Former Phillies continue pursuit of World Series championship

The 2012 season may be over for the Philadelphia Phillies but a number of former Phils will continue to play baseball this October in both leagues. If you are the type of Phillies fan who will pick up a rooting interest in a team based on a former Phillie being on the roster, you certainly have some options this fall.

Atlanta Braves, NL Wild Card

Michael Bourne, Chad Durbin

Chad Durbin, 2012 Atlanta Braves

Centerfielder Michael Bourne struggled down the stretch of the regular season but he still managed to be a key player for Atlanta this season with career highs for home runs (9), RBIs (57) and walks (70). The free-agent to be has been discussed by some as a potential target of the Phillies, who drafted him and brought him up through their farm system. Bourne played his first two years in the majors with Philadelphia in 2006 and 2007. Of course, he was part of the package deal orchestrated mainly by assistant general manager (at the time) Ruben Amaro to bring Brad Lidge to the team in time for the 2008 season. That move worked out pretty well for the Phillies, although Bourne developed in to a multi-Gold Glove outfielder and has made two All Star appearances since leaving town.

Speaking of which, one of the more dependable relievers from that 2008 bullpen staff also happens to be one of the trusty relievers for Atlanta. Chad Durbin has put together a 4-1 record with a 3.10 ERA, his best average since his first season in Philadelphia (2.87 ERA in 2008). Durbin has finished 19 games for the Braves this season and carried a 1.311 WHIP in 76 games, matching his WHIP from 2010 season in Philadelphia for his best since 2007. The Braves took a little bit of a chance on Durbin after having a 5.53 ERA in Cleveland last season, but he has certainly paid off for them this season.

Baltimore Orioles, AL Wild Card

Jim Thome, Endy Chavez

Things certainly did not go as the storybook season had scripted for Jim Thome in Philadelphia, but it is good to see one of the classiest guys in baseball get one final crack at postseason play. Thome played in 30 games in his second stint in Philadelphia this season after signing as a free-agent, but things just never really came together despite some great home run moments, including a walk-off win to save Jonathan Papelbon and his return trip to Minnesota. As the Phillies started to fade this season the team traded Thome to Baltimore in exchange for a pair of minor league pitchers, Gabriel Lino and Kyle Simon.

In 28 games with the Orioles Thome has hit three home runs in his 26 at bats. Baltimore took an AL East race down to the final day with the New York Yankees, ending up in the one-game wild card match-up with the Texas Rangers.

Endy Chavez spent one season in Philadelphia, playing in 91 games. He was acquired in a trade with the Washington Nationals in the middle of May 2005 in exchange for Marlon Byrd.

Cincinnati Reds, NL Central Champions

Scott Rolen, Wilson Valdez, Miguel Cairo

The Reds have three former Phillies on their roster. Scott Rolen is the most notable of course, as he continues to play solid all-around baseball. His offensive power has certainly gone down over the years (just eight home runs this season and 19 other extra base hits) but his glove and base running are still admirable. Rolen played in 92 games this season and hit .245. The eight-time Gold Glove third baseman still has some good flashes with the glove and it is his steady defense that keeps him in a starting position during the postseason.

Two utility infielders on the Reds are also former Phillies. Wilson Valdez, somewhat of a Phillies folk hero for the way he pitched in an extra inning game and for his decent job plugging the infield without Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley at times, serves as Cincinnati’s back-up to Brandon Phillips. Miguel Cairo, who spent one season in Philadelphia (27 games in 2009) does not have nearly that same kind of love from the Phillies fans.

Also of note, former Los Angeles Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton is now the closer for the Reds. The good news for him is Matt Stairs and Jimmy Rollins are nowhere to be seen this postseason.

Detroit Tigers, AL Central Champions

Nobody on the roster has a tie to the Phillies worth noting, but they do have the first Triple Crown winner in a couple of generations with Miguel Cabrera. That can be something to root for, right? They also have the manager than many fans wanted instead of Charlie Manuel, with Jim Leyland. It should be noted that Manuel has one World Series ring and two World Series appearances, while Leyland has taken Detroit to one Fall Classic and no ring to show for it.

New York Yankees, AL East Champions

Raul Ibanez

Raul Ibanez came on strong for the New York Yankees down the stretch, including being the hero in a pivotal game against the Boston Red Sox to help keep the Yankees in the driver’s seat for the AL East crown. Ibanez saw his bating average fall from .245 in his final season with the Phillies last year to .240 but his on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS all went up and he nearly matched his 2011 home run total (20) in 14 fewer games. Sure, it can be difficult to root for the Yankees, but Raul Ibanez is a class act and few would suggest he left Philadelphia on a sour note.

Oakland Athletics, AL West Champions

How can you not love this team and their story that seems to pop up every few seasons? Oakland dug out of a five-game hole to the Texas Rangers in the final ten days of the season and needed a three-game sweep at home against the Rangers to clinch the AL West, and got it!

