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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.

Young star Rhys Hoskins needs to emerge quickly from recent slump

Hoskins has disappeared over the last two weeks
He wasn’t selected to play in the actual MLB All-Star Game this year. But as one of baseball’s most exciting young sluggers, Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins was invited to participate in the Home Run Derby the day prior to that game at Nationals Park.
Hoskins put on a strong showing, beating top-seeded Jesus Aguilar in his opening round match-up by a 17-12 margin. In the semi-finals, Hoskins was even more impressive, blasting 20 homers. However, he was knocked out when Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber got hot at the end and put up 21 of his own.
There were some who worried that Hoskins might have problems with his swing following that performance. Those concerns seemed to be completely alleviated when the 25-year-old ripped eight home runs in his first 13 games following the break. His slash line of .346/.452/.923 over 62 plate appearances during that span seemed to portend a big second half.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Not only has Hoskins cooled off since the calendar turned to August, he has virtually disappeared. Over his last eight games, Hoskins is slashing .037/.212/.037 and has not homered or driven in a run.
The Phillies dropped four of six games at Arizona and San Diego last week. Hoskins went 1-21 during the losing trip that saw the club lose their month-long grip on first place in the NL East race.
Since the team scored just 15 total runs over those half-dozen games, the blame for losing can’t rest solely on Hoskins’ shoulders. But the fact remains that the young star is the most dynamic offensive player in the current lineup. They need him to produce in order to win consistently.
Hoskins got engaged on the beach right in the middle of the trip, prior to the first game in San Diego. You don’t do something like that on the spur of the moment. There had to be some planning involved on his part. Could the anticipation of such an extremely significant personal moment have been distracting in any way?
With 45 games remaining in the 2018 regular season, Hoskins is on pace for roughly 31 homers and 101 RBI. Especially considering that he missed nearly two weeks earlier this season, and factoring in the poor offensive performances surrounding him in the lineup, that’s a pretty strong sophomore campaign for the player who finished fourth in last year’s NL Rookie of the Year voting.
But Hoskins numbers are mostly down across the board from a year ago. Last season he slashed .259/.396/.618, and in 2018 he has produced a .253/.365/.492 slash to this point. His OPS is down from 1.014 a year ago to its current .858 mark. Hoskins produced 2.0 WAR a year ago and has 0.8 WAR in the 2018 campaign.

To be fair, Hoskins ambushed opposing NL pitchers, coaching staffs, and advance scouts in 2017 when he wasn’t promoted until the second week in August. Clearly those pitchers, coaches, and scouts are adjusting.
It’s now Hoskins turn to adjust back. His big right-handed bat is entirely capable of carrying this team over the final seven weeks. If the Phillies are actually going to reach the postseason, he is going to have to figure it out.
Manager Gabe Kapler stated that Hoskins is feeling “very comfortable and confident at the plate” per Philly.com’s Scott Lauber. That may be so, or it just may be more of the rookie manager once again protecting his young players. Either way, they have to translate comfort and confidence into results at some point.
The next seven games will come at Citizens Bank Park, where the summer air and friendly confines might normally be expected to provide exactly the cure for what ails him. But the Red Sox and Mets at home, and then the Nationals in Washington the following week, are scheduled to throw some talented starting pitchers at the Phillies.

The Phillies are a poor offensive team to begin with as currently constructed. With their best hitter slumping badly, the offensive desert that has become their 2018 season is even drier than usual. 
If Hoskins can heat back up, the entire offense is likely to pick up. The Phillies desperately need him to re-engage offensively sooner rather than later.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies desperately need Rhys Hoskins to re-engage offensively

Rhys Hoskins crashes the Home Run Derby

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Hoskins will try to put on a power show at the 2018 Home Run Derby 

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place on Tuesday night July 17 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

That night, most of the very best players from the National and American Leagues will square off in an exhibition to celebrate our National Pastime.

As has been the case for more than three decades now, the night prior to the All-Star Game will feature a Home Run Derby, pitting some of today’s top hitters in what is always a fun and spirited contest.

