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From the horse’s mouth: Random musings in a time without baseball

Because sure, why not take some time to remember Rheal Cormier?

Heather Barry

As the nation continues to hunker down and endure social distancing, we are faced with an indefinite stretch of no baseball. Such a time can lead to strange thoughts, and for your reading pleasure, I’ve shared some of them with you.

If this feels a little TL/DR to you, feel free to skip ahead to the end when you can test your knowledge against mine, and possibly win a prize!

Random thought about the Phillies

Joe Girardi recently spoke to Phillies fans, telling us the team will be ready when the season eventually(?) begins. He also reminded people to practice social distancing.

This makes me wonder: Has anyone heard from Gabe Kapler? This is one time I kind of wish he was still the Phillies’ manager, because I would be morbidly fascinated by his thoughts on the pandemic.

Random thought that is most definitely not about the Phillies

Who is funding the Paw Patrol? You’ve got a team of emergency service workers (the fact that they’re all talking dogs in a world of humans raises a whole different set of questions which I won’t delve into here) with state of the art technology. They have expensive vehicles, and even a robot dog assistant. This must cost a fortune, but it isn’t clear where the money is coming from.

They serve a coastal town called Adventure Bay, and while this is likely a wealthy community, are they so wealthy that they can afford a private team of high-tech canine rescue workers? And if this is how the town has chosen to spend its tax money, haven’t any of the people in the town questioned the expenditure, especially since most of the team’s missions are rescuing a hapless sea captain.

If I lived there, I might also ask: “Wouldn’t it make more sense to give all this technology to human emergency workers?” I know if I’m caught in a burning building, I’d probably prefer that a human carry me out of danger rather than being dragged on the ground by a spunky dalmatian.

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, I have learned that I am not the only person asking these questions.

Today’s featured phormer Phillie: Rheal Cormier

When discussing the value of relief pitchers, many analysts mention how they often have high volatility in their year-to-year performance. I propose that they call this phenomenon the Rheal Cormier Factor, because the left-hander’s performance would vary to an absurd degree from season to season.

St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies
Cormier was like a box of chocolates
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Ed Wade’s fatal flaw as general manager of the Phillies was his inability to build a good bullpen. There’s some belief (Okay, I’m the only one who believes this) that Pat Gillick’s extremely good luck in building a bullpen in 2008 cursed the franchise to an equivalent level of bad luck both going forward and retroactively. Whether it was a curse or just plain ineptitude, it seemed whenever Wade acquired a reliever, the pitcher would immediately suffer a drop-off in performance.

Before the 2002 season, Wade signed the veteran lefty reliever as a free agent. Cormier rewarded his GM with an abysmal 2002 season, leading fans to question why Wade felt the need to sign a reliever - particularly a reliever with a history of inconsistent performances - to a three-year deal.

Naturally, Cormier was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2003, and followed that up with another solid season in 2004 - a year in which he set the club record for appearances in a season by a left-handed pitcher. He also etched his name in Phillies history:

Thinking he had finally struck gold with a relief acquisition, Wade re-signed Cormier to a two-year deal with a third-year team option. To the surprise of nobody but Wade, Cormier had another dreadful season in 2005. As was his wont, Cormier rebounded in 2006, and Gillick - who had replaced Wade after the 2005 season - realizing that he needed sell high, sent Cormier to the Reds for prospect Justin Germano.

Featured Phillies baseball card

Topps 1973 Rookie Third Basemen

For my first card selection, I chose the rookie card of the greatest Phillies of them all: Mike Schmidt. Rather than give each of these players their own card, they stuck three rookie third basemen together on a card and called it a day.

I guess they didn’t predict that one of those three would become one of the greatest players of all time, while a second would be an outstanding player in his own right. In case you’re wondering, according to Baseball Reference, John Hilton played four uninspiring seasons in the major leagues.

I feel a little bad for fans of Ron Cey. I’m sure the six-time All-Star and World Series MVP had a decent number of people who wanted to purchase his rookie card. However, since Cey shared that rookie card with a Hall of Famer, it was far more expensive than it would have been normally.

Smarty’s Opening Day lineup challenge

Every year on Opening Day, I take the Sporcle quiz on Phillies Opening Day lineups. And thanks to my childhood habit of religiously studying past lineups and my ability to memorize mostly pointless data, I scored very well.

If any reader wants to try to test their knowledge of Opening Day lineups against mine, here’s the link to the quiz:

Phillies Opening Day Lineups

Please share your scores in the comments, and if anyone can beat my score, you will be rewarded with a special shout out, and a special prize.

Good luck, and I’ll see you next time with more random musings!