The Phillies announced the 2019 Wall of Fame candidates on Monday February 4. The Wall of Fame induction is set for August 3, prior to the 7:05 first pitch against the Chicago White Sox. Fans can select up to three candidates to be considered by the organization for induction. Voting concludes on February 28 at 5pm EST. Details including a bio and stats (where applicable) are included on the ballot's web page (2019 Phillies Wall of Fame ballot)
Last year, the Phillies posthumously inducted pitcher Roy Halladay along with the first "brass" inductee, former GM Pat Gillick. No fan ballot was offered.
The majority of candidates on the 2019 ballot are familiar candidates: Steve "Bedrock" Bedrosian, Jim Fregosi, Gene Garber, Placido Polanco, Scott Rolen, and Manny Trillio. The new faces are Bobby Abreu, Rich Dubee, Doug Glanville, and Bake McBride.
As in previous years, the eligibility requirements are that the candidate must have had four or more years of service to the Phillies and must be retired at least three years. The statistical record is not the only determining factor; longevity, ability, character, "special achievements" and contributions to the club are also considered, according to the Phillies website. The top five consensus fan choices will advance to the club's Wall of Fame Selection Committee who ultimately select the inductee.
The 2017 ballot was relatively weak in comparison to previous years. It appeared as if the club wanted to ensure that Pete Rose would be a consensus top five selection by the fans and ultimately the Committee's selection as inductee, following the precedent set by the Cincinnati Reds in 2016. This happened and Rose was selected as the 2017 inductee until allegations of an illicit relationship with a minor surfaced weeks before Alumni Weekend.
This year's class is a relatively weak one with no obvious inductee. The club seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for living Phillies greats this year. With all due respect to Rich Dubee, a pitching coach appearing on the ballot seems to be a stretch and a ballot non-factor. I realize his tenure included the greatest pitching rotation in recent history but unlike managers and general managers, pitching and hitting coaches exist more in the background. The pool will significantly improve in the coming years as 2008-2011 players become eligible.
I would think that Bobby Abreu, Jim Fregosi, Bake McBride, and Manny Trillo would constitute four of the top five fan choices that the Committee will consider. From that group, I would expect Trillo to be selected by the Committee. He was a central piece to the 1980 World Series championship team and his play in the 1980 National League Championship Series earned him the series MVP. Bobby Abreu is the longest tenured of this group and has the best offensive statistics. Jim Fregosi, of course, managed arguably the most popular team in club history, leading the Phils to the National League pennant in 1993. Finally, Bake McBride was a terrific leadoff hitter for the 1980 Phillies and put up solid numbers during his five year tenure in Philadelphia, slashing .292/.335/.435.
Personally, I consider the Wall of Fame as the absolute best players, managers, and "brass" in club history. Do the ten 2019 candidates fit the bill? Some more than others. As I mentioned earlier, all of the candidates on the 2019 ballot are living. Their appearance on induction day is fun for the fans and critical for the club because they count on sellouts for Alumni Weekend. Deceased personnel "don't put butts in seats" but I think the entirety of Phillies history should be considered. Recently, the ballots seem to be more of a popularity contest more so than the greatest to ever don a Phillies uniform. What do I mean?
The Phillies should do the right thing and induct the four Hall of Famers who are absent from the Wall of Fame. Harry Wright (manager 1884-1893), Napoleon Lajoie (infielder 1896-1900), Elmer Flick (rightfielder 1898-1901), and Dave "Beauty" Bancroft (shortstop 1915-1920) are all long since deceased, but are Hall of Famers in their own regard. Induct them wholesale with one or two living candidates.
On January 7, the Philadelphia Phillies inked outfielder and base stealing specialist Billy Hamilton from junior circuit's Kansas City club. The three year contract is rumored to be worth $3,000 per year. The 24-year old outfielder slashed .294/.394/.388 with Kansas City and stole 130 bases over the past two seasons, leading the league with 111 bags in his sophomore campaign. In addition, he also scored 165 runs, had 21 doubles, 16 triples, and slugged three home runs.
Phillies owner John I. Rogers explained his excitement to the Inquirer :"I am very glad we secured that young man because I think he is about the best substitute we could get...he is a young man with exemplary habits."
Kansas City put three contract's up for purchase in December in an effort to liquidate valuable assets; Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Cleveland and Chicago were interested in the players on the block. The Sporting Life reports that the the bidding for the three players was so high that the clubs agreed to purchase the contracts as a lot. National League President Nick Young was blindfolded and drew slips from a hat and the Phillies were fortunate to be given the rights to Hamilton. The Phillies received the consent of both Hamilton and Kansas City to attempt to sign the young outfielder, who drew interest from clubs in two major leagues. Contract negotiations between the Phillies and Hamilton hit a snag earlier this year when Hamilton reportedly would not sign with the Phillies unless the club paid him $2,200 of the purchase money paid for his contract, plus a salary of $3,000 per year for fiver years.
