Happy New Year Phillies fans! Sure, it’s been a long winter. Don’t wait on that groundhog, though, to end your hibernation. Pitchers and catchers report soon.
The time is right for high hopes. A few New Year’s resolutions might not hurt either. For these, the Phillies should look to the past. Their team’s past.
Twenty years ago the Phillies went from worst to first. A team of loveable misfits made an improbable run that nearly rocked Veterans Stadium off of its foundation.
Everybody knows the 1993 season did not end well. Joe Carter saw to that. Until then it was a helluva ride that offers the current crop of Phillies a number of potential resolutions. Here are a few:
Abide the Dude
Lenny Dykstra spent much of the summer of 1993 roaming Veteran Stadium’s cavernous centerfield. Otherwise, he could be found on base. As the team’s leadoff hitter, Dykstra hit .305 with an on-base percentage of .420. He drew 129 walks and scored 143 runs. This did little to diminish his power. Dykstra managed to hit 19 home runs as well.
Dykstra’s on-base percentage was not even the highest on the team for the Phillies in 1993.
First baseman John Kruk, the baseball player, not the athlete, reached base at a clip of .430. Think about that. The leadoff hitter for the Phillies in 2012, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, had an on-base percentage of .316. He hit four more home runs than Dykstra did in 1993 but scored 41 fewer runs. In baseball, runs matter. Abide the Dude.
Take a walk on the wild side
The 1993 Phillies were gruff, grizzled and gnarly. Even better, they knew a ball from a strike.
Dykstra’s patience at the plate was shared by his teammates. Phillies catcher Darren Daulton walked 117 times in 1993. Kruk managed 111 free passes while third baseman Dave Hollins added another 85.
As a team, the Phillies led the National League in walks in 1993 with a staggering total of 665. Maybe it is just a coincidence, but they also led the league in runs scored with 877. This all stands in stark contrast to the most recent edition of the Phillies. Last year, the Phillies finished 13th in the 16-team National League with 454 walks. Leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins set the pace by securing 62 free passes.
The Phillies scored 684 runs last season, eighth in the league. Repeat: In baseball, runs matter.
Kruk it up.
The 1993 Phillies were a loose bunch. It was as evident as the crack on the Liberty Bell. They came early and stayed late. The stories are numerous and well known. As John Kruk recently told Philadelphia magazine, “I’ve never seen guys that could be playing grab-ass two minutes before the game and then as soon as the National Anthem is done be ready to kick some ass.”
For anyone around town in 1993, Kruk’s statement hardly constitutes a revelation. Fat, drunk and endearing pretty much sums it up.
What about the current crop? Its members are certainly endearing, but much of that derives from the championship run in 2008. That might be the last time the principals on this team even appeared loose. Just ask those who witnessed Chase Utley’s proclamation of the Phillies as “World &%#ing Champions” at the post parade celebration at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark.
Such “atty-tude” goes over well in Philly. It is often useful at the plate as well. Such calm self assuredness enables hitters to heed the advice of hall of famer Wee Willie Keeler and “hit ‘em where they ain’t.” The 1993 Phillies understood this. That year, even the power-hitting outfielder Pete Incaviglia hit .274, a career best for a full season.
Yet somehow the infinitely more talented current Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, albeit while coming off of an injury, hit only .219 last season. He struck out 99 times in 292 plate appearances. Howard struggled to pull the ball into right field against pitching and defensive alignments that all but assured he could not.
Hit it where they ain’t Ryan. Kruk it up. Abide the Dude and, by all means, take a walk on the wild side. Resolve to have some fun out there. It all just might prove contagious. It sure did twenty years ago and Phillies fans are ready to party like its 1993 all over again. Just don’t tell Joe Carter.
All statistics in this article are from www.baseball-reference.com