Thursday marks the 12th anniversary of the Phillies’ World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
With the offseason kicking off this week, there’s a lot of talk surrounding how to best construct a winning Phillies team for 2021. It could be fun to look back and see how the beloved ’08 team was put together. Spoiler alert: It involves a ton of scouting success stories.
There’s also an ongoing debate on who is most responsible for constructing the World Series team. Some would say Ed Wade drafted key players such as Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Others would credit Pat Gillick for his nifty moves in prior offseasons.
Perhaps most of the credit should be given to former Phillies scouting director Mike Arbuckle and all the scouts who worked underneath him.
We’ll start with a look at the starting lineup for Game 5.
Jimmy Rollins: Second round pick (46th overall) in 1996
The greatest shortstop in Phillies history was criminally undervalued in the 1996 draft. Bay area scout Bob Poole was enamored with the 5-foot-8 Rollins, who set records for the highest batting average (.484) and stolen bases (99) at Encinal High School in Alameda, California. He had an offer to play college baseball at Arizona State University but declined in favor of signing with the Phillies.
All he did was become the franchise leader in hits and doubles as well the 2007 National League MVP.
Jayson Werth: Signed a one year, $850,000 deal in Dec. 2006
Jayson Werth missed the entire 2006 season with a wrist injury. The Los Angeles Dodgers non-tendered him after the season and have lived to regret it ever since. Gillick, who drafted Werth as a catcher in the first round of the 1997 draft when he was GM of the Baltimore Orioles, banked on Werth’s health and the possibility that he was more than a bench guy.
He seized the starting job in right field in 2008 and never gave it back. He amassed 18 wins above replacement in his four seasons in Philadelphia and is — arguably — a borderline Wall of Famer.
Chase Utley: First round pick (15th overall) in 2000
For most people reading this, their lives would be a lot different if the Phillies never drafted “The Man” with the 15th overall pick in 2000. It was a lot closer to happening than one would like to think.
Arbuckle told Bob Brookover that the Phillies had two players on their mind heading into the first round: Rocco Baldelli and Utley. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Baldelli with the sixth pick and the former UCLA Bruin fell into the Phillies’ hands. While Baldelli had a solid career, it pales in comparison to what Utley accomplished in Philadelphia.
Utley was so good and so beloved in Philadelphia that a generation of dogs, cats and young men were blessed with the first (or middle name) Chase. You don’t need fWAR to explain that.
Ryan Howard: Fifth round pick (140th overall) in 2001
The high school trombone player turned legendary Phillies slugger had to endure being overlooked by talent evaluators for years. His high school coach practically begged his future college coach to take a look at him.
Former Phillies Missouri scout Jerry Lafferty told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2006 that he had watched Howard and saw “snap power” and “athletic flow.” A down-year in his junior season at what is now known as Missouri State University plummeted Howard’s draft stock. As a result, the Phillies were able to get him in the fifth round in the same year they whiffed on Gavin Floyd with the fourth overall pick.
“No offense to the other players there,” Lafferty recalls about scouting Howard, “but it was like, ‘Boys step aside, little league practice is over and it’s time for the big man to hit.’ Ryan launched some monster shots, some monsters.”
Pat Burrell: First round pick (1st overall) in 1998
Expectations were high for the first overall pick. They couldn’t miss on Pat Burrell — especially considering the Phillies failed to sign last year’s top pick J.D. Drew. Arbuckle was high on Burrell and rightfully so.
“I’m hesitant to make comparisons because then you start labeling a guy’s ability,” Arbuckle told Don Bostrom of The Morning Call in 1998. “On our scale for raw power, 80 is top. Mark McGwire has 80 pop. Pat is rated 80. Now, I’m not saying he’s Mark McGwire, I don’t want to put that monkey on his back.”
If you could remember correctly, Burrell was a third baseman drafted to play first base. He was never supposed to play left field because, as Arbuckle said “He doesn’t have the foot speed to play the outfield.”
Defense aside, Burrell excelled at getting on-base and had some serious pop. He currently sits fourth on the Phillies all-time home run list. It was a pretty solid pick.Embed from Getty Images
Shane Victorino: Rule 5 selection from Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005
Hitting on a Rule 5 selection is the baseball equivalent of winning the Mega Millions. For the second time in his career, Shane Victorino was sent away from the Dodgers with a chance to make a big-league roster. He couldn’t stick it with the Padres in 2003 and before the 2005 season, the Phillies offered him back to Los Angeles. The Dodgers declined and Victorino subsequently raked in Triple-A and earned a September call-up in 2005.
The Phillies showed enough faith in him before the 2008 season to shift him to center field and let Aaron Rowand walk in free agency. Months later, “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” hit one of the biggest home runs in Phillies history in Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS.
Pedro Feliz: Signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal in Jan. 2008
By the end of the 2007 season, it was clear that the Phillies needed an upgrade at third base. The trio of Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs and Abraham Nuñez wasn’t going to get the job done, so they snagged Feliz on the free-agent market.
Much of his value lied in his defense but he is credited with knocking in the game-winning run in Game 5 of the World Series.
Apparently, Scott Rolen would have been open to a trade back to Philadelphia prior to the season. How weird would that have been if Rolen drove in the winning run of the 2008 World Series?
Carlos Ruiz: Signed for $8,000 as an amateur free agent in 1998
At his peak, the man affectionally known as Chooch was one of the best all-around catchers in the game.
If anything, the Phillies’ ’08 core — and just about every winning core for that matter — is defined by its underdog success stories. Ruiz was only given the opportunity to be featured in the Phillies Dominican Republic baseball academy because Phillies Panamanian scout Allan Lewis told current Phillies international scouting director Sal Agostinelli back in ’98 that he can catch.
Ruiz hit .305 in the Dominican league, which granted him a visa to play in the Gulf Coast League. He slowly made his way up the system and by 2007, he earned the starting catching job.
“I think part of our job is to dream a lot when you sign a guy,” Agostinelli told Bob Brookover in 2006. “I liked this kid because Allan told me he could hit. He didn’t think he ran fast enough to play the middle infield, but he thought he could catch because of the way he could throw.”
- Eric Bruntlett: Acquired via trade from the Houston Astros in Nov. 2007.
- Chris Coste: Signed as a free agent in Nov. 2005.
- Greg Dobbs: Claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners in Jan. 2007.
- Geoff Jenkins: Signed a two-year, $13 million deal in Dec. 2007.
- Matt Stairs: Acquired via trade with the Toronto Blues Jays after being designated for assignment in Aug. 2008.
We’ll take a look at how the 2008 pitching staff came about in the coming days.
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