2002 Philadelphia Phillies
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 2002 Philadelphia Phillies / Franchise: Philadelphia Phillies / BR Team Page
Managed by Larry Bowa
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There's an old baseball saying that states you can't win a pennant in April, but you can lose one. The 2002 Philadelphia Phillies learned that the hard way. A 9-18 record in the season's first month sent the team into the cellar in the National League East, a position from which they would not emerge until August. The first half of the season was probably best remembered for the ongoing tension between team management and disgruntled third baseman Scott Rolen. Though a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals was finally completed on July 29, the situation seemed to drag on forever. The Phillies improved considerably in the second half, but could not nearly climb out of the early hole they dug themselves.
The Phillies entered 2002 with hopes of building off a surprising 2001 season that nearly landed them in the playoffs. There were little changes made to the roster, the most notable addition being Terry Adams to the starting rotation. Veterans Ricky Ledee, John Mabry, and Dave Hollins were brought in to strengthen the bench. Despite their good intentions, the season got off to a disastrous start, and the Phils fell to 11 games below .500 by the end of May, including 22 losses in their first 27 road games. As the team immersed itself in last place, reports of strained relations between manager Larry Bowa and his players circulated. With that and the ongoing impasse with Rolen taking the headlines, the team seemed to play under a dark cloud during the first half. Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins led an inconsistent attack, Vicente Padilla was a revelation in the rotation, while Jose Mesa had a strong half out of the bullpen. Rollins was voted as the starting shortstop for the NL All-Star team, while Rolen, despite having his worst statistical season aside from his 1996 rookie callup, was elected at third base. Padilla was added to the squad after an injury forced Tom Glavine out of the game.
As the Rolen situation was nearing its conclusion, the Phillies caught fire. Between July 23 and September 1, they won 25 of 37 games. While a postseason berth remained out of reach, it did push the Phils over the .500 mark before a brief September stumble sent them back under. One last rush gave the team a shot at consecutive winning campaigns (a feat they hadn't accomplished since running off nine in a row between 1975 and 1983), but an extra-inning loss to the Florida Marlins on the season's final day ended those hopes.
In an up-and-down season, the Phillies had a wide variety of individual performances. Burrell was by far the team's top offensive performer, blasting 37 home runs, knocking in 116, and batting .282. Bobby Abreu overcame a subpar first half to hit .308 with 20 homers and a league-leading 50 doubles. After missing most of 2001 with a knee injury and struggling early in 2002, Mike Lieberthal rebounded to hit .279 with 15 home runs. He and John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves shared NL Comeback Player of the Year honors. Placido Polanco came over from St. Louis in the Rolen deal and hit .296 while more than capably filling the vacancy at third base. Backup catcher Todd Pratt boasted a .311 batting average when he got the call. Rollins finished at .245 after a hot start, but he did excel in the field. Tomas Perez batted just .250 and Ledee just .227, but both provided many timely hits off the bench. After arriving from the Oakland Athletics for Mabry in May, Jeremy Giambi got off to a flying start, including homers in his first two Phillies at-bats, but he faded in the second half, ending up at .244 with 12 homers. Hollins spent just about the entire season on the disabled list, and collected just two hits in 17 at-bats. Doug Glanville saw his average drop to .249 and his playing time decrease as the season progressed. Travis Lee and Marlon Anderson both had subpar seasons, the last for each in a Phillies uniform.
Padilla was the staff's top winner, going 14-11 with a 3.28 ERA. Randy Wolf finished strongly after a rough first half, finishing 11-9 with a 3.20 ERA, and at one point allowing just one run in 35 innings. Brett Myers debuted in July, and though he went through some growing pains, showed enormous potential. Adams struggled as a starter, but a midseason switch to the bullpen revitalized the relief corps. Mesa blew nine saves, but the 45 he did convert were a new franchise record. Carlos Silva, a starter in the minors, went 5-0 out of the bullpen in his rookie season. Brandon Duckworth had a disappointing season, going 8-9 with a 5.41 ERA. After a stellar 2001, Robert Person dropped to 4-5, 5.44, with his most memorable 2002 performance coming at the plate. On June 2 against the Montreal Expos, Person blasted a grand slam and a three-run homer, while a bid for a second slam curved just foul. In the bullpen, Rheal Cormier, Jose Santiago, Ricky Bottalico, Dan Plesac, and Mike Timlin (also acquired in the Rolen deal) gave performances that ranged from mediocre to poor.
For the Philadelphia Phillies, the 2002 season was a tumultuous one. With the last season at Veterans Stadium looming, the team set out to make a splash in the offseason and give their home turf a grand finale.
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