Philadelphia Phillies: 25 Biggest 'Mulligan' Moments in Franchise History
If you had just one mulligan—just one opportunity to look back on your life, pick out a bad moment, and erase it from your life's "score"—what would you use it on? How different would your life be without that one moment?
For the Philadelphia Phillies, it would rewrite the history books.
The Phillies' organization is littered with "mulligan moments." From terrible deals, to bad trades, to hideous uniforms, to quotes you can never forget, you can pick your poison. The worst part is knowing that you can't remove them all. That would be sort of like that irrational fear of time travel: You don't want to change something in fear of changing everything.(I know, that's a nerdy analogy.)
So you have to pick and choose your spots. What moments in Phillies' history can we comb through, do away with for good, but not change the entire landscape of the organization?
This slide show will bring quite a few to your attention.
For news, rumors, analysis and game recaps during spring training, check out Greg's blog: The Phillies Phactor!
25. Man... Bird... Thing... Down
Given the opportunity to see the future, I don't think the Phillie Phanatic would be making many extra appearances for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Bad things tend to happen.
During one such game last season, the Phanatic was doing one of his normal routines above the home team's dugout, rallying the fans while the opposition took their at-bats. Needless to say, the Phanatic needs to pay better attention.
The opposition hit a screaming foul ball into the stands and somehow, hit the Phanatic right in the neck! The creature from the Galapagos Islands crumpled into the stands but was okay. In hindsight, he probably could have done without that traumatic moment.
For a bunch of other moments that you could insert into this slide, check out this slide show about some of the Phillies' strangest moments.
24. As Good as It Was, Could Game 5 Have Been Better?
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Roy Halladay has never been shy about the reason he wanted to play for the Phillies: They gave him the best shot at a World Series ring. Heading into the NLDS, the St. Louis Cardinals were going to need fate and a little bit of luck to beat him.
They got both.
Game 5 of last season's NLDS was a matchup between friends and aces, Halladay and Chris Carpenter. Carpenter stymied the Phillies' lineup while Halladay allowed just one run in the first inning, pitching his heart out after that.
We all know how it ended. What if Halladay never gives up that one run? How much of a different game does this become?
Even better, what if the Phillies scored a single run, or two runs, or three in support of Halladay?
Take your mulligan and apply it however you please in this situation.
23. Drafting Chad McConnell
Heading into the 1992 draft, not many teams would mind winding up with Chad McConnell—a very solid pick going into draft day.
In hindsight, that's a much different story.
Just a few picks after the New York Yankees selected Derek Jeter, the Phillies missed out on an excellent opportunity to upgrade their farm system by swinging and missing on McConnell, who's play with Creighton University was impressive enough to land him a spot on the Olympic team.
Players to go after McConnell included Johnny Damon, Jason Kendall, Charles Johnson and Shannon Stewart.
22. The Mad Dash II
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Had the Phillies won Game 4 of the 2009 World Series, we would have been looking at an entirely different landscape thereafter, and they had a chance to do it.
Tied at four heading into the top half of the ninth inning against the New York Yankees, the Phillies handed the ball off to closer Brad Lidge, who's perfect 2008 season helped the Phillies to the World Series, and who's 2009 season would best illustrate the Phillies' lack of consistency.
After getting the first two outs, Johnny Damon collected a single. With Mark Teixeira at the plate, the Phillies would put on the drastic over-shift. Damon saw this as an opportunity to steal second, and when he realized that no one was covering the bag (thanks to the shift) saw it as an opportunity to steal third as well.
That play was an obvious punch to the gut for the Phillies. The Yankees would rally for three runs in the inning and take a commanding three games to one lead in the series.
21. Delaying Game 5 of the 2008 World Series
Given the outcome of the 2008 World Series, I'm not sure that there is a Phillies' fan out there that would change a thing, but if the club had dropped Game 5 of that series because of rain, someone would have had hell to pay from an enraged fan base.
Realistically, Game 5 was a mess.
With a giant mass of green heading towards the Philadelphia area on all radar screens, there was a large group of people who were surprised that the start of Game 5 wasn't delayed, and more likely than not, postponed.
The umpiring crew and the Phillies' grounds crew thought differently, however, and Game 5 of the World Series began.
