Tag Archives: Jonathan Papelbon

Look back at the Phillies in the MLB All-Star Game during the 2010’s

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On right, Victorino, Polanco, Lee, Hamels repped Phillies in 2011

On Tuesday night, Major League Baseball will celebrate many of it’s top names with the playing of the All-Star Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.

For Phillies fans, this 90th version of the Midsummer Classic will feature just one member of their favorite ball club. That has been the case in most recent years with the team usually in a non-contending position.
However, this second decade of the 21st century did not begin that way. When the decade opened, the Phillies were on top of the National League. The were two-time defending NL champions, had been legitimate contenders for most of the previous decade, and featured a star-studded lineup and pitching staff.
In the 2010 MLB All-Star Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the Phillies had three representatives. First baseman Ryan Howard started and batted in the cleanup spot for the NL squad. Second baseman Chase Utley was voted as the starting NL second baseman for a fifth consecutive year, but sprained his thumb in late June and had to miss the game. Roy Halladay was one of the NL reserve pitchers.
Howard went 0-2 that night, striking out to leadoff the top of the 2nd inning against David Price. Halladay came on to pitch in the bottom of the 6th inning. He surrendered a leadoff single to Derek Jeter, but then got Paul Konerko to roll into a double play. After giving up a base hit to Josh Hamilton, the Phillies righty was lifted by manager Charlie Manuel.
The 2011 MLB All-Star Game was played at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. For the first time since 2004, no Phillies position players were voted in as starters. However, Halladay was selected to start on the mound for the National League.
After Doc pitched two perfect innings, he was followed to the mound by rotation mate Cliff Lee. The Phillies lefty would retire the first five batters he faced before Adrian Gonzalez homered with two outs in the top of the 4th inning. It would be the only run allowed by NL pitching in a 5-1 victory.
The Phillies had three more All-Stars in 2011, but none got into the game. Those three were pitcher Cole Hamels, third baseman Placido Polanco, and center fielder Shane Victorino.
Interesting note: Also on that 2011 NL All-Star squad were Andrew McCutchenJay Bruce, and Hunter Pence. The latter would be dealt to the Phillies at the end of that month. For Cutch it was the first of five consecutive appearances as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bruce was enjoying his first of two straight and three overall with the Cincinnati Reds.
By the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, the Phillies fortunes were waning. After winning the NL East Division for five consecutive seasons, the club sat at 37-50 at the All-Star break. That was last place in the division, 14 games out of first. They would make a second-half run to finish at 81-81, finishing in 3rd. For the first time since 2003, no Phillies appeared in the NL starting lineup.
Despite the struggles, that team still placed three players on the team: Hamels, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and new closer Jonathan Papelbon. The NL squad also featured an exciting 19-year-old phenom outfielder named Bryce Harper, who was making his first of a half-dozen all-star appearances over the next seven seasons with Washington.
Ruiz would replace starter Buster Posey behind the plate for the bottom of the 6th inning, given the dubious honor of handling knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. In the top of the 7th, ‘Chooch’ flew out to left against Oakland A’s reliever Ryan Cook in what would be the lone all-star at-bat of his career.
Hamels tossed a perfect 7th inning in that 2012 game. Papelbon retired Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, the only batter he faced, on a fly ball to left field to end an 8-0 National League victory at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
The Phillies had a pair of NL All-Stars in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field. One was outfielder Domonic Brown, who had gotten red hot for the only stretch of his big-league career, lasting about seven weeks, to earn the nod. The other was Lee, who was greeted, uh, lustily by the New York fans at Citi Field and who responded, uh, stoically.
Brown entered as a replacement in left field for Carlos Gonzalez in the top of the 6th inning and then struck out against Toronto lefty reliever Brett Cecil. Lee pitched the top of the 5th, surrendering a leadoff double to Adam Jones followed by a single by Joe Mauer. After Jones scored on a ground out, Lee got out of the inning by getting 21-year-old Mike Trout to ground into a double play.
Target Field in Minnesota was the site of the 2014 MLB All-Star Game, and the Phillies returned to placing a starter when Chase Utley was voted as the second baseman for the sixth time in his career. He was also the only Phillies all-star that year, the first time since Randy Wolf represented the club back in 2003 that the club had just one player named to the NL squad.
Batting 7th in the lineup, Utley ripped a one-out RBI double off Jon Lester in the top of the 2nd to get the NL on the scoreboard. With two out in the top of the 5th, Utley was hit by a pitch from Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale and was lifted for pinch-runner Dee Gordon.
In the 2015 MLB All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Papelbon was the lone Phillies rep. He did not pitch in the game, and would appear in just five more games for the club before being traded to Washington exactly two weeks to the day after the game.
Petco Park in San Diego hosted the 2016 MLB All-Star Game and outfielder Odubel Herrerawas the lone Phillies representative. He took over in center field in the bottom of the 5th inning, then flew out against Kansas City pitcher Kelvin Herrera in the top of the 6th inning. He was pinch-hit for by Starling Marte in the top of the 8th inning.
The National League hosted for a third straight year when the 2017 MLB All-Star Game was played at Marlins Park in Miami. Reliever Pat Neshek represented the Phillies, then much as Papelbon two years earlier, pitched in five more games for the club before getting traded just over two weeks later.
Which brings us to last year. At Nationals Park, Harper got the start in center field in front of his former home fans after putting on a major show the previous day to win the Home Run Derby. One of the backup catchers was J.T. Realmuto, then with Miami and serving as that lone Phillies rep in tonight’s game.
The lone Phillies player selected for last year’s 2018 MLB All-Star Game was pitcher Aaron Nola. The righty came in for the 5th inning and struck out the first two AL batters that he faced in Salvador Perez and Mookie Betts. After giving up a single to Jose Altuve, Nola got Trout to pop out to first base foul territory to complete a shutout frame.
Howard, Utley, Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Polanco, Victorino, Ruiz, Papelbon, Brown, Herrera, Neshek, Nola. Those 13 players all appeared in the MLB All-Star Game during the decade of the 2010’s for the National League squad as a representative of the Philadelphia Phillies. Realmuto joins the list tonight in Cleveland.

