Tag Archives: Jayson Werth

Struggling Phillies open mid-June series with resurgent Nationals

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Many fans in both towns now conflicted over Werth and Harper

The struggling Philadelphia Phillies (39-32) continue with their road show, this time opening a four-game series with the rejuvenated Washington Nationals (33-38) on Monday night in our Nation’s Capital.

The Phillies are coming off a humbling Father’s Day experience in which they were dismantled by the division-leading Atlanta Braves in a 15-1 rout. They enter D.C. having now dropped five of their last seven games, and 10 of 16 going back to May 29.
After suffering through a horrendous 19-31 start that buried them in fourth place, 10 games out, the Nationals have begun to right their ship. The club has gone 14-7 since that point. Still in fourth place, but they are just six games behind the Phillies for the final NL Wildcard spot, and would love to cut into that deficit this week.
They enter the series fresh off their own 15-run experience. Only in their case, the Nats were the team scoring all the runs in a 15-5 win at home yesterday over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Nationals offensive attack ranks seventh in the National League in both runs scored and OPS, and they are third in stolen bases. On the mound their pitchers are tied for sixth in batting average against and seventh in OPS against, and the staff ranks first in strikeouts.
A big reason they are at the top of those strikeout rankings can be found in their starting rotation, and the Phillies will see the Nationals best this week. Washington will throw lefty Patrick Corbin in the opener, young Erick Fedde in the second game, and then finish up the series with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg for the final two games.
These two teams have already met three times this season. They split a two-gamer in Washington back in early April. The Nationals then took two of three in Philly a week later, but saw the Phillies take two of three at Citizens Bank Park in early May. They will meet yet again in a four-gamer right after the MLB All-Star break back in Philadelphia, but then do not see one another until the first day of Fall, on September 23.
Of course, there is added intensity when these two clubs meet, at least from the Washington fans perspective, with star right fielder Bryce Harper having left town. In eight games between the two clubs this year, Harper has slashed .321/.472/.643 with two homers, three doubles, eight walks, seven RBIs, and six runs scored.
Harper was the Nationals pick at first overall in the 2010 MLB Draft and played his first seven seasons with them, winning the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year Award and the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award, and making the NL All-Star squad six times.
A ball club that is much better than their record indicates, the Nats are looking at this as a big opportunity series. For the struggling, injury-depleted Phillies, this will mark another difficult challenge.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Anthony Rendon: The Nationals are in danger of losing their most impactful player for a second straight season. Rendon is a free agent after this year, and the 29-year-old third baseman doesn’t seem close to a deal. He leads the team in virtually every category, slashing .321/.415/.660 with 16 homers, 50 RBIs, 37 extra-base hits, and 52 runs scored. Those numbers are better across the board than anyone in the Phillies lineup.
Trea Turner: 26-year-old dynamic shortstop was hit on the hand while trying to bunt against the Phillies during the first week of play and missed nearly seven weeks. He started slowly after returning, but since May 28 has slashed .333/.392/.639 with three homers, 16 extra-base hits, nine RBIs, 16 runs scored, and five steals over 17 games. It’s no coincidence that the Nats have won 11 of those 17 games.
Juan Soto: The 20-year-old lefty-hitting outfielder was the runner-up for last year’s NL Rookie of the Year honors and much as with Turner, he has been hot over the last few weeks. Since May 24, Soto is slashing .329/.413/.519 with four homers, 11 RBIs, and 20 runs scored.
Adam Eaton: 30-year-old veteran now in his eighth big-league season, Eaton is hitting .280 and is tied for second on the club with 41 runs scored.
Victor Robles: If there is one player who the Nats would really like to see pick it up, Robles would be it. The 22-year-old center fielder is hitting just .234 and has only one home run in the last month after banging eight over the season’s first six weeks.
Matt Adams: The big lefty first baseman has been activated from the IL just in time to face four right-handed starters being thrown by the Phillies. Adams has nine homers and 27 RBIs in just 130 plate appearances, with eight of those longballs as well as five doubles coming off righties.
Kurt Suzuki: The Nationals split their catching duties in a fairly even platoon setup, but Suzuki is the power half. He has seven homers and 30 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances.
Brian Dozier: 32-year-old veteran second baseman was a former AL All-Star with the Minnesota Twins, for whom he played the first seven of his now eight-year career. He has 10 home runs and 10 doubles, remaining a dangerous, albeit streaky, hitter with the Nationals.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Howie Kendrick: Not much was expected of Kendrick this season, who at age 35 (he turns 36 next month) is now in his 14th big-league season. Kendrick spent the first 11 years of his career in Los Angeles, nine with the Angels and then two with the Dodgers.
He was then traded in late July 2017 to the Phillies for a fringe prospect, seeing action in 24 games out in left field and another 10 at second base. Kendrick then became a free agent, signing with Washington.
When numerous injuries opened up some playing time earlier this season, Kendrick received increased opportunities and made the best of them. His 12 homers and 43 RBIs are second on the team, and he is slashing at the .333/.383/.602 mark. He also continues to provide value with his defensive versatility, playing in 19 games at first base and 14 each at second and third bases.
Kendrick, who has made $65 million over the course of his career but is now making “only” $4 million this year, will be a free agent once again after the season ends. This kind of production assures that someone will want him coming off their bench. Maybe even the Phillies.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

MONDAY – Patrick Corbin: 5-5 4.11 ERA, 1.219 WHIP, 75 hits over 85.1 IP across 14 starts with a 94/29 K:BB
TUESDAY – Erick Fedde: 1-1, 3.68 ERA, 1.255 WHIP, 32 hits over 36.2 IP across 10 games (5 starts) with a 21/14 K:BB
WEDNESDAY – Max Scherzer: 5-5, 2.81 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 87 hits over 99.1 IP across 15 starts with a 136/20 K:BB
THURSDAY – Stephen Strasburg: 7-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.063 WHIP, 78 hits over 96 IP across 15 starts with a 115/24 K:BB

THE SKIPPER

A native New Yorker, Dave Martinez is in his second season at the helm in Washington after guiding the club to an 82-80 mark and a second place finish in the NL East Division a year ago.
Martinez played 16 seasons in Major League Baseball after being drafted in the third round back in 1983 by the Chicago Cubs. He played for nine different organizations, with his four years in Chicago and four with the old Montreal Expos, the Nationals predecessors, marking his longest stints.
He was under fire when the club got off to such a miserable start this year, but any talk of firing has been muted with this recent period of improved play and winning by the team.

