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Phillies honor Bobby Abreu with place on the Wall of Fame

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Bobby Abreu joins the immortals on the Phillies Wall of Fame

The Phillies are honoring 1998-2006 outfielder Bobby Abreu prior to the game on Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox by enshrining him on the franchise Wall of Fame.

In a special pre-game ceremony, numerous past Wall of Fame honorees are expected to be on hand, including the franchise’ all-time greatest player, Mike Schmidt.
Abreu played in parts of nine seasons with the Phillies from 1998-2006. He is currently 2nd in walks, 4th in doubles, 7th in extra-base hits and stolen bases, 10th in runs scored, 11th in home runs and RBIs, and 14th in hits on the Phillies all-time leader boards.
His .303 career batting average across 1,353 games with the Phillies is the second-highest of any player who has performed with the team over more than half a century, trailing only the .309 mark produced by fellow Wall of Famer John Kruk. His .416 on-base percentage is the fourth-best of any player during their Phillies career, and Abreu’s .928 career OPS with the Phillies is second in franchise history only to the great Hall of Famer and Wall of Famer, Chuck Klein.
Abreu is a native of Venezuela who was signed by the Houston Astros as a 16-year-old amateur free agent in August 1990. He received his first big-league promotion for a 15-game cup of coffee in September 1996.
He appeared twice against the Phillies that month, lining out to center fielder Ricky Otero as a pinch-hitter for Billy Wagner in a 10-8 Phillies victory at the Astrodome on September 11 in his first game against them.
In 1997, Abreu made the team out of spring training, and stayed with Houston through May. He returned for five games in July, and then was called up again in September, appearing in another 14 games. Against the Phillies he went 4-17 with two runs and two RBIs over five games. He would also pinch-hit, going 1-3, in all three games of the Astros sweept at the hands of the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.

Abreu as a 24-year-old in his first season with the Phillies in 1998.(Roger H. Rangel)
That fall, Major League Baseball expanded to include a pair of new teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now just “Rays”) and an Expansion Draft was held. Abreu, left unprotected by the Astros, became the sixth player chosen overall, the third by Tampa Bay.
Abreu would never play a single game with those original Devil Rays. In fact, he would never get to the Sunshine State at all. On the same day that he was selected in that draft process, the Phillies traded away shortstop Kevin Stocker to acquire Abreu from Tampa.
Stepping into what was a rebuilding Phillies lineup in the 1998 season, the 24-year-old Abreu made an immediate impact by slashing .312/.409/.497 with 17 home runs, 52 extra-base hits, 74 RBIs, 68 runs scored, and 19 steals.
The following year he received NL MVP votes after leading all of baseball with 11 triples. Abreu slashed .335/.446/.549 with 66 extra-base hits, 118 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases in that 1999 campaign, finishing third in the National League batting race. In 2000, Abreu became the first Phillies outfielder since Greg Luzinski in 1979-80 to produce back-to-back 20-homer seasons.
Abreu remained an impact player over the next few years as the Phillies slowly began to build a contending roster around him. He produced a 30-30 season in 2001 (31 HR/36 SB), led the National League in doubles in 2002, and would drive in over 100 runs in four of five seasons between 2001-05. He would also score 100 or more runs in all but one year between 1999-2005, crossing the plate “only” 99 times in the 2003 season.
In both 2004 and 2005, Abreu was recognized as a National League All-Star. He was awarded the NL Silver Slugger for right fielders following the 2004 season when he banged 30 home runs and 78 extra-base hits, drove in 105 runs, scored 118, and stole 40 bases. On April 12, 2004, Abreu left his mark on Phillies history when he clubbed the first-ever home run at brand new Citizens Bank Park.
At the National League All-Star Game held at Comerica Park in Detroit, Abreu was entered in the Home Run Derby, becoming just the second Phillies player ever selected to participate, following teammate Jim Thome the previous year.
Not only did Abreu participate in that 2005 Home Run Derby, he put on a legendary show, setting what were then records of 24 homers in a single round and 41 overall. Following that 2005 season, Abreu was awarded the National League Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence in right field.
Turning age 32 and with the Phillies looking to get more playing time for emerging 25-year-old outfielder Shane Victorino, Abreu was sent along with pitcher Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees for a package of four prospects at the 2006 MLB trade deadline.
Abreu get to play with the five straight National League East Division champions. And, of course, he wouldn’t be a part of the 2008 Phillies team that won the World Series. But still living in the area in Marlton, New Jersey when Brad Lidge sank to his knees and was piled upon by a number of Abreu’s former teammates on that glorious October night, he and his wife popped a bottle of champagne in celebration all the same.
I know how hard they worked,” Abreu said per Michael McGarry of the Press of Atlanta City. “I was a part of it. I have Phillies in my heart. I wasn’t there at that moment. But I was at my house celebrating.
None of the prospects received by the Phillies in that deal ever amounted to anything. Lidle would tragically die in a private plane crash just months later. But Abreu kept on hitting, driving in over 100 runs in that 2006 season, and then again for the Yankees in 2007 and 2008, receiving AL MVP votes in each of those last two seasons.
Just as he wasn’t with the ’08 Phillies champs, Abreu would not be part of the Yankees team that downed the Phillies in the 2009 World Series either. He became a free agent following the 2008 season and signed with the Los Angeles Angels. There, Abreu enjoyed one final 100 RBI season in 2009, and a final 20 homer season in 2010.
While with the Yankees and Angels, Abreu did finally got a lengthy taste of postseason play. He appeared in all eight Yankees ALDS games in both 2007-08, blasting his only-ever playoff home run against Cleveland on October 8. 2007.