Phillies fans are going to love fiery new slugger Bryce Harper

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Harper plays the game the way Philly fans like – emotionally

He is a power-hitting version of Pete Rose. A fiery competitor who is a genuine superstar in Major League Baseball. Now, just as Rose did exactly 40 years ago, Bryce Harper will transform from a feared and hated rival to a revered hero in Philadelphia.

After a months-long pursuit of the 26-year-old free agent, the Philadelphia Phillies have come to a 13-year agreement that gives Harper the largest contract in U.S. pro sports history and will add him to what was already a vastly improved ball club.
In conjunction with other moves that the club had previously made this off-season, the Phillies now have to be considered as favorites to win the National League East Division crown. This addition helps to transform the team immediately into a World Series favorite as well.
Harper is a Las Vegas, Nevada native who became one of the most hyped young baseball players in decades. He had been called “Baseball’s Lebron“, referring to basketball superstar Lebron James, when Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old high schooler a decade ago.
Drafted by the Washington Nationals out of a Nevada junior college with the first overall pick of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, Harper was selected two spots ahead of the other big name free agent whom the Phillies also pursued this off-season, Manny Machado.
In his lone full minor league campaign back in 2011, Harper blitzed through two levels with a .297/.392/.501 slash line. He banged out 17 homers and stole 26 bases in 109 games that summer, reaching Double-A as an 18-year-old.
After a brief stint to begin the 2012 season at Triple-A Syracuse, Harper received the call to Washington at the end of April. Other than a couple of injury rehab stints early in his career, he has never returned to the minor leagues.