Hamilton's expected use is unknown at this time, as the club is rumored to use him in either a bench role or in the starting lineup as a top-of-the-order hitter. Over the past two seasons, he has proved to be an exceptional talent on at the plate, on the bases, and in the field. It is this publication's opinion that the Phillies would benefit greatly from his presence in the starting nine. It would give a jolt to the offense and improve the club on defense.
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It's clear that I an not talking about the former Reds and current Royals speed demon Billy Hamilton! Hall of Famer "Sliding" Billy Hamilton was purchased from the major league American Association Kansas City Cowboys on January 7, 1890. The 1890 season was a strange year for baseball as there were not one, not two, but three major league organizations in the United States - the senior National League, the junior American Association which began play in 1882, and the upstart Players' League, a union league organized by the players themselves. Philadelphia was only one of two cities in the United States to host teams in all three leagues with the Phillies in the National League, the Athletics in the American Association, and the Athletics/Quakers in the Players' League. Players who unionized broke their contracts and jumped to the outlaw Players League which resulted in one of the most volatile hot stove seasons in history.
The Kansas City Cowboys were the American Association caboose in 1889. The American Association itself was teetering on the edge of death in the late by 1890 and Kansas City sold its top three players as it exited the Association and left to play in the minor league Western League in 1890.
Hamilton was a bonafide star for the Phillies between 1890 and 1895, slashing .360/.468/.459 with 510 stolen bases, 1,084 hits, 126 doubles, 51 triples, and 23 home runs. He was a member of the 1894 Phillies all .400 hitting outfield along with fellow Hall of Famers Ed Delahanty and Sam Thompson. (Hamilton slashed .403/.521/.523 in 1894 and lead the league with 702 plate appearances, 198 runs, 100 stolen bases, and 128 walks.)
The coincidence that both the Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton and current major leaguer Billy Hamilton have the same name, same skill set, and played/play for a major league Kansas City club was too much to pass up.
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On Thursday, New Era announced in a tweet that the Phillies have added the popular 1970-1991 maroon Phillies cap as a second alternate cap, suggesting the club will use the cap and a corresponding uniform more regularly in 2019. The club wore the cap along with 1983 powder blue road uniforms at select Thursday night home games in 2018. Last season, the maroon caps did not have the official MLB batter logo on the back of the cap whereas those worn in 2019 will have that logo.
Why the logo was absent from the maroon caps last season is not clear. Chris Creamer of sportslogos.net suggested that the logo's absence was because the cap was not part of the official uniform rotation like the standard red cap and alternate blue cap modeled on the 1948 uniforms. No mention is made in the MLB rule book that the logo is required for league play. It's possible that the absent logo was simply an oversight. It's unknown whether or not this logo was present on all other "Turn Back the Clock" editions from previous years. For example, the 1960s retro uniforms worn against the Cardinals on June 19 and 21, 2015 included the logo. The 1915 retro caps worn in 2015 were sold with the logo on the back, while the 2016 pillbox cap worn with 1976 retro uniforms was sold without the logo. It seems uniformity for "Turn Back the Clock" caps was not a priority.
The team has yet to announce when it will wear the newly added maroon alternate in 2019. Last year's ensemble paid homage to the 1983 Phillies, who won the National League pennant 35 years ago. Iterations of the popular 1970-1991 uniform have been worn for special occasions, with varying degrees of accuracy, in 2002 (1970s), 2003 (1971 and 1983), 2010 (1972), 2011 (1974 and 1984), 2012 (1991), 2013 (1991), 2016 (1976), and 2018 (1983).
The entire Phillies regular season wardrobe, except the current away uniform and specialty uniforms worn for Memorial Day, Independence Day, Mother's Day, Fathers Day, and St. Patrick's Day, are all retro in some degree. The standard home uniform was first worn by the club in 1950 and retired in 1970. The Sunday home alternate is a throwback to the 1948 home uniforms and is, in my humble opinion, the best of the lot. It will be interesting to see if the Phillies elect to sport a generic 1970-1991 uniform or if they will again select a particular year to model, and if it will be a home or away uniform...BOTH! I will write a followup article when the club announces their plans and critique the degree to accuracy which the reproductions are to their archived originals.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Monday that former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is included on Today's Game Era Veteran's Committee ballot. Manuel managed the Cleveland Indians from 2000-2002 and the Phillies from 2005-2013 and compiled a 1,000-826 (.548) record. He was 780-636 (.551) with the Phillies where he won five straight division titles between 2007-2011, won two National League pennants in 2008 and 2009, and won the World Series in 2008. His .548 winning percentage is 16th among managers with at least 1,000 career managerial victories.
Per the Hall of Fame, "the Today's Game Era is one of four Eras Committees -- along with Modern Baseball, Golden Days and Early Baseball -- that provide an avenue outside voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for Hall of Fame consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons. Specifically, the Today's Game Committee encompasses candidates who made the most indelible contributions to baseball from 1988 to the present."
