Well Charlie, you've really outdone yourself this year! With Phillie of my youth Ruben Amaro pulling the strings in the front office deserving a heaping helping of praise as well, the 2011 version of the Philadelphia Phillies set a franchise record with 102 wins en route to their fifth straight division title (one for every year of Three Springs farmers markets and Headhouse Farmers market). While the "Four Aces" garnered a lot of the hype, injuries caused the Fightin's to rely heavily on role players and young players brought up through the farm system to achieve a regular season worthy of recognition as the "greatest Phillies team of all time" according to this Metro scribe. We celebrate these achievements and wish the Phillies nothing but the best in their annual playoff run by acknowledging each members similarities to our favorite apples in advance of the National League Divisional Series, beginning this week! Without further ado, the 2011 Phillies Apple Lineup!
The Four Aces:
- 'Honeycrisp' Apples- Cliff Lee, SP - I know what you're thinking - where's Doc? Follow me with this one. We're into Cliff Lee season, now. This is no knock on Doc Halladay, but we know when the lights shine brightest, Cliff Lee turns the lights out on the opposition. Now that the playoffs have started, it's Cliff Lee city, folks. Plus, his signing is what set this whole season in motion - his desire to return to Philadelphia and his willingness to spurn the hateful New York Yankees (plus, Doc was HC last year - spread the love). In the height of apple season, there's no fruit I trust to wow a new farmers market customer quite so much as a perfect Honeycrisp. In the playoffs, there's nobody more clutch on the mound than Cliff Lee.
- Three Springs "Must Eat" Apple Cider - Charlie Manual, skipper - It takes a wise and deft manager to produce a consistent winner. You need the know how and you need to have the right parts in place with the right blend of starting pitching, relievers, power, average hitters, defense, and speed. Thankfully, I acquired the know how required to blend apples for cider at Penn State. My goal is to consistently produce winning cider batches. After five consecutive trips to the postseason, Charlie has blended his talented apples into a winning product on the field and is now recognized as the winningest skipper in the history of Philadelphia (much like our cider was recognized as something everyone should eat in Philadelphia).
- 'Jonagold' - Cole Hamels, SP - How soon we forget that Cole was Cliff Lee before Cliff Lee was Cliff Lee back in the World Series run of 2008 - a hard-throwing lefty who proved to be completely unsolvable when it mattered the most. Cole Hamels has proved himself to be that same pitcher again through long stretches of the 2011 season, finishing the season with a WHIP under 1.00 (didn't think that was possible) to lead the team! Similarly, I'd throw Jonagold up there with Honeycrisp in terms of overall flavor - excellent eating quality, more sweet than tart, just not as thunderously crunchy as the Honeycrisp. They're two left-handed power pitchers with a history of postseason dominance, Honeycrisp and Jonagold are!
- 'Gala'Apples - Roy Halladay, SP - Your game one starter, your leading Cy Young candidate (Clayton Kershaw beat up on inferior competition in meaningless games), your steady, everyday world class starter - this is Roy Halladay, folks. Other than leading the best Phillies team ever assembled in Wins, ERA, and Innings Pitched - what's there left for Doc to prove? Easy, Doc hasn't won it all yet and there's nothing more important to him than that ring! He took a pay cut to prove it! In a country where consumption of apples per capita is down, each year there are more Gala apples sold in this country than the year before! The success of this New Zealand apple is hard to fathom at times... just like the success of Doc once he was freed from chilly Canada!
- 'Fuji'Apples - Roy Oswalt, SP - This Mississippi born hurler returned from injury and settled right into midseason, err postseason form! The Phillies had make ends meet for a period of about two months this summer as he recovered from a back injury. Here at Three Springs, we grown an Early Fuji which ripens about a month or more before our "normal" Fuji, called 'Myra'. Due to the weather, we might find ourselves without Fuji for a week or two as the Early Fuji lost a lot of fruit to windfall. When 'Myra' do ripen, they are significantly smaller than the Early Fuji we enjoy now. Similarly, this 2005 NLCS MVP does not measure up size wise with his fellow aces, measuring up at a modest six feet even. What Fuji (and Roy) lack in size is made up for in sweetness. Also, Roy's fluid delivery is tangibly represented on our stand in the form of our Fuji Apple Juice! BONUS!