Abreu enjoyed his final productive big-league seasons with the Angels from 2009-12. (Keith Allison)
With the Angels he appeared in all three of their 2009 ALDS sweep of the Boston Red Sox, rapping out three hits in the clincher. He then faced his former Yankees team in the ALCS, going just 4-25 with two RBI and falling two wins shy of meeting the Phillies in that 2009 Fall Classic. It would be Abreu’s last appearance in the postseason.
The Angels released him at age 38 in April of 2012. A week later he caught on with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he was a teammate of Victorino’s on a team that finished in second place in the NL West, two games shy of an NL Wildcard berth.
Abreu sat out the entire 2013 season as he contemplated retirement. But back home he participated in the Venezuelan Winter League and enjoyed success, hitting .322 with Caracas. In January 2014, Abreu signed with the Phillies and went to spring training in Clearwater with his old organization.
The Phillies reunion wouldn’t last. Abreu was released at the end of Grapefruit League play. However, just days later he caught on with the New York Mets. He would appear in just 78 games with the Mets in a final big-league season at age 40, after which Abreu finally hung up the spikes.
In a last hurrah, it would all come full circle for Abreu. His final career at-bat would come against the team that had signed him more than two decades earlier, the Houston Astros. With two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning on Sunday September 28 at Citi Field, Abreu lined a base hit to left off Nick Tropeano. He was pinch-run for by Eric Young, and road off into the baseball sunset.
Abreu becomes the 41st individual enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He joins former teammates already enshrined on the Wall in Mike Lieberthal (1998-2006), Pat Burrell (2000-06), Curt Schilling (1998-2000) and Thome (2003-05), as well as Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel, who were two of Abreu’s managers in Philadelphia.
Abreu’s career in a Phillies uniform also overlapped with a number of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies, including Jimmy Rollins (2000-06), Chase Utley (2003-06), Ryan Howard(2004-06) and Cole Hamels (2006), all of whom will one day find themselves enshrined.
There is a chance that Victorino (2005-06), Carlos Ruiz (2006), Ryan Madson (2003-06), Brett Myers (2002-06) or Randy Wolf (1999-2006), all of whom played with Abreu in Philadelphia, could also one day wind up honored on the Wall of Fame.
Bobby Abreu was a key offensive performer during the late-1990’s when the Phillies were a rebuilding National League doormat. He became an All-Star player as the club built a winning roster through the early-mid 2000’s, but was dealt away just as the club was prepared for a long run of division titles.
Abreu should be remembered as the dynamic power-speed combo player that he was in those early years with the Phillies, and for his performance during those tremendous years he is a worthy Wall of Fame enshrinee.

