Here's To You Boys: Best of the 2004 Phillies

We know there will be no playoffs for our Phillies. Our expectations weren't just a little wrong they were dead wrong. But who could blame us? And those Phils - God love ‘em - they sure tried. Battle wounds would wipe out our starting rotation, our bullpen and a couple of our big hitters on different occasions. It was a nerve-wracking, exciting, maddening, season that included a lot of really great moments. Let's bottle those moments and hold onto what was really enjoyable about the season.

Most deserving non all-star all-star
Eric Milton holds the distinction this year of being the only starting pitcher in the regular rotation that did not go down with an injury at any time and watching him was always a lesson in grace. When he has his good moving fast ball mixed with the curve and his hard slider he is at his best; though he struggles with control, which has lead to him giving up a lot of homeruns and walks, he has a W-L record of 13-4. His ERA, a 4.69, can be the only explanation for Jack McKeon, the National League's All Star manager this year, commenting that he didn't choose Milton for the team because he "didn't like his numbers". It was a shame not to see someone with Milton's talent, poise and record not get a shot at making his NL All Star debut (he'd been there once in the American League when he played for the Minnesota Twins) and it was really a shame to see him lose that no hitter bid on July 25th when he was just seconds away from getting it. And as for McKeon's All Stars? Well that Roger Clemens really worked out for him now didn't it?

Best "Did you see that?" moment
Ricky Ledee; There are certain stories that shouldn't make the back cover of The Daily News (I've talked about the stupidity of "Time to Gowa Bowa") and there are things that should. Ricky Ledee's no look catch on July 21st in a game against the Florida Marlins was one of those beautiful baseball moments that deserved to be on the front cover as far as i'm concerned. At the time Ledee was the Phillies best pinch hitter coming up big when needed and playing the outfield well. But the no look catch helped struggling ace Kevin Millwood to a much needed second straight win and helped keep the Phillies in first place at the time. In the bottom of the fifth Ledee would rob Damion Easley of a homerun, leaping in the air and reaching his glove up and back without a glance, he simply caught it, shrugged and reminded us why we loved him. He would of course be traded to the Giants weeks later.

Best "Big Jim" moment
Hitting the 400 homerun mark. The guy needs his own award out of respect for all he has done for this ball club. There would be no other Thome moment so sweet then when Jim came home from a Phil's road trip to hit that magic 400 mark, with his wife and daughter in the stands. It couldn't happen to a nicer, classier guy who has been a work horse for this team. If we are lucky, gentleman Jim will retire here. Let's go 500!

Best entrance
Billy Wagner; Brett Myers says he gets chills when Billy "The kid" Wagner comes running onto the field out of the bullpen. And I would say it isn't just because Wagner's an absolute freak of nature with a fastball. But the fact that when he enters the field Metallica's metal anthem "Enter Sandman" is played to announce his arrival makes it a happening, a moment when everyone gets pumped and wipes their brow with relief. You don't worry when he comes in. You just wait for Wags to take the guys he faces "off to never-never land."

Best "Charlie Hustle" moment
Jimmy Rollins in-the-park homerun. Watch J-Roll run! And run. He gets to first, he steals second, and he often makes it to third and then…nothing. Too often he has been left out there after getting a great hit and rounding the bases. He's been a victim of the rest of the Phillies lowly RISP average. So Jimmy has learned that sometimes he's just got to do it himself. In a game against the Kansas City Royals on June 20th, Jimmy Rollins hit his first career inside the park homerun and the first at Citizens Bank Park. Doug Glanville had been the last Phillie to do it in 2002. It was especially sweet after Rollins had struggled at the plate early in the season. After that home stand he was hitting .333. Watching him run reminded us of the brilliant athleticism of silk, and since then he has not let us down.

Best fightin' moment
Todd Pratt vs. Alex Gonzalez. I love fights in baseball. I do and I am not ashamed to say it. They're fun. It's also exciting in a game where it doesn't happen everyday. But this fight was special. The Phillies were playing the Florida Marlins and it was important to Phillies fans as much as it was to the team, to beat these guys. We had grown tired of them mowing us down and we didn't like their superior attitude. There was a definite feeling of needing to blow off some steam. Brett Myers was pitching and he wasn't at his best; he gave up a homerun then Alex Gonzalez came to the plate. Gonzalez of course didn't approve of Myers pitching so far inside to him (Oh excuse me I wasn't aware people couldn't pitch inside to Mr. Gonzalez) and he put on a tough guy act, walking towards the mound, which is where Pratty was going to cool Myers down. But Gonzalez didn't respond well to Pratt and a shoving match began. The benches would clear of course and somehow the loss later that day to the Marlins didn't feel so bad. The Phillies showed them they were ready for battle and soon the Marlins began playing badly. I like to think that brawl had something to do with it. And while the Marlins being seven games back from first isn't as bad as the Phils eleven it still warms my heart to see them playing so poorly. And so does that fight. All hail Todd Pratt!

Best fightin' attitude
Pat Burrell; When word came that right fielder Pat Burrell was out for the season due to an immediate need for surgery, it felt like another sign that this Phillies club was doomed. We wait for the 1964 shoe to drop every year and this seemed like it. There was never even a question of whether or not he'd be gone. That is until Pat Burrell put on his toughest armor and decided that the team was still worth fighting for. The season was clearly over for the Phillies but that didn't matter to Burrell. He wanted to come back and contribute no matter how far the Phillies had fallen. But Pat Burrell is made of tough stuff and showed some 1993 Macho Row spirit by deciding that the team was more important than anything; and so the surgery would have to wait. If anyone questions the heart of some of the Phillies right now it's understandable, but Pat Burrell proved he has enough for the whole team.

Funniest moment
Chris Wheeler's poke at Vicente Padilla. I have mentioned this moment to a few friends of mine who neither remember it nor find it as funny as I do. The pitching match up was Vicente Padilla against Randy Johnson in an early summer game against the Arizona Diamondbacks and it was time for Padilla to come off the mound and up to the plate. Padilla is certainly not known for hitting, in five of his six years of major league experience he's batted in a total of six runs, but that didn't stop Padilla from trying and he knew he had to do something extra to even attempt to get a hit off of veteran pitcher Johnson. He came to the plate and, it seems, tried to shrink the strike zone, bending as far down as he possibly could. As longtime Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler watched he began to laugh, "What is he doing?" he asked out loud, "Padilla's doing' knee bends off of Randy Johnson". Harry Kalas started to say something but just began to laugh. I don't if that's what Padilla was doing but I cannot think of Wheels comment or the sight of Padilla at the plate that day without cracking up.

Coolest monumental moment
David Bell hits for the cycle. I don't think I love too many other players more than David Bell on this Phillies team. He reminds me of some of the toughest, most intelligent, hardworking Phillies that have ever played. So when his hard work paid off in such an important and exciting way as when he hit for the cycle I was glad it happened to him; and even happier that people who doubted him and too often overlook him had to sit up and give their props to the third baseman. On June 28th Bell became only the seventh Phillie to hit for the cycle in a 14-6 win over the Expos. It was also the first in his career and the first at Citizen's Bank Park. And i'm not done; David Bell also made Major League baseball history as he joined his grandfather Gus Bell, as the first Grandson-Grandfather combination to hit for the cycle. Gus did it in 1951 with the Pirates in none other than Philadelphia. Afterwards David Bell's team mates toasted him with Dom Perignon; Lefty would be proud.

Best example of brotherly love
Placido Polanco and Chase Utley. They are both in a tough position and have been for the better part of the year. But with all of the trade deadline talk about veteran second baseman Placido Polanco and future Phillies star Chase Utley, the two managed to work together and pass the baton back and forth. When Bowa benches Polanco and gives the kid some playing time he performs brilliantly both on the field and at the plate. When the two have had to work together on the field they pull it together and create an excellent team. Both of them deserve the job. Both of them deserve credit for their excellent sportsmanship.

Best "too little, too late" moment
Corey Lidle's back to back shutouts. When Lidle was acquired to give the rotation another quality starter no one was doing a Philly Phanatic victory dance. But in two starts for the Phillies the 31 year old right hander was near perfect and came close enough to it to become the first starter to get back to back shut out wins since Curt Schilling in 1992. In the first game he took the Brewers down with major run support from his team mates, finishing the Brew crew with a 10-0 lead. Then he did it again this time against the Mets beating them 7-0. The feat over the Mets was even bigger considering their starter, vet Al Leiter had beaten the Phillies in his last 10 starts against them and had an ERA of 0.50 and no, that's not a typo; However this was a Lidle not a Leiter night.

Best carrier
Bobby Abreu; I couldn't come away from this and not mention Bobby Abreu. He did so much for the Phillies, especially in the months of June and July that we simply can't forget. So i'm going to keep it really simple and play the stats game. I notice guys love to throw around knowledge about stats as if it makes them geniuses so I might as well join in. In July he hit seven homeruns and knocked in 26 RBI and for the sixth year in a row he achieved reaching the 20 homerun/ 20 stolen bases mark. He has hit a total of 95 RBI this season so far and his OBP from May to July was well over .400. His ability to get hits with RISP is a healthy .318; with the bases loaded his average is .333. For three months, from May to July he hit over .300. While knowing these stats does not make me a genius (hint, hint boys) it does make me happy that Bobby Abreu went to the All-Star Game, joining the only other Phillie present, Jim Thome. It doesn't take a genius to know Bobby deserved to be there.

And now for the drum roll...

PHILLIES MVP 2004
David Bell; It is his attitude, his quiet, strong way that makes me watch him when he comes to the plate or when he's over at his third base position. He looks fearless in every move he makes and never shows a look of resignation or hopelessness. I felt a sense of comfort whenever I saw him this year because I knew there was a good chance that whatever needed to be done he would successfully do; or he would die trying. After suffering through injuries in 2003 Bell would return despite ongoing problems with back spasms; one of those spasms we all actually witnessed this season when he was at the plate and I have to admit it choked me up a little. That's the kind of love David Bell can invoke because of the kind of heart he has as a player. Yes I know there's no crying in baseball but i'm not a player so who cares…besides i'm a girl so i'm allowed. Anyway David Bell has given his heart and all that goes with that this year. Hitting for the cycle was a great historic moment in Phillies history but day in and out Bell delivers. He has a total of 64 RBI this year and while the Phillies overall have averaged a major league baseball low of scoring with RISP Bell has an average of .321. When he needs to make a play at third base he has the intensity of a racehorse. He is to put it plainly the one Phillie on this team whose heart I see every single day and that makes him more valuable than any statistic anyway.

I hope you felt the things I pointed out were worthy of recognition. Let's try and savor those great moments as we face the inevitable and hope for the best next season. Don't we always Phillies fans? Believe it.

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