Phillies

Shane Victorino retires as a Phillie, salutes the city where his dreams came true

Shane Victorino retires as a Phillie, salutes the city where his dreams came true

The Flyin’ Hawaiian turned into the Cryin’ Hawaiian.

Shane Victorino led off the Phillies’ Alumni Weekend celebration by returning to Citizens Bank Park on Friday night to officially announce his retirement from baseball.

Victorino addressed the festive crowd before the game. He lasted about 90 seconds before the tears started flowing.

“I will always have you woven into the fabric of my life," he told the crowd. "This is not a goodbye. It’s just the next chapter.

“Mahalo, Philly.”

Victorino played for the Dodgers, Red Sox and Angels after leaving the Phillies in the summer of 2012, but Philadelphia always held a special spot in his heart because it is where his dreams came true. And though he last played in 2015, he wanted to return to Philadelphia and symbolically retire with the club that he won a World Series with in 2008.

“This city made me the person that I am,” he said. “I was a 25-year-old kid bouncing all over the place just looking for an opportunity and I got to come to a first-class organization with first-class people.”

The story is well known. General manager Ed Wade and his staff plucked the spunky, athletic outfielder from Maui out of the Dodgers organization as a Rule 5 pick in December 2004. Victorino did not make the Phillies roster in the spring of 2005 and the Phillies had to offer him back to the Dodgers.

They said thanks, but no thanks.

So the Phillies kept Victorino and sent him to Triple A. He became the International League MVP and a year later a mainstay in the Phillies lineup.

Victorino became a fan favorite for his bubbly personality, his energetic style of play and his ability to produce clutch hits and important defensive plays in the field. He became an All-Star and eventually a huge part of the team that broke a 25-year championship drought in the city with the 2008 World Series championship.

“In 2005, I came to Philadelphia as a Rule 5 player,” Victorino told the crowd. “The city and me shared a DNA — an expectation for mediocrity. Well, this is far from what happened. Hard work, dedication and teamwork were the formula for success. Philadelphia, I can proudly look you all in the eye and say this: We succeeded.

“A World Series championship! We have rallied and today Philadelphia is respected — a booming city of winners.”

Phillies managing partner John Middleton and chairman David Montgomery presented Victorino with a hand-painted outfielder’s glove depicting his image and career accomplishments.

After thanking the organization, his teammates and the fans, Victorino hugged the Phanatic and headed to the mound to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. As Victorino arrived at the mound, the crowd erupted as Ryan Howard appeared on the field wearing his No. 6 jersey. Howard stood behind home plate and caught Victorino’s ceremonial pitch.

During the game, highlights from Victorino’s career — including his memorable grand slam against Milwaukee's CC Sabathia during the 2008 postseason — played on the big video board.

The Alumni Weekend festivities continue on Saturday night as Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay will be inducted onto the team’s Wall of Fame.

On Sunday afternoon, the club will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2008 World Series title team with a pregame ceremony. At last count, 25 members of that team, including Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Charlie Manuel and Brad Lidge, were slated to attend the event.

It was kind of fitting that the weekend began with a tribute to Victorino. He got his fair share of time as the leadoff man on those great Phillies teams from 2007 to 2011.

“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “For the rest of my life, I'll forever be part of this organization.”

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Phillies were far too reliant on Bryce Harper’s heroics this season

Phillies were far too reliant on Bryce Harper’s heroics this season

Bryce Harper homered and drove in four runs Saturday night as the Phillies evened their series in Cleveland. 

“We win when Harper hits,” manager Gabe Kapler said afterward. 

Those five words are more accurate than the 2019 Phillies would have liked.

The Phillies are 24-7 this season when Harper homers. They are 42–17 when he drives in a run. 

That means they are 37-57 (20 games under .500!) when Harper does not drive in a run. 

When it’s all said and done, Harper will almost certainly end 2019 with the second-most plate appearances, home runs and doubles of his career. Two homers and two doubles would give him more than he’s had in any season other than 2015, when he won NL MVP. 

Through 148 games, Harper has hit .256/.372/.500 with 33 HR and 108 RBI. A good game Sunday would result in his slugging percentage and OPS reaching their highest point since the end of April. 

It has been a very good season from Harper, just not a superhuman one that made up for the Phillies’ many deficiencies. Given what we know about the 2019 Phillies, it would have taken a Christian Yelich- or Anthony Rendon-like 2019 season from Harper to maybe carry the Phils into the postseason. 