THE BALLPARK

Nationals Park opened for the 2008 season and is known mostly as a fair ballpark for hitters and pitchers, ranking 11th in the current ESPN 2019 MLB Ballpark Factors list.
Dimensions are 337 and 335 down the left and right field lines respectively. Left-center is 377 feet out, right-center at 370 feet, and it will be 402 feet out to dead-center field.
Located along the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard section of D.C., it has a regular capacity of 41,339 but they have reached as many as 30,000 just nine times since Opening Day. One of those was for Harper’s first return back on April 2 with Scherzer on the mound when just under 36,000 showed up.
Back in 201o they added a ‘Ring of Honor’ to celebrate those from the old Washington Senators franchise, the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues who were based in town, as well as the Expos/Nationals players who have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. A dozen-and-a-half players are currently honored, including Walter JohnsonHarmon KillebrewJosh Gibson, and Andre Dawson. Also honored there is former Phillies 2008 World Series hero Jayson Werth.
Since 2011, a submarine dive horn blares after each Nationals home run and victory in a nod to the park’s location in the Navy Yard neighborhood.
In the middle of the 4th inning at every game, fans are treated to the President’s Race. Runners wearing costumes topped by oversized heads of four U.S. Presidents engage in a foot race, often with comedic elements built into the contest. The four Presidents are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. Three other Presidents have also spent time as racers, but those original four remain today as the current lineup.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Game time for all four nights is scheduled for 7:05 PM EDT
This will be a very unsettled weather week in Washington. There is a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms on Monday night, then an 80% chance on both Tuesday and Wednesday, dropping to 60% on Thursday. Temperatures will be in the upper-70’s to mid-80’s during games with high humidity and light winds all week. Any fans taking the ride down from Philly should be prepared for delays at the start of, or during, each of the four games, though all four should be played in the end.
Report using data from The Weather Channel

Phillies introduce Bryce Harper after biggest contract in sports history

Middleton, Klentak, Harper at intro presser
“During the great history of the Philadelphia Phillies there have been many acquisitions that have helped move the franchise forward, both on and off the field. From Steve Carlton and Pete Rose in the 70’s, Jim Thome in the early-2000’s, to the acquisition and eventual re-signing of Cliff Lee. The trade for Roy Halladay, to finally the signings and trades of current Phillies players like Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. Many have altered in such a positive way the fate of this incredible franchise. Today we celebrate a franchise-altering signing for our city and our organization as we introduce Bryce Harper to the city of Philadelphia officially.
With those words, Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy eloquently opened up this afternoon’s statements and press conference to celebrate what is, as general manager Matt Klentak would immediately follow and refer to it: “the largest contract in the history of Major League Baseball.
Harper would then go on to make his own impassioned and inspiring opening statement, one in which he emphasized the importance of his family and the familial presentation and representations of the Phillies during the free agency process. During that statement the club’s new right fielder stated “I can’t wait to get on that field and do Phillies Nation proud!
Once Harper’s opening remarks had concluded it was time for the press to take their first swings at the 26-year-old superstar. The topics were wide-ranging, dealing with issues from money to baseball, from his old team to his new, from business to personal issues. Here are the highlights:
SOCIAL MEDIA
Harper was asked this right off the top by the King himself, Howard Eskin, whether he followed social media and what affect, if any, it had on his decision. In his response he made it clear that he did follow, but that family was the most important factor in the final decision:
Of course you look at it. You look and see what people are saying. But it’s a family decision for me. It’s where I felt comfortable throughout the whole process. I talked to my wife. I talked to my mom, my dad. And we all made the decision to do the things we could to get back to Philly…”

FAMILY
This was the over-arching theme of both Harper’s personal statement and his most important answers to questions. It became the specific topic of the second question asked:
Being able to sit down with John and Leigh (Middleton) and knowing how family-oriented they are, how they treat everybody in the Phillies organization from everybody in the clubhouse, everybody up in the offices, and also everybody around the ballpark.
I think it’s pretty amazing how many tenured Philly people that work with the team are with the organization for a long period of time. Every time I came to Citizens Bank Park, I felt that…talking to the guys in the elevator, or when we walked into the visitor side and talking to Butch that stands right there, he’s one of the security guys…other guys saying “Come here. Play here. Be part of our team. Be part of our organization.” That goes a long way. You feel the love. You feel the intent, the pureness of the people who come to the ballpark every day.”
FANS AND FORMER PHILLIES PLAYERS
JaysonWerth-793753.jpg

