December 2010

12/6/10 – This Day in Legend History… Dave Hollins, Bob Boone, and Mike Lieberthal

Still hungover from the weekend off-season activity binge, I forgot to include my “This Day In…” for last Saturday…

On December 4, 1989, the Phillies drafted third baseman Dave Hollins in the Rule 5 draft from the San Diego Padres. Hollins’ first two years were spent as a bench player, backing up Chalie Hayes who manned the hot corner. In 1992, the position became his and he did not disappoint. He had a monster breakout season hitting .270 with 27 home runs and 93 RBI’s. He continued in 1993, helping lead the team to the World Series. He was a perfect match for the Phillies and the fans: gritty and hard-nosed. Just the way we like ‘em.

December 6th saw the official departure of two long time and well-loved catchers to Southern California…25 years apart. In 1981, Bob Boone was purchased by the then, California Angels. In 2006, Mike Lieberthal signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both had been born in Southern California, so these were seen as homecomings for the both of them. Boone earned five more Gold Gloves and an All-Star appearance with the Angels, and later with the Kansas City Royals, where he eventually retired in 1990.

Plagued by injuries, Lieby played only 38 more games for the team he grew up rooting for. He signed a one-day contract with the Phillies in 2008, and retired. He played with the club from ’94 to ’06, which means during his tenure with the club, he was a “day late and a dollar short” when it came to playoff appearances… debuted a year late, left a year early…

This will be Lieberthal’s first year as a Legend for Phantasy Camp and I couldn’t be any more thrilled for the chance to not only meet him, but to play alongside one of the other greatest Phillies catchers in Boone.

12/5/10 – Jayson Werth

Other than the actual events that occur on the field during the regular season, my favorite time of the sports year is the Major League Baseball off-season. The wild rumors, the complicated trades, the ridiculous contracts…. I LOVE it. Even if it doesn’t involve the Phillies, I thrive on the annual ebb and flow of tidal player movement. However, there is one aspect of these games that usually leave me leaning over the side of the boat. What happened late this afternoon made me want to jump off.

Major League baseball is a game. I also understand that it is a business. There is a LOT of money to be made and no one can be blamed for wanting a big piece of that particular pie. It’s like anything else in life. We consistently work hard year after year for the prospect of getting properly compensated for our job well done. Some of us are lucky enough to be working hard at something we love… something that other people only can dream of. Sometimes that always doesn’t equal to a hefty paycheck at the end of the day.

Sometimes it does… very handsomely.

——————–

I have been playing music for the good part of 20 years. When I was a teenager in my first band, I could not imagine getting paid millions upon millions of dollars just to play drums. Someone was willing to pay someone like me to sit behind my kit and play music all day? An absolute dream. I love playing the drums so much. I have been willing to spend countless hours in dank rehearsal rooms, stuffy recording studios and empty venues for the sheer pleasure of writing and performing music. My compensation? Gas money and a few free beers. Also, and most importantly, the extreme satisfaction of being able to exhibit my craft to others around the world, something lots of people are completely envious of.  I could never put a price on that.

Before I would spend my days imagining opening up for U2 at a sold out Spectrum, my plans were centered around my skills in the outfield and how they would benefit the Phillies. Almost immediately, I realized there wasn’t going to be a snowball’s chance in hell that was going to happen. Still, that didn’t stop me going out on the field, wearing nasty polyester uniforms in stifling heat for teams that lost by a couple touchdowns, shagging fly ball after fly ball, and barely hitting over .200. Why? I adored it. It’s a glorious game that still continues to bring me incredible satisfaction. And like the drums, I could not imagine being so incredible at your craft that someone would be willing to lay out a significant amount of money for your talents.

The minimum salary imposed by the Major League Baseball Player’s Association is $400,000 a year. Four hundred thousand dollars… to play baseball. Four hundred thousand dollars to travel the country and play a child’s game in front of tens of thousands of fans every single night. Where do I sign up? Hell, you could give me minimum wage and I’ll still be first in line to enroll.

In 2010, Phillies rightfielder Jayson Werth earned $7.5 million. In his four years with the club, he earned just over $12 million. In those four years, he also went to the postseason four times, twice to the World Series, and once, able to call himself a World Champion. He was an all-star on and off the field. He was THE rock star of the Phillies. Women loved him and guys wanted to be him. This off-season saw Werth become a free agent, and with his exemplary play, was due to earn a new and healthier contract. A lot of teams were very interested in his services, including the Phillies who wanted him to return. The Phillies were most likely not able to dole out the amount of money some other clubs could, but with the extremely positive state of the Phillies as it currently stands, one would think that any reasonably compensating contract would be completely satisfactory.

But, as any baseball fan knows, this scenario usually does not come out on the right side for a club like the Phillies, no matter who they are. Today was no different.