Other candidates who join Manuel on the ballot are Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson (manager), Lou Piniella (manager), Lee Smith and George Steinbrenner (owner).
The managerial candidates are interesting and similar to each other in that they do not top the managerial wins list 1988-present. Manuel, Johnson and Piniella each guided teams to World Series titles, but Johnson did so prior to the Today's Game Committee's focus period. Manuel is the only manager on this year's ballot to have led teams to multiple World Series appearances and the only candidate to have posted a winning record in the postseason. Unlike Johnson and Piniella, Manuel was never named Manager of the Year .
In recent years, the Veteran's Committee has elected multiple candidates to the Hall of Fame. Since 2008, the committee has elected 20 persons to the Hall of Fame compared to 23 inductees via the BBWAA ballot. In that span, the Veteran's Committee has elected six managers: Billy Southworth (2008), Dick Williams (2008), Whitey Herzog (2010), Bobby Cox (2014), Tony La Russa (2014), and Joe Torre (2014). Every manager that has been inducted since 2008 has more managerial wins than Charlie Manuel, as do Johnson and Piniella.
The question is does Manuel have a legitimate chance at induction to the Hall of Fame when the committee announces its results in January? I find it highly unlikely. The most likely candidate to be inducted next year is George Steinbrenner for his role in resurrecting the Yankees franchise to prominence in the late 1970s and again in the 1990s. Beyond Steinbrenner, the likelihood for anyone else to be inducted is slim. What bodes well for Manuel is that the Hall of Fame wants a greater presence from the Today's Game era which is why that committee votes more regularly than any of the other four committees. It is without question, however, that the era's best managers were all inducted in 2014 (Cox, La Russa, and Torre). A trend is also clear: since 2008, only six of the 20 candidates inducted via the Veteran's Committee were voted in as players. The pendulum may begin to swing towards the players this year and/or in future years.
As an aside, it will be interesting to see how Will Clark fares this year because he is one of the players most comparable to Chase Utley.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Tommy McDonald passed away yesterday at the age of 84. The news was broken by David Baker, president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The cause of death is not yet known, but McDonald has suffered from dementia illnesses for some time.
In a formal statement, Baker shared a few comments about McDonald:
"Tommy McDonald lived life like he played the game of football. He was charismatic, passionate and had fun. He was such a character. Heaven is a happier place today.The entire Hall of Fame family that includes his fellow Hall of Famers, the Board of Trustees and staff share our heartfelt condolences with the McDonald family. The flag at the Pro Football Hall of Fame will fly at half-staff in Tommy's memory.Tommy's legacy will forever live in Canton, Ohio through his bronzed bust that is a symbol of many great accomplishments. His impact on the Game serves as inspiration to generations of fans."
McDonald's energy and influence were beyond his pedestrian 5 foot 9, 175 pound frame. The Eagles drafted him in the third round of the 1957 NFL Draft as a running back from the University of Oklahoma. Local press were enthusiastic about the pick. During his three seasons with Oklahoma the Sooners never lost a game and were crowned national champions in both 1955 and 1956. McDonald was presented with the Maxwell Club Award, presented to the best all-around player in the United States. At Oklahoma, McDonald proved to be a unique talent as he could both run, pass, and catch. Plus, McDonald was fast, said to be able to run the 100 meter dash in 9.9 seconds. Former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Don Daniels remarked in January 1957 that he "wasn't born a football player, he's not big enough. He was born a champion and he just chose football to be it in...he should make the Birds a better ball club than they were last year."
The electrifying Eagle played the game his way, shunning a face mask because he said it made it hard to see the ball and cutting his football jersey sleeves short which he said gave him better arm extension. McDonald also sandpapered his fingertips before games because he said it made them more sensitive and made it easier to feel the football. He was among the first to celebrate a touchdown by throwing the ball into the stands. Football historian Ray Didinger defined McDonald in his Eagles Encyclopedia as "an original." Former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin was quoted as saying "I played with a lot of great receivers, including Elroy Hirsch and Tom Fears with the Rams...but if I had to pick one guy to throw the ball to with the game on the line, I'd pick McDonald. I know somehow the little bugger would get open and he'd catch the football." Vince Lombardi admitted that he'd win the championship every year if he had a team of Tommy McDonalds.
He was drafted as a back but was switched to flanker during his rookie season to see if he could make an impact. He caught two touchdown passes and forever stayed outside the tackles. The team acquired quarterback Norm Van Brocklin the next year and the era's best big play duo formed as Dutch's cannon arm launched footballs to one of the quickest and fastest receivers in the league. The duo helped lead a high flying Eagle offense to the NFL championship game in 1960 where the two hooked up in the 2nd quarter on a 35 yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles the lead.