Former Phillies and Nationals star Werth was a teammate in Washington, and helped sell him on Philly.
“Of course, the first six years of my career coming to Philly, people behind me (out in right field) weren’t very nice. But I expect that, I love that. But the last year they were all super nice, saying “Come to Philly!” So that was a lot of fun, to be able to hear that as well.”
Of course, Jayson Werth, getting to hear him talk about it. Chase Utley. Jimmy Rollins. All the guys that have had great success in Philly talk about how great the city is, that it’s an amazing city to be a part of, and I’m excited to get going.
NO CONTRACT OPT-OUT CLAUSE
“This guy (looking at agent Scott Boras) invented the opt-out. And I actually told him at the beginning of the process that I didn’t want one, wherever I went. I wanted to be able to make my roots somewhere. That was through the goods and the bads, the ups and downs of the team and the organization. It’s going to be tough for 13 years to win every single year, and I truly understand that.”
“Being able to sit down with John and Matt and everyone involved in the process was huge for me, because I know what it takes to have success, being in the playoffs for a long period of time with the Nationals. We didn’t get past the first round, but we were able to get there for a good run and do certain things in that organization that were very good.”
“I want to be able to do that here, and do well and play hard and have the team we do for a long period of time. Even through the bumps and bruises. I want to go through that as well. I want to be part of this organization. I don’t wanta go anywhere else. I want to be part of this family, this Phillies Nation.”
MISSING SPRING TRAINING TIME
“I enjoyed home for another two weeks. I enjoyed hanging with my friends and getting my work in as well. I’m hitting and doing all the things I need to get ready for the spring. I think the worst part is seeing guys going out there and getting back into that groove of being in the clubhouse atmosphere and being with the other guys.”
“But for me, you don’t really play that first week of spring anyways. So, if it was gonna take some time, then it was gonna take some time. I knew at the end of the day, being able to sign with Philly was the right choice for me, and we made it happen about 27 days before the season. So, I think I’m gonna be okay.”
NEW TEAMMATES
Rhys Hoskins hits a home run at the 2018 Home Run Derby

Harper and Hoskins struck up a friendship at the 2018 All-Star Home Run Derby / Photo: Brian Michael
The first thing I thought about signing with the Phillies was I don’t have to face Aaron Nola anymore. That was something that I was very happy about. This team is filled with perennial All-Stars. Being able to meet Rhys Hoskins a little bit through the process of the Homerun Derby and the All-Star Game, talked to him a little bit about Philly…about how he is and who he is as a person, he was a lot of fun to get to know. Arrieta, Eflin, a lot of the young guys on this team, Pivetta. The bullpen that they have, adding David Robertson. Jean Segura playing shortstop is an absolute stud. Maikel Franco…Odubel Herrera…I mean, you can go on and on about this team and how good they can be. And my favorite player in the game, J.T. Realmuto, that was huge as well. Matt did a great job this off-season to assemble that roster.”
“The thing about the East is, it’s a juggernaut. I’m not gonna tell ya that we’re gonna come in this year and win a World Series, or win the division, or anything like that. Of course, we all want that to happen. That’s your goal when you walk into spring training. That’s the goal of the fans. That’s the goal of everybody. But good things take time as well. We gotta mold as a team, mold as an organization, and really understand the guys in that clubhouse, and make that a family.”
“Every guy pulling on the same rope every single day, really becoming that. I think this organization…us…gonna be very successful for a long period of time. But it’s gonna take some time. It’s gonna take some time for guys to get going and understand how to win, and what it takes to win in the long haul of a 162-season, plus possibly 21 games in the playoffs. This organization has gone through that…has done that in years past. I know that guys wanta feel that now. I’m excited to be part of that. I’m excited to be part of the group…going to this clubhouse, and just be a part of this team.”
NEW UNIFORM NUMBER

Harper felt his former Washington number 34 should always belong to Halladay in Philly. (SD Dirk)
Of course, I wore #34. But I thought Roy Halladay should be the last one to wear it. He’s somebody in this game that is greater than a lot of guys who ever played it. He’s a Hall of Famer, somebody who played the game the right way. He was a great person, one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met, playing across from him in 2012. So for me, it’s Roy Halladay. He’s 34. He’s what represents that number in Philly. When you go in there and see his name on that flagpole in center field, it’s something that he should be remembered for.”
“Maikel Franco, he wears #7, and he’s a teammate of mine. He’s someone that I didn’t want to ask for the number. I didn’t feel right doing that. I don’t know if that has any significance to him, being #7, but I didn’t want to find out. He’s #7 on the Phillies and he should be able to wear that number every single day.”
“The #3 is kinda like a family number for us. My brother wore it in high school. My dad wore it in high school growing up. My mom wore #13. My wife isn’t very happy about the number because she likes even numbers, so lookin’ down and seeing #3 is gonna be a little tough for her (Kayla laughed during this and shook her head) but it’s a family number and I think it looks okay.”
NATIONALS YEARS, AND NOW HAVING TO FACE THEM
“I love everybody in that clubhouse. I grew up inside that clubhouse. I grew up in that organization. I have so much respect for (Nationals GM) Mike Rizzo. He actually reached out to me and told me congratulations. That’s somebody that had my back for my whole career, somebody that maintained every single day. I did certain things for that organization that I truly won’t forget. Players in the clubhouse reached out and told me congrats, and were very excited for me as well.”
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to playing somewhere that I’m comfortable as well. And also in Philly. So that gives me two places in the East that I’m very comfortable at. So, I’m really excited to be able to face those guys…and also to watch from afar a little bit and see how they’re doing. Hopefully we can do some damage as well.”
$330 MILLION
“Baseball is worth about $11.5 billion dollars, so I think some of it should go back to the players as well. I’m making $26 (million) a year, something like that, so I think that’s gonna be able to bring some other guys in as well that will help this organization win. I know there’s another guy in about two years (Mike Trout) who comes up off the books. We’ll see what happens with him.”
“I’m excited to be in Philly. I’m excited to be able to be part of this organization. And for me, the game’s changed a lot. The game’s changed in that it’s a different time, it’s a different world. Big social media. Everybody knows what’s going on. Everybody knows what everybody’s doing. There’s a lot of fans that love to come to the game that are spending about $16 for a beer that used to be about 25 cents for a beer. So I think that all around, it’s changed.”
WHY PHILLIES OVER THE DODGERS
“Throughout the whole process, I wanted to leave my door open to wherever I wanted to go. But for me it was all about the long haul. It was about being able to dig my roots, plant somewhere where I wanted to be for a long time. I said that in D.C. when I was there as well, that I wanted to be somewhere for a long period of time. We went through that process, and it just didn’t work out. It just didn’t happen. Philly was able to do that for me.”
“And when I met with the Middleton family, I felt that. I felt that commitment. I felt that when we went to dinner in Vegas with Leigh and John. Me and my wife walked away and, wow, we were blown away by these amazing people. That they could really understand where we were coming from. Understand the family aspect of our life. Understand the city of Philly and what it’s all about.”

