Tag Archives: Wilie Montanez

Baseball Hall of Fame likely to take another look at Dick Allen

For the better part of 15 seasons in Major League Baseball, Dick Allen terrorized big-league pitching as one of the most feared sluggers in the game.

Allen put together a career slash line of .292/.378/.534, slamming 351 home runs among 850 career extra-base hits. He accumulated 1,119 RBIs and scored 1,099 runs. Allen even flashed speed, stealing 133 bases and registering double-digit stolen base totals six times.

In his trophy case can be found both the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 1972 American League Most Valuable Player Award. He was a seven-time All-Star as well.

The first seven and two of the final three of those seasons were spent in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform. During that first stint from 1963-69, Allen won those Rookie of the Year honors and followed that freshman campaign with three consecutive NL All-Star seasons.

In his rookie year of 1964, Allen – then known as ‘Richie Allen’ – slashed .318/.382/.557 with 29 home runs, 38 doubles, and drove in 91 runs. He led all of baseball with 125 runs scored and 13 triples that year.

It was his presence in the middle of the lineup as the starting third baseman, combined with the efforts of newly acquired ace starting pitcher Jim Bunning, that pushed the Phillies to the top of the NL standings for most of that summer of 1964.

That those Phillies suffered a historic collapse, losing 10 straight at one point and going 4-13 over the second half of the month to blow a big lead, was no fault of Allen’s. Over those final 17 games from September 16 to the end of that season, Allen slashed .386/.449/.657 with 11 extra-base hits, 13 RBIs, and 18 runs scored.

Defensively, Allen moved from the hot corner out to left field for the 1968 season and then to first base during his final season at Connie Mack Stadium with the Phillies in 1969.

His time with the Phillies during the 1960’s was often as tumultuous as the decade itself proved to be for all of America. For fans who are genuinely interested, I highly recommend reading “God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen” by Villanova law professor Mitchell Nathanson.

There is also an outstanding biography on Allen at the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) by Rich D’Ambrosio, taken from the book The Year of the Blue Snow: The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies“.

For the purposes of keeping this particular piece short, I’ll largely skip over Allen’s non-Phillies seasons at this point. He was traded to the Saint Louis Cardinals on October 7, 1969 in what turned out to be one of the most important deals in MLB history.

The key piece coming back to the Phillies in what was a seven-player trade was three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award-winning veteran outfielder Curt Flood. Instead, Flood chose not to report to the Phillies and embarked on a historic legal challenge of baseball’s reserve clause. The Phillies would later receive a prospect by the name of Willie Montanez to complete the deal.

Allen produced another All-Star season during his one year in Saint Louis, after which he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had a solid season in LA, where the Dodgers finished just a game behind the arch-rival Giants for the NL West crown. Following that season he was traded once again, this time to the Chicago White Sox.

In 1972, Allen became the American League Most Valuable Player with the Chisox for a season in which he slashed .308/.420/.603 with 37 home runs,  70 extra-base hits, 113 RBIs, and 90 runs scored. It was the first of three consecutive AL All-Star seasons in the Windy City.

In December 1974, Allen was traded to the Atlanta Braves, who would flip him to the Phillies in May 1975. His return to Philadelphia coincided with the team’s rise back to contending status, and Allen joined young sluggers Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski in the middle of the Phillies batting order over the next two seasons.

After helping the Phillies to their first postseason berth in 26 years during the Bicentennial season of 1976 at Veteran’s Stadium, Allen was granted free agency. He signed with the Oakland A’s, for whom he would spend one final half-season before his career ended at age 35.

Allen began appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot in the early 1980’s and would remain under consideration by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America voters for 15 years. He would top off at 79 votes (16.7%), which came in his final year of consideration on that regular ballot in 1997.

Over the last two decades, Allen’s case for the Baseball Hall of Fame has been supported by a number of individuals, none more passionate than Mark Carfagno, who has aggressively championed the cause on social media in recent years.

An impressive 55-page presentation has been created by him at the website “Dick Allen Belongs in the Hall of Fame“, and there is an accompanying Facebook group as well. Another great fan web resource is the Dick Allen Hall of Fame created back in 2011.

There was hope in the winter of 2014 when Allen was voted on by the Veteran’s Committee. Needing 12 of the 16 voters support for enshrinement, when the final totals were tallied, Allen fell just one vote short.

Per Carfagno: “…it’s very political. He should have been elected on the 2014 Golden Era Ballot, but at the last minute Bob Watson was replaced as a voter by Dave Dombrowski who did not vote for Allen. I can say it as a fact since I was told by a very good source. I have so many correspondences, Emails , Letters and experiences that I want to write a book about the campaign. Ups and downs, High and lows, peaks and valleys just like a long baseball season.”

