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So This Is What It Has Come To?
2006-08-28 19:43
by Mike Carminati

Jeff Conine?

Jeff Friggin' Connine?!?

Switching gears from sellers (of real talent) to buyers (of geriatric talent) is one thing. Sure, pick up a 43-year-old Jamie Moyer while Vicente Padilla, who was traded essentially for nothing, is 13-8 in Texas. Jose "Sr. K" Hernandez? Yes, he's still playing. And I won't mention the name of a throw-in in the Eric Milton trade—actually I will: Nick Punto, who's helping the Twins win a wild card that actually matters in the AL.

It's bad enough that the Phils are picking up these marginal talents after Crazy Pat's fire sale at the end of July. Yeah, that Abreu is really killing the Yankees.

OK, I get it. The Phils are in a wild card hunt. As they fall to .500 tonight, they are still just a game and a half out of the wild card lead. Given that it has been 13 years since their last playoff appearance and 23 since the one before that (both ending in Series losses), this team should do whatever they can to get a cherished playoff spot.

But Jeff Conine?

Johnny Damon going to the Yankees? David Wells to the Red Sox? Those are nothing compared to the man who single-handedly knocked the Phils out of the wild card spot in 2003 joining them for a wild card run in 2006.

When Conine was acquired by the Marlins—again from the O's in at the trade deadline in 2003—they were tied with the Phils for the wild card lead (73-63). By the time the Phils and Marlins next met (Sept. 16), Florida was 1.5 games up.

After a 14-0 shellacking brought the Phils within one-half game of the wildcard lead, Conine helped lead the Marlins to an 11-4 going 2-for-3 with a home run, a double, two walks, two runs scored, and three runs batted in. He also doubled off two runs from his position in left field. He drove in two runs in the top of the first to put the Marlins up 3-0. After the Phils tied the score, he homered with one out in the fourth to put the Marlins 4-3. They added two more runs in the inning to go up to stay.

Despite a single and a run scored on a bunt and a Kevin Millwood error, Conine and Florida lost the final game of the series, and the Phils were again one-half game behind. The meet again in Miami after one series each—the Marlins split with the Braves and the Phils lost two of three to the Reds to fall to one full game back.

With six games remaining, the two teams had three games left to play. The Phils led 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh. After two straight walks by Kevin Millwood to lead off the bottom of the seventh and a flyout, Jeff Conine homered to tie the game and drive Millwood from the game. The ill-fated Mike Williams came in to give up a single and walk. When all was said and done, the Marlins nabbed a 5-3 lead—the eventual score was 5-4.

The Marlins led by two games, but the Phils could still tie them if they won the final two games of the series.

In the next game, the Marlins led 2-0 in the sixth when Conine hit a two-run homer to cap a four-run inning. Conine went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and two batted in in the 6-5 Marlins win.

The Phils were now done three games with just four games left to play.

Conine had an off game in their last meeting going just 1-for-5 (a double) with two runs batted in. The Marlins won 8-4 to eliminate the Phils. The Marlins went on to their second wild card be-pilfered ring in seven years. The Phils have been a team seemingly one game away from a playoff spot ever since.

Overall, in 37 at-bats against the Phils in 2003, Conine had 12 hits, 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 3 walks, 5 runs scored, 11 batted in, and five Ks. His ratios were .324/.375/.649/1.024. For Conine's career, there is only one team (the Rockies) against whom he has more homers than the Phils (13).

Did I mention that I dislike Jeff Conine?

But I digress…

If the Phils somehow steal the wild card spot, they will become one of a handful of teams who would play a playoff series without two of their regular-season starters. No matter what happens the rest of the way this season, Baseball Reference will list already departed Phils Bobby Abreu and David Bell as the starters in right and at third, respectively. And Sal Fasano, Abreu's teammate in the Bronx, had more at-bats than any other Phils catcher when he was inexplicably designated for reassignment a week before the trade deadline—well, maybe that was the explanation.

There are only two teams in playoff history who have started a series with two of their regular-season starters on other rosters. The first was the 1909 Detroit Tigers who traded the right side of the infield in August (1B Claude Rossman and 2B Germany Schaefer) for their superior replacements (Tom Jones and Jim Delahanty) for the last forty-odd games of the season. The Tigers still lost in seven games to the Pirates.

