardi made over $21 million in a lengthy career in Major League Baseball with four organizations over 15 seasons: Cubs (7), Yankees (4), Colorado Rockies (3), Saint Louis Cardinals (1).

Girardi was a member of the 1989 Cubs team that lost the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants and a 1995 Rockies team that lost in the NLDS to the Braves. He then won three World Series with the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990’s.

Girardi was the man behind the plate for both Dwight Gooden‘s 1996 no-hitter and David Cone‘s 1999 Perfect Game with the Yankees.

The Yankees dropped the first two games of the 1996 World Series to the then-defending champion Atlanta Braves. But then New York rallied back to capture three straight tough games, taking a 3-2 lead in the series.

In a scoreless Game 6,  Girardi ripped a one-out RBI triple off Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, scoring Paul O’Neill to put the Yankees ahead. They would go on to win 3-2, capturing the first of three World Series titles over a four-year period.

After the last of those world championships in the Bronx in 1999, Girardi signed to return to the Cubs as a free agent and became a National League All-Star in the 2000 season. He wrapped up his playing career with a 13-game stint with the Cardinals in 2003.

After retiring, Girardi became a commentator with the YES Network in New York in 2004. He was then hired as Joe Torre‘s bench coach with the Yankees for the 2005 season.

In 2006, Girardi was hired by the Florida Marlins to become the manager of a team that had a winning record in each of the three seasons prior to his arrival, and had defeated the Yankees in the 2003 World Series.

However, the team he inherited was mostly young and inexperienced, with the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball. Despite that, he kept the club in playoff contention until a poor 5-13 finish. Despite winning the NL Manager of the Year Award, he was fired after feuding with controversial owner Jeffrey Loria.

After another one-year stint back with the YES Network in 2007, Girardi was hired to manage the Yankees, succeeding Torre. That kicked off his successful decade in the Bronx.

In his final season with the Yankees, Girardi guided the club all the way to an ultimate Game 7 in the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. But the Yanks were shut out on three hits by Charlie Morton, falling a game short of a return to the World Series.

After losing in that ALCS, Girardi’s contract was up. The Yankees had not reached the World Series since 2009, and ownership decided to go in a different direction, hiring Aaron Boone for their job.

Girardi has worked over the last year as a baseball analyst on television, and has been linked to a number of possible managerial openings. He interviewed this off-season for the open jobs with the Cubs and Mets in addition to the Phillies.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman was quoted on the hiring at ESPN: “He’s going to represent their franchise well. He’s been a winner his entire career, so I expect nothing but the same to continue there in Philadelphia. I wish him luck. I’d rather it not be in the American League East. I guess that’s the biggest compliment I could give.

It was well known that the Phillies, led by principle owner John Middleton, were after someone with substantial big-league experience for their job after going the novice rout with Kapler. The other two candidates interviewed were Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter, each of whom has at least 20 years of managerial experience.

Middleton was known to be heavily in Girardi’s corner. As with the landing of superstar outfielder Bryce Harper last off-season, it would not be difficult at all to imagine that it was the owner who put on a final full-court press to bring Girardi to Philly.

While Girardi is open to modern analytics and adept at using them, he is not married to numbers. He will be far more willing than the inexperienced Kapler to trust his instincts and what he sees happening in the locker room and on the field in making decisions.

As Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out “...it will help Girardi to have bench coach Rob Thomson, with whom he worked closely for years in New York. Thomson has relationships with the players and can serve as a conduit to Girardi.”

Girardi is married, and he and his wife Kim have three children. They live in the hamlet of Purchase, New York which is just outside of New York City.

After falling apart down the stretch in each of the last two seasons under Kapler, and with a streak of eight consecutive years out of the playoffs, the Phillies now have a manager who looks as if he could be around awhile. He appears to be a perfect fit.

Joe Girardi looks like the right man at the right time for this Philadelphia Phillies ball club as it begins what should be a second consecutive interesting, and expensive, off-season.

 

More on the Philadelphia Phillies and Major League Baseball:

Confession of a Phillies fan who left the Harper walkoff slam game early

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I have a confession to make. I’m a lifelong Phillies fan. A partial season ticket holder. I write about the team frequently here at my website.

I was at Thusday night’s game in which the team rallied scoring seven times in the final two innings to come from five runs down and win on Bryce Harper‘s walkoff grand slam.

And I saw none of it. None of the runs. No part of the rally. Not live and in person anyway.

I gave up, and I left early.

To set the stage for you, this was perhaps the eighth game that I had been to this season. After an early season hot streak, things had deteriorated, for me and the ball club.

In each of the previous two games that I had been to, the Phillies had been blown out. Not only that, but they had not even shown up. Both times they were nearly shutout, had few hits, and the games were over by the middle innings.