Phillies welcome a weak Chisox club to town for weekend set

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The Chicago White Sox (46-60) come in to South Philly for a three-game weekend Interleague series with the host Philadelphia Phillies (57-51) at Citizens Bank Park.

Though both teams are at around the same spot in their respective divisions, their respective fates in this 2019 season couldn’t be more different. The Chisox season is already over. They are buried at 14.5 games out in both the AL Central Division race and American League Wildcard playoff race.
The Phillies enter this series in a three-way tie with the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs for the two available NL Wildcard playoff berths. The Phillies are tied for second place, sitting six games behind the Atlanta Braves in the loss column in the National League East Division.
These two franchise’ have met just 16 times in their history, with the Phillies capturing 10 of those, including eight of 11 meetings at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have also won the last three straight in the head-to-head series, taking the last two at home by 8-3 and 7-6 scores back in September of 2016.
The Phillies and White Sox share an affinity for a recent-era legend, Jim Thome. Though he was inducted last summer to the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing a Cleveland Indians cap, Thome starred with the Phillies from 2003-05 and returned briefly in 2012. He was inducted to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2016.
Dealt to the Chisox in November 2005 in a multi-player deal highlighted by Aaron Rowand coming to Philly, Thome then starred in Chicago into the 2009 season when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the August 31 waiver deadline. He actually played in more games (529-391) and hit more home runs (134-101) with the White Sox than the Phillies. Thome now works as a special assistant to the White Sox organization.
A plaque is located at the White Sox home ball park, Guaranteed Rate Field, in the center field fan deck honoring Thome. It reads: “On June 4, 2008, Chicago White Sox slugger Jim Thome became the first player ever to hit a baseball onto the Fan Deck of U.S. Cellular Field as the Sox beat the Kansas City Royals. He duplicated the tape-measure feat on September 30, 2008 as the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins, 1-0, in a one-game playoff to win the American League Central Division championship.
The last time that the Chisox came to Philly it resulted in a Phillies sweep. Frankly, this is the kind of opponent that these current Phillies need to sweep as well. That is easier said than done. The Phillies haven’t swept any series of three or more games since taking out the New York Mets in a four-gamer back in late June, the last time they won four straight games at all.
In the August 1 MLB Power Ranking released here at Phillies Nation, the White Sox ranked just 28th of the 30 MLB clubs. The Phillies finished 14th in those most recent rankings. Scoring at a rate of 4.08 runs per game, the Chicago offense is 28th in MLB. Their pitching staff OPS-against of .339 is 24th, similar to the Phillies staff .334 (22nd) mark.
Thome will not be the only former Phillies face showing up this weekend. The Phillies are honoring their 2009 National League Championship team in a reunion celebration on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon with appearances by players such as Ryan HowardJimmy RollinsChase UtleyBrett MyersBrad Lidge and more. On Saturday night, Bobby Abreu will be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Jose Abreu (32/1B): .263/.299/.472, 22 HR, 44 XBH, 74 RBIs, 48 runs
Tim Anderson (26/SS): .310/.332/.477, 11 HR, 25 XBH, 38 RBIs, 39 runs, 15 steals (just 292 PA’s due to injury)
Eloy Jimenez (22/LF): .233/.294/.459, 17 HR, 24 XBH, 39 RBIs, 36 runs (just 282 PA’s due to injury)
Leury Garcia (28/CF): .292/.326/.391, 6 HR, 27 XBH, 29 RBIs, 66 runs, 12 steals
Jon Jay (34/RF): .324/.352/.392, 7 doubles, 7 RBIs, 10 runs (just 110 PA’s since June 24 promotion)

