Even Bad Baseball Is Glorious: 2014 Phillies Highlights

In 1962, the expansion New York Mets finished an almost unfathomable 40-120 and became the unfortunate standard bearer for bad baseball. Just how bad were the ’62 Mets? Despite finishing 16 games under .500, the 2014 Phillies record was three games nearer to the 102 win 2011 Phillies season than it was the ’62 Mets. Yet over a full baseball season, moments of joy, no matter how fleeting, are inescapable. The ’62 Mets still won forty games and among those wins were nine (!) walk-off victories which inevitably thrilled the home crowd. In the first game of a doubleheader on June 22, 1962, a pitcher named Al Jackson hurled a one-hit shutout to lead those hapless Mets to a 2-0 victory over the Houston Colts (an outfielder for the Mets you might’ve heard of before, Richie Ashburn, homered that day.) On Opening Day Gus Bell recorded the first hit in franchise history and Gil Hodges hit the first home run. Why am I recapping highlights of the ’62 Mets season? Because one of the great joys in baseball is this: when baseball is awful, it’s still absolutely wonderful.

As we prepare to close out 2014, it is most certainly worth a moment of reflection on the good, great, and immortal baseball moments Phillies fans were privy to over the past year. In organizing the list below, I allowed myself to remember the 2014 Phillies moments ranging from the absurd to the dramatic to the dominant that made me feel good things and rank them without any pretense of objectivity. This list is purely based on my emotional preferences and the only rule is one that evolved organically as I formed the list — just one highlight per person/group — but even that one rule is broken once.

On with the show. The ten Phillies highlights that brought me the most joy in 2014:

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Crash Bag, Vol. 1: Crash Bag 2.0

We find ourselves at the end of an era. As Jimmy Rollins trades in his beautiful red Phillies pinstripes for plain old Dodger blue, our very own Michael Baumann (officially) ends his tenure as your beloved Crash Bag curator. Like Rollins, Baumann was remarkably consistent, at one point boasting 99 consecutive weeks of Crash Baggery. And just as Jimmy was the best Phillies shortstop of all time, Baumann was the best Crash Bag…Guy…in Crashburn Alley history. So what if he was also the only one, and thus the best by default! The point is, I’m honored to take over as your NEW Crash Bag guy. Anyway, I hope I can be more J.P. Crawford than Freddy Galvis, but there’s a long way to go before we find out (and hopefully, being J.P. Crawford turns out to be a good thing). Remember to use the hashtag #crashbag on the twitters. Let’s get to the questions.

Rollins is gone. It’s been almost two weeks since the news broke, but still, those words are tough to read. He was the man. He’s one of three players in baseball history with 400 steals, 200 homers, and 100 triples. The other two guys are Johnny Damon and Paul Molitor. By the time he retires, Rollins will likely be the only player EVER with 500 steals, 250 homers, and 100 triples. His departure leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the infield, at the top of the lineup, and in our hearts. Sniff.

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What’s on Phillies Players’ Holiday Wishlists?

The Jimmy Rollins trade recently became official after more than a week of anticipation. Things have otherwise been quiet in Philliestown. The most newsworthy item that came out recently was their odds of winning the 2015 World Series diminishing further — now 100/1 according to 32Red Sport and Casino, compared to 15/2 for the Dodgers and the Washington Nationals per Paddy Power  — when the Rollins trade news broke. Let’s break up the monotony with a light-hearted look at what might be on the holiday wishlists of various Phillies players.

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Phillies Linked to Asdrubal Cabrera

With the departure of Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies face their first opening at shortstop in nearly a decade and a half. Yesterday Jerry Crasnick reported that the Phillies could be looking at 37-year-old Rafael Furcal as a possibility to help fill the gap until J.P. Crawford‘s arrival in Philly. Today’s Crasnick report is a much more appealing rumor.

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Ruben Amaro, Jr.: Phillies Better Off Without Ryan Howard

Quoting an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic, Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media reports that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. told first baseman Ryan Howard that the team would be better off without him. When asked about the possibility of releasing Howard, Amaro said that isn’t an option because he’s “too productive and too important” to the team.

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Phillies Kicking the Tires on Rafael Furcal

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Phillies are kicking the tires on middle infielder Rafael Furcal, currently playing in the Dominican Winter League. With Jimmy Rollins now having been officially traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Freddy Galvis is the team’s everyday shortstop. However, as Crasnick notes, some scouts see Galvis more as a utility player than a starting shortstop.

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Jimmy Rollins Trade Still in Limbo (Update: Not Anymore)

Update #2 (11:26 AM EST, Dec. 19): It’s official, per the Phillies on Twitter. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Phillies will send $1 million to the Dodgers along with Rollins.

Update (11:40 PM EST, Dec. 18): Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Kemp deal is officially official. Expect the Rollins deal to become official soon as well.

Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports that the hold-up in the Matt Kemp trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres — which was announced last week — is related to his Tuesday physical turning up two arthritic hips. ESPN’s Buster Olney suggests that the Padres could use this information as leverage against the Dodgers in an attempt to extract more money out of them to help pay off the remainder of Kemp’s contract.

This is a HIPAA violation, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes. He goes on to suggest that the situation could become “very ugly” if the deal falls through.

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Rollins Retrospective: Jimmy Walks the Phillies Off in 2009 NLCS Game 4

Back in 2008 and ’09, Jonathan Broxton was one of baseball’s most fearsome closers, with an emphasis on “fear”. Like Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman now, Broxton comfortably sat in the high 90’s with his fastball, even reaching triple digits at times. For some reason, though, the Phillies were his Kryptonite. They had tagged him in the NLCS the previous season as Matt Stairs memorably hit a go-ahead two-run home run on a fastball over the middle of the plate. And, thanks to Jimmy Rollins, they got to him again in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS to move one win away from a second consecutive World Series appearance.

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Rollins Retrospective: Trivial Musings

Can you name the only MLB player to play for a Mike Schmidt Phillies team and a Jimmy Rollins Phillies team?

Questions like that are the very reason I write about baseball. There is a brilliant character in the movie Little Big League named Wally Jordan portrayed by John Gordon, a longtime Twins play-by-play announcer. Jordan is a hyperbolic depiction of a team’s radio broadcaster who spits out “statistics” during the game that one might expect to read in an article from The Onion. For example, Jordan declares across the radio waves, “Last year, though, he was 6th in the American League in hitting right-handers he was facing for the first time, after the seventh inning, at home. So that’s something to keep in mind.” I laughed, but at the heart of all good comedy lies truth and my truth is I love meaningless, inconsequential baseball trivia. I first started writing in hopes of finding a more receptive audience for Fun Facts I discovered than friends and family who began rolling their eyes any time I began a sentence with “Did you know…”

When the news that Jimmy Rollins was traded began to break on Wednesday night, I reacted emotionally. I watched highlights. I wrote this on the double play that clinched the 2008 division. I cried. When I realized I was approaching the point of wallowing, I attempted to begin the healing process by turning to one of my tried and true baseball activities, you guessed it, trivia. What began with one simple question, “Did anyone play with both Schmidt and Rollins?”, became the discovery of a smörgåsbord of Jimmy Rollins fun facts. Here is a collection of some of my favorites:

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