Ranking the 20 Biggest Controversies in Philadelphia Phillies History
Baseball is a business.
As much as we would like to think that baseball is truly "America's pastime" and a game that we can know and love, it is important to understand that at the professional level, the game of baseball is considered "professional" for a reason. It's a business.
There are millions of dollars on the line and reputations to be made and lost every day. As is the case with any business like the sport of baseball, there are bound to be a few controversies that pop up and the Philadelphia Phillies have seen quite a few.
So what's the best way to avoid a baseball controversy?
Well, you're not going to be. But the one thing that you can do to prepare yourself is to look back over the franchise history and learn to avoid the mistakes.
Here, let me give you a hand. These are the top 20 controversies in the history of the Phillies.
20. Hurt or Not? the Schwimer Saga
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You can take this one with a grain of salt seeing as how things seem to have blown over for both parties, but there is no doubt that this kind of controversy happens more often than it should.
The Phillies and reliever Mike Schwimer got into a bit of a disagreement during the 2012 season when the club attempted to send him down to Triple-A. The problem, at least for Schwimer, was that he claimed that he was injured.
Teams cannot send injured players to Triple-A. They have to be placed on the disabled list, where they continue to earn the MLB salary. Of course, you don't earn the MLB salary in Triple-A.
I imagine that we'll get a real sense of Schwimer's standing with the club in 2013, but this isn't the first or last time that this situation has or will play out.
19. The Philadelphia... Blue Jays?
The Phillies were a dreadful franchise during most of their early existence. For a long time they were Philadelphia's "second team," as most of its residents rooted for the Philadelphia Athletics. So when the A's left town, the Phillies struggled.
In fact, most fans held out for the A's to come back.
Obviously, they never did. But for a long time, the Phillies were a terrible franchise because of it. They were poorly run and organized and received little support from their fans in their worst seasons.
One of the potential resolutions was to bring fans back to the ballpark with different attractions. When a new ownership group took over in the 1940s, they wanted to change the club's name to the Philadelphia Blue Jays.
The nickname never stuck, but it was used for at least one season and gave us a couple of interesting uniforms.
18. The 1921 Incident
The Phillies were an embarrassment on the field for a long time, so you would think that they would want to keep the off-field embarrassments to a minimum, but not in 1921.
That was the year when the most exciting thing that happened to the Phillies was a late-night altercation that involved five players: Jimmy Smith, Cy Williams, Frank Bruggy, Goldie Rapp and Cliff Lee (the other Cliff Lee, of course).
Police were called to the scene when two people walked in front of Bruggy's car and the group yelled at them. The incident escalated and Smith hit them. He was arrested while the other four went home.
17. How Much "Hustle" Is Enough?
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It's not an understatement to say that baseball in the city of Philadelphia is a little bit different than baseball in any other city. The fans demand a certain level of commitment from their players, which leads me to wonder:
How much "hustle" is enough?
One of the most popular targets of this debate has been longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who has been benched for not showing the appropriate hustle several times throughout his career.
Is this a true "controversy" or are people just over-thinking the situation? I tend to believe that it is the latter.
Let's look at some of the facts here. The baseball season is a long one—162 games, not including the postseason. Today's game requires a certain amount of self-preservation by the players.
It is only natural for a guy to take the easy road from time to time, so is it a controversy? Should it be?
16. The Saturday Night Specials
Those are some horrendous looking uniforms, and that is putting it nicely.
History tells us that the 1970s was an interesting decade for a plethora of reasons, but perhaps none so colorful as the Phillies' "Saturday Night Specials."
The idea was for the Phillies to wear their all-burgundy uniforms every Saturday night, but the players absolutely hated them. They looked like pajamas and zippered all over the place and I imagine that if I were a professional baseball player, it would not be something I'd be proud of wearing.
Needless to say, the "Saturday Night Specials" became the "Saturday Night Special." The Phillies only wore them once.
15. Chase Utley's Knees
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The health of Chase Utley's knees has developed into a mild controversy in Philadelphia, but for a different reason than the disagreement with the organization over Mike Schwimer.