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Yoan Moncada (24/3B): Happily for the Phillies from a competitive standpoint, the White Sox young star third baseman will miss this series. He was placed on the IL just yesterday with what has been diagnosed as a Grade 1 right hamstring strain. He is expected to be out at least two weeks.
He has been a huge piece for us,” manager Rick Renteria said per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Having him go down is kind of a kick in the gut.
Though it may be good timing for the Phillies, that is a shame for baseball fans. We will be missing out on seeing one of the game’s top young talents, one who doesn’t come to Philadelphia very often since his team plays in the American League Central Division.
Moncada is a 24-year-old who signed with the Boston Red Sox as a high-profile teenage Cuban bonus baby back in 2015. Then in December 2016, he changed socks – literally. The Red Sox sent him to the White Sox as part of a big four-prospect package in exchange for superstar pitcher Chris Sale.
He had received an eight-game cup of coffee with Boston for his MLB debut in 2016, but it was Chicago who gave him his first permanent big-league promotion and starting role beginning in July 2017.
As a 23-year-old in his first full big-league campaign a year ago, Moncada rapped out 55 extra-base hits. He also struck out 217 times, a figure that led all of Major League Baseball.
This year he took a step forward, slashing .301/.358/.535 with 44 extra-base hits, 59 RBIs, and 58 runs scored over his first 97 games prior to the injury.
The Phillies are one of just five MLB teams that he has never faced. Phillies fans will now have to wait at least a while longer before they get their first look at this talented youngster. By the time they do, he could well be much more fully developed star.

The Phillies will happily miss Giolito (center), during this weekend series. (Ian D’Andrea)

CHISOX SHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Ivan Nova (32/RH): 6-9, 5.23 ERA, 5.22 FIP, 1.440 WHIP, 149 hits over 125.2 IP across 22 starts with an 81/32 K:BB
SATURDAY – Ross Detwiler (33/LH: 1-1, 6.35 ERA, 6.84 FIP, 1.676 WHIP, 34 hits over 22.2 IP across 7 appearnces (3 starts) with a 12/4 K:BB
SUNDAY – Reynaldo Lopez (25/RH): 5-9, 5.43 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 1.464 WHIP, 136 hits over 124.1 IP across 22 starts with a 117/46 K:BB
Moncada is not the only talented Chisox youngster whom the Phillies are happy to be missing in this series. Their lone 2019 American League All-Star, starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, took his regular turn on Wednesday night, and so is not scheduled to go during these three games.

THE SKIPPER

Rick Renteria: The 57-year-old Renteria is now in his third season at the helm of the Chisox, having piloted the team to a pair of fourth place finishes. Chicago has won just 67 and 62 games in his first two seasons. This year they are playing much better, but still find themselves 13 games below the .500 mark and already out of the postseason picture.
Renteria was the first round pick at 20th overall back in the 1980 MLB Draft out of South Gate High School in his native California. He played in parts of five big-league seasons with three different teams, seeing his most action as a utility infielder with the expansion 1993 Florida Marlins.
He was both a coach and manager in the Marlins minor league organization after retiring as a player through 2001, and then joined the San Diego Padres in a variety of roles through 2013.
Renteria was hired for his first big-league managerial job with the Chicago Cubs in November 2013. However, he was let go a year later when the Cubs opted to bring in Joe Maddon. Renteria caught on as the Chisox bench coach in 2016, leading to his taking over the managerial reigns for the 2017 campaign.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

FRIDAY: The temps will drop from the low-80’s at the 7:05 pm first pitch time into the upper-70’s through the game. Winds will be light throughout the game, and there is only a slight chance of showers. Should be a nice night at the ballpark for the opener.
SATURDAY: There is a 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms in the forecast for the 7:05 pm first pitch time. Light winds and real-feel temps in the low-80’s throughout the night.
SUNDAY: Mostly sunny with real-feels around the 90 degree mark, light winds, slight chance of showers at the 1:05 pm first pitch time. In all, weather should not play much of a role in this series, aside from the slight possibility of a passing shower at some point.
South Philly forecast from The Weather Channel

Lance Parrish and Gregg Jefferies: big-name free agents who didn’t work out for Phillies

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Lance Parrish had been one of baseball’s top catchers

Excitement surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies has skyrocketed over the nearly two weeks since the announcement that Bryce Harper had agreed to a contract with the team.