The other team was the 2004 Paul DePodesta Dodgers. They traded starting catcher and Team Leader(TM) Paul Lo Duca and staring right fielder Juan Encarnacion to the Marlins in the Brad Penny trade.

Of the twelve teams that played a playoff series without at least two of their regular-season starters, just one (the World Series Reggie-less 1972 A's) has won the World Series. The least number of starters fielded in a playoff series was four by the injury-plagued Braves in the 2001 Division Series, which they won. The Braves were missing starters Javy Lopez, Quilvio Veras, Rafael Furcal, and Wes Helms. Lopez returned for the NLCS, which they lost.

Here's the complete list of teams who have played a playoff series without at least two regular-season starters:

TeamYrRound#StartersWon Div?Won WC?Won Lg?Won WS?
Los Angeles Dodgers2004NLDS6YNNN
Arizona Diamondbacks2002NLDS6YNNN
Atlanta Braves2001NLDS4YNNN
Atlanta Braves2001NLCS5YNNN
St. Louis Cardinals2000NLDS6YNNN
Los Angeles Dodgers1996NLDS6NYNN
Montreal Expos1981NLDS6Y NN
Cincinnati Reds1973NLCS6Y NN
Oakland Athletics1972WS6Y YY
Boston Braves1948WS6 YN
New York Giants1911WS6 YN
Detroit Tigers1909WS6 YN

For those curious, here are the missing starters:

Los Angeles Dodgers2004NLDSJuan EncarnacionRF
Los Angeles Dodgers2004NLDSPaul Lo DucaC
Arizona Diamondbacks2002NLDSCraig Counsell3B
Arizona Diamondbacks2002NLDSLuis GonzalezLF
Atlanta Braves2001NLCSQuilvio Veras2B
Atlanta Braves2001NLCSRafael FurcalSS
Atlanta Braves2001NLCSWes Helms1B
Atlanta Braves2001NLDSJavy LopezC
Atlanta Braves2001NLDSQuilvio Veras2B
Atlanta Braves2001NLDSRafael FurcalSS
Atlanta Braves2001NLDSWes Helms1B
St. Louis Cardinals2000NLDSFernando Tatis3B
St. Louis Cardinals2000NLDSMike MathenyC
Los Angeles Dodgers1996NLDSMike Blowers3B
Los Angeles Dodgers1996NLDSRoger CedenoCF
Montreal Expos1981NLDSRodney Scott2B
Montreal Expos1981NLDSTim RainesLF
Cincinnati Reds1973NLCSBobby TolanRF
Cincinnati Reds1973NLCSDave ConcepcionSS
Oakland Athletics1972WSReggie JacksonCF
Oakland Athletics1972WSTim Cullen2B
Boston Braves1948WSJeff HeathLF
Boston Braves1948WSJim RussellCF
New York Giants1911WSAl BridwellSS
New York Giants1911WSArt Devlin3B
Detroit Tigers1909WSClaude Rossman1B
Detroit Tigers1909WSGermany Schaefer2B
2006-08-28 19:48:02
1.   Bob Timmermann
I think you meant the 1909 Tigers who made the trade, not the 1911 Tigers.

I think you were temporarily confused by Jeff Conine Rage.

2006-08-28 20:05:53
2.   Mike Carminati
Oops. Pronoun trouble...
2006-08-29 07:18:09
3.   dianagramr
I'm disappointed,Mike.

I thought for sure you were gonna list the players who have played for at least 3 different teams twice, as Mr. Conine now has.

a devoted fan and stat-geek

2006-08-29 09:32:34
4.   Mike Carminati
I think I already did that last year. Let me see if I can find it.
2006-08-29 10:29:46
5.   Eric Enders
I always wondered why the Dodgers got swept in 1996. Now I know why -- they were missing Mike Blowers and Roger Cedeno!
2006-08-29 10:43:35
6.   Mike from Hoboken
"Don't look now, but Manuel could be a Manager of the Year candidate if the Phillies win the wild card."
--Fox Sports analyst Ken Rosenthal
2006-08-29 12:00:40
7.   dianagramr

... well, considering that the NL could have as few as 4 teams finish above .500, that might not be saying much ...

2006-08-29 16:01:48
8.   das411
Only a couple more innings 'til we get an updated list of each franchise's single season HR records, right Mike?

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