As the rains rolled into the area and the Tampa Bay Rays tied up the score, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig made an unprecedented decision: He suspended the game. Never before had this been done.
Two days later, the Phillies would win the World Series, but in hindsight, this game was a mess. I'm sure that MLB, the Phillies, and even the fans, subconsciously, would have liked this game handled a bit better.
After all, a whole set of new rules were created because of it.
20. The Infamous Matt Stairs Quote
Matt Stairs' titanic, postseason home run back in 2008 will forever live in Phillies lore. Just a few minutes after Shane Victorino had tied the game, Stairs greeted Los Angeles Dodgers' closer Jonathan Broxton with a "moon shot" to put the Phillies ahead.
The home run was great, but Stairs postgame quote was classic (and a bit unfortunate).
Asked to put the feeling of hitting that mammoth home run into words, Stairs said, "When you get that nice celebration coming into the dugout and you're getting your ass hammered by guys—there's no better feeling than to have that done."
We knew what you meant, Matt.
19. Drafting Jeff Jackson
The draft is a difficult beast to tame, especially in the past when it wasn't as specialized an area of the game as it is now, so when teams missed on some players, it wasn't as surprising. That's why you won't see many failed draft picks on this list.
But boy, the Phillies really swung and missed on Jackson.
Using their fourth overall selection to pick him in 1989, Jackson was a supremely talented, athletic outfielder that was supposed to lead the charge for the future of the Phillies.
He never reached the MLB.
Jackson fizzled out in the minor leagues and never made it past AA. Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox would draft Frank Thomas just a few picks later, and other names like Charles Johnson, Cal Eldred, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch and Todd Jones would all go after Jackson.
18. The Scott Rolen Trade
With the deals for Curt Schilling and Bobby Abreu in mind, the most frustrating part of the Scott Rolen trade may have been the simple fact that the Phillies were finally on the right track, but then again, not really close.
The whole world knew that Rolen wanted out of Philly. He couldn't imagine the Phillies contending and wanted to be shipped off to a contender. The St. Louis Cardinals came calling and the Phillies sent the All-Star third baseman to the Redbirds for a package of three players.
The Phillies continued to perceive value in MLB players, despite the obvious need of rebuilding the franchise. Though Placido Polanco would prove to be a valuable infielder, he wasn't what the club needed at the time. Neither was Mike Timlin, who pitched in just 30 games with the Phillies and found greener pastures in Boston the next season.
The most interesting player in the package was actually (close to) a prospect, Bud Smith. Smith had thrown a no-hitter the previous year, and his on-again, off-again minor league numbers made him an interesting acquisition.
Of course, he would fizzle out in the minors for the Phillies while Rolen found "baseball heaven."
17. Jason Michaels' Blunder
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Baseball is the type of sport where a player is almost never punished for trying too hard, but just go ahead and try telling that to former Phillies' outfielder Jason Michaels.
With the Phillies on the road, playing the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, Michales was about to make someone's day. Charles Thomas was at the plate for the Braves and he hit a scorcher towards the warning track.
Michaels got on his horse and went back to get it, running at a full sprint trying to get under the ball, and extraordinarily enough, he actually caught up to it. He had a beat on it and it hit him in the glove, but he lost control of it and it started falling towards the ground.
With all of this happening in sprint-mode, Michaels made one last effort to grab the ball, swiping at it with his bare hand.
I'm still trying to believe what actually happened.
With his bare hand, Michaels swatted the ball over the wall. Michaels swatted the ball over the wall and gave Thomas and the Braves a home run!
16. The Bobby Abreu Trade
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Part of me believes the Phillies did the best they could in trading Bobby Abreu.
That part of me is obviously smaller than the part that believes they could have done much better, which is the reason that this slide exists in the first place.
There was definitely a need to trade Abreu. The outfielder was unhappy with his situation in Philadelphia, and according to numerous people, causing quite the negative effect in a young, promising clubhouse. He needed to be traded. The real question was to where.
There were plenty of teams in contention that would have loved to have had Abreu's bat inserted into their lineup, but none were willing to pay more of his contract than the New York Yankees.
Instead of taking the opportunity to add a few valuable prospects to their farm system, the Phillies dumped Abreu's contract on the Yankees, clearing payroll.
It was a necessary move, but they could have done better.
15. Tim McCarver's Grand Slam Three-Run Single
If you thought reading that title was a challenge, just try explaining what actually happened.
On July 4, 1976, the Phillies had planned to celebrate the nation's bicentennial in fashion—by playing a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. With Steve Carlton getting the nod in Game 1, Tim McCarver was penciled in as the game's catcher, as per the norm.
What wasn't normal was McCarver's second inning at-bat. With the bases loaded, a man with 26 total home runs in nine seasons for the Phillies stepped to the plate. Larry Demery's pitch was hammered over the right field wall.
McCarver had hit a grand slam.
However, it was relatively clear that rounding the bases for a home run was not something that the catcher was used to, especially with three runners ahead of him. McCarver rounded the bases a little too quickly, passing teammate Garry Maddox between first and second as he waited to see if the ball was going over the fence.
The umpire called McCarver out and rewarded him with a three-run single.
That is the story of Tim McCarver's grand slam, three-run single.
14. Saturday Night Specials
Where do I start?
After being knocked out of the NLCS in three straight seasons, many believed that 1979 would be a make-or-break year for the Phillies, especially after they spent a large chunk of money on free agent Pete Rose in the off-season.
Needless to say, getting the fans involved was a must for this club. After three straight trips to the NLCS and the addition of Rose, the Phillies were certainly World Series contenders.
Their "Saturday Night Special" uniforms were not.
The Phillies had intended to use the all-maroon, pajama-like uniforms on Saturday nights as a promotional event with cheap prices. (The "Saturday Night Special" moniker was a play on the slang term for handguns during the same period, which were inexpensive).
They were hideous.
The players hated wearing them. The fans hated watching them. The Phillies quickly became the laughingstock of baseball. The players resolved to never wear them again, and they didn't.
Of course, during the closing ceremonies of Veterans Stadium, former starting pitcher Larry Christenson, who started the only "Saturday Night Special" for the Phillies, would become the only player outside of Mike Schmidt—who wore his on an All-Star tour of Japan—to wear the uniform a second time.
13. The Complete and Utter Failure of Freddy Garcia
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Yes, this really happened.
Heading into the 2007 season, the Phillies were not a bad team. They would go on to prove that by winning the National League East. However, they knew as well as anyone in the game that if they were going to contend for a World Series, they were going to need pitching.
After watching Gavin Floyd flop like a fish out of water in the MLB while wearing red pinstripes, the Phillies decided to deal him—along with pitching prospect Gio Gonzalez—to the Chicago White Sox.
In return, the Phillies received a former ace, Freddy Garcia. The club believed that Garcia would strengthen the top of their rotation and help them battle for a postseason appearances.
He made 11 starts.
He won one game.
Meanwhile, the Phillies would watch Floyd develop into a good starting pitcher with the White Sox, while Gonzalez would find a home with the Oakland A's, becoming quite the pitcher before being dealt to the Washington Nationals in the offseason.
12. The Philadelphia Blue Jays
When Bob Carpenter Jr. became the president of the Phillies in 1943, the organization hadn't had a winning season in more than 10 years. I think it is safe (and politically correct) to say that they stunk.
So when Carpenter and his father took over the franchise, they wanted to start with a clean slate. Plans to move the franchise had been unsuccessful, so instead, they intended to change the organization's name to the Philadelphia Blue Jays.
In fact, they did.
The Phillies even wore new uniforms signifying the new moniker. The only problem was that no one liked it. The fans didn't like it. The players didn't like it. Nobody liked being called the "Blue Jays." In their minds, they were the Phillies.
The moniker change was an absolute failure, and by 1949, it was dropped.
Coincidence or not, the Phillies would make a run at the World Series a year later.
11. Overpaying for Jonathan Papelbon
Yong Kim / www.philly.com
I know. Jonathan Papelbon thrown a single pitch in a meaningful game yet for the Phillies and there is an outside chance that he'll actually live up to his contract.
I'll take the under.
It's not that Papelbon is a bad pitcher. Pound for pound, the man is one of the best closers in all of baseball, following a career progression first established by the greatest closer of all-time (and former rival) Mariano Rivera.
However, when a team ties up more than $50 million in a closer, it's asking for trouble. Yes, there is a fair amount of importance tied into the closer's role, but to believe that you must make that kind of investment for a man to pitch about 70 innings a season (in a great year) is asinine.
