There were four twenty-home run hitters on the 2016 Phillies. The first was Ryan Howard, the old vet, the venerable slugger, going out like he came in - swinging at everything and hoping he heard a crack. The second was Maikel Franco, the scuffling youngster; a Ryan Howard for the future. The third was Tommy Joseph, the triple-concussed comeback story, thought to be exiting baseball entirely if they heard one more screw rattling in his head. All three fit narrative tropes with which scholars are familiar, and all three were fun to root for in the brief pockets of delight they provided.
And then Freddy Galvis - all-glove, no-bat Freddy Galvis - would step to the plate, fresh dreadlocks dangling in the breeze, with the intention of telling a story of his own. With so much written about Freddy's year at the plate, and the fact that he is in Gold Glove consideration telling you how primed his defensive skills were this year, let's just go through each home run individually and cherish this small air pocket of joy in the suffocating mediocrity of 2016.
1. Opening day in Cincinnati, the birthplace of professional team baseball! Is there a better location to ambush people with a power surge? Experts say, "I don’t know Justin; please stop using this joke." Never! After Carlos Ruiz led off the second inning with a single, the Phillies, already down 1-0, hoped for a rally of their won. Resounding strikeouts from Cedric Hunter and Peter Bourjos made that seem improbable, until Freddy came up and tapped a dinger to right center. Way to go, Freddy - that’s the Phillies first home run and runs scored of the season! Drink in that fresh 2-1 lead; it’s going to be a great year! The Phillies lost this game 6-2.
2. It was the second inning again - with Carlos Ruiz on base, again - when Freddy tagged Bartolo Colon for a long drive, this time to left center. Two games behind the second place Mets at this point, the 7-7 Phillies needed Freddy’s two-run shot to win the game 5-4. You’re a hero, Freddy!
3. This was yet another one-run victory hinging on Freddy’s ability to work the long ball; this time it came against Cleveland's Trevor Bauer of the eventual American League champions. Putting the Phillies up in the first inning, it was easy to see Freddy as a catalyst for the unbridled enthusiasm of those blessed creatures in the stands ignorant of the horrible future.
4. The Phillies left the field after this game in Atlanta with a record of 20-15. Next to the 8-25 Braves, they looked like gods - especially Cameron Rupp, who smashed the game-winning double, and Odubel Herrera, who had four hits. But Freddy snuck another home run in there, this one a real high sky-toucher that was caught by a Braves fan in the right field seats who high-fived his friend, clearly not understanding what had just happened.
"I did it, bro. I caught a baseball. I wish dad were still around to see us. We could throw this baseball at him. ‘WHY DID YOU NEVER BELIEVE IN US,’ we could say. Heh heh. Listen, they cut me off at the beer stand and I think every vendor has my picture."
5. Tanner Roark was still starting for the Nationals on May 30 when Freddy got to him to lead off the bottom of the sixth. The Phillies lost 4-3 after a failed comeback attempt against Jonathan Papelbon, but Jeremy Hellickson hit Bryce Harper with a pitch, so Freddy’s fifth home run of the year sort of faded into the background narrativel, as Harper was choppered to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
6. The Cubs were so, so much better than the Phillies this year, the playing of their scheduled games became merely a formality. Down 6-0 in the bottom of the ninth, Freddy did his darndest to key a rally, and with a two-run home run to right field, the deficit was down to four. Tommy Joseph went back-to-back with his fellow infielder and the game wound up being slightly less of a loss, which is in itself a win. Just not the kind that moves you up in the standings or has any effect on anything.
7. They would have called this one "The Freddy Galvis Game" if it had been played between two different teams or mattered at all. Somehow, Phillies-Twins contests this year were treated with nothing but derision, given the combined levels of what experts described as "suckitude" between the two clubs. Nevertheless, Freddy RBI’d in the form of a sacrifice bunt and a triple before he essentially put the game away with a three-run blast in the eighth, inspiring poetry among all those who witnessed it.
