Joseph’s Feel Good Season
A year ago at this time Tommy Joseph was in no-where land, having been removed from the Phillies 40-man roster (10/19) after hitting .193 in 45 games at Lehigh Valley. He was subject to baseball’s Rule 5 draft in December. That came and went meaning he was a total free agent.
Drafted in the second round by the Giants in 2009, Tommy was a prize, heavy-hitting catcher and the centerpiece when the Phillies traded Hunter Pence in July of 2012. His first two minor league seasons had produced 55 doubles, 38 home runs and 163 RBI. Not bad for a 19-year-old.
What followed were four seasons which qualified him for M*A*S*H: concussion (2012), concussion (2013), season-ending wrist injury (2014) and concussion (2015). Over those last three seasons he played in a total of 121 games (14 home runs). He was on three rehab assignments in Clearwater which included 20 games in the Gulf Coast League, the lowest end of the baseball universe.
Tommy didn’t give up, worked hard, lost some weight and finally resigned with the Phillies on February 25 after major league camps had opened. Join the minor league mob at Carpenter Complex in a couple of weeks were his orders.
Now playing first base, Tommy had an impressive minor league camp and an even more impressive start at Lehigh Valley (.347, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 27 games). The Phillies noticed and brought him to the majors on May 13. The previous May 13 at LV, .123 with 0 home runs.
Joseph added some badly needed punch to the lineup, 21 homers in 107 games. Only three other Phillies rookies hit more. Seven homers came in his first 21 games. No Phillies hitter had done that in the last 100 years.
He and Ryan Howard, the incumbent icon, blended well sharing time at first base. It was a testimony to the quality of two quality men.
Tommy easily was the feel-good story of the 2016 Phillies. His season was filled with a lot of emotion. It ended with him hugging Ryan after replacing the Big Piece in the final inning of the season. Tears of joy instead of tears of despair of a year ago.
Under The Radar
(During baseball’s offseason, will preview some of the Phillies minor league players who are under the radar. These young prospects are not listed on the MLBpipeline.com list of top 30 prospects but are still considered potential big leaguers).
RHP Drew Anderson . . . R-R . . . 6-3, 185 . . . Will be 23 next March . . . 21st round selection in 2012 draft out of Galena HS (Reno, NV); signed by Joey Davis . . . 2012: Began pro career with GCL Phillies . . . 2013: Led Williamsport in wins (6), innings (76.1) and ERA (2.00) . . . 2014: Made 6 starts at Lakewood and 2 in GCL on rehab when shutdown 7/31 with right elbow strain . . . 2015: Missed entire season following Tommy John surgery . . . 2016: Following extended spring training, made first start at Lakewood on 5/22. Promoted to Clearwater 7/10. One of three pitchers in a combined no-hitter in his debut vs. St. Lucie Mets in Bright House Field. Threw 4 scoreless innings when the rains came. Lifted after a 44-minute with Will Morris and Victor Arano completing the historic outcome. Finished the season, 3-4, 2.70 ERA for 15 starts; fanned 78 in 70 innings; 1.10 WHIP.
Richie Ashburn was a two-time batting champion during his Phillies career (1948-59), a .311 batting average in 1,794 games. He put up a lot of numbers both offensively and defensively. He has two career and two single-season records that will be difficult to match or surpass.
Consecutive Game Playing Streak (730 games)
The speedy centerfielder began streak on July 7, 1950. It ended when he couldn’t start the 1955 season opener. He and Del Ennis collided during a spring training game in Wilmington, DE, that year. Ashburn injured a knee and was out of the lineup when the season started. The Phillies previous record was 533 games by first-baseman Fred Luderus, June 12, 1916 until the 1920 season opener.
730 games seem safe because current players just don’t seem as durable. Whitey’s streak pales in comparison to baseball’s all-time record, 2,632 straight games by Cal Ripken Jr. Then again, no one ever thought Lou Gehrig’s streak (2,130) that ended in 1939 would topple.
Fewest Grounded Into Double Plays (GIDP), Season (1, 1948)
As far as GIDP, Ashburn hit into only one in 530 plate appearances in his rookie season. Unbreakable. The major league record is 0, 646 at-bats by Augie Galan, Chicago Cubs in 1935.
Ironically, Whitey shares the club record for most GIDP in a game, three. It occurred in San Francisco’s Seals Stadium, June 28, 1959, against left-hander John Antonelli. For those of you keeping score, all were 4-6-3. Knowing Ashburn, each was a rocket ground ball. Joe Torre holds the major league record, four, July 21, 1975.
Richie Ashburn was an All-Star centerfielder who played left field in the first major league game he ever saw, opening day (1948); ended his career at second base with the Mets (1962). His first hit came in his first game off Johnny Sain; his 2,000th hit off Carlton Willey; his Phillies record hit (#2,111) off Bob Buhl and his last hit as Phillie also off Buhl. All three pitched for the Braves. His very last hit in the majors came in his last at-bat. The pitcher? Buhl, then with the Cubs. Every one of these hits was a single. During his 15-year career in the majors with the Phillies, Cubs and Mets, the only uniform number he wore was #1.
(A weekend without baseball. Bah humbug. Next post: Tuesday).