Mystery Men: the Forgotten 2008 Phillies

Between injuries: Chris Snelling in the 2013 World Baseball Classic - Chung Sung-Jun

Enough about your Utleys, your Werths, your Hamelses. Herein we consider the exploits of Chris Snelling, Les Walrond, and others who might not have been heroes of the world f. champions, but at the least were there. Briefly.

As we all know, just five years later only a half-dozen players remain on the Phillies from the club’s 2008 world f. championship team: Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley. (A seventh, Chad Durbin, left and, unfortunately, came back.)

Hamels and the four lineup regulars will be Philadelphia legends forever based on their contributions to that team, as will since-departed teammates like Pat Burrell, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Jamie Moyer, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson. When it comes time to celebrate that team as we hit the major anniversaries of their heroics, they’ll all be back, as likely will lower-profile but nonetheless prominent ’08 heroes like Matt Stairs, J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre.

But as is true for every team, every year, the 2008 Phillies briefly featured a bunch of players who barely had enough time to meet the clubbie and get glared at by Utley before their tenures with the Phils came to an end. In this installment of The Good Phight’s periodic look back at the 2008 champs, we honor, or at least remember, the 11 shortest-tenured members of that team.

3b Mike Cervenak

Who He Was: A minor-league lifer then in his tenth year of professional baseball without a single stint in the big leagues (though he did appear in 1998 with the Alaska Goldpanners, second-favorite team of our own Phrozen), Cervenak—whose name I struggled to spell then and now—hit .311 in his first season with Lehigh Valley. He’d actually fit well on the current Phillies, having drawn just 13 walks in 482 triple-A plate appearances that year.

2008 highlights: Cervenak made his major league debut on July 11, 2008, pinch-hitting in the 11th inning of an eventual 6-5 win over the Diamondbacks. He didn’t reach in that appearance, nor in his first opportunity after a second call-up in August. He finally registered his first big-league hit, and his only major-league RBI, in a 5-0 win over the Marlins on August 6. In all, Cervenek went 2 for 9 as a pinch-hitter or defensive substitute before getting a start in the last game of the season on September 28, an 8-3 win over the Nationals. He went 0 for 4.

Since 2008: Cervenak continued his journey through the minors, spending one more year with LHV in 2009 before moving on to triple-A stints in the Mets and Marlins organizations. He hasn’t yet returned to the majors, and at age 36 it’s unlikely to happen. Wikipedia notes that he played for the Czech Republic in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

2b Brad Harman

Who He Was: A highly touted prospect out of Australia, Harman had posted a .281/.341/.449 line for high-A Clearwater as a 21 year old in 2007. He’d also impressed the brass in spring training, and when a few injuries hit early in the season, he was called up from Reading.

2008 Highlights: Harman made his major league debut on April 22, 2008, pinch-hitting in an 8-6 win over Colorado. Three days later, he got his first start and collected his first—and last—hit in the big leagues, an RBI double in an eventual 6-5 Phillies win. Alas, that was pretty much it for highlights: Harman made seven more plate appearances that season, going 0 for 6 with a walk.

Since 2008: Optioned to Reading in May, Harman scuffled to a .210 average at AA in 2008, though he did hit 17 home runs. The next year, his average fell to .201, and the power disappeared. The Phillies released him at the end of that season, and in May 2010 Harman was suspended for 14 months in his native country by the Australian Anti-Doping Authority.

INF Tadahito Iguchi

Who He Was: A four year major leaguer who’d come over from Japan at age 30 in 2005 and immediately contributed to the White Sox world champion team that season, Iguchi had already won the hearts of Phillies fans in 2007 when a midseason trade brought him over to fill in for the injured Chase Utley. He hit .304/.361/.442 in 156 plate appearances with the ’07 Phils, then signed a free-agent deal with the Padres the following winter.

2008 Highlights: Iguchi cratered in San Diego, hitting just .231/.292/.304 for the Friars before getting released on September 1. Less than a week later, the Phillies signed him, albeit too late for the postseason roster (which at that point was nothing like a sure thing anyway.) He played in just three games through his first three weeks back with the team, before getting a start in the season finale—a game that featured many of the guys on this list—and going 2-5 with a double.

