“Out with the old, in with the new.” This statement would best describe the 1998 Philadelphia Phillies.
Ed Wade replaced Lee Thomas as the club’s General Manager after Thomas received the pink slip in Dec. 1997. Four of Philadelphia’s eight starting position players were either not on the Phillies’ roster or didn’t find themselves in the starting lineup in 1997. The Phillies needed to improve their outlook if they wanted to even think about capturing a National League East title.
Right-fielder Bobby Abreau came to the Phillies from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for shortstop Kevin Stocker. Abreau batted . 312 (155-for-497) with 68 runs, 29 doubles, six triples, 17 home runs, 74 runs batted in, and 19 stolen bases.
Center-fielder Doug Glanville joined the Phillies from the Chicago Cubs for second baseman Mickey Morandini. Glanville, who became a baseball analyst for ESPN after his playing days, hit .279 (189-for-678) with 106 runs, 28 doubles, seven triples, eight long-balls, 49 RBIs, and 23 steals. He even produced an 18-game hitting streak during the season.
Ex-Phillies farmhand Desi Relaford took over at shortstop and Mark Lewis took over at second base as a free agent. Relaford collected 45 runs, 88 singles, 25 doubles, three triples, five jacks, and 41 RBIs in 494 at-bats. Lewis hit .249 with 52 runs, 21 doubles, two triples, nine round-trippers, and 54 RBIs.
Overall, the Phillies’ offense produced a .264 batting average (1,482-for-5,617) with 713 runs, 286 doubles, 36 triples, 126 home runs, 672 RBIs, and 97 steals.
Rico Brogna provided the punch at the plate and with the glove at first base. Brogna batted .265 (150-for-565) with 77 runs, 36 doubles, three triples, 20 sayonaras, and 104 RBIs. At first base, Brogna recorded a single-season club-record 141 assists.
If you thought Brogna had been exciting, so was third baseman Scott Rolen. Rolen hit .290 (174-for-601) with 120 runs, 45 doubles, four triples, 31 homers, 110 RBIs, and 14 steals in 160 games. It was the 15th season in club history a player posted 75-plus extra-base hits in one season, the first since Juan Samuel tallied 80 in 1987. Oh yeah, Rolen recorded 135 putouts at third base, the most for any NL third basemen in 1998 (plus he won a Gold Glove).
First-string catcher Mike Lieberthal batted .256 with 39 runs, 26 extra-base hits, and 45 RBIs in 86 games. Gregg Jefferies had been the starting first baseman, batting .294 with 65 runs, 22 doubles, three triples, eight fence-clearers,48 RBIs, and 11 steals.
On the bench the Phillies had outfielder Ruben Amaro, Jr. (20-for-107, seven runs, six extra-base hits, 10 RBIs), Bobby Estalella (31-for-165, 16 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs), Kevin Jordan (69-for-250, 23 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs), and Kevin Sefcik (53-for-169, 27 runs, 12 extra-base hits, 10 RBIs).
As for the men on the mound, Phillies pitchers posted a 4.64 Earned Run Average in 1,463 innings with three shutouts, 32 saves, 21 complete games, 1,476 hits, 544 bases on balls, and 1,176 strikeouts.
Ace Curt Schilling (15-14, 35 starts, two shutouts, 3,25 ERA) led the NL in complete games (15), innings (269), and strikeouts (300). Schilling, who fanned 319 hitters in 1997, became the fifth pitcher in Major League Baseball history to record back-to-back 300-strikeout campaigns.
Aside from Schilling, the other four men in the starting five couldn’t be as efficient. Matt Beech (3-9, 21 starts, 5.15 ERA) fanned 113 in 117 innings. Mark Portugal (10-5, 26 starts, 4.44 ERA) struckout 104 and walked 32 but allowed 186 hits in 166 innings. Carlton Loewer (7-8, 21 starts, 6.09 ERA) permitted 154 hits in 123 innings. Tyler Green (6-12, 27 starts, 5.03 ERA) walked 85 and punched-out 113 in 159 innings.
Mike Grace (4-7, 90 innings, 5.48 ERA) split time as a starter (15 games) and out of the bullpen (six games). Paul Byrd made the most of his eight starts by going 5-2 in 55 innings with one shutout, two complete games, 41 hits, 17 free passes, and 38 strikeouts.
Mark Leiter (7-5, 69 games, 3.55 ERA) assumed the role of closer with 23 saves, 67 hits, 47 walks, and 84 strikeouts. Jerry Spradlin (4-4, 69 games, 3.35 ERA) notched a save, walked 20, and fanned 76 in 82 innings. Other bullpen arms included Ricky Bottalico (1-5, six saves, 39 games, 43 innings, 6.44 ERA), Wayne Gomes (9-6, one save, 71 games, 93 innings, 86 strikeouts, 4.24 ERA), Darrin Winston (2-2, one save, 27 games, 25 innings, 6.12 ERA), Yorkis Perez (0-2, 57 games, 52 innings, 42 strikeouts, 3.81 ERA), and Matt Whiteside (1-1, 10 games, 18 innings, 8.50 ERA).
Boasting the league’s ninth-ranked defense (.982 fielding percentage), the Phillies committed 110 errors and turned 131 double plays. Phillies infielders pulled off the 27th triple play in franchise history on Aug. 20 (at San Francisco) when shortstop Alex Arias grabbed a low line-drive off Jeff Kent’s bat, flipped to Lewis at second base, then threw the baseball to Brogna at first.
Second baseman Marlon Anderson became the first Phillie and sixth NL player to post a pinch-hit homer in his first big-league plate appearance on Sept. 8 at the New York Mets (the Phillies won, 16-4). In that same game, Beogna, Estalella, and Sefcik each hit two homers for a team-record seven sayonaras in one game.
Anyway, Terry Francona’s second season as Phillies manager didn’t necessarily being peaches and cream. The Phillies finished as the third place team in the NL East at 75-87, 31 games out of first. At one point, the Phillies were 55-50 before enduring a seven-game losing streak and finished 20-35 in the final two months.
Schilling had been the Phillies’ lone All-Star for the second consecutive season. Veterans Statium counted 1,715,702 ticket stubs at the gates. Anderson and Loewer received the Paul Owens Award as Philadelphia ‘s top minor leaguers. Oh yeah, the Phillies selected third baseman Pat Burrell out of the University of Miami as the first overall pick in the amateur draft and signed a five-year subtract for $8 million; Burrell would be inducted into the Phillues Wall of Fane in 2015.
WOGL-FM and television stations WTAF 29 and Comcast SportsNet broadcasted Phillies games. Calling the action were Harry Kalas, Andy Musser, Chris Wheeler, and Larry Andersen
*Information about the 1998 Phillies can be found in “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky.