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Washington Nationals owe the Phillies some thanks for their World Series title | Extra Innings

The Nationals had Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, but they might not be champs without ex-Phillie Howie Kendrick.

Howie Kendrick of the Washington Nationals celebrates after his team won the World Series.
Howie Kendrick of the Washington Nationals celebrates after his team won the World Series.Read moreElsa / MCT

The World Series is over, the Nationals are champions, and free agency is just five days away.

The Astros did not use Gerrit Cole on Wednesday night in Game 7, which is good news for the Phillies as baseball’s premier pitcher will be fresher if they are able to land him this winter. It’s been said, though, that Cole is a sure bet to play for a West Coast team. Remember a year ago when Bryce Harper was destined for the Dodgers and Manny Machado was headed to the Bronx and Patrick Corbin was ready to pitch for his childhood-favorite Yankees? Well, money talks. And the Phillies will have plenty to spend.

Stephen Strasburg, the World Series MVP, could join Cole in free agency if he opts out of his final four years with the Nationals. If so, the Phillies will be in on him, too. Let the bidding begin.

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Former Phillie Howie Kendrick is key reason Nats are champs

The Phillies were 25 games out of first place and 28 games below .500 in July 2017 when they traded Howie Kendrick to Washington. Kendrick, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said that night, paved the way for the team’s young players and “allowed others to grow.”

But the then-33-year-old Kendrick was three months shy of free agency, in his 12th major-league season, and had missed more games because of injury, 54, than he had played, 39, with the Phillies. He hit .340 with the Phillies, but his fragile health allowed the end to feel near.

So the Phillies traded Kendrick to a contender for a minor-league lottery ticket.

“Our ultimate goal as players is to win a World Series,” Kendrick said after clearing out his locker at Citizens Bank Park and packing his bags for Washington. “I couldn't think of a better place to be going to.”

It took 27 months, and the recovery from a brutal Achilles injury, but Kendrick called his shot: The former Phillie became a World Series champion Wednesday night with the Nationals. And he played a key role in delivering Washington its first World Series title since Walter Johnson’s Senators in 1924.

The Nationals had Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, but they might not be champions without the player who looked to be near the twilight of his career when the Phillies traded him.

Kendrick’s two-run homer gave them a lead Wednesday night in the seventh inning. His 10th-inning grand slam had put the Nationals ahead in the deciding game of the NLDS against the Dodgers, and he was named the MVP of the NLCS after powering the Nats to a sweep of the Cardinals.

Kendrick, just as he did inside a young and impressionable Phillies clubhouse, appeared to carve out a leadership role with the Nationals. He tore his Achilles in May 2018, missed the rest of the season, but recovered in time to join the Nationals for this season’s spring training.

In a coincidence, he was assigned Bryce Harper’s locker this season after Harper moved north to the ballpark Kendrick once called home.

He hit a career-high .344 this season and moved all over the diamond. Since 2017, Kendrick has the highest batting average in the majors among players who have played at least 100 games. His value to Washington started long before October.

“I mean, he's been the quiet leader all year,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said during the team’s postseason run. “You could talk about Ryan Zimmerman. Zim is the captain, but Howie, when Howie speaks, everybody listens.”

Kendrick, now 36, was an integral part of a dangerous lineup for a team headed by three of baseball’s premier starting pitchers. Wednesday night, he became a world champion, and he found his way there thanks to a rather nondescript transaction more than two years ago.

The rundown

The Phillies introduced Joe Girardi as their manager Monday and they could soon announce a pitching coach. The team, according to a source, has identified former Reds manager Bryan Price as the front-runner for pitching coach. Girardi still needs to select a hitting coach.

Girardi’s rules as Phillies manager might be unwritten but they will be real, Bob Brookover writes. Brookie compared the new manager’s outlook on clubhouse rules to the way Gabe Kapler policed the Phillies clubhouse for the last two seasons.

The Phillies put on a show for Joe Girardi Day, but Scott Lauber writes that they now they need to get the new manager some better players. “If simply replacing deposed Gabe Kapler was going to turn the Phillies into instant contenders, Monday’s lunchtime bash would have really been cause for celebration. But this was the easy part,” Lauber wrote.

Important dates

Sunday: Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Aaron Nola find out if they are Gold Glove winners, 7 p.m.

Tuesday: Free agency begins after a five-day quiet period following the World Series.

Nov. 11: Four-day GM meetings begin in Arizona.

Nov. 20: Teams must set their 40-man rosters ahead of the Rule 5 draft.

Dec. 9: Winter meetings open in San Diego.

Stat of the day

Today marks the 11-year anniversary of the 2008 World Series parade, so how do you feel about the Phillies’ chances to win it all in 2020?

You’re probably not as confident as the bookmaker at Parx Casino. The Phillies are +1,400 to win the 2020 World Series, giving them the fourth-best odds at Parx among National League teams. The Astros and the Dodgers, both at +550, are the favorites, while the Nationals are +1,200, the same odds as the Braves. The Royals, Tigers, and Orioles come in last with +50,000 odds. Hey, you never know.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: I wonder if there will be consideration for [Jim] Thome as hitting coach or [Curt] Schilling as pitching coach. Will we see the likes of [Larry] Bowa, [Jimmy] Rollins or [Chase] Utley to be brought on in some capacity? Just wondering. — Bernie H. via email.

Answer: Thanks, Bernie. Jim Thome would be an excellent hitting coach, but it sounds as if he’s not yet ready to return to an everyday job in baseball. His front-office job with the White Sox and his select dates with MLB Network allow him plenty of time with his family. Thome’s insight on MLB Network is excellent, and I think he’ll eventually wind up in a dugout.

Curt Schilling volunteered his services as pitching coach, but he was not considered. Larry Bowa is a Phillies front-office adviser, Jimmy Rollins recently moved to Los Angeles, and Chase Utley is working with the Dodgers.

Rollins was a special instructor last spring training with the Phillies and could return this year. Perhaps Utley will, too. I view Utley in the same light as Thome: someone I expect to be coaching in the future.