Archive for August, 2011


Ghosts of Phillies Past: Shane Victorino and Ricky Otero

August 12, 2011

Another hugely successful week for the Phillies.  All they’ve done is win five out of six, complete a 9-1 West Coast road trip, and gotten into a brawl with their new nemesis, the San Francisco Giants.

Phillie of the Week: Shane Victorino

At the forefront of the week’s action was center fielder Shane Victorino.  Despite being moved all throughout the lineup, Victorino is having the best season of his career. 

He is currently batting .312 with 12 home runs, but perhaps more importantly, the switch hitter is producing from both sides of the plate helping to keep the Phillies lineup balanced.  And as usual, he is providing his usual impressive base running and sterling defense in centerfield.

If you polled fans around the country about who their least favorite Phillie is, I’m guessing Victorino would be the most common answer.  While the rest of the Phillies seem to carry themselves in a businesslike manner, Victorino is somewhat demonstrative on the field.  This has occasionally drawn the ire of the Phillies’ opponents.

It probably wasn’t a coincidence that when the Giants wanted to make a statement on Friday, it was Victorino who was hit by a pitch.  Victorino didn’t take too kindly too the plunking, and incited a benches-clearing scuffle between the two teams.  Later on, Victorino had to be restrained as he repeatedly tried to charge into the fray.  Unfortunately, this resulted in a three game suspension which he is currently appealing.

Ghost of Phillies Past: Ricky Otero

In 1996, the Phillies had a different speedster manning center field.  Otero had been obtained in an offseason trade with the Mets, and after Lenny Dykstra went down with an injury, Otero was given a regular job.

Batting leadoff for much of the 1996 season, Otero was actually somewhat of a fan favorite at first.  He was considered “pesky” on the base paths, and his energetic style was a small highlight on a dismal team. 

Unfortunately, as one writer quipped, “Ricky can run, but he can’t hide.”  He batted a respectable .273 in 1996, but his .330 on-base percentage was far too low for a player who had almost no power.  In 411 at bats, he only managed 20 extra base hits.

And while he might have been “pesky” on the base paths, he wasn’t that effective as a base stealer.  Throughout his Phillies career, he was caught stealing 13 times against 16 stolen bases.  Not a good ratio for a player whose strength was his speed.

Once it became clear that Otero was never going to hit well enough to be a major league regular, he was replaced as the center fielder by prospect Wendell Magee.  Sadly, of the two players, Otero probably had the more successful Phillies career.

Final Analysis

With so many stars on the current Phillies, Victorino sometimes gets a bit overlooked.  That is a bit of a shame as Victorino has arguably been the team’s offensive MVP this season.

 It is almost taken for granted that center field is going to be a strength for the team.  That wasn’t always the case, as the team used to have to throw one-dimensional players like Otero out there and hope they contributed.


Ghosts of Phillies Past: Hunter Pence and Turk Wendell

August 5, 2011

Since acquiring Hunter Pence at the trading deadline last Friday, the Phillies have been on a tear, winning seven in a row.

The pitching has been a given all year, but with the addition of Pence, the lineup has also been performing well.

Featured Phillie of the Week: Hunter Pence

We’ll take a look at this year’s big trade deadline acquisition: Hunter Pence.

The price may have been high, as they had to trade away their two highest rated prospects (along with two others) to get him.  But so far, the deal looks like a good one. 

It was no secret that the Phillies lineup was unbalanced in favor of left-handers, and Pence’s right-handed bat helps counter that.  Now, when opposing managers make late game pitching change, they are either going to have to make an additional move, or at least one of the Phillies hitters is going to get a favorable matchup.

It might just be a coincidence (they were facing the sub par Pirates and Rockies pitching staffs), but the left-handed hitters sandwiching Pence – Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez – have both performed well since his arrival.

And in addition to his mere presence helping the other hitters, Pence has performed strongly in his own right, batting .360 with 5 RBIs in his 6 games as a Phillie.

Ghost of Phillies Past: Turk Wendell

The Phillies have been masterful at the trade deadline in recent seasons.  Not only have they picked up stars like Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence, they have also gotten lesser, but still vital contributors like Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs.

This wasn’t always the case.

Under former GM Ed Wade, the Phillies tried to improve themselves at the trade deadline, yet their efforts usually failed miserably.

Perhaps Wade’s worst acquisition was that of relief pitcher Turk Wendell in 2001.

Before coming to the Phillies, Wendell had a reputation throughout baseball as a “character.”  When he first came up to the major leagues, he would go through a bizarre routine which included eating licorice while pitching and brushing his teeth between innings.

Eventually, he toned down the antics and developed into a solid relief pitcher.  He was a key reliever for the Mets on their pennant winning team in 2000.

The 2001 Phillies surprised the baseball world by contending for the NL East title.  As the trade deadline approached, Wade thought that the bullpen was showing signs of fatigue, and so he traded with the Mets for Wendell and fellow reliever Dennis Cook.

In theory, bringing in a solid reliever like Wendell should have helped the bullpen.  The problem was that Wendell had been used heavily by the Mets that season, and was probably more worn out than the Phillies relievers had been.

Wendell was awful for the Phillies, recording a 7.47 ERA.  A large part of his problem was his lack of control as he walked 15 batters in 15 innings.  Thanks in part to his horrible performance, the Phillies relievers pitched poorly after the trade deadline, and were a large part of why the team failed to make the playoffs.

Wendell went on to miss the 2002 season with an elbow injury.  He managed to rebound and have a solid 2003 season, but the lasting memory of his Phillies tenure is his dreadful 2001 performance.

Final Analysis

Ed Wade’s failings at midseason deals are a large reason why the Phillies never made the playoffs under his watch, and why he is now the teams ex-general manager.  In the following years, he would make further moves to acquire bullpen help, picking up pitchers such as Felix Rodriguez and Mike Williams.  None of the moves ever worked out especially well.

We’ve clearly come a long way since those days.  Now, instead of getting questionable relief pitchers, the Phillies seem to bring in All-Star caliber reinforcements every year.