Tag Archives: Ed Wade

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

Ruben Amaro Jr considering a run at big league GM and managerial jobs

By D. Benjamin Miller - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70179556
Ruben Amaro Jr (R) was fired by the Phillies
back in September 2015

(Photo: D. Benjamin Miller)
It has been almost exactly three years since the Philadelphia Phillies parted ways with former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. For many fans of the team it was a move that took far too long for the organization to make.
Amaro inherited a team that had won the 2008 World Series championship. The club continued to contend over the first three seasons of his tenure largely thanks to a core group of players put together by the previous regimes under Ed Wade and Pat Gillick.
The club would lose the World Series in Amaro’s first season as general manager, then went out in the NLCS in 2010 and the NLDS in 2011. As that group aged, Amaro proved incapable of transitioning the franchise successfully.
The Phillies slipped to the .500 mark in 2012, to a losing record in 2013, and to last place in the NL East in 2014. Finally, the club plummeted to the worst record in baseball during the 2015 season, and Amaro was out.
He was not out of baseball for long. That winter the former player turned in his GM suits for a return to his uniformed roots, taking a job as the Boston Red Sox first base coach and outfield instructor. After two years in Beantown, Amaro moved on to New York where he served this season as the Mets first base coach.
And now the 53-year-old is contemplating a step back up the baseball ladder. According to an interview with Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, Amaro is considering taking a run at the Mets general manager position. He may also be looking towards an opportunity to actually manage a Major League Baseball team.

“…keeping an open mind that if there are opportunities to be back in the front office, I still feel like I have a lot to offer in that regard as well. I felt like being back on the field would give me a different and interesting perspective as a far as doing a better job as a GM, and trying to improve my information resources. I’m open-minded. If you were to ask me if I would like my next step to be a GM or a manager, I guess it would be a toss-up.”

According to Amaro, he has let the Mets know of his interest in their open GM position. He told Rosenthal that the team was “appreciative of my interest“, which sounds little more than a tacit openness to offer him the chance to interview for the position.
Phillies fans would be skeptical of any such opportunity afforded a man who they largely abhorred by the end. They might, however, be happy to see him making key decisions for those division rivals up north at Citi Field.
I know toward the end of my tenure as a GM in Philadelphia, I was not received well,” Amaro told Rosenthal. “But I do feel grateful that I got to be a part of the rebuild when (former GM) Ed Wade started it. I feel great about being able to work for a Hall of Famer in Pat Gillick, getting advice from guys like Dallas Green and utilizing it for success. Being part of that Phillies success in 2007 through 2011 was something really, really special for me, and something I’ll never forget.

In Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Thome thanks Manuel, recalls time with Phillies

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Thome (R) recognized contributions of his mentor Manuel (L) at the Hall of Fame

When the time came this afternoon for Jim Thome‘s turn to be formally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was no surprise to learn that it would his mentor, friend, and former manager Charlie Manuel who would be doing the introductions.

By way of a pre-recorded video, the now 74-year-old former skipper heaped praise on the man whom he managed with both the Cleveland Indians and the Phillies.
Every time he walked up to the plate he was dangerous,” began Manuel. The two are both Phillies Wall of Famers. Now the pupil has surpassed the teacher and reached the pinnacle of individual achievement in his profession.
Manuel went on to recall the circumstances when they first met, and the characteristics that attracted him to the young power hitter.

“As far as meeting him the first time, I wanta say it was in spring of ’89. Jimmy was young. He was shy. He was really tentative about what he did, ya know. He wanted to do the right thing. Jimmy was one of the most dedicated guys as far as listenin’. And coachable? I tell people all the time, with Jimmy Thome, he really thinks that you helped him. But Jimmy Thome helped me too. You know, just bein’ who he was, and bein’ dedicated like he was.”

“He hit so much, I don’t think I can explain to you how much he hit.”

Manager Charlie Manuel reflects on the career of ‘s own Jim Thome, ahead of his speech.

There has clearly always been a special bond between the two men. In Cleveland, Manuel was the hitting coach as the Indians won the AL Central Division crown in each of Thome’s first five full seasons from 1995-99.
Manuel would become the manager of the Indians in 2000 but was fired in July of 2002 over a contract dispute. Thome would leave as a free agent that following off-season, signing with the Phillies.
In 2005, the two men would experience an all-too-short reunion when Manuel was hired as the Phillies new skipper. However, Thome would suffer through an injury-marred first half. By June 30, his season was over. Into the breach would stop a new slugger, Ryan Howard, who would win the NL Rookie of the Year Award that season. Thome’s days in Philly were numbered.
Following that 2005 campaign, Thome was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand and two pitchers, one of whom would be Gio Gonzalez.
Manuel would go on to guide the Phillies to five consecutive NL East crowns, back-to-back National League pennants, and the 2008 World Series championship.

In his acceptance speech, Thome remembered

“When I was writing my speech, I was overwhelmed as I reflected on the number of people who have helped shape my career. The first person will come as no surprise. From the moment I met Charlie Manuel as a wide-eyed kid in the Gulf Coast League, I knew this was someone I could connect with instantly. Charlie took a scrappy young kid who was anxious to hit a million home runs, and actually encouraged those dreams. He told me that I could hit as many home runs as I wanted to. From day one in that dugout in Kissimmee, he always believed in me. Chuck, I’ll never forget the day you called me into your office in Scranton. You had this idea that I could benefit from what Roy Hobbs was doing. Little did I know, that day in Pennsylvania would change everything for me. From that day on, all we did was work, work, and work some more.”

Thome’s voice then began to crack and tremble perceptibly as he finished his thanks to his mentor. “You know that I wouldn’t be standing here today without you. Thank you for everything.
Thome then pointed a finger at Manuel adding “But most of all, thank you for your loyalty.” The skipper returned the gesture with a nod, clearly emotional behind dark black sunglasses.
After Thome had recounted his days in Cleveland, he quickly moved to his time in Philadelphia.

“Cleveland is where my career was born, but Philadelphia is where I had to grow up fast. I needed every single tool in my toolbox in Philly. The city welcomed me with open arms from the moment the electricians met us, wearing our hard hats. The fans couldn’t have been better. Larry Bowa was the manager and he was tough as nails. He pushed me and our team to a whole new level. Thanks Bo, and the front office in Philly, first class all the way. David Montgomery, Bill Giles, alongside of Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. They made my time there so meaningful.”

Thome also gave a special shout out to former Phillies trainer Jeff Cooper for a program that helped Thome manage a recurring back problem.
There was a large contingent of Phillies fans on hand in the crowd, an acknowledgment that his affection for the City of Brotherly Love is fully reciprocated.
Jim Thome is a class act, and he demonstrated that again today at Cooperstown. His special relationship with both Manuel and the Phillies organization was on full display as he joined the pantheon of the game’s greats.

Top 20 Philadelphia Phillies Influencers of All-Time

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Harry Wright was the club’s first winning manager from 1884-93

The Philadelphia Phillies have a history stretching back to the 1883 season in the National League.

Many players, front office personnel, and others have contributed greatly to the team and its enjoyment by the fan base since that time.

I ran a series for Fansided’s “That Ball’s Outta Here” website during early January that highlighted those who I considered the “Top 20 Phillies of All-Time”, those individuals who my research found had played the largest roles in team success and enjoyment.

Those twenty individuals are listed here. Just click on each name to view their individual story and contribution to the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

Ten of them are already on the Phillies Wall of Fame. At least four others, and possibly a few more, are sure to eventually end up honored there by the club itself.

As always with this type of list, it is purely subjective. It is my opinion and rank. I am quite sure others would list different players, or some of these in a different order. Would love to hear your own ranking as well.

20. Al Reach – owner/founder

19. Harry Wright – first winning manager

18. Dan Baker – public address announcer

17. John Vukovich – player/coach / Wall of Fame

16. Ed Wade – general manager

15. By Saam – tv/radio broadcaster

14. Darren Daulton – catcher / Wall of Fame

13. Robin Roberts – pitcher / Wall of Fame

12. Charlie Manuel – manager / Wall of Fame

11. Dallas Green – manager/farm director / Wall of Fame

10. Harry Kalas – tv/radio broadcaster / Wall of Fame

 9. Paul Owens – manager/GM/farm director/scout / Wall of Fame

 8. Chase Utley – second baseman

 7. Ryan Howard – first baseman

 6. Pete Rose – first baseman

 5. Cole Hamels – pitcher

 4. Jimmy Rollins – shortstop

 3. Richie Ashburn – outfielder/broadcaster / Wall of Fame

 2. Steve Carlton – pitcher / Wall of Fame

 1. Mike Schmidt – third baseman/broadcaster / Wall of Fame

Gillick’s Way

Hall of Famer Pat Gillick creates “The Phillies Way”
On November 2nd, 2005, the Philadelphia Phillies announced that Pat Gillick was hired as their new General Manager. 
The former 2-time World Series winner as GM with the Toronto Blue Jays then took a group of players already on board from the previous Ed Wade regime, and crafted the rest of the roster that would eventually win the 2008 World Series.
Following that World Series victory, Gillick turned over the GM reigns to organizational man Ruben Amaro, and took on the role of senior advisor to both Amaro and club president David Montgomery. In the last few months, with Montgomery battling cancer, Gillick was elevated to the role of “acting” club president.
One of Gillick’s more influential acts has just been announced through Amaro. “The Phillies Way”, a guide book that reveals the club’s direction and process. It is believed to reflect largely what Gillick feels are, as stated by Amaro, per Matt Gelb, the “best practices for player development” as the organization moves forward.
Pat Gillick has had a huge influence on the present and future direction of the Philadelphia Phillies ever since first being hired back in 2005. Now with “The Phillies Way”, his influence is going to be felt for years to come. Fans of the team can only hope that what appears to be Gillick’s way turns out to be a consistently winning way.