Yesterday was a sad day. Not on the field - the Phils had a banner offensive day supported by pretty good pitching. I'll take that. But, losing Bobby Abreu hurts, for many reasons.
I'm not going to focus here on how my favorite Phillie is gone. Or that the hole he'll leave in the lineup will be bigger than most people can imagine. Or that losing him to the Yankees, of all teams, stings. Or that this trade and the reaction to it shows that the Philly mythology of the gritty player being better than the talented player lives on. Those are all things to be sad about, and they have been or will be touched on here in other pieces.
What this piece is about is how Bobby Abreu was underappreciated and how the media and the front office are 100% to blame for that.
It's hard to overstate how good Abreu has been in his 8.5 years wearing Phillies red. His .416 OBP is fourth all time for the Phils; his .513 SLG is fifth; his .928 OPS is tied for second; his 891 runs are tied for eighth; his 2491 total bases are seventh; his 348 doubles are third; his 195 home runs are seventh; his 814 RBI are seventh; his 947 walks are second; his 254 stolen bases are sixth; his 585 extra base hits are fifth; and his 54 sacrifice flies are second. He never missed more than 11 games in a season. In the past five, he didn't miss more than 5. That's a complete package for a hitter that's rarely seen: patience, power, speed, and durability.
On top of his batting prowess, Abreu was proud to be a Phillie. He signed a long-term deal in the wake of the Scott Rolen mess and showed that he was happy to stay in Philadelphia. He bought a house in the area. He learned English to get along with his teammates and the media. And, amazingly, he never once said anything bad about the Philadelphia fans or the Phillies' management.
But he had every reason to. For his eight and a half seasons here, he was treated to intense hatred by the fans. On talk radio, he was pilloried. At the stadium, he was booed routinely. Only in the summer of 2004 when fan balloting put him on the All-Star team was Bobby shown any love from the Philadelphia fans.
I blame the media and the front office 100% for these problems. They should hang their heads in shame.
Yesterday, after Bobby was traded, we started to hear things that we should have been hearing regularly since 1998. Instead of alluding to chemistry problems and Abreu, announcers for the Phils and commentators on Comcast were saying that he was a fun guy to have in the clubhouse, he was friends with lots of guys on the team, and he had a great work ethic that will be missed. They re-aired an interview with him in which he showed his desire to win when he said he was saving his favorite suit for the playoffs. They put his career numbers on the screen, showing how he is one of the all-time Phillies greats.
Where were these reporters when the fans were all over Abreu? Silent. Completely silent.
The same thing can be said for Phillies' management. Emblematic of this problem is Larry Bowa now wearing number 53 for the Yankees. He took that number when he became a Yankee because he said that Bobby Abreu is his favorite Phillie. Why was Bowa so silent about Abreu during his managing years? Particularly in light of Bowa's favorite radio station and favorite host on that station repeatedly attacking Abreu and leading the public charge against him. Why didn't Bowa stick up for Abreu in public when he was manager? Why didn't anyone in the front office make it a public campaign to explain how important Bobby Abreu is to the Phillies, both on and off the field?
All we got was silence from the media and the front office about Bobby Abreu's worth. Now that he's gone, it seems like the real story is coming out. He was an all-time Phillies great; he was a great teammate; and he was a hard worker who wanted to win. Those of us who paid attention knew that; it's just a shame everyone else didn't.