Suffer through the first 100+ years of Phillies baseball here in parts 1-6.
Sometimes people initiate casual conversations with me about the 2008 Phillies. I don’t know how to handle those situations.
It’s my fault, not theirs. There’s no sign around my neck indicating I spent multiple years live-tweeting the 2008 baseball season. No visible signs of this sickness.
They’re just normal people making normal small talk. I pretend that I’m normal too: “Yes, I also enjoyed that season. My favorite part was when Ryan Howard hit the home runs.”
Trying to recap the 2008 season in this format is similarly challenging. It might eventually get a seven- or eight-part series of its own.
But before we get into that, let’s look at some earlier seasons rarely discussed in polite company.
1994: 54-61, 4th place. If 1993 was a sugar high, 1994 is the crash.
In the wake of Joe Carter’s home run, Phillies fans egg Mitch Williams’ house in Jersey. Some fools even threaten his life. Williams handles the situation admirably, but the Phils’ front office doubts that he can pitch successfully again in Philadelphia. Before the ‘94 season, General Manager Lee Thomas trades Williams to Houston for pitchers Doug Jones and Jeff Juden.
The remaining Phils struggle through an injury-plagued, strike-shortened campaign. Tommy Greene gets shut down with shoulder issues in May. Curt Schilling has a bad year, going 2-8 with a 4.48 ERA. Ben Rivera puts up a 6.87 ERA. Someone named Shawn Boskie makes 14 starts.
The magic is gone for this group.
1995: 69-75, 2nd place. The Phillies finish 21 games behind the Atlanta Braves.
Gregg Jefferies joins the team. An All-Star with the Cardinals in 1993 and 1994, his OPS drops about 100 points with the Phils in ‘95. He slashes .306/.349/.448.
Injuries sideline Schilling and Lenny Dykstra.
Ricky Bottalico ends up with the highest bWAR on the team (2.9). He posts a 2.46 ERA in 87.2 innings.
1996: 67-95, 5th place. Scott Rolen reaches the majors in August and plays 37 games, providing some hope for the future. But here’s the Opening Day lineup:
Lenny Dykstra CF
Mickey Morandini 2B
Gregg Jefferies 1B
Darren Daulton LF
Mark Whiten RF
Todd Zeile 3B
Benito Santiago C
Kevin Stocker SS
Sid Fernandez P
Veterans Stadium hosts the 1996 All-Star game. Bottalico is the Phillies’ lone representative.
The Fightins select Jimmy Rollins with the 46th pick in the 1996 MLB draft.
1997: 68-94, last place. But Rolen wins Rookie of the Year, hitting .283/.377/.469 with 21 home runs and 16 stolen bases. And Schilling has a great season, going 17-11 with a 2.97 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, and 319 strikeouts.
The Florida Marlins win the 1997 World Series. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s one championship for the Marlins franchise (established 1993), one championship for the Phillies franchise (established 1883).
Daulton gets a ring with that Marlins team, putting up a 1.081 postseason OPS.
1998: 75-87, 3rd place. Bobby Abreu joins the team, acquired in exchange for Kevin Stocker. He slashes .312/.409/.497 with 17 home runs.
Rolen slashes .290/.391/.532 with 31 home runs and wins his first Gold Glove.
Schilling posts a 3.25 ERA and leads the league in complete games (15) and strikeouts (300).
The Phillies take Pat Burrell first overall in the 1998 draft.
1999: 77-85, 3rd place. Rolen and Schilling miss time due to injuries. But Mike Lieberthal steps up, hitting .300/.363/.551 with 31 HR and winning a Gold Glove.
Abreu quietly posts a .995 OPS. Randy Wolf makes his MLB debut.
And the Phillies select Brett Myers with the 12th pick in the 1999 draft.
2000: 65-97, last place. Burrell joins the major league club, hitting 18 home runs in 111 games while wearing jersey number 33. Rollins shows up in September for 14 games.
Abreu slashes .316/.416/.554 with 25 HR and 28 SB. He is snubbed for the All-Star Game.
