Tag Archives: Florida Marlins

NL East Division comparison: Managers

Over a two-week period at the end of January, I presented a series of pieces evaluating and ranking each of the team’s in the National League East Division on a position-by-position basis.

Those rankings can be found here:

First base, second base, shortstop, third base, catcher, left field, center field, right field, bench/reserves, starting pitching, bullpen.

Those players will have the most to say about how each team fares on the field, and thus in the standings, during the coming season. But the men who write out the lineup cards and make the decisions about who is playing and pitching at any given time will have a big say as well.

If you go back and take a look at my evaluations on each of the positions and incorporate these managerial rankings, you will get a good idea of where each of the teams in the division stand as we prepare for the start of spring training.

Phillies pitchers and catchers are due to report on Tuesday of next week with their first formal workouts coming on Wednesday. The full squad will be in camp by the following week.

The first Grapefruit League game will take place on February 22 when the Phillies visit the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. The first home game in Clearwater on the 2020 schedule will come the following afternoon when the Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates.

NL EAST – 2020 MANAGER RANKINGS

1) Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Girardi

Girardi will be in his first season with the Phillies in the 2020 season. However, he has more actual managerial experience, more of a winning record, and arguably has been under more of a big-league microscope than any skipper in the division. Girardi got his first managerial experience in the NL East when he guided the then-Florida Marlins to a 78-84 mark back in 2006. Though the Fish had a losing record, they also had the lowest payroll in all of baseball. Girardi kept a Marlins team with largely inferior talent in the playoff race until the final weeks. For that performance he was named as the NL Manager of the Year but a dispute with ownership got Girardi fired after that one season. Less than two years later he was hired to take over the highest-profile team in Major League Baseball when he was named as the manager of the New York Yankees to replace Joe Torre. Under Girardi the Yankees would win the 2009 World Series, defeating the Phillies in six games. Over ten seasons in the Bronx, Girardi would guide the Yankees to a 910-710 record and three AL East Division crowns. However, they were never able to again reach the World Series after that 2009 season and did not capture a division title after 2012. When the Yankees were edged out in seven games by what we now know were a cheating Astros team in the 2017 ALCS, Girardi’s contract was not renewed by New York. Girardi will be 55 years of age for the entirety of the 2020 season.

2) Atlanta Braves: Brian Snitker

At age 64, Snitker is the oldest manager in the division. He took over a young Atlanta club going through a rebuilding program similar to the Phillies during the 2016 season. He guided the club to a somewhat surprising first-place finish by 2018, and they repeated as division champions a year ago. However, the Braves have failed to advance in the postseason, losing to Los Angeles in an NLDS in 2018 and Saint Louis a year ago. In last year’s NLDS they led the Cardinals two games to one and held a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning in Game Four only to see Saint Louis rally to tie. The Cards then walked it off in the bottom of the 10th, and put the Braves out with a 13-1 romp in the decisive Game Five.

3) Washington Nationals: Dave Martinez

The 55-year-old Martinez is 175-149 over two seasons with the Nationals, his first two seasons as a big-league manager. Of course, his team won the World Series a year ago, and he deserves a ton of credit for keeping them together after a horrendous start. We need to remember that his first team in 2018 went just 82-80 and the club was sitting at 19-31 on May 23 of last season. That gave Martinez an overall 101-111 mark over his first season-plus. From that point onward, the Nationals took off and went an unreal 74-38 (.661) and then moved dramatically through the postseason. The Nats rallied in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over Milwaukee in the NL Wildcard Game. Then they rallied from down 2-1 in the NLDS to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, coming from a 3-0 deficit with another 8th inning rally in the decisive Game Five, which they finally won in 10 innings. And with what we now know regarding the Houston Astros cheating scandal, you have to give Martinez and the Nationals a lot of credit in edging out Houston by 4-3 in the World Series. Again they came from behind, winning the final two games after being down 3-2.

4) Miami Marlins: Don Mattingly

Mattingly was a six-time AL All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, three-time Silver Slugger, and the 1985 AL MVP over a 14-year big-league career with the New York Yankees, one that could one day see him enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He is 276-370 over four full seasons from 2016-19 as the skipper in Miami. Prior to that he fashioned a 446-363 mark over five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That gives him an overall 722-733 record in nine seasons, making him the manager with the longest continuous streak of managerial experience. Of course, he had a far better cast of players to work with in LA, finishing in first place each of his final three seasons on the west coast. But each of those clubs failed to advance to the World Series, and Mattingly finally paid with his job for that failure to get to the Fall Classic. He landed on his feet almost immediately in South Florida but has been forced to deal with a change in ownership accompanied by a complete rebuilding program. It would appear that it is going to take at least another couple of years for the Fish to raise their on-field talent level to compete in the division. Whether Mattingly can survive through that period and still be around once they are good enough to win remains to be seen. He turns 59 in late April.