Ace in the Hole:
- 'Jonathan' Apples - Vance Worley, SP - The Phillies might not have known what they had in Vance Worley without Roy's back injury opening the door for the youngster. He marched through the door and the Phillies won 14 consecutive games he started, at one point. Wow! There's a fair amount of success that can be attributed to this rookie's performance that would be easy to overlook given the celebration heaped on the other starters, however worthy that exercise might be. Simlarly, the Jonathan are VERY easy to overlook but you can't tell the story of our wonderful apples until you at least try one of these underrated gems!
Around the Diamond:
- 'Macintosh' Apples - Ryan Howard, 1B - Ho, hum - Ryan Howard hits another 30 HR and drives in a half-sneeze short of 120 runs to lead the team in both categories. He's as powerful as he is consistent. Sure, his average was down a little but he didn't have much run production batting behind him (not until Hunter showed up at least), after which he cranked it up another notch once he got some protection in the lineup and started seeing better pitches. Macintosh have been around for a while as well, and always deliver that "pop" texture (as opposed to a crunch) - just like the pop in Howard's bat.
- 'Gold Delicious'Apples- Shane Victorino, CF - Here's a player who doesn't get enough national recognition. He provides very reliable defense in center, where defense really can win or lose a ton of games for you. Led the Phillies in batting average, runs scored, and on-base percentage in 2011. Bernie Williams never paced those good Yankees teams in those categories but you heard plenty about him nationally because he was a Yankee. If you're watching the same games I am, you know Bernie Williams wishes he was the player The Flyin' Hawaiian is! Folks, if you actually stop and eat a Gold when it's fresh off the tree, you'll see that you've been missing a great apple this whole time - an apple that "common wisdom" tells you is mushy. Don't buy into that nonsense! Believe in the Victorino-esque nature of the Golds!
- 'Grimes Golden'Apples - Hunter Pence, RF - He might not have the terrific hair as his predecessor Jayson Werth but Pence seems to have the same appeal with the female fans of the Fightin's... and by that I mean his ability to provide lineup protection for Ryan Howard, gun down greedy baserunners with his rocket arm, come up with timely hits and play a hard-nosed, all out brand of baseball. Pence is a "gamer" and has made quite an impression in his brief time in Philly. Grimes won't be around much longer - and while Pence is likely going to be policing things in RF for at least another year or two after this playoff run, this year will seem abbreviated by comparison. Last week for Grimes.
- 'Smokehouse'Apples - Jimmy Rollins, SS - Just like above, just pencil J-Roll in for another terrific year defensively, good average, good on-base percentage and durability at the always-demanding position of shortstop. Jimmy is also fast, even at 32. He reached the 30 stolen base plateu for an eye-popping ninth time in his illustrious career. Smokehouse are never around for too long, but they are as dependable as any other apple in their ability to stand up to a variety of uses for those seeking great flavor in an apple that is decidedly more tart than sweet but not overwhelmingly so. Just like Jimmy, you'll do well not to be caught stealing at our stand in the short time these heirloom apples are around!
- 'Red Delicious' Apples - Placido Polanco, 3B - Two things about Polanco you maybe didn't know: 1) even though his very respectable batting average of .277 in 2011 is down a little bit from some seasons, he still has a career BA of over .300! 2) I know he's been in the bigs for a long time, but I never would have guessed he's 35 years old. That age doesn't make one old by any stretch, but for most baseball players, 35 is pretty long in the tooth. He certainly is outplaying almost every other ballplayer that age. Two unrelated things you maybe did know: 1) Polanco has a very, very large head. 2) Red Delicious apples - they're very red but only so delicious. Read this blog.
Coming Out of the 'Pen
- 'Yellow Barlett' Pears - Antonio Bastardo, RP - Madsen's pitching the ninth, so who'll step into his role and shorten the game another inning with lights out performances in the eighth? Lefty Antonio Bastardo was that guy in a big way. Leading the way with 19 holds, Bastardo was nothing short of phenominal in his role against the league's best in high pressure situations. I might add that with Lidge back in good health, those three relievers give the Phils the same strong bullpen the Rangers mortgaged the future to get... and I'd still take Lidge, Bastardo, Madsen over Uehara, Adams, Feliz. The Barlett Pears will shorten your hunger pangs by being the sweetest thing to grace your tastebuds this week - they're PERFECT right now! Available in bulk online.