In that 2012 season with the Nationals at just age 19, Harper slashed .270/.340/.477 with 22 homers, 57 extra-base hits, 59 RBI, and 98 runs scored. He was named to the National League All-Star team that summer, and when the season was over he received the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Finishing 80-81 the year before, a distant 21 games behind the Phillies, Harper helped spark the Nationals to a franchise-record 98-win season as a rookie. Washington snapped the Phillies five-year string of NL East titles and took over as the division’s perennial power team.
In his seven seasons there, Washington would capture four NL East crowns and finish second in each of the other three years. Unfortunately, playoff heartbreak became a regular occurrence for those Nationals teams. The club lost in the NLDS all four times that they reached the postseason, with three of those series going the distance.
Harper has produced a career .279/.388/.512 slash line. The left-handed slugger has belted 184 home runs and 183 doubles. Harper has also stolen 75 bases over his career and produced 521 RBI with 610 runs scored. Over the course of his career, Harper has accumulated a 27.4 total WAR value.
Despite the fact that his 2013-14 and 2017 seasons were cut short by injury, Harper has been a six-time NL All-Star. His best year came back in 2015 when at age 22, Harper won the National League Most Valuable Player award and his lone career Silver Slugger award.
Fans may recall an infamous run-in between Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon in September of 2015 in a game against the Phillies. Papelbon had been dealt away by the Phillies to the Nationals in July of that season in exchange for Nick Pivetta.
In that incident, Harper had popped out to left field. On his return to the dugout, Papelbon immediately came after him and the two exchanged words over what the reliever felt was a failure of Harper to run out the play. Papelbon then charged Harper, grabbing him by the throat and shoving him against the dugout wall before the two were separated.
Phillies fans are very well aware of Papelbon’s asinine personality from his 2012-15 years here. While it is certainly hard to hold it against Harper for getting under the skin of the abrasive Papelbon, there have been a number of times over his first handful of seasons that Harper has lost his cool. He became known for tossing his helmet and bats and was ejected from games a number of times.

However, with experience and maturity in both his career and in life, Harper has mostly turned that reputation around. He was tossed just once last season. Jamal Collier at MLB.com quoted him last September 15, just a week prior to that lone 2018 ejection:
That’s my biggest thing this year, I don’t wanna get tossed. I think I go to the edge and kind of quiet up. Because there’s no reason to. At the end of the day, if I’m 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, it’s just part of the game. I’d rather be 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 and not get thrown out of the game, where I’m only 0-for-2 and we lose the game in the eighth or the ninth.”
In December 2016, Harper married his longtime lady, the former Kayla Varner. The two are both practicing Mormons, and the new bride gave this personal insight to Esther Lee at The Knot:
He’s this big, professional baseball player and you would never know it off the field because he treats everyone with respect and is genuine. He’s selfless, the most selfless guy ever… I think that’s what always attracted me to him. And he’s goofy and funny—he loves to play pranks on me, and as much as I get annoyed by it, I secretly love it—he’s just the best. I love him.”
This is the Harper that fans should be seeing as he moves through what should be the prime years of his career in a Phillies uniform. A player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and who will occasionally lose control of those. But also, one who is multi-talented, plays the game hard, and who is a fun and genuine person.
Playing his home games at Citizens Bank Park could elevate Harper’s power numbers to another level. Phillies fans have not seen this type of consistent game power in the lineup since Ryan Howard‘s heyday nearly a decade ago.
Asked by Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic as to how he would handle the addition of a Harper, Kapler stated the following:
I would handle it the way I would handle any other major challenge, by throwing all of my energy and effort into supporting a superstar player and raising the bar for them simultaneously. Those are two things we can do around here very well — support players and raise the bar for them. I don’t think you can do one without the other. I don’t think you can ask or challenge a player to do things differently if you don’t first come with a high degree of support and care.
With veterans such as Andrew McCutchenJ.T. Realmuto, and Jake Arrieta in the dugout, and with a homegrown leader in Rhys Hoskins, the skipper shouldn’t have anything to worry about as all of the new personalities and talent begin to mesh into a cohesive unit.
This announcement should also serve as a lesson to the many Phillies and general baseball fans who bought into every rumor that popped up for weeks that Harper didn’t want to come here or was leaning in some other direction. That lesson? Don’t jump at every Twitter or internet rumor being pushed by some source just because they have a blue check-mark next to their name.

This likely puts a capper on what has clearly been the single greatest off-season in Philadelphia Phillies history. Kudos especially to general manager Matt Klentak for getting the work done, and to principal owner John Middleton for his leadership – and his money. I think that I can speak for most of the fan base when I say, let’s wrap this story now so that I can go to the website and order some Phillies tickets.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “From rival to revered: Philly fans will love fiery superstar Bryce Harper

Free agent signing of Jose Mesa helped Phillies springboard to 2000’s contention

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Mesa became a record-setting closer with the Phillies in the 2001-02 seasons

Rumors continue breaking nearly every single day during this off-season that the Philadelphia Phillies are ready to make some big moves.

