The slow crawl of baseball’s offseason continues, which for the Phillies is actually a good thing because they are still in the process of looking for their next president of baseball operations and perhaps a general manager, too. There was a smidgen of movement on the free-agent front with the National League East champion Atlanta Braves signing former Phillies pitcher Drew Smyly to a one-year deal worth $11 million.
That seems like a hefty price considering the small sample size Smyly provided during the 2020 season. After going 3-2 with a 4.45 ERA in 12 starts for manager Gabe Kapler and the Phillies in 2019, Smyly rejoined Kapler with the San Francisco Giants last season and was 0-1 with a 3.42 ERA in seven appearances that covered 26⅓ innings. The 31-year-old lefty did strike out 41 batters and only allowed 20 hits and nine walks. Perhaps the Braves were most enticed by Smyly’s increased velocity. His fastball was clocked at 93.8 mph, well above his career average of 90.7.
This much is certain: Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulus has proven he knows what he is doing.
In other news this week, the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot has been sent out to eligible voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America, and it includes former Phillies Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen, Bobby Abreu, Billy Wagner, Shane Victorino, and A.J. Burnett.
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Three of the best players in Phillies history are on the ballot along with everybody’s favorite Flyin’ Hawaiian, but it’s still difficult to get too excited. A look at each former Phillie eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2021 explains why.
This could be the year Schilling is voted into the Hall of Fame. He’s on a ballot that has 11 first-time candidates, none of whom are likely to get in on their first ballot. Schilling, on the ballot for the ninth time, has received a steady increase in support since 2017 and was on the brink of receiving the 75% of votes needed for induction last year.
Schilling should not have had to wait this long because his resume is clearly Hall of Fame worthy. He may not have won a Cy Young Award, but he finished second three times and in the top five four times. He ranks 15th all-time in strikeouts, and every guy in front of him on the list except Roger Clemens is in the Hall of Fame. Add in his 11-2 record and 2.32 ERA in 19 career postseason starts, and it is mind-boggling that Schilling has had to wait this long for induction.
Unlike Clemens and Barry Bonds, both of whom are also on the ballot for the ninth time, Schilling has not been linked to steroid use and, in fact, has emphatically denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs while condemning those who did. He did, however, infuriate more than a few people when given a chance to testify in front of Congress in 2005 he backpedaled faster than his old friend Deion Sanders.
Maybe, as Schilling has claimed, it is his politics that have kept him from getting 75% of the vote. It should be noted that he was a polarizing figure long before Donald Trump reached the White House, and it’s obvious that a man who recently changed his Twitter handle to President Elect Curt Schilling @gehrig38 is not going to change.
He still belongs in the Hall of Fame, and if he finally gets in this year it will be interesting to see if he chooses the hat of a specific team. Nine of his 20 seasons were spent with the Phillies, but his World Series rings came with Arizona (2001) and Boston (2004 and 2007). His boyhood home was in Phoenix, and he settled in New England after his career. He also left the Phillies on rocky terms, and his relationship with the franchise still remains a little frosty even though he returned for the 1993 reunion a couple years ago.
Should Schilling choose to go into the Hall of Fame in a Boston cap, it’s hard to imagine a sea of Phillies red flocking to Cooperstown to see his induction.
Like Schilling, Rolen’s Hall of Fame candidacy has gained some momentum in recent years. This is his fourth year on the ballot, and his vote percentage has risen from 10.2% his first year to 35.3% last year. That is still a long way from 75%, but there is a case to be made for the eight-time Gold Glove third baseman and seven-time All-Star.
Injuries in the latter part of his career kept Rolen from reaching the kind of numbers that would have made him a lock for the Hall of Fame, but his Baseball-Reference WAR total of 70.1 still ranks 10th all-time among third basemen, and eight of the nine guys in front of him are already in the Hall of Fame. The only one who is not, Adrian Beltre, should go in as a first-ballot candidate in 2024. Among third basemen, Rolen is sixth all-time in doubles (517), 14th in RBIs (1,287), and 15th in home runs (316).
Rolen was a lot of fun to watch play and an engaging interview, but the team finished last in three of his seven seasons and had a winning record only once. He tired of the losing and became a villain when he first turned down a contract-extension offer, then later declared he had arrived in baseball heaven after he was traded from the Phillies to St. Louis in 2002.
Again, it would be fascinating to see if Rolen would choose a cap for induction because he spent the majority of his career in Philadelphia, but won one World Series and played in another with the Cardinals. He also left the Cardinals on rocky terms because of a turbulent relationship with former manager Tony LaRussa. The guess here is that Rolen would go in as a Cardinal, and the sea of red in Cooperstown would be formed by fans in STL hats.
