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From the horse’s mouth: Smack talking Knapp

Now we know who’s to blame for Tommy Hunter’s struggles

MLB: FEB 19 Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day
Knapp apparently speaks loudly and carries a weak stick
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week, we learn the real reason why Tommy Hunter hasn’t been effective, and revisit a game that featured Scott Rolen, Turk Wendell, and the immortal Amaury Telemaco.

Random thought about the Phillies recently composed a list of the biggest trash talkers on each team. Their choice probably wasn’t the one that first came to mind. It wasn’t Andrew McCutchen or Rhys Hoskins, or one of the team’s other stars. No, they went with backup catcher Andrew Knapp.

Apparently, Knapp is so witty that the targets of his verbal abuse don’t even realize they’ve been dissed until much later. According to pitcher Tommy Hunter:

“It clicks after the fact, and then you’ve got to go back to him and say, ‘Hey, [forget] you,’” Hunter said. “He’s witty.”

If I were Tommy Hunter, I’d probably just reply by asking what Knapp’s batting average stood at on that particular day. (Because, chances are, it wasn’t going to be high.)

I wonder if Knapp’s abuse is the reason Hunter sometimes looks like he’s not entirely focused on the game when he’s out on the mound. Maybe he’s not actually scared to death to throw a hittable pitch, but instead he’s trying to come up with a sick burn to deliver to Knapp after the inning.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies
“Man, I can’t believe Knapp dissed me like that!”
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Good work, Andrew. Not only have you managed to largely suck at the plate over the past two seasons, but you’ve greatly reduced the effectiveness of one of the team’s primary setup men.

Random thought that is definitely not about the Phillies

I’ve half convinced myself that the Jalen Hurts selection was actually kind of smart. Why overpay a veteran backup quarterback who’s probably going to suck anyway? (Remember, there’s a reason why these guys don’t have starting jobs.) It makes sense to draft a guy who’ll be cheap, and the offensive coaches can mold into their system from day one. (Or at least as soon as they’re able to actually meet in person.)

You might counter by saying that Hurts will likely not even be a good backup in year one. But I believe that a player with Hurts’ mobility can still be an asset. Yes, he might not be able to run the offense as well as Carson Wentz, but theoretically nobody they could use as backup would be able to. (Nick Foles was a once-in-a-generation thing, people.) At least Hurts can come in, run around, and keep a defense on its toes.

Naysayers will argue that a backup quarterback is a luxury, and not worth a second round pick. But NFL history is littered with seasons that were sabotaged because a starting quarterback was injured. Later round quarterbacks are lottery tickets at best, and after the Eagles pick of Clayton Thorson bombed so spectacularly last year, it shouldn’t be surprising that the team wanted someone they could project better.

NFL Combine - Day 3
Forget throwing the ball, just have Hurts run around with it!
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There’s also a chance that I’m simply talking myself into agreeing with a bad move. It wouldn’t be the first time. Like many Eagles fans, I went from hating the Sam Bradford trade to saying, “You know, he has that top pick pedigree, and is healthy now. Put him in Chip Kelly’s offense and watch out world!”

As for Hurts’ development, I’m not too concerned. After all, the NFL season might not even return until 2021, so that should give the coaches plenty of time to work with him (at least virtually.)

Mediocre moments in Phillies history

Our latest unremarkable game took place on August 17, 2003. The 2003 season was the last the Phillies played in Veterans Stadium, and thanks to the free agent acquisition of Jim Thome, fan excitement was high. The Phillies rewarded that excitement by being just okay that season. They had 86 wins, which was good enough for third place behind the division champion Braves and the eventual World Series champion Marlins.

On this particular night, Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, and the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew visited the Vet to see the Phillies take on the Cardinals.

6:00 - The national audience got to see a start by Amaury Telemaco. This was Telemaco’s first major league appearance since 2001, so I can’t imagine expectations were too high going in. More importantly, I can’t recall if Telemaco ever had his own fan club like so many of his peers. (Maco’s Tacos? The Tele-Tubbies?)

11:11 - Listen to the crowd as Scott Rolen steps to the plate. We were one year from Rolen demanding a trade and then declaring St. Louis to be “Baseball Heaven,” so he wasn’t exactly given a warm greeting by Phillies fans. I’ve mentioned before that other Phillies fans have since softened their opinions of Rolen, but I haven’t. I still think he was a whiner who couldn’t handle being a team’s star player.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs St. Louis Cardinals - July 15, 2006
Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

12:32 - Rolen strikes out and the crowd roars in approval.

23:00 - Stepping to the plate is rookie Chase Utley. This was just the fourth game Utley appeared in since being called up earlier in the month. Morgan mentions that Utley is known for his hitting, and not his defense. I know his defense was always somewhat underrated, but was he ever thought of as a bad defender?

25:40 - The rookie’s legend begins to grow as his RBI single gives the Phillies the lead.

2:05:15 - To everyone’s surprise, it’s the bottom of the 7th, and Telemaco is still in the game! He strikes out future Phillie So Taguchi to complete a strong seven innings. If that’s not enough to inspire a fan group, I don’t know what is.

2:40:33 - The ninth inning starts off with Turk Wendell trying to close it out. Manager Larry Bowa had recently demoted Jose Mesa from the closer role, and apparently Wendell was going to get the first shot at replacing him.

2:41:01 - Wendell retires Rolen and the crowd loves him.

2:42:30 - Wendell gives up a home run to Tino Martinez, and the crowd is far less happier.

2:44:23 - Wendell hits the next batter and the crowd is pretty much over him at this point. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa cries to the umpire, apparently asking for Wendell to get tossed from the game. A lengthy argument ensues, eventually resulting in La Russa’s ejection.

In a move which I can only assume served to troll his counterpart, Bowa takes Wendell out of the game anyway. Well done, Tony. You basically accomplished nothing but giving Jose Mesa extra time to warm up. It also served as a nice distraction to Phillies fans who would have otherwise felt extreme dread at seeing Mesa enter the game.

Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals
Mesa didn’t inspire much fan confidence by August 2003
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

2:59:21 - Mesa retired one of the three batters he faced, and with the tying run at first, Bowa quickly pops out from the dugout again. Apparently Mike Williams will be the next contestant on, “Who wants to be the Phillies’ closer?”

3:04:09 - Williams gets the job done, and after an exceedingly long ninth inning, the Phillies emerge victorious.

This was the Phillies’ fifth win in a row and it seemed like they were ready to make an earnest run at the Wild Card. However, they would proceed to go 1-9 in the next ten games, which was a big reason why the season ultimately ended in disappointment.

Featured baseball card

Telemaco stuck around long enough to get a Phillies baseball card. Here’s one from the 2003 Upper Deck set:

Ugh, that’s not a good looking card. I don’t care for the number on top of the grid design at all.

Parting thought

If Knapp’s trash talking skills are so great, maybe he can take me up on my earlier suggestion to smack talk COVID-19? If he’s able to get rid of this virus and get us back to a sense of normalcy, fans might actually start to like the guy, no matter how low his batting average drops.