Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 22, 2006
BASEBALL: Why Bobby Abreu Never Plays For Winners

Because he doesn't do things like this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:40 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)

Leading with one's head doesn't guarantee anything other than a headache.

Posted by: Mike Pisula at August 22, 2006 1:13 PM

yea...he just hits over .400 with an obp over .500.

He must suck...

By the way...wouldn't you rather have your star player (Abreu) healthy and playing every day thaan crashing into things and being lost for the season?

Posted by: dave at August 22, 2006 2:17 PM

I take it you missed me being sarcastic here.

Posted by: The Crank at August 22, 2006 2:22 PM

Everybody assumes that Bobby Abreu got this bad rap in Philadelphia and now is finally being appreciated for the great player that he is, but that is not necessarily true.

When the Phillies signed Abreu to his big contract a few years back, he was expected to be the star player that would lead the dismal franchise back to continued success for the first time since the late 70s and early 80s. It never happened. Now, you cannot blame everything on Abreu, but anyone that followed the Phillies closely the last few years can admit that he failed to live up to the expectations. He put up above average numbers, but was never the star player fans expected him to be. What put fans over the edge was of course the losing, but also his apparent lack of hustle and certain lack of emotion/fire; something that made the fans love Rose and Dykstra and Larry Bowa. Bobby Abreu simply did not care that much.

This character trait has enabled him to succeed in the Bronx. In a city where many players fall apart under the pressure, Abreu has been able to succeed thus far because of two things: 1) he bats sandwiched in between some of the best hitters in baseball. His willingness to take pitches and get on base is exactly what the great Yankee teams did in their championship seasons. 2)He doesn't care. He has some of that Manny Ramirez-like aloofness. He floats around and drifts off during the game.

In Philadelphia, these things made him the goat of a team that was thought to be an underachiever (although in fact, it was never actually that good). Now, they will make him a hero in Yankee Stadium.

Posted by: Phanatic at August 22, 2006 2:47 PM

Phanatic, how many good hitters did the Phillies surround him with (I honestly don't know), and good pitchers. It's hard to be the one star player on a baseball team and have them win lots of times. Heck, Mike Schmidt couldn't do it most years.

Posted by: rbj at August 22, 2006 2:53 PM

Well, looking just at this year's team, he was playing with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, both of whom will likely finish in the top ten in MVP voting. Previous seasons, he at least had Jim Thome hitting behind him. Obviously, the main reason the Phillies have not won is that they've had no pitching.

As far as the crashing into walls thing, I'm reminded of the fact that as much as Mets fans got on Strawberry for not hustling, they'd likely have been National League champs in 1985 if Darryl hadn't torn up his thumb diving for a ball in the outfield.

Posted by: Jerry at August 22, 2006 3:09 PM

I sum up the dirt on Abreu in two words: Phillie Fans.

I don't know know what the hell the problem with Phillies fans is, but they never get it. Never!

They hate Abreu, they hate Burrell, they hated Billy Wagner (who while not great, is still very good). They boo'd Mike Schmidt!

Gimme a break (and give us Pat Burrell while you're at it).

Posted by: Mike at August 22, 2006 3:14 PM


Without question, the phillies biggest area of concern has been their pitching, just like most teams. One year its the bullpen; the next year its the rotation. Maybe I wasn't clear enough, but Abreu became the face of all that had gone wrong with the Phillies, not the root of all the problems. The Phillies problems start with organization and go back long before the Phillies acquired Abreu for via the Devil Rays. This does not eliminate that fact that Abreu underachieved in Philadelphia.

The Phillies of the last five years are far superior to the pathetic teams of the late 80s (schmidt's twilight years). Yes, he was often booed during that time, byt he batted around .250 those years and wasn't hitting the ball out of the park the way he did in his prime. Plus, this is a guy that refused to give autographs unless he was getting paid to do it, never did the charity circuit that comes with being a great player in a big city, and openly criticized the town on numerous occasions.

As for the "running into walls" comment; you don't have to run into walls to hustle. Just run out groundballs and show some emotion. Fans like to see it.

