The city of Philadelphia has had a lot to be excited about over the past few years. In 2006 we had the Great Ed Wade Revival which brought the Phillies closer to the post season than anyone ever expected. In 2007 we saw the team achieve a playoff berth for the first time since 1993. The 2008 season had destiny written all over it, and in 2009 the word “dynasty” wasn’t far from anyone’s lips. But 2010 is different; it’s special. The opening day lineup has been intact only a handful of times this year, and that has forced the fans to look more at the individual parts rather than the whole. There appears to be a distinct divide between the guys we’ve always loved (Rollins, Utley, Howard), the ones we love when given a reason to love them (Ibanez, Werth, Victorino), and the ones we’ll remember for that special something they brought to the table during what has arguably be the greatest era in Phillies history to date. With that, I bring you the five 2010 Phillies you loved the most.
#5 – Mike Sweeney
Mike Sweeney came to Philadelphia as part of a post-deadline transaction that was necessary after Ryan Howard was placed on the disabled list with an injured ankle. Drafted by the Royals in 1991, Sweeney has played 1,451 games in the majors without experiencing the postseason, and can’t stop talking about how grateful he is to finally have that opportunity with Philadelphia. What the fans seem to like the most about him is that while he may not be the scariest player at the plate, he undeniably plays with the most heart. Every swing, every dive, every tag is approached with 110% effort, and when he’s not on the field, he is the first player at the top of the dugout steps to give out hugs and high-fives to his teammates. Before games he will sign autographs and hold your baby for a picture, and after games he can be found telling Sarge how “it’s a great gift to be a Philadelphia Phillie,” and that he will do whatever it takes to help get the team to their third consecutive World Series. It’s well known that the relaxed and confident clubhouse atmosphere has played a major role in the Phillies success in recent years, but I’m sure that Sweeney’s child-like optimism and gratitude helped keep the team’s spirits afloat as they scratched and clawed their way back atop not only the NL East, but all of baseball.
#4 – Domonic Brown
Dom Brown was a household name before ever putting on a Phillies uniform. As the team began to slump closer to their season-low 7-game deficit, the fans started to become restless and were demanding change. They had seen what Brown was capable of in the minor leagues and didn’t want to waste his talent any longer if it could be used to get the big league club back into contention. In the midst of an injury plagued summer, Brown made his first major league start after Shane Victorino became the 13th of 17 different players to be placed on the disabled list in 2010 with a hip injury. He strode up to his debut at-bat to a standing ovation and answered with a hard-hit two-run double off the out-of-town scoreboard, scoring his first run as Phillie just moments later. The management and coaching staff received criticism for not sending him back to AAA Lehigh Valley to get in more playing time after Victorino was reactivated, but the crowd still erupts when he makes a now rare appearance at the plate. With Jayson Werth’s looming free agency, it appears fairly clear that Brown will be a permanent fixture in the Phillies lineup next season barring any unforeseen circumstances or surprises by Werth and new agent Scott Boras (who also happens to represent Brown). On a rapidly aging roster, Brown is just what the Phillies need to keep the team afloat during what is going to be a critical readjustment period over the next few years, and the fans could not be happier to have him.
#3 – Roy Oswalt
As the trade deadline was rapidly approaching, the Phillies pitching staff was just as quickly falling apart. Kyle Kendrick had been demoted to AAA after a rather forgettable first half of the season, and the front offices went to work squashing rumors that the team would be making a trade for any of the big-name pitchers that were on the market at the time. J.A. Happ was pitching at AAA Lehigh Valley coming off an elbow injury and it seemed likely that he would get the call to fill the empty rotation slot. Then, when Jamie Moyer suffered a season-ending injury, the Phillies’ hands were forced and it seemed urgent that they secure a starting pitcher to do more than just plug a hole in the dam of a team that was slowly bleeding out. Enter Roy Oswalt. Depending on who you ask, some people were thrilled to have a pitcher of his caliber on the mound despite having traded away young Happ to Houston. Others took a little longer to warm up to the transaction and more specifically his contract, resurfacing feelings of the widely criticized Cliff Lee trade. Oswalt took the loss in his debut as a Phillie just hours after getting off the plane, but has gone undefeated ever since posting a 1.76 ERA from the time of the trade. But it wasn’t exactly his pitching that got the city of Philadelphia to notice him. On a particularly wild evening at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies were in the 14th of what would be a 16-inning loss to the Astros when Ryan Howard was ejected for charging at third base umpire Scott Barry. The Phillies had already used 21 of their 25 men on the roster that night, leaving only one option – a pitcher was going into the game and he wasn’t going to be pitching. Charlie wound up moving Ibanez to first (who had practiced taking grounders there when the injury-bug was at its peak), and put Oswalt in left field. As luck would have it, the first ball that was hit after the switch sailed straight to left, and Oswalt fielded it with a grin from ear to ear. The crowd erupted into a “let’s go Oswalt” chant and his former teammates even joined in from the visiting dugout. From that day on, the city of Philadelphia has been crazy about Roy Oswalt both on and off the mound.
