Tag Archives: Pat Burrell

Phillies honor Bobby Abreu with place on the Wall of Fame

Embed from Getty Images//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

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.

For three decades the Phillies have largely been unable to develop a top prospect

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’7bGUjpNeTLJeD2V6Y570sw’,sig:’JcTapgiz6WzaPK8jqZy3xVLbKpGlRS8nria0wwxyutw=’,w:’594px’,h:’387px’,items:’53017029′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Pat Burrell has been the Phillies best high draftee to develop into a top prospect

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece on the current standing of the Phillies best minor league players on recently released top prospect lists. For nearly three decades, one of the most respected of the resources tracking and producing such lists has been Baseball America.

The same day as my Phillies Nation article was released, Baseball America was publishing their own piece on the history of their top prospect coverage. Specifically, the BA staff was re-visiting every prospect ranked either #1 or #2 on their annual Top 100 Prospects list.
Before even bothering to look down the entire list, which covered every top prospect and runner-up since 1990, a thought popped into my head – have the Phillies ever had someone finish in either spot? I follow the prospect game pretty closely and couldn’t recall the team ever having a prospect ranked that highly.
Sure enough, the list revealed that no Phillies prospect has been ranked as the best in all of baseball on the annual Top 100 list. Only one of the club’s prospects has ever found themselves in the #2 spot. That would be Pat Burrell back in 2000.

A look around the National League East Division reveals that the Atlanta Braves have seen five of their prospects ranked as the best in the game: Steve Avery (1990), Chipper Jones (93), Andruw Jones (96-97), Jason Heyward (2010), and Ronald Acuna just last year. Jones was also the #2 prospect of 1994.
The Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos organization has produced a pair of top prospects: Cliff Floyd (94) and Bryce Harper in both 2011 and 2012. While still in Montreal, Vladimir Guerrero was the #2 prospect in 1997. After the franchise had moved to D.C., Stephen Strasburg finished in the runner-up slot for 2010.
Two of those divisional rivals, the New York Mets and Florida/Miami Marlins, have fared even worse than the Phillies in placing prospects at the top of the ranking lists.
The Mets had Paul Wilson rank #2 in 1996. Wilson pitched just one disappointing season in the Big Apple at age 23 in 1996 before his career was derailed for four years by injuries. He finally recovered enough to appear in parts of three seasons with Tampa Bay and three more in Cincinnati.
The Marlins, established as an expansion organization in 1993, have never placed a prospect in either of the top two slots on the Baseball America rankings. But despite not joining Major League Baseball until the 1998 season, the best at producing top prospects has been another expansion club, the Tampa Bay Rays.
There have been a pair of Rays at the top: Josh Hamilton in 2001 and Delmon Young in 2006. Five Rays prospects have finished in the runner-up slot: Rocco Baldelli (03), B.J. Upton (04), Evan Longoria (08), David Price (09), and Matt Moore in 2012.

Crawford was drafted 16th overall in 2013, became a top 20 prospect from 2016-18 per Baseball America. (David B. King/WikiCommons)
In recent years, Baseball America has been spreading the love around. Nine different organizations have placed prospects in either the #1 or #2 slots over the last five years. Only the Minnesota Twins, with Byron Buxton ranked second in both 2015 and 2016, have appeared twice.
The Phillies have now selected in the top 10 spots of the MLB Amateur Draft in each of the last five straight years: Alec Bohm (3-2018), Adam Haseley (8-2017), Mickey Moniak (1-2016), Cornelius Randolph (10-2015), Aaron Nola (7-2014), and they also picked J.P. Crawford at #16 overall in 2013.
During the 1989-2019 MLB Draft periods where prospects would have been covered by the Baseball America rankings, the Phillies selected within the first four overall picks on a half-dozen occasions: Jeff Jackson (4-1989), Mike Lieberthal (3-1990), Wayne Gomes (4-1993), J.D. Drew (2-1997), Gavin Floyd (4-2001), and Burrell, who was the top overall pick of the 1998 Draft.
Here are the instances where the Phillies placed someone within the top 20 of the Baseball America Top 100 prospects: 1990 – Pat Combs (20), 1997 – Scott Rolen (13), 1999 – Burrell (19), 2000 – Burrell (2), 2003 – Floyd (9), 2004 – Cole Hamels (17), 2010 – Domonic Brown (15), 2011 – Brown (4), 2014 – Maikel Franco (17), 2015 – J.P. Crawford (14), 2016 – Crawford (6), 2017 – Crawford (12) & Moniak (17), 2018 – Crawford (16) and finally Sixto Sanchez (13) this year.

