1998, the year Corey and I graduated high school, the year the Philadelphia Phillies finished a dismal 75-87. At the helm was current BoSox manager Terry Francona. Although it was only 10 seasons ago, there are only 6 players still active in MLB (Scott Rolen, Bobby Abreu, Marlon Anderson, Gary Bennett, Paul Byrd, and Curt Schilling). Take a stroll down memory lane with me now as we gaze into the Phils team of 1998.
Catcher- Recently retired Mike Lieberthal split time behind the plate with roid-boy Bobby Estalella, Mark "Hey, You're Not My" Parent, and the previously mentioned Gary Bennett. Lieby's stats- 39 r, 15 dbl, 8 hr, 45 rbi, .256 avg, .703 OPS.
First Base- Slick fielding empty RBI machine Rico Brogna somehow managed to knock in 100+ rbi two straight seasons despite grounding out to 2nd base nearly every at bat. He was an over-hyped guy coming from the Mets that never really did anything special in my opinion. Stats- 77 r, 36 dbl, 20 hr, 104 rbi, .265 avg, .765 OPS.
Second Base- Mark Lewis. Who? I said Mark Lewis. Don't remember him, well that's alright because he was pretty unforgettable. He was only in Philly for one season where he posted poor offensive and defensive stats while collecting the biggest paycheck of his life. Stats- 52 r, 21 dbl, 9 hr, 54 rbi, .249 avg, .661 OPS.
Short Stop- Desi Relaford, the last man to start as SS before MVP Jimmy Rollins took over. Didn't field well, didn't hit well, and for a small guy didn't run well. Glad Ed Wade didn't lock him up long-term and trade off J-Roll. Desi's stats- 45 r, 25 dbl, 5 hr, 41 rbi, .245 avg, .631 OPS.
Third Base- that little whiny bawl-baby pissy-pants Scott Rolen. By all rights, this was Rolen's breakout season and remains one of his best seasons of his career as he broke through the 100 runs and rbi and 30 homeruns barriers, as well as garnering his first of 7 Gold Gloves. Stats- 120 r, 45 dbl, 31 hr, 110 rbi, 14 sb, .290 avg, .923 OPS.
Left Field- the vastly overpaid (6 mil.) bat-snapping hissy-fit throwing Gregg Jefferies. Why was he ever signed to a 4 year 20 million dollar contract is beyond me. Gregg was traded to the Angels for Doug Nickle in '98, so you might say we got our "nickles" worth. Stats- 65 r, 22 dbl, 8 hr, 48 rbi, 11 sb, .294 avg, .733 OPS.
Center Field- our old buddy and a WSBGM's favorite Doug Glanville tracked down the balls in the outfield at the spacious Vet. Doug is a smart man, Ivy League University of Pennsylvania graduate, and is who Corey and I wish would be the heir to the GM throne rather than the guy who will be mentioned later in this post. Stats- 106 r, 28 dbl, 8 hr, 49 rbi, 23 sb, .279 avg, .691 OPS.
Right Field- Bobby Abreu, the man we stole from the Devil Rays for Kevin Stocker. There are mixed feelings about Abreu's tenure in Philly, but I will always remember him for being a damn fine player. Stats- 68 r, 29 dbl, 17 hr, 74 rbi, 19 sb, .312 avg, .906 OPS.
Bench- Utlity man Kevin Jordan, a young Marlon Anderson, GM-in-training Ruben Amaro, wise guy Rex Hudler, Alex Arias, Wendell Magee, a Corey favorite Kevin Sefcik, and seldom remembered Jon Zuber.
Rotation- 1998's lone Phils All-Star Curt Schilling headlined the rotation. Schill's rise to stardom started in Philly, but skyrocketed with World Series wins in Arizona and Boston. He's currently a borderline Hall-of-Famer attempting to make a comeback next season at 42 years old. Stats- 15 w, 15 complete games, 300 k, 3.25 era, 1.11 whip. '91 1st round draft pick Tyler Green was the #2 starter posting a measly 6 wins, 5.03 era, 113 k, and a 1.43 whip in what ended up being his final big league season. Mark "I can't speak Portuguese" Portugal was also in the rotation putting up 10 wins, 104 k, 4.44 era, and 1.31 whip. The rest of the rotation was complete crap with deadbeats Carlton Loewer and Matt Beech starting 21 games a piece and Mike Grace suffering through 15. Paul Byrd, Garrett Stephenson, Mike Welch, and Ken Ryan also started some games for the Phils in '98.
Bullpen- Mark Leiter was the closer (23 saves), and that right there says enough about the crappiness of this team. Leiter was forced into the closer's role after Ricky Blowtallico, oops I meant Ricky Botallico, became extremely ineffective. Lefty Yorkis Perez (3.81 era) and righty Jerry Spradlin (3.53 era) were the only relievers that were decent that season. The rest of the misfits include another 1st round pick stinkbomb Wayne Gomes, Darrin Winston, Toby Borland, Matt Whiteside, Billy Brewer, Robert Dodd, Ryan Nye, and the previously mentioned Ken Ryan and Mike Welch.
As frustrating as the 2008 version of the Phils can be at times, they're still a far cry better than the model 10 years ago.
Back on June 8th, nearly a month ago, the Phils finished off a sweep of the Braves in Atlanta and were sitting high and mighty atop the NL East. Fastforward to July 3rd, and the Phils have once again just concluded a sweep of the Braves in Atlanta and are still sitting atop the NL East, just not as high and mighty. Sandwiched between the two sweeps were series losses to the Marlins, Cardinals, Red Sox, Angels, A's, and Rangers. Perhaps that tough stretch of games in which the Phils went 5-18 was this club's bad medicine (cue Bon Jovi) for the season and now that they've endured the hard times they're ready to let the good times roll (cue The Cars). Roll right over the Mets hopefully. 4 game set starts tonight with Brett Myers replacement JA Happ taking on the ballyhooed Johan Santana.