McDonald was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1964 for a kicker, Sam Baker, defensive tackle John Meyers, and offensive lineman Lynn Hoyem. Needless to say it was one of the worst trades in team history. McDonald went revived his career in 1965 when he joined Roman Gabriel in Los Angeles. He retired following the 1968 season and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
The non-waiver trade deadline is at 4pm today, July 31. In June, many pundits considered the Phillies to be aggressive at the deadline in an effort to bolster the left side of the infield, right field, and/or the bullpen but on the eve of the deadline, the only trade the club has made was adding Asdrubel Cabrera from the Mets in exchange for Double-A pitching prospect Franklyn Kilome. Will the Phillies make another deal by 4pm? Maybe. But what we do know, or assume, is that the team will look to bolster their bench or bullpen tomorrow, if anything.
Over the past 32 years since 1986, the Phillies have made a few headline trades that I'll review here. In 1986, the non-waiver trade deadline moved from the June 15 to July 31. This brief overview will begin with trading an ace and end with trading for an ace.
First up, the disgruntled Curt Schilling. Schilling was basically a lost relief pitcher trying to find his way in the big leagues when the Phillies acquired him in April 1992 for Jason Grimsley. In 1993 he became a staff ace helping the club to the unlikeliest National League pennant in recent memory. In nine years with the Phillies, Schilling won 101 games, the most wins he had with any one club, and made three straight All-Star appearances in 1997, 1998, and 1999. Unfortunately the Phillies couldn't recapture the Macho Row magic from 1993 and by 1997 Schilling began to request a trade to a contender. The soap opera continued into the 2000 during Schilling's age 33 season. The ace told the club he'd waive his no trade clause to go to the Yankees, Mets, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Indians, or Braves.
The situation was challenging for the Phillies, who under GM Ed Wade finally began to fill the farm system with players who they thought - and would - make a difference at the big league level; Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, and Chase Utley. A veteran presence could help these players develop into bonafide big leaguers but Schilling wanted out. The club also had to consider that their ace was in his middle 30s and already had two shoulder operations. How long would Schilling remain a viable ace? To top it off, Schilling was in his second-to-last year of a contract and if the Phillies didn't trade him in 2000, he could make extension negotiations incredibly painful for the club and/or refuse to waive his no trade clause and further limit where the club could deal him. Finally, on July 26, 2000 the Phillies dealt Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitchers Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Vicente Padilla and first baseman Travis Lee. Daal was the top piece in the return for Schilling but proved to be exceptionally mediocre while Padilla turned out to be the best acquisition of the trade, eventually earning an All-Star appearance in 2002. Schilling of course went on two form one of the greatest pitching tandems in baseball history when he joined with Randy Johnson. The two carried the expansion Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series title.
Schilling was the Phillies best pitcher in the organization but Scott Rolen was the crown jewel. Rolen debuted in 1996 and dazzled fans and the media alike with his acrobatic plays at third base and his combination of power and base running savvy. He was a true five-tool player. In his first full season in 1997, he won the National League Rookie of the Year award in a class that included Livan Hernandez, Andruw Jones, and Vladimir Guerrero - all from NL East clubs. More importantly, Mike Liberthal and Rico Brogna made their full season debuts. In the ensuing seasons, Doug Glanville and Bobby Abreu were acquired via trades and inserted into an improving Phillies lineup.
But in 2000, injuries and and loses piled up and the club began to sell off players as they finished the season with 97 losses in a year that began with visions of a winning record for the first time since 1993. It sent a message to Rolen - right or wrong - that the Phillies weren't willing to spend patience or money to build a winner.
In 2001, Rolen rejected a 10-year, $140 million extension, questioning the club's commitment to winning and demanded a trade. It didn't help that his relationship with Wall of Fame player and then manager Larry Bowa was poor. Rolen was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals along with Doug Nickle and cash in exchange for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin. Polanco played well for the Phillies in his first stint with the club over four seasons.
Without a doubt, the Phillies lost the Schilling and Rolen trades. None of the players the Phillies received in return made a difference at the big league level in terms of driving the club to the postseason. Schilling wound up winning two World Series titles with Arizona and Boston, including his infamous performance against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS on a sutured tendon. Rolen continued his acrobatic play in St. Louis and won a World Series with the team in 2006. Both players are, in my opinion, serious considerations for induction into the Hall of Fame. Forget what they said or were assumed to have said to the media or on social media, inside the lines, both players deserve a healthy look by BBWAA voters.
Now that we've got the irritating and painful trades out of the way, it's time to focus on trades that brought the Phillie faithful serious jubilee. The Phillies were a favorite to repeat as National League champion following their run to the 2008 World Series championship. After Cole Hamels, the Phillies rotation in the summer of 2009 included Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, Jamie Moyer, Chan Ho Park and Brett Myers. New GM Ruben Amaro had his eyes set on the cream of the crop: Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay. But when talks with Toronto broke down because Philadelphia wouldn't include top prospect Domonic Brown, Amaro focused his efforts on Cliff Lee. Lee was 22-3 with a 2.54 in 2008, good enough for the AL Cy Young Award.
