It had been two years since Bobby Abreu had been traded by the Phillies, but he still made sure he was watching on that October night in 2008 when the team he played with for nearly a decade inched toward a World Series crown without him.
It would be hard to blame Abreu if he was bitter as he watched from his South Jersey home, just 15 miles from where the Phillies would win their first world title in 28 years. A few seasons earlier, he was their centerpiece. Now, he was across the bridge. Perhaps Abreu pined when he imagined himself leaping onto Brad Lidge after the final strikeout.
Instead, he watched with a bottle of champagne by his side and popped the cork when his old team clinched the Series.
Abreu, who will be added Saturday night to the team’s Wall of Fame, celebrated that night with family and friends in Marlton. If anything was bitter, it was the champagne.
“I have Phillies in my heart,” Abreu said. “I wasn’t here at that moment, but I still celebrated with them. The good moments, you have to celebrate.”
Abreu played nine seasons with the Phillies before he was sent to the Yankees at the 2006 trade deadline. He played in two All-Star Games, including one as a starter; won a Home Run Derby, a Gold Glove, and a Silver Slugger; and batted .303 with a .416 on-base percentage and .513 slugging percentage with the Phillies. He ranks third in Phillies history in walks and OPS and is fourth in doubles and eighth in RBIs.
This winter, Abreu will be on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. He might be a long shot, but a case could be made for him. Abreu is one of 34 outfielders in history to finish his career with 10,000-plus plate appearances. Among those eight, his on-base percentage (.395) ranks eighth. Of the seven he trails, only Barry Bonds is not in Cooperstown.
“I really do think about it,” Abreu said. “There’s some numbers there. Right now, people have more time to see what I did in baseball. I know I don’t have 500 homers, but I did a lot of things in the game that right now people are starting to see what’s going on.”
Hall of Fame or not, Abreu’s putting together a Wall-of-Fame career would have exceeded even the Phillies’ expectations when they landed him in 1998 in a trade with Tampa Bay, which had just selected Abreu from Houston in their expansion draft.
“I give credit to Ed Wade,” Abreu said of the former general manager. “He was the one who brought me here in 1998. He believed in me and gave me the opportunity to play every day here, which is what I was looking for. I wanted to be on the field every single day. All the credit goes to Ed Wade. He was the one who gave me the opportunity.”
The Phillies were buried in the National League East and five games out of the wild card when they became sellers at the 2006 deadline. They traded Abreu, David Bell, Corey Lidle, Rheal Cormier, and Sal Fasano in four trades over five days.
Pat Gillick, then the general manager, said they needed “to change the mix.” The moves were a way for the team’s young core -- Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins -- to become even more important.
The Phillies, Gillick said then, were retooling. He didn’t think they would be ready for two more seasons. Instead, those three young players rallied in the final two months and almost won a wild-card berth before winning the division the next season. Abreu missed it, but he did not miss his toast when his old teammates won the World Series.
A day after he is added to the Wall of Fame, Abreu will watch his old friends celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2009 National League championship. It’s another title he barely missed. But he’s not bitter.
“I had a lot of emotion about it in a2008,” Abreu said. “I know they built the team so hard to win the championship and I was there the years before that and knew how hard my teammates worked. I’m very happy for them. I know I wasn’t a part of it, but in my heart I’m a part of it. I’m a Phillies player and I’m a member of the Phillies family.”