Every Ex-Phillies Outfielder Is Having an Awesome Season

Every Ex-Phillies Outfielder Is Having an Awesome Season

A rotating cast of Cesar Hernandez, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Freddy Galvis (!) certainly isn't what most Phillies fans would have ever pictured the team's outfield looking like a couple years ago--hell, even at the beginning of this season--and though injuries (to Dom Brown and Ben Revere, namely) have much to do with this destabilization, there are days where you have to wonder how it ever came to this for the Fightins.

In the years that were good for this Phillies team, dating back to the days of Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell, the outfield was always a strength. But over the last three years or so, Ruben Amaro Jr. made the decision to cut bait with a number of the outfielders who helped power the team's glory years--due to age, increasing expense, seeming decline, and a number of other reasons, most of which seemed pretty sound at the time.

However, as luck would have it, this season has brought back basically every one of those decisions to haunt Ruben Amaro Jr. (and us by extension). If you're an MLB outfielder in 2013 and you once played for the Phillies, chances are you're having your best season in years, if not ever. To wit:

Jayson Werth. The seven-year, $126-million contract that Raw Power signed with the Nats in the 2010 off-season--one which still gets him booed by a good percentage of the Phillie Phaithful upon return visits to the Bank--looked like a disaster in his first few seasons for Washington, in which Werth missed a combined 92 games and hit a combined 25 homers. This year, however, Jayson might be an MVP candidate if he hadn't missed a month with a hamstring injury and if the Nats were doing a little better. He's batting a career-high .323, with 21 homers and a near-.400 OBP, and when facing the Phillies he's doing even better, batting .400/.466/.640 in 58 PAs against the Phils. Seven years at $18 mil a year is probably still a stretch for Jayson, now 34 years old, but man could we have used that outfield production this season.

Shane Victorino. As part of the Phils' half-hearted teardown at the end of last season, Victorino and his expiring contract was jettisoned to the Dodgers for Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin. After Shane did nothing for the Dodgers in 53 games and LA missed the playoffs, and after he got off to a slow start this year for the Red Sox after signing a three-year, $39 million deal, it seemed like Ruben let go of Vic at just the right time. But the Flying Hawaiian has roared back with a vengeance in Boston, hitting .328 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in the month of August alone. Now he's hitting nearly .300 for the season, with 14 homers and 20 steals, and according to Baseball-Reference WAR, he's been worth a career-high 5.7 wins this season, seventh-highest in the whole AL. What's more, on the Red Sox, Victorino is all but guaranteed to do something no one else on this list (or on the Phillies, natch) will do this season--play well into October.

Hunter Pence. The other casualty of the Phils' partial rebuild at the end of last year was Hunter Pence, who had a sub-par end of season and post-season for the Giants after being dealt for Nate Schierholtz and a couple minor-leaguers at the deadline (though the Giants would win the World Series anyway, and Hunt had that weird three-RBI double where his bat hit the ball three times on one swing). Anyway, Pence is having a much better year in his second season in San Fran--his first real walk year--hitting .287 with 19 homers and a career-high 21 steals (against just two caught, remarkably). His defense has been less unanimously celebrated, but Fangraphs value says he's having the best season of his career anyway, and his googly-eyed enthusiasm is certainly missed on and off the field in Philly.

Nate Schierholtz. The 28-year-old pro throw-in in the Pence deal performed unremarkably in his 37-game stint for the Phils at the end of last year, and was unsurprisingly let walk at the end of the season. For the Cubs, however, Nasty Nate has hit on a career power surge, knocking 20 dingers after never reaching double digits in any season prior. It's hard to get too mad at Ruben for not seeing this one coming, but given some of the scrubs we've had cycle through our outfield this season--all of whom have performed as such--it's especially irritating to see a career fourth or fifth outfielder like Schierholtz hitting at such a high level elsewhere.