- 'Bosc' Pears- Ryan Madsen, CL - Great teams distinguish themselves from good teams in the way they handle adverse situations. Losing closer and Headhouse Market customer Brad Lidge could have been a devastating blow to the 2011 Phillies. Instead, Ryan Madsen rose to the occasion in dominant fashion, saving 32 of 34 save opportunities. Incredible! Plus if Ryan Madsen were a pear (and he's not), we believe he'd have the same gritty texture as the Bosc.
- Tomatoes - Chase Utley - just because I don't want to neglect him again!
- Apple Butter - John Mayberry, Dom Brown, Ben Francisco, OF - A great example of the depth required to be a truly great team and a divisional champion. Each of these outfielders filled a slightly different role as pinch-hitters, defensive subs, spot-starters for ailing players, DH-ing in interleague games, and filling in as starters missed game for injuries. Similarly, we need all four types of apple butter to satisfy the discerning palates of our market customers.
For we Orioles fans, game number 162 of a long 162 game season usually provides little more than a merciful end to another painful, disappointing campaign in the otherwise hollowed history of our once-proud favorite baseball franchise. And while I'd considered for several weeks not reprising last year's Orioles Apple Lineup given the contrast in the promise this squad provided in the spring compared to the crushing disappointment 2011 proved to be, I've thought better of it. After watching them completely change the fortunes of the 2011 playoff race (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, RED SOX!!!) in the American League in dramatic fashion, I've decided to go ahead with it, even if I'm only going to highlight the few players worthy of commendation for their efforts. It's still early in the apple season, afterall, and while this makes it hard to do an apple lineup for a team loaded with worthy stars such as the Phillies, having so few apples with which to draw comparisons is a bit of a blessing in the case of my much-maligned Orioles. So here we go! Keep the faith Orioles fans! Afterall, only the Cubs can have a bad century, our time will come!
- 'Honeycrisp' Apples - JJ Hardy, SS - I know Adam Jones won Most Valuable Oriole and I'm well aware that Weiters was our All Star representative. However, over the course of a long season, Hardy was our best player all the way around. Some could say it was his early season injury (along with Roberts) that led to that May swoon from which the O's never recovered. One of only three Oriole shortstops to hit 30 HR, I'm glad the O's have Hardy locked down for three more years. Honeycrisp will be around for another 100 years, but who's counting?
- Three Springs "Must Eat" Apple Cider - Buck Showalter, Manager - Buck is generally a little more tart than sweet. Maybe that's why I like him so much. I like my cider as I like my big league managers... no, that sounds like a lousy joke. Buck will be actively fermenting over what went wrong for the long offseason.
- 'Jonagold' - Mark Reynolds, 3B/1B - For the record, I'm going 1B with Reynolds, not 3B - too many errors. But aside from that, yes I'll hear your strikeouts argument, but his 37 HR is the most since Miguel Tejada. Additionally, he led the team with 86 RBIs. While he didn't offer much in the way of batting average or defense, he was more than adequate (in some cases better) in all other metrics as was Honeycrisp. He can't offer everything the Honeycrisp can, but he's right there in terms of producing a quality fruit.
- 'Gala'Apples - Adam Jones, CF - Adam Jones should win another Gold Glove this year. I think his defense in CF was better than the year he did win the award. And aside from his road splits, you couldn't have asked for much better a year out of Jones. He's still learning and he's likely to progress more next season, but in a team full of rotten apples, he was a consistent, go-to big league caliber ballplayer. Gala, too, are dependable when choosing a sweet treat for the lunchbox!
- 'Fuji'Apples - Matt Wieters, C - After this season, I can say I'd proudly wear a "Matt Wieters took batting practice this afternoon. There were no survivors" t-shirt. He should be a fixture behind the plate in Baltimore for a long time to come. He improved every part of his game from an up and down rookie campaign and emerged as a bit of a leader as well. In terms of our best apples, there's only room at the top for four - Honeycrisp, Gala, Jonagold, and Fuji are our best ones. I could think of no better player to round out the top four. If you only had to pick four apples to eat the rest of your life, I'm bettin' Fuji would be on there!
