The Phillies, who have a gaping hole opening up at third base, are no stranger to this position. ”This position” being “the position of not having a quality third baseman,” not “third base itself.” Hard to believe that the franchise that bred Mike Schmidt, as well as an arsenal of talented infielders even in recent years, has had such a difficult time locking somebody with a bat and a glove and a brain in the hot corner.
And yet still, we won a World Series. Hrrmmmm.
Did the Phillies acquire a third base hopeful today? Who knows. Well, you do, because by the time you’re reading this, it has already happened. But here is what we’ve looked at in the recent past, and why the future for this position in Philly could be so important.
Dave Hollins (1990-1995, 2002)
“[Hollins] taught me how to be a professional, and showed me what it takes to play at this level every day. I’m gonna stay friends with him, probably forever.”
Did you know Dave Hollins last played baseball in 2002? Doesn’t that sound a little recent for Dave Hollins?
I mean, sure, he only at 17 at-bats before succumbing to spider bites (Boy, I do not remember this story) and retiring. But that touches up against the Jim Thome era, which leads into the current one. And yeah, I mean, you could use that logic on any guy, I guess. But the proximity just caught me off guard. Like the mandibles of a spider.
Hollins gets overlooked, despite being a member of the 1993 NL Champions, possibly because in his post-baseball years he has not become a brain dead criminal or claim to have held congress with a lizard. He took a more “Mickey Morandini” root (who went on to run a hardware store before being tapped to manage the Williamsport CrossCutters), and coached the Binghamton Mets in hitting for a year in 2005, before becoming a scout for the Phillies.
An All-Star, a 1992 20th MVP runner-up, a survivor of whatever brain-deteriorating infection that got to most of the 1993 squad–I think it was called “grain alcohol”–Hollins was a quiet, stoic player with a respectful career and served as a mentor for Pat Burrell, apparently.
Scott Rolen (1996-2002)
While the Phillies were going almost all the way in 1993, Scott was being drafted in the second round. He lit up the minors, creating a stir of excitement amongst fans–hey, there’s some talent down there. Real talent. Young talent. Talent we can lock up and build around.
By the time Scott reached the Majors, the Phillies were the 1996 Phillies, and they were less of a foundation you build on, and more of a foundation the mob uses for “stuff”–hollowed out and full of dead bodies. But that didn’t stop Scott.
He was the first Phillies Rookie of the Year in over 30 years; he notched the first of his eight Gold Gloves two years later; he jumped and dove and hit and ran and it was great. We’re coming back, I thought as a 10-year-old. Like most 10-year-olds, however, I was dead wrong, all the time, about everything. That was the summer I learned the NES did not have a secret C button hidden on the controller somewhere that would immediately “win you Mario.”
Scott said that the Phillies weren’t really doing much to revive, especially being in the midst of a revival, and straight up demanded a trade from Ed Wade while the GM crouched and quivered in the corner of his office. We in Philly don’t take too kindly to people wanting to, you know, leave us, like some kind of totally rational boyfriend, and now hate Scott. It’s become part of Philadelphia culture. We teach our children to hate Scott.
And now we have a generation of children full of hate and not really understanding why.
David Bell (2003-2006)
“David Bell flied out to shallow right in the ninth inning of Friday night’s 4-1 loss to Florida, then packed his bags for a flight to Milwaukee.”
And that was David Bell. A disappointment followed by a disappearance.
Bell’s career is pretty much a blank space during his time in Philly. Beforehand, he was part of the 2001 116-win Mariners, and scored the winning run of the 2002 NLCS with the Giants (while almost running over Dusty Baker’s three-year-old son at the plate).
He did hit for the cycle in 2004, making him half of the first ever grandson/grandfather Major League combo to do so (his grandfather Gus did it in 1951 with the Pirates).
But that meant very little to the crowd at The Vet, who were under the impression that the Phillies were, again, supposed to be winning. They weren’t. Bell was shipped out almost six years ago exactly today in exchange for Wilfredo Laureano, that guy you’ve heard of and needs no introduction.
Abraham Nunez (2006-2007)
“I can’t say that I’m going to hit for sure, because this is a tough game. But I think if you get some at-bats in a row, you’ll be able to produce.”
Nunez stepped into David Bell’s shoes and went on to string together 574 at-bats for the Phillies. None were very pretty. His OPS reached .600 in 2007, only to drop .600 points the next season while appearing in two entire games for the Mets. In 2005, he actually stepped in for the Cardinals to replace an injured Scott Rolen.
You may have some visions of him charging weak grounders from third and scorching a runner at first. Those were pretty cool times. That’s when you realized what Abraham Nunez was doing on a Major League roster (It helped his chances that the alternatives at the time were Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms). Except that those times weren’t very often so you spent a lot of your time marveling at the guys in the rest of the infield and pretending third base just didn’t happen.
Like the man who would follow him, Nunez’s career would take him from a playoff-bound MLB team to New Jersey.
Pedro Feliz (2008-2009)
“…and Pedro Feliz delivers!”
It’s difficult, especially through the fog of nostalgia, to have any sort of problem with the guy occupying third during the World Series year. But the truth was, Pete Happy offered very little offensively in his tenure, making him not much more Abraham Nunez-ish than Abraham Nunez.
But even with his glaring weaknesses, Feliz was an improvement, and filled out an All-Star infield adequately, despite being the only non-All-Star.
Now a Camden Rivershark, Pedro often catches himself gazing across the water at The Bank, wondering how exactly he was winning a championship ring there one moment only to find himself in New Jersey months later.
Placido Polanco (2010-2012)
“Third base, bullpen, bench.”
Rube went into the winter of aught-nine with a systematic, straight forward, aceless approach. The team had clear weaknesses, and as the hotshot heir to Pat Gillick, he aimed to address them.
Four years later and the only thing that keeps you from thinking that quote is from the 2012 offseason is that it doesn’t also say “…and our entire outfield.”
But that’s not a burn on Polanco as a whole. His defense at third has left us speculating when there’s a scrub out there who just messed up a play, “Polanco gets to that.” His offense at times has had us all tweeting, “All he does his hit.” He’s got almost no power left, and his 36-year-old body is a bit broken, and he is probably on his way out. But when you remember who played third base in this golden era, the most likely image you’ll see through the revolving door is Polly’s giant head.
So where is the future of this position headed? Freddy Galvis? Chase Headley? Michael Martinez? Mike Olt? Billy Ripken? A fear of change will not aid you in the coming months, and the hot corner will be one of the most differently-faced spots on this team. Hopefully, a young, skillful, permanent solution presents itself and the Phillies lock whoever it is long term, filling a long-awaited need.
Probably Michael Martinez, though.