Philadelphia Phillies' Biggest Letdowns in Past 30 Years
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With the trades yesterday of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the Phillies effectively waved the white flag on the 2012 season, and for all intents and purposes they closed the book on arguably the greatest era of baseball in the franchise's storied 129-year history.
Whereas Victorino was a Rule 5 guy who blossomed into an All-Star in Philadelphia, along the way being a major factor in the Phillies' 2008 World Series, Hunter Pence's short tenure as a Phillie can only be described as a disappointment.
The only other era in the franchise's history that was comparable to this one was the time between 1976 and 1983. Next season will mark 30 seasons between the two greatest periods in Phillies' baseball.
In that time, the Phillies won one of their three trips to the World Series and also won six divisional titles. For all the great moments and players, there were some big letdowns.
Here is a look at the 10 biggest disappointments over the past 30 years in Phillies baseball.
Honorable Mention 1: Domonic Brown
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The Phillies drafted Domonic Brown six long years ago in the 2006 MLB draft. We've been told by the likes of writer Bill Conlin and more reputable people in the Phillies organization that Domonic Brown is a once in a lifetime, five-tool player who has been untouchable at every trade deadline since the Phillies selected him.
In that time, during brief stints up with the big club, we've learned that this can't miss superstar has trouble hitting big league pitching and can't play any of the outfield's three positions.
With each passing season he looks more and more like a bust.
We'll give him the benefit of the doubt and not include him in the top ten list, but its time to put up or shut up for Brown and the Phillies.
With the exodus of two-thirds of the Phillies outfield, Brown now gets a two month Major League audition to finally win a job on the team for 2013.
He can't play in the minors again next season—that would be ridiculous. It's decision time. He's either a Philadelphia Phillie on Opening Day 2013 or they will trade him in the offseason.
If the latter happens, he'll officially be one of the biggest letdowns in Phillie history.
Honorable Mention 2: J.D. Drew
The Phillies were foolish to select Drew
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The Phillies selected J.D. Drew second overall in the 1997 draft the same year that he was named the Collegiate Player of the Year.
Drew and his agent Scott Boras declared that the college phenom would not sign a contract that was less than $10 million.
The Phillies, who had no intention of giving that kind of money to an unproven player, chose to ignore these requests from Boras and his client and drafted Drew anyway.
Drew, who could have been a huge help to the then floundering Phillies, stayed true to his word and refused to sign with the team that drafted him. He re-entered the draft in 1998 and was picked fifth overall by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Drew became public enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia, and the Phillies wasted a second overall pick.
It was yet another misstep for a team that bungled their way through the late 1990s.
10. Mike Lieberthal
The Mediocre "Star" Catcher
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Mike Lieberthal was recently added to the Phillies Wall of Fame, which says more about the arbitrary ridiculousness of the Phillies having a policy of adding a player each summer to their Wall of Fame than it says about Lieberthal's greatness.
Lieberthal was picked third overall in the 1990 Major League draft and looked to be then fan favorite and team leader, Darren Daulton's, heir apparent as the team's catcher.
He made his MLB debut in 1994, and while his career was by no means a failure, he never lived up to the expectations that the team had when it made him the third played selected overall in 1990.
He had multiple injuries, which hampered his development early in his career, and he had questionable game management skills and an aloofness that prevented him from ever really connecting with the fanbase.
When he left the franchise for Los Angeles following he 2006 season, there were nary any wet eyes in Philadelphia.
In 2007 with their starting catcher and supposed team leader of the past 12 seasons gone, the Phillies made the playoffs for the first time since 1993, the season before Lieberthal made his Phillies debut.
9. Kenny Lofton
The Phillies Version of Ricky Waters
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The Phillies, after the 2004 season ended and who had a beautiful new stadium in Citizens Bank Park and a home run hitting superstar in Jim Thome, wanted to add a player to their lineup who had a vast amount of postseason experience.
Enter: Kenny Lofton.
Lofton, who at the time of his Phillies debut in the spring of 2005 was a 14 season, 38-year-old veteran, was not expected to be a star player but was expected to bring leadership and a sense of winning to a team that was trying to put together a run to the postseason.
Lofton had plenty of postseason experience, having played in the playoffs nine seasons in his 13-year career. He was expected to set an example and bring maturity to the team.
He is most remembered for when, during his one season in Philadelphia, he refused to run into Citizens Bank Park's outfield wall to catch fly balls saying (via phillies.com):
I'm not going to run into that wall. I'm not stupid. I'm not going to kill myself. It's tough when you go after a ball at full speed. You want to go, but you tell yourself, I have to stop.
The following season Aaron Rowand became a fan favorite for leaving a chunk of his face in the same center field wall that Lofton avoided like it was Avian Bird Flu.
8. Jon Lieber
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Ever since trading Curt Schilling in 2000, the Phillies have been desperately looking for an ace pitcher (see Millwood, Kevin).
In 2005, they thought they finally had their man when they signed starting pitcher Jon Lieber to replace the aforementioned Kevin Millwood.
In 2003 and 2004, Lieber had a combined 31 wins for the New York Yankees. He led the team in wins with 17 in 2003.
