Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28- Philadelphia Phillies

I’ve never been that big of a fan of wearing red, so for this post I opted to swallow my pride and suck it up. I should start off first by talking about the shirt I’m wearing. My good friend and former boss at Just Sports (@JustSportsPDX) Jason Cobb (@MrCobbyCobb) was the mastermind behind this gem. As some of you may remember from my Pittsburgh Pirates post from January 2 I was sporting a sweet “Portland” shirt which featured the same typeface as the Pirates. With this shirt Jason did the same thing but with the Philadelphia Phillies typeface from the 1997-2007 season. I’ve run across a lot of sweet baseball shirts in my days, but these two definitely take the “Awesome Shirt of the Day” award. Now, I realize that I totally made that award up back in February; however, as many of you should know by now, I have yet to steer any of you wrong in this category.

As I mentioned above this hat was used from 1997-2007, but it was only used for interleague games which started during the ’97 season. I have never really been that much of a Phillies fan, but I do give them praise from time-to-time, mostly for the sake of Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, Chase Utley and the cast of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Outside of those folk I’ve been an ardent smack-talker of the Phillies. Granted I really have no reason to show any angst against them, especially when considering the fact that I’m a die-hard Oakland Athletics fan; however, there have been some moves on the business end of things which have swayed my attitude in this direction. Almost all of it stems from this 11-year time frame.

At the end of the 1996 season the Phillies finished with an atrocious 67-95 record under then managerial journeyman Jim Fregosi. Fregosi’s best season as a manager came in 1993 when the Phillies won 97 and faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series, a post I went into great detail on February 11. Hoping to the right the ship, they hired rookie manager Terry Francona. Francona had been a manager in the Minor Leagues for the Chicago White Sox. His biggest bit of notoriety came in 1993 when he led the AA Birmingham Barons to Southern League championship. Very few recall that Francona had won the Southern League Manager of the Year award, not to mention that the team had won the championship, as the biggest story to come from that season was the addition of then-retired Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan playing for the team. Francona also managed in the Dominican Winter Leagues from 1995-1996, winning the league championship and the Serie del Caribe that season with the likes of future MLB stars Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada and Tony Batista on the squad. The Phillies liked what they saw out of Francona and brought him aboard.

From 1997-2000 Francona never had a season above 77 wins. His 285-363 record was one of the worst in franchise history. Francona obviously carried on bravely after his four-year stint, winning two World Series rings as the skipper for the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2007, but it’s really hard to look past his humble beginnings. In 2001 the Phillies looked internally for their next skipper, former 1980 World Series champion and shortstop Larry Bowa. Bowa, from my perspective at least, was the catalyst the team needed. From 2001-2003 Bowa went 252-234, finishing second or third in the National League Eastern Division. In 2004 Bowa was fired with two games left in the season, despite the fact that the team finished in second place again with an 85-75 record. Interim manager Gary Varsho went 1-1. Only in Philly can a manager maintain a winning record and get canned. While the move did prove to be successful after hiring Charlie Manuel in 2005, I still don’t particularly agree with it. With the talent coming up through the ranks that Manuel was served Bowa could have easily led the team to their 2008 World Series season as well, if not more.

Now, since this hat was only used for interleague games I decided to keep with the theme. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to pull some numbers which focused primarily through this 11 year range. After combing through the stats for every season, there was one guy who stood out among the pack. And no, it is not Gregg Jefferies, unfortunately.

.318/22/89- Originally a free agent signing by the Houston Astros back in 1990 out of Venezuela, Bobby Abreu was once the toast of Philadelphia or at least from what I saw. From 1998 through the middle of the 2006 season Abreu donned #53 for the Phillies and was one of the most potent pieces to the team’s lineup. In the nine years he played for the Phillies he finished in the Top-27 for the NL MVP five times, the highest of which came in his final full year when he finished 14th after going .286/24/102, which oddly turned out to be one of the worst years of his career from a batting average perspective. As most people fail to remember Abreu hit .303 while he was in Philly, not to mention the 21 home runs and 90 RBI he averaged per season during those years as well.

What’s even more remarkable was what he was able to accomplish during the 13-18 interleague games per season. It certainly took me a while, but I was remarkably able to pull all of his stats from each of these games and find a career interleague stat total. In only three of the nine years he was with the Phillies Abreu hit below .300, barely. His career interleague average (with the Phillies) is an astonishing .318. On top of that he was able to club 22 of his 195 Phillies home runs during this frame along with 89 of his 814 RBI. Abreu also swiped 32 bags, only getting caught four times. He also walked 113 times and compiled an OPS of .948 during this stretch. Now, the regular season is 162 games long. Abreu played in 148 interleague games during his time with the Phillies. Basically what he was able to accomplish over a handful of games over a nine-year period is the equivalent of what everyone in MLB, let alone in the National Baseball Hall of Fame strive to even come close to hitting for one season of their career. What’s even more frightening is that he’s not even in the Top-10 for best interleague average. The top spot for that goes to Baltimore Oriole Nick Markakis with a .353 average. Abreu only cracked the Top-10 in one interleague category; hits with 275, which is only the fifth best of all-time.

Any way you look it, whether he hit the top spots or not, Abreu came to play every single day. He only won one Silver Slugger award in 2004, made only one All-Star Game appearance the same year and only won one Gold Glove award in 2005, his final full season with the Phillies. He was steadily pushing a possible Hall of Fame bid through 2010, but found himself seeing less time in the field which translated to fewer at-bats. He has 2437 hits for his career in only 17 years of playing. At 39-years-old he probably could have pushed an extra three years out if someone wanted him, but for now he remains a free agent.

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