The Phillies clearly were able to develop strong players without them having been ranked near the very top of the list. Key players from the 2000’s heyday including Jimmy RollinsRyan HowardChase UtleyCarlos Ruiz, and Brett Myers were never top 20 overall prospects.
The inability to develop a truly marquee prospect was not a hindrance to the Phillies ability to develop a consistent contender in the last decade. Big props go out to vastly under-rated former GM Ed Wade’s ability to unearth gems. But the club is about to wrap a three-decade stretch in which that inability helped result in two of the three becoming losing decades.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies have not historically fared well in the prospect-ranking game

Some potential nominees for the 2019 Phillies Wall of Fame honors

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’yJmnANxLQVVa4EQLQh8x4g’,sig:’dD8uS_ZMOYgiSjQQ6yFfdiuCXTVZbwZwWjuAc56PA6k=’,w:’594px’,h:’421px’,items:’835913550′,caption: true ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Manny Trillo of the 1980 World Series champs is a legit Wall of Fame candidate

Approximately one month from now the Philadelphia Phillies will announce the 2019 honoree who will be enshrined on the franchise Wall of Fame this coming summer.

Last year for the very first time the team honored two individuals, and in a rare occurrence, Phillies fans had no say in either selection. One of those was Pat Gillick, who has served for 14 years as general manager, president, and senior advisor. Gillick was the first “executive inductee” to the Wall of Fame.
The other honored a year ago was former pitcher Roy Halladay, who had died suddenly and tragically in Florida back in November 2017 while piloting his private plane. Publicly released ballots seem to reveal that ‘Doc’ is also about to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame this coming summer.
Those two joined the manager of the 2008 World Series champions, Charlie Manuel (2014), the organization’s all-time greatest pitcher Steve Carlton (1989), and the greatest player in Phillies history, Mike Schmidt (1990) in becoming the only individuals honored without fan voting as part of the process.
The Phillies had honored no one in the prior summer of 2017. That year, Pete Rose had been scheduled to be enshrined on the Wall of Fame. In early-August, less than two weeks before that was to take place, the club cancelled the ceremony after Rose became embroiled in controversy surrounding allegations that he had sex with a minor while a player with the Cincinnati Reds back in the 1970’s.
Otherwise, the Phillies have honored one individual each year other than 1983. That year an entire “Centennial Team” was named and celebrated in honor of the 100th anniversary of the franchise.
Odds are that one individual will be honored when next month’s announcement is made, so who might that be? One thing that should be obvious is that with an increasing number of worthy individuals now retiring from the 2008 world championship team, we are going to see many of those players enshrined in the coming years.

PARADE TO THE WALL COULD CONTINUE FOR ’08 CHAMPS

Already on the Wall of Fame from that team, joining general manager Gillick and manager Manuel, is outfielder Pat Burrell. The Phillies already have individual ceremonies scheduled for this summer to honor Jimmy RollinsRyan Howard, and Chase Utley due to the announcement of their formal retirements as players.
If the honor goes to another member of those 2008 World Series champions this time around, the leading candidates would be Shane VictorinoCarlos RuizJayson WerthBrad Lidge, and Jamie Moyer. The favorite might be Victorino after the popular Flyin’ Hawaiian was fetted just last season at Citizens Bank Park upon his formal retirement from baseball.
But the Phillies could also take another tack, choosing to honor some other worthy individuals before beginning what should prove to become a veritable parade to the Wall of Fame for a half-dozen or more of those 2008 players during the decade of the 2020’s.
If the club chooses through their own selection, or through a fan vote, or some combination to honor someone other than a 2008 player, who might be a few worthy candidates to consider?

NINE POTENTIAL NON-2008 WALL CONTENDERS

Baker has been Phillies PA announcer
for nearly a half-century
(Phillygd1/WikiCommons)

Before getting into the players, there is one non-player who absolutely deserves consideration. That would be 72-year-old public address announcer Dan Baker.