Between 1998 and 2003, Abreu bats .300 or better five times, posts an OPS over .900 five times, and averages 22 HR and 27 SB per year. He gets selected to exactly zero All-Star Games in that time span.
On July 26, the Phillies trade Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla. Arizona will win the World Series in 2001 and Schilling will be named co-MVP.
2001: 86-76, 2nd place. An improvement of 21 wins over the 2000 team, and a finish just two games behind division-winning Atlanta. New skipper Larry Bowa wins Manager of the Year.
Rollins leads the league in stolen bases (46) and triples (12) as a rookie and makes the All-Star Game. Burrell hits 27 home runs. Abreu hits 31 home runs with 36 stolen bases and a .936 OPS.
The Phillies draft Ryan Howard 140th overall.
2002: 80-81, 3rd place. Burrell hits .282/.376/.544 with 37 home runs. Brett Myers makes his major league debut on July 24, allowing one run and two hits over eight innings.
On July 29, the Phillies trade Rolen and Doug Nickle to St. Louis for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith. It’s a lopsided trade, but the Phils have no choice but to send Rolen to the highest bidder. He had rejected a 10-year contract extension in the offseason that could've been worth up to $140 million, and had made it clear that he wanted to become a free agent after the ‘02 season. He never got along with Bowa, he publicly (and accurately) questioned the team’s commitment to winning, and his relationship with the fans deteriorated.
The Phillies take Cole Hamels with the 17th pick in the 2002 draft.
2003: 86-76, 3rd place. The Phillies' last season at the Vet. Jim Thome hits 47 HR and Chase Utley arrives for 43 games, hitting .239/.322/.373.
This isn’t a bad team at all. Lieberthal puts up an .825 OPS. Abreu slashes .300/.409/.468 in right field with 20 HR and 22 SB. Marlon Byrd is solid in center field with a .784 OPS, and at second base Polanco hits .289 with 14 HR and 14 SB.
But third baseman David Bell hits .196 with a .579 OPS, Burrell has a down year out in left field (.209/.309/.404 with 21 HR), and the pitching is mediocre. Starters Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, and Brandon Duckworth all end up with ERAs in the 4.00s. Vincente Padilla is the best of the group with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.
The Phils lose seven of their last eight games to dash any Wild Card hopes. The Marlins win the NL Wild Card spot instead, and go on to win the World Series.
If you’re still keeping score at home, that’s two championships for the Marlins franchise (established 1993), one championship for the Phillies franchise (established 1883).
2004: 86-76, 2nd place. The Phils move into Citizens Bank Park. Bobby Abreu hits the first home run in the new ballpark, belts 30 home runs on the season, steals 40 bases, and slashes .301/.428/.544. He finally makes an All-Star Game, but only by winning a special fan-determined “Final Vote” after the regular selections are made.
On June 28, David Bell hits for the cycle. No Phillies player has done it since.
Jim Thome hits 42 home runs. Ryan Howard hits 46 in the minors and two more with the major league club as a September call-up.
2005: 88-74, 2nd place. Charlie Manuel takes over as manager. With Thome on the DL, Howard hits 22 HR in 88 games and wins Rookie of the Year.
Utley slashes .291/.376/.540 with 28 HR. Burrell hits .281/.389/.504 with 32 HR. Jon Lieber wins 17 games with a 4.20 ERA. Myers, Padilla, Wolf, and Cory Lidle round out the rotation. Billy Wagner has an exceptional season as the team’s closer, saving 38 games with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. Abreu makes another All-Star team and wins the Home Run Derby.
The Phils finish two games behind Atlanta for the division and one game short in the Wild Card race.
Ugueth Urbina is in this team’s bullpen. He has quite a year. In February, a military-style operation rescues his mother, who had been kidnapped and held for ransom in southwest Venezuela. The Phillies acquire Urbina from the Detroit Tigers in June (in exchange for Polanco), and he puts up a 4.13 ERA in 56 appearances. In November, Urbina is arrested for attempted murder after allegedly attacking workers on his property with a machete and trying to pour gasoline on them.