With Utley, the question needs to be: How open does a player have to be with an organization about his health?
Heading into the 2012 season, the Phillies expected Utley to be healthy. By all accounts, he expected to be healthy. But the sides apparently did not keep in enough contact throughout the offseason because Utley was anything but ready in March.
Instead, the Phillies sent him to Arizona to see a specialist and, for the second straight season, he missed most of the season's first half.
14. Phillies Stealing Rockies' Signs?
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When someone accuses you of stealing their signs, having a pair of binoculars out in the bullpen certainly doesn't make you look innocent. But then-bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer insisted that they weren't for stealing the Colorado Rockies' signs.
Frankly, I'm surprised this doesn't happen more in the game. A multitude of baseball people have come out and admitted that it happens all of the time, so why aren't there more quarrels over "stealing signs?"
The biggest controversy here may have been the following "war" (more like a small, irrelevant battle) between managers Charlie Manuel and Jim Tracy, where the former penned one of his more recognizable quotes, borrowed from Crashburn Alley:
“Because we beat them. That’s why. What the hell? Keep crying. I’m sure if they can steal signs they’ll steal them. And believe we will, too, if we can get them. Yeah, we will. Legally. If you’re dumb enough to let us get them then that’s your fault. That’s been in the game for a long time.”
Well said, Charlie.
13. The Phillies, Health Concerns and the Media
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In an era where information is at the tip of everyone's fingers, it shouldn't surprise anyone that organizations will do whatever it takes to keep information that they believe should be kept under wraps, under wraps.
So when Bob Brookover, a Phillies beat reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was not allowed to watch a rehabbing Ryan Howard work out at the team's complex in Clearwater, Florida, it raised a few eyebrows and led to this great story. Here's an excerpt:
As Howard prepared to hit, I was spotted, standing in plain sight in the stands along the third-base line. A Threshers employee told me I had to leave the ballpark. I pleaded that I wanted to get into the press box and start writing my stories about the Red Sox and Clearwater players.
Too bad, I was told. No one from outside the Phillies organization is allowed to watch Ryan Howard work out. I was escorted out of the ballpark.
And that was the tip of the iceberg. Ruben Amaro Jr. would later meet with the Phillies beat corps about the article being published, but that did nothing to quell the burning question: Do teams have a right to keep reporters out of their complexes?
It's an interesting controversy, but I will tell you this. I remember talking to a few friends when this issue first came up, and to paraphrase all of them, the fans feel like this: If they are paying money to watch the team play, they want to have their $125 million first baseman covered.
12. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee or Both?
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It's easy to call any general manager's transactions "controversies," but as far as I am concerned, we're talking about two completely different animals here, so you won't see many of them.
This one is on the list because it presents a number of unique circumstances worth talking about.
The Phillies had been looking for starting pitching for a long time when they finally pulled the trigger on a deal to land their first legitimate "ace" since Curt Schilling. Cliff Lee was on his way to Philadelphia for a very Phillies-friendly package of prospects.
After losing the World Series that same season, the Phillies and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. obviously felt the need to shake things up a bit. They sent Lee to the Seattle Mariners and acquired their long desired target, Roy Halladay, from the Toronto Blue Jays.
But could they have had both?
Lee was making a very reasonable $9 million for the 2010 season, but Amaro cited a need to add prospects back into the farm system as part of his reasoning for the multifaceted trade.
Oddly enough, the Phillies found themselves in need of another starting pitcher to push themselves over the hump, and Amaro sent more prospects to the Houston Astros for their ace, Roy Oswalt.
So the question is this: Would the Phillies be in a better position now if they had never traded Lee?
11. Billy Wagner vs. Pat Burrell
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Billy Wagner and Pat Burrell had a little bit of a personal rivalry going on as the Phillies and New York Mets intensified their rivalry.
Wagner, who had spurned the Phillies by signing with the Mets and trashing the Phillies and their fans on the way out the door, had ticked off former teammates, including Burrell, whom he essentially threw under the bus.
