By Theodore N. Beitchman
Like a lot of Phillies fans, I watched the 2014 World Series very closely, especially when Hunter Pence was on the screen.
And, like a lot of Phils fans, I couldn’t help wondering why the Phillies, who moved heaven and earth to get him in 2011, basically gave him away for a fishcake during the 2012 season.
And on the Giants, whom he has now helped to two World Series wins, his post-season line for 2014 was:
Batting average.333 and an OPS of .875!
Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News has boiled it down very nicely:
If you’re a Phillies fan and you are still reading this, congratulations, because we understand it cannot be easy. When you factor in what the Phillies gave up to bring Pence to Philadelphia in the first place and then what they got back when they traded him away just a year later, well, you might be better off clicking away or putting this newspaper aside and watching a Halloween horror movie marathon.
On July 29, 2011, the Phillies were 27 games over .500 and had the best record in baseball but felt the need to bolster their lineup by addressing the vacancy in right field, where [Jayson] Werth had been in the previous three-plus seasons. So they gave up their best hitting prospect (Jon Singleton), their best pitching prospect (Jarred Cosart), threw in another pitcher (Josh Zeid) and a player to be named later (Domingo Santana) in order to pry Pence from the Houston Astros.
A year and 2 days later, the Phils’ front office decided it had seen enough of Pence, jettisoning him to the Giants for catching prospect Tommy Joseph, pitching prospect Seth Rosin and outfielder Nate Schierholtz.
That’s a pretty grim recitation. And then I flashed back a week or so ago when I was listening to Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis wax rhapsodic about Pence’s World Series performance, and Ant said he had talked with former Phils manager Charlie Manuel that very morning.
Turns out Manuel chalked up Pence’s underperformance in 2012 to the fact that “not everybody is suited to play in Philadelphia.”
In other words, Pence couldn’t exist in the cauldron created by the ravenous fans, the marauding media and God knows what else.
Ellis allowed as how maybe Pence couldn’t excel as the Top Dog since Chase Utley came back a few months late because of his knee problems and Ryan Howard did also because of his recovery from Achilles tendon surgery.
All very relevant factors.
I have another suggestion:
Maybe the sainted Manuel, whom no one ever criticizes because he’s, you know, Uncle Charlie, mishandled Pence the way he rarely got on Jimmy Rollins to run out balls; he never played small ball, always waiting for the big hit; he mishandled the pitching in the 2009 World Series, starting Pedro Martinez in Game 6 against the Yankees instead of Cliff Lee on two days rest.
And a whole host of other deficiencies that were masked by the Phillies’ great run from 2007-to-2011.
Manuel was a perfect contrast to the tight-assed Larry Bowa, for whom the Phils simply would not respond to.
But the other side of that coin is that Manuel seemingly never inserted himself into anything, such as Howard’s continuing inability to lay off curves from lefties or to go to left field when teams put a shift on.
I love Charlie Manuel too. He oversaw the greatest run in the Phillies’ otherwise woeful 131-year history.
But he just rolled the ball out, filled in the lineup card and let the players play.
Great managers like Tony LaRussa and Bruce Bochy strategize when it is called for to maximize their players’ talents.
Sorry, Charlie, Philly isn’t that tough a place to play. But your excuse for Pence’s 2012 slump doesn’t play at all.
One thought on “SORRY CHARLIE, WHEN PENCE WAS A PHILLIE, YOU DROPPED THE BALL”
Great article and mostly true except Charlie couldn’t have gone to Lee in game six because he was the pitcher in game 5, and would have only had one day’s rest, not two. Charlie’s mistake in game six was sticking with Martinez after it was obvious after 2 innings that he had nothing. He should have gone to Hamels for 3 or 4 innings at that point while the game was still close. If they won game six, Lee would have had had to go in game seven.