There's a great chance Papelbon becomes one of the greatest closers the Phillies have ever had.
They'll still want a mulligan on that contract in five seasons.
10. Fleeced for Schilling
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Heading into the 2000 season, there weren't many people that expected the Phillies to hang on to ace Curt Schilling. He was in the final year of his contract. The Phillies weren't going to contend, and with their new ballpark still several seasons away, would benefit from adding to their farm system.
The problem is that their direction at the trade deadline was questionable.
Instead of adding top talent, the Phillies sent Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a bunch of replacement level players. Though Vicente Padilla, Travis Lee, Omar Daal and Nelson Figueroa would all pitch at the MLB level, none would have the same impact as a top prospect could have a few seasons later.
Of course, Schilling would eventually help the D'backs to a World Series title the following year.
9. Jim Thome's "Mega-Deal"
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Don't get me wrong. Signing Jim Thome was an excellent idea.
Set to open the brand new Citizens Bank Park a year later, the Phillies knew that they had room to go out and make a splash on the free agent market. A big-ticket free agent would give them an excellent marketing opportunity and hopefully revive the dormant fan base.
What the Phillies didn't need to do was splurge on the free agent market, despite the fact that Thome would be an offensive threat for several years in Philly.
With slugging prospect Ryan Howard just a few seasons away, the Phillies would quickly find a logjam at first base. When the Chicago White Sox came calling, the Phillies found themselves strangled by Thome's deal for several seasons into the future, even as he was penciled in as the designated hitter for the White Sox.
This is kind of a Catch 22. Do you hurt yourself to help yourself?
Would you use a mulligan on this deal?
8. Trading Cliff Lee
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I tend to be a bit of an optimist. In hindsight, although the Phillies traded Cliff Lee in December of 2009, they did wind up with Roy Halladay and Phillippe Aumont that season, and now heading into 2012, Lee is a member of the Phillies' rotation yet again.
The Phillies' fan base tends not to think like I do.
After watching Lee pitch the Phillies into the regular season and cruise through the postseason and into the World Series, they were devastated to see him go in the offseason, even if it meant that Halladay was on his way to Philadelphia.
Though the Phillies received a few good prospects in the deal, they were forced to make a splash at the trade deadline to increase their postseason hopes and, as a result, brought Roy Oswalt to town. One must wonder whether or not it would have been more prudent to just hold on to Lee.
7. Signing Adam Eaton
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The more I try and understand why the Phillies threw a ton of money at Adam Eaton as a free agent, the more I feel as though my head is going to explode.
Let's think this through for a moment. In 2006 with the Texas Rangers, Eaton missed time with an injury. He made just 13 starts. In those 13 starts, Eaton posted a record of 7-4 with an ERA of 5.12. Prior to that, his career high in wins was 11. His career low in ERA was 4.08.
He was a mediocre, back-of-the-rotation pitcher at best.
For some reason, the Phillies were the only team in the world that thought he was worth three years and $24 million. (Seriously, in the world.)
He wouldn't even make it through his guaranteed three seasons. In just two seasons, Eaton made 49 starts, posting a record of 14-18 while posting an ERA of 6.10.
There is just no rationalizing this deal.
6. Stop Chico Ruiz from Stealing Home!
Who would have thought that a career .240 hitter may have been single-handedly responsible for arguably the greatest collapse in the history of baseball, and certainly, the greatest collapse in the history of Phillies' baseball?
That man was Chico Ruiz, and many Phillies (and fans) thought his steal of home during the 1964 regular season was the play that started the infamous "Phold."
Squaring off with the Cincinnati Reds, the game was tied at zero. Ruiz got a quick start off of third base, and as he was on his way home, the ball got away from Phillies' catcher Clay Dalrymple. That would be the only score of the game, and the Phillies lost 10 of their next 12.
Dick Allen would say that play "took the wind out of our sails."
What if the Phillies had an opportunity to avoid this play and win the ballgame? Would the Phold have been avoided?
5. Trading Fergie Jenkins
Long before the Phillies practically gave Ryne Sandberg to the Chicago Cubs, they practically gave them Fergie Jenkins.
After signing the starting pitcher as an amateur free agent in 1962, Jenkins made just eight appearances as a member of the Phillies, none of them starts. After the "Phold" of 1964, the Phillies' franchise went into a downward spiral, and knee-jerk reactions were part of the reason why.