The two took jabs at each other through the media, but the best moment of this mini-rivalry came in 2007, when Burrell hit a pair of home runs off of Wagner during the year that the Mets would suffer their greatest collapse in franchise history.
10. What Happened with Madson?
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What in the world happened between the Phillies and reliever Ryan Madson (and his super-agent, Scott Boras)?
This is one of those controversies that I imagine we'll never get to the bottom of, but the gist of it is that the Phillies seem to have offered the closer a four-year, $44 million contract to remain with the club, only to backpedal on their offer.
The Phillies claimed that team president David Montgomery needed to sign off on the deal, although this has not been the case with high profile free agent signings in the past, while Boras made it seem as though the Phillies got cold feet.
To make matters more interesting, the Phillies would then sign Jonathan Papelbon to an even more lucrative deal, showing that money certainly was not the issue. Meanwhile, Madson was forced to sign a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds, but after undergoing Tommy John surgery, never threw a pitch for them.
Were the Phillies on to Madson's injury?
9. The Mets Are "Choke Artists" and Related Insults
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Full disclosure: I love a great rivalry.
The one between the Phillies and New York Mets has kind of fizzled out over the last couple of seasons, but when it was going good from, say, 2006-09, it was going great.
One of the more famous moments came during the offseason prior to the 2009 season when Cole Hamels was asked whether or not he thought that the Mets were "choke artists." Hamels replied by saying:
"For the last two seasons, they have been choke artists."
The teams had been taking subtle jabs at each other for a while, but Hamels was one of the first players to come out and say something as memorable. It stuck in the Mets' craw for a while.
You can add in a number of other incidents in here as well, but I wouldn't necessarily call them "controversies," like Jimmy Rollins renowned "team to beat" prediction, for example.
8. Galvis Suspended 50 Games
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You never want to see a player suspended for a positive test, but part of me wants to give Freddy Galvis the benefit of the doubt.
This certainly would not be the first time that we have seen a player test positively by accident. The fact of the matter is that the MLB's banned substance list is a long one and many "performance enhancers" are over-the-counter products.
Factor in the incredibly small size of the banned substance found in Galvis' system and it is reasonable to believe that he made a mistake—nothing more, nothing intentional.
But it's still a controversy. There is still that doubt that he could have been trying to improve his performance and that doubt will always sit in the back of our minds.
7. Allen vs. Headlight (And Other Controversies)
Dick Allen was a man of many controversies, so to save some time for some of the other quarrels in Phillies history, I decided to condense Allen's misdoings into one slide.
The most notable controversy came in Allen's first stint with the Phillies when he was more of a youngster trying to cut his teeth in the MLB. He was known to be argumentative and one altercation ended with Allen punching the headlight of a car, which obviously injured his hands.
The Phillies were none too pleased.
Allen, who would later become friends with Frank Thomas, got into a fight with the former that led to Thomas hitting Allen with a baseball bat, leading to the former's release.
Then again, Phillies fans never made it easy on Allen. They would boo him relentlessly and throw trash at him when he was on the field, and it is a real shame. It's a part of the reason he's not in the Hall of Fame when few people deserve it more.
6. Doc Gooden vs. the Phillies
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One of the biggest bench-clearing brawls in franchise history came during the 1990 season when the Phillies were set to take on the rival New York Mets and ace Doc Gooden.
Gooden came to bat in the fifth inning having already hit Phillies batters Dickie Thon and Tommy Herr in the game. Phillies pitcher Pat Combs retaliated by hitting Gooden in the knee with a fastball of his own.
Without hesitation, Gooden charged the mound and tackled Combs. Phillies catcher Darren Daulton was one of the first players to reach Gooden and Combs and landed a few punches to the back of Gooden's head.
Daryl Strawberry, who was not in the game, rushed out of the clubhouse towards Daulton and Gooden, only to be blindsided by Phillies first baseman Von Hayes.
5. Phillies Last to Break Color Barrier
The Phillies are a proud franchise that has been around for a long time, but every franchise has its low moments, and this certainly has to be one of the lowest for the Phils.