Harper received encouragement on Philly from other local stars like Carson Wentz (Keith Allison/WikiCommons)
“Having that relationship with them as well. For me, I wanta have that relationship with my organization. I wanta be able to be a family, be able to be a unit, and be able to go through the ups and downs with everybody. Stay as even keel as we can, no matter what. John wants to win more than anybody. I saw that passion. I saw that fire. He talked a little bit about him wrestling in college, and the commitment he made to that, and the commitment he made in his daily life, it was just amazing to hear.
“To be able to see that and to feel that. To feel the love from Philly and the fans…I haven’t played there yet, but to feel it on social media. To feel how excited they are. To feel the love from other guys from other teams in the city. Ben Simmons. Carson Wentz. Guys that have reached out. It’s amazing to see. When you play in Philly as a visitor, you see the Eagles right there, you see the Flyers, you see the Sixers and all the big-time memories that all those teams had. The Flyers, they were an expansion team just like the (Las Vegas) Golden Knights (Harper’s hometown hockey team), and they were able to win. It’s an amazing thing to see.”
“This whole city, it’s a winning city, it’s an amazing city. J-Dub (Werth) always talks about Broad Street, and his stupid little thing he had, the red glove or whatever it was (giant red plastic fist that Werth wore in the 2008 parade), it’s something that I want to be a part of for a very long time, and we have an opportunity to do that for a very long time. I don’t know if that’s gonna happen this year or next year or in years in front of us, but I hope it does.”
“I want to be a part of it. I want to be a part of this organization. I want to be a part of this organization and help out anybody I can. That’s the feeling that I get with this whole organization. It’s about the family. It’s about what we can do as a city, the community. How we can make a community better. How we can make Philly better as a place, as a city of winning, and I want to be a part of that.”
IMPORTANCE OF MAKING HISTORY
“I think you’re always remembered for winning, and what better place to do it than in Philly? This place is somewhere were fans, blue-collar people, thrive on winning and being a family. I come from a blue-collar family. My dad woke up at three o’clock in the morning to tie rebar every single day in 130 degree heat in Vegas, and that’s where I get my work ethic. That’s what I want to do every single day. I want to work hard. I want to work out. I want to do the things I can to prolong my career and to play for a very long time and to be successful for a very long time.”
“For me, it’s all about winning. That’s what you’re remembered for, that’s what it’s all about. Personal accolades and things like that, they’re great. But for me, if our team plays well, our team plays together, I find joy in my teammates success. I love that, I love seeing that. I was able to see that for a long time in D.C. with Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto this year as well. And you see that with the Phillies.”
“I want to find that joy. If I’m 0-4 or 4-4, that doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what we can do to get that extra run to win the game, and to win for a long period of time. If we can do that, then we’ll win a lot of games. I think we have the pitching and have the defense to do that for a long period of time. I’m excited to be a part of it, excited to get going and make that run.”
HOW THE PAST PREPARED HIM FOR THIS DAY
“I think the biggest thing coming out of high school and college and finally getting drafted, from day one when I got drafted, it was all about “He’s going to the Yankees. He’s going to the Dodgers. He’s going here, he’s going there.” After six years, “he’s going here.” That’s all anybody talked about. That’s all anybody wanted to talk about, this moment. For me, going through this process, it was where can I be with no opt-outs, with a no-trade, where I can be for a long time and not have to worry about going anywhere else.”
“Because for me, when I was in D.C., I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t want to be part of two organizations, or anything like that. That just didn’t work out for me. But now, being able to be a part of an organization for 13 years, and be able to put all my faith and trust in everybody in this organization, I’m very excited bout it. Because nobody in the next 13 years are gonna talk about “Oh, he’s going to the Yankees, he’s going here, he’s going there.””
“I mean at 39, hopefully I can prolong my career, that would be great. But for me, it’s about being somewhere for a long period of time. Making my family. Digging my roots. For the good, for the bad. I’m not gonna tell you that I’m gonna win an MVP every single year. Is that my goal, is that my success, to do that? Absolutely, I want to do that every single year. But there’s gonna be down years. There’s gonna be big years. There’s gonna be years that are gonna be just okay.”
“For a team, for an organization, we’re gonna go in and do everything we can to win, and play hard, and play well. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what I wanta do…I wanta be on Broad Street on a freakin’ boat or whatever, a thing, a bus, whatever it is, and have a trophy over my head because that’s what it’s all about.”
“At the end of the day, I want to be able to go to sleep and know that I gave it my all and was able to bring back a title to the Philadelphia Phillies organization, to Mr. Middleton, to Mrs. Middleton, and to the whole city of Philly, to the fans, to everybody that’s a part of this. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want my legacy to be: all about winning, all about playing the game the right way for a great organization for a long period of time.”
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Bryce Harper press conference highlights

Cliff Lee: he never wanted to leave Phillies in the first place

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Cliff Lee came and went in 2009 and came back in 2010

During what all fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have been led to believe will be one of the most significant off-season periods ever for the franchise, I’ve been taking a look back at the team’s ‘Hot Stove’ history.

So far we have recalled the signings of Pete Rose (1978), Jose Mesa(2000), and Jim Thome (2002) in free agency. We have also revisited key off-season trades: the 1981 three-way deal that resulted in Lonnie Smith leaving and Bo Diaz arriving, the 1982 trade of future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, and the trading away of Thome.
Probably the most recent important Phillies move during a Hot Stove season came in the middle of December back in 2010. It was then that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. began trying to reverse a huge prior mistake from exactly one year earlier. Both decisions were among the most influential during the 2009-11 period when the club was trying to get back to the World Series.
Those two moves involved a left-handed starting pitcher named Cliff Lee. His pro career had begun after he was drafted three times. Lee finally signed after being selected by the Montreal Expos with their fourth round selection in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft.
In June 2002, Lee was dealt to the Cleveland Indians as part of a four-prospect package that also included Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips in an overall six-player deal that brought starting pitcher Bartolo Colon to Montreal.