Urbina’s MLB career was over. He would serve seven years in prison for the crime.
2006: 85-77, 2nd place. The Phillies lead the Wild Card race going into the final week of the season, but fall just short of a playoff spot yet again.
The 2006 roster features four of the top eleven Phillies of all-time as measured by bWAR. Pretty amazing for a franchise that’s been around since the 19th century.
Philies all-time bWAR leaders:
M. Schmidt 106.8
R. Roberts 71.8
S. Carlton 69.6
C. Utley 61.8
P. Alexander 61.5
E. Delahanty 61.0
R. Ashburn 57.7
S. Magee 48.1
B. Abreu 47.2
J. Rollins 46.4
C. Hamels 43.4
The roster also features Ryan Howard, whose career 14.7 bWAR sometimes makes it hard to take the statistic seriously. Howard wins the 2006 NL MVP award after slashing .313/.425/.659 with 58 HR and 149 RBI. He also successfully defends the Phillies’ Home Run Derby championship.
Jamie Moyer joins the Phillies on August 19 in exchange for two minor leaguers.
On May 11, centerfielder Aaron Rowand smashes up his face making this legendary catch:
2007: 89-73, 1st place. The Phillies end another long playoff drought.
It wasn’t easy. The team was seven games behind the Mets with 17 left to play. They clinched the division on the final day of the season.
Jimmy Rollins wins a Gold Glove and is named NL MVP after slashing .296/.344/.531 with 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs, and 41 stolen bases. But his .875 OPS is only the fifth-best on his own team, behind Howard (47 HR, .976 OPS), Utley (22 HR, .332 AVG, .976 OPS), Burrell (30 HR, .902 OPS), and Rowand (27 HR, .309 AVG, .889 OPS).
In the playoffs, the Phils run into a scorching hot Colorado Rockies team and get swept 3-0 in a best-of-five. The Rockies had won 14 of their final 15 regular season games.
Great Phillies team, but 2007 wasn’t quite their year.
2008: 92-70, 1st place. For the second time in franchise history, the Philadelphia Phillies are the World Champions of Baseball.
The 2008 World Series was the first Philadelphia sports championship I ever witnessed.
I fell in love with baseball as a little kid, watching Phillies teams finish 20 or 30 games out of first place in the late ‘80s, an era without Wild Cards.
Following the Phils could feel pretty lonely at the time. Anyone over the age of 10 or so knew these Phillies teams were hopeless, and turned their attention elsewhere. Attendance at the Vet was sparse, and the stadium’s ridiculous 60,000+ capacity made it look even worse.
But it sure was affordable to go to a game. Free tickets were always floating around, just for being on your elementary school’s safety patrol, for making the honor roll, or even for buying a certain brand of hot dogs at the grocery store. All a kid needed was to find an adult bored/drunk enough to take a subway ride with them and bake in 100+ degree temps.
Upon arrival, you’d spend 30-60 minutes climbing up ramps and panting your way to the yellow seats. The 700 level.
The journey to those seats was like something from The Last of Us. You would go long stretches of time without seeing a single other living soul, then suddenly a mutant would lurch out of a bathroom and you’d have to kill it with fire.
But it all paid off once you made it to the top. You could take your pick of empty sections and sprawl out over as many seats as you’d like. I would usually sit there with a glove on, waiting to catch the first-ever 900-foot home run. Others, a little older, formed bizarre fan groups, ostensibly in support of particular Phillies, but more likely motivated by a need to ally against the Clickers and Bloaters roaming the concourse.
To be clear, you couldn’t actually see the game from these seats. But you were there, and you could vaguely make out some baseball-looking activities taking place down on the field.
It’s not the way I like to enjoy baseball nowadays. But it was pretty great in its own way.
Then, suddenly… 1993. It struck like lightning, and instantly, unexpectedly, it felt like the entire city was in love with the Phils. It’s all anyone talked about, best I can remember. My niche interest had gone mainstream. Even though the season ultimately ended painfully, it was a beautiful, wild summer.