Today came rumors that the club had put relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter on the trade block, joining Carlos Santana there. The team was also once again linked strongly to the two biggest free agent names, shortstop Manny Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper.
It was with all this current activity in mind that just yesterday I began a regular ‘Phillies Hot Stove History’ series in which I plan to re-visit some of the big free agent signings, trades, and other transactions made by the club on this date in off-season history.
That first entry took a look back at a 1981 three-team trade in which the Phillies sent outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Saint Louis Cardinals and landed catcher Bo Diaz from the Cleveland Indians. Within weeks that deal would have permanent ramifications for two of the team’s 1980 World Series heroes, catchers Bob Boone and Keith Moreland.
Today we’ll take a look at a big free agent signing from this date in the year 2000. To fully understand the signing and the reasons that it took place, you need to go back and recall what was happening at that time in Phillies history.

The organization was struggling mightily at that point. From 1987 through the 2000 campaign the Phillies had finished with a winning record just once, in the magical 1993 run to a World Series appearance.
Aside from that 97-65, first place and pennant-winning miracle, the Phillies had fashioned a horrendous cumulative record of 912-1,128 over the other prior 13 seasons.
To say that it was a long, dark dry-spell would be an understatement. The sustained losing would eventually cost five managers their jobs: John FelskeLee EliaNick LeyvaJim Fregosi, and Terry Francona, as well as general manager Lee Thomas.
But things began to change for the better as a new millennium dawned, even though it hadn’t yet shown up in the win-loss column. The Phillies finished the 2000 season with a 65-97 record, the second-worst during that stretch.
However, new and talented young players were beginning to make their way into the lineup. At age 25, third baseman Scott Rolen would win his second Gold Glove Award that year and was better than a 4-WAR player in each of his first four big-league seasons.
The Phillies first round pick in the MLB Draft just two summers earlier, 23-year-old Pat Burrell busted into the lineup with 18 homers and 79 RBI as a first baseman/left fielder. He would finish fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
26-year-old right fielder Bobby Abreu had his second straight 20-20 season with 25 homers and 28 stolen bases. He slashed .316/.416/.554 with 77 extra-base hits and 103 runs scored and was emerging as a premier offensive threat in the middle of the Phillies lineup.
The catcher was 28-year-old Mike Lieberthal, a future Phillies Wall of Famer who just might be the best all-around backstop in franchise history. A year after capturing the NL Gold Glove Award at the position he had made a second-straight National League All-Star appearance.
In mid-September of 2000, the lineup made room for an exciting newcomer. 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins hit .321 over 14 games and 55 plate appearances and flashed serious leather. That performance set the stage for a career that would see him become the greatest shortstop in Phillies history.

Phillies GM Ed Wade made the decision to bolster his emerging club’s bullpen for the 2001 season, a decision that paid off big-time.
Though the Phillies finished last in Major League Baseball with 708 runs scored and next-to-last in OPS, 44-year-old third-year general manager Ed Wade correctly surmised that he had the position player core to grow into a winner.
Where the Phillies were really lacking was on the mound. The mercurial ace of the staff, Curt Schilling, was dealt away at the non-waiver trade deadline in 2000. In exchange the Arizona Diamondbacks sent first baseman Travis Lee and three pitchers who Wade hoped could help the pitching depth in Vicente PadillaOmar Daal, and Nelson Figueroa.
The team’s second round 1997 MLB Draft pick, lefty starter Randy Wolf, was coming off his first full big-league season and appeared to be at least a long-term mid-rotation mainstay.
After four losing seasons, the notoriously tough Philly fans had seen enough of Francona as the manager. To be fair, this was the future multi-World Series winner’s first chance at an MLB managerial gig, and he wasn’t given much depth of talent to work with.
It was deemed time to give a new voice a chance to wake up both the players and the fan base, and there was one logical choice for the job: Larry Bowa. The former longtime World Series champion Phillies shortstop and coach, Bowa was hired as the new skipper.
Wade believed that if the position players continued to develop as he expected, then one way the Phillies could quickly begin to win was by bringing in major reinforcements for the bullpen.
The Phillies closer during the 2000 season had been 13-year veteran righty Jeff Brantley. He had recorded 23 Saves, but also had unsightly 5.86 ERA and 1.681 WHIP marks. The 36-year-old surrendered 64 hits over 55.1 innings and yielded a dozen home runs.
The primary setup men for Brantley on that 2000 Phillies team were righties Chris Brock and Wayne Gomes. After the Schilling trade, Padilla was used out of the pen on a regular basis as well. To call their performances poor would be an insult to the word.
Brock had a 4.34 ERA and 1.350 WHIP, allowing 21 home runs and 41 walks over his 93.1 innings which included five starts and 68 relief appearances. Gomes had a 4.40 ERA and 1.452 WHIP and had a poor 6.0/4.3 K:BB per nine innings rate. In 28 games, all out of the pen, Padilla had a 5.34 ERA and allowed 40 hits over 30.1 innings with a 21/18 K:BB ratio.

