In their 120 year history, the Phillies have never had a position player as good as third baseman Michael Jack Schmidt. In his 18-years in the MLB, all spent in Philadelphia, Schmidt went to 12 All-Star games, won the title of Most Valuable Player three times, won ten Gold Gloves, six Silver Sluggers, and hit 548 home runs, a number that is still the most for any third baseman, and 15th most by any player, regardless of position. Just to further prove his dominance, Schmidt was voted into the Major League Baseball Hall-of-Fame in 1995 with a resounding 96.5 percent approval rate by the BBWAA.
But now, just 23 years after Schmidt retired, third base seems to be the Phillies’ major weakness, not having a stable, consistent player at the hot corner since Scott Rolen left the team in the middle of 2002. And though he has contributed to the Phillies’ offense, with current third baseman Placido Polanco, the only thing that seems consistent is injury.
Since re-joining the Phillies in 2010, Polanco has been an offensive step-up, however small, from Pedro Feliz, batting average and on-base-percentage almost 30 points higher. However, Polanco does not have the same power that Feliz had and since coming to Philly, Polanco has averaged 19 less games per year than Feliz did as a Phillie.
To make matters worse, with the recent injury of Michael Martinez, Chase Utley and the elongation of Ryan Howard’s stint on the disabled list, Ty Wigginton will likely be playing almost every day, giving Polanco very little rest.
But this could still be the year that Polanco can stay healthy, step up as an offensive leader and be a catalyst for an often-struggling offense right? Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Despite his promising 1.144 OPS and .529 batting average in six Spring Training games, Polanco has already missed time with an injury, severely jamming his hand. While it’s not a huge injury, the early injury as well as the Phillies unwillingness to play him during Spring Training cannot be a good sign for the 36-year-old.
There is nothing wrong with optimism. In fact, almost every Phillie on the roster this year gives at least a few reasons to be optimistic, whether it’s the potential for a rebound year, a breakout year, or just a better year than last. But when it comes to Placido Polanco, it’s really tough to get excited, given his injury history, and steady hitting decline, shown perfectly during the middle of last season.
In order to be successful: The expectations of Polanco’s performance this year should be low, so Polanco will only need to play in 120 games, bat .280, have an OBP of .300 with runners on base, and not get put on the disabled list more than twice.