Earlier this week, MLB announced the eight participants in this year’s event. For the first time in this decade, that contest will include a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

25-year old left fielder Rhys Hoskins was selected, becoming the first Phillies player to take part since Ryan Howard back in 2009. He also becomes just the fifth Phillies player to participate in this 34th year that the showcase has taken place.

Hoskins has been matched up in the first round with slugging first baseman Jesus Aguilar of the Milwaukee Brewers. Currently tied for the National League leadwith 23 home runs, the 28-year old Aguilar was installed as the top seed in the event.

The winner of the Hoskins-Aguilar duel will take on the winner of a battle between Alex Bregman of the world champion Houston Astros and Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs. That winner would then advance to the Finals, where they would take on the survivor from a second bracket.

That bracket will have Washington Nationals pending free agent Bryce Harper, who will certainly by a sentimental hometown choice, taking on Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves in one match-up.

The other will find another Cubs player, the exciting Javier Baez, taking on Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who seemed to emerge from nowhere to become a big power threat this season.

Hoskins’ 14 homers place him just 25th in the National League to this point in the season. However, he also missed about 10 days back in early June after breaking his jaw on a fluke swing back on May 29.

He came off the DL hot, blasting eight home runs from June 9 to the end of the month. But Hoskins is right now in the midst of a dry spell. After being held in the yard last night at Citi Field, he has not homered now over his last 11 games.

So, what are the odds that Hoskins can get past the slugging Aguilar, the Bregman-Schwarber winner, and then defeat the winner of the other bracket to become this year’s Home Run Derby champion?

While MLB has him slotted in as the eighth seed, the folks who set the odds for Bovada in Las Vegas are a bit more bullish on his chances. Hoskins is currently rated as the fourth-best choice, tied with Baez, right in the middle of the field.

Harper is the favorite at +300 , which is not at all a surprise. Unfortunately, Hoskins opens with the current second-choice of the oddsmakers, with Aguilar at +375. Schwarber is at +500, followed closely by Hoskins and Baez each at +550. Muncy is at +600, Freeman +650, and Bregman pulls up the rear at +950.

The Home Run Derby dates to the 1985 MLB All-Star festivities. However, the Phillies all-time home run leader and one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history, Mike Schmidt, never participated.

That was despite the fact that Schmidt was an NL All-Star in both 1986 and 1987. He led the NL in long balls in ’86 and was both the NL MVP and Silver Slugger winner at third base that year.

The first Phillies player to participate was Jim Thome in 2004. The Hall of Famer-to-be was knocked out in the first round after slamming just four over the fence at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The following year, Bobby Abreu fared much better. The Phillies outfielder set a record with 24 first round bombs enroute to 41 total homers. He defeated Miguel Tejada by 11-5 in the 2005 finals at Comerica Parkin Detroit.

It was just one year later that the Phillies got their second Home Run Derby winner. Howard barely survived the first round that year. But ‘The Big Piece’ then exploded for 28 homers over the next two rounds. In the finals, the Phillies rookie edged out David Wright by 5-4 at PNC Parkin Pittsburgh.

Howard and Chase Utley took turns getting knocked out in the first round at the 2007 and 2008 events in succession. In the 2009 appearance at Busch Stadiumin his hometown of Saint Louis, Howard fell just one homer short of reaching the finals.

Matt Bowker at NBC Sports Philadelphia quoted Hoskins after his involvement was announced:
“I think it’s a cool honor, just the fact that I would even be considered…it should be fun. I get to be around a pretty cool group of guys. I grew up watching the Home Run Derby as a kid, so I think that full circle kind of moment is pretty cool.”

Hoskins also revealed that it would be the Phillies minor league infield coordinator, Chris Truby , who “throws money BP“, would pitch to him during the event. Truby played in the big leagues in parts of four seasons from 2000-03, mostly as a third baseman with four different organizations.

Originally appeared at PHILLIES NATION as “Can Rhys Hoskins win the MLB Home Run Derby?