Nevertheless, Rolen belongs in the Hall of Fame and on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
Take a look at the Phillies’ career offensive leaders, and you might be amazed at how often you find Abreu’s name on the list. His .416 on-base percentage was fourth, and his .928 OPS and 947 walks each ranked second. Abreu, however, barely remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for a second season after getting 5.5% of the vote a year ago. It is highly unlikely he will ever get enough support to reach Cooperstown, but he was also a lot better player than he received credit for during his days with the Phillies, and it’s great that he is on the team’s Wall of Fame.
It would be interesting to see where the Flyin’ Hawaiian finished in a poll of favorite Phillies from the team’s 2008 World Series title season. He is definitely the best Rule 5 pick in franchise history, and he should be given a spot on the Phillies Wall of Fame some day. He is not, however, likely to get the 5% of the vote needed to stay on the ballot next year.
It’s easy to forget how good Wagner was during his two seasons with the Phillies because he, too, had an inelegant exit that turned the fans against him. With the Phillies in the midst of the wild-card race in 2005, his former team – the Houston Astros – came to Citizens Bank Park and swept a three-game series. Wagner took the loss in the last two games, blowing a lead in the series finale when he gave up a two-out, three-run homer to Craig Biggio. The Astros won the wild-card by one game over the Phillies and reached the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Wagner joined the rival New York Mets after the season and took a swipe at the Phillies on the way out the door.
“There’s a difference between winning and being competitive,” Wagner said. “In the end, I thought [the Phillies] were more interested in being competitive than winning. My goal is to get to the Hall of Fame and win a World Series. There’s no doubt [Mets] ownership has resources and a competitive edge. They’ll do whatever it takes to win. That’s a huge plus."
Wagner never did win the World Series, while the Phillies, thanks in large part to another former Astros closer, did three years later. As for the Hall of Fame, this is Wagner’s sixth year on the ballot, and he received 31.7% of the vote last year, which was a big surge from his 16.7% vote in 2019. Wagner is sixth all-time with 422 saves, but it is his 2.31 ERA, 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and 601 hits allowed in 903 innings that should put him into the Hall of Fame.
In his one season with the Phillies, Burnett led the majors with 18 losses and 96 walks. He also beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series after Cliff Lee had shut down the Yankees in Game 1. Most Phillies fans understandably want to forget Burnett. He will not be on the Hall of Fame ballot again next year.
There will be an Act III of Theo Epstein’s big-league baseball life, but Scott Lauber writes that the man who brought long-awaited World Series titles to the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs might be seeking something much bigger than the title of president of baseball operations with the Phillies.
Managing partner John Middleton’s search for a president of baseball operations and a general manager is apparently on, and I explain why he cannot afford to get his selections wrong.
Middleton’s college alma mater is Amherst College in Massachusetts, and Lauber points out that the school has also produced a lot of people qualified to fill the baseball operations jobs the Phillies are currently seeking. Among those listed are Dan Duquette, Ben Cherington and Neal Huntington.
The Phillies are expected to soon announce that 33-year-old Caleb Cotham is going to be their new pitching coach. He was Cincinnati’s assistant pitching coach the last two seasons.
The Miami Marlins’ decision to hire Kim Ng as the first female general manager in any of the four major sports created a sense of joy and future opportunity for Corinne Landrey, who works as the manager of baseball operations in the Phillies’ front office.
It’s no secret the Phillies need to rebuild their bullpen. Here’s a list of names that could help.
A lot can change between now and opening day, but it’s lot easier to make a case for the Phillies finishing last than first in 2021.
Friday: Deadline to set 40-man roster that protects minor-league players from the Rule 5 draft and leads to major-league players being non-tendered.
Dec. 7: Roberto Clemente Award winner announced, 2 p.m.
Dec. 8: Hank Aaron Award winner announced, 2 p.m.
Dec. 9: All-MLB Team announced, 7 p.m.
Jan. 26: Hall of Fame voting results, 6 p.m.
I lost track and interest in the KBO season shortly after play resumed here in the United States in late July, so I was somewhat shocked when I couldn’t sleep Monday night and awoke at 4 a.m. and turned on the TV to find Game 1 of the Korean World Series.
One of the stars of the Dinos is former Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr, who had a great first season in the KBO. Altherr, who signed for $800,000, batted .278 with 31 home runs and 108 RBIs in 136 games with the Dinos. He was the MVP of the Dinos’ Game 1 Korean Series victory over the Doosan Bears after hitting a three-run home run. The series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 scheduled for Friday at 4:30 a.m.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Answer: That’s really two comments and two questions, Mike, but I’ll play along. I think the Phillies have to at least see what it will cost to bring back J.T. Realmuto, especially since this is going to be such an unpredictable free-agent market. I think they are far more likely to move on from Didi Gregorius even though he had an outstanding season for them. I do think there is enough depth in this free-agent class and that there could be some real opportunities on the trade market to go with your plan of spreading the money around to fill the large amount of holes the Phillies have. Depth might have been this team’s biggest weakness in 2020, and it needs to be addressed.