And I knew someone wouldn't be able to resist criticizing the fans. I admit, Philadelphia fans can be overzealous at times, but don'y just go along with the whole personna that the national media has given the town. And the local papers and WIP (local sports talk station) are equally to blame. They love the image and have embraced, much the way Shaugnessy did in Boston with the whole "Curse of the Bambino." It gives them an angle makes for good reading and higher ratings. Just like New york, Chicago, Boston (and every other classic sports town), the fans of Philadelphia love a winner. When your team wins, everyone is happy. When the team loses, everyone demands that heads should roll. No Phillies fan in his/her right mind hated Wagner. Sure some people booed when he blew big saves (I.e. when Houston swept Philadelphia in a September series last year and never looked back on the way to the WS).

And as for Pat Burrell, I will you the benefit of the doubt, Mike, and assume you don't know he is signed through 2008 with $12+ per coming his way. Whatever team it is you like, could have had Burrell, but they didn't want his contract. I am certain Pat Gillick would be happy to oblidge your request if you can convince Minaya or Cashman or whoever to take his salary.

Posted by: Phanatic at August 22, 2006 3:41 PM

never did the charity circuit that comes with being a great player in a big city

From Wikipedia:

Abreu was involved in many events in the Philadelphia and Delaware Valley communities. In 2001, he was the Honorary Chairman for the American Red Cross Blood Drive. Abreu bought $10,000 worth of tickets to most of the Friday night games for children in his "Abreu's Amigos" organization during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. In this program, the children got jerseys, coupons for concessions and chances to meet Bobby Abreu on the field during batting practice. Bobby was also the 2004 recipient of the Phillies Community Service award and the Phillies' representative for MLB's Roberto Clemente Award.
Posted by: The Crank at August 22, 2006 3:45 PM

Phillies fans did not, to quote Mike, "hate" Abreu. Nor do they "hate" Burrell. Rather, we dislike the long-term, expensive contracts they signed. Abreu, while a good hitter, underachieved in the outfield. Also, he should have been their lead-off hitter, but that was not something he was willing to do. Therefore, you can question his worth as a team player....
Burrell is just plain overpaid. The Phillies have had worse outfielders (Pete Incaviglia and Greg Luzinski come to mind), but he's not even mediocre. He's painful to watch at the plate too. Frankly, his worst quality is his untradable contract!
While the Phillies only got about 40 cents on the dollar for the Abreu/Lidle trade, they did free up a lot of money to start rebuilding. Hopefully Dave Montgomery and the rest of the Good ole' boys in the front office let Pat Gillick and Rueben Amaro Jr. do what needs to be done.

Posted by: Mark D at August 22, 2006 3:57 PM

I meant Abreu was NOT willing to be leadoff... my bad!

Posted by: Mark D. at August 22, 2006 3:59 PM

That line along with the rest of the paragraph was in reference to Mike Schmidt. I never meant to imply that Abreu was anything less than a good guy.

The bottom line was he did not live up to expectations. If you really want to pick at words (and judging by the amount of lawyers on this site, manyof you do) it can be argued that Abreu did not underachieve b/c the expectations that fans set for him were too high, but either way he was a dissappointment in Philadelphia. Now hopefully, Gillick will use the extra $16 M wisely and bring some playoff baseball back to Philadelphia.

Posted by: Phanatic at August 22, 2006 4:10 PM

All I can say is, if you were disappointed with Abreu at any time between 1999 and 2004, you're nuts. Yes, his homers fell off in 2005-06, but the rest of his game has been fine - it's a classic case of an organization and fans blaming their best player for not being Superman instead of fixing the parts of the team that actually needed help.

Posted by: The Crank at August 22, 2006 4:18 PM

Mike Schmidt: Greatest third baseman ever. 3 time MVP. Gold Glover. During his prime the Phils went to the playoffs annually, reached the series twice, and won their first series since 1915.

But Phillie fans rationalize booing him because he hit .250 as an old man, and wanted money for autographs.

Abreu: Hits .300, with power, speed and 100+ walks year after year. And when he missed .300, he hit .293 or .287. A prototypical 300/400/500 guy.

But Phillie fans don't like him because he doesn't hustle, or won't run into walls, or whatever.

Pat Burrell: 30 years old. Pretty much good for 265/350/500 every year.

Phillies fans don't like him because he gets too much money.

You're not seeing a pattern here?

Posted by: Mike at August 22, 2006 4:25 PM

Mike: I noticed you failed to address the Bobby Abreu as a leadoff hitter issue. He's got a good stick, but was not a team leader and a mediocre fielder at best.