Since 2008: Iguchi returned home to Japan after the 2008 season, and is now in his fifth season with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

OF Greg Golson

Who He Was: I’ll admit I’d totally forgotten that the Phils’ erstwhile 2004 first-round draft pick showed up in 2008. One in the long and lamentable line of Phils draftees who were wonderful athletes but lousy baseball players, Golson actually had a decent year at Reading in 2008, batting .282/.333/.434 with 13 homers and 23 steals before getting called up for roster expansion in September.

2008 Highlights: Well, let’s see. Golson debuted on September 3, in a 9-7 loss to the Nationals. He stole a base in that game. He appeared in four more games over the next few weeks before getting the start in that season-ending win over Washington, in which he went 0 for 4 but scored a run.

Since 2008: Ruben Amaro Jr’s first trade after being named general manager following the season was to swap Golson for John Mayberry Jr. on Nov. 20. This ranks among Amaro’s better trades, as Mayberry has been a modestly useful major leaguer while Golson has remained a quad-A guy at best. He’s passed through four more organizations since the Rangers cut him loose in January 2010, with a career line of .195/.214/.244 in 36 plate appearances.

OF T.J. Bohn

Who He Was: Pat Gillick, the GM of the Phils’ ’08 championship team, used his connections from other organizations to land some primo cheap/free talent. A decade after drafting Jayson Werth for the Orioles, he landed the then-journeyman outfielder for a low-dollar contract, then watched him blossom into a star. Greg Dobbs had been a marginal big-leaguer in the Mariners organization, but turned into a stud pinch-hitter for the Phillies. Bohn was supposed to be a similar find, a solid offensive player who’d rattled through the high minors in the Mariners and Braves organizations and enjoyed a very brief big-league stint for the Ms in 2006.

2008 Highlights: Bohn never made a start for the Phillies, but the team did go 12-2 in the 14 games in which he appeared through the spring of ’08, and he went 2 for 5 as a pinch-hitter. His biggest blow was a two-run ninth-inning double against the Rockies on April 21, which gave the Phils their final margin of victory in a 9-5 win.

Since 2008: Bohn’s line with LHV was heinous in 2008, as he hit just .215 with no power. He resurfaced with the independent Sioux City Explorers in 2010-11, hitting credibly but not sniffing the majors again.

C Lou Marson

Who He Was: A high-OBP catcher with a strong defensive reputation, through 2008 Lou Marson looked like a decent bet to one day upend Carlos Ruiz as the Phillies’ starting catcher. That year, the 22 year old hit .314/.433/.416 for Reading and threw out 36 percent of opposing base stealers. (Remember, Ruiz had an awful year offensively in 2008.)

2008 Highlights: Marson was recalled in early September, but didn’t make his debut until that season-ending win over the Nationals the day after the Phillies clinched the NL East. He made the most of it, going 2-4 with a home run… and received one of the most epic freeze-outs in the history of ever when returning to the dugout, as his veteran teammates utterly ignored him. Undeterred, Marson high-fived air until the Phillies gave up the illusion and mobbed him with congratulations.

Since 2008: In July 2009, Amaro traded Marson along with three other prospects to the Indians for lefty ace Cliff Lee. Now in his late 20s, Marson looks like a career backup: his power has never materialized (he has four homers since that one in his debut, in more than 870 plate appearances), and he’s long since been overtaken with the Tribe by Carlos Santana.

INF Andy Tracy

Who He Was: A cerebral minor league journeyman who’d hit 11 homers for the Montreal Expos in 2000 and barely sniffed the big leagues since, Tracy joined the Phillies organization as a 34 year old in 2008 and put up great numbers at Lehigh Valley, batting .288/.382/.521 with 22 homers.

2008 Highlights: Not much to speak of. He had four plate appearances in August and September, drawing a walk in his first, and knocking in a run on a sacrifice in his third. He also pinch-hit in the Phils’ 13-inning 8-7 win over the Mets on Aug. 26, in which the Phils rallied from an early 7-0 hole.

Since 2008: Tracy played two more seasons at LHV, hitting 26 and 21 home runs respectively. He also made a cameo with the Phillies in 2009, going 5 for 12 with a triple. It would be his last major league action, as Tracy retired after 2011 and became manager of the Phillies’ short-season affiliate in Williamsport.