MESA GOES FROM STARTER TO CLOSER THROUGH FIVE TEAMS

Mesa had originally signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as, believe it or not, a 15-year-old outfielder out of the Dominican Republic all the way back in 1981.
In early September of 1987, Mesa was sent by Toronto to the Baltimore Orioles as the player-to-be-named-later in a deal that had netted the contending Jays a veteran starter in Mike Flanagan.
Mesa received a cup-of-coffee with his big-league debut that very month, making a half-dozen appearances for a horrendous Orioles team that was playing out the string. He would return to the minors for the next couple of seasons, working as a starting pitcher.
From 1990-92, Mesa made 43 appearances with the Orioles, 42 of those as a starter. Then on July 14, 1992 came what would become his big career break. Mesa was dealt by Baltimore to Cleveland for speedy outfield prospect Kyle Washington.
With the Indians, Mesa remained in the rotation at first, with 48 of his first 49 appearances in the Tribe uniform coming as a starting pitcher. It was in 1994 that Indians manager Mike Hargrove made the decision to switch the big right-hander to the bullpen. It would prove to be a career-making move.
His 1994 switch to the bullpen was successful but was also cut short by the player’s strike. When play resumed in 1995, Mesa was made the closer for an Indians team on the rise.
Cleveland would capture the next five consecutive American League Central Division titles. Mesa became an all-star, representing the Tribe in both the 1995 and 1996 Mid-Summer Classics.
In that 1995 season, Mesa would have a career year. He led all of baseball with 46 Saves and 57 games finished. His other numbers were tremendous: 1.13 ERA, 1.031 WHIP, 49 hits surrendered in 64 innings over 62 games. For that performance he finished as runner-up in the AL Cy Young Award voting to Randy Johnson.
The Indians would lose the World Series that year to the Atlanta Braves in six games, shut down in the opener by future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux and then twice by future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. Mesa earned the win in Game 3 out of the pen.
After being knocked out in the ALDS by the Orioles in 1996, the Indians returned to the Fall Classic in 1997. This time they would face the upstart Florida Marlins, who had a pair of 1993 Phillies heroes on the roster in Darren Daulton and Jim Eisenreich.
The two teams battled through seven epic games, and that final Game 7 went to the bottom of the 9th inning with the Indians ahead by 2-1. With Cleveland just three outs away from their first World Series championship in nearly a half-century, Hargrove motioned down to the bullpen and called for his lights-out closer.
Mesa surrendered a base hit to Moises Alou, but then struck out Bobby Bonilla swinging. Two outs away. The next batter, Charles Johnson, dropped a line single into right field with Alou rolling around to third base as the tying run.
On a 1-1 pitch, little second baseman Craig Counsell lined a ball to right field. It was caught for the second out but was deep enough to score Alou for a tie game.
Hargrove had his horse in the game and decided to ride him longer. Mesa got the lead batter, but then surrendered two more hits in the bottom of the 10th. After striking out John Cangelosi for the second out, Hargrove made the decision to pull Mesa, who had thrown 39 pitches.
Veteran starter Charles Nagy came on to get the last out in the 10th and end that threat. With the score still knotted at 2-2 in the bottom of the 11th, Nagy continued on.
The Marlins then put together another threat without hitting a ball hard. A ground single, an error by second baseman Tony Fernandez, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs. Up stepped 21-year-old shortstop Edgar Renteria. On the second pitch, he lined a clean single to center field and Counsell gleefully scampered home with the series-winning run.
The following year, Mesa seemed to fall apart. After 44 games his ERA had more than doubled and his strikeout rate was falling for a third straight season. As the non-waiver trade deadline approached, Indians GM John Hart decided to deal the pending free agent, sending him along with veteran infielder Shawon Dunston to the San Francisco Giants.
After finishing the season with San Francisco, Mesa became a free agent and signed a two-year, $6.8 million deal with the young and talented Seattle Mariners.
In the second year of the deal, the 2000 Mariners led the AL West Division from late June through late September but fell a half-game short of the Oakland A’s for the division crown. As the American League Wildcard team, they swept the Chicago White Sox 3-0 in an ALDS, but then were eliminated by the New York Yankees in six games in the ALCS.
Mesa wasn’t really wowing anyone at that point in his career. After recording 33 Saves his first season in Seattle he lost the closer job. Over the two seasons with the Mariners, Mesa had a cumulative 5.18 ERA and 1.701 WHIP.