LEE DEVELOPS INTO AN ACE

In Cleveland’s minor league system, Lee showed enough with Buffalo of the Triple-A International League that he was given a two-start cup of coffee with the Indians in September 2002. He went 10.1 innings allowing just six hits over those two outings.
Lee won the 2008 AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland
After beginning the 2003 season back at Triple-A, Lee received a spot start with Cleveland in late June. Then in mid-August he was called to the big-leagues for good. Lee would enter the Tribe’s starting rotation and remain there for the next six years.
Lee would develop into one of the top starting pitchers in the game, culminating in a memorable 2008 season. While the Phillies were driving towards their first World Series crown in nearly three decades, Lee was putting together a Cy Young Award-winning season in Cleveland.
In that 2008 campaign, Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.110 WHIP. He also had a fabulous 170/34 K:BB ratio over 223.1 innings across 31 starts. In addition to the Cy Young honors, he was an AL All-Star for the first time, and even received AL MVP votes.
Lee was scheduled to become a free agent after the 2010 season, and it became obvious that the Indians would not be able to get him to sign a contract extension. Looking at a rebuilding situation, Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro decided to find a deal for him a year early.

LEE ACQUIRED BY CHAMPS IN-SEASON

As defending World Series champions, the Phillies were struggling to open up a lead in a tight NL East race in July 2009. A big reason was that the team’s starting pitching was looking a bit fragile.
Cole Hamels, the hero of the prior season, appeared to be going through a World Series hangover campaign. Brett Myers struggled the entire year with injuries. At age 46, Jamie Moyer was getting hit hard. Joe Blanton and rookie J.A. Happ were giving the club innings, but were not the kind of arms that a team looking to repeat as world champions wanted at the front of a rotation.
On July 15, the Phillies signed 37-year-old veteran Pedro Martinez, who had been sitting out the season to that point. It was going to take Martinez a few weeks to get into pitching shape, and in fact he would not join the team’s starting rotation until August 12.
Amaro was still rumored to be hot after both Lee and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay. Finally, just before the non-waiver trade deadline, Amaro and Shapiro reached a deal. The Phillies would acquire Lee in exchange for a four-prospect package led by pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
Cito Gaston was manager of the Blue Jays at the time. Once the Phillies had traded for Lee, it meant that Gaston was likely to keep his ace in Halladay. Jayson Stark at ESPN quoted Gaston after the Lee deal was announced: “Who knows? They may come back and get [Halladay], too. That’d be a pretty good staff there, wouldn’t it?” How prescient that comment would eventually prove.
The 30-year-old Lee was everything that the Phillies hoped, and more. Over a dozen starts he went 7-4 with a 74/10 K:BB ratio. Martinez went 5-1 over nine starts with a 37/8 K:BB ratio. The two veterans gave the rotation just the shot in the arm that it needed to push the club to its third straight NL East title.
In the 2009 postseason, Lee upped his game. He made two strong starts in a tough NLDS victory over the Colorado Rockies, then a brilliant start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Three of the NLCS.
When Lee shut down the New York Yankees in Game One of the World Series, the Phillies appeared on their way to back-to-back championships. Alas, it was not to be. The team did win his next start in Game Five, but that only kept them alive. The Yanks would take the Fall Classic two nights later.

THE LEE HOT STOVE TRADE

After the season, Amaro resumed his pursuit of Halladay, who was scheduled to become a free agent following the 2010 season. On December 16, 2009 the Phillies acquired Halladay from Toronto in exchange for a three-prospect package.
Amaro had negotiated a four-year contract extension with the 32-year-old Halladay, who thought that he was joining Lee in the Phillies rotation. Instead, Amaro shocked everyone in the Phillies community by dealing away Lee just hours later.
The justification given by Amaro at the time was shaky from the start. He felt that Lee’s contract demands were unreasonable, and also claimed that the Phillies needed to re-stock their farm system after it had been depleted by that summer’s Lee trade and the Halladay aquistion.
However, the package that Amaro obtained from the Seattle Mariners that day of prospect pitchers Phillippe Aumontand J.C. Ramirez and young outfielder Tyson Gillies failed to convince anyone that it improved the organization to the same level as having Lee remain on the big-league pitching staff.
It would prove to be one of the worst trades in Phillies history. Our own Tim Kelly here at PN wrote in August 2018 about comments made by former outfielder Jayson Werth to a local radio station. Included among those revealing remarks were this quote:
…they [the Phillies] offered Cliff a contract at a marginal number, we’ll say. And then he counters at a reasonable counter, far less for what he ends up signing back for. Within that day, a day or two, Ruben freaks out, he can’t believe that they would ask for that type of money – which was under-market for Cliff – and trades him to Seattle. So he was traded to Seattle for a bag of balls and a couple Fungos.”

Halladay would enjoy a memorable 2010 season in which he would capture the National League Cy Young Award while tossing a Perfect Game and a playoff no-hitter. Hamels rebounded with a solid campaign. The rest of the rotation struggled, but Amaro swung a trade to bring in three-time NL All-Star and perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Oswalt from Houston.
The Phillies struggled much of that summer. But then from late August through late September the team went on an incredible run, winning 23 of 27 games to pull away to a fourth straight NL East title.
As for Lee, he would make just 13 starts for the Mariners. With the club struggling and with Lee still scheduled to become a free agent in the coming off-season he was shipped off to the Texas Rangers following a final start for Seattle on July 4.
At the time of that deal, Lee was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and had been selected to the AL All-Star team. He would attend the game not as a member of the Mariners, but instead wearing a Rangers cap.
Over the rest of the season in Texas, Lee would go just 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. He did produce solid numbers otherwise, allowing 103 hits over 108.2 innings with a 96/12 K:BB ratio in 15 starts.
The Rangers won the AL West crown and the American League pennant, reaching the World Series. However, the Phillies were not there to great their former pitcher. Halladay, Werth, and the two-time defending NL champion Phillies had been beaten in six games in the 2010 NLCS by the San Francisco Giants.
San Francisco would then take out the Rangers in five games to capture the first World Series crown for the Giants franchise in 56 years. Lee was rocked in the opener of that Fall Classic in San Francisco. He then would also lose a pitcher’s duel to Tim Lincecum in the Game Five clincher at Texas.

THE LEE HOT STOVE FREE AGENT SIGNING

The off-season got underway following that 2010 campaign with Lee entering free agency for the first time in his career. A return to the Rangers was possible, but the New York Yankees were seen by most as the early and overwhelming favorites to land his services.
The Yankees had finished in second place in the AL East in 2010, a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays but had comfortably won what was the lone Wildcard berth available at that time. The Yanks then swept the Minnesota Twins 3-0 in the ALDS, but were beaten by Texas in six games in the ALCS. Adding Lee, and subtracting him from the Rangers, would likely push them to the top of the American League favorites list.
The Phillies were not seen to be a contender for Lee at first. They already had a rotation that would include Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt coming back in 2011. It was projected at that point that Blanton and Kyle Kendrick would make up the back of their rotation.
A formal contract offer was extended to Lee by the Yankees, one that would turn out to be the highest offer that he would receive. It wouldn’t be enough.
Shock waves rolled across the game on December 15, 2010 when, seemingly out of nowhere, it was announced that the Phillies and Lee had agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract. Lee would join Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt in what the baseball world would call the “Four Aces” rotation, one of the best in the history of the game.
In Philadelphia it became known as “Merry Cliffmas”, and Phillies fans were euphoric. They would have a dominating pitching rotation that would give their still-potent offensive attack a chance to win every single day.
Not only was Lee’s signing a surprise gift to Phillies fans, but he also won their hearts forever with what he said upon agreeing to the deal: “I never wanted to leave in the first place.” It turned out that Lee and his wife Kristen had enjoyed their brief 2009 time in Philly so much that returning was a relatively easy decision.
The Phillies of 2011 would not win every day, but it seemed like it at times. That club would set a franchise record with 102 regular season wins, leading the NL East from wire-to-wire and ultimately taking the division crown by 13 games.
Lee went 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA and was named as NL All-Star, finishing third in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and finished as the Cy Young runner-up. Hamels was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA, finishing fifth in that Cy Young Award voting.
Oswalt won just nine games and struggled some with a 3.69 ERA. In fact, he wasn’t even one of the four most effective members of the rotation that year. Neither were Blanton or Kendrick. That status was provided by 23-year-old rookie Vance Worley, who surprised everyone with an 11-3 mark and 3.01 ERA over 25 games, 21 as a starter. Worley would finish third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
When the 2011 postseason opened, the Phillies were clear favorites to capture their second World Series title in four years. But in one of the most disheartening endings in franchise history, they were edged out in five games by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
Lee played a part in that loss. After the offense bailed out Halladay to take Game One, those same bats then provided Lee with an early 4-0 lead in Game Two. But the Cardinals then chipped away, scoring three runs in the top of the 4th inning and one each in the 6th and 7th, rallying for a 5-4 win to tie the series.
The Phillies took a 2-1 series lead behind a strong outing from Hamels in Game Three, but Saint Louis beat Oswalt in Game Four to once again tie the series.
In a decisive Game Five at Citizens Bank Park, a pitching battle for the ages took place. Halladay allowed just one run on six hits. It would be enough to win almost any game. But Saint Louis received an absolute gem from their starter, Chris Carpenter. He would shut the Phillies out on three hits in a complete game.
With two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning and the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead, Saint Louis native Ryan Howard stepped in for the Phillies. On a 2-2 pitch, Carpenter’s 110th of the game, Howard topped a slow grounder to second base. As the final out was being recorded, the big slugger crumpled to the ground, having blown out his Achilles tendon.
It wasn’t obvious yet at that point, but history would show that the Phillies era of contention at the top of Major League Baseball would end with that play.
The 2012 Phillies struggled from the beginning but were still three games above the .500 mark and within 2.5 games of first place as June began. But the team would collapse under the weight of injuries.
Howard wouldn’t return until July and was never the same dominating slugger. Chase Utley wouldn’t begin his season until late June, and at age 33 was beginning his own slow decline. Both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the latter obtained just a year earlier to bolster that 2011 team, were traded away at the non-waiver deadline as Amaro threw in the towel.
Lee would pitch well in both 2012 and 2013 as the Phillies tried unsuccessfully to quickly rebuild. He went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA, made the NL All-Star team, and finished sixth in National League Cy Young voting in the 2013 season. Incredibly, less than a year later his career would be over.
The 2014 season opened with Lee as the Phillies primary trade candidate. At 35-years-old he still had that season and then 2015 to go on his contract, with a $25 million salary owed both years. There was a $27.5 million club option or $12.5 million buyout for the 2016 season as well.
He began the year as the Opening Day starter. Over his first 10 starts through mid-May he went 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA and a 61/9 K:BB ratio in what seemed a typical Lee season. But following a May 18 win over the Cincinnati Reds he was placed on the disabled list with discomfort in his left pitching elbow.
The Phillies tried to bring him back as the non-waiver trade deadline approached, hoping to find a deal, but he was hit hard in two late July starts. Then on July 31, the exact date of the deadline, he was given a final chance to show that he was healthy and could help someone.
It appeared to observers that things had started out well that night at Nationals Park. Through 2.2 innings, Lee had allowed just one hit and walked no one, striking out four Washington Nationals batters. And then it ended, just that suddenly.
With two outs in the third inning, Lee delivered his first pitch to Denard Span and walked off the mound, tapping his left arm. It turned out that he had been experiencing discomfort while warming up before the game, and then when warming up before each inning. This time it wouldn’t go away.
‘It was there every throw and I just felt like if I kept throwing something was going to snap and I just wanted to make sure that didn’t happen,” Lee said per Sports Illustrated via the AP following that game.
He tried to come back for the 2015 season but was able to throw just two innings at spring training in Clearwater. Lee would spend that entire season on the disabled list after suffering a left common flexor tear. After the season ended the Phillies declined his option for 2016, and his career was over.
In February 2016, when it was becoming obvious that Lee would never pitch again, Grant Brisbee at SB Nation wrote a fantastic piece on the pitcher who he correctly called “one of the best pitchers of his generation.” In that piece, Brisbee described what it was like for a batter facing Lee:
Watching a pitcher move inside and out, up and down, is absolutely symphonic. But it’s even more entertaining to watch the hitters panic, knowing that the baseball can dart a foot away from the plate if it doesn’t bore right in on their damned thumbs. The hitter is acutely aware that the pitcher on the mound can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and there’s a split second to determine if the ball is going to hurt him, be hittable or be so unhittable that it will make him look like an idiot if he swings.
Over parts of five seasons with the Phillies, Lee recorded a 48-34 record with a 2.94 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, and 2.85 FIP. He yielded just 777 hits over 827.1 innings across 118 starts, surrendering just 80 home runs while registering a 21.6 WAR mark.
He also produced an other-worldly 813/124 K:BB ratio, made a pair of NL All-Star teams, and finished among the leaders in Cy Young voting twice. In his time with the Phillies, Lee led the National League in shutouts in 2011, and twice led the league in both the K/BB and BB/9 categories.
Cliff Lee was one of the most popular players on a team populated with those types of individuals, the greatest Phillies team to never win a world championship. That popularity has never waned.
His being traded away in December 2009 may have kept the 2010 Phillies from winning another World Series crown. But neither was his return as a free agent in December 2010 enough to make that happen for a record-setting Phillies team in 2011.
It remains possible that one day we’ll be watching Lee enjoy an induction ceremony to the Phillies Wall of Fame. For the millions of fans who packed Citizens Bank Park during the final years of that heyday, it would be a well-deserved honor.