A native of Philadelphia, Baker became the PA announcer for Phillies games at Veteran’s Stadium beginning with its second season in 1972. His voice has now greeted, entertained, and informed generations of fans over nearly a half-century at both ‘The Vet’ and Citizens Bank Park.
There are eight former Phillies players who, in my opinion, deserve at least some measure of consideration for the Wall of Fame, and who are not associated with the 2008 world championship team. They are: Fred LuderusBobby WineRon ReedManny TrilloScott RolenBobby AbreuCliff Lee, and Rose.
Luderus was the Phillies starting first baseman, one of the best in all of baseball during the ‘Dead Ball Era’ of the 1910’s. I have previously championed his cause in a pair of pieces when he was nominated for the Wall of Fame back in 2016 and the previous year.
Now 80 years of age, Wine was the Phillies starting shortstop for much of the 1960’s, winning the 1963 National League Gold Glove Award at the position. After retiring from baseball, Wine joined the Phillies coaching staff. He remained a valuable coach under four managers during the club’s rise to power, serving from July 1972 through the 1983 NL pennant-winning campaign.
Reed already had a dozen big-league seasons under his belt when he joined the Phillies in a January 1975 trade from the Saint Louis Cardinals. Over the next 10 seasons, the tall right-hander became one of the most effective relief pitchers in club history, going 57-38 with 90 Saves and allowing 702 hits over 809 innings. He registered a 3.06 ERA over 458 games with the club, including nine starts. Reed further appeared in 21 postseason games, and recorded a Save in Game One of the 1980 World Series.
Trillo, now 68-years-old, originally signed with the Phillies as an amateur free agent in January 1968 but was left unprotected and was lost to the Oakland A’s in the Rule 5 Draft in December 1969.
He returned to the club as part of an eight-player swap with the Chicago Cubs in February 1979 and became a vital key over the next four years. Trillo won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, appeared in three MLB All-Star games, and was the MVP of the dramatic 1980 National League Championship Series.

Abreu was an offensive machine as the Phillies grew from late-90’s also-ran to mid-00’s contender (Rdikeman/WikiCommons)
Rolen is 43-years-old and is now the director of player development for the University of Indiana Hoosiers collegiate baseball program. He was the Phillies second round pick in the 1993 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in Indiana.
Rolen broke into the big-leagues in 1996 and became the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year. He then won four Gold Glove Awards at third base over the next five years and was also an NL All-Star and Silver Slugger winner in 2002, his final year with the club.
Abreu was just 23-years-old when he joined the Phillies in a November 1997 trade with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He became an immediate starter with the Phillies, and over nine seasons was a key performer as the club rose from also-ran to contender.
Abreu, now 44, was a 2x NL All-Star, a 2004 Silver Slugger winner, and a 2005 Gold Glove Award winner. He also won the 2005 Home Run Derby at the MLB All-Star festivities. For seven straight seasons he was a 20/20 player, including two 30/30 campaigns.
The 40-year-old Lee is easily the most well-known of these candidates to current Phillies fans. He was already an AL Cy Young Award winner when he arrived from the Cleveland Indians in July 2009 as part of a six-player deal.
After he led the Phillies back to the World Series that October, GM Ruben Amaro dealt him away on the same December 2009 day that Halladay was acquired. But Lee chose to return when the became a free agent a year later, and was part of the 2011 ‘Four Aces’ starting rotation that led the Phillies to a franchise-record 102 regular season victories.
Over parts of five seasons with the club, Lee put together a 48-34 record with a 2.94 ERA, 2.85 FIP, and 1.089 WHIP. He allowed 777 hits over 827.1 innings with an incredible 6.56 K:BB ratio. Lee was also a 2x NL All-Star with the club, and finished top six in the NL Cy Young Award voting.
And then there is Rose. As with the Baseball Hall of Fame, on playing credentials alone he is worthy of the Phillies Wall of Fame. He was the first-ever big Phillies free agent signing in December 1978 and was an NL All-Star each of the next four years with the club.
Rose won the 1981 NL Silver Slugger at first base, received NL MVP votes twice including a top ten finish in that 1981 campaign, and has been credited with pushing the Phillies over the hump to the 1980 world championship.
As for the allegations of statutory rape, Rose continues to deny them. Would the Phillies ever re-open his Wall of Fame case during this current “Me Too” movement era? Despite America supposedly being an innocent-until-proven-guilty country, that is likely a longshot.
Will the 2008 World Series championship team continue to be honored with another member getting a plaque on the Phillies Wall of Fame later this summer? Will one of the worthy non-2008 players finally find their way on to the Wall of Fame? Will fans even get a say in this year’s selection process? Those questions will be answered in the coming weeks.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as As Phillies prepare to honor a parade of 2008 players, who else deserves the Wall of Fame?

2008 Phillies reunite to celebrate Chase Utley’s 40th birthday

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’bg4LfjI0TG5LSIKsOfdvOA’,sig:’McMzS6VMkz9GWmoHJBiII9vvhk2DrAiqMVzWFpWJJVs=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’453126556′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Utley ends his big-league career after 16 seasons, 13 with the Phillies

Time and tide wait for no man. That goes for all of us, including our most beloved sports heroes. On Tuesday, December 18, Chase Utley turned 40 years old.