Any goodwill the team built in ‘93 was quickly squandered. The work stoppage in ‘94 drove some fans away permanently. Those who stuck around were treated to seven consecutive losing seasons.
But as the team stumbled its way into the 21st century, there was progress. Behind the scenes, the Phillies were drafting well, laying a foundation for 2008. Some fun, competitive squads in the ‘00s just missed the playoffs. (Under today’s Wild Card rules, the ‘05 and ‘06 Phils would have made the postseason.) Meanwhile, the Jim Thome signing and the sparkling new ballpark changed the entire image of the franchise.
2007 was an incredible season for those of us who spent our childhood and adolescence waiting for another Phillies postseason appearance. Sure, they got smoked by the Rockies in the first round. But watching the Fightins run down the Mets in September was an experience, to say the least. And entering 2008, the team was finally relevant again. A contender.
While the ‘93 Phillies team was built largely by acquiring veteran players drafted and developed by other organizations, the ‘08 team featured a mostly young and homegrown core:
Rollins - drafted 1996; Burrell - drafted 1998; Myers - drafted 1999; Utley - drafted 2000; Howard - drafted 2001; Hamels - drafted 2002.
Fans watched these guys blossom from rookies into stars. And in the years leading up to ‘08, we could feel momentum building towards something special.
The 2008 team didn’t get off to a particularly hot start. They went 15-13 in March/April, 17-12 in May, and 12-14 in June.
As late as September 10, the 2008 Phils found themselves 3.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East and 4.0 games behind the Brewers in the Wild Card race.
But September proved to be the Phillies’ best regular season month. They went 17-8 to close out the year, including an unforgettable 4-game sweep of the Brewers from Sept. 11 through Sept. 14.
On September 27, at home vs. the Nationals in front of 45,177 fans, Brad Lidge entered a 4-2 game in search of his 41st save in 41 opportunities.
Lidge ran into trouble, and soon it was 4-3 with the bases loaded and one out. But Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a double play (appropriately, 6-4-3, Rollins to Utley to Howard), and the Phillies clinched the division.
The Phils were back in the postseason. And this time they were ready. They cruised through the NLDS—winning 3 games to 1 over the Brewers, and the NLCS—winning 4 games to 1 over the Dodgers. In the World Series they faced the Tampa Bay Rays.
And on October 29, they found themselves one out away from a championship, with Lidge on the mound once again. This time he was looking to stay perfect through his 48th save opportunity.
Along the way we experienced the legendary October moments that define this team in our collective memory: Myers working a 9-pitch walk against Milwaukee’s CC Sabathia in NLDS Game Two before Shane Victorino hits a grand slam; Victorino and Stairs hitting late home runs against the Dodgers in NLCS Game Four; Joe Blanton launching a home run in Game Four of the World Series; Hamels dominating in game after game throughout.
Those moments never happen, of course, without the standout regular season performances on the team:
Rollins (SS): .277/.349/.437 with 47 stolen bases in 50 attempts
Victorino (CF): 293/.352/.447 with 14 home runs and 36 stolen bases
Utley (2B): 292/.380/.535 with 33 home runs
Howard (1B): .251/.339/.543 with 48 home runs and 146 RBI
Burrell (LF): .250/.367/.507 with 33 home runs
Werth (RF): .273/.363/.498 with 24 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts
While they didn’t put up offensive numbers like the players above, Pedro Feliz played stellar defense at third base, Carlos Ruiz managed the pitching staff exceptionally well, and Chris Coste posted a .748 OPS while playing in 98 games. Further down the roster, Geoff Jenkins, Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, and So Taguchi also made meaningful contributions.