Thursday night was much the same. The Phillies were down 5-0 when the top of the 8th inning rolled around. They had just four hits. Yu Darvish of the Cubs was dominating, striking out ten batters over seven innings.

So, as the 7th inning rolled around, I turned to my daughter with whom I was attending the game and told her that we would give it one more inning.

Really, I wasn’t hoping for much from the Phillies at that point. The club was down 5-0 on the scoreboard and showing no life. This night on the field appeared to be solely for the many Cubs fans in the stands, including one who was seated directly behind us and had been chirping all night long.

No, I was willing to stay through the 7th inning to see, of all things, the Phillie Phanatic. Hey, the big green furry guy puts on a nice show in that frame, dancing on the Phillies dugout roof. He didn’t disappoint, doing a nice number with a dance troupe from Temple University.

And so, as the action got underway in the top of the 8th, we left.

There was a good crowd at the ball park on a beautiful night. More than 37,000 showed up. Many left, both before us and as we were leaving. But there were still many who stayed. Those who stayed to the end would be the lucky ones. Well, at least those rooting for the home team.

We headed to the car, down towards I-95, and up onto the highway northbound. At somewhere between Bridge Street and Academy Road, the Phillies scored a run. I told my daughter, who was flipping through her phone in the passenger seat, that we scored a run. “Yay” she said, with sarcastic feigned enthusiasm.

I dropped her off at her house, and continued on to home. On the way, my wife asked me to make a stop at Wawa. As I drew nearer to our neighborhood, the Phillies had put two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning, still down 5-1.

I slipped through the dark and quiet streets of our neighborhood, my headlights streaming out and the street lamps helping light the way, and as I pulled into the Wawa parking lot a base hit by Brad Miller scored Cesar Hernandez to make it a 5-2 ball game.

Things were getting a little interesting. Roman Quinn, who has been hot for awhile now, was coming to the plate. He would be followed by Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper. Dare we dream?

As Cubs skipper Joe Maddon went to the mound to make a pitching change, I went into the Wawa.

Got myself a coffee, and the night manager, a nice guy who I’ve seen in there many times, saw my Phillies t-shirt and cap and said “I guess they lost, huh?

I told him that I had been down there, left when it was 5-0, but now they had a little rally going in the bottom of the 9th, down 5-2. He asked who was up, and I told him that it was Quinn. He kind of nodded with an “oh well” look on his face.

As I walked through the store to find an item for my wife, a notice came over my phone that Quinn had delivered an RBI single to make it a 5-3 game. I rushed back to Mr. Wawa Manager to let him know, and he said “guess I better find a place to listen.” I hope he did.

I got my items, paid, and left the store. Back in my car, I heard that Rhys Hoskins had somehow reached base – I just assumed a walk at that point – and that Bryce Harper was now up with the bases loaded.

Harper battled reliever Derek Holland during my four block drive home. I had just pulled in front of my house and was parking my car when…

You know the rest. Scott Franzke’s typically fantastic voice raised with the call “Swung on…hit high and deep…right field…and that…ball…is……goooooone!

Needless to say, finishing my parking job got a little bit tougher with that adrenalin jolt.

I got out of the car and hurried into my house. My wife, knowing that I was on my way and knowing her husband, had the game on, watched that ending, and had rewound it so that I could watch the end.

Watching it on TV was just as dramatic, even knowing how it ended. I rewound a little further so that I could enjoy the entire rally. When that TV coverage got to the home run, chills again thanks to John Kruk‘s now legendary “Oh my God!!” as soon as the ball left the bat.

So, I was there on Thursday night. I was at Citizens Bank Park for the game in which the Phillies rallied from down 5-0 in the 8th inning and 5-1 in the 9th to win on a walkoff grand slam by Bryce Harper.

I had a nice evening. My daughter and I ate and had a couple of beers before the game at Pass & Stow. We enjoyed each other’s company and chatted as we watched the game.

But we were not there at the end. We didn’t get to enjoy “the moment.”

You tell yourself a lot of things when you leave early, as I have done many times over the years. Gotta beat the crowd, the traffic being the main thing. I don’t believe that what happened last night has ever happened in a game that I left early before.

So, the question is – will I ever leave early again? Of course I will. Probably the very next game that I attend. And if the Phillies are losing, even losing big, I’ll hope and pray that I get to listen on the radio and/or watch on TV as they rally again.

 

MLB 2019 Power Ranking: August 15

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The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves once again at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we reach the heart of the dog days of August.