In their quest for starting pitching, the Phillies sent Jenkins to the Cubs as part of the deal that brought Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson to Philadelphia. Buhl would be a non-factor, but Jackson had a couple of good years for the Phillies.
Jenkins would have a Hall of Fame career with the Cubs.
4. The Big Piece's Huge Deal
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Feeling the pressure to lock up your All-Star first baseman is understandable. After all, Ryan Howard was set to hit the free agent market following the 2011 season alongside the likes of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Gonzalez.
There was a fear that those three, elite first basemen would drive up Howard' price.
The problem is simple: Howard is not an elite first baseman. He is a very good first baseman, but not elite. There are big holes in the game of the "Big Piece," and it would be foolish to think otherwise. You have to take him for what he is: a big bodied, slugging first baseman that is going to hit mammoth home runs and drive in a lot more.
In the last few seasons, he has become a modest defender. The real question is as simple as this: What would you pay for that production?
With two years remaining on his deal at the time, the Phillies decided to turn a blind eye to the obvious signs of regression and history (which has shown that big bodied first basemen don't age well) and extended his contract for five years and $125 million, guaranteed.
Again, Howard may be a great player over that stretch. He could make several trips to the All-Star Game.
His contract will still be an albatross.
3. Watching Ryne Sandberg Play for the Cubs
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In theory, the Phillies knew they needed a shortstop. The Chicago Cubs were interested in the idea as well, as they were willing to take fiery, slick-fielding shortstop Larry Bowa off of the Phillies' hands in exchange for the younger Ivan De Jesus.
That didn't seem like a bad idea for the Phillies, knowing that Bowa was on the back side of his career. All the Phillies needed to do to complete the transaction was throw in a young prospect for the Cubs to develop.
That list included infielder Ryne Sandberg.
The Cubs' general manager at the time was familiar with Sandberg's work. That man was Dallas Green, who had just managed the Phillies to their first World Series title just two seasons prior. The Phillies considered Sandberg a throw-in. Green considered him the prize of the deal.
The current Phillies' AAA manager is now enshrined in Cooperstown, so I think Green wins that battle.
2. Avoiding "Black Friday"
Greg Luzinski was ridiculously strong at the plate. They didn't call him "The Bull" for nothing.
However, that strength at the plate was drawn from his big stature, and that same stature often left manager Danny Ozark using a defensive replacement late in games. Luzinski was a great hitter. His defense left a lot to be desired.
That was the case during Game 3 of the 1977 NLCS.
With the Phillies leading heading into the ninth inning, it seemed as though they were in control. Surprisingly enough, Ozark had decided to leave Luzinski in left field, despite the fact that a faster, better defensive left fielder was left on the bench in Jerry Martin.
Gene Garber retired the first two batters of the inning. Los Angeles Dodgers' pinch-hitter would shock the Phillies with a drag bunt, bringing Manny Mota to the plate.
Sure enough, Mota hit the ball to left field, forcing Luzinski to go and get it. He couldn't. The ball bounced right off his glove and rolled to the wall. Luzkinski would then make an errant throw towards second base.
The Dodgers would eventually win the game in that inning.
One of the worst losses of all-time, this is one the Phillies would surely love to have back.
1. "Touch 'em All, Joe!"
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If you gave former Phillies' closer Mitch Williams the opportunity to use a mulligan on just one pitch, he'd let you know which one he'd chosen before the sentence was finished, but then again, you didn't really have to ask, did you?
What if the situation could have been avoided altogether?
The 1993 Phillies were that storybook team that only comes along every so often. What seemed like a rag-tag group of friends was actually the best team in the National League, and throughout the season, it sure felt as though they were destined to win it all.
Then came the Toronto Blue Jays.
The American League Champions were back to defend their crown, and they didn't care about the Phillies' storybook finish. The World Series was a battle, and the Phillies had an opportunity to force a Game 7.
Manager Jim Fregosi left the ball in the hands of his closer, Williams, and nine out of ten times in '93, that wasn't a bad idea. This was that one time where it was. Williams was obviously out of gas, pitching on heart.
Despite having relievers ready and willing to pitch, Fregosi decided to role the dice.
The rest is history.