Utley is arguably the most popular Phillies player of the last quarter-century. You would have to go back to the scruffy National League champions of 1993 to find any Phillies player who was and continues to be as warmly embraced by the often difficult to please Philadelphia sports fan base.
Chase is not only popular among the fans, but also among his former teammates. To celebrate the milestone birthday he was joined for a Mexican vacation by Ryan HowardPat BurrellCole HamelsBrad Lidge and a number of other friends and family members.
Utley has announced that the 2018 season would be his last. He finishes up a memorable 16-year career, with the most significant and memorable spent in a Phillies uniform.
After spending parts of his first 13 seasons with the club, Utley ranks high on a number of all-time Phillies statistical lists: Hits – 1,623 (9), Home Runs – 233 (6), RBI – 916 (7), Runs – 949 (6), Doubles – 346 (5).
Utley was also a 6x National League All-Star as well as a 4x NL Silver Slugger Award winner at second base. He received National League Most Valuable Player award votes in five different seasons. During his 2005-09 peak, Utley was the best all-around second baseman in baseball.
His wife, Jen, posted the following message to her hubbie via Instagram:

Far and away the greatest second baseman in the history of the 136-year-old franchise, Utley is sure to find his place on the Phillies Wall of Fame at some point over the next few years. He will also make for an interesting Baseball Hall of Fame case when he first becomes eligible in 2024.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Chase Utley’s 40th birthday leads to mini-reunion of 2008 Phillies champs

Remembering Eric Bruntlett, unsung hero of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’jUhS_snSRWNG03HrSsfAfA’,sig:’eBNSpEc7kJlsjEsq6vwOxKoij93FybbDAcuQuuzESWE=’,w:’594px’,h:’457px’,items:’83435556′,caption: true ,tld:’ca’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Bruntlett dashes home as the winning run in Game 3 of the 1980 World Series

It seems somewhat hard to believe, but it has been a full decade now since the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in five games to capture the 2008 World Series championship.

There were many popular, homegrown heroes on that Phillies ball club. The names and faces jump immediately to mind for every fan who was around to enjoy that incredible team: Jimmy RollinsRyan HowardChase UtleyCole HamelsBrett MyersRyan MadsonCarlos Ruiz.
But even with all of those great players, the Phillies don’t win the World Series that year without the contributions of those brought in from the outside. Many of those acquired from other organizations became extremely popular and are easily recalled by fans as well: Jamie MoyerJayson WerthShane Victorino, and Brad Lidge would quickly come to mind.
But there were lesser contributors, players who didn’t get on the field or up to bat as often but who played a pivotal role in much of the drama that unfolded during that season and in that Fall Classic. One such contributor was utility player Eric Bruntlett.

Born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, Bruntlett played shortstop at Stanford University. He was chosen in the ninth round of the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft by the Houston Astros as the 277th player taken overall that year.
He rose quickly through Houston’s minor league system, reaching Triple-A by the following summer. In late June of 2003, Bruntlett was called up for the first time and would spend most of the season with the Astros from that point as a pinch-hitter and infield backup.
That would prove to be Bruntlett’s primary big-league role over the entirety of what became a five-year stint with Houston. In each of his first four seasons, the Astros finished in second place in the National League Central Division.
He was part of the close-but-no-cigar Houston teams that tried to win the first world championship in Astros franchise history during that run. The team lost a heart-breaking NLCS in seven games to the Saint Louis Cardinals in 2004, and then were swept by the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series.
On November 7, 2007 newly hired Astros GM Ed Wade, the former Phillies general manager, packaged Bruntlett with Lidge in a trade, sending both to the Phillies. In exchange, Houston received relief pitcher Geoff Geary and a pair of prospects, infielder Mike Costanzo and outfielder Michael Bourn.
It would prove to be a coup for Pat Gillick, who had been hired as the Phillies GM to succeed Wade almost exactly two years to the day earlier. In fact, it would end up as one of the most important deals in Phillies history.
Lidge would go a perfect 41-for-41 in Save situations for the 2008 Phillies, then register another seven without blowing one during the magical postseason run. He would strike out Eric Hinske of Tampa Bay to clinch the World Series, dropping famously to his knees before being engulfed by his teammates.
The contributions of Bruntlett were perhaps not as memorable but remained vital all the same.
During the regular season in 2008, Bruntlett joined infielder Greg Dobbs and outfielder Geoff Jenkins as manager Charlie Manuel‘s most frequently utilized and important bench pieces. His numbers were nothing to write home about, slashing just .217/.297/.297 with a dozen extra-base hits across 238 plate appearances.
However, Bruntlett held down the shortstop position for much of the early portion of the schedule as Rollins recovered from injury. Given a chance to play some in the outfield as the summer wore on, he became so trusted by Manuel that the skipper used Bruntlett as his primary choice to close out games in left field as a defensive sub for Burrell over the final month.
That role as defensive sub in left field would continue throughout the 2008 playoffs. Bruntlett did provide a base hit during Game 1 of the NLDS, a 3-1 Phillies victory over Milwaukee. He then went 0-1 in each of the last two games of the NLCS victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was ten years ago today that Bruntlett provided the first of his two most important direct conributions to that title run. In Game 3 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies and Rays had split the first two games. This game would decide which team took the lead in the series.
The Phillies took a 4-1 lead into the late innings. But the usually reliable ‘Bridge to Lidge’ bullpen blew it, surrendering three runs over the 7th and 8th innings. The Phillies and Rays thus battled into the bottom of the 9th inning tied at 4-4 in this pivotal contest.

