Thursday, November 12, 2009

1968 Phillies

After the 1967 season, the Phillies traded pitcher Jim Bunning (their ace since coming over from Detroit prior to the 1964 season) to the Pirates for southpaw Woody Fryman, shortstop prospect Don Money, and 2 other minor-league pitchers. The same day, they packaged disappointing #5 starter Dick Ellsworth (acquired prior to 1967 from the Cubs for pitcher Ray Culp) and backup catcher Gene Oliver in a deal which brought a young catcher from the Red Sox (Mike Ryan). This was not enough however, as the team sank deeper in the standings.

Along the way, Gene Mauch, who had managed the team from day #2 of the 1960 season (Eddie Sawyer had quit after the first game) was fired, as much for his inability to co-exist with Richie Allen as for the losing record. Taking over the team was Bob Skinner, who had managed the Phillies AAA club in San Diego since 1966. He did no better than Mauch, and would be fired midway through the following season.

Left-hander Clay Dalrymple (#11) shared the catching with right-handed newcomer Mike Ryan (#9). Ryan was a good defensive catcher who didn't hit much.

1st base
Future NL President Bill White (#10) returned for his 3rd (and last) year as the Phil's first baseman.

2nd base
Once again, Cookie Rojas (#16) was the everyday second baseman. As part of the 100th anniversary celebration of Major League Baseball, there was a poll for the all-time Phillies team. Rojas was the second baseman on that team, the only current player to be named. Rojas finally shed his utilityman role, playing only one game away from second base (catcher).

Weak-hitting Bobby Wine (#7) had chronic back problems which kept him out most of the season. Highly touted prospect Don Money was handed the job in spring training and promptly flopped in the first week. This led to the call-up of minor-league journeyman Roberto Pena (#34), who became the regular shortstop for 1968. Gary Sutherland (#18) was on the team the entire year, but in more of a utility role.

3rd base
Partly due to his season-ending wrist injury in 1967, but also due to his defensive shortcomings, Richie Allen (#15) was moved to leftfield, with the versatile Tony Taylor (#8) became the regular third baseman. Utility 1B/3B Rick Joseph (#19) was also along for the ride.

Johnny Callison (#6) was a fixture in rightfield, as usual. Rookie phenom Larry Hisle imitated Don Money and also flopped big-time in 1968. Tony Gonzalez (#25), Don Lock (#23), and John Briggs (#12) all rode the centerfield merry-go-round, with Briggs seeing some action at first base. Allen became the regular leftfielder, playing only a few games at his old third base spot. With all this job-sharing, there was only marginal playing time for Doug Clemens.

With Bunning gone, the undisputed ace was lefty Chris Short (#41). He bounced back from an injury-filled 1967 to win 19 games in 1968. Woody Fryman (#35) was the other left-handed starter, while the righties were Larry Jackson (#46) and Rick Wise (#38). Once again, the closers were right-handers Turk Farrell (#32) and Dick Hall (#27). Other assorted spot starters and long relievers were southpaw Grant Jackson (#29), and righties John Boozer (#31), Gary Wagner (returning to the team after 2 years in the minors), Jeff James, and Jerry Johnson (the latter two being rookies).

At triple-A San Diego, the Phillies had a bunch of young pitchers, but most of the position players were major-league veterans: 1B Jim Gentile, plus a bunch of journeymen (catchers Doc Edwards and John Sullivan, 2B Bobby Klaus, 3B John Werhas, outfielders Billy Cowan and Johnny Lewis). The only prospects were SS Don Money and OF Larry Hisle.

The Phillies just fell apart in 1968. The controversy between manager Gene Mauch and Richie Allen went on all season until Mauch was fired. Allen wouldn't show up for games, preferring to spend time at race tracks instead. Bunning's wins were not made up, Allen didn't regain his batting stroke following the injury, and Gonzalez faded fast from his .339 average of the previous year, so much so that the Phillies left him unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft. Callison and White were also not the same players they once were. On top of that, the two rookies Money and Hisle flopped in the first month of the season. The team sank to a 76-86 record, 6 wins less than the previous year. Fortunately, you could always rely on the Astros and Mets to have worse records than any other team.

Following the season, the San Diego Padres (which was the Phillies' AAA team from '66-'68) and the Montreal Expos selected players in the expansion draft. The Phillies lost SS Roberto Pena and CF Tony Gonzalez to San Diego, and P Larry Jackson and SS Gary Sutherland to Montreal. Each team also picked a Phils' minor-league pitcher. When Jackson retired rather than report to an expansion team, the Phillies gave Montreal their remaining SS Bobby Wine as compensation (although by this time, Wine was essentially useless). Now all three shortstops with major league experience were gone. The pressure was really on rookie Don Money to come through in 1969!

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