Raul Ibanez. Perhaps the most surprising career resuscitation among the Phils' ex-outfield crew is the year Raul Ibanez is having out in Seattle. The 19 homers he had (as well as the two post-season pinch-hit blasts) he had in part-time duty for the Yankees last year was impressive enough after he seemed to be on his last legs as a 39-year-old for the '11 Phils, but this year he's gone yard 27 times in one of the sport's most hitter-oppressive ballparks, and at age 41, has posted the highest OPS+ of his entire career. Most remarkably, he's now hit more homers in his 40s than he did in his entire 20s, officially giving Ibanez one of the weirdest career arcs of any slugger in baseball history.

Marlon Byrd. OK, it's not really fair to count Byrd here--it's been eight years and now six teams since Byrd was a Phillie, and he wasn't a part of any of the division-winning squads of the late '00s and early '10s. But damn...even Marlon friggin' Byrd is having a near-All-Star year? The dude was all but out of baseball last year, posting an OPS under .500 as a 34-year-old, surely reaching the end of the line for his respectable career. But somehow, he not only caught on with the Mets this year, he had the best season of his whole career, hitting .288 with 22 homers for New York before getting shipped in a post-deadline deal to the Pirates, where he's hit .325 with six XBHs and eight RBIs in 11 games so far. It's maybe the most bizarre story of the whole baseball season, and it serves as just one more jab to the gut for the Phillies and their crappy, crappy current outfield.

No, 24 Temple ready to make more history in Military Bowl vs. Wake Forest

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No, 24 Temple ready to make more history in Military Bowl vs. Wake Forest

Less than 24 hours after senior offensive lineman Dion Dawkins put Temple’s American Athletic Conference trophy in its case at Edberg-Olson Hall, it had to be taken out again.

There were too many fingerprints on the championship hardware from all the people holding it after Temple’s 34-10  win against Navy on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. Now clean, the trophy is back in its secure spot as a reminder of one of the program's biggest accomplishments.

“When we go back to 10th and Diamond and see that trophy case, ‘We can say, Dang. Like that’s us,’” Dawkins said. “We did this. We built this. We started this legacy at Temple with coach Rhule.”

Dawkins and the Owls will have another opportunity to build on their "legacy" when they travel back to Annapolis for the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 against Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons, who play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, finished the year 6-6 after losing its last three games.

“I think for us there’s two reasons,” Rhule said of the Owls’ decision to return to Annapolis for a bowl game. “We wanted to play a Power 5 team. We wanted to play an ACC or SEC team. And I think once we won there, and we saw what our crowd was there. I think this will just be a tremendous opportunity for all of Temple people to come down and see us play an ACC team.”

Last year’s Temple seniors went down as one of the best senior classes in program history. They went to the program's first bowl game in five years, they were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in 36 years, and they won 10 games for just the second time in program history.

This season, Temple has matched those marks with one game still left to go. When the Owls play in the Military Bowl, they’ll make program history by appearing in bowl games in consecutive years. On Sunday, the Owls appeared in the College Football Playoff (No. 24), Associated Press (No. 23) and USA Today Coaches poll (No. 24) rankings for the first time this season. A Temple team ranked in consecutive seasons is another first.

Even after clinching the AAC title on Saturday, there’s still more this team can do. The Owls haven’t won a bowl game since 2009. Temple ended 2015 with a loss to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl, which dropped the Owls from the final rankings. Rhule hopes his team can end this season in the Top 25. They’ve only done it once before - in 1979, when Wayne Hardin’s group finished No. 17 after a 10-2 year.

“I’m a big believer in legacy," Rhule said. "And I try to talk to our players about, ‘When you come back, the memories you’ll have, but also the things that will remind you of the things that you did, your accomplishments. And when they look up this team, we’d like to have a number next to it. It tells you that we’re one of the top teams in the country.”

The Owls also have a shot at the 11th win that eluded the 2015 team. Including this year’s team, Temple has had three 10-win seasons in its history. No Temple team has ever won more.

“Right now, we’re going to celebrate,” redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick said after Saturday’s game. “This was a big accomplishment. Once we figure out which bowl game we’re going to and it’s time to start preparing for the bowl game, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go in with a championship-caliber mind again, that way we can get an 11th win and hopefully end this thing 11-3.”

After another low point for Eagles, Doug Pederson says they're trying

After another low point for Eagles, Doug Pederson says they're trying

CINCINNATI – As a light rain began to fall on a chilly Midwest night, the Eagles, more dejected than they’ve been all season, made their way through the bowels of Paul Brown Stadium to their buses to begin the long trek back to Philadelphia.

After starting their season with three straight wins, the Eagles have been losers in seven of their last nine games after getting trounced 32-14 by a Bengals team that entered Sunday with just three wins (see Instant Replay). The game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.

Hey, at least they tried real hard.

“It’s not for lack of effort,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s just the discipline of your assignments, your jobs. And just collectively just focus on that one play at one time. But it’s not for lack of effort.”

Effort was a buzz-worthy word after the Eagles’ 27-13 loss to the Packers last Monday night. It was the reason Pederson cited when he said his team was going in the right direction despite the compounding losses.

Then the Eagles came out five days later and played what was perhaps their worst game of the 2016 season. Carson Wentz and the Eagles were one of the hottest teams in the NFL through the season's first three weeks.

It seems like a long time ago. Things have gone the other way after the Week 4 bye.

The Eagles found another low point on Sunday (see 10 observations from the loss).

“Well, obviously very disappointed in the way we played,” Pederson said. “That’s the first thing. And it’s a collective effort, all three phases tonight. ... I just mentioned to the team after the game that we individually, myself included, I tell you guys this every week. I’m the hardest critic on myself. I’m with that group in that locker room. And we all have to take a collective effort, but individually take that collective effort and just look at yourself in the mirror. The man in the mirror and see if we’re doing enough.”

On Sunday in Cincinnati, the Eagles’ offense was stagnant until garbage time and their defense allowed a banged-up Bengals offense to score on each of its first six possessions.

When the Eagles have been at their best this season, they’ve played complementary football. The offense holds the ball on long scoring drives while the defense gets off the field and gives them the ball back. It’s been a formula for success for a team with a rookie quarterback and a defense that was supposed to be its strength.

During the last couple of months, the Eagles have done just the opposite. The offense can’t stay on the field and the defense can’t get off of it.

When asked what happened from the 3-0 start to now, Pederson pointed toward right tackle Lane Johnson’s suspension, a few injuries and other teams having film on Wentz and their offense.

“It all just begins to snowball and obviously gets us in this situation,” Pederson said.

The situation the Eagles find themselves in is this: There are still four games left to play in the 2016 season whether they like it or not.  

“We still have a month of football left and three of the next four are division opponents,” Pederson said. “We’ve got some challenges. I told the guys in the locker room at the end of the game, this thing can go one of two ways and I only know the way it’s going to go. And that’s up. We just have to dig ourselves out of this hole and it starts next week.”

A couple of weeks ago, despite the losing, the Eagles were still in a very good position in terms of the playoff race. That has obviously changed. While not mathematically eliminated, the Eagles are a long shot, to put it mildly.  

Now, the season is about getting through while minimizing the damage, especially with several young players in key roles, specifically at the quarterback position.

“We learn from it, No. 1,” Pederson said. “And that’s the thing with young players, putting them in those situations right now. It’s just a learning experience for them. I just know this: it’s going to make us better with those players. It’s going to make us better. Again, we’ve got a month left and we’re going to continue to work hard.”

After the loss to the Packers six days ago, Pederson said it would be on him to make sure all of this didn’t spiral out of control.

And he seemed genuinely convinced it wouldn’t happen. But Sunday’s loss to the Bengals brought up similar questions about effort and brought back similar responses about each guy looking themselves in the mirror and correcting it.

Why is Pederson convinced the team is still all in?

“I can just go into that locker room and talk to each one individually and just look at their faces and see how they feel,” he said. “And they’re all dejected. That tells me enough right there, that we’re still together and they’re with everything that we’re doing. It’s going to be a great test for our leadership on the team. And the guys are going to have to rally, even the young guys. Everybody has to, myself included, we have to demand excellence. Is it going to be perfect all the time? No, it’s not. But you have to go in with enough pride and enough want-to that you want that perfection and nothing less than that.”

Not getting blown out next week at home against Washington would be a good place to start.