5) New York Mets: Luis Rojas

This will be the first season for Rojas as a big-league manager. He brings the experience of having guided a number of the younger Mets players while a minor league skipper. Rojas has been a coach and manager in the Mets minor league system since 2007, rising through each level of the club’s system. He was the 2013 South Atlantic League Manager of the Year after guiding Savannah to a championship, and later led the High-A St. Lucie club to a first place finish. Rojas gained further managerial experience in the Dominican pro leagues, leading Leones del Escogido to a championship. He managed Double-A Binghamton in 2017-18, then served as the Mets minor league quality control coach in 2019. Just over two weeks ago, Rojas got the Mets job when Carlos Beltran was caught up in the Astros’s sign-stealing scandal. At 38 he will be the youngest manager in the division by far as well as the least experienced.

 

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:

Phillies now face a key month with nothing but the NL East on the schedule

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It will be the Phillies vs the NL East for the next month

The Philadelphia Phillies (38-30) dropped the finale of a six-game homestand to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night. That loss was their third in the last four games. They are just 5-8 since reaching a season-best 11 games over the .500 mark following a victory back on May 29.

Meanwhile, the defending National League East Division champion Atlanta Braves have gotten white hot. The Braves defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates by a 6-5 score on Thursday afternoon in Atlanta for their seventh consecutive victory, their ninth win over their last 11 games.
As a result of this recent turn of events for the two teams, the Phillies have fallen out of first place for the first time since April 25. They are now 1.5 games behind the Braves, a game back in the loss column.

The Phillies still control a National League Wildcard playoff slot, but are just 2.5 games up on both the Dbacks and the Colorado Rockies for that postseason berth, just two in the loss column on Colorado.
NFL head coach Jim Mora, then with the Indianapolis Colts, famously responded back in November 2001 to a reporter asking him about his team contending for a playoff berth: “Playoffs? Don’t talk about – playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?
It is waaaaay too early to be worrying about playoffs for the Phillies. Before fans, and more importantly the team’s management, can think about the postseason, they have to worry about winning ball games on a more consistent basis.
Over the next month, the 2019 Major League Baseball schedule has delivered a pretty incredible quirk to the Phillies, one that will provide them with an excellent barometer as to where they actually stand. Their next 26 games will come within the division. It breaks down as follows:
Braves (6): at Atlanta this weekend, July 2-4 in Philly
Nationals (7): June 17-20 at Washington, July 12-14 in Philly
Mets (7): June 24-27 in Philly, July 5-7 in New York
Marlins (6): June 21-23 in Philly, June 28-30 in Miami
There is just one regular off-day in that stretch, coming on Monday, July 1 in the midst of a nine-game road trip through Miami, Atlanta, and New York.
The MLB All-Star break comes from July 8-11, just prior to a pivotal seven-game homestand that will see the Nationals in for three games to end that month-long divisional stretch. The Nats will be followed at Citizens Bank Park by a four-game long weekend with the NL’s top team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
This month of games within the NL East will get the Phillies up to and through the mid-point in the 2019 MLB schedule, which is scheduled to come on during a four-game home series with the Mets at the end of this month. When the month of divisional games ends, there will be a just a little more than two weeks left until the MLB trade deadline.

Middleton (left) and Klentak (C) brought in Harper (R) and others to bolster the lineup, but now more needs to be done to reach the 2019 postseason.
It would really be a stretch to blame management. Matt Klentak and John Middleton came through, upgrading the lineup in a major way with the off-season additions of Bryce HarperJ.T. RealmutoJean Segura, and Andrew McCutchen.
Klentak then traded for Jay Bruce in an attempt to bolster the bench and versatility options for manager Gabe Kapler. That plan went awry when McCutchen was almost immediately lost to a season-ending injury, forcing Bruce to start everyday, again leaving the bench short-handed.
Management could not possibly have foreseen the incredible run of major injuries which have struck the bullpen. And letting the starting rotation play out for the first couple of months was the right move as well. It was expected that Aaron Nola would be an emerging ‘Ace’, a healthy Jake Arrieta a reliable #2 starter, and that the mix of Zach EflinNick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez would find at least two of the three stepping up to become legitimate big-league options.
Though you cannot blame management to this point for the team’s struggles, they will be to blame if they simply throw in the towel and do not move aggressively to plug the leaks in what appears at this moment to be a seriously leaking ship.
In order to seriously contend, these Phillies need a few things. One more proven, veteran starting pitcher, preferably a left-hander. At least one more strong, veteran bullpen arm with late-innings experience. And they need a couple of veterans who can come off the bench as legitimate pinch-hitting threats.
Of course, the urgency to fill those holes could be mitigated by more production from a few of the players from whom more has been expected than delivered. I am speaking here specifically about Harper, Nola, Arrieta, and Rhys Hoskins. While each of those players has had their moments, and a good stretch or two, none has produced to their potential.
It will be interesting to see how this year’s version of the Phillies will respond to a poor stretch of play that saw them lose a grip on the top of the division. Last year’s squad didn’t just respond poorly to just such a situation in mid-August, they totally collapsed.
This team appears to be more mature and even appears to be deeper in talent than the 2018 version. How these Phillies respond over this next month against their NL East Division rivals will tell a great deal about not only their talent, but also their determination and their collective character.

