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The Philles and Third Base: The Curse of Scott Rolen

Larry Bowa must die. Details within.

I swear to god that this is Emperor Palpatine.
I swear to god that this is Emperor Palpatine.
Mitchell Leff

Third base has been a black hole for the Phillies since Scott Rolen left.  That much is established fact.  What is less-often discussed is how Rolen went rogue, killed puppies, and was outlawed to St. Louis. While I have sourced most of this article from Fangraphs and BR, the latter was from an advance copy of Larry Bowa's forthcoming memoir: "Assholes Whom I Have Hated". [1]

"No, no, no" you guffaw.  "You are misremembering history. The Phillies have had many *fine* years of third basery since Rolen left!  There was that swell fellow Placido Polanco! And David Bell wasn't awful. Even Pedro Feliz had his moments."

Yes, but.

For once, the numbers actually match up with my remembrance of things past. Sit down. No, really. Sit down. Do some slow nose breathing stuff.  Ok. Now look at this.


The Phillies have acquired 10 fWAR from third base from 2003 - 2014, inclusive.  That is actually 12 years.I was mildly surprised that it was not negative. If you take out Polanco, it is negative, actually. But Polanco happened, though you should hold on to that thought for a bit.

It could be worse - the White Sox acquired 5.2 fWAR over the same period, but only the White Sox were worse. Twenty-three teams more than doubled the Phillies' total. Eighteen teams more than tripled it. Eight teams quadrupled it. Three teams quintupled it.

The EXPOS have more fWAR from third than the Phillies. It says so on the LOOK list above. Ok, it includes the Nationals, too, and it is mostly Ryan Zimmerman, but still.

One team nearly sextupled it.  You will die when I tell you. But you already know who it is. The Mets. And mostly, it is our baseball friend, David Wright. He has over 52 fWAR on his own, with the rest from assorted Mets, including TRIGGER ALERT: Ty Wigginton.

Here is the Phillies' list. Oh. My. Fucking. God. Twenty-seven players. Oddly, with no Ty Wigginton. If I ever order a tart, it will be with not so much Ty Wigginton, I can assure you.

Polanco is the best by far, though Fangraphs includes his first tour with the Phillies in the total third base numbers, even though he played second in the pre-Utley years. Simply put, Polanco's total of 6.6 fWAR in his second tour with the Phillies is mostly at third. Most of the rest (8.2 fWAR) of his apparent 14.8 fWAR contribution was actually at second. In other words, the Phillies' production from third base may actually have been below even the White Sox in that period. Worst. In. MLB. Well, someone has to be worst, I guess.

Absorb that: the Phillies have close to a ZERO fWAR from third for over a decade.

Wes Helms. Michael Martinez. Tomas Perez. Abraham Nunez.  How the hell did those four get OVER 2,000 PLATE APPEARANCES? And that is before we even think about Michael Young.

Now, Fangraphs, when you sort for "Phillies" by "3b" for those years gives you all of the stats for Michael Martinez (and the rest) not just the ones at third base (roughly a third of Martinez' innings). It does this for all the wretched souls on this list. This distorts the horribleness of third base for the Phillies by overstating the roles of Abraham Nunez, Martinez, etc., but not enough to invalidate my hypothesis of, "THE HORROR...THE HORROR..."

There is a simple answer for why third base has been so terrible, though: The curse of Scott Rolen.

Rolen cursed the team on his way out the door with a Larry Bowa shaped foot in his ass. He swore that the Phillies would never have a prolonged period of good third basery so long as Larry Bowa lived. He's been right so far.

Fortunately, there is a solution, though I hate to write this [2]: Larry Bowa must die.

I know this because an old lady in the woods told me. I mean, it was my sister, and I told her to tell it to me so that I could tell it to you, but with the extra credibility it would have coming from an old lady in the woods. Also, she's actually not old, but she is over 40.

Anyway, she told me to return Larry Bowa to Western Parking Lot U. There, he must be ritually sacrificed at the former location of third base at the Vet. Red Phanatic is involved in all of this, along with a baseball bat, an ATV, and the toupee of Chris Wheeler.

This, I am told, along with heavy drinking and libidinous virgin priestesses consorting with me for days on end, will end the Curse of Rolen. [3]  If nothing else, we can find out if Bowa truly does bleed Phillies Red. It'll be one last, glorious mission for the old man.

I know that the sacrifice of Bowa will be painful [4] but it is necessary.  Cole Hamels will weep. Ryne Sandberg will wail. But the blood debt of the old magic will be paid. Only then will the Phillies once again be able to achieve at least league-average production from the third base position.

Surely that's worth at least one Larry Bowa.

[1] Ghost-written by David Cohen - you can tell because there's no swearing, and it is not written in crayon, which both mean I had no hand in it. It also has "whom" in the title.

[2] No, I don't. If I had to ritually sacrifice someone in order for the world to be saved, I would have a list that starts with "Larry" and ends with "Bowa."

[3] Well, maybe not, but what do we have to lose by trying?

[4] It will be if I'm on the Human Sacrifice Committee, anyway.