Phillies

J.T. Realmuto hustles to Clearwater, can't wait to hit in Philly

J.T. Realmuto hustles to Clearwater, can't wait to hit in Philly

CLEARWATER, Fla. — J.T. Realmuto knew he was going somewhere. So, back home in Oklahoma City, he and his wife packed their bags last week and waited for the phone call that would tell them which way to start driving.

"We didn't want to head to Florida and get traded to [a team that trains in] Arizona," he said with a laugh.

The call came Thursday afternoon. Realmuto had been traded to the Phillies. Go east, young man, you've become the latest star player to escape the rebuilding Miami Marlins.

Realmuto wasted no time joining his new team. He and his wife, Lexi, and infant daughter, Grace, drove through the night Thursday and arrived in Clearwater late Friday afternoon. Pitchers and catchers will go through their first official workout of the spring on Wednesday. Realmuto joined the gang of earlier arrivers for a workout on Saturday morning and has already caught one of Aaron Nola's bullpen sessions.

"This is definitely an organization that I'm proud to play for and I'm happy to be here," he said Tuesday.

Realmuto, who turns 28 in March, is widely hailed as the best catcher in baseball. He made his first All-Star team last season but finished in last place with a stripped-down Marlins team that is still in the early stages of a rebuild. Realmuto saw some of his teammates, including eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich, get traded away last winter and made it known to Marlins officials that he wanted to be dealt to a team with a chance to win. It took the entire offseason and a lot of rumors du jour, but he got his wish.

"It was definitely a different offseason for me and my wife," he said. "We spent more time on social media than we ever have in our lives, just trying to find out if anybody knows any scoop that we didn't know. It was a little stressful, a little different for us, but we're definitely happy with the outcome."

And he's happy he won't be playing half his games in spacious Marlins Park anymore. Realmuto hit .277 with 30 doubles, 21 homers, 74 RBIs and an .825 OPS for the Marlins last season. He did much of his damage on the road, where his OPS was .870, compared to .773 at home.

Over his career, he has hit .309 with a .848 OPS in 280 games on the road and .245 with a .678 OPS in 260 games in Marlins Park.

"It's definitely tough," he said. "I can count too many times that I felt like I crushed a ball in Marlins Park only to watch Odubel Herrera dive in center field and catch it at the wall. So it will be nice to get out of there and — not that Citizens Bank Park is any slouch, you still have to hit the ball well, but it will be nice knowing if you get a ball, you have a chance of getting it out. In Marlins Park, sometimes you felt like you got all of it and you were flying out to center field, not even getting a double out of it. You were running back to the dugout. So it will be nice to not have that situation.

"I felt like some of my issues in Marlins Park were that I knew it was so big and sometimes maybe I tried to do a little too much and got out of my strengths. I'd muscle up and try to hit the ball too far, which over time can really create problems. I think just being able to play in a park that is more hitter-friendly will give me more confidence and I'll try not to do too much and just take things as they come and that will help me out tremendously."

As a visitor to Citizens Bank Park, Realmuto hit .282 with eight doubles, four homers, 13 RBIs and a .788 OPS in 28 games.

Phillies officials believe Realmuto will have as much impact on the team's pitching and defense as he does on the offense. Last week, GM Matt Klentak mentioned that Realmuto's blocking ability would give pitchers confidence to try to get hitters to chase balls in the dirt. Ask Brad Lidge how important that is. He always knew Carlos Ruiz would block his dirt-diving sliders.

"I've definitely studied all of them multiple times just by facing them," Realmuto said of the Phillies pitchers. "There's a lot of great arms on this team, a lot of young guys with electric stuff, guys that are getting better. From top to bottom, this entire rotation has quality, plus stuff and they've all gotten better. I look forward to helping them continue their improvement."

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National League dominates MLB fan loyalty rankings, Phillies land in Top 10

National League dominates MLB fan loyalty rankings, Phillies land in Top 10

Will baseball's 60-game return have enough oomph to keep fans interested? It's a question that scares some of the game's biggest names, but I have no doubt Phillies fans will be supporting their team in late July.