Your Burrell numbers are off. Since getting his big contract beginning in '03 his numbers are:
2003: 209/309/404 21 HR
2004: 257/365/455 24 HR
2005: 281/389/504 32 HR
While he has gotten better, those aren't great numbers for the money he's making. If he were a gold glove outfielder, I'd take it. Rowand can put up 265/350/500 every year because of his glove. If you have nothing else to back it up, you're just an overpaid player.

Personally, I like Abreu. I'm glad he's no longer with the Phillies because it's clear they need to rebuild and he wasn't going to be a part of that.

Posted by: Mark D at August 22, 2006 4:47 PM

I didn't comment on the leadoff hitter issue because I don't know whether he refused or not. Seems that's the manager's call.

I agree Burrell's not quite what you guys hoped after his breakout year in '02 (I remember it well; I picked him up on my fantasy team at about mid-season and he was great). But take away the disaster of '03 and he's pretty good.

I'll admit it the Mike Schmidt stuff that's always gotten me. Then when I met a Phils fan in a bar a few years ago, and all he did was bitch about Abreu. I just thought to myself, "this is so ridiculous."

Maybe the Burrell issue is fair. But Schmidt? Abreu?

Posted by: Mike at August 22, 2006 4:59 PM

Fans boo. I think it is silly to boo your own players, but it happens. Even Jeter has been booed at Yankee stadium. As a matter of fact, the only Yankee that I cannot recall being booed is Mariano Rivera. However, the fans and towns that are filled with boo birds generally provide an extremely difficult atmosphere for the opposing team when the home team is playing well or has a big game.

Abreu was a great acquisition for the Yankees, no doubt about it. However, I completely agree with Mark D that the Phillies needed to move on. Hopefully Pat Gillick will dissapoint.

Posted by: Phanatic at August 22, 2006 5:13 PM

Don't forget, this is the city that also loves the guy (Bowa) who drove Scott Rolen out of town for not being Superman.

Posted by: Dave at August 22, 2006 6:50 PM

Actually - Schmidt was criticized before the WS win during the Phillies early exits in 76-78. Remember that Schmidt's career average was only .267, and if anything he hit for a higher average later in his career. From 76-79 he hit .262, .274, .251, and .253. I grew up watching Schmidt play, and it was only at the end of his career, after it was clear what a great player he was that fans warmed up to him much at all. (Philly fans still credit the '80 championship to Pete Rose, never mind the fact that Schmidt had one of if not the best season of any player of that era that year). Schmidt had a lot of characteristics in common with Abreu - quiet, not a rah-rah type, and perhaps most critical in my view - his strongest characteristic as hitter was his willingness to take strikes even in a big situation. Fans here simply cannot stand the fact that a big money player will come up and not swing in a key spot, and both Schmidt and Abreu would take strikes, even strike three, regardless of context.

Posted by: phwest at August 23, 2006 12:24 PM

his strongest characteristic as hitter was his willingness to take strikes even in a big situation.

That's a great point, and true of a lot of guys, I'd suspect. Darryl did a lot to alienate the fans back in the 80's, but his underrated selectivity was never appreciated, although the fans always remembered his taken strike 3s.

He took strike 3 too often, but no one appreciated that his .250 BAs were often complemented by .350+ OBPs. And in Shea, in the 80's, with .500+ SLGs, that was damn good.

Posted by: Mike at August 23, 2006 2:57 PM

If you run an office, and you have thirty employees, you may well have no reliable system for measuring how good a job each employee does. Joe drinks too much, but he always shows up; Mary's a nymphomaniac, but the customers like her (maybe too much); Betty works harder than anybody else, but hasn't has a new idea in 20 years; Dave's a nice guy but a little dumb. It's hard in many business situations to quantitatively measure somebody's productivity.

Baseball's not like "the real world." There are numbers, accurate and informative ones, that tell us that Bobbby Abreu is by far the best right-fielder the Phillies have ever had. Not even close. The people who don't like Abreu's "attitude"-based on nothing, by the way-they've never met the guy-are just closed-minded simpletons.

People want a scapegoat for the Phillies' failures-as always the scapegoat is the team's BEST player. Failure must mean someone should be "blamed"-these are primitive, unenlightened attitudes.

