Mike Sweeney has been (was?) a Philadelphia Phillie for all of 90 days. In those 90 days, Sweeney reached cult hero status, becoming more beloved than Scott Rolen, Bobby Abreu, and Mike Schmidt combined.
OK, jokes aside, Sweeney became a fan favorite nearly instantly. Understanding his career was clearly the downside, Sweeney took the term “role player” to a new level. He rallied around his teammates at every turn, was routinely the first person taking hacks at early batting practice, and always, ALWAYS had a smile on his face. The ultimate team player indeed.
Even a new term was born out of his love of baseball and his teammates: Hugs for Sweeney. In an interview I conducted with him during NLCS media day, I brought up the Hugs for Sweeney title that had become an internet sensation of sorts. Sweeney sheepishly attempted to turn the attention away from it all – he’d rather talk about how much he enjoys playing here and how much he enjoys his teammates.
The hugs thing, however, was awesome. If the team did something hug-worthy, Sweeney was the first one at the top step, ready to unleash his gorilla grip around the back of whomever deserved it. What a sight.
Statistically, Sweeney did little on the field to make him more valuable than the next guy, but that’s not why he was here. In his two months with the Phillies, he hit .231 in 26 games with two home runs and eight RBI. Pedestrian numbers, to say the least. However, everyone on the Phillies from the bat boy to the ownership will tell you it’s not about the numbers with Sweeney.
When Ryan Howard went down, the guy stepped in and attempted to take the place of a former MVP. Tough to do, but Sweeney gave it his all as he usually does. His effort was not lacking, although his bat has clearly slowed with age. Defensively, Sweeney looked spry, perhaps energized by his inclusion on a possible World Series champion.
In the end, it didn’t work out. The Phillies were unable to get by the Giants in the NLCS and Sweeney was unable to capture his first ring, which was the very reason he accepted a trade to Philadelphia from Seattle in early August. Still, it was a hell of a ride for Sweeney and for the new followers of Sweeney and his Hugs.
You can look at his numbers that say he had a down year – one that is – for a player moving nearer to 40. It was the intangibles that made Mike Sweeney an asset to the team for a short period of time. And although its likely Sweeney won’t be back in 2011, the few memories he gave us will last quite a while.
Thanks to Todd Zolecki for the .gif
PAT’S GRADE: 6.7/10
NICK’S GRADE: 7.0/10 – I can’t remember the last time I wanted a guy to win more than Mike Sweeney. He is a professional hitter and a professional teammate who doesn’t take it for granted that he has the best job in the world.