MESA BECOMES PHILLIES RECORD-SETTING CLOSER

This was the man who Wade signed to anchor his new bullpen. Mesa would take this new opportunity to close as a re-birth, and he would prove to be born-again-hard, at least for the first two seasons of his deal.
In the 2001-02 campaigns with the Phillies, Mesa saved 42 and 45 games respectively. In 2001 he registered a 2.34 ERA over 71 games. In 2002 his ERA was at the 2.97 mark across 74 games. He yielded just 130 hits over 145 hits during the two seasons with just nine home runs allowed.
Wade didn’t stop his bullpen rebuild with Mesa alone. On November 30, 2000, he added a veteran left-hander to the mix by signing free agent Rheal Cormier. The 33-year-old became the primary southpaw out of the pen, pitching in 60 games and allowing just 49 hits over 51.1 innings.
On December 15, 2000, Wade would further bolster the pen, bringing back former Phillies all-star closer Ricky Bottalico to serve as Mesa’s primary setup man. Over 66 games, ‘Ricky Bo’ would allow just 58 hits across 67 innings.
Adding this new trio of veteran pitchers to the maturing position player mix worked perfectly. The Phillies very nearly went from worst-to-first. They led the NL East at the MLB All-Star Game break and as late as July 16.
The club continued to fight, never falling more than 3.5 games behind the six-time defending division champion Atlanta Braves. After winning the opener of a key three-game series in Atlanta on October 2, the Phillies were just a game out.
However, the Braves recovered to win the next two straight and open a three-game lead. Despite the Phillies sweeping a season-ending three-game weekend series in Cincinnati, the club would finish two games shy of Atlanta for the division crown.
Still, the Phillies 86-76 mark was their first winning season since the 1993 team. They would slip slightly to 80-81 during the 2002 season, Mesa’s second as closer, but would then begin a string of nine consecutive winning campaigns that would include the second World Series title in franchise history.
The 2003 Phillies would win 90 games and finish just five games off the NL Wildcard pace after a late September swoon. But in the final season of his contract, a now 37-year-old Mesa would prove ineffective.
In that 2003 campaign his ERA swelled to 6.52 and he allowed 71 hits over 58 innings. During an injury-riddled September, Mesa appeared in just a half-dozen games and was awful when he pitched, surrendering nine earned runs on nine hits over four innings.
Mesa’s contract was up, but his career was not yet over. Neither, in fact, were his days in Philadelphia. Mesa would again emerge as a strong closer in the 2004 season, saving 43 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He spent the 2005 season again in Pittsburgh, recording the 300th Save of his career. He then hooked on with the Colorado Rockies for the 2006 season at age 40.
In 2007, Mesa signed with the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers to bolster their bullpen as a 41-year-old veteran. However, after 16 ineffective appearances, the Tigers released him. Six days later he re-signed to give it one more shot with the Phillies.
The 2007 Phillies were a team on their way to the first of what would be five straight NL East Division crowns. Mesa, who had been there at the beginning of this great era in the team’s history, was back as it was finally all coming to full fruition.
He became a regular piece out of manager Charlie Manuel‘s bullpen over the rest of that season. In 40 games, Mesa allowed just 34 hits over 39 innings and surrendered just two home runs.
On August 5, 2007 in Milwaukee he registered his lone Save of the season, the 321st and final of his big-league career. He is currently 20th on the all-time MLB career Saves list. On September 18 at Saint Louis he earned the Win, the 80th and final of his career.
Mesa did get to take the mound for one final postseason appearance that year, but it was not a successful swan song. The Colorado Rockies swept the Phillies out in three straight games.
During Game 2 at Citizens Bank Park, Mesa came on top pitch the top of the 6th inning with Colorado already on top by 6-3. He lasted just four batters. After walking the first two, Yorvit Torrealba drilled a two-run double, upping the Rockies lead to 8-3. Mesa then retired pitcher Josh Fogg on a sacrifice bunt. It would prove to be the final batter he would face in the big leagues.
Prior to Mesa signing with the team back in December 2000, the Phillies all-time career Saves record was held by 1987 NL Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian with 103. Over his first three years in Phillies pinstripes, Mesa broke that record by saving 111 games. The one more that he tacked on in 2007 left him with the Phillies record of 112 career Saves.
That record would last for more than a decade until another big free agent closer signing, Jonathan Papelbon, would set the new and current Phillies career Saves mark of 123 over his three seasons with the team.
It was on this date 18 years ago that Wade’s plan to push the team forward by bolstering his bullpen began to take shape with the free agent signing of Mesa. That signing has to be considered a complete success with Mesa becoming the club’s all-time Saves leader.
With Mesa as the closer and the subsequent additions of Cormier and Bottalico, the Phillies 2001 bullpen was indeed greatly improved. That trio was a major reason that the team finally emerged from more than a dozen years at the bottom of the standings. The Phillies would use that 2001 contending season as a springboard to a decade of success.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies Hot Stove History: The 2000 Jose Mesa free agent signing