OF Chris Snelling

Who He Was: Okay, I’ll admit it—I did this whole feature because of Chris Snelling. Another of Gillick’s favorites from their time in the Seattle organization, Snelling was an Australian outfielder whose professional career had two constants: hitting excellence and chronic injury. He’d made his big league debut for the Mariners as a 20 year old in 2002, but tore his ACL running the bases and didn’t get back until 2005. He OPSed about .800 for Seattle over 154 plate appearances in 2005-06, but again suffered injury. Snelling moved through the Nationals and Athletics organizations in 2007 before signing with the Phillies in November 2007.

2008 Highlights: Snelling was called up very early in 2008, and made his season debut in a 6-5 loss to the Cubs on April 13. Two days later, he came off the bench to pinch-hit for Ruiz in the home ninth with the Phils trailing the Astros 3-0, and bombed a leadoff home run off closer Jose Valverde. Three batters later, Pat Burrell tied the game with a two-run homer, and later in the inning Pedro Feliz won it with a double that scored Geoff Jenkins on a whisker-close play at the plate. This was the game that first hinted at something special from the 2008 team.

Since 2008: Snelling made just two more plate appearances for the Phillies, the second of which was a double to lead off the 10th inning of a 3-3 tie with the Braves on June 6. Pinch-runner So Taguchi came around to score, and the Phils held on to win 4-3. Alas, that was Snelling’s last MLB at-bat, as the injury bug bit yet again. His awful luck continued into 2013, when he singled in his first World Baseball Classic at-bat for Australia and

immediately left with a leg injury.

P Les Walrond

Who He Was: A 1998 draftee of the Cardinals, Walrond was a hard-throwing lefty who lacked the consistent command for major league success. He made seven appearances with the Royals in 2003, then ten with the Cubs three years later, averaging better than a strikeout per inning but pitching to a 7.46 ERA. The Cubs released him in late April 2008, and a few days later he signed with the Phillies and was assigned to triple-A Lehigh Valley.

2008 Highlights: The Phillies lost each of Walrond’s first five appearances in August and September of 2008, including a 2-0 defeat to the Pirates in 12 innings in which Walrond was the pitcher of record. He finally not only pitched in a victory but earned the decision in that season-ending win over the Nationals on September 28, pitching two scoreless innings and striking out four.

Since 2008: Walrond pitched abroad in 2009-10, then returned to American baseball in 2011 when he made brief appearances with the Phillies’ Reading and Lehigh Valley affiliates. He split the 2012 season between independent ball and the Blue Jays’ AA team.

P R.J. Swindle

Who He Was: A lefty whose velocity made Jamie Moyer look like Randy Johnson, Swindle nonetheless had put up cartoon numbers through the low minors over his first four seasons. After joining the Phillies organization in 2007, Swindle started at AA Reading in 2008 and posted an 0.54 ERA through 11 appearances. At triple-A, his ERA rose all the way to 1.98, and he struck out 51 batters in 36.1 batters. While still in the minors, he graciously agreed to be interviewed for this site by TGP co-founder David S. Cohen.

2008 Highlights: Swindle got the call in early July and made his debut in a 10-9 loss to the Mets on July 7, allowing two runs in three innings. He made two more appearances over the next week before returning to triple-A with a 7.71 big-league ERA.

Since 2008: The Phillies parted ways with Swindle after 2008, and he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers that November, appearing in six games during the 2009 season. Unfortunately for Swindle, his second big-league stint went even worse than his first, as he was scored upon in each of those six appearances and pitched to a 16.20 ERA. He hasn’t yet resurfaced in the majors.

P Drew Carpenter

Who He Was: The Phils’ second-round selection in the 2006 draft (taken one pick before Trevor Cahill, six before Justin Masterson, and nine before Jon Jay), Carpenter was one among a series of college pitchers with more smarts than stuff that the Phillies went after around the middle of the last decade. In 2007, his first full season of pro ball, he posted an impressive 17-6 record with a 3.20 at high-A Clearwater, and played at four levels in 2008—including one appearance with the Phillies.

2008 Highlights: Carpenter pitched one scoreless inning on August 27, with a strikeout and a walk in a 6-3 loss to the Mets.

Since 2008: The distinguishing trait of Carpenter’s pro career has been the brevity of his stints in the majors. He resurfaced with the Phillies for three games in 2009 (including his sole big-league win to date), one in 2010, and six in 2011 before the Padres claimed him off waivers in September. He made six more appearances for San Diego, then six with the Blue Jays last season. His career ERA in the majors is 7.56. Carpenter is currently with the Cubs’ triple-A affiliate.

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