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Phillies Nuggets: The All-Forgettable Opening Day Team

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor 

For whatever holes may exist in the team's starting rotation, new Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler will likely feel pretty good when he puts together his Opening Day lineup on March 29. Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford and Odubel Herrera are among the pieces that will make up what projects on paper to be an exciting, young Opening Day lineup for the Phillies in 2018. And even without much certainty in the rotation, Aaron Nola had a breakout 2017 season (3.54 ERA, 3.27 FIP and 4.3 fWAR), one that makes him a worthy Opening Day starter. 

We can debate whether those that think the Phillies will compete for one of the two National League Wild Card spots in 2018 are a bit eager. But the team's roster, unquestionably, features quite a bit of talented young players, many of whom have a chance to be part of the next great Phillies team. 

It does make you think, though, who are some of the most forgettable Opening Day starters that the Phillies have had over the last four decades? Well, the latest edition of Phillies Nuggets examined that, and led to an Opening Day lineup that most certainly doesn't feature many players that hung around to be part of successful Phillies teams. 

RF: Cedric Hunter (2016)

Cedric Hunter is the classic case of a player in the right place at the right time. 

Hunter, a non-roster invitee to the Phillies 2016 Spring Training, made the team after hitting .262 with three home runs and 13 RBIs for the team in 65 at-bats. With Aaron Altherr sidelined with a wrist injury and Cody Asche not ready to start the season, Hunter got the chance to start on Opening Day 2016 in Cincinnati. 

The 27-year-old hit sixth in Pete Mackanin's Opening Day lineup, going 0-4 with two strikeouts in a 6-2 loss. Hunter was optioned to Triple-A 15 days later, as the Phillies promoted David Lough. In 34 at-bats for the 2016 Phillies, Hunter hit a dreadful .088. 

Still just 29, Hunter is set to begin his second season with the Kansas City T-Bones, who play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. 

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CF: Wendell Magee (1997)

From 1991 through 1996, Lenny Dykstra was the Phillies Opening Day center fielder. From 1998 through 2002, Doug Glanville - who hasn't aged since his first stint with the Phillies - was the team's Opening Day center fielder. In between those two was Wendell Magee, who started on Opening Day for Terry Francona's Phillies in 1997. 

Magee hit eighth on Opening Day, one spot behind Mike Lieberthal and one spot ahead of Curt Schilling. Magee didn't record a hit in four plate appearances, but he did walk once and ultimately scored a run in the team's 3-0 win over Mike Piazza and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In just 115 at-bats in 1997, Magee hit a lowly .200 and was thrown out in four of his five basestealing attempts. 

Magee was one of many players that got starts in center field in 1997. Midre Cummings, Ricky Otero and Ruben Amaro Jr. all started games in center field for a Phillies team that went 68-94. 

Magee appeared in 386 major league games across seven seasons, four with the Phillies and three with the Detroit Tigers. In those seven seasons, he never played for a team that posted a winning record. In fact, the seven teams that he played for went a combined 487-647, good (if you can call it that) for a .429 winning percentage. 

LF: Tony Gwynn Jr. (2014)

Whether Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams starts in right field on Opening Day, it will be the ninth starting right fielder that the Phillies have had in nine years. The Phillies haven't done too much better in left field, as Rhys Hoskins will be the team's eighth different starting left fielder in as many years. One of those starters was Tony Gwynn Jr., son of the Hall of Famer, who started in left field when Chase Utley and the Phillies defeated the Texas Rangers 14-10 to open the 2014 season. 

With the Phillies playing in Arlington, the team used Domonic Brown as their designated hitter, leaving the ninth spot in the lineup open for Gwynn. In two at-bats, Gwynn walked and struck out before being lifted for John Mayberry Jr. in the seventh inning. He slashed .152/.264/.190 in 105 at-bats for the 2014 Phillies.

He never appeared at the major league level again after the Phillies designated him for assignment in July of 2014. He currently works in a Ben Davis type role for Fox Sports' coverage of the San Diego Padres, as he appears as an analyst and a color commentator on the team's broadcasts. 

During his brief tenure with the Phillies, Gwynn's father lost his battle with salivary gland cancer. When he returned to the team, Phillies fans welcomed him back with a standing ovation: 

 3B: Abraham Nunez (2006)

Abraham Nunez narrowly edged out his future teammate Wes Helms, who was the team's Opening Day starter in 2007, to win this honor. 

After hitting .286 and posting a 1.2 fWAR for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2005, Hall of Fame general manager Pat Gillick signed Nunez to a two-year/$3.35 million free-agent contract. Suffice to say, Gillick isn't in the Hall of Fame because of the Nunez signing. 

In 322 at-bats for the Phillies in 2006, Nunez slashed .211/.303/.473 and posted a -1.6 fWAR. He split time with David Bell at third base in 2006, as the Phillies were probably a healthy, productive third baseman away from winning the National League Wild Card. 

Nunez got 252 at-bats for the 2007 Phillies, who won the National League East. The aforementioned Helms got the bulk of the starts at third base, but was unproductive in his own right. A season later, the Phillies signed Pedro Feliz as a free-agent, ending a long run of unproductive third baseman since the team traded Scott Rolen in July of 2002. 

