Untouchable. Websters dictionary defines the word untouchable as “forbidden to the touch”, but in baseball the word untouchable has another meaning. If a player is deemed untouchable by an organization it is a sign to the fan base that this particular player is destined for greatness. So when Domonic Brown was deemed as such by the Phillies in 2009, Phillies fans took notice. The kid was so good that the Phillies refused to part with him for the best pitcher in baseball at the time, Roy Halladay.
Fast forward three years later and it was a different story. Domonic Brown was not Giancarlo Stanton, who the Marlins deemed untouchable during the 2009 season. Unfortunately, it looked more and more like Brown would take the path of another former prospect who was deemed untouchable, Gavin Floyd.
After making his major league debut in 2010 Brown had struggled. Not just at the plate, but in the field as well. In his first three seasons the former top prospect had posted a slash line of .230/.302/.381. A player who the Phillies said they wouldn’t part with in a Roy Halladay deal, was very much available but no team seemed to want him. It looked as though Dom Brown was one of the many highly touted prospects who would fizzle out and be labeled as a bust. But then something happened. It all clicked.
Phillies fans had cautious optimism for Brown after he crushed the ball in spring training. That optimism carried over to the regular season as Brown finally put it all together and looked like the untouchable player the Phillies thought they had back in 2009. In a season that was pretty forgettable in many ways, Brown was the lone bright spot.
Brown smashed 27 homeruns while driving in 83 RBI for the Phillies in 2013. He posted a respectable slash line of .272/.324/494 and was voted into his first All Star Game. Life was good. Still a work in progress in the field, he possessed a rocket arm that had fans rushing to twitter so they could hashtag “HoseAlert” anytime he gunned down a runner. There was no question that Domonic Brown had finally arrived. But then it happened….. and then it didn’t…… but then it did. Domonic Brown was Daniel San and he was about to lose his Mr. Miyagi.
Wally Joyner had joined the Phillies in October of 2012 as the assistant hitting coach. Come spring training he had found a protégé in Brown. “It seems like God has sent an angel down here toward me” Brown said of Joyner during spring training. Joyner had watched video of Brown’s long loopy swing and knew how to fix it. In the 1994 movie “Angels in the Outfield” Angels helped baseball players play greater than they really were. But then they left. Wally Joyner, a man once referred to as an “angel” by Domonic Brown left, but he didn’t have too.
After Charlie Manuel was fired in September of 2013 Joyner became the first base coach. At the end of the season Joyner wanted more, and he went looking for a position as a full time hitting coach. Two weeks later the Phillies announced he had reversed his decision and would return to the Phillies reprising his role as assistant hitting coach. One person that was breathing a sigh of relief was Domonic Brown. But that lasted a month. In the middle of November Joyner decided to once again leave the Phillies, this time for Detroit as the Tigers new hitting coach. My first reaction was “not again”.
Most fans don’t get upset when assistant coaches leave. After all, how much do they REALLY do? But to me, letting Wally Joyner go was like when the Phillies let Davey Lopes leave after the 2010 season. The team was undervaluing the impact that some bench coaches have on the team. Amaro let Lopes go and it effected the teams stolen base numbers the next season. The Phillies went from ranking 10th in stolen bases in 2010 to 19th in 2011. I was concerned that in allowing Wally Joyner to leave for Detroit we would see the old Brown. It appears my fear has been realized.
Domonic Brown might be the worst every day player in the majors this season. The Phillies left fielder ranks as one of the worst offensive every day players in the game, and his defense is atrocious at one of the easier spots in the field. Only the Tampa Bay Rays Jose Molina has a worse WAR (-1.5) than Brown’s -1.4. He has the sixth worst OPS in the majors (.598), and his robust .218 batting average ranks him the second worst left fielder in that category.
As I watch the former top prospect do a complete 360 with his career I have to wonder if this was avoidable. If Wally Joyner was still here would Brown be struggling as badly as he is? Was letting Wally Joyner go to Detroit, and not making sure he stay in Philadelphia the worst move Ruben Amaro made this offseason? Its hard to ignore the numbers in Domonic Brown’s career. In 2010, 2011, 2012, and this season Brown has struggled big time. But in 2013 he was able to put it all together. And the one big difference was Joyner.
Ruben Amaro has made some awful moves during his tenure as GM of the Phillies. Some major (Cliff Lee trade) and some minor (Brandon Moss). Letting Wally Joyner go is in the latter category, but to the struggling former All Star I’m sure it is huge. With every strikeout, with every fly ball, with every ground out there is a solution, but that solution is sitting in Detroit. The Tigers currently have the second best team batting average in the majors. Domonic Brown currently has one of the worst.