Tag Archives: John Mayberry Jr

Cesar Hernandez is holding off critics with a hot start to the 2019 season

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Cesar Hernandez has been hitting well for over a month

This piece has to begin with a disclaimer. Few writers who cover the Philadelphia Phillies on a regular basis have been more critical of second baseman Cesar Hernandez over the last couple of years than yours truly.

If I’ve called for the Phillies to jettison Hernandez and install Scott Kingery as the starting second baseman once, I’ve done it a hundred times since the winter prior to the 2018 campaign.
Hernandez registered career highs of 15 homers, 60 RBIs, and 91 runs scored. He led the Phillies with 19 stolen bases, tying his career high mark.
However, Hernandez slashed just .220/.321/.332 over the 2018 season’s final two full months. The Phillies were in first place and 11 games over the .500 mark when his poor hitting began in earnest on July 29. By the time it all officially came to an end on September 29, the club had finished in third place. They were 10 games out, and produced a sixth consecutive losing season.
Hernandez wasn’t the only reason for that 2018 collapse. Not by a long shot. But he was consistently unproductive. Many of the other players who made up the bulk of the losing during the previous few seasons were gone already. Freddy Galvis, Dom Brown, Cody AscheJohn Mayberry Jr, Cameron RuppTommy Joseph. All either released or traded away.
The 24-year-old Kingery had struggled in his first taste of the big-leagues last season, but also had been forced out of position to shortstop for most of the year, a position he had never previously played. Kingery had been a star in the minor leagues during the 2017 season, after which he was signed to a club-friendly long-term contract.
The Phillies looked to make wholesale changes to their lineup entering the 2019 campaign. Trades brought in a new shortstop in Jean Segura and a new catcher in J.T. Realmuto. Both Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper were signed to take over the corner outfield spots. Rhys Hoskins was moved back to his more natural first base position.
The idea that the Phillies could upgrade the second base position as well was a natural for those of us in the anti-Cesar camp. Find a taker for a player who would turn 29-years-old this year. Turn the Keystone over to Kingery at his own natural position, where he had won a 2017 minor league Gold Glove.
The calls got even louder as the first few weeks of 2019 unfolded. Kingery came out blazing hot, slashing .406/.457/.719 over his first 14 games. Meanwhile, Hernandez was slashing just .246/.329/.391 with just five extra-base hits over his own first 18 games.
All of the talk came to an end on April 20. The previous day, Hernandez had gone 0-6 in a 4-3, 12-inning loss at Colorado. But Kingery had gotten hurt, straining his right hamstring in the same game. He would be placed on the Injured List and miss a full month.
Whether a coincidence or not, Hernandez seemed to thrive with no one breathing down his neck. He went 2-5 and drove in a run with a double as the Phillies downed the Rockies by 8-5 and has not stopped hitting ever since.
From that April 20 game at Coors Field through last night’s three-hit game at Wrigley Field, Hernandez has been on fire. He has slashed .353/.407/.529 during a stretch of 28 games. In a lineup known for striking out, Hernandez has whiffed just 15 times during this hot streak.
Hernandez is now on pace to deliver a season of 14 homers, 70 RBIs, 77 runs scored, and 10 steals while hitting mostly from the bottom third of manager Gabe Kapler‘s batting order. He is hitting .310 with a .375 on-base percentage, trailing just Segura in the former category, tied with McCutchen for second on the team in the latter.
Defensively, this has not been a stellar season for Hernandez. He has already committed five errors, and anyone watching on a regular basis has seen him involved in at least a handful more misplays. He currently ranks just 13th in the big-leagues by Fangraphs at the second base position.
Hernandez is not a star, and he is not irreplaceable. His 2.5 WAR total among all those who have played at least 50% of the time as a big-league second baseman since last year’s All-Star Game ranks him just 19th in the game in that time. Over more than 2,800 career plate appearances he has just 36 homers and a .739 OPS.
Also, for someone who appears to possess the flat-out speed to do much more, he simply doesn’t steal enough. On top of that, Hernandez has committed a number of blunders as a baserunner to leave fans frequently cratching their heads or screaming out in all-caps on social media. He isn’t horrible, but man can he be frustrating with the glove and on the bases. A switch to the more talented Kingery at some point is going to be inevitable.
But that time is not now. Phillies fans, myself included, need to back off Hernandez. He is scratching out base hits, and in the process is helping the club to win ball games while also elevating his potential trade value. Whether such a deal happens this season or in the next off-season is irrelevant. For now, the only call from fans should be to ring out: “Hail, Cesar!”