Harper was the biggest piece to an off-season puzzle put together by principal owner John Middleton and general manager Matt Klentak, turning the Phillies from an interesting young team into an immediate title contender.
The club also signed a former National League Most Valuable Player, Andrew McCutchen and one of the top relievers in baseball over the last decade, David Robertson, in free agency. However, it was the signing of Harper which lit up the phone lines in the ticket sales office and actually drove fans to the Phillies website to grab seats for 2019 ball games.
Harper is one of the top players in the game today. He becomes the latest in a series of high-profile free agent stars from Pete Rose in 1978 to Jim Thome in 2002 to Cliff Lee in 2010 to choose Philadelphia as their new home. He is by far the youngest and is expected to impact the organization for a far longer time period than any free agent addition in franchise history.
Signing a big-name All-Star in free agency has not always worked out for the Phillies, however. The two biggest during the decades of the 1980’s and the 1990’s each ended up a major let-down. Neither of those players would produce to the standards they had set in their respective careers prior to their arrival in Philadelphia. Neither would help the team to achieve success. Here is a look back at those two disappointing free agent signings.

Lance Parrish was a slugging catcher who appeared to be just what the late-80’s Phillies needed to return to contention. (KG Graphics/WikiCommons)
The Phillies of the mid-late 1980’s began to fall on some hard times as management tried one of the toughest tricks in baseball, rebuilding while continuing to win. It wasn’t working out real well. The 1984 Phillies slipped to the .500 mark at 81-81, and the following year suffered the first losing season for the team in a decade.
In 1986, the Phillies bounced back to finish 86-75. It was the third-best record in the National League, but still only good enough for second place, 22 games behind a mega-talented New York Mets club that would go on to win the World Series.
Still, the Phillies felt that they were back. Schmidt had won his third NL MVP and was still going strong at age 36. Juan SamuelVon Hayes and Glenn Wilson were providing solid support.
The catching position was in a state of flux. Ozzie Virgil Jr, who had been an NL All-Star in 1985, had been traded to the Atlanta Braves in a deal that brought closer Steve Bedrosian and outfielder Milt Thompson to the Phillies.
In the 1986 season, 25-year-old John Russell was the starter behind the plate and caught in 93 games. He was supported by Ronn Reynolds, a 27-year-old who came over from the Mets and caught in 43 games and a skinny 24-year-old named Darren Daulton who caught 49 times.
On the free agent market in the off-season the club decided to close the gap with the Mets by upgrading behind the dish. The 30-year-old Parrish, one of the top catchers in the game at the time, had become a free agent. The Phillies jumped, inking him to a two-year contract at $1 million per season.
Parrish had been an AL All-Star catcher in the previous five years and six of the prior seven seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He was a five-time Silver Slugger winner as well as a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and a key cog in their 1984 World Series championship team.
His first game with the Phillies came on April 7, 1987 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Much as with Rose’s first game in the powder blue road unis of the time, it was nothing to write home about. The Phillies were shutout that night by Rick Mahler, who surrendered just three hits in a complete game effort. Parrish went 0-2 with a walk.
The 1987 Phillies never got going. They lost their first four game, eight of their first nine, and were ten games under the .500 mark in early May.
A big push from late-June through late-August during which they went 35-18 pushed them nine games over the .500 mark and moved the club within 6.5 games of first place. But they would go just 13-25 from that point, finishing in fourth place, 15 games out.
In 1988 the Phillies sank to the bottom of the NL East standings like a stone right from the outset. They were 7.5 out by the end of April, 14 games back by the end of May, and were 16 out at the MLB All-Star break. Things only got worse after that point. The team went 29-47 after the break to finish in last place, 36.5 games behind the leaders.
To say that the two seasons with Parrish were disappointing would be an understatement. Not only did the team fail the fans, but so did he, slashing just .230/.304/.385 with 32 homers, 38 doubles and 127 RBI over 253 games with the Phillies.
Jefferies arrived with the Phillies at an unusual time for both the franchise and the game. He signed a four-year, $20 million deal as a free agent on December 14, 1994. At the time, Major League Baseball was still in the midst of a player strike that had seen the World Series cancelled for the first time since its inception. The strike would finally be resolved on April 2, 1995 and the season would begin three weeks later.
The Phillies had been the surprise 1993 NL pennant winners. But at the time the strike they were just 54-61 and struggling along in fourth place. One of the most popular veterans of that team, John Kruk, was turning 33-years-old and became a free agent.