Marlins also feel loss of Phillies hero Darren Daulton

Darren Daulton died Monday at age 55
Former Philadelphia Phillies and Florida (now Miami) Marlins player Darren Daulton died on Monday of brain cancer. He was just 55 years old.
The 1997 Major League Baseball season was just the fifth in the history of the expansion Marlins franchise. The team had begun play in 1993 along with the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies fielded winning teams in both 1995 and 1996. But the Fish were taking a bit longer, and were unable to field a winner over their first four seasons
For that fifth year, Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga opened the vault. He signed free agent slugger Bobby Bonilla to play third base, as well as outfielder Moises Alou and starting pitcher Alex Fernandez.
These players were added to a core group already present that included “Mr. Marlin”, Jeff Conine, emerging star outfielder Gary Sheffield, veteran outfielder Devon White, and starting pitchers Al Leiter and Kevin Brown.
Young catcher Charles Johnson, second baseman Luis Castillo, and shortstop Edgar Renteria were also in place. A rookie starting pitcher, 22-year old Cuban Livan Hernandez, would emerge as a reliable arm for the club. The closer was talented 27-year old Robb Nen.
The Marlins brought in a proven winner to manage that 1997 club in Jim Leyland. With all their new blood, the Marlins got out to a blistering 8-1 start. They would eventually level off, but another hot stretch in mid-May pushed the team out to a 27-16 record. Florida spent most of the next two months in second place behind the talented Atlanta Braves.

LOCKER ROOM LEADER WAS MISSING INGREDIENT

As the MLB trade deadline approached at the end of July, the Marlins dropped six of eight games, falling into third place in the division. Huizenga and general manager Dave Dombrowski believed that their big investment and talent collection was missing something, some key ingredient.
That ingredient arrived on July 21 when the Marlins dealt prospect outfielder Billy McMillon to the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies. In exchange, coming to South Florida would be one of the greatest locker room and on-field leaders in the game’s recent history.
Darren Daulton was 35 years old by that point, and moving through his 12th big league season. He had spent his entire career in the Philadelphia organization, making his MLB debut all the way back with the ‘Wheeze Kids’ pennant winners in 1983.
Daulton’s reputation as a leader of men was cemented during the 1993 season. Those Phillies shocked the baseball world by going from last place to first, and reaching the World Series. Known as ‘Macho Row’, they were a hard-scrabble bunch of swashbucklers who bashed the ball all around the National League that summer.
Daulton was their acknowledged leader, the man who was unafraid to stand up to anyone no matter their status or role with the team. He was their policeman and captain, and the Marlins wanted that kind of strong, experienced leader in their own clubhouse.

DAULTON HELPS MARLINS REACH PLAYOFFS

Now a first baseman due to the effects of his knee injuries, Daulton received his first start with the Fish on Wednesday, July 23 at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati. He went 2-3 and scored a run in a big 8-1 win over the host Reds.
Daulton found a friendly face waiting for him in Florida to help ease the transition. Jim Eisenreich, had been one of his teammates with those 1993 Phillies, and had also been brought in as a free agent the prior off-season.
Florida would go 36-24 from that first Daulton start until last September, when they clinched that NL Wildcard berth. Daulton hit for a .262/.371/.429 slash line with 21 RBI and 22 runs scored in 152 plate appearances. More importantly, he added just that very veteran leadership that the club needed.
The Marlins dispatched the San Francisco Giants in three straight games in the NLDS. Then the Fish captured the final two games of the NLCS to put away the Braves in six.

THE 1997 WORLD SERIES

In the World Series, the Marlins faced off with a mega-talented Cleveland Indians squad. The Fish and Tribe threw haymakers at one another, with Florida taking game three by a 14-11 score. The Indians responded by scoring 10 to even up the series in game four.
The Marlins responded with an 8-7 win in game five to go up 3-2. But with the Fish a game from winning the championship, Cleveland came right back to win 4-1, sending the Fall Classic to a classic seventh game.
When Leyland presented his lineup card for Game Seven, his cleanup man was none other than Daulton. In one of the most dramatic final games in World Series history, Renteria drilled a base hit in the bottom of the 11th inning to score Craig Counsellwith the walkoff, title-winning run.
There were the usual locker room celebrations and parade, and right in the middle of it was Daulton. When interviewed, his teammates frequently mentioned his positive leadership and influence.
It would turn out to be the final game of Daulton’s career. He walked away a world champion, having hit cleanup in his team’s lineup in the seventh game of the World Series.
John Kruk was one of Daulton’s closest friends, and a teammate with the 1993 Phillies. He was quoted in a piece today by Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald in reference to Daulton’s influence on those 1997 Marlins champions.
“Jim Leyland told me they don’t win the World Series if it wasn’t for Dutch,” Kruk told Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia per Spencer. “He told me when Dutch stepped in that locker room everyone on that team looked at him and said, ‘There’s our leader.’”

The Marlins organization wishes to express our deepest sympathy and sadness over the passing of 1997 World Champion Darren Daulton. https://twitter.com/phillies/status/894387535350292480