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1979 Philadelphia Phillies

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[edit] 1979 Philadelphia Phillies / Franchise: Philadelphia Phillies / BR Team Page

Record: 84-78, Finished 4th in NL Eastern Division (1979 NL)

Managed by Danny Ozark and Dallas Green

Ballpark: Veterans Stadium

Three years' worth of defeat in the NL Championship Series left the Phillies' fans and management nonplussed at the end of the 1978 season. The club, talented but apparently sparkless, needed someone to apply the match, and the game's quintessential tinderbox was free agent Pete Rose, coming off his historic 44-game hitting streak for the 1978 Reds.

The Phillies targeted Rose and signed him in December. Their other moves seemed cosmetic in comparison. In spring training, they moved a swath of disposable players to the Cubs for second baseman Manny Trillo and pinch-hitter deluxe Greg Gross. Then, just before the season opened, they traded veteran 1B Richie Hebner, displaced by the Rose signing, to the Mets for down-on-his-luck starting pitcher Nino Espinosa.

Danny Ozark's charges went 14-5 in April, as Rose put together a .471 on-base percentage for the month. The demons seemed to be exorcised. And then everyone seemed to tire at once. The Phillies played mediocre ball for the next three months and fairly stunk in August. Steve Carlton was on his way to an 18-win season, and Espinosa won 14, but rotation standbys Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson battled injuries and ineffectiveness.

Even more troubling was a general batting slump. There was nothing wrong with All-Star third baseman Mike Schmidt, who hit 45 home runs with 114 RBIs. Or with Rose, who chased Keith Hernandez for the batting title and ended up at .331. But Trillo hit poorly, as did aging stars Larry Bowa and Greg Luzinski. From an offensive powerhouse in '76-'78, the Phillies dipped into mediocrity at the plate.

After the Phils dropped eight of nine in late August, Ozark was fired in favor of farm-system director Dallas Green. The team immediately went on a hot streak, but at this point couldn't see the battling Expos and Pirates with a telescope. Philadelphia ended up in fourth place, over .500 but 14 games back.

Schmidt led the league in walks and sacrifice flies, Rose in singles, and Luzinski in getting hit by the pitch, but these little triumphs seemed to symbolize an ineffectual year. Trillo, Schmidt, catcher Bob Boone, and center fielder Garry Maddox won Gold Gloves.


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