Jefferies wasn’t bad in his time with the Phillies. He was just never very good, and after early promise, neither was the team. (1995 Upper Deck SP)
Re-tooling their lineup, the club decided to bring back former third baseman Charlie Hayes as a free agent as soon as the strike was ended. That moved incumbent Dave Hollins over to first base to take Kruk’s spot.
Jefferies couldn’t agree to contract terms with the Saint Louis Cardinals, and chose to leave for the Phillies. He would end up splitting time between left field and first base in his first two seasons with the club, and then become the full-time starting left fielder in the last two.
Just 27-years-old when he signed, the Phillies appeared to be getting one of the top pure hitters in the game as he was entering his prime.
Jefferies had reached Major League Baseball at just age 19 when he was the youngest player in the NL with the 1987 New York Mets. He finished 3rd in the 1989 NL Rookie of the Year voting, and then hit .342 and .325 and had been an NL All-Star in each of the two seasons with the Cardinals prior to his arrival in Philadelphia.
The hope was that he could bring a similar skill set as Kruk had provided. A slashing doubles hitter who could get on-base frequently. His ability to play the outfield also allowed manager Jim Fregosi some versatility in lineup construction.
Much of the 1993 popular core was still around, including Hollins, Curt Schilling, Darren Daulton, Lenny DykstraJim EisenreichMariano DuncanMickey Morandini and Kevin Stocker. It was hoped that the additions of Jefferies and Hayes would help the club return to contending status.
Jefferies debuted on April 26, 1995 at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals in Saint Louis. The host Redbirds would rally from an early 5-0 deficit, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the 9th inning for a 7-6 walkoff victory. Jefferies went 1-4 with a walk, run scored, and a stolen base. He was also thrown out stealing.
The 1995 Phillies came out like gang-busters. With baseball back, that club ran out to a 37-18 record by June 25, building a 4.5 game lead in the NL East. Then the inexplicable happened. They returned home for a seven-game homestand and won just once. It was the beginning of a horrendous slide in which the club would lose 20 of their next 26 games.
They never recovered, falling further and further out in the division. The 1995 Phillies would finish tied for second place, but at 69-75 were 21 games behind the division-winning Atlanta Braves, who would go on to win the World Series that year.
Jefferies would have one major individual highlight during the 1995 season. On August 26 he became the first Phillies player in 32 years to hit for ‘The Cycle’ when he did it against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Veteran’s Stadium.

That 1995 season would be the first of four consecutive big losing seasons during Jefferies years with the Phillies. It became a period in which the team, rather than finding a way to continue the 1993 success, would instead increasingly move through transition. By his final year in 1998, Jefferies was teammates with the likes of Scott RolenBobby Abreu and Mike Lieberthal. But they were the future, and he was pretty much finished.
Over his four seasons in Philadelphia, Jefferies slashed .287/.340/.411 with 95 doubles and 52 stolen bases. He wasn’t a bad player – he just wasn’t a very good one either. While it was never expected that he would carry the team, it was hoped that he would remain an All-Star caliber player who would help the Phillies back to contention. After those first two months, they never came close.
With the signing of Harper, a new era is clearly dawning in the history of Phillies baseball. It is a near certainty that he will prove a far more positive influence on that history than either Parrish or Jefferies. Fans are hoping that by the time his 13-year contract is finished, the Harper-era Phillies will not only have surpassed the results of the Lee and Thome clubs, but even the World Series-winning Rose team.

