Man, if fans looked forward to seeing an actual legitimate team, you could point toward the 2006 Philadelphia Phillies. Offense had been eye-popping in the statistics aspect as three position players could’ve argued their cases to receive the National League Most Valuable Player award. Defense made sure the team could remain in the clear to win games.
The Phillies received a give-it-your-all player in center-fielder Aaron Rowand from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for power-hitting first baseman Jim Thome. Rowand batted .262 (106-for-405) in 109 games with 59 runs, 24 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 18 walks, and 47 runs batted in.
However, if anyone would remember anything in particular about Rowand, you can’t forget about his team-first attitude. In a home at game at Citizens Bank Park against the New York Mets on May 12, Xavier Nady smacked a baseball off Gavin Floyd to deep center in the top of the first inning. Rowand outstretched his glove to make the catch, smacked face first into the right-center fence, and collapsed to the ground. Of course, Rowand was then taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital after a standing ovation from the spectators; moreover, that games resulted in a rain-shortened Phillies victory.
Rowand’s team-first moment couldn’t outshadow the standout season from first baseman Ryan Howard. The Big Piece hit .313 (182-for-581) in 159 games with 104 runs, 25 doubles, one triple, a franchise-record 58 home runs, 149 RBIs, 181 strikeouts, and 108 walks. Hall of Fame third baseman Michael Jack Schmidt hit 48 round-trippers in 1980; Howard cracked his record-setting 49th jack in late Aug. against the Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium in the District of Columbia.
Howard, by the way, had been voted the 2006 NL MVP. He even won the Home Run Derby at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA. On Sept. 3 at Citizens Bank Park in the first game of a doubleheader against Atlanta, Howard deposited three sayonaras off Tim Hudson (the Phillies won, 8-7, on a Shane Victorino RBI hit in the bottom of the ninth). If instant replay would’ve existed back then, Howard could’ve reached 60 long-balls.
Philadelphia’s offense displayed a .267 batting average (1,518-for-5,687) with 865 runs, 294 doubles, 41 triples, a club-record 216 round-trippers, 626 walks, 1,203 strikeouts, 823 RBIs, and 92 stolen bases in 117 chances. Manager Charlue Manuel’s starting lineup involved shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu, David Delluci, or Victorino in right field, second baseman Chase Utley, Howard at first base, left-fielder Pat Burrell, Jeff Conine, or Michael Bourn, Rowand or Victorino in centerfield, David Bell or Abraham Nunez guarding third base, and Mike Lieberthal, Sal Fasano, Chris Coste, or Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz behind the plate.
J-Roll (Rollins) swiped 36 bases, tallied 79 extra-base hits (45 doubles, nine triples, 25 homers), posted 191 hits (.277 average), knocked-in 83 runs, and safely crossed home 127 times.
Abreu appeared in 98 games until he was traded to the New York Yankees before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The Venezuelan collected 94 hits in 339 at-bats with 20 steals, 25 doubles, two triples, eight jacks, 61 runs, 91 walks, and 65 RBIs.
Delluci didn’t receive good vibes from the Phillues faithful, but he collected 32 extra-base hits, a .292 clip, 41 runs, and 39 RBIs in 132 games. Known as the Flyin Hawaiian, Victorino posted a 2.87 average in 153 games with 70 runs, 19 doubles, eight triples, six four-baggers, and 46 RBIs.
Utley could’ve also been in the running for MVP with the bat and base paths abilities. The second baseman compiled 203 hits (.309 average) in 160 games with 131 runs, 40 doubles, four triples, 32 big flies, 132 strikeouts, 102 RBIs, and 15 steals. Joe Thurston went four-for-18 with three rubs an one RBI in 18 games as a backup second baseman.
Oh yeah, Burrell also had the potential to make pitchers want to yell expletives with his bat swings. Burrell scored 80 times, swatted 24 doubles, stretched a triple, reached the seats 29 times over the fence, batted .258 (119-for-462) and drove in 95 runs. Conine came in late in the season (28 games) to provide 28 hits, 11 runs, six doubles, one triple, one fence-clearer, 17 RBIs, and 12 strikeouts. Bourne went one-for-eight in 17 games with two runs, an RBI, and one steal in three chances.
Bell hit .278 in 92 games by posting 39 runs, 17 two-baggers, two three-baggers, six four-baggers, 34 RBIs, and 32 walks. While Bell wasnt receiving warm responses, Nunez didn’t hear applauses as often as he would’ve preferred. In 123 games, Nunez contributed 68 hits in 322 at-bats, 32 RBIs, two gopher balls, two triples, 10 doubles, and 42 runs.
This had been the last season for Liberthal in a Phillies uniform, catching 67 games due to multiple injuries. While being able to play, Lieberthal hit .273 with 22 runs, 14 doubles, nine homers, 36 RBIs, eight walks, and 19 strikeouts.
Fasano entertained Sal’s Pals for 50 games with 34 hits in 140 at-bats, nine runs, eight doubles, four goodbye balls, and 10 RBIs. Coste finally cracked the majors after 11 years in the minors (he penned the book The 33 Year Old Rookie), tallying 65 hits (.328 average), 32 RBIs, 10 walks, 25 runs, 14 doubles, and seven long-balls. Ruiz caught the first 27 of his 1000-plus game career in the bigs, recording five of his 18 hits (69 at-bats) for extra bases.
Twenty three Phillies pitchers combined to post a 4.60 Earned Run Average in 1,460.1 innings with six shutouts, 42 saves, 85 holds, four complete games, 1,561 hits, 812 runs (747 earned), 211 fair souvenirs, 512 bases on balls, and 1,138 strikeouts.
Manuel’s starting rotation usually involved Brett Myers, John Lieber, rookie Cole Hamels, Cory Lidle, Ryan Madson (17 starts, 33 relief appearances), Gavin Floyd, and Randy Wolf. Souderton, PA native Jamie Moyer came to the Phillies in an Aug. waiver deal from Seattle for eight starts and Phillies farmhand Scott Mathieson started eight of nine contests.
Myers (12-7, 3.91 ERA) led the staff in wins, starts (31), innings (191), hits allowed (194), homers (29), walks (63), and strikeouts (189). Lieber (9-11, 4.93 ERA) struckout 100 while walking 24 in 168 frames. Hamels (9-8, 4.03 ERA) kicked off his first big-league season with 23 starts (132.1 innings), 117 hits, 66 runs (60 earned), 48 walks, and 145 strikeouts.
Ah, Hamels made his big-league debut in a one-hit, five-inning scoreless outing at Cincinnati on May 13 (he struckout Ken Griffey, Jr., who had 630 career homers, two times). Well, he spent 294 regular season and 13 postseason games on the mound (114-90 regular season, 7-4 playoffs) from 2006 until July 30, 2015 (traded to the Texas Rangers) with a World Series MVP award in 2008, six innings in a combined no-hitter (Sept. 1, 2014 at Atlanta), and a complete game no-hitter at the Chicago Cubs in his final Phillies start (July 25, 2015).
Perhaps Phillies fans wished Lidle didn’t come with Abreu in the trade to the Yankees. Lidle passed away in an Oct. airplane crah in New York after the Yankees ere knocked out in the American League Division Series. In 21 starts as a Phillies, Lidle was 8-7 with a 4.74 ERA 132 hits, 74 runs, 39 free passes, and 98 strikeouts in 125.1 frames.
Madson began the season as a starter before relegating to the bullpen when Hamels arrived, going 11-9 with a 5.69 ERA in 134.1 innings, 50 four-ball counts, and 99 strikeouts. Wolf went 4-0 with a 5.56 ERA in 12 starts. Floyd accumulated a 4-3 mark in 11 starts with 34 punch-outs while posting a 7.29 ERA.
Moyer arrived at 42 years and nine months in age, going 5-2 in eight starts 51.1 innings, 49 hits, 25 runs, 26 strikeouts, and seven walks.
Tom “Flash” Gordon replaced Billy Wagner as closer. Gordon (3-4, 3.34 ERA), whose son, Dee, would play for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins as an infielder, saved 34 games (39 opportunities) in 59 appearances with 68 strikeouts.
Aaron Fultz was 3-1 with a 4.54 ERA in one start and 65 games (71.1 innings) out of the bullpen. Fans held grudges against reliever Arthur Rhodes (0-5, four saves, 5.32 ERA) in 55 games since he blew three saves.
Oh yeah, Geoff Geary had been the workhorse by posting a 7-1 mark in 81 games 91.1 innings) with one save, 103 hits, 34 runs (30 earned), 60 strikeouts, and 20 walks. Rheal Cormier (2-2, 1.59 ERA) made the most of his 43 appearances by walking 13, fanning 13, permitted 27 hits, and surrendered six earned runs in 34 innings. Ryan Franklin didn’t receive many cheers in a 1-5, 46-game season with a 4.58 ERA. Trade acqusition Rick Wise, wearing uniform 00, posted a 4.38 ERA in 38 games.
Other bullpen arms include Fabian Castro (0-1, one save, 16 games, 1.54 ERA), Matt Smith (0-1, 14 games, 2.08 ERA), Clay Condrey (2-2, 21 games, 3.14 ERA), and Julio Santana (0-0, seven games, nine walks,,four strikeouts, 7.56 ERA).
The Phillies posted the league’s ninth-ranked defense (.983 fielding percentage) with 104 errors and 153 double plays. Victorino didn’t commit an error in 132 games with 221 putouts and 11 assists.
Even with the power bats, team-first attitudes, and somewhat dominant pitching, Manuel couldn’t preventh a 13th consecutive season without a postseason berth. The Manuel-managed Phillies finished in second in the NL East at 85-77, 12 games behind the division champion Mets.
Gordon, Howard, and Utley received the nods to represent the Phillies in the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. Attendance at Citizens Bank Park resulted in 2,701,815 spectators. The top minor leaguers in the Phillies organization to receive the Paul Owens Award were Bourn and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco; Carrasco was a minor leaguer traded to Cleveland in July 2009 with two other farmhands as pitcher Clifton P. Lee came to Philadelphia with outfielder Ben Francisco.
WPHT-AM along with television station Comcast SportsNet among others broadcasted home and road contests. Calling the action were Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler, Scott Graham, Larry Andersen, and Scott Franzke.