Twenty years ago, the Phillies were a team trying to get younger from within, but were falling farther into the depths of the National League basement.
By Martin Smith / Beerleaguer senior correspondent
In the modern era of free agency, it really became tough to be a Phillies fans 20 years ago.
In 1985, the Phillies had just finished the season 75-87, 5th place, 26 games back of the NL East winning Cardinals. It was hard to believe that only two years earlier, they had won the National League. The 1983 Phils were an old team, which included Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw.
By 1985, they were making a go with a lineup that included a number of young players under rookie manager John Felske. For all the pop still remaining, this was a team that could not hit a baseball. They ranked second last in the league in team batting with .245. The primary reason why was an unheard of number of wiffs, striking out 1,095 times, 132 more than the next highest team.
Two homegrown bats performed well. Mike Schmidt led the team with a 277 BA and 33 homers, and young Juan Samuel hit .264, with 19 homers and stole 53 bases.
But the young players who were supposed to help rebuild from within were producing lukewarm results at best. This group included Rick Schu, Jeff Stone and the notoriously bad Steve Jeltz, who hit .189.
What could have been
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. The Phillies had a tremendous farm system in the early ’80s and were signing superb talent from the Dominican Republic.
During the ’85-’86 offseason, I remember wondering what kind of team the Phils could have had if they didn't make so many bad trades of young talent.
The following lineup is comprised entirely from homegrown talent drafted and groomed in the Phillies minor league system. Keep in mind their positions are just theoretical.
1B Julio Franco, CLE. Julio hit .288 with 183 hits. This would be one of the last years he hit under .300, culminating with the batting title in 1991.
2B Juan Samuel, PHL. Speed and power, as listed above.
SS Ryne Sandberg, CHI. Ryne was just starting on his path to a Hall of Fame career, hitting .305, 26 HRs with 54 stolen bases.
3B Mike Schmidt, PHL. Hall of Fame.
LF George Bell, TOR. Jorge, then later George with a "G", hit .275 with 28 HRs, just warming up for his AL MVP season of 1987.
CF Bob Dernier, CHI. Bobby wasn't great, but he caught the ball and stole 31 bases.
RF Lonnie Smith, KC. Lonnie was not the best at catching the ball, and 1985 was a down year, hitting .257. He hit .321 in '83 and later, .315 in '89, but Lonnie did steal 52 bases and got a World Series ring in ’85 with the Royals.
C Keith Moreland, CHI. Moreland hit .307 with 106 RBIs. In fairness, the ’85 Phils had three other young catchers, Ozzie Virgil, John Russell, and Darren Daulton.
P Kevin Gross, PHL. 15-13, 3.41 ERA.
P Charles Hudson, PHL. 8-13, 3.78 ERA.
RP Don Carmen, PHL. 9-4, 2.08 ERA
RP Mark Davis, SF. Davis went 5-12, 3.54 ERA with SF, not quite like his Cy Young season in 1989.
So what's the point of all this? Nothing really. Maybe to realize, once again, that it’s never easy being a Phillies’ fan. The 1985 season was not a total loss, however. On June 11, they beat the Mets 26-7.