Phillies Father’s Day Connections

To all of my fellow fathers out there, I would like to wish you a Happy Father’s Day. 
In the history of the Phillies franchise, there have been a number of father-son combinations that have played in Major League Baseball.
One that immediately springs to mind for many modern-day Phils fans would be former GM Ruben Amaro Jr, who played for the Phillies in 1992-93, and then again in the 1996-98 seasons. HIs father, Ruben Amaro Sr, played with the club from 1960-65.
Jun 14, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Francona (17) watches batting practice before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Former Phillies manager Terry Francona, who guided the team from 1997-2000, was raised in the game by his dad, Tito Francona, who appeared briefly for the 1967 Phillies. Tito had a 15-year big league career from 1956-70, and the Phils were one of nine teams for whom he played.
All Phillies fans are well aware that Pete Rose was the catalyst to the franchise’ first-ever World Series crown in 1980, and is MLB’s all-time Hit King. His son, Pete Rose Jr, made 16 plate appearances over 11 games with the 1997 Cincinnati Reds.
Catcher Bob Boone is on the Phillies Wall of Fame, and called games for nearly every pitcher who donned the red pinstripes from 1973-81. His father, Ray Boone, played with six different organizations over 13 seasons from 1948-60.
As most know, it doesn’t end there for the Boone clan
. Bob’s sons Aaron Boone and Brett Boone, each had memorable big league careers, Aaron from 1997-2009, Brett from 1992-2005.
The Boone’s aren’t the only multi-generational family to have touched the Phillies. The club signed David Bell as a free agent, and he played 3rd base for the team from 2003-06. His brother Mike Bell appeared briefly in 2000 with the Cincinnati Reds.
The Bell boy’s father was Buddy Bell, a 5x All-Star and 6x Gold Glover in the 1970’s and 80’s with Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. Their grandfather was Gus Bell, who hit 206 big league homers with four different teams between 1950-64.
Hall of Fame 1st baseman Tony Perez was a part of the Phillies ‘Wheeze Kids’ team that won the 1983 NL Pennant. His son is Eduardo Perez, who had a 13-year big league career between 1993-2006, and who is now a key TV analyst for ESPN.
George Sisler, one of the top players in the first half of the 20th century, would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He had two sons reach The Show. Dave Sisler was a pitcher who fashioned a 38-44 career mark.
George’s other son, Dick Sisler, was a 1B/OF with the Phillies from 1948-51. It was Dick’s three-run, 10th inning home run that made the difference as the ‘Whiz Kids’ clinched the NL Pennant in Brooklyn on the 1950 season’s final day.
Bobby Wine was the Phillies regular shortstop for almost the entirety of the 1960’s, from 1960-68. His son, Robbie Wine, was a backup catcher with the Houston Astros in the 1986-87 seasons.
Ivan De Jesus Sr was the Phillies starting shortstop from 1982-84. His son, Ivan De Jesus Jr, is a 29-year old utility player with the Cincinnati Reds.
Relief pitcher Steve Bedrosian won the 1987 NL Cy Young Award while closing for the Phillies from 1986-88. His son, Cam Bedrosian, is also a reliever. The 24-year old is still trying to establish himself as a big league regular.
One of the current team’s outfielders, Peter Bourjos, is on this list. His father, Chris Bourjos, made 24 plate appearances over 13 games as an outfielder with the 1980 San Francisco Giants.
James Russell is a pitcher with the Phillies’ AAA Lehigh Valley affiliates who appeared with the big club for seven games earlier this season. His father, Jeff Russell, was the 1989 Rolaids Relief Man Award winner after leading AL in Saves that year. A 2x All-Star, Jeff was enshrined in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.
Pitcher Jonathan Pettibone made 20 starts for the Phillies over the 2013-14 seasons before his career was derailed by injuries. His dad, Jay Pettibone, was also a pitcher. Jay went 0-4 in his four career big league appearances, all starts, with the 1983 Minnesota Twins.
A 2009-14 member of the Phillies, John Mayberry Jr had a dad, John Mayberry Sr, who blasted 255 big league home runs while playing mostly for the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays in the 1970’s.
Tony Gwynn Jr appeared in 80 games for the 2014 Phillies, and was with the club two years ago this week when his Hall of Fame father, Tony Gwynn Sr, passed away.
With the ill-fated 1964 Phillies team, pitcher Dave Bennett made just one appearance on the mound, his lone big league appearance. His son, Erik Bennett, pitched for the California Angels and Minnesota Twins in 1995-96 respectively.
Left-hander Bruce Ruffin was a regular in the Phillies pitching rotation for most of the 1986-91 campaigns. His son, Chance Ruffin, was a reliever who appeared in 24 games split between the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners in 2011 and 2013.
One of the top outfielders of the 1990’s, Andy Van Slyke finished his career by playing most of the 1995 season with the Phils. His son, Scott Van Slyke, is a bench player with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
These are just some of the many Major League Baseball father-son combinations who have been members of the Phillies organization. 
Many boys are influenced by their father’s choice of career when making their own choice, and baseball players are no different in many cases.

Could Phillies Be Buyers?

So, are there any of my fellow fans of the Philadelphia Phillies out there who might still be reluctant to throw in the towel on the team’s 2014 chances? Let’s try on a pair of rose-colored, or would that be red-pinstriped, glasses and see what we might see.

Following last night’s 2nd consecutive road victory over the Atlanta Braves, who were in first place when this series began, the Phillies are now just 5 games behind the division leading Washington Nationals, just 6 behind the 2nd Wildcard playoff spot.