Phillies 2016 Closer Options

With the trade of Ken Giles to Houston, the Philadelphia Phillies have a few options for the 2016 closer role.

Giles was always considered the heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon, took over that role when the veteran was dealt to the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline this past season, and succeeded as most evaluators believed he would.
In fact, Giles was so impressive as both a setup man and in the closer role that he became easily the team’s most valuable remaining trade piece following the deals involving Papelbon and ace Cole Hamels.
Now that he is gone, the closer role would appear to be wide open. While that is likely to remain the case when the club reports to Clearwater for spring training, there is a clear frontrunner to fill the role.
Yesterday, on the same day that Giles talks were heating up and the deal being finalized, the Phils announced the signing of free agent David Hernandez to a one-year contract. 
That contract reportedly included incentives based on games finished. So it would appear that GM Matt Klentak was already thinking contingency plans with the Hernandez signing.

Hernandez has finished 84 games during his career, registering 19 Saves along the way. During the 2011 season, the righthander served as the Arizona Diamondbacks primary closer for a time, and at one stretch in July he recorded seven Saves in a 13-game stretch.
Other candidates would include Luis Garcia, who finished 25 games over the last three seasons with the Phillies, including a pair of Saves this past season. 
Edubray Ramos turns 23 years old next week, and has 19 Saves on his resume in the Phils minor league system, 18 of those over the last two seasons.
Alec Asher could turn out to be an option. The 24-year old righty who was part of the package received from Texas in return for Hamels did not enjoy success in a seven-game audition with the Phillies. 
Asher allowed 42 hits, including eight home runs, across 29 innings, with a 16/10 K:BB ratio in his big league starting debut, and is much more likely to end up in the bullpen.
James Russell, who turns 30 years old in January, was signed as a free agent in November. He has finished 70 games across parts of six big league seasons, mostly with the Chicago Cubs, and has four Saves on his record. 
However, it is more likely that the Phillies will want to use Russell as a late-inning left-hander in the 7th and 8th innings.
One dark-horse candidate could be newcomer Frank Herrmann.  The big righty finished out 32 games over the 2010-12 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, has a 2010 Save on his big league resume, and registered 8 Saves with AAA Columbus in 2012. 
The 31-year old Herrmann signed as a free agent back in November after pitching in the LA Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league systems over the last couple of years.
The Phillies also have a ton of talented arms percolating at the AA and AAA levels in the minor leagues, any of whom could develop into the closer role. 
Those possibilities could include Zach EflinRicardo PintoBen LivelyNick Pivetta, and Alberto Tirado . However, those are all longterm possibilities, and all but Tirado should remain in the rotation in the 2016 season.
It also remains a possibility that the club could sign an inexpensive free agent who might be looking at a short-term deal to better establish their own market. 
Pitchers such as Jonathan BroxtonMatt Albers, and even former Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo could be possibilities, should Klentak decide to take the free agent route.
While Hernandez is certainly the leading candidate, the Phillies 2016 closer role is no longer etched in stone. 
“100-Miles Giles” will be helping the Astros chase an AL West crown and a World Series berth. His former teammates will be searching for his replacement, at least in the short-term.