When John Irivin Kennedy made his debut for the Phillies in 1957, he was going to be making baseball history. While every other team in the MLB had broke the baseball "color barrier," the Phillies had yet to do so.
By signing Kennedy, the Phillies would finally employ their first African-American player, and even then, Kennedy's career wasn't a long one. It lasted all of two plate appearances in the MLB.
4. The Rolen Saga
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Scott Rolen's exit from the Phillies was less than harmonious, but that was just the culmination of a declining relationship with the organization.
Neither side really did much to improve the relationship either. Rolen felt as though the Phillies were not committed to winning and never gave it his full effort at the end of his tenure.
As it turns out, the Phillies weren't committed to winning (but building) at the time and gave Rolen hell for not sticking with them through it.
When they finally traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals (for next to nothing), Rolen's "baseball heaven" comment all but sealed the deal for Phillies fans.
3. The Phold
Just when you thought that things couldn't possibly get any worse for the Phillies as a franchise, 1964 happened.
The Phillies had been cruising at the top of the National League for most of the season behind the exciting pitching duo of Jim Bunning and Chris Short.
With 12 games left to play in the regular season, the Phillies held a six game lead on the division. After Chico Ruiz stole home against them, the Phillies would go on to lose 10 straight games, and although they would salvage the last two, it wasn't enough to avoid the "Phold."
The St. Louis Cardinals would take advantage of the Phillies' ill-timed slump and win the National League.
Through the slump and following the season, manager Gene Mauch came under fire for his consistent use of Bunning and Short in spite of signs that they were tiring.
To this date, it remains one of the worst collapses in sports history.
2. Black Friday
We're not talking about the shopping spree that you go on the Friday after Thanksgiving here. We're talking about Game 3 of the 1977 National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers—one of the worst moments in Phillies franchise history.
The Phillies had won the first game of the series, but the Dodgers won the second to pull things even at one heading into Game 3.
Larry Christenson got the start for the Phillies and pitched well, allowing three runs. Trailing by one in the eighth inning, the Phillies worked two runs on the board in their half to take a 5-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning.
Gene Garber came on to pitch for the Phillies. He got the first two outs of the inning with ease and worked an 0-2 count against Vic Davalillo. For all intents and purposes, this one looked like it was over, but not so fast.
Davalillo stunned the Phils with a drag bunt for a single. Manny Mota then scorched a ball to left field that bounced right off of Greg Luzinski's glove. He tried to throw Mota out at second base, but the throw got by Ted Sizemore and Davalillo scored.
Davey Lopes then hit a ground ball that took a funny hop and bounced off of Mike Schmidt right to Larry Bowa, who launched a throw to first base, but Lopes was called safe. The replay showed that Bowa's throw beat Lopes, but first base umpire Bruce Froemming wasn't going to hear it.
Garber then tried to pick the fleet footed Lopes off of first base, but his throw got away and Lopes moved to second and would later score the go-ahead run on a single.
It was one of the most embarrassing half-innings in franchise history, hands down.
1. Drew and the Phillies
What a mess.
That seems to be an accurate way of addressing the whole Phillies / J.D. Drew situation without getting into the details, but then again, we're all about the details around here.
Heading into the 1997 draft, the Phillies were finally ready to draft a difference-maker and Drew was arguably the best amateur available (though, the Detroit Tigers selected Matt Anderson with the first overall pick).
With the second overall pick, the Phillies selected Drew out of Florida State University.
I would love to have been a fly on the wall in Scott Boras' war room, because I imagine that his head almost exploded. The Phillies were a bad team at the time and he was going to set Drew's price incredibly high. He was looking for a $10 million signing bonus, which was ridiculous at the time.
With that being said, Boras warned the Phillies not to draft Drew and they did it anyway. The following year was a crap-slinging firestorm from both parties that saw the Phillies' offer go as high as $5 million. Both parties wanted to paint the other as ugly as possible and it worked.
No one came out looking good.
Drew spent a year playing in an independent league and the in 1998, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him. His first visit to Philly was a memorable one, as fans booed him relentlessly and pelted him with batteries.