#2 – Carlos Ruiz
While 2010 may be the year of the pitcher, it should be remembered that there is a catcher behind every staff ace. On April 5, Roy Halladay made his first start as a Phillie, and reportedly never shook off Carlos Ruiz once. On May 29, Doc pitched the 20th perfect game in history as Ruiz called the game from behind the plate. When the Phillies honored the perfect game on August 26, Doc presented Ruiz with a ring engraved with the phrase “We Did It Together”. Chooch is currently in his fourth season as the Phillies full-time catcher and has always had respectable numbers, especially during the playoffs. Señor Octubre is sitting pretty with .303/.420/.485 in career postseason play and looking to beef up those numbers even more in 2010. Despite his brief stint on the DL, he is on pace to play his most games per season and is closing in on his career high 54 RBIs (he has 51 as of this writing). The little engine that could has had more than 10 go-ahead hits on the season including several huge walk-off performances. Whenever the city’s favorite Panamanian comes to the plate, chants of “CHOOOOCH” echo throughout the stadium, whether at home or away, from fans hoping for a glimpse of his now signature clutchitude tucked away nicely in the seventh or eighth hole, ready for attack.
#1 – Roy Halladay
On Monday, April 5, 2010 at 1:05 PM, Harry Leroy Halladay III took his place on the mound and threw his first pitch in a Phillies uniform in front of 41,290 fans in Washington DC. Having spent his first 12 major league seasons in Toronto, it was a long and controversial road getting Doc to Philadelphia. In 2009, Roy was by and far the number one choice for any team seeking a starting pitcher at the trade deadline. However, former Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi seemed to have other plans for his ace. Ricciardi set a deadline for other teams to make a big on the best pitcher in baseball and made allegedly unreasonable and outlandish demands to fill his void. After talks with several clubs, including the Phillies, failed, Ricciardi announced in a press conference that there never really were plans to deal Halladay. The Phillies triumphantly paraded backup plan and perennial trade bait Cliff Lee around the majors for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs leaving Doc sitting at home unable to watch the World Series because he was too disappointed to not be a part of it all. Fast forward to December, when in one fell swoop Cliff Lee became a Mariner, a handful of top-notch prospects (including the “untouchable” Kyle Drabek) were scattered across the country, and Roy Halladay was plucked from his winter home in Odessa, Florida to join Ruben Amaro, Jr. for a press conference announcing his arrival – if you blinked, you missed it. Fans were equal parts pissed and ecstatic. Sure, we finally had the great Doc Halladay, but at what expense? Was this just going to wind up being a lateral move or did the front offices have something else up their sleeves to ease the hurt of losing Cliff Lee? It would be silly to say that the city no longer carries a chip on its collective shoulder, because they do. But not a single person has dared to take it out on Roy Halladay who has done nothing but amazing things for his new team. He is the first 20-game winner on the Phillies roster since Steve Carlton in 1982. He pitched the 20th perfect game in major league history in a Phillies uniform. He’s the guy to beat in the NL Cy Young Award race. I could rattle off his stats all day long, but what moves me the most is that 2010 will be the first time in his career that he will pitch into the playoffs, something he’s deserved and worked towards for so long. In Philadelphia, every fifth day is a Halladay and what better gift than a World Series ring for Doc?