And according to a new ranking of MLB fans' loyalty, the Phils will probably fare better than most.

The new Forbes ranking, released Wednesday, attempts to rank each fanbase by its respective loyalty, a tall task. The ranking factors in things like local TV ratings, stadium attendance, ticket demand, merch sales, and social media reach, then adjusts for local population. 

It's an imperfect science, but it's not a bad approach. And the Phillies finished in the Top 10, so I'll take it - even if they could've been higher.

Phillies fans rank No. 9 in loyalty among all 30 teams, according to Forbes, and sixth among seven NL teams in the Top 10. Here's the Forbes explanation:

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Sales of right fielder Bryce Harper’s jersey set a record for any sport for any player during the first 24 hours after his signing last year, helping to make the team’s merchandise among the league’s best-selling. But Phillies fans are a notoriously tough crowd. After witnessing a 6-5 win at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates in late September, Phillies fans booed Harper and the team for not winning by more, prompting former utility player Sean Rodriguez, whose home run won the game, to call them "entitled" in the press. Because of the backlash he received from fans, he apologized the next day for the use of the word—proving the fans are always right.

You'll be happy to know the Phillies finish atop the NL East, just one spot ahead of the Atlanta Braves. That's enjoyable.

I won't take issue with the Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Yankees, and Dodgers representing the Top 5. Those are basically immovable. But after that, things get a bit more interesting.

The Brewers, Giants, and Indians all have loyal fanbases, but I don't know if I'd argue they're any more loyal than Phillies fans. Every fanbase ebbs and flows with its team's success, especially teams that aren't traditional powerhouses. When the Phils are on top of their game, South Philly is a borderline Top 5 place to watch a ball game.

I could see the Phils landing anywhere between No. 6 and No. 9 on this list. Personally, I'd put them above the Indians and Brewers - but, again, this is all imperfect science.

Earlier this year, Forbes released a ranking of the 10 most passionate sports fanbases in the country, and the Eagles finished No. 5 overall, behind four other NFL teams. Not a bad year for the area's fan reputation.

The 2020 Major League Baseball season is scheduled to begin July 23.

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Bobby Bonilla will be paid more in 2020 than a dozen notable Phillies

Bobby Bonilla will be paid more in 2020 than a dozen notable Phillies

Even in one of the strangest years in human history, Bobby Bonilla gets his money.

It's July 1, Bobby Bonilla Day, the date he gets his annual payment of just under $1.2 million from the Mets. The Mets will pay Bonilla that amount each year until 2035, at which point they'll have paid him about $30 million. The Mets came up with this deal in 2000 to avoid paying Bonilla a $5.9 million buyout in one lump sum.

Turned out to be an awful deal for the Mets, whose owners, The Wilpons, would go on to lose a ton of money in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. The Wilpons, two decades later, are trying to sell the team. The Mets have reportedly lost more than $60 million in each of the last two seasons and have hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. This was not the financial position the franchise foresaw when it deferred all that money to Bonilla.

The highest-paid player overall this season could also turn out to be a player who hasn't played in years: Prince Fielder. Fielder is owed $24 million in the final year of his contract with the Rangers, four years after he suffered a career-ending neck injury.

Big-leaguers in 2020 are set to make 37% of their salaries since only 37% of the regular season (at most) will be played. For Bryce Harper, it means about $9.4 million instead of $25.4 million. The biggest salary in the majors in 2020 belongs to Mike Trout at $36 million, of which he'll make about $13.3 million.

Any major-leaguer who was set to earn less than $3.2 million this season will, in fact, make less from their contract than Bonilla in 2020. 

Here are some of the Phillies players who will earn less in 2020 salary than Bonilla:

Rhys Hoskins
Zach Eflin
Nick Pivetta
Adam Haseley
Roman Quinn
Adam Morgan
Tommy Hunter
Jose Alvarez
Andrew Knapp
Seranthony Dominguez
Ranger Suarez
Nick Williams

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