This team is more heavily dependent on Harper than it would have hoped. That 37-57 record in games Harper doesn’t drive in a run would likely be better if Rhys Hoskins wasn’t hitting .172 with a .688 OPS over his last 50 games. 

The Phillies’ best hitter (Harper) is fine. One of the questions they must dig deep to answer objectively this offseason is whether their second-best hitter is good enough, whether Hoskins in the cleanup spot provides enough protection moving forward or if it’s a necessity to go acquire another big bat. Rendon will be a free agent. So too might J.D. Martinez, who can opt out of his Red Sox deal after the World Series. 

The Phillies this season have performed like a 64-win team when they don’t get an RBI from Harper. That can’t happen again in 2020. The early years of his 13-year contract figure to be the most productive and cannot go to waste. 

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O-H, yeah, Bryce Harper gives Indians fans a little something to remember him by

O-H, yeah, Bryce Harper gives Indians fans a little something to remember him by

CLEVELAND — Bryce Harper knows how to play a crowd. He’s done it all season at Citizens Bank Park with his pre-game bow to the fans in the right-field seats followed by his heaving of a warm-up ball into the upper deck.

The fans love it.

They love it even more when he hits home runs.

Harper belted his 33rd homer of the season to lead a 9-4 Phillies’ win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night. The home run was an impressive one, a three-run shot that put the Phils ahead, 5-4, with one out in the fifth inning.

The Phillies have played 153 games and they are in the midst of an 11-game road trip. At this time of year, the days seem to become a blur. Sometimes players don’t even know what day it is, or what city they’re waking up in. All they know is that there is another game to play.

But Harper was keenly aware of his surroundings Saturday night, keenly aware of what state he was in. As he crossed home plate after his go-ahead homer, he raised his arms and made the "O-H” sign above his head. And as he spoke with reporters after the game, he wore an Ohio State cap — backwards, of course.

“Big win for the Bucks today,” he said of the 76-5 whooping that Ohio State’s football team put on Miami of Ohio.

Harper’s wife, Kayla, played soccer at Ohio State. That was the birth of his fandom.

The fans in Cleveland appreciated the love that Harper showed for the Buckeyes.

They just would have preferred that he’d done it after, say, a harmless single.

Phillies starter Jason Vargas really appreciated the homer. He gave up four runs in the first two innings — two were unearned after Jean Segura’s error in the first inning — but kept his club in the game until the bats got going in the middle innings. Vargas pitched 6 2/3 bullpen-saving innings and ended up with his first win since July 28, when he was a member of the Mets.

Brad Miller hit the first of his two homers in the fourth inning and Harper put the Phils ahead with his three-run shot in the fifth. Harper’s homer was preceded by hits from Adam Haseley and J.T. Realmuto. 

With his team up, 4-2, Cleveland manager Terry Francona brought in lefty Oliver Perez to face Harper. Perez had retired Harper the night before. This time, Harper fouled off five pitches before hitting the ninth pitch, a full-count slider, over the wall in right field.

“It’s nice to be able to stay competitive and keep us in position to get back into the game and then, golly, I mean I can’t say that I’ve seen a more professional at-bat than the one Harper had against Perez right there,” Vargas said. “I think that any time you see an at-bat like that from your main guy, it’s just — he really didn’t give in and he really made the effort to stay in the at-bat and do everything he could do to get his pitch and he really capitalized and made a difference for us.”

Harper has 15 homers and 36 RBIs in his last 40 games.

“He has been tremendous in the second half of the season for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We win when Harper hits.

“That nine-pitch at-bat felt determined to me. Like he was determined not to fail. He was determined to put the ball in play and put it in play hard. He just did a good job of getting up underneath that baseball and putting it in the air.”

The Phils hit four homers on the night and they got excellent work from the bullpen, which has a 2.69 ERA — second-best in baseball — over the last 20 games.

A smiling Vargas stood in the dugout and greeted reliever Jared Hughes when he retired dangerous Francisco Lindor to end the seventh.

The victory was the 99th of Vargas’ career and it kept the Phils mathematically alive in the NL wild-card race at five games back with nine to play.

Vargas, 36, intends to pitch next season — the Phillies hold a $6 million option on his contract, though it’s unclear if they will pick that up — but he would prefer to get his 100th win before then.

He lines up to make one more start this season.

“I’d definitely like to get it sooner than later, obviously, but I’ve gone this long without having 100,” Vargas said. “It will be nice when it comes and hopefully it comes. It would definitely be a nice thing to have.”

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