The Lieber signing was aggressive and seemed too good to be true. The Phillies (then considered a "small market team" by their ownership) plucked an ace pitcher from the Evil Empire? Unheard of.
Of course, Lieber was also one of the pitchers for the Yankees to pitch during that team's historic four-straight game implosion in the 2004 ALCS, which is how he pretty much carried himself as a Phillie.
He wasn't bad for the Phillies, but he wasn't stellar either.
He did lead the team with 17 wins in 2005, but the name "Jon Lieber" doesn't leap from the lips when someone is asked to name the great Phillies pitchers of the 21st century.
His tenure as a Phillie ended with an ankle injury early in the 2007 season.
He was signed to be an ace and a game changer. Instead he was just a caretaker, as the Phillies matured into perennial contenders.
7. Kevin Millwood
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Kevin Millwood was traded to the Phillies in 2003 by the Atlanta Braves, who were trying to cut their salary.
Millwood was thought to be the team's answer to the departed Curt Schilling, and things got off to a great start as Millwood tossed only the second ever no-hitter in Veterans Stadium history on April 27, 2003 against the Giants. Unfortunately, the love affair between the city of Philadelphia and the husky, goatee-d pitcher soured quickly.
As the Phillies chased the Florida Marlins for the wild card late in to the season Millwood faltered. Yes, he won 14 games but also lost 12, and he allowed the most stolen bases as a pitcher in all of major league baseball with 41.
During an important September game against the Marlins on a humid Miami night, Millwood looked out of sorts. The enduring image of him from his time as a Phillie was him sitting on a stool on the On Deck circle that night because he was too exhausted to stand on his own.
After being pulled from his last start of the 2003 season he angrily threw his glove into the Vet Stadium crowd, and it looked like his career in Philadelphia was over.
But wait, the Phillies inexplicably brought him back for the 2004 campaign where he went an unimpressive 9-6 with a 4.85 ERA. Not exactly the stuff of a pitching staff ace.
The Phillies let him walk after 2004.
6. Cliff Lee Version 2.0
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On December 15, 2010, Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies shocked the baseball world by agreeing to a five-year, $120 million deal.
It marked the return of one of the most beloved pitchers in Phillies history, which is kind of nutty when you realize that the man had only played 12 regular season games as a Phillie up to that point.
After starting out 5-0 when the Phillies acquired him at the 2009 trade deadline, Lee went 2-4. It was during the playoffs, however, when the Legend of Cliff Lee was written in Philadelphia.
Lee went 4-0 in the 2009 postseason that saw the Phillies fall to the New York Yankees in six games in the World Series. Lee had both of the Phillies Series wins, including a Game 1 domination of New York.
The city was stunned, hurt and angry when Ruben Amaro, Jr. traded Lee to Seattle in the 2009 offseason to make room for Roy Halladay.
That anger and hurt turned to elation when Lee returned a year later, especially after it was revealed that he took less money to return to Philadelphia than the hated Yankees had offered him.
Lee did very well during his first full season on the Phillies as part of the team's "Four Aces" pitching staff.
But then came the postseason.
After obliterating the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS and jumping out to a 4-0 lead in Game 2, it looked like the Phillies had a cake walk to the World Series in front of them.
Then the wheels came off.
A 4-0 lead is supposed to be safe in the hands of a guy who would be the ace pitcher on 27 other MLB teams.
Lee unraveled, the Cardinals rallied to win and the Phillies never fully recovered and eventually lost the series in five games.
Lee came into the 2012 season looking for redemption and found none.
His play has been baffling. He didn't record his first win of the season until July 4th.
The offense, missing Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, let him down in some games, but Lee blew a few three and four-run leads during the first half of the season as well.
At the trading deadline, the Phillies were said to be shopping for Lee but couldn't find a team willing to take on the remainder of that enormous contract that he signed with Philadelphia. Ruben Amaro, Jr. has since denied this.
The fact that rumors swirled around the one-time ace at all shows what a letdown he has been since his return to the club.
5. Gregg Jefferies
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Gregg Jefferies was a big ticket free-agent signing for the Phillies after the 1994 season.
In 1995, Major League Baseball was returning from the strike of 1994 that wiped out a World Series and many fans' interest in the sport. The Phillies wanted to make a big splash by signing a big name that would help bring the fans back and also help to recapture some of the mojo from their magical 1993 World Series run. The All-Star Jefferies was thought to be just the man for the job.
Whereas that 1993 team was gruff, unkempt, surly and tough as shoe leather, Jefferies was polished, clean cut and perceived as soft.
Nagging injuries limited his effectiveness.
He didn't gel well with the veteran players on the team—he was not manager Jim Fergosi's favorite player when he arrived.
As their decline towards irrelevance continued throughout the late 1990s, Jefferies, their one time big name free-agent signing, was traded to Anaheim in 1998.
4. Adam Eaton
Invisible Member or the '08 World Series Team, Adam Eaton
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The Phillies drafted Eaton 11th overall in the 1996 draft.
He climbed the ranks of the Phillies minor league system only to be traded by the team after the 1999 season to the Padres for Andy Ashby.
