The first Monday of the rest of a long winter, and some of us are already showing off a great attitude to the many weeks before the start of baseball season. So, let's take a quick perusal of the current Phillies 40-man roster as we push off into 2016.
Number of years separating oldest catcher from youngest: 14
The three backstops listed as current Phillies catchers have been born across the span of three decades:
- Carlos Ruiz: 1979
- Cameron Rupp: 1988
- Jorge Alfaro: 1993
Think of all the cultural milestones they've seen! Snow in the Sahara Desert! A U.S. drought that causes $60 billion in irreparable damages! The premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!
There's a lot of experiences and wisdom in those years, and hopefully these three can have a sit-down in which the conversation inevitably turns to the passing of the decades. What knowledge of the 1980s can Chooch give the younger guys? Which of the 1990s' illustrious, timeless trends can Cameron Rupp instill in his compatriots? Can Jorge Alfaro teach the other two to ride a hover board? What an exciting season lies ahead of us.
Number of players born in the '90s: 21
While an influx of youth does wonders for imagining your favorite team's future, what it also does is remind you that life only moves in one direction, and even as you read this, the flesh is peeling from your bones and the squirming, writhing human who will one day take your place as you depart, decrepit and forgotten, has already been born.
Jorge Alfaro was being born the day John Kruk and Dave Hollins were having three-hit days against the Pirates on the way to the '93 NL pennant. Meanwhile, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard were born only a year before the current GM determining their fates.
Age! It's just a number. One that seems to dictate how you feel, where you are, and what you're supposed to do based on societal or industrial expectations.
Outfielder chaperone: Peter Bourjos
Don't forget Peter Bourjos, everyone. He's the most elder statesman the current outfield has to offer at 30 years old. It'll be his job to wrangle in those irascible scamps like Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, and Cody Asche. Just think how many times Bourjos will poke his head into the clubhouse and tell those three to stop giggling and calling girls; turn off their flashlights and go to sleep!
Everybody loves El Torito; he hit .297 with 30 doubles for this team last year (Though Ryan Howard was nipping at his heels with 29), and played in 147 games (Only Freddy Galvis showed up more often in 151). That's a slog. His accomplishments clearly made him a bridge between the old days and the new, as he put a finishing touch on the no-hitter of Cole Hamels and even got Chase Utley to sort of feel feelings once. Meanwhile, his excitement and fervor resonated with the teammates closer to him in age.
Altherr made it into 39 games and still managed to log double-digit extra-base hits, including an inside-the-park grand slam. I love the Phillies outfield. Remember Delmon Young and Domonic Brown? Who the hell are those people?!
Then, the team acquired Bourjos, a not-old veteran known for his speed and defense. The Cardinals barely used him and, after the initial wave of depression from "having to come to Philadelphia for any reason" passes, he should be a fun player to watch at times, maybe. There are less exciting acquisitions to be made from baseball's outfield talent pool, certainly.
And who knows? Maybe Jeff Francoeur will be back. You all would love that.
Platoon several years in the making: Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf
One's an aging veteran with an unsellable contract who has run out of options. The other chased the 2012 Eastern League Triple Crown... all the way to Philadelphia. Together, they might just make one major league first baseman.
Hell, people haven't been able to stop talking about - or in Ryne Sandberg's case, vaguely hinting at - Ruf as a platoon player for years, with a variety of partners.
...Ruf and Brown could platoon in left while Nix* and Mayberry come off the bench.
Although Ruf will only be 27 next season, his fate is still probably that of a bench or platoon player.
"I know what [Howard] can do," Sandberg said. "I've seen him for 100 games. I know what he can do. I think it's important to see what a guy like Darin Ruf can do also, going forward."
Ruf will turn 30 this July, making him not the young inheritor of the first base throne that he was assumed to be as a 25-year-old chugging around the FirstEnergy Stadium base paths. He has yet to kiss the sweet, sweet .250 BA threshold after three seasons of meaningful playing time, and in 2014, he only clocked three homers in 52 games, which feels low for a guy whose big asset is supposed to be his power.