The trade deadline was all Phillies fans could talk or think about in 2009 leading up to the final days of July. The Phillies struck a deal with Cleveland that sent Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp to the Indians in exchange for Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco. Carrasco, Donald and Marson were highly touted prospects in the Phillies organization, who felt that Donald and Marson would develop and continue the success the club started a few years prior. Consistency is important if an organization wants to be considered among the upper echelon of major league clubs. But the Phillies were in a unique "win now" position. Trading for Lee proved to be an overwhelming success. The fanbase fell in love with the player and vice versa. Lee helped lead the club back to the World Series and although they lost to the Yankees in the fall classic, he provided arguably the most memorable moment of that series with his nonchalant catch in the sixth inning in Game One.
Todd Zolecki and Jim Salisbury detailed the strange situation in the offseason that still has fans scratching their heads. In their book The Rotation, Zolecki and Salisbury explain that the club was in a precarious position. It was no secret that the Phillies wanted to bolster their rotation with Roy Halladay. But keeping Cliff Lee proved to be problematic. Lee and his agent Darek Braunecker wanted Philadelphia to extend Lee's contract. Under advice from adviser and former GM Pat Gillick, the club did not feel comfortable offering the ace a long-term extension. Their core players were either already in large contracts or would be up for sizable extensions soon. With that in mind, the Phillies braintrust offered Lee a three year deal at $18 million per year. The money was good but Lee and Braunecker wanted more years. The Phillies also had reservations about locking up a pitcher like Lee, who just a few years prior had been sent down to Triple A and had some injury concerns, to a long term contract that would cover not only prime years but also post-prime.
The Phillies acquired Halladay in December 2009 in exchange for Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor. Combined with the prospects from the Lee trade at the 2009 deadline, the Phillies farm system was depleted. While club president David Montgomery never told Amaro that he couldn't keep Lee and sign the pitcher to an extension, he made it known that doing so would risk the club's ability to resign core players to lucrative deals and remain competitive in the long term. Amaro felt the smart option was to trade Lee and that's what he did after Halladay was acquired. Lee was sent to Seattle for Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramierez, and Tyson Gillies. The return proved to be a complete loss. But it did set up another quality acquisition on the road to arguably the greatest starting rotation in major league history.
In 2010, the Phillies were again one of the favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. Halladay proved to be a terrific acquisition and the rotation was one of the best in baseball with Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer. But Moyer hit the DL in July with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor pronator tendon in his left elbow.
Amaro and the Phillies were very interested in reacquiring Cliff Lee from Seattle, who's season began with pennant dreams but limped to the deadline as another failed campaign. Unfortunately, Seattle required top prospect Domonic Brown to be included in the trade whom Philadelphia considered untouchable. Instead, they turned their attention to Houston, where veteran ace Roy Oswalt requested a trade to either Texas or St. Louis in order to stay close to his home in Weir, Mississippi. As the deadline approached, Astros GM Ed Wade continued to field offers from other teams. Oswalt wanted a shot at World Series redemption and wanted to be traded to a contender, and Philadelphia fit the bill. The Phillies agreed to trade J.A. Happ to Houston to fill the hole left by Oswalt in their rotation and also offered Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose. After agreeing to deal Gose to Toronto for Brett Wallace, the deal was in place. Philadelphia acquired another front line starter in Roy Oswalt to replace the injured Jamie Moyer on July 29, 2010.
Although the acquisitions of Lee and Oswalt at the trade deadlines didn't end in World Series victory, it marked a turn in Phillies trade deadline history. It proved to fans that the team was willing to push their chips into the middle of the table to bring multiple championships to the championship starved city. It was the golden era of Phillies baseball. Although trading Lee to Seattle is still a head scratcher for Phillies fans, it was ultimately one of the necessary transactions to bring the greatest pitching rotation to the City of Brotherly Love. The club probably doesn't acquire Oswalt if they signed Lee to an extension in 2009 or if they traded for Lee instead of Oswalt at the 2010 deadline.
With the non-waiver trade deadline almost two weeks away, speculation continues to intensify regarding who general manager Matt Klentak and the Philadelphia Phillies will acquire to bolster their postseason-contending roster.
In the latest edition of "Phillies Roundtable," SportsTalkPhilly.com writers Jesse Larch, Matt Albertson, Matt Noskow and Paul Bowman speculate potential trade targets the Phillies could consider this July.