Last summer, Daryl Bell with the Philadelphia Tribune wrote “Phillies’ first Black superstar, who knew how to patiently wait on a pitcher’s mistake to hit a ball seemingly into another ZIP code, is diligently waiting for the day he receives word that he’s been elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s also waiting for the day the Phillies finally retire his number 15.

Allen has waited far too long to hear that word and enjoy that day. But now, there is again hope that the wait could be coming to an end.

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Golden Days” committee will vote in December 2020 on candidates for possible inclusion in the Hall’s Class of 2021. It is widely believed that Allen will be on that ballot and again voted on for possible enshrinement, and he would again need the support from 12 of the 16 voters.

Just last month, Matt Breen at the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote the following: “He was baseball’s best hitter over the first decade of his career, as Allen’s 165 OPS+ from 1964 to 1973 led the majors, better than all-time greats such as Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, and Willie McCovey. Allen should have become a Hall of Famer in 1983...”

If he is left off the ballot ( a long shot) or the voters somehow get it wrong once again this coming December, that committee would not be scheduled to vote again until late in 2025. Allen would be 83 years old at that point.

The time is long past for Dick Allen to be voted into and inducted at the Baseball Hall of Fame, enshrined there forever with a plaque among the immortals of the game. Crying over those past injustices accomplishes nothing. Only a positive vote this time around will do it. The time is now.

 

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Should Phillies pursue a top bat over a top starting pitcher?

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Keuchel is a legitimate option if the Phillies choose to, or are forced to, settle below the top-level free agent arms

 

With the ‘Hot Stove’ season now open across Major League Baseball, teams have begun the process of trying to upgrade their roster for the 2020 campaign.

The Philadelphia Phillies are coming off what was a disappointing .500 season in 2019. After a ton of high-profile activity last off-season and a fast start, the club sputtered over the final four months to finish at 81-81.

Most evaluators and fans feel that the biggest shortcoming for the team this past season was the pitching staff. The Phillies failed to get quality outings from their starting pitchers and suffered numerous injuries that depleted their bullpen.

The bullpen could bounce back simply with a return to health by a few of the arms and with a modest free agent signing or prescient trade addition.

But the rotation will be more difficult. There are a pair of ace-caliber pitchers available in Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, and a strong second-tier arm in Zack Wheeler. The Phillies have plenty of money and the incentive to sign any of them.

However, would they actually be smarter to ink a couple of lesser-tier arms, pitchers who do not have a qualifying offer attached, instead spending their big money on another impact bat to fill one of their lineup holes? It’s a legitimate strategy to consider.

If so, which arms could actually improve the rotation and might make the most sense for the club to pursue? And then, what bats might the club be able to add that would significantly upgrade the lineup?

MID-LEVEL ARMS

The Phillies gave 72 combined starts in the 2019 season to a group of pitchers that included Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff, Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas, and Cole Irvin.

The lowest ERA among that group was the 4.45 mark of Smyly, a southpaw who was added as a free agent in mid-July who is now an unrestricted free agent. Each of the others was either near or over the 5.00 mark.

There are a handful of solid starting pitching options available in free agency who do not have qualifying offers attached. They are unrestricted free agents who will not cost anywhere near the price of a Cole or Strasburg contract.

Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is an injury risk and will turn 33 years of age at the end of spring training. But he could be had for something like a three-year, $54-million deal. For this year’s NL Cy Young Award runner-up who has top of the rotation talent, it could prove a major bargain. Would the Phillies roll the dice?

The Phillies passed on Dallas Keuchel this past season and then watched him become a difference-maker in the rival Braves rotation as Atlanta pulled away in the standings. The lefty turns 32 on New Year’s Day and might be looking for a five-year deal. But if the former NL Cy Young Award winner who also has four Gold Gloves on his résumé would settle for three years at $15 million per?

There is also, of course, Cole Hamels. The former Phillies ace and World Series hero will turn 37-years-old two days after Christmas. The lefty has publicly stated that he would go on a one-year deal. How about the Phillies take him up on that offer at $15 million with incentives and a club option for 2021?

Adding a pair of left-handers from among the Ryu, Keuchel, Hamels group, depending on the price in dollars and years, would likely end up much more affordable and hang much less of a risk albatross around the Phillies necks as would a Cole or Strasburg deal alone.

TOP POTENTIAL IMPACT BATS

It’s very difficult to evaluate where the Phillies 2020 holes will be, simply because the club hasn’t made up its own mind regarding a number of holdover players.

Decisions on Scott Kingery, Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Adam Haseley in particular will determine not only the answers to a number of questions – but also will actually determine those questions themselves.

So, I will proceed in the way that I see best for the Phillies future. That means Kingery plays second base every day, both Hernandez and Franco are gone, and Haseley becomes a bench player or starts in center field every day at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

What that means is the Phillies have holes to fill in center field and at third base. The center field hole cannot be filled in free agency, at least not by anyone who would be a marked improvement on Haseley.