Cody Bellinger hits for The Cycle to continue special rookie season

On Saturday night at Marlins Park in Miami, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie sensation Cody Bellinger put on a record-setting show.
Bellinger went 4-5, scored twice, and knocked in three runs to help pace the torrid, first place Dodgers to a 7-1 thrashing of the host Miami Marlins.
His night began with a single in the top of the first inning. In the top of the third, Bellinger’s 26th home run of the season opened the scoring, putting LA on top 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, Bellinger lined an RBI double to right field that upped the visitors lead to 6-0. Then in the seventh, he made history.
On the first offering from Marlins reliever Nick Wittgren, Bellinger ripped a ball to right that sailed over the head of Giancarlo Stanton. As the ball rolled to the wall, Bellinger raced around the bases, sliding into third easily ahead of the throw.
With that triple, Bellinger became the first rookie in the long and storied history of Dodgers baseball to hit for ‘The Cycle’ with a single, double, triple, and home run all in the same game.
“Every time he steps on the field,” manager Dave Roberts said per Andy McCullough of the LA Times, “something special can happen.”

MAKING THE MOST OF AN OPPORTUNITY

Special things have been happening all season where Bellinger is concerned. He entered the season as the Dodgers top-ranked prospect according to Baseball America.
In their evaluation of Bellinger, BA hung a 70 grade on his defense at first base. As for his hitting: “Bellinger has a chance to be a foundational hitter in the middle of the lineup,” went their summation.
They also opined that “he could make his debut in the second half of the year.” Clearly, Bellinger has accelerated that arrival timetable.
When the season opened, the four-time defending NL West champs didn’t have an opening for him. Veteran Adrian Gonzalez manned first base. The outfield had Andrew TolesJoc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig as starters.
However, as so often happens, injuries opened up a playing opportunity. First, Toles went down for the season after suffering a torn ACL in early May that required surgery. Then AGonz went to the DL in June with a degenerative disc in his back.
By the time that Toles was lost, Bellinger had already hit himself to Los Angeles with a .343/.429/.627 slash line at AAA Oklahoma City in April. He then took over the left field role full-time following that injury to Toles. Since Gonzalez went down, Bellinger has shifted to first base.
His hitting has suffered little at the hands of big league pitching. Through Saturday night, Bellinger has a .271/.349/.639 slash line over his first two months of Major League Baseball. He has 26 home runs, 44 extra-base hits, 61 RBI, 52 runs scored, and even stolen five bases.
Those would be strong numbers for an entire season for most rookies. They would make him a Rookie of the Year candidate almost any year. However, Bellinger has those numbers over just 72 games and 301 plate appearances.

ALL-STAR GAME AND HOME RUN DERBY

Bellinger was selected for the National League team in last week’s MLB All-Star Game. He even participated in the Home Run Derby, falling with no shame to eventual champion Aaron Judge in the semi-finals.
Throwing to Bellinger during that Home Run Derby was his own father. Clay Bellinger appeared in four seasons from 1999-2002 with the New York Yankees. The senior Bellinger was a part of two World Series championship teams in the Bronx.
Clay knew early on that Cody had a special talent for the game. “We knew right away he was going to be pretty good,” he was quoted by McCullough in another LA Times piece. Clay had coached Cody as a kid, including their team that reached the 2007 Little League World Series.
Special talent. That’s what Bellinger has brought to the LA lineup here in 2017. Thanks in no small part to his contributions, an already good Dodgers team has become a powerhouse. If he can continue to rake as he has, he’ll add a Fall Classic to his Midsummer Classic appearance.
Corey Seager won the NL Rookie of the Year Award last season, becoming the 17th Dodgers rookie to capture that honor. The list includes such legends as Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Mike Piazza.
Bellinger is sure to become the 18th winner this fall. He and Seager are just beginning what should be a dynamic 1-2 combination in the Dodgers lineup for years to come.