Jonathan Papelgon to D.C.? Now That’s Natitude!

The Phillies have completed the long awaited and much speculated trade of flamboyant but efficient closer Jonathan Papelbon, sending him to the division-rival Washington Nationals.
The deal moves Papelbon from the bottom to the top of the National League East into the very position that he believed he was going when he first signed with the Phils following the 2011 season – as the closer of a legitimate World Series contender
Washington already had Drew Storen pitching as an extremely effective closer, so this move was somewhat of a surprise when it began to first surface in recent days. 
Storen turns 28 years old in two weeks, and was a Nats 1st round pick at 10th overall in the same 2009 MLB Draft in which they selected pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the 1st overall pick.
So far this season, Storen has 29 Saves and a miniscule 1.73 ERA and 1.018 WHIP. In 36.1 innings he has a 44/9 K:BB ratio and has allowed 28 hits. 
Those are first-division closer numbers, and are very similar to those put up so far by Papelbon, when you factor in the difference in the two teams.
Papelbon has also been outstanding with the Phillies. The 34-year old went 17-17 in Save chances while getting limited opportunities closing out games for the worst team in baseball. He has a 1.59 ERA and 0.983 WHIP, allowing 31 hits in 39.2 innings with a 40/8 K:BB ratio.
Papelbon’s option for 2016 was picked up and guaranteed by Washington after being renegotiated from the $13 million that he would have earned under it’s original terms to $11 million. In return, Papelbon received assurances that he would assume the closer role, rather than Storen.
The Nationals are receiving one of the game’s great closers of the last decade. Papelbon is the all-time franchise Saves leader with both the Boston Red Sox and the Phillies. 
He has a combined 341 career regular season Saves, with a 2.32 ERA and 1.019 WHIP over 11 seasons. In 667 innings, he has allowed 513 hits, with a 761/167 K:BB ratio over his career.
Papelbon has also gained a reputation, somewhat undeserved, as a troublemaker. However, those on the inside of both teams say that Paps was in fact a good teammate and locker room presence. 
Most of his trouble has come due to his inability to filter public commentaries, which when they are actually evaluated for content reveal themselves to be nothing more than brutal honesty.
Looking for someone who won’t wilt in the pennant race and under the glare of October baseball, Papelbon is the perfect fit for the contending Nats. 
He has tossed 27 career postseason innings in 18 appearances, allowing just 14 hits with a 23/8 K:BB ratio and 7 Saves, including the final out of the 2007 Red Sox victory to clinch the World Series.
In return, the Phillies will receive 22-year old righthander Nick Pivetta, who entered the season as the 10th-ranked overall prospect by Baseball America in what was considered an above average Nationals minor league system.
So far this season, Pivetta has gone 7-6 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.253 WHIP across two minor league levels in that Washington system. He has a 78/38 K:BB ratio while allowing 89 hits in 101.1 innings pitched.
The big 6’5, 220 lb righthander was selected by the Nats in the 4th round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of New Mexico Junior College. He is a native of Victoria, British Columbia in Canada, and starred for the Canadian Junior National Team in both 2008 and 2009.
Pivetta now joins a stable of young potential starting pitchers in their low-20’s whom the Phils have acquired via trade for their veterans. 
Previously both Tom Windle and Zach Eflin arrived from the Dodgers for Jimmy Rollins, and Ben Lively from the Reds for Marlon Byrd.
The Phillies continue to listen to offers for ace lefty Cole Hamels, and it was reported today that they gave interested clubs through Wednesday to submit final offers.
It would appear that they will then sift through those, possibly make a couple of final call backs on Thursday to try and play teams off one another, and then make a final decision on whether any offer on the table is worth pulling the trigger.
Any number of other Phillies players could also move, if the price is right. Those include outfielders Ben RevereDomonic BrownJeff Francoeur, and Darin Ruf, 1st baseman Ryan Howard, DL’d 2nd baseman Chase Utley, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and pitchers such as Jerome Williams and the soon-to-return Aaron Harang.
The likelihood is that most of those players will still be here past the deadline, and that the team will then try to get them all through waivers. At that point, the players would be able to be traded right through the balance of the season.
Trades have finally begun to finalize, fast and furious, in Major League Baseball. The deadline for non-waiver deals comes at 4pm EDT on Friday afternoon. Will Cole Hamels be dealt before that time? Only time will tell.