Posted by: John Salmon at August 24, 2006 12:04 AM


I'd like to remind you that a Right Fielder, in addition to batting (which Abreu was quite adept at), must also PLAY right field. He was not great at that. What good is a hitter in the NL if you're an almost liability in the field?
He wasn't a scapegoat, but the fans felt, rightly, that he could do more to help the team. He wasn't going to step up. Fine, that's his decision. That's what makes him such a great fit for the Yankees. They don't need a rah-rah team leader guy. They already have a couple of those guys. Abreu was not a great fit for the Phillies, that's why he needed to leave.
But, I'd like you to note, their record since they traded Abreu is 17-8 (.680). Prior to trading him, they were 47-54 (.465). I think you'll agree when I say that the ultimate measure of a baseball team is wins and losses. Fact: The Phillies are a better team without Abreu. That doesn't make him bad player, but maybe it makes him a bad teamate?

Posted by: Mark D at August 24, 2006 12:20 PM

Mark D-

Fact: The Phillies are a better team without Abreu.

You really think 25 games is quite the sample size needed to make that statement?

Posted by: Mike at August 24, 2006 3:25 PM

Mark D-The next person who uses the godawful "step up" cliche' should be premanently banned from all baseball discussions.

Nobody's saying Abreu's a great, or even a good outfielder. But with a corner OF who's as productive offensively as Bobby still is, you (should) make some allowances.

Somehow you feel that Bobby could've done more to help the team. If he'd have only yelled more, they'd have won more. Leadership by Decibels-you could write a book. The "For Dummies" series might be a buyer.

Do you think Gillick dumped Bobby to improve the team? Gillick made the deal because the Phillies are headed back towards pretending to be a small-market team: Once again, the plan is to do everything on the cheap. This time next year, their payroll may be lower than the Marlins'.

Posted by: John Salmon at August 24, 2006 7:39 PM

The next person who uses the godawful "step up" cliche' should be premanently banned from all baseball discussions.

Damn straight! From now on, only "Cowboy Up" will be accepted.

Posted by: Mike at August 25, 2006 6:35 AM

Yes, I think 25 games is enough to make that statement. It's not just wins and losses either. They were listless before the trade.
Gillick decided to "step up" ;-) and do what was in the teams long term best interest. Nobody, including Pat, thought the Phillies would improve immediately. I didn't mean to insuate that the Abreu trade was meant to help the team make the playoffs this year. But it was meant to help them long term. As it happens, we're finding out that Abreu was dragging down team chemistry. They're all taking after Chase Utley now and the improvement is not a coincidence. Of course, maybe it was David Bell or Cory Lidle or Rheal Comier???? I doubt it though. If you don't want to win bad enough, then you won't, despite talent. It's that simple. How many winners in sports have said they didn't care about the outcome of a game?

As for making an allowance with his fielding... If they had no other decent outfielders, I'd reluctantly agree with you. But David Delucci and Shane Victorino are better fielders and aren't too shabby at the plate either. I'll trade Abreu's stick for their fielding. That fly ball that Bobby would let drop can be the difference between a win or loss.

Why is everyone giving me crap anyway? I've not slagged on the guy's batting, mearly how well he fit with the Phillies. This does crack me up though. I recall having similar arguments about 12 years ago when Randall Cunningham was run out of town. If you're not a Phillies fan, you simply will not get it.

Posted by: Mark D at August 25, 2006 11:50 AM

If you're not a Phillies fan, you simply will not get it.

I'm not, I don't, and I guess you're right: I never will.

'Nuff said. Allow me to Step Up, shake your hand, and move on!

Posted by: Mike at August 25, 2006 5:18 PM

Mark D-I've been a Phillies fan since the 60's. I get it-I just don't agree.

This team chemistry stuff is mostly crapola. If you're standing at the plate facing Roger Clemens, nobody else can help you. This isn't football, where somebody throw a block for you, or basketball where somebody can set a pick. Baseball in many ways isn't a team sport at all, and having a happy clubhouse may be nice but it doesn't put runs on the board.

It simply defies common sense to say the team is better w/o Abreu, and again, Gillick didn't intend to get better with the move, but simply wanted to dump two contracts. Right now, the team is one game over .500. They were in the same spot more than once this year, with Abreu.

Posted by: John Salmon at August 27, 2006 9:07 PM
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