Phillies History in the MLB Home Run Derby

The MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby has been around since 1985, which means that the greatest home run hitter in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise had an opportunity to participate.
However, Mike Schmidt never took the game up on that opportunity. This despite Schmidt being an NL All-Star in 1986-87 and even elected to the team in the year in which he retired of 1989.
It’s not as if Schmidt was coasting out of his career in those years either. 
At age 35 in 1985, the only year in a nine-season stretch in which Schmidt did not make the team for the midsummer classic, he banged 33 home runs.
Then in 1986, Schmidt won the 3rd of his career NL MVP Awards while blasting an MLB-high 37 home runs. He would rip another 35 the following year.
But in that first-ever MLB Home Run Derby in 1985 at The Metrodome in Minnesota, it was Dave ParkerDale MurphySteve GarveyRyne Sandberg, and Jack Clark highlighting the proceedings.
In 1986, it was Parker, Darryl Strawberry, and Hubie Brooks for the NL in a scaled-back affair. In 1987, Andre Dawson and Ozzie Virgil, of all people, repped the senior circuit. 
There was no Home Run Derby held at Riverfront Stadium in 1988
, cancelled due to torrential rains.
When the All-Star Game came to Veteran’s Stadium in the summer of 1996, the NL lineup for the Derby consisted of Jeff BagwellBarry BondsEllis BurksHenry Rodriguez, and Gary Sheffield.
The Phils’ home run leader that year would be catcher Benito Santiago, who banged 30 long balls. But only closer Ricky Bottalico made the NL All-Star roster from a Phillies team that was continuing to collapse following the glorious 1993 campaign.
It wouldn’t be until 2004 that the Phillies would get their first-ever representative at the Home Run Derby. 
At Minute Maid Park in Houston, big free agent signing Jim Thome was leading baseball with 28 homers at the break. But Thome lofted just four balls out of the park in the contest, and was out after the first round.
The following year of 2005 at Comerica Park in Detroit would prove the Phillies first victory. 
With 18 homers at the break, right fielder Bobby Abreu was middle-of-the-pack among the participants. But Abreu would put on a show, smashing 24 first round homers en route to a record 41 total to win the crown.
The 2006 Home Run Derby at PNC Park in Pittsburgh would be yet another Phillies showcase, this one as part of the Ryan Howard coming out party. 
‘The Big Piece’ was in his first full MLB season, leading baseball with 28 homers at the break, and on his way to the NL MVP Award when he edged out the Mets’ David Wright by 23-22 in the finals to take the crown.
Howard would return to defend that crown in 2007 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. But Howard, along with the contest’s co-favorite Prince Fielder, was knocked out when he came up short in the first round, putting just three homers over the wall.
In 2008 at Yankee Stadium in New York, the Phillies would have a rep for the fifth straight season. 
This time it was 2nd baseman Chase Utley, who was leading baseball with 25 homers at the break in a season that would, of course, culminate in a World Series crown.
But Chase was able to deposit just five balls into the stands, knocked out in the first round that featured Josh Hamilton blasting 28 homers to break Abreu’s single-round record.
In 2009 at Busch Stadium in his hometown of Saint Louis, Howard was back for another crack at it. He ripped seven in the first round, advanced to the second, and led that round with eight homers. 
However, his 15 total left him just short of both Fielder and Nelson Cruz. They each had blasted 11 in the opening round and 17 and 16 total respectively, and advanced to the Finals.
And despite the Phillies continuing their winning ways over the next couple of years, that would prove to be the last time that a slugger from the team was invited to participate.
Howard would lead the team with 31 bombs in 2010, while Jayson Werth had 27. In 2011, Howard banged another 33, with Raul Ibanez‘ 20 as the next highest.
In 2013, Domonic Brown made the NL All-Star roster thanks to a red-hot stretch in which he ripped 16 homers between May 2nd and June 8th. 
But despite his 23 homers at the break, Brown hit just four more in the 33 games leading to the All-Star Game, and was not invited.
No Phillies player has been out of the mid-20’s in homers over a full season since Howard’s last big year of 2011. 
Who will be the next Phillies slugger to get an invitation to the MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby? Perhaps in the next couple of years, 3rd baseman Maikel Franco will have a big first half, and find himself taking a shot.