Jepsen gives up a towering, majestic moonshot to right and the #MNTwins trail 7-2. Galvis with 5 RBIs.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) June 23, 2016
8. The Phillies won seven of their first nine games in America’s Birthday Month, reminding you that this team was capable of abbreviated blips of success on occasion. Freddy’s home run gave the Phillies this game against the Braves, stealing the lead back from a 3-2 deficit in the eighth and making a basically empty Citizens Bank Park as loud as it could have gotten. Freddy wasn’t even hot yet, mind you; this dinger came in the middle of a slump.
Look at that tomato round the bases.
9. Sometimes, a home run isn’t an awe-inspiring spectacle; sometimes, it’s just a line drive that sneaks over the center field wall in garbage time after the Marlins have been beating up on Jerad Eickhoff all night.
10. Deep in the pits of hitting season, Freddy came alive. You’ll notice he’s not even at halfway to twenty and the season has only two months left. His real monster-hitting was not engaged until this shot off Kenta Maeda in Los Angeles. It came when the Phillies were already down 6-2 and was immediately nullified the next inning by a Justin Turner bomb, but hey; this is baseball - it all gets logged in the archives, no matter how pointless.
11. The real offensive punch of this rare win out west came from Ryan Howard’s bases clearing double, but Freddy started things off by punching the seventh pitch of an at-bat over left field fence to suddenly put three runs on the board for the Phillies.
12. Freddy’s next four shots were one-run affairs that came off the likes of Adam Wainwright,
13. Something called Chris Beck,
14. Noah Syndergaard,
15. and Gio Gonzalez. The man was insatiable.
If only the rest of the team could keep up. In the Beck, Syndergaard, and Gonzalez homers, he was responsible for the only run of the game.
16. Ah, September... the dead summer heat relents into the crisp, autumn heat of a slowly warming earth. MLB fills with exciting young prospects and dead-eyed quad-A "prospects" being shipped up from affiliates to fill empty slots. The rest of Freddy's homers didn't come off a multitude of world-beaters, but he finished his work anyhow. Against the Marlins' Jake Esch, which is clearly a made-up cover name, it was Freddy's home run that opened the scoring for the Phillies with a game-tying two-hun homer. You did it, Freddy. You beat the 2016 Miami Marlins.
17. Washington reliever Koda Glover entered the game, threw a single pitch to Freddy, watched it soar out to right center field, and was pulled from the game.
18. Once more, a big inning ("big" by Phillies offense standards) was ignited by Freddy going yard, this time off the last respectable hurler he'd get to this season, the Pirates' Gerrit Cole. The Phillies uncharacteristically followed suit, scoring five runs in the second inning.
19. A day later, in the second inning against the Pirates again, Freddy took Steven Brault deep to, again, open the scoring. Perhaps it was the down tick in talented pitching, but Freddy began teeing off much earlier in games in the second half of the season, rather than the late inning attempts at heroism he'd mounted from April to June.
Freddy Galvis has hit more HR than: Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Dustin Pedroia (all qualify for the batting title)— Spencer Bingol (@spencerbingol) September 14, 2016
20. And finally, the season finale. Poor Dustin McGowan was pitching for the Marlins, just trying to get through another day, when Freddy came to the plate in the sixth banged a needless solo shot out of the park. It probably pissed everyone off, including his own teammates, who had clearly started just trying to "play out the stretch" somewhere around the All-Star Game.
In the end, we can point to adjustments Freddy made at the plate to generate more power in his swing from his back leg. But regardless of where it came from, it was cool to see a young player continue to evolve and address an issue that has forever been related to him since his MLB debut. In what sinister way will Freddy - whose 20 home runs on the year more than doubled his previous season high of 7 - evolve in 2017? We can only watch, terrified, when he shows up to Clearwater this spring. Until then... keep that back leg fresh, Freddy.