Roy Halladay died today. It’s a crushing blow to his family, all his friends in Colorado, Florida, Toronto, and Philadelphia, as well as the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations. It doesn’t really matter that Roy Halladay was one of the best pitchers who ever lived – there’s a plaque in Cooperstown that will go up someday to tell you all about it. The legacy that Roy Halladay leaves behind, at least in the public sphere, is of his work ethic, humility, and spirit.
Eleven days ago, the Philadelphia Phillies family lost #10. Not only was Darren Daulton the heart and soul of the unforgettable 1993 World Series run, he was probably the best catcher in Phillies franchise history. To commemorate and honor Dutch, I collaborated with fellow Crashburn old-timer Dave Tomar.
Your general impressions of Darren Daulton?
Dave: My impression of Darren Daulton is a function of my experience as a lifelong Phillies fan. I was born in early 1980, so I was a drooling blob when the team won its first World Series. I was there, so it’s etched somewhere in my psyche, but I don’t remember it. What I remember most from my childhood is futility, the season-in/season-out assurance that the Phillies would be mere background noise every summer, and forgotten by autumn.
So what did that mean if you were a diehard fan, if you loved the team but never dared let yourself dream of success? You had to find the personalities and love them, root for them, share their pain at another season ended in vain.
Nobody during that era of futility was more worthy of our love or adulation than Daulton. He came up in 1983 and inherited team leadership when Mike Schmidt retired in 1989. It would take a few summers (and honestly, a bunch of steroids) for Daulton to reach his full potential. He banged out his first All Star season in 1992, a year in which the Phillies lost 92 games and finished 26 out of first. If 162 games is a brutal test of endurance for a player on a losing team, you couldn’t tell by watching Daulton. He led like a superstar on a team of middling to mediocre talent. And he did it through nine knee surgeries. Nine knee surgeries.
If I have only one takeaway from this fact, it’s that Daulton was a straight-up badass. Continue reading…
On Tuesday, I unveiled my full-season infographic detailing the season that was for the Philadelphia Phillies using Wins Above Average (WAA) by position. The season was, for all intents and purposes, pretty ugly. But what makes a (hopefully) successful rebuild so rewarding, what makes the special seasons (like 2008) so truly special are the years like these that often proceed them.
As a quick reminder, here’s what the 2016 season looked like for the Phillies. The full story and graphics can be READ AND SEEN HERE.
In 2016, the Phillies tied for last in the league with -16 wins above average. They played at or above league-average in just three positions: catcher, second base and center field. Of the remaining positions, their starting rotation ranked 18th in the league while every other position ranked no better than 24th. Spelling the rotation, the bullpen’s WAA was second-worst in the league and the position players as a whole posted the lowest wins above average in the majors with -11.2.
Terrible position players, terrible relievers, okay starting pitching. Thus was the story of 2016.
So were this rebuilding process to bare similar fruits to the most recently constructed Phillies powerhouse, what would that look like? Here’s what the Phillies 2008 roster looked like when it took home the team’s first World Series trophy in 28 years.
*Reminder: positions marked in red are the top half in the league, those in blue are in the bottom half. The darker the red, the closer to the position was to leading the league, the darker the blue, the closer it was to league-worst.*
Hanging on the wall above my dresser, next to the decorative Phillies lamp, looking over the replica 2008 World Series trophy, is a framed commemoration of the great 2008 World Champions of Baseball. The multi-panel frame shows a box of infield dirt, which a hologram sticker assures me is from the actual playing surface. There’s also a picture of Cole Hamels finishing a pitch, under which is a shot of Shane Victorino leaping onto the victory dogpile. Undoubtedly, at the bottom of that pile is Carlos Ruiz.
Today, nearly eight years later and after eleven seasons in red pinstripes, Carlos Ruiz has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Continue reading…
A year and a half from now, a slugger with more major league home runs than all but six players in history will hit the Hall of Fame ballot. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he’s likely to glide into Cooperstown with relative ease on the strength of his eye-popping 612 career home runs despite playing in an era of tainted power. Whether he makes it on the first, second, or third ballot, a future spot in the Plaque Room immortalizing his achievements on the ball field is all but inevitable. Before that happens, however, there is at least one other bronzed plaque in his future because yesterday the Phillies announced that the great Jim Thome is the 2016 Phillies Wall of Fame inductee.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment you knew something very, very good was about to go very, very bad. Logically there’s a moment when the trajectory of a failed relationship switches from falling in love to falling apart; when a television show transitions from genius to clichéd slop; when a borderline dynastic baseball team becomes a crumbling roster of aging heroes. There are many moments which can be identified in retrospect as watershed moments for the most recent Phillies collapse — naming Ruben Amaro the GM, the Ryan Howard extension, the Hunter Pence acquisition, Howard’s ankle explosion, the Jonathan Papelbon signing — and each of them triggered key components of both the inevitability and the rapidity of the collapse. But when did we, the fans, know the collapse had arrived? I’ll posit it was the day Cliff Lee turned in the finest outing of his Phillies career.
Yesterday Ken Rosenthal broke the news broke that Cliff Lee is not expected to play this season which will effectively end Lee’s career. The news is hardly a shock given that Lee hasn’t pitched in the majors since July 31st, 2014, but it does serve as the latest in a seemingly never-ending stream of moments which demand reflecting on the Phillies’ most recent glory years.
Two things happened in the immediate aftermath of Brad Lidge striking out Eric Hinske on that magical October night in 2008: 1) Philadelphia sports fans all across the Delaware Valley, country, and world called the most important fellow Philadelphia sports fan in their lives (seriously, we still used phones to actually talk to other human beings way back in 2008) and 2) A collection of the select few men in this world who work while wearing red pinstripe uniforms streamed out of the dugout and bullpen onto the field at Citizens Bank Park.
Men in uniforms with numbers on the back you’ll never forget — Ryan Howard’s #6, Jimmy Rollins’ #11, Chase Utley’s #26, and Cole Hamels’ #35 — celebrated on television screens across the nation. You may also remember #5 (Pat Burrell), #8 (Shane Victorino), #28 (Jayson Werth), and #50 (Jamie Moyer). If you’re particularly taken with uniform numerology, you might even remember #10 (Geoff Jenkins), #27 (Chris Coste), or #55 (Clay Condrey) celebrating on the field. You will not, however, recall seeing an elated Phillie with a giant #34 emblazoned across his back that night. Uniform #34 would soon come to mean a great deal in Philadelphia, but not until the following summer.