While there are no notable Phillies ties with the franchise who originated in Philadelphia playing in the American League, you might take note that Oakland’s closer, Grant Balfour, started the second half of game five in the 2008 World Series as a reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was charged with a run in that game (Geoff Jenkins) but was let off the hook after Ryan Madson gave up a solo home run to Rocco Baldelli in the top of the seventh.

San Francisco Giants, NL West Champions

Hunter Pence

Hunter Pence, 2012 Giants

One of the defining moments of the 2012 Phillies season was when the team made the decision to part ways with Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence as the trade deadline approached. With the team sitting in a deep hole the message was clear that the Phillies were ready to start thinking about their future rather than see if they could dig out with the current roster. Shipping two starting outfielders out to the NL West was all you needed to see to figure out where Ruben Amaro stood with this year’s team. As things turned out, the Phillies started playing better in the second half of the season, although whether this was the change they needed immediately remains an open question.

Hunter Pence was having a rough year as he tried to carry the Phillies offense without Utley and Howard through the first half of the year. Whether his lack of fundamental skills were just exposed in their absence or not, the Phillies decided enough was enough and moved him to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Nate Schierholtz and minor league pitchers Seth Rosin and Tommy Joseph. Since arriving by the Bay Pence has hit just .219 and his on-base percentage of .383 has been over 60 points lower than what he had in Philadelphia, but he recorded 45 RBIs in 59 games to help the Giants edge out the Dodgers for the NL West division. Now Pence will get a chance to help the Giants win their second World Series in three seasons.

St. Louis Cardinals, NL Wild Card

Kyle Lohse

The defending World Series champions will open on the road in the National League Wild Card match-up with the Atlanta Braves. Their hopes of advancing to the full postseason bracket will fall on former Phillies pitcher Kyle Lohse, who spent a short amount of time in Philadelphia in 2007. Lohse was acquired by the Phillies in 2007 in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds for Matt Maloney. Lohse was 3-0 with a 4.72 ERA in the second half of the 2007 season as the Phillies battled back to win the NL East but he struggled in his one relief appearance in the NLDS that year against the Colorado Rockies, serving up a grand slam to Kaz Matsui that turned a 3-2 Phillies lead in to a 6-3 deficit.

Lohse signed with the Cardinals in the off-season after the Phillies were swept out by the red-hot Rockies in 2007. The Cardinals will hope to survive with Lohse on the mound in the wild card game, as the starter enters with a 3-1 career record against Atlanta in 10 games with a 4.97 ERA, but good career numbers in Atlanta’s Turner Field (2-0, 3.52 ERA). Lohse also had a career year with a 16-3 record and a 2.86 ERA and 1.090 WHIP (all career bests)

.Texas Rangers, AL Wild Card

Roy Oswalt

Roy Oswalt tried to return to baseball this season after parting ways with Philadelphia at the end of the 2011 season, but his comeback has been anything but glorious with the Texas Rangers. Signed to a $5 million deal, Oswalt has appeared in 17 games and has a 4-3 record and 5.80 ERA. He still appears on the team’s active roster on the team’s website but he is not a part of the starting rotation or used as a reliever. His chances to be listed on the playoff roster seem slim to say the least.

Washington Nationals, NL East Champions

Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez

Jayson Werth, 2012 Nationals

Last but not least, the Washington Nationals, your 2012 National League East Division champions. We all know the story of Jayson Werth far too well. The player Pat Gillick wanted to take a chance on who developed in to a quality every day player with good defense and a potent bat who was a key player in the supporting cast backing up the likes of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins during a string of division championships and multiple trips to the World Series. Following the 2010 season Werth cashed in on a mega deal to sign with the NL East rival Washington Nationals, and he was quick to suggest Washington could develop a winner. To this day there are plenty of bitter feelings about the way Werth left town, but not from me. I can never blame a man for signing a contract worth as much as he was offered by Washington, and now he gets a well-deserved last laugh for the time being.

Werth hit .300 this season despite playing in just 81 games thanks in large part to a broken wrist, suffered against the Phillies early in the year. Despite missing half the season Werth still had 90 hits and scored 42 runs in 300 at-bats. Good, not great, numbers. Still, it is the first time Werth ended a season hitting .300.

A large reason for the success of the Nationals this season though is the quality pitching they had on the mound. With Stephen Strasburg shut down in September, it looks as though Gio Gonzalez could be the key starting pitcher in the postseason. Gonzalez never pitched a single game wearing a Phillies uniform but he was a key name in a couple of pivotal trades made by the franchise in building to become a power in the NL East.

Gonzalez was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the first round of the 2004 draft, but the following year he was the player-to-be-named-later in a deal between Chicago and the Phillies that saw Thome traded to the White Sox in exchange for Aaron Rowand. The Phillies acquired Rowand along with minor league pitcher Daniel Haigwood and a player-to-be-named, which a month later in the off-season became Gonzalez. But Gonzalez was eventually traded back to the White Soc by the Phillies in another off-season trade the following year, in which the Phillies acquired Freddy Garcia in exchange for Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd.

That is a trade Phillies fans might wish they could have back now.

All images via Getty Images.

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