When we stop on the street to conceptualize the 2012-17 Phillies in our minds, what images do we see? On the plus side, Jimmy Rollins reaching the team record in hits and Rhys Hoskins making history. On the other side, there’s Bob McClure waving the white flag and Sean O’Sullivan getting hit in the throat with a return throw (I know I bring this up all the time). But sprinkled between the memories and horrors of yester-seasons is Freddy Galvis at shortstop, making stops, jumping off balance, and throwing across his body.
We are free to assume that shortstops are held to the same gravitational standards as the rest of us. But somewhere between the bounds of science, certain middle infielders are able to leap and dive and contort themselves to a point that such assumptions are brought into question. Even on a good team, sometimes our exposure to baseball’s sharpest, most acrobatic defenders might only come in the fall, when they’re throwing their bodies on the dirt on national playoff broadcasts for a few weeks. But the Phillies haven’t been an innately watchable enterprise for a few years, making any slick defensive plays by their shortstops invisible to a wider audience.
Part of the reason the Phillies loved and respected Freddy Galvis so much was because he kept his feet on the ground. Half the time he was the reasonable, passionate, interested presence who grew into a clubhouse leader as the previous core aged out, and before we knew it, he was the longest tenured Phillies player; he was J.P. Crawford’s favorite shortstop; he was part of a middle infield that put the team in a more secure place asset-wise than they had expected to be.
The other half of the time, he was in mid-air.
Freddy Galvis will win the gold glove this year. favorite this tweet and tell me at the end of the year how right I was. pic.twitter.com/e9z2pGft1b— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) July 30, 2017
SAINTS ALIVE, look at that clip.
No one is going to mistake Galvis for the best shortstop of a generation, or remember that he played in all 162 games this past season. These Phillies squads haven’t been the most enthralling nine players we’ve ever seen on a diamond. But every once in a while, one of them would make a play that would slip through the haze of bitter doldrums that obscured our view of baseball for most of the summer.
More often than not, Galvis was the one making those plays.
To cut from a shot of Larry Bowa chewing aggressively in the dugout to Freddy Galvis making a stop like that is beautiful narrative imagery; one Phillies shortstop passing the mantle onto the next one, a transference of souls across the dirt in the form of infield gymnastics.
It was a moment so profound, Bowa had to call someone. Anyone. Just to tell them what he had seen.
None of this should be surprising to anyone who has actually watched the Phillies for a few years. Galvis had value, it was just largely concentrated into one side of his game. But he didn’t have a surging OBP like his second base counterpart, Cesar Hernandez, and he couldn’t take advantage of a new baseball that the league definitely didn’t shoot full of weightlessness serum to go on a tear at the plate, so he remained somewhat anonymous in broader circles. His ability to break off a big play was often watered down by the context surrounding it; it’s one thing to deke and throw out a runner at home in the World Series, and another to do it when the team is in last place in late July.
Hopefully, the next Phillies on the field have a measure of defense worth watching. But there’s no arguing, to me, that Galvis was making plays at short that just didn’t exist in a whole lot of other places throughout the league. Maybe he stands out more because there wasn’t a lot about which to get excited, but there’s a reason he got Gold Glove nods two years in a row, and probably should have beaten out Brandon Crawford out for one this season.
Seriously, look how calmly he operates like a complete psychopath.
It still feels a bit presumptuous to refer to the transition from the Phillies last place squabbling to a new reign of NL East dominance over just because they signed Carlos Santana, but clearly something has changed, or Galvis would still be here, doing things like this.
Instead, he’s off to the Padres in a trade for a AA pitcher; a deal that made sense and on paper, the Phillies seem to have one, given their plans for the future and the flaws in Galvis’ overall makeup. But regardless of how this all plays out—the Phillies, the Padres, the planet, all of it—they’ve got one less hole to fill in San Diego, and it’s filled by a guy who can fill any of them.