Eaton pitched very well for the Padres and other teams but suffered through nagging injuries, including a bizarre one where he stabbed himself in the stomach trying to open a DVD case with a knife.
Hey, it happens—those cases are ridiculously hard to crack into.
At the end of the 2006 season, the Phillies signed Eaton as a free agent to a lucrative three-year contract.
His Phillies debut against the Atlanta Braves in 2007 was not the best debut that a pitcher could hope for, as he gave up seven earned runs in just 4.2 innings of work.
He also was the pitcher of record as the Phillies recorded their franchise record setting 10,000th loss that same season.
He finished 2007 with a 10-10 record and a terrible ERA of 6.29.
He started 2008 poorly as well. He went 3-8 in 19 starts with a 5.71 ERA in the first half of the season.
After the Phillies acquired Joe Blanton in a trade with the Oakland A's, Eaton lost his spot in the rotation and was optioned to the minor leagues.
He was called up in late September as the roster increased but never threw a pitch again for the Phillies and wasn't included on the postseason roster. That fact didn't preclude him from bragging about his World Series ring.
The Phillies released him in the offseason.
He showed up to collect his World Series ring when they were presented to the players in April of 2009.
The Phillies fans booed him.
3. Andy Ashby
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The man that the Phillies originally traded Adam Eaton for was also originally drafted by the team and then wound up elsewhere.
Ashby pitched for the Phillies 1991 and 1992 before being acquired by Colorado in the 1993 expansion draft.
When the Phillies traded Eaton and two other prospects to San Diego in 2000, Ashby was touted as a the potential ace replacement for a disgruntled Curt Schilling, who had requested a trade to a contender.
Ashby, who had excelled for the San Diego Padres, pitched poorly for the Phillies and went 4-7 with a 5.68 ERA.
He was traded to the Braves mid-season and left the Phillies who had to unload the unhappy Schilling in the lurch as well.
2. Hunter Pence
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Ah, remember way back in July of 2011 when the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence?
How about the cut-aways during the broadcast of a Phillies game to the broadcast of an Astros game as Pence was pulled from the outfield and tearfully hugged his now former Houston teammates goodbye in the dugout?
How the next day he was shown on CSN Philly arriving at Citizens Bank Park in an SUV wide-eyed and smiling excitedly while waiting to join his new team?
His "Let's go eat" slogan after wins which became a tee shirt and then the moniker of a charitable cause?
He was supposed to be the missing piece on a team that had four ace pitchers and was well on their way to 100 wins.
He was going to be the desperately needed big right-handed bat in the lineup that would put the Phillies over the top and as they entered the 2011 postseason en route to their second World Series title in just three years.
Sadly, it was not meant to be.
Pence did his job well as protection for Ryan Howard in the lineup for the Phillies. The team won 102 games and coasted into the postseason.
In the playoffs, Pence's—like the rest of his teammates'—bat feel asleep against the Cardinals pitching.
He only batted .211 and, like the rest of the Phillies, was stymied by Chris Carpenter in the Cardinals Game 5, 1-0 shutout of the Phillies.
When it was clear that Ryan Howard would miss a significant portion of the 2012 season due to an injury, Pence was looked upon to be the man to carry the Phillies offense.
When Chase Utley went down, the pressure on him to perform increased.
Expectations were high for Pence.
Philadelphia Magazine even ran a cover story calling him the next great Phillie.
But again, Pence faltered.
His numbers were mainly hollow.
He was not an adequate replacement for Ryan Howard.
There were too many bad at-bats and his fielding was abysmal.
The fact that he was due over $15 million in 2013 was reason enough for the Phillies to cut ties with the awkward right fielder.
The Hunter Pence era lasted only 367 days. One year and two days after the Phillies acquired him to be the missing piece that would win the team a World Series, Pence was reduced to a footnote in the franchise's history.
1. Lance Parrish
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In 1987, Lance Parrish had a World Series ring, had won five Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Gloves for catcher and was a six-time All-Star with the Detroit Tigers. The ten-year veteran was also a free agent.
There was collusion between the owners of Major League Baseball franchises to keep free-agent offers low or within reason at least. The Phillies decided to buck the system and gave Parrish, who expected to re-sign with Detroit, an offer that he couldn't refuse.
Lance Parrish arrived in town with much fanfare. The Phillies made the team slogan for the 1987 season "Lance Us a Pennant!"
Things kind of went bad from the start of the season for Lance Parrish...and his wife and kids.
The Philly fans were on me the whole time. Everybody expected me to be the missing ingredient to make us a championship ballclub. What really got me upset was some guy mouthing off to my wife in front of our kids (at a game). And this was one week into the season, my first season. There's no call for that.
It was over the line for the fans to harass Parrish's wife and kids, but not Parrish himself. He basically stunk and was getting paid millions of dollars to do so.
Unlike Hunter Pence in 2011, Parrish wasn't expected to be merely a piece of the puzzle; he was supposed to be the guy to bring the Phillies back to the World Series in Mike Schmidt's declining years.
Parrish spent three seasons in Philadelphia before fleeing for the west coast.
Looking back 25 years later even Parrish concedes how much of a letdown he was in Philadelphia.