Friday, August 08, 2008

Juan Samuel Night

No recap of last night's game, although mention of last night's game will be part of a longer, angrier post sometime today.

Down at Citizens Bank Ballpark tonite, the Phils will be honoring one of the most dynamic Phillies of all time, former 2nd baseman Juan Samuel.

"Sammy" came up to the major leagues during the Phils' stretch drive in 1983. Their second baseman at the time was future HOFer Joe Morgan, but you just knew watching the dynamic Samuel run the bases and swing the bat, that Morgan's services would not be required in 1984.

Juan Samuel was the 2nd baseman and leadoff batter starting the 1984 season and he did not disappoint. He hit .272 with 15 homers and 69 RBI, which were pretty good numbers for a middle infielder in 1984. While not a huge OBP guy, Samuel did manage 191 hits in his rookie year, but it was what he did when he did get on base is what made Samuel a special player. He stole 72 bases that year, a Phillies team record that still stands today. Additionally, he hit 19 triples, which was a Phillies team record until Jimmy Rollins hit 20 last year in his MVP season.

Samuel's rookie year was good enough to earn second in the Rookie of the Year voting behind some guy named Dwight "Doc" Gooden.

In addition to Samuel's acumen on the diamond, he was one of the few players to actually look like he was having a good time out on the field. This was in direct contrast to some of the Phillies players from that era such as Mike Schmidt and Von Hayes, whose icy personas gave the impression that they were going in for root canal rather than playing a game for money.

Perhaps Samuel's best statistical season was 1987, where Samuel hit .272 with 28 homers and 100 RBI. His OBP that year was his highest as a Phil at .335 as he hit out of the 2 and 3 hole for some of that season in addition to a healthy number of starts where he led off. He didn't run as much as he did his rookie year, with only 35 steals, but it wasn't because of a lack of speed. Sammy still managed 15 triples that year. Like his rookie year, he represented the Phils at the All-Star game and even managed to finish 13th in the MVP voting.

Samuel's tenure in Philadelphia would end just 2 years later, when he was involved in one of the most infamous trades in Philadelphia sports history only for the reason that the Phillies actually came out on the right side of the trade. Samuel, by this point an outfielder because his fielding was never all that great, was traded to the Mets for Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell. McDowell was a pretty good reliever for parts of 2 seasons with the Phils and Dykstra was the backbone of the 1993 Phils.

As for Samuel, he was never the same player with the Mets that he was with the Phils. He did not stay in New York long and bounced around the league until finally retiring in 1998 in Toronto.

But the Samuel that should be commemorated on the Phils' "Wall of Fame" is the young second baseman who ran his way into the Phils' record books and looked like he had a good time doing it.

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