- 'Macintosh' Apples - Jim Johnson, RP - I don't think I approve with the notion of making a starter out of Johnson, no matter how desperate we are for a good one. I prefer to think "hey, we've got one pitcher in the whole organization who fills a role and does it almost flawlessly and with great consistency". In other words, in a pitching staff full of rotten apples (expect me to regurgitate that analogy several times), don't fix the only thing not broken. JJ goes out there and makes the mit pop, throws strikes, and puts the pressure on the opposition. Macintosh don't hold their pressure as well, but you get the "pop" sensation when you bite into one.
- 'Jonathan' Apples - Zach Britton, SP - Hard to believe I fit a third pitcher on here, but
away we go. If you were to throw out Zach Britton's three worst starts (which were particularly bad), you'd think he was one of the better young pitchers in the league. Well, it's my opinion he still might be. He had a rough patch in the middle there but he started well, he ended well, and he led the team with 11 wins when the dust settled. He's got a bright future. If Jonathan sized more, they'd still be available at supermarkets, but it's just a eyeblink from national recognition. That's why your secret admiration of Jonathan is safe with me. Haven't tried one yet? They're the most underrated apple we grow.
- 'Gold Delicious'Apples- Robert Andino, IF - I can barely believe I just typed that. I'm really going with Robert Andino for the much-respected "underrated Golden Delicious" spot. I thought he was too good for AAA ball and never good enough to be an everyday player. I thought he had a bad attitude and would never improve his game. He proved me wrong. Reminds me of the market customer who heard some goofball farmer who kept assuring him or her that Golds aren't mushy, that they're really a terrific apple... gosh, what a coincidence! Also, who had Robert Andino at 139 games played? I would have thought 50 was a huge number.
- 'Grimes Golden'Apples - - Jeremy Guthrie, SP - This one is tough for me. Jeremy Guthrie deserves better. The O's aren't getting better anytime soon and Jeremy pitched
well enough to win close to 18 games for a good team. Instead, he lost 18 games for the Orioles because they don't play well behind him. It pains me to say it, but we need to trade Guthrie and free him from the prison known as my Baltimore Orioles. Similarly, we'll have no more Grimes Golden after this week's markets.
- 'Smokehouse'Apples - - Chris Davis, 1B - Ok, so he still looks better in batting practice
and in AAA than he does on the field but I have to put him in here based on potential alone. When he gets a hold of one, he smokes it (see what I did there?). This was a great pickup at the trade deadline without even talking Tommy Hunter and I'm anxious for what Chris Davis could do in a full season at the major league level. I'm also excited to harvest the Smokehouse each year, since each year I turn a few new customers on to this little known, heirloom tart-flavored apple!
- 'Red Delicious' Apples - Vladimir Guerrero, OF - It was great to see a Hall of Famer like
Guerrero in an O's uniform. What wasn't so great is that it was 2011 not, say, 2004 when we offered him the moon, the stars, and his very own life size Bromo Seltzer tower to haul back to the Dominican Republic only to see him sign with Anaheim. Similarly, Red Delicious look good in still life photography.
- 'Yellow Barlett' Pears - Pedro Strop, RP and Tommy Hunter, SP - I can't figure out which
one I liked better in his brief time here. Both were acquired from Texas in separate trades and did very respectable jobs in the bullpen and rotation respectively. If you acquire a Bartlett from our stand this week, you'll be the recipient of a more than respectable amount of flavor. Available in bulk online.
- 'Bosc' Pears- Nick Markakis, RF - Had a forgettable first half but ended up with a respectable season. Many had suspected Nick was playing hurt through long stretches of 2011 and Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that suspicion in his post game address after the thrilling victory over Boston Wednesday night. It's a testimony to his grit and toughness. Bosc aren't too tough to eat. Truthfully, I find it a very easy thing to do. I ate one today - easiest thing I accomplished by a landslide. They do, however, have a little gritty texture.
see also, the 2010 Baltimore Orioles Apple Lineup