Five clubs will make the playoffs from the National League. Each division champion will be joined by a pair of Wildcard teams.
In this August 15 version of the Power Rankings, while the Phillies remain right where they were back on August 1 among all teams in Major League Baseball, they have slipped a notch in the National League.
On August 1, the Phillies were the sixth-highest ranked team and were involved in a three-way tie for the two NL Wildcard spots. Now they have slipped a notch, to seventh in the NL. The standings reflect that slippage, as the club is now two games in back of the second Wildcard.
The Phillies have four games left head-to-head with the Nationals, who now control the top NL Wildcard spot, three games ahead of the Phils. Those will take place in Washington at the end of September.
The Cubs are the team in the second Wildcard spot. The Phillies have captured the first two games of a head-to-head series between the two teams, and are 4-2 against Chicago this season.  On Thursday night, the Phillies try to sweep the series and move within a game of the Cubs.
My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.
I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field. There is never any subjectivity or opinion involved.

The MLB Power Rankings will be updated here at my website on roughly the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.
That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. The first is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.
As of my first ranking for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.
Also this summer, the defensive component was changed. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.
I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there is a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 AUGUST 1 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Los Angeles Dodgers are again technically at the top of the Power Rankings. It marks a second straight period at the top for the Dodgers, and their third top-ranked position of the six rankings that I’ve done this season.
However, the new top team from the American League was actually tied with the Dodgers in points. That would be the Houston Astros, who held the top position themselves during two of the three periods in which the Dodgers didn’t control the top spot.
Houston was only slotted in at #2 due to the tie-breaker that I use, which is their overall win-loss record. The Astros did pass the Minnesota Twins, who are the only other team besides  the Dodgers or Houston to hold the top position, as the top AL ball club.
The Cleveland Indians continue to move up, now a top five team. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who sit 3.5 games out in the Wildcard race in the actual standings, remain the biggest enigma, with the formula spitting them out as the second-best team in the National League and eighth overall.
On the rise further back are the New York Mets, who have moved into the top twenty for the first time all season.
In parentheses are each team’s position in the June 1, June 15 , July 1, July 15 and August 1 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3-2-2-1)
  2. Houston Astros (3-1-1-5-3)
  3. Minnesota Twins (2-2-3-1-2)
  4. Oakland Athletics (8-12-5-3-4)
  5. Cleveland Indians (18-18-15-10-6)
  6. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4-4-4-5)
  7. New York Yankees (5-8-9-6-10)
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5-6-9-7)
  9. Atlanta Braves (12-9-7-12-12)
  10. Chicago Cubs (10-13-11-7-9)
  11. Boston Red Sox (6-6-10-8-8)
  12. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15-14-14-15)
  13. Washington Nationals (24-19-13-13-13)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14-18-16-14)
  15. Los Angeles Angels (19-17-19-11-11)
  16. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10-16-19-16)
  17. Cincinnati Reds (13-16-17-18-17)
  18. San Diego Padres (17-20-20-17-20)
  19. New York Mets (22-23-24-25-24)
  20. San Francisco Giants (29-27-25-21-18)
  21. Texas Rangers (16-11-8-15-19)
  22. Kansas City Royals (21-21-22-22-22)
  23. Colorado Rockies (11-7-12-20-21)
  24. Miami Marlins (23-26-21-23-23)
  25. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28-26-28-27)
  26. Chicago White Sox (25-24-28-27-28)
  27. Seattle Mariners (26-22-27-26-26)
  28. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25-23-24-25)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (30-30-30-30-29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (27-29-29-29-30)

SPOTLIGHT TEAM: ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Previous spotlight teams: Minnesota (6/01), Atlanta (6/15), Texas (7/01), Oakland (7/15), Tampa Bay (8/01)
 
The Arizona Diamondbacks woke up on Thursday morning at 61-60, just barely above the .500 mark. They are a distant second in the NL West Division, 19 games behind the Dodgers in the loss column. They also sit a game ahead of the division-rival Giants.
Manager Torey Lovullo is in his third season at the helm in the Arizona desert. During his first season back in 2017, Lovullo guided the Dbacks to a playoff berth and was named the NL Manager of the Year. Last season, Arizona led the division into September but collapsed in much the same way as did the Phillies.
 
This year, the Dbacks have bounced back and forth between second place and third in the division since the start of July. They have also again mirrored the Phillies in a way, in that they have not been able to go on either a long winning streak to solidy a playoff berth or a deep losing skid to fall out of the race.
 
Arizona ranks as the top team in baseball defensively – by a wide margin – and that is a major reason for their high finish in the Power Rankings. They also rank 8th in runs-per-game, and their 11th ranked pitching staff is also solid. 
 
Despite a strong defense, productive offense, and that solid pitching the Dbacks just cannot seem to win consistently. With a bunch of really good ballplayers, they seem to be lacking that one big star, the “straw that stirs the drink” type player.
 
Here in the middle of August, eight teams are within 4.5 games of one another in the battle for the two NL Wildcard playoff berths. My bet is that by the time these MLB Power Rankings are next updated on September 1, at least a couple of those will have fallen out of the race. My bet is that Arizona will not be one of those.