Today, Werth did not sign with the Red Sox. Not the Yankees. Not the Tigers. Not the Angels. Not even the Phillies. Instead, in a deal that came completely out of leftfield (or rightfield as it may), Werth signed an incredible 7-year, $126 million deal with perennial National League East basement-dwellers, the Washington Nationals. That’s $18 million a year to play for a team that will most likely not be sniffing at postseason play for a good number of years. Yes, they have Ryan Zimmerman. Yes, they have Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper waiting to burst on to the scene (again for Strasburg). But at this point, this team is still trying to build any sort of foundation. There is no logical reason for a player to give up a situation like he had in Philadelphia for the one in D.C.. Sure, we do not know if there were any personal issues that would want to make him leave Philadelphia. We may not know the whole story, but it was no secret that he and his super agent Scott Boras were going for the gold. The Phillies were willing to give it up. As were the Red Sox. The Nationals gave him just a bit more… a few more years and a few more millions.

That’s all that mattered to him.

——————–

As it has been for the last 20 or so years, a large number of people have paid a good sum of money for a single five-day trip to Florida for the rare privilege of getting a very small taste of what it’s like to live the life of a Major Leaguer. Even though there is an exact dollar amount associated with this camp, I know for a fact that my experience will be completely priceless. This is chance for me to live out a dream that I have been having since my childhood… the same dream that players like Werth also had, but now are actually living it out, playing a game and getting to showcase his talents to the delight of millions of fans, all while achieving the ultimate reward in being called the best in baseball.

That’s all that should matter to him.

2/3/10 – This Day in Legend History… Jim Eisenreich


After being granted free agency by the Phillies at the end of the 1996, Jim Eisenreich signed with the Florida Marlins on December 3, 1996. Eisenreich was a big Yin to the rest of the Yangs on the 1993 Phillies. His quiet demeanor was a stark contrast to the oversized and lovable personalities on that team. His excellent play in rightfield and consistency at the plate quickly made him a fan favorite, particularly my dad. It was sad to see him go, but along with longtime Phillie Darren Daulton, who was traded to Florida midway through the ’97 season, the both of them achieved what they could not do in ’93… get a World Series ring. I definitely had a bout of jealousy seeing those two in the field in Miami celebrating their championship, but I was, without a doubt, very happy for the two of them.

12/2/10 – This Day in Legend History… Mitch Williams


On December 2, 1993, Mitch Williams was traded to the Houston Astros for pitchers Jeff Juden and Doug Jones. The sound of the crack of Joe Carter’s bat did even stop resonating before Williams was shipped out of town… far from Philadelphia. Unfortunately for Mitch, he could not regain his swagger. He appeared in only 52 more games for three different teams before retiring at the age of 32. Like I mentioned before, he has resurfaced to become one of the most insightful and entertaining analysts on the MLB Network.

Coincidentally, yesterday on the show Hot Stove, they ran a segment about the “memorable returns” of players (popular and unpopular) to their former home fields after going to a new team. They preceded to show Williams’ first return to Philadelphia after the trade on May 27, 1994. Funny enough, Williams entered the game and he hit another Legend, Mickey Morandini, square in the back. Oh so fitting.

12/1/10 – Hitting the Batting Cages

I couldn’t have picked a better day to start getting my swing in order. It’s the first day of December and it’s 60 degrees with a touch of “The Day After Tomorrow”. I was very eager to make my first visit to The Baseball Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The lobby was filled with TV’s tuned to the MLB Network, boxes upon boxes of baseball cards for sale… I didn’t even need to go any further. I was good right here, thanks. I made my way to the basement where all the cages were situated. It’s a really nice setup, definitely not your run-of-the-mill quarter-for-20-balls type of cages. You get your own cage, unlimited amount of balls and you can turn the machine on and off as you please. With the winter months upon us, there’s obviously not a big run on the place, so they currently have this fantastic special: Monday to Friday, noon to one, $20. Sold.

I was the only person down there so I didn’t run the risk of embarrassing myself in the 70 MPH cage. From what I was told from my friend who attended the Mets fantasy camp a couple years ago, the top speed I could be looking at is 60 -65 MPH. I figured that was probably about right, but I could be completely wrong. Anyway, after I got my quick tutorial on how to work the machine from an employee, I got myself in order. Now, the one thing I really hate about batting cages is my inability to consistently judge when the ball will be jettisoned out of the machine, especially if the path of the ball from the bucket, to the arm and to the chute is completely out of sight. With this machine, I was only able to see the arm, then a good three seconds would pass before the ball came rocketing out. For the entire hour, I could not get a complete handle on the timing. So I was either late, or started my step too early, which meant I got a lot of bunting practice in.

My Jedi mind powers were useless. Probably because I was in the basement and had poor reception.

But, I’m proud to say I did pretty well… much better than I expected. The last couple times I stepped into a batting cage it was a complete disaster. I don’t know, maybe it’s the endless amount of time I spend playing baseball games on my iPhone that has improved my reflexes and timing… that would be sad.

That’s a decent amount of balls IN FRONT of the plate, right?… Right?

After a straight hour of swinging a bat, my arms hurt to high hell, but I couldn’t think of a better way to get a little exercise in. You can keep your gym. I’ll take the batting cage.

My powerful hitting ripped this sign apart… me hitting the side of the cage after a massive whiff.

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