There has been speculation for weeks that the team would be sellers towards the end of July as Major League Baseball‘s 2014 trade deadline approached. Such a scenario, it was said, could involve a complete fire sale that would finally blowup the great 2007-2011 division-winning teams, with Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and even the iconic trio of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and new all-time franchise Hits king Jimmy Rollins being dealt away.

What has not been considered by many, at least not discussed much publicly to this point, is the exact opposite scenario: could the Phillies somehow become buyers at the deadline, or even sooner, instead of being sellers? Does this thing really need to be blown up, or could a little retooling, a little health, and a couple additions push them back towards the top?

While that might still be a longshot, and while most would be skeptical, it is still not entirely implausible that a month from now, when the traditional “2nd half” begins following the break for the MLB All-Star Game festivities, the Fightin’ Phils might still be very much alive in the race to the post-season. If the Phils are within 2-3-4 games at the All-Star break, what then?

There is a great chance that we will have a much better handle on the team’s ultimate chances by that point, and it says here that, barring a sudden, complete collapse in the next couple of weeks, the team should absolutely not undertake any type of sell-off until that point at the earliest. If they are out of contention, or it appears very unlikely they will contend, there will still be plenty of time to make deals in mid-late July and even into August.

Key over the next four weeks of play will be the schedule, which will find the Phillies taking on the three teams currently ahead of them in the National League East Division 13 times in the 20 games following this current week. 10 of those 13 divisional games will be played at home at Citizens Bank Park.

If the Phillies are back at, or even above, the .500 mark at the All Star break and within those handful of games of the division lead, management must at least consider adding to the roster and taking a run. Having won 5 of their last 7 games, should they finish off a road sweep this afternoon in Atlanta, such a scenario is not as far-fetched as it would have seemed even two weeks ago.

If the Phillies are indeed transformed into buyers, where would they be best served to buy? At what positions are they likely to need, and possibly find, the kind of help that would make a difference? First of all, much of the help might already be on their roster, if they can get it a couple of key players healthy, and make the right decisions on a couple of others.

The health part would come from Cliff Lee on the mound and Cody Asche at 3rd base. Asche is closer, already on a minor league rehab assignment where he has looked solid. Getting him back up and manning the hot corner would lengthen the lineup and strengthen the bench. Lee has been slow in testing his arm, but just threw off a mound, had no issues, and is eyeing a July return.

Another part of the equation would have to come from the old, reliable, veteran core group of players getting excited about the possibilities, and upping their own production. Chase Utley got off to a sizzling start, one that has vaulted him far into the lead in NL All-Star balloting at 2nd base. Jimmy Rollins set the franchise career Hits record and is showing signs of life, and Ryan Howard has homered in back-to-back games and may himself be ready to go on a tear.

The “right decisions” part of the equation would come from manager Ryne Sandberg finally going to a total platoon situation in leftfield. John Mayberry Jr is hitting .300 with a .404 on-base percentage and 3 homers vs lefty pitching. I would platoon Mayberry in left with…someone new.

Frankly, Domonic Brown is not a Major League starting caliber outfielder. He is mediocre at best on defense. He is a terrible, horrible, awful, whatever negative adjective you want to hang on him, hitter. In fact, to call him any kind of hitter whatsoever is too kind. He can catch up to a pitch and hit it out once in awhile. Sounds like a bench player with some pop to me, the kind of guy you bring off the bench to pinch-hit for the pitcher when you need a game-tying late homerun chance.

The best place that the Phillies could improve themselves right now is leftfield. Two players could fit the mold. One is San Diego Padres lefty hitting Seth Smith. Put Smith into a platoon with John Mayberry Jr, and you have a potentially productive tandem. Another option would be Minnesota’s Josh Willingham, though he would be more of a full-time starter, keeping Mayberry coming off the bench. I would vote for Smith, and the Fightin’s would have to try to find a trade match. Smith makes just $4.5 million, the Phils would only pay about half of that, and there is no obligation beyond 2014.

The Phillies young bullpen arms have really stepped up in recent weeks, and the club now has a pair of young fireballers in lefty Jake Diekman and righty Ken Giles joining the revitalized Antonio Bastardo in paving the way to closer Jonathan Papelbon, who has been extremely reliable since Opening Day. With Lee back, the rotation with he and Cole Hamels, who has been pitching at an All-Star level himself for weeks, would have an enviable 1-2 punch at the top.

This was the most optimistic scenario when the season opened: a fountain-of-youth type year from the Howard/Utley/Rollins trio, strong starting pitching from Hamels/Lee/Burnett, effective contributions from the back-end rotation guys Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez, the young bullpen fortifying things, Papelbon reliably closing out games, and young position players like Ben Revere and Cody Asche producing in the lineup.

That optimistic scenario is very close to coming together right now. Now is the time for this Phillies team to begin stringing wins together more consistently, the way that it appears they have over the last 10 days or so. If they put together a solid stretch of play over the next three weeks, the odds that they will be contenders, and thus buyers, become stronger. It may be an optimistic scenario, but it sure beats the alternative in a long summer that is just beginning for fans of the team.