- Phillies get: LHP Blake Snell, INF Matt Duffy
- Tampa Bay Rays get: Nick Pivetta, RHP Adonis Medina (No. 2), OF Jhailyn Ortiz (No. 5), RHP Franklyn Kilome (No. 7), 2B Daniel Brito (No. 10), LHP Jhordany Mezquita (No. 30)
Not only is Blake Snell currently the ERA leader in the American League, but he is a 25-year old left handed pitcher who makes a little over $500,000 in salary and is under team control through 2022. The Phillies currently have no lefties in their starting rotation, and have been rumored to be keen on adding a southpaw to their stable of starters. Names of former Phillies like J.A. Happ and Cole Hamels have dominated the rumor mill but Blake Snell is one of the best lefties in all of baseball this season, and is possibly still not in his prime. Being able to add the lefty Snell to juxtapose the right-handed Aaron Nola at the top of the Phillies rotation would be a move that could give the Phillies a real shot at National League dominance bearing in mind that the team would maintain their financial flexibility heading into the offseason with this move.
It was the best of times when the Phillies opened their new ballpark on April 30, 1887. The national Sporting Life noted in its May 4 issue that despite the cold weather, the new grounds were among the very best in the major leagues. "The weather was quite cold and the wind very high, nevertheless people assembled to do honor to the occasion and to testify by their presence their appreciation of the exceeding liberality, enthusiastic faith in base ball...Philadelphia...[possesses]...a pleasure resort unequaled anywhere." The Sporting Life further explained that the stadium was built of brick and metal, among the first baseball stadiums in the nation to announce a club's geographic permanence compared to earlier stadiums which were made of wood. That year was the Phillies' most successful in their short five year history, finishing second in the National League, finishing 3.5 games behind the Detroit Wolverines who went on to defeat the St. Louis Browns in a 15 game World Series.
The stadium was once the crown jewel of the National League when it opened in 1887 but it soon fell on hard times with a fire in 1894 and several more safety incidents in the early twentieth century. Despite this, the club was, by and large, the main draw in town as the Athletics and their league, the American Association, were on the decline and folded following the 1890 season. The short-lived Philadelphia club of the Player's League jumped to the American Association after the former league dissolved following the 1890 season, and subsequently folded for good after the 1891 season when the American Association also collapsed.
The good times continued to roll by and large into the 20th century as the club posted several winning seasons and finished in the first division in 22 of 31 seasons between 1887 and 1917. Baker Bowl witnessed the teams narrative of near misses, middling finishes, and catastrophic seasons all the same. The stadium was ahead of it's time in construction but was eventually overshadowed by more aesthetically pleasing and larger parks - Ebbets Field, Braves Field, Fenway Park and Shibe Park to name a few. Unlike these sensible grounds, Baker Bowl was a relic of the 19th century and was wedged into an uncomfortable layout. Philadelphia baseball historian Rich Wescott detailed the park's construction and a few of it's quirks in his book Philadelphia's Old Ballparks. He explained that the grounds were originally a dump that were filled in with 100,000 loads of dirt and the street grid in which it was placed resulted in obscure, almost comical, field dimensions: 342 feet to left field, 408 feet to center field, and 281 feet to right field. Yes, a scant 281 feet to right field that was protected by a 40 foot high wall (eventually increased to 60 feet). By comparison, the Green Monster at Fenway Park is 37.5 feet high. Additionally, Wescott noted that the field was built next to the Reading Railroad across Broad Street and a train tunnel ran under center field resulting in that area being approximately 10 feet higher than home plate.
Baker Bowl's massive right field wall dominates the landscape in this 1938 image
(Courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center. Temple University. Philadelphia, PA)
The quirky dimensions meant that fans were incredibly close to the action. Wescott recounted a story by Ed Doyle, another Philadelphia baseball historian who frequented the ballpark in the 1920s, in his book Philadelphia's Old Ballparks. "One of the great things about Baker Bowl was that you could sit in the stands and see the expressions on the guys' faces on the field...you could hear them yelling to each other; you could almost shake hands with them, you were so close."
Beginning in 1910, baseballs used in the major leagues incorporated a cork center creating a livelier ball. Philadelphia's small bandbox soon had trouble keeping the ball in the yard as home runs throughout the league escalated. Wescott explained that between 1911 and 1938, Phillies players led or tied the National League in home runs hit at home an astounding 19 times. The cork centered ball created a hitters paradise and a pitchers nightmare - the Phillies' team batting average in 1930 for example was a balmy .315 (second in the league behind the Giants' .319 average) but the pitching staff suffered significantly and posted a league worst 6.71 ERA (1.47 points higher than 7th place Pittsburgh).
The Phillies' park was too small even by 20th century deadball era standards but they were unable to vacate the grounds, extending Baker Bowl's lifespan by some 25 years. The first roadblock was that the club did not even own the grounds on which they played! When Al Reach and Colonel John Rogers sold the club to the Potter syndicate in 1903 the agreement was for the club alone while Reach and Rogers held the title on the ballpark and leased the grounds to the club. The Potter syndicate sold the club to a group of Philadelphians represented by sportswriter Horace Fogel in 1909. Although unsubstantiated, rumors swirled that Charles Murphy, owner of the Cubs, and Charles Taft, a Cincinnati newspaper man and brother of President Taft, financed the deal. Later that year, Fogel reportedly concocted a scheme to have Taft and Murphy purchase both the club and the grounds. Taft's wife purchased the grounds for $250,000 and the club for $350,000, bringing the total sale price to over $600,000. Fogel's remained as club president.
