12 years ago today, most of the Delaware Valley gathered around Broad Street for a Halloween celebration like no other. The Phillies were the World Series champions for only the second time in franchise history.
While the Phillies’ potent lineup gets most of the credit, the pitching staff deserves some love too. They combined for a 3.07 ERA in 123 innings pitched in the 2008 postseason. The rotation was led by the young phenom Cole Hamels and the bullpen was full of undervalued arms that performed at their best when the team needed them the most.
Long story short: They wouldn’t have won a World Series if it wasn’t for the pitching staff.
Let’s revisit how the 2008 Phillies pitching staff was assembled.
Cole Hamels: First round pick (17th overall) in 2002
Drafting a high school pitcher in the first round is a high-risk, high reward move. Hamels was a stud at Rancho Bernardo High but an injury scare almost cost him his career. He broke his humerus bone late in his sophomore year during an outing and Dr. Jan Fronek, the then Padres team physician, told him that he may never pitch again.
“When a doctor says, ‘You need to pick up another sport …'” Hamels told Sam Donnellon in 2012. “I mean, this was everything I ever wanted to do. And I know I’m good at it. And now I can’t? I was like, ‘Doc, give me a shot. He never even gave me a shot. Like, ‘You have a percentage of this to get back.’ There was nothing, no hope.”
After missing his entire junior season, Hamels returned only to throw five shutout innings in his first game back. His changeup was as good as it was before the injury. Only one scout — Darrell Conner from the Phillies — was in attendance that day.
“He may be the best high school pitcher I ever saw,” Rancho Bernardo head coach Sam Blalock told Mike Sielski in 2007 “and it’s because of his changeup.”
The eventual 2008 World Series MVP fell to the Phillies at No. 17 and the rest is history.
Brett Myers: First round pick (12th overall) in 1999
A big reason why the ’08 Phillies won the World Series is because the team hit on four of five first-round draft picks from 1998 to 2002. Sandwiched between the Burrell, Utley and Hamels picks was Englewood High School’s Brett Myers.
Scouting director Mike Arbuckle said the Phillies were torn between high school catcher Ryan Christianson and Myers. Christianson would fall to the Seattle Mariners at No. 11 and spend nine seasons in the minor leagues without playing a single game in the big leagues.
“We had some options, and I feel good about this pick,” Mike Arbuckle told Don Bostrom in 1999. “If Christianson had been there it would have made me make a difficult, but pleasant, decision. I still had to make a pleasant decision because we had one other pitching prospect on the board that we really liked.”
Myers, who was compared to Curt Schilling, went on to start three consecutive opening days for the Phillies from 2007 to 2009.
Jamie Moyer: Acquired via trade with the Seattle Mariners in August 2006
After spending 10 years with the Mariners, Moyer was shipped to Philadelphia at the trade deadline in ’06. Pat Gillick and the Phillies initiated the talks with Seattle, who weren’t looking to trade him. The geography made sense as Moyer grew up in the area and welcomed the opportunity to play for his hometown team.
He had a few rough outings but the Phillies were willing to hand the then 43-year-old a two-year, $10.5 million dollar contract the following October. He was a veteran presence in a rotation headlined by a young ace in Hamels.
“I want to win and I want to be a part of a winner,” Moyer told The Morning Call when he signed his extension in October 2006. “It’s exciting being part of a winning environment. It gave me a whole new outlook over the last weeks of the season being a part of that environment.”
About two years later, Moyer would find himself riding down Broad Street on a parade float with his teammates after winning his first and only World Series title. It was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream — one that started twenty-eight years earlier when he was among the thousands of fans cheering on his idol Steve Carlton and the rest of the 1980 World Champion Phillies.
Joe Blanton: Acquired via trade with the Oakland Athletics in July 2008
The rotation needed some help at the 2008 trade deadline and the Phillies had to pay a steep price to get it. To acquire RHP Joe Blanton, the Phillies sent top position prospect Adrian Cardenas, 2007 third-rounder Matthew Spencer and pitcher Josh Outman. Outman was the only one out of the three who had more than a cup of coffee in the major leagues, so the trade turned out to be a clear victory for the Phillies.
Blanton went 4-0 with a 4.20 ERA in the regular season but was really valuable for the Phillies in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He will likely go down as the last pitcher to ever hit a home run in the World Series.
“Every time I have to take a swing,” Blanton told The Morning Call after Game 4 of the 2008 World Series. “You know I’m not a hitter. I’m just going to close my eyes and swing hard just in case I make contact. I don’t think I opened them until I had to go out and throw another warm-up pitch.”
Ryan Madson: Ninth round selection (254th overall) in 1998
Madson is a scout’s dream: a late-round pick who turns out to be one of the franchise’s best homegrown relievers. During the tail-end of the ’08 season, Madson’s velocity jumped to the high 90s and his changeup became all the more devastating. Kudos to Jim Fregosi Jr., the man who signed him out of high school.
Madson, who spent time as a starter in 2006, was even a bit undervalued by his organization. At the beginning of the 2007 season, Arbuckle was asked who he’d think would be the closer after the ’08 season with Tom Gordon’s career winding down. He chose RHP Joe Bisenius over Madson. Bisenius made the Opening Day roster in ’07 but appeared in only two career games with the Phillies. He struggled in ’08 and ’09 in the Phillies minor-league system.
The other guy would go on to earn 52 career saves in a Phils uniform.
Brad Lidge: Acquired via trade with the Houston Astros in November 2007
The man who was a perfect 41-for-41 in save opportunities in 2008 needed a change of scenery prior to being dealt to Philadelphia from Houston.
“Initially, [dealing with the Pujols homer] was challenging because that’s why most people felt I wasn’t having success even though I was battling some other things,” Lidge told Randy Miller of the Bucks County Courier Times in 2007. “But I think Houston became a little stale. I’m hoping and I really do believe the change of scenery will bring out the best in me.”
According to Lidge, he struggled with mechanics since the World Baseball Classic in 2006. From 2006 to 2007, he lost his job as the closer four times. Charlie Manuel thought part of the issue was a lack of a consistent role.
“I think one of his biggest problems was when the Astros starting messing with him and moving him to the seventh inning,” Manuel told Miller. “A couple blown saves and I’m not going to quit on him.”
In 2008, Manuel didn’t have to think about quitting on Lidge, who allowed only one earned run in the 2008 postseason.
The Other Arms
- Clay Condrey: Signed a one-year contract in 2005.
- Chad Durbin: Signed a one-year, $900,000 contract in 2007.
- Scott Eyre: Acquired from the Chicago Cubs via trade in 2008 after being designated for assignment.
- J.C. Romero: Signed a one-year contract in June 2007.
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