Bruntlett had, typically by that point, replaced Burrell in left field for the top of the 7th inning. He would now get his first appearance at the plate to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning.

Working the count to 2-1 against Rays reliever J.P. Howell, Bruntlett was hit by a pitch. Taking his place at first base, he was the winning run if the Phillies could get him around.
Rays manager Joe Maddon made another pitching change, bringing on Aussie native Grant Balfour to face Victorino. On his second pitch, Balfour uncorked a wild one. Bruntlett took off immediately, and as the ball got behind Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, he bolted all the way around to third base.
As the Citizens Bank Park crowd roared, Bruntlett now stood just 90 feet away as the winning run at third base with nobody out. Resorting to his last-gasp strategy in such situations, Maddon had Balfour intentionally walk both ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian’ and Werth to load the bases.
Bases loaded with Phillies. Nobody out. Rays players and fans praying for a ground ball that their club could turn into a force-out at home plate, maybe even then into a double play. Phillies fans hoping for a base hit, a deep fly ball, anything to get that winning run home.
Up to the plate stepped the hugely popular Ruiz. As the crowd roared, waving white rally towels in the air above their heads in unison, ‘Chooch’ battled the count to 2-2 against Balfour.
What happened next seemed in the first instant to be exactly what Tampa Bay wanted. Ruiz topped a slow-roller towards third base. If a Rays fielder got it and threw home, they could force out the runner, and maybe even have time to throw the slow-footed Ruiz out at first base for that double play.
However, the ball bounced much more slowly than anyone at first realized it would. Third baseman Evan Longoria charged towards it, bare-handing the ball and firing it home. Bruntlett had taken off as soon as the ball left the bat and was racing towards home.
As Longoria’s hurried throw blew high past Navarro, Bruntlett slid in safely with the winning run. The Phillies had the 5-4 victory and the lead in the World Series. Teammates mobbed both he and Ruiz, and the Phillies were on their way to the first championship for the franchise in nearly three decades.

It wouldn’t be Bruntlett’s last big moment in that Fall Classic. In fact, in the clinching Game 5, it would be Bruntlett who would score the World Series-winning run.
Burrell led off the bottom of the 7th inning of that game with a booming double high off the center field wall in what would prove to be his final appearance in a Phillies uniform. Manuel then sent Bruntlett in to run for Burrell.
The pinch-runner moved up to third base on a ground out, then scored when Pedro Feliz delivered a line-drive base hit up the middle. That run gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead, and Bruntlett was in left field as Lidge closed things out two innings later.

Bruntlett returned to the Phillies for the 2009 season, which would prove to be his swan song in Major League Baseball. He tried to catch on with the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees, playing with the Triple-A affiliates for both clubs during the 2010 season, but was unable to get back to the bigs. After that season he decided to hang up his cleats and become a stay-at-home dad.
Before leaving Philadelphia and Major League Baseball, Bruntlett would have one more memorable moment in the sun. In August 2009 he became just the second player in MLB history to record a game-ending unassisted triple play.
Trailing by 9-7 but with runners at first and second and nobody out at Citi Field the host New York Mets were trying to tie and possibly even rally for a comeback victory over the Phillies.
As the Mets tried a hit-and-run, Bruntlett snared a line drive off the bat of future popular Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur for the first out. He then stepped on second base to force out Luis Castillo, and in the same moment tagged out Daniel Murphy running from first.
Bruntlett returned to South Philly this summer, taking part in the festivities as the Phillies honored the 2008 World Series champions on the 10th anniversary of their glorious achievement.
This was just the first of these types of reunions sure to take place in the coming years and decades, so fans of the team should have many more opportunities to thank him and his teammates for those great memories.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “2008 Phillies Flashback: Eric Bruntlett, unsung hero