It’s time for the Phillies to finish off the Bryce Harper negotiations

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Middleton (L) hasn’t had a slugger like Howard in years

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
This was the statement made by Philadelphia Phillies principal owner John Middleton at the Major League Baseball owner’s meetings back in mid-November. His statement lit a spark that blazed up Hot Stove logs in the fireplace of Phillies fans everywhere.
We believed all along that Middleton was the ultimate answer to the Phillies returning to the consistent glory that so many in that fan base had come to expect. Remember, this was the man who, after the club had dropped the 2009 World Series in six games to the New York Yankees, made the following statement to Ryan Howard“Ryan, I want my fucking trophy back. It’s fucking ours!” 
From 2001 through 2012, a period of a dozen seasons, the Phillies were playoff contenders nearly every year. But then the bottom dropped out, and for five years the team and those fans wandered through the darkness of a bleak losing wilderness.
For the first decade after Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004 those fans swarmed to the beautiful South Philly ballpark. More than three million tickets were sold in eight of those 10 seasons, including a half-dozen in a row. The ballpark was the place to be, a social happening every single game.
But as the losing began and club management and ownership seemed to give up on putting out a winning product, fan interest waned. The Phillies didn’t even draw two million for three straight years from 2014-17.
Things appeared to be turning around last season. The club was a surprising contender for much of the summer, leading the division for more than a month from July 6 through August 12. Fans responded to the winning and some strong promotional events by filling more than 30,000 seats for 18 games between late-June and mid-August.
But as the team collapsed to a 12-28 record over the final six weeks, fan interest dried up. The Phillies drew that 30,000 figure just five more times. All of those were on weekends, with three specifically for Sunday promotions.
The message from last year when viewed against the previous handful of seasons is clear to Middleton. Do your job and put a winning team on the field and fans will respond. The message from a decade ago is also clear. Put players on that winner who those fans can relate to and who excite them, and they will come out in droves.
General manager Matt Klentak has performed well thus far. In what has been by far his best off-season to date the GM has signed free agents Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and swung trades to bring in Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto.
Middleton does understand. He is one of us in this regard: he is also a fan. He is driven. He wants to win. That is why he fueled up his private jet with the red Phillies “P” branded on the tail and had the pilots fly him out to Las Vegas, hometown of the biggest fish in this off-season’s large free agent lake, Bryce Harper.
But it isn’t enough. Look around at the other National League contenders. The Phillies are improved, but so are any number of other teams that already appeared to be ahead of them. The fans realize that this team has a chance to contend for a Wildcard spot now. But that is not what spending “stupid” money is supposed to get you.
The players added thus far by Klentak are respected by most of the fan base. But to really fill up the ballpark again it is going to require star power. Even with the additions and maturation of players like Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola, it is lacking marquee star power. There is no Mike Schmidt or Jim Thome.
After the other big free agent whom the Phillies took a run at this off-season, Manny Machado, signed with the San Diego Padres, Klentak stated “If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.” This is not one of those times. In fact, sometimes you have to be willing to go beyond mere numerical valuations.
That is where Middleton comes in at this point. Harper is the big fish, the top prize. He would bring the tremendous raw power to the lineup that has largely been missing since Howard’s 2006-09 peak years. He would bring star power not seen around these parts since ‘The Big Piece’ and his teammates began to age-out and break up earlier this decade.
After meeting with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras this weekend, Middleton flew home on Saturday night due to a prior engagement. While he was gone, representative of the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly slipped into Vegas on Sunday and tried to take one last shot at luring Harper with a short-term deal.

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Would Bryce Harper be interested in a short-term, high AAV deal with the ?@Ken_Rosenthal discusses the Dodgers reported interest in Harper on .