2008 Phillies first World Series reunion will take place without Chase Utley

Chase will be back for future 2008 reunions
Just a little more than a week from now the Philadelphia Phillies will return from a six-game road trip to Cincinnati and Boston. 
When they get back, the club has a big party weekend planned for the organization and its fans.
During a four-game long weekend series with the Miami Marlins from Thursday, August 2 through Sunday, August 5 the Phillies will hold their annual “Alumni Weekend“, paying homage to a number of heroes from the franchise’ past.
Those honors begin with the Friday night game during which the Phillies will fete former all-star Shane Victorino, who recently announced his formal retirement from Major League Baseball.
“The Flyin’ Hawaiian” spent eight of his dozen big league seasons in a Phillies uniform, including as the starting center fielder for the 2008 World Series champions. Victorino produced 998 hits, won three Gold Gloves, and was a two-time all-star during his time with the Phillies.
On Saturday night, the Phillies will induct two men to their Wall of Fame. The general manager of those 2008 world champions, Pat Gillick, will be inducted that night along with the late Roy Halladay.
The weekend concludes on Sunday with a 10th anniversary reunion of the memorable 2008 World Series championship Phillies team.
Returning for that day’s festivities will be a pair of Wall of Famers in manager Charlie Manuel and outfielder Pat Burrell. Also expected to return are players such as Jimmy RollinsRyan HowardJayson WerthBrett MyersBrad Lidge, and more.
One vitally important piece of that title-winning team who won’t be present is Chase Utley. He is now playing out his 16th and final season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will be hosting the current world champion Houston Astros that weekend.
I am disappointed I am not going to be able to be here with all the guys,” said Utley per Evan Macy of The Philly Voice. “I’ve seen a handful of guys more recently and more guys I haven’t seen since that year. I look forward to sitting down and talking to them and seeing what they’re doing with their life.
Utley, who is in town this week with the Dodgers for his final regular season visit to Citizens Bank Park, still keeps in close contact with Rollins, Werth, Howard, and others from his time with the Phillies according to Macy.
This will only be the first of what are sure to be numerous reunions of that unforgettable 2008 World Series championship team over the coming decade. At some point within these next few years there will be ceremonies honoring at least a handful more of those players as they are each added to that Wall of Fame.
One of those ceremonies will surely be for Utley himself, who over parts of thirteen years left an indelible mark on the team and in the hearts of its fans. 
Those fans will show up in droves to heap some more love on “The Man” on that night and will continue to visit his Wall of Fame plaque for decades to come.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Chase Utley disappointed he won’t be at 2008 Phillies reunion

And then there were four

Jayson Werth raises 2008 World Series trophy

On Wednesday night, October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park, the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays took to the field to resume Game Five of the World Series.

The Phillies had fought their way to a 3-1 lead in the Fall Classic, and needed just one more victory to secure only the second world championship in franchise history.

Game Five had originally begun two nights earlier, on Monday, October 27. However, rain began to fall early on that night, and grew to torrential proportions by the middle innings.

After the Rays tied the game up at 2-2 in the top of the 6th inning, Major League Baseball finally stepped in, and the game was suspended.

After two days of rains, the two clubs finally re-took the field in South Philadelphia. Geoff Jenkins got the home crowd stoked immediately, bombing a double to center field off of Rays reliever Grant Balfour. Jimmy Rollins then bunted him over to third base.

With the go-ahead run just 90 feet away from home plate, Jayson Werth stepped into the box. On a 2-2 pitch, the Phillies right fielder looped a base hit into center field, scoring Jenkins to put the Phils back on top 3-2.

The two clubs would trade runs in the final frames, and the Phillies would memorably mob closer Brad Lidge on the mound after the final out.

