The summers of 2005 through 2008 were my last as what I would describe as a “carefree adult”. Sure, I had jobs. Sure, I had bills. But those summers, I didn’t yet have to worry about rent or a mortgage or sending three-fourths of my salary to Sallie Mae. No, those were summers where I occasionally had some spending money and could catch games in New York at Yankee or Shea Stadium, in Philadelphia when visiting friends, or Tampa Bay when visiting my family in Ocala. There were a handful of players I would try to see with great regularity.
This was an exciting time in baseball as a handful of players emerged as superstars. Albert Pujols had ceased to be a secret by the end of his rookie year but he was looking more and more like a once-in-a-lifetime player, as was Alex Rodriguez. There was legitimate talk of A-Rod breaking Barry Bonds‘ home run record shortly after Bonds set it as a “clean” home run king with someday Pujols smashing both of their marks. Boy, we were all naive to a number of issues, there.
For the Phillies, Chase Utley was bursting on to the scene while Mark Teixeira and David Wright were living up to their billings as former top prospects as blooming stars. There was one player, however, that was quietly becoming one of the most underrated and undervalued players in the Major Leagues despite hitting homers and making Baseball Tonight Web Gems night after night. Before long, it wasn’t uncommon to hear this player’s name associated with the phrase “like a young Ken Griffey Jr.” and his Baseball Reference comparables by age have him associated with Duke Snider, Duke Snider, Jack Clark, Barry Bonds, and Barry Bonds per year from 22 through 26. The player I’m talking about, of course, is Grady Sizemore and I would try to see Cleveland any time I could.
Sizemore started three-straight All-Star games from 2006 through 2008 for Cleveland as a center fielder and from 2005 through 2008, he led all MLB center fielders in fWAR while ranking fourth overall behind only Pujols, Utley, and A-Rod. Sizmore would elect to have surgery to repair an elbow injury and a hernia and missed 56 games. In 2010, Sizemore missed 129 games due to microfracture performed on his left knee. Sizemore would see action in 71 games for Cleveland in 2011, hitting just .224 with 10 homers, a seeming end to a great career before it had even started.
But Sizemore didn’t throw in the towel. Sizemore made the Red Sox in his return to professional baseball in 2014. After a hot start, Sizemore cooled down and was released. Following his release, he was signed by the Phillies on June 24, 2014 and assigned to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Sizemore played about league-average with the Phils in 2014 and was brought back for 2015.
Sizemore started the season as the club’s opening day right fielder but never really got things going offensively. Through April, Sizemore hit just .147/.194/.176 with a .371 OPS, which ranked 303rd out of 310 Major Leaguers that had 30 or more plate appearances in April. Sizemore actually turned things around pretty well for May, hitting .297/.338/.359 but had no homers. The pop that was once abundant was seemingly gone forever. Sizemore was designated for assignment on May 29 after the Phillies decided that Cody Asche had sufficiently learned how to play the outfield and was released by the Phillies on June 1. Sizemore would be signed by the Tampa Bay Rays and eventually return to the Major Leagues. The final line on Sizemore’s season with the Phillies was .245/.288/.296 with 0 HR and 0 SB in 104 PA. Sizemore ranked 200th out of 225 National Leaguers with 100 PA or more in OPS and finished the season with -0.6 fWAR.
Grade: D-. Sizemore showed flashes of the player he used to be in 2014. Unfortunately, none of that translated to 2015 in a season where the Phillies desperately needed contributions across the board. Emotionally, it was tough to watch Sizemore struggle at the plate, a shadow of a player that was destined to be among the the best of his generation and it made me thankful that, as Phillies fans, we got to see as much of Utley’s greatness as we did, despite his own injuries.