Looking Back on the Brett Myers Era

Brett Myers was the odd man out when the Phillies set their NLCS roster. Myers was infuriated — or, in his words, “ticked”. There is a chance he makes the World Series roster, but even if he does, it is likely that the next 4-to-7 games are the last we’ll see of Brett in a Phillies uniform. He is a free agent after the post-season ends and is coming off of a disappointing, injury-plauged 2009 in which he was paid $12 million.

The Phillies have over $108 million obliged already for 2010, and that’s before addressing arbitration-eligible players (i.e. Chad Durbin) and free agents (i.e. Chan Ho Park). Given that Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson will continue pitching the late innings for the Phillies, Brett doesn’t fit in at the back of the bullpen as he did in 2007. Additionally, it is likely that both Durbin and Park will be back. Assuming the Phillies also include two left-handers (J.C. Romero is a lock aside from his health issues), the only role left for Brett in the ‘pen is as a mop-up reliever, certainly not a role he will be happy to take.

What about the starting rotation? Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are locks, of course, and you may as well throw in J.A. Happ too. Joe Blanton is arbitration-eligible, Jamie Moyer still has another year left on his contract, and Pedro Martinez is a free agent. Blanton made $5.75 million this year, so he’s due for a slight pay raise — not enough to deter the Phillies from offering him arbitration. Granted, it is an assumption, but I would be very surprised if Joe Blanton declined a $6-ish million arbitration offer from the Phillies. Four out of five spots filled.

If the Phillies are comfortable with four left-handers in the rotation, Jamie Moyer could be back as he will likely be 100% by spring training. Pedro Martinez could be re-signed, but he may retire if the Phillies win the World Series, and if they don’t, he still may retire. Antonio Bastardo or Kyle Drabek could win the #5 spot in spring training. Post-season barista Kyle Kendrick is always in the mix.

All told, Brett is looking at the following scenario if he wants to return to the Phillies:

  • A pay cut from the nearly $26 million he’s earned over the past three seasons
  • A mop-up role in the bullpen if he returns as a reliever
  • Competing with many candidates in spring training for the #5 spot in the rotation

If Brett wants to go elsewhere, he certainly could. There will be teams who will be willing to pay him more than the Phillies will — maybe not $12 million, but certainly better than what the Phillies will want to pay him. Other teams will also be willing to guarantee him a spot in the starting rotation, as Brett likes being a starting pitcher more than a reliever. And if he chooses a team that wants to use him as a reliever, there will be teams who will let him pitch in the late innings.

It’s still too early to tell which teams will open up their arms to Brett, but there are always teams in dire need of pitching every off-season. While left-handers Will Ohman and Joe Beimel had to wait until spring training to sign before the 2009 season, Myers won’t have to endure those tribulations. Myers is a jack-of-all-trades kind of pitcher, whereas Ohman and Beimel are strictly LOOGYs.

Now that we can all agree that it’s not likely (but not impossible) that we’ll see Brett pitching for the Phillies, let us look back on the five fondest moments of Brett’s career in Philadelphia.

5. Brett pitches a complete game gem against the Milwaukee Brewers to spur the Phillies to a seven-game winning streak.

On September 14, 2008, the Phillies were scheduled for a double-header against the Brewers, who had swept them in a four-game series in Milwaukee earlier in the season. The Phils were behind the Mets by 2.5 games and had won the first two games of the series against Manny Parra and Ben Sheets.

In the first game, the Phillies scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 3-3 tie, victimizing Guillermo Mota and Brian Shouse. Scott Eyre and Brad Lidge combined to work a perfect ninth, and the Phillies won their third game in a row. If Myers could win the second-half of the double-header, the Phillies would only be behind the Mets by one game with twelve games remaining.

The Phillies staked Myers to a four-run lead early, scoring one in the first inning and three in the second against Brewers starter Jeff Suppan. Through four and two-thirds, Myers had faced the minimum, the only blemish coming in the third inning: a lead-off walk to Craig Counsell that was eventually erased when Suppan grounded into an inning-ending double play.

In the fourth inning with two outs, Ray Durham finally punched the Brewers’ first hit into right field, but Myers quickly ended the inning by striking out Prince Fielder. Myers would only allow one more hit — a solo home run to Prince Fielder in the seventh.  He notched 1-2-3 innings in the fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth innings.

Myers pitched all nine innings and allowed only one run on two hits, striking out four and walking only one. The Phillies would go on to win 9 of their 12 remaining games, taking the NL East pennant, ahead of the New York Mets by three games.

4. Brett works the count against the Milwaukee Brewers’ C.C. Sabathia in Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS.

The Phillies had just tied the game at 1 apiece when Brett Myers strode to the plate with two outs in the second inning. There was a runner on third, and the Phillies were simply happy that, barring a terrible base running blunder, they were going to have the top of the lineup leading off the third inning. Instead, Brett decided to start a rally.

