To say it’s been a rough season for the Philadelphia Phillies would be one of the understatements of the 2017 baseball season so far. In this rebuilding year, few of the organization’s young major-leaguers have made a developmental leap forward, but the team’s longest tenured player is becoming a leader in the Phillies young (and getting younger) clubhouse.
Freddy Galvis came up to the big leagues in 2012 with a reputation as a stellar glove-man with questions about whether his bat could stick at the major league level. Today he’s still got that reputation, making challenging plays look routine and leading the National League in fielding percentage in 2016. Despite hitting for some power and a possessing a penchant for clutch hitting, it’s clear at this point in his career that he’ll never be an offensive force.
This article isn’t about Freddy’s on-the-field performance though. Recently, the shortstop unleashed a profanity-laden rant about the team’s effort level.
“In spring training, if you told me we were going to have this record, I wouldn’t believe it,” said Freddy. “I believed we had a good team. But we just can’t put anything together. We play well for five or six games and then we go to another six- or seven-game losing streak.
His frustration is understandable. After playing well in April, the team has been mired in a prolonged slump that has them on pace for well more than a hundred losses. In Galvis’ rookie year the Phillies went 81-81 and that is the most successful season he’s had since getting to the show.
“It’s hard. It’s hard to see. It’s hard to believe it. (Bleep) it. We have to (bleeping) play harder every single day. We need to try to do better,” said Galvis.
That was last Monday night.
Tuesday, Freddy went three for five with two RBI, spurring the Phillies to an 8-2 win over the Mariners. Maikel Franco hit a double and a home run and Aaron Nola allowed two runs over seven innings.
Wednesday saw the Phillies tie the game on a Tommy Joseph homer in the ninth. That cleared the way for rookie Cameron Perkins to draw a walk and advance to second on a balk. Perkins would be hit in for the winning run by fellow rookie Andrew Knapp. This all, of course, came after rookie Ricardo Pinto threw three scoreless innings to keep it close.
Seeing a pattern here?
“It’s nice to have a leader like that to be able to call us out a little bit. It’s been a tough stretch,” said Knapp after the game. “He’s right. We need to start playing a little bit better. That’s what we’re capable of. So I don’t think he’s asking too much of us. It lit a fire a little bit.”
“I think everybody takes that personally,” said second-year first baseman Tommy Joseph. “It wasn’t an organized meeting or anything. We all know what was said. Now it’s a matter of taking it personally and making a difference.”
I suppose it’s fitting that the Phillie who’s been around the longest takes up the mantle of clubhouse leader. Galvis wasn’t on the 2008 championship team but he played with that Utley-Howard-Rollins infield and he’s the current roster’s last, best link to them.
A two-game winning streak for a lousy team is barely a blip on the larger radar of the 2017 season, but in the larger narrative of the Phillies rebuild this could be a turning point.
And as the Phillies brass contemplates who stays and who goes as they try to build a new championship core, they’d be wise to consider Galvis, a player who may not light up the scoreboard every game, but who knows how to ignite the talents of the players around him.
Brett Miller, Baseline Times MLB Contributor