If the Phillies wish to add a championship caliber center fielder it will have to be done via trade. In past articles, I have advocated for the club going after Boston Red Sox defensive whiz Jackie Bradley Jr.

Whether it would be Bradley or some other target, filling this position with a more proven veteran is something that general manager Matt Klentak needs to make a priority. Klentak needs to find his Garry Maddox for Willie Montanez trade. Phillies fans should well recall that important May 1975 trade with the San Francisco Giants.

However, filling the third base hole can indeed be done through the free agency route. In fact, there are three different players available, all at different commitment levels of years and dollars

Anthony Rendon is the top available hitter. Turning 30-years-old next June, he would likely come at a price tag of $30-35 million over as many as seven years. Rendon would bring elite, Gold Glove-caliber defense and a clutch middle-of-the-order bat to the lineup, but at a premium price that would tie up the position for years.

Josh Donaldson is a former AL MVP who turns 34 in two weeks. He is a proven middle order hitter who remains a top glove man at the hot corner. Donaldson played on a one-year deal this past season in Atlanta. It will likely cost a three-year, $75 million commitment this time around.

A third option at third base would be 31-year-old Mike Moustakas. He is nowhere near the caliber of defender at the hot corner as the first two, and is not as reliable a hitter or run producer either. However, at a notch below both Rendon and Donaldson he would also come cheaper. He might even go for a one-year deal at $10-12 million, allowing the Phillies to remain committed to Alec Bohm over the longer term.

 

Even if he can successfully fill the holes in center field and at third base, as well as add two more veteran starting pitchers, Klentak still has more work to do this off-season. He needs to add a couple of better veteran bench options, as well as perhaps adding another strong reliever. Get all that accomplished and the Philadelphia Phillies are legitimate 2020 postseason contenders.

 

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The Philadelphia Phillies are barreling down streak towards the July 31 MLB trade deadline with numerous rumors beginning to swirl around the team.
Most of the speculation revolves around the obvious players. Anyone 30+ years of age who is a pending free agent is likely to move.
The list includes starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, relievers Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, and outfielders Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava.
Another possibility to move is catcher Cameron Rupp,  already losing playing time to Andrew Knapp behind the dish. If Rupp is dealt, the Phils could call up Logan Moorefrom AAA Lehigh Valley to serve as the backup while Jorge Alfaro continues to start with the IronPigs.
Can Phillies fans expect their team to receive anything of any substance in exchange for any of these players in any trade? The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding “no” to that question.

POSSIBLE RETURNS IN VETERAN DEALS

It was pointed out to me today that in August of 2014 the Phillies were able to unload then 33-year old reliever Roberto Hernandez on the Los Angeles Dodgers. In that deal, the club received the old “players to be named later” as a return.
When those PTBNL were actually named, they turned out to be infielder Jesmuel Valentin and pitcher Victor Arano. Nearly three years later, neither player has appeared in the big leagues. And neither looks as if they will any time soon, if ever.
Valentin is currently on the DL at AAA Lehigh Valley following May surgery to repair a separated shoulder. The 23-year old is a career .261 hitter with 24 home runs and 49 stolen bases over 1,856 minor league plate appearances.
Arano is a 22-year old currently pitching out of the AA Reading bullpen. The right-hander is having a good season. But he also currently ranks just 21st on the MLB Phillies top prospects list.
That kind of return for Rupp, Kendrick, Nava, or Benoit would have to be considered a jackpot. Hellickson or Neshek could bring back perhaps a decent prospect, but is unlikely to yield anyone who will truly impact the future.
Is there any deal that GM Matt Klentak and the rest of the Phillies brain trust put together that could potentially impact that future? Perhaps.
Would the Phillies move two young, affordable players previously considered part of the future? Could either Maikel Franco or Odubel Herrera be traded away at this point in their careers?

PHILLIES GM NEEDS TO BE BOLD

Frankly, Klentak should be open to anything. I think back to the mid-70’s and the Phillies of my youth, remembering a particular key deal involving a core player in the prime of his career.
On May 4, 1975 the Phillies GM Paul Owens shipped away 27-year old first baseman Willie Montanez to the San Francisco Giants. In exchange, San Francisco sent a 25-year old center fielder to Philly by the name of Garry Maddox.
Maddox would play more than a decade for the Phillies. He would win the first of eight career Gold Glove awards that first year. He was a key player on five NL East champs and the 1980 World Series champions. In 2001, Maddox was honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
Those are the types of deals that the best general managers are able to pull off at some point. Klentak should be completely open to dealing Franco or Herrera. Same goes for either Cesar Hernandez, or Freddy Galvis if it brings back real talent.
The Phillies do have pieces to deal as the 2017 MLB trade deadline approaches. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on getting anything of long term value in return. There will be nothing to excite Phillies fans later this month – unless Klentak gets truly bold.