Sabathia had been utterly dominant in the second-half of the 2008 season after being traded to Milwaukee from the ailing Cleveland Indians. In 17 starts, Sabathia compiled a 1.65 ERA and better than a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. What could a poor hitter like Myers do against the defending AL Cy Young award winner?

Myers quickly fell behind 0-2, but fouled off some tough pitches and took some pitches out of the strike zone to work the count back to 3-2. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sabathia threw a 97-MPH down-and-in fastball. Myers took it for ball four and took his rightful spot at first base. Jimmy Rollins followed up with a walk of his own, bringing up Shane Victorino. And, well, the rest is history.

Myers followed up his excellent nine-pitch at-bat in the second inning with a ten-pitch at-bat in the fourth. He flied out to right-center, but he had done more in two at-bats than 99% of the hitters had done to Sabathia all season, taking 19 pitches and reaching base once.

In the fifth inning, Myers came up with runners on first and second, the Phillies ahead 5-1. He swung at the first pitch right-handed reliever Seth McClung threw, dropping a single into right field to load the bases. Unfortunately, Jimmy Rollins couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

Totaled up, Myers saw 20 pitches in three at-bats and reached base twice via a walk and a single. His walk eventually led to four Phillies runs, and his overall plate discipline accounted for more than 20% of the pitches Sabathia threw. Sabathia, of course, did not make it through the fourth inning.

3. Brett gets hit in head by line drive, pitches complete game gem anyway.

The Phillies were in Chicago on May 8, 2005 for a day game against the Cubs. Myers took the bump for the Phillies, opposed by Carlos Zambrano. Myers had retired the first five Cubs he had faced when catcher Michael Barrett took his turn at the plate. Barrett took the first pitch, then lined the second pitch off of Myers’ head. The ball ricocheted into left field and Barrett had himself a single.

Phillies catcher Todd Pratt and trainer Jeff Cooper were worried about Myers potentially having a concussion, but Myers assured them that he was fine, and he stayed in the game. Myers got Ben Grieve to ground out to Jimmy Rollins to end the inning.

Everyone assumed Myers would be taken out of the game for precautionary reasons, but Myers took the mound in the third inning. He retired Jerry Hairston, Zambrano, and Corey Patterson consecutively for a 1-2-3 inning. That would be the theme for the day, although the Cubs scored two runs against Myers in the fourth when Neifi Perez and Aramis Ramirez hit solo home runs.

Myers pitched all eight innings, allowing just the two runs while striking out ten Cubs and walking only one. Unfortunately, the Phillies could muster only one run off of Zambrano, who also went the distance.

2. Brett clinches the division on the last day in 2007.

In what was the start of good things to come, Myers clinched the division for the Phillies on the last day of the season in 2007. The Mets, behind Tom Glavine, had already lost to the Florida Marlins, so all the Phillies needed to do was earn a victory against the lowly Washington Nationals.

The Phillies led 6-1 going into the ninth inning, and Charlie Manuel insisted on going to his closer despite the lack of a save situation. Myers came in and quickly retired two Nationals by striking out Dmitri Young and inducing Austin Kearns to fly out to left field. The only person who stood between the Phillies and a celebratory pile-up in the infield was Wily Mo Pena.

Myers got ahead 0-2, threw a ball, and as he frequently did that season, he dropped a perfect 12-6 deuce on the outside corner for a called strike three. Myers threw his glove way up in the air in celebration and was quickly mobbed by a joyous Phillies team including Pat Burrell.

1.  Brett continues his hitting dominance against the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley in the 2008 NLCS.

Unlike his approach to C.C. Sabathia in Game 2 of the NLDS, Myers was very aggressive at the plate against Chad Billingsley. The Phillies again had just tied up the game 1-1 when Myers came to the plate with a runner on second base and two outs. Myers swung at Billingsley’s first offering, serving it into center field for an RBI single.

That was not all Myers had to offer.

In the third inning, with the bases loaded and one out, Myers again swung at the first pitch, swatting a line drive past a diving James Loney down the right field line. Two Phillies scored on the hit and they still had runners on first and third with only one out. Myers stood on first base, looked into the Phillies dugout, and shrugged his shoulders, as not even he knew that he could do that with a bat. Later on, with two outs, Shane Victorino tripled scoring Ruiz (who was on third) and Myers, upping the Phillies’ lead to 8-2.

But wait, there’s more!

The baseball gods they did smile upon Myers in his third at-bat against reliever James McDonald. Myers again swung at the first pitch, a low-and-away breaking ball, driving it into the ground. The ball slowly dribbled down the third base line, hastily retrieved by McDonald. The perfect placement of the ball allowed Myers to reach first base safely without a throw — his third hit on three total pitches in three at-bats. Myers drove in three runs and scored two himself.