On the mound, Hamels was the ace, but the other members of the rotation played their supporting roles well:
Hamels: 14-10, 3.09 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
Jamie Moyer, at age 45: 16-7, 3.71 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
Myers: 10-13, 4.55 ERA (but a 3.06 ERA in 13 starts after a midseason stint in the minors)
Kyle Kendrick: 11-9, 5.49 ERA, 1.61 WHIP
Blanton (acquired from Oakland in July): 4-0, 4.20 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
Adam Eaton: was also on the team
Aside from Hamels, those numbers aren’t eye-popping. But the rotation got the job done, and was backed by a stellar bullpen:
Lidge: 1.95 ERA in 72 appearances
Chad Durbin: 2.87 ERA in 71 appearances
Ryan Madson: 3.05 ERA in 76 appearances
Clay Condrey: 3.26 ERA in 56 appearances
J.C. Romero: 2.75 ERA in 81 appearances
Scott Eyre (acquired from the Cubs in August): 1.88 ERA in 19 appearances
Rudy Seanez: 3.53 ERA in 42 appearances
Tom Gordon didn’t put up very good numbers, but he had his moments out of the pen as well. And J.A. Happ made the most of limited opportunities, posting a 3.69 ERA across four starts and four relief appearances.
Back to October 29, 2008.
Lidge is on the mound looking to close out a game that started on October 27. (You may have heard there was some rain during the Series.)
The Phillies have a 4-3 lead and the tying run is on second base for the Rays. The count is 0-2.
Harry Kalas takes it from there:
One strike away, nothing and two the count to Hinske. Fans on their feet, rally towels being waved. Brad Lidge stretches. The 0-2 pitch... Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of Basebaaalllll!
Words can’t describe the moment. 1980 might have been the end of a 97-year long movie, but it was before my time. I respected the history, but it didn’t belong to me.
This 2008 team was mine. If we are similarly aged, it’s yours as well. Some people clown on fans who use “we” when talking about pro sports teams, and I get that. But in that moment? It sure as hell felt like WE did it. If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, ran up and down the urine-soaked ramps of the Vet, watched some of the worst teams to ever grace Astroturf, had your heart shattered into pieces in 1993, then waited 15 more years to have it put back together… then you know what I mean. It’s ours, and it’s forever.
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Tweets of the week.
The 2023 Phillies are off to a slow start, but you can’t blame the Daycare:
This mix of offensive stats seems unsustainable. Numbers like this have to translate to more runs eventually:
Starting pitching, however, feels like a real concern:
Baserunning is a real concern as well. It’s embarrassing:
There’s some kind of thumbs-up celebration sweeping through the Phillies dugout lately. Bryce Harper took it to another level in Sunday’s 14-3 rout of the Reds:
This week in 2008.
The 2008 Phils were 7-8 at the end of April 16.
They lost a tough one to the Mets in NY on April 10, 4-3 in 12 innings after battling back from a 3-0 deficit. A 2-run Howard HR had tied it up in the eighth.
Returning home, they won two out of three games against the Cubs. Myers threw eight strong innings in the first game, and Hamels threw seven shutout innings in the second. Through three starts, Hamels had a 0.82 ERA. In the series finale, Victorino and and Rollins didn’t play, so Geoff Jenkins batted leadoff for the first time in his career. Phils lost that one, 6-5.
The Astros came to town next, and the game on April 15 was a good one. Down 3-0 in the ninth, the Phillies hit two home runs (Chris Snelling and Pat Burrell) before Pedro Feliz hit a walkoff double. The next night, Roy Oswalt shut the Phils down in a 2-1 loss.
Phillie you forgot about.
If you read the paragraph above and wondered who tf Chris Snelling is, you’re probably not alone. He played in exactly four games for the Phillies in his career, hitting the home run noted above and a double in four at-bats. He spent most of 2008 in AAA and never made it back to the majors.
Congrats to twitter handle ChuckVanToon on winning the autographed Pat Burrell baseball card. DM me a mailing address and I’ll ship it right out.
If you didn’t win this one, don’t worry, there’s another 2008 Phillie-autographed card for next week.
This is the section of the newsletter where I make you look at my dogs.
Thanks for reading and go Phils!
Great read as always John!
Awesome read. Brought me back...