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I have never met the man, but I believe that I know John Middleton. He is not going to let this get away from him. At least not over money and desire. I fully expect the Phillies owner to be back on his plane and heading back out to Vegas to close this thing out. It may be happening as you read this, in fact.

It is time, and he knows it. When a big game is on the line at the end, you send in your strong-armed closer. When an important business deal is getting down to the brass tacks of final negotiations, you send in the big guns to close. John Middleton is the closer, the big gun. It is time to close out Bryce Harper.

My 2019 IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

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Former Phillies star Jim Thome was among those voted into the HOF last year

As a lifetime member of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association), I have the honor of being involved in the organization’s annual Hall of Fame voting process. This is my fifth year with a ballot, and my selections were turned in about two weeks ago.

The IBWAA voting process does not earn a player a plaque at Cooperstown. It does, however, allow a group of well-informed voters to express their opinion as to which players are deserving of the ultimate honor for their baseball career. You can consider it a formal endorsement from baseball writers and bloggers who represent dozens of internet sites.
I had decided over the last couple of years to break my ballot down into three segments. “Hall of Fame” players are those who, for me, are obvious, or whom I evaluated from previous years and decided were worthy.

“Future Consideration” names are not so obvious to me, but are strong enough candidates that I will continue to evaluate them moving forward. Finally, “Not Hall of Famer” guys are those who just don’t make the cut for me and will not in the future.

In 2017, eight players received my IBWAA vote: Barry BondsRoger ClemensTrevor HoffmanMike MussinaManny RamirezIvan RodriguezCurt Schilling, and Larry Walker. Both Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero, who I had on my “Future Consideration” list that year, were voted in by the full IBWAA membership.
Last year just five returning players received my vote as a “Hall of Fame” player: Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling once again, as well as two newcomers to the ballot: Jim Thome and Chipper Jones.
On my “Future Consideration” list from the 2018 ballot were Hoffman, Mussina, Walker, Ramirez, Scott RolenGary SheffieldBilly WagnerLee SmithJohnny DamonSammy SosaJeff KentFred McGriffOmar VizquelJamie MoyerAndruw Jones, and Johan Santana.
The IBWAA membership honored six players in the final vote a year ago. Bonds and Clemens each finally got in, joined by Thome, CJones, Mussina, and Hoffman.
While the BBWAA only allow their eligible Hall of Fame voters to cast ballots for up to 10 players, the IBWAA has a 15-player limit. I decided after looking over the names to cast a wide ballot this year. Bottom line, I simply felt generous.

MY 2019 IBWAA BALLOT

My list for the 2019 IBWAA ballot was led by Schilling, the only player who has been a definite, no-doubt “Hall of Fame” player for me in both of the last two years but hasn’t made it as yet.
Two newcomers on this year’s ballot were considered by me to be no-doubt “Hall of Fame” players. Both Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay thus received my vote as well.
I had decided early-on to bump up two players from last year’s “Future Consideration” list who were back on the 2019 IBWAA ballot, Walker and Rolen, to receive my vote.
That was originally going to be all for me. And then I got soft. I read a couple of pieces written by respected sources advocating for more players to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and was influenced to send in a full 15-player ballot.
For that reason alone, 10 additional players received my vote this year. These players would have usually found themselves in my “Future Consideration” list: Ramirez, Sheffield, Wagner, Kent, McGriff, and AJones from last year’s ballot. And then newcomers Todd HeltonLance BerkmanRoy Oswalt, and Andy Pettitte.
Over the last few days, I have come to regret that expansion of my ballot. If I had it to do over again, just Schilling, Rivera, Halladay, Walker, and Rolen would have received my vote. The rest would have been in the “Future Consideration” category, along with holdovers Sosa and Vizquel and newcomer Miguel Tejada.
A year from now you can expect me to return to my three-tiered system of breaking down the nominees. You can expect that any of my five 2019 no-doubt players doesn’t make it this time around, they will get a vote from me again next year.

Originally published at Phillies Nation asMatt Veasey’s 2019 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot