Morning Bytes | Phils' latest aren't greatest, but these relievers were

Posted: March 30, 2007

So what if Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell struck out more than any duo since Georg and Yortuk Festrunk?

Who cares about the holes in Aaron Rowand's bat and Wes Helms' glove? Does it really matter if Brett Myers dieted and Jon "Truck" Lieber didn't?

Regardless of what happened this spring, the 2007 Phillies season will rise or fall on the performance of the team's bullpen.

So before we begin worrying about Clay Condrey and Matt Smith, let's take a wistful look back at some capable Phillies relievers.

Here's one man's opinion on the top 10 in franchise history:

10. Al Holland - Any closer who gets the Phils to a World Series has to be on the list. The guy who jumped into Mike Schmidt's arms at the end of the 1983 National League Championship Series had a sensational year - 8-4 with a 2.26 ERA, 25 saves and 100 strikeouts in 912/3 innings.

9. Jose Mesa - Say what you will about the often-surly Joe Table, but the guy set the Phillies' record for saves (111) in just three seasons with them.

8. Gene Garber - People think of Tug McGraw when they recall those great Phillies teams of the mid-'70s, but Garber was as good or better. As the Phils won division titles in '76, '77, '78, the Lancaster native saved 55 games, won 23, and had ERAs of 2.82, 2.35 and 2.15.

7. Turk Farrell - One of the first bullpen gunslingers, the hard-throwing, harder-drinking Farrell was a bright spot on some otherwise dreary Phillies teams in the late '50s and early '60s. A "Dalton Gang" member, he went 10-2 with 10 saves and a 2.38 ERA in '57. Three years later, he was 10-6 with 11 saves and a 2.70 ERA.

6. Steve Bedrosian - He was one of the rare relievers to win the Cy Young, in '87. He led the NL with 40 saves that season. In 31/2 Philadelphia seasons, he saved 103 games, second to Mesa on the club's all-time list.

5. Mitch Williams - Fans will never get past Oct. 23, 1993. But in three Phils seasons (1991-93), the Wild Thing saved 102 games and struck out 218 batters in 2311/3 innings. He also walked 170, but who's counting?

4. Ron Reed - Sure he was as obnoxious as Lieber's monster truck, but Reed, who also played in the NBA, was the workhorse of those great Phillies teams. He averaged better than 100 innings a season in eight years here. He's still the club's all-time leader in relief wins with 54.

3. Jack Baldschun - He was an underappreciated star on the little 1964 team that thought it could. He led the NL in saves for three straight seasons ('62-64) and in appearances for five consecutive seasons ('61-65). For some reason, Gene Mauch lost confidence in him late in '64.

2. Jim Konstanty - The bespectacled forkballer was a relief specialist before they existed. Plucked off an International League roster, he went 9-5 with a 3.25 ERA and seven saves (second-best in the NL) in '49. A year later, with the pennant-winning Whiz Kids, Konstanty (16-7, 2.66, 22 saves) was the league's MVP.

1. Tug McGraw - All the reason you need happened at 11:29 p.m. on Oct. 21, 1980. The screwball screwballer was on the mound for the most significant innings in Phils history. McGraw was otherworldly in the 1980 Phils' late-season push. After coming off the disabled list July 17, he allowed just three earned runs in his next 52 innings.

NASCAR note of the week. Driver Ron Hornaday was asked to name the athlete outside of racing he most admired. His response:

"Is Larry the Cable Guy an athlete?"

The aptly named Jaws. Hard to believe, but in hiring Ron Jaworski, ESPN's Monday Night Football managed to replace Joe Theismann with someone who talks even more.

Phillies fodder. I wasn't so surprised to learn that Lieber had strained a muscle in his stomach as I was to find out there was a muscle in that stomach. I guess I don't know much about baseball because, to me, the released Karim Garcia looked like one of the few Phillies who was swinging the bat well this spring.


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.

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