Sandberg would go on to emit nonsensical double-talk at lower and lower volumes until fading away completely, but Ruf is still here. Howard will always maintain that he can play, because what in god's name would he gain from telling people "Man, I suck, don't I? Can't play at all. Thanks for the roster spot, dorks," other than my respect. And, you know, he can play, technically. He's not an elite batsman at this point but like I said he hit 29 doubles. That's more doubles than you hit for the Phillies last year.
In the end, maybe these two will be swapped in and out based on favorable match-ups, or the weather or something. Maybe the Phanatic will come to Pete Mackanin every night in a dream and hold up portraits of both players, and one of them will be smiling and the other will be screaming in terror, and that's how he'll determine who plays that day. At least they're not trying to platoon him as an outfielder anymore. I think.
*Laynce Nix! Laynce Nix!!
Also on the roster: Tyler Goeddel, Jimmy Cordero, Michael Mariot, Daniel Stumpf
Here's some fun facts about three 40-manners with whom you may not be familiar.
Tyler Goeddel (OF/3B): Only played in six games with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League but still finished third on the team in stolen bases (3).
Jimmy Cordero (RHP): Middle name is "Gerard." Born in the city of San Cristobal in the Dominican, where the Dominican constitution was originally signed in 1844.
Daniel Stumpf (LHP): Stolen away by the Phillies from the Royals in the Rule 5 Draft, so you know he's a secret weapon. Has same last name as my high school weight lifting coach.
Longest tenured pitcher: Luis Garcia
Having been with the team since all the way back on July 10, 2013, this is now true.
Number of switch hitters: 6
The current population of Phillies who have shown at least moderate ambidexterity:
- Andres Blanco
- Freddy Galvis
- Cesar Hernandez
- Darnell Sweeney
- Roman Quinn
- Vincent Velasquez
That's four infielders, an outfielder, and a pitcher. Could this have been a reason the Phillies got Velasquez in the Ken Giles trade? No. But I know what everyone is thinking - "Quickly, what are that pitching prospect's minor league switch hitting splits?!" And the answer is that I don't think he's ever had a hit, period; or possibly even an at-bat.
Remember when the Phillies' "big problem" was that the lineup had too many lefties following the departure of Jayson Werth? Remember when this team had those sort of problems? Remember when Jayson Werth was on this team?
Rotation headliners: Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson
After brief flashes of competence - I think we can all forget about my abbreviated Aaron Harang to the 2015 All-Star Game campaign - the Phillies are through with guys like Harang and Jerome Williams, having squeezed what they could out of their, poor, poor bodies, and now turn to a new pair of veterans to continue the awful job.
Obviously, the more exciting thing than a Charlie Morton start - if you can fathom such a notion - is the youngsters who will be making the starts on the other three days. Maybe we'll even get to see Velasquez switch-hit. But in the mean time, writers and analysts have been absolutely tickled to inform you that Morton tried to improve himself at one point by mimicking Roy Halladay's motion. Because Morton was available to sign by the Phillies this year, clearly the change did not have the intended level of effectiveness; it's just a fun thing people get to write in order to make their "Charlie Morton" paragraphs a little longer.
Morton was in Pittsburgh forever, since 2009. One of his best seasons was 2013 (3.26 ERA, 7.2 SO/9, 3.3 BB/9), but that was also the first of two consecutive years in which he led the NL in hit batsmen (16 in 2013, 19 in 2014). In 2011, he smothered opponent dingers with a league-leading 0.3 HR/9 over 171.2 IP with two complete games and a shut-out. But that was then. Last season, his ERA vaulted up to 4.81, his highest ever, and he missed time as his hip, on which he'd had surgery the year before, inflamed.
Jeremy Hellickson won a Gold Glove in 2012. Now he is on the Phillies.
Still here: Matt Harrison
Aw. Poor Matt.