Just yesterday, while playing in the minor leagues of the Washington Nationals organization, Werth revealed that he was retiring from professional baseball.

This brings to the end a career that saw him appear with the Toronto Blue Jays (2002-03), Los Angeles Dodgers (2004-05), Phillies (2007-10) and the Nationals (2011-17) over parts of 15 seasons.

During his four seasons with the Phillies, Werth produced a strong .282/.380/.506 slash line. He slammed 95 homers, drove in 300 runs, scored 320 times, and stole 60 bases.

Compare those numbers to those produced by Jim Thome in his four seasons here in Philadelphia, and you will find that Werth is certainly worthy of consideration to be enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame at some point in the future.

However, he is going to have to wait a bit. Most of those 2008 World Series champions are now gone from the game. A number of them are going to be honored before Werth can be considered.

Left fielder Pat Burrell is already on the Wall of Fame. ‘Pat the Bat’ played his final season with the San Francisco Giants in 2011.

Third baseman Pedro Feliz last appeared in the big leagues with the Saint Louis Cardinals in 2010. He bounced around the minors, winter leagues, and independent leagues for a couple of years, and has not played at all since 2014.

The center fielder, Shane Victorino, won another World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2013. ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian’ last played for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 2015.

It was a mid-season 2016 career finale with the Chicago White Sox for Jimmy Rollins. The heart and soul of the Phillies for a decade and a half and the franchise’ all-time Hits leader, ‘JRoll’ could make an intriguing candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame one day.

Ryan Howard never wore another uniform in a regular season MLB game other than that of the Philadelphia Phillies, finishing up his career here with the 2016 season.

He tried a comeback last year with both the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies, but ‘The Big Piece’ couldn’t get out of either minor league system. While not officially retired, he is not getting back to the big leagues.

Carlos Ruiz was with the Phillies into the 2016 season, during which he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers. ‘Chooch’ played in 53 games last year with the Seattle Mariners, but at age 39 has been unable to catch (pun intended) on with any club here in the 2018 campaign. His career also appears to be over.

The key bench players, Jenkins, Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett, Matt Stairs, and Greg Dobbs are all long gone from the playing field. Dobbs was the last, playing with the Nationals and Miami Marlins during the 2014 campaign.

On the mound, the ‘Ancient Mariner’, local hero Jamie Moyer, finally aged out of the game after hanging around into his age 49 season with the Colorado Rockies in 2012.

Brett Myers had a few successful years with the Houston Astros. His career ended after four appearances with the Cleveland Indians in the 2014 season. He has now transitioned into a country music recording career.

A home run hero in that World Series, Joe Blanton was able to transition into a successful reliever for a few teams, including a pivotal role with an LA Dodgers team that reached the NLCS in 2016. He finished up with the Nats a year ago, and is now into wine production in northern California.

Two men pitched at the back end of the Phillies rotation that season, Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton. Kendrick got back to the bigs last year with the Boston Red Sox, but has not been able to catch on anywhere this year. He appears done at just age 33. Eaton last pitched in the 2009 season with the Colorado Rockies.

Lidge stayed with the Phillies through the 2011 season, then had one more year with the Nationals in 2012. Chad Durbin and J.C. Ramirez of the ‘Bridge to Lidge’ bullpen finished up in 2013 and 2012 respectively. Durbin wrapped his career with 16 final ineffective innings with the Phillies.

Clay Condrey and Scott Eyre were two more key members of that bullpen. Each retired following the 2009 return to the World Series with the Phillies.

So if you are wondering if anyone is left, the answer would be that there are now just four active players in Major League Baseball who played with those 2008 World Series champion Phillies.

Cole Hamels is still with the Texas Rangers after being dealt for a big package of prospects in late July 2015. He is actually now once again considered a trade candidate, and at age 34 could even return to the Phillies.

A 25-year old at the time, J.A. Happ appeared in just eight games with those 2008 Phillies, making just four starts. He was dealt to the Houston Astros in 2010 as part of the Roy Oswalt trade, and has had a solid big league career. Happ is another valuable trade candidate now at age 35 with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The best story of this dwindling group belongs to relief pitcher Ryan Madson. Now 37 years old, Madson was passed over by the Phillies when he became a free agent following the 2011 season.

Madson signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $6 million. He would never pitch in Cincinnati, suffering a torn ligament in his right elbow during spring training of 2012. Missing the entire season and most of 2013, he was unable to get back to the big leagues. When no one signed him for 2014, Madson retired.

But that was not the end of his story. After three seasons away from MLB due to that elbow injury, Madson decided to give it one more try. He was signed by the Kansas City Royals, and incredibly made the team. Not only that, he became one of the most effective relievers in baseball once again, helping the Royals to win the World Series in 2015.

Madson has continued his late-career renaissance, earning himself $20 million worth of contracts over the last three seasons. He continues to pitch out of the Washington Nationals bullpen, and Phillies fans will likely get a chance to see him this weekend.

That leaves one man to cover, and he is ‘The Man’, Chase Utley. Now aged 39, the gray-haired Utley is still plugging away with the Los Angeles Dodgers out in his native California.

Long past the all-star days when he was the game’s top second baseman, Chase provides a veteran presence off the bench in his fourth season for a Dodgers team that hopes to contend.

Jayson Werth is retiring, and then there were four. Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, Ryan Madson. Who knows, we might even get to see one of them back in a Phillies uniform before they finally decide to hang it up for good. It won’t be long. Another two or three years, perhaps, and they will all be gone from the game for good.

But for Phillies fans, they will never be forgotten, and they will be feted at numerous reunions in the future. In fact, the first of those will officially take place on August 5 of this season. That night, the Phillies will honor the 10th anniversary with a formal reunion on Alumni weekend.

The odds just became greater that Werth will be able to join the others already scheduled to attend. But since it’s a Sunday, and all the MLB teams will be scheduled to play, you won’t see the other four. There own reunion is coming, certainly by the 20th anniversary in 2028.