The reunification of club and grounds did not mean that Fogel was relieved of all financial responsibility. The Philadelphia Base Ball Association, over which Fogel presided, leased the ballpark from Taft for a period of 99 years at periodic escalating rates; $15,000 from 1910-1914, $17,500 from 1915-1919, and $20,000 for every year thereafter. The Association was also responsible for taxes, water rent, and other municipal charges made against the property. Finally, the Association was required to carry a $100,000 in fire insurance.
While the terms of the lease seem detrimental, the large sale of the club allowed Fogel to pursue premium talent such as Grover Cleveland Alexander, Erskine Mayer, Gavvy Cravath, and Dode Paskert, all of whom were key cogs in the machine that won the franchise's first National League pennant in 1915.
Horace Fogel eventually received a lifetime ban from baseball after waging a lengthy smear campaign against then National League president Thomas Lynch and National League umpires. The Taft-Murphy syndicate had had enough and sold their controlling interest in the club to a group led by William Locke and his cousin, William F. Baker (after whom Baker Bowl is named). The sale was for the club alone and ownership of the grounds stayed in Taft's hands.
Baker was financially conservative and sought to move the Phillies from their antique grounds in 1913 and move to nearby Shibe Park but he could not come to terms with John Shibe about concession profits. The July 7, 1938 Sporting News explained the state of the ballpark. "Baker Bowl was too small for real major league ball. Its grandstand and bleachers could not accommodate big league crowds and the playing field was tragic...so Baker tried to move in at Shibe Park, meanwhile paying the $25,000 [incorrect figure] rental on the Phillies park...in 1913." Shibe, owner of the Athletics, insisted that concessions were to be controlled by the A's. The two parties did not agree so a deal to move the Phillies to Shibe Park as tenants in 1913 was not struck.
Without an agreement to move the Phillies to Shibe Park, Philadelphia's National League team was caged in Baker Bowl. The money gained from the sale of the club and grounds withered and by 1920, the club was again in the second division. The dilapidated park continued to deteriorate; a section of the grandstands collapsed in 1927. By the time Baker Bowl celebrated its Golden Anniversary it was an out-of-place relic of a bygone era. It was the only ballpark in the majors where the PA announcer addressed the fans with a megaphone near home plate because the club never added an electronic PA system to the stadium. No thought was given to adding electric lights to the stadium either despite several other clubs doing so.
Finally, in June 1938 the Athletics and Phillies came to an agreement for the Phillies to move to Shibe Park. Both sides agreed that concession profits would be controlled by whichever club was using the grounds. Charles Murphy, who bought the Mrs. Taft's portion of the Baker Bowl stake, was dead by 1938 but his 16 heirs consented to the Phillies' move to Shibe Park with the caveat that the club still paid its lease until a substantial payment was made to release them from their perpetual lease. Although the club had to pay two leases for a period of time, the news media, club, and fans all agreed that the move was long overdue. The Sporting News reported in its July 7, 1938 issue that the Phillies "rejoiced when the news was announced that the Phillies had a new home." It continued, "The public indorsed [sic] the move...to tell the blunt truth, there were many fans who refused to go to the Phillies' park because they were in actual fear of the stands collapsing."
The Final Game and Aftermath
The Phillies began their final half season at Baker Bowl wearing very obscure uniforms. The club's primary colors dating back to 1883 were red and blue, with occasional departures to black and even green! But 1938 was different because it was the tercentenary anniversary of the Swedish settlement of the Philadelphia region in 1638. Residue of the Swedes were few but could be seen in the city's blue and yellow flag. The club decided to use the color scheme for both home and away uniforms.
Jim Henry shown in the Phillies' 1938 away uniform (used with permission from Baseball-Birthdays.com)
The Phils played their last game at the ancient Baker Bowl eighty years ago on June 30, 1938. The Philadelphia Inquirer described the affair metaphorically in its July 1 recap:
"Yesterday they [the Phillies] said farewell to the old orchard, packed their bags, sang Auld Lang Syne, and, in keeping with the traditions of the Phils of recent years, took a 14-1 beating at the hands of the New York Giants. It isn't a pleasant thing to talk about - no massacre ever is - and the Phils' last stand was comparable to that made by General Custer against the Indains."
(Courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center. Temple University. Philadelphia, PA)
The game is hardly interesting as the Phils were outclassed by the Giants 14-1. A short series against the Braves in Boston was waged before the Phils returned to Philadelphia and their new permanent home for the first time on July 4, 1938. Overall, 1938 was a peculiar year for the Phillies. The uniforms were obscure, the history of Baker Bowl and the team's midseason move were down right strange, and the club began a stretch of five straight 100+ loss seasons.The park may have showed serious age and limitations during the Phillies 1910s glory years but by 1938 it was almost unusable. Red Smith remarked years later in the New York Times that it "bore a striking resemblance to a rundown men's room." Pitcher Claude Passeau, who started the final game for the Phils that day in 1938, commented that Baker Bowl was a terrible place to play and an impossible place to pitch. Author Ralph Bernstein recounted that the park was falling apart at the seams in its final years and embers from locomotives from the nearby railroad tracks would cause the wooden stands to catch fire. Historian Rich Westcott further detailed the aging hulk. "When fans in the upper deck stamped their feet, rust from the floor often showered the patrons on the lower level. Foul balls landing on the decaying tin roof dumped rust onto the upper deck spectators...A standing joke was that fans attending games...had to have enough money not only for the price of admission, but also for a dry cleaning bill."
With the major tenant gone, Baker Bowl was repurposed to an automobile race track, an ice skating rink, and a used car lot. At the end, all that remained of the park's construction were its walls In 1950, with the Phillies in their first serious pennant chase since World War I, Baker Bowl's 15th Street wall collapsed during a storm and the rest was soon demolished. The property was sold in 1956 for $400,000 and the lot was eventually carved up for commercial uses. In 2000, a Pennsylvania Historical Marker was dedicated to Baker Bowl and currently stands at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue. The marker is one of four such markers- Shibe Park (1997), Baker Bowl (2000), Veterans Stadium (2005), and the Jefferson Street Ballparks (2017) - dedicated to Philadelphia baseball parks.
Baker Bowl's collapsed 15th Street wall in 1950.
(Courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center. Temple University. Philadelphia, PA)
Like some of you (I hope many), I was extremely excited that the Phillies were going to play in front of a national audience on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" and move on to a high profile week with series against the Yankees and the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. It was the team's first appearance on "Sunday Night Baseball" in five years. The Phillies entered Sunday's contest having won two in a row against the Nats, securing their fourth straight series win over opponents whose combined record by June 24 was 162-141 (.534). Despite a loss that night, the coverage was rather good. ESPN's Jessica Mendoza obsessed over Odubel Herrera throughout the game and twice declared that he is an All-Star while the broadcast team described the Phillies as "an exciting team to watch." The bullpen aside, the Phillies put together two weeks of solid baseball and displayed their potential to a national audience. What wasn't to like? The team was 41-33 and held the 2nd wild card spot in late June!
The Yankees arrived in south Philadelphia after being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays - a distant afterthought in the AL pennant chase. I told myself, "I have to go down and support the club against the Yankees." I knew the Yankees empire would turn out in droves at our fair red brick cathedral but I still wanted to experience the electric atmosphere. I bought a ticket for what I hoped would be a pitchers duel between Jake Arrieta, a Cy Young award winner, and Luis Severino, currently a Cy Young award favorite. The previous night, Phillies starter Vince Velasquez pitched a quirky good game; his pitches were all over the place but he only surrendered two runs on three its. Unfortunately the offense looked tired and failed to record a hit before the sixth inning. I hoped some rest and a big game pitcher on the hill would solve the problem.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler announced in his post game press conference today that starter Zach Eflin will make his first start of the 2018 major league season this Tuesday against the Miami Marlins. In four games with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs this year, Eflin is 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA in 20 innings of work and has recorded 15 strikeouts against 5 walks and no home runs surrendered.
The 24 year old's career has been maligned with injury issues resultant from patellar tendinopathy in his knees, a condition he has dealt with most of his life. He joined the Phillies organization as the kingpin of the Jimmy Rollins trade with the Dodgers in 2014. He was projected to be as high as a no. 3 starter in the bigs, as his four-seam fastball reached upwards of 97 mph with a two-seam fastball in the low-90s. His slider and changeup are still improving and will be critical to his effectiveness at the big league level.
Eflin was promoted to the majors for the first time in June 2016 and started 11 games before going on the disabled list for his knee condition, which required season-ending surgery. In 63 1/3 innings in 2016, Eflin went 3-5 with a 5.54 ERA. He began the 2017 season with a rehab start in Clearwater and subsequently assumed his role as one of Lehigh Valley's starting pitchers. After one start in Lehigh Valley, Eflin was called up to the majors again in the aftermath of Clay Bucholz's season-ending injury in April. In 2017, Eflin regressed and went 1-5 in 11 starts with the Phils with a 6.16 ERA in what was a Bermuda Triangle-esque season between Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, and the dreaded disabled list.
Eflin has showed flashes of upper rotation ability in the past but has not been able to do so on a consistent basis. He will need to command the strike zone with his fastballs and get batters out with his breaking balls in order to put the organization in a precarious, but good, situation with Eickhoff progressing and Lively's eventual return to health.