SS: Juan Bell (1993)

Juan Bell was the 1993 Phillies Opening Day starter at shortstop. By the time the team reached the World Series that October, not only was Bell not the starting shortstop, but he wasn't even with the team. 

Bell hit eighth in Jim Fregosi's Opening Day lineup against the Houston Astros on April 5, 1993. The Phillies won 3-1 that day, but Bell went 0-4. That's about how the 1993 season went. The upstart 1993 squad, perhaps the most beloved in franchise history, went 97-65, en route to the National League East title and ultimately the National League pennant. Bell, however, hit just .200 in 65 at-bats for the Phillies in 1993, before being waived in early June. 

Then 25, Bell spent the rest of the season with the Milwaukee Brewers. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, new Phillies radio color commentator Kevin Stocker ultimately got the bulk of the at-bats at shortstop in his rookie year. In what proved to be the finest season of his career, Stocker slashed .324/.409/.417 with 30 walks in 259 at-bats in 1993. 

2B: Joe Morgan (1983)

One of these names isn't like the other.

Morgan, the greatest second baseman in baseball history, is truly on this list because some forget that he spent a year with the Phillies. Additionally, the Phillies have had some pretty notable second baseman over the past three decades, headlined by Chase Utley - who Morgan once said had a chance to be the greatest second baseman since him. 

In 1983, Morgan slashed .230/.370/.403 with 16 home runs, 18 stolen bases and a 3.5 fWAR in the second last season of his career. It's perhaps a stretch to say that his season with the Phillies was entirely forgotten, but it certainly is one of the more overlooked seasons in his 22-year career. The 1983 Phillies, who won the National League pennant, also were a team loaded with big names: Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Gary Matthews Sr. and John Denny, among others.  

1B: Ty Wigginton (2012)

A year after winning a franchise-record 102 regular season games, the right side of the Phillies 2012 Opening Day lineup consisted of Freddy Galvis and Ty Wigginton, rather than Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Utley was dealing with what, at the time, seemed to be career-threatening knee problems. Howard was out with what turned out to be a career-altering torn achilles that he suffered on the final play of Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS.  

With the understanding that Howard was going to miss a majority of the 2012 season, the Phillies acquired Wigginton from the Colorado Rockies prior to the season. Wigginton began his career in the National League East, breaking in with the New York Mets in the early 2000s, so the Phillies were aware of what they were getting in Wigginton: a player that would provide some occasional pop and not much else. 

While Wigginton did hit 11 home runs and drive in 43 runs in 315 at-bats for the 2012 Phillies, he posted a -0.8 fWAR. The Phillies - without Howard and Utley for much of the season - regressed to an 81-81 record in 2012. 

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C: Rod Barajas (2007)

Wedged in between 10 consecutive Opening Day starts at catcher from Mike Lieberthal and eight Opening Day starts in nine years from Carlos Ruiz was Rod Barajas' 2007 Opening Day start as the backstop. 

Yes, Barajas caught Brett Myers when the Phillies took on the Atlanta Braves to open the 2007 season. He went 0-4 that day and the Phillies bullpen collapsed in what turned out to be a painful 10-inning loss. 

Barajas joined the Phillies on a free-agent contract prior to the 2007 season after a few productive seasons with the Texas Rangers. Instead of completing a loaded Phillies offense in 2007, Barajas ultimately slashed just .230/.352/.393 with just four home runs and 122 at-bats. The aforementioned Ruiz established himself as the team's regular starter in 2007, helping the Phillies to their first National League East title since 1993. Chris Coste, a year after breaking into the majors as a 33-year-old rookie, ended up getting more at-bats than Barajas in 2007. Barajas was left off the Phillies postseason roster in his lone season with the club. 

SP: Omar Daal (2001)

The 2001 Phillies starting rotation was a collection of "Where are they now?" names. Robert Person, Randy Wolf, David Coggin, Amaury Telemaco, Bruce Chen, Brandon Duckworth, Nelson Figueroa and Paul Byrd all made starts for Larry Bowa's upstart squad, who surprisingly won 86 games. Oh, and Omar Daal started 32 times for the Phillies in 2001, including an Opening Day win over Cliff Floyd and the Florida Marlins. 

Daal was the lone veteran that the Phillies acquired in the July 2000 Curt Schilling trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, one that also netted them the aforementioned Figueroa, Vicente Padilla and Travis Lee. In 32 games between the Diamondbacks and the Phillies in 2000, Daal lost 19 games, which led the National League. Despite that, he had a quick turn around and got the ball on Opening Day the next season. 

The Phillies-Marlins Opening Day matchup turned out to be a thriller, as the Phillies won 6-5 in 13 innings. Daal allowed four earned runs in 5.1 innings, and left the mound at what was then known as Pro Player Stadium, with a 4-2 lead. Padilla surrendered the lead that inning, before Jose Mesa blew a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth. A Doug Glanville RBI in the 13th inning, which plated Telemaco, ultimately was enough for the Phillies to walk away with a win. 

Daal went 13-7 with a 4.46 ERA and a 4.70 FIP in 32 starts for the Phillies in 2001. This turned out to be his only full season in Philadelphia, as general manager Ed Wade dealt him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Eric Junge and Jesus Cordero after the season. 


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