Ben Revere Looks to Spark the Phillies Offense in 2013
The kid seemed nice enough.
He wore a checkered button-up to his introductory media availability Thursday. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, more out of deference than disrespect.
As questions flew in, he cracked jokes, and followed up with a mile-wide smile that fought off the dimly lit holiday vibe of the Phillies clubhouse.
That’s the good news for Ben Revere, who the Phillies acquired via trade with Minnesota last week, and introduced at Citizen’s Bank Park Thursday.
He’s got a personality that makes him hard to hate.
The less-than-good? He’s going to be here a while, or at least he should be. The Phillies own his rights through 2017, which they won’t relinquish if all goes according to plan.
If not? Rightly or wrongly, he’ll join the ranks of Hunter Pence, Bobby Abreu and other objects of the fan base’s unrelenting scrutiny, maybe before Revere has the chance to duck and cover.
There’s plenty there to cozy up to.
First is Revere’s persona, the foremost prerequisite to fan endearment. Simply, Revere’s aura wears like a Snuggie in December – even one as cold as the one this is shaping up to be for the Phillies.
“It’s been crazy,” he said, when asked what his first week was like. “Just phone calls, interviews and stuff. It’s been a little nuts.”
An ‘aw shucks,’ seemed inevitable.
Then there’s his game. He’s fast, enough to steal 74 bags in two years, the fifth-best in baseball over the span, despite playing fewer games than the rest. His range in center field is outstanding. His signature might be the infield single; he hit 37 a year ago, tied for third in the American League.
His hustle, Philly will love.
“Everybody on Twitter keeps telling me,” he said. “You (hustle) like you did with Minnesota, we’ll love you here. I’m like, I’ll just keep doing that then.”
They’ll be less enthused about his power. He has none. In over 1,000 big-league at-bats, Revere has but 33 doubles.
Not a single home run.
He’s come close, closest in 2011 with the Twins – on a near inside-the-parker. But actually launching one over the fence? He hasn’t even sniffed it.
“I always hit it to the deepest part of the park,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t know why.”
If he does ever hit one? “I’ll do cartwheels around the base path.”
As would the fan base. After all, that’s what gets them going, and what got the team to back-to-back World Series in 2008 (214 home runs) and 2009 (224), both good second in baseball.
Last year? They ranked 19th, with just 158, and missed the postseason. One way to put the difference: it's about the 2012 totals for free agent outfielders Josh Hamilton (42) and B.J. Upton (28), both of whom the club missed out on or passed over.
None of that’s Revere’s fault. Not the team’s deflation. Not its organizational direction. But the fact is, to date, the Phillies have $25 million in cost savings between Opening Day payrolls in 2012 and 2013 – $15 million of it from trading away the last consummate “nice kid” to float through Philly – and only Michael Young, a 35-year-old one-year stopgap at third base, and Revere to show for it.
That, to them, won’t be good enough.
To date, Revere’s the centerpiece of this offseason, and that’s a scary place to be here and now. This winter has been pegged the most important in recent team history, because it’s the one that needed to help punctuate the Four Ace era – once figured a lock for at least one ring – with an exclamation point.
Roy Halladay becomes a free agent after this season, as does Chase Utley. Aside from representing chunks of the $50.5 million in 2013 commitments that comes off the books at year’s end – giving the front office even fewer reasons to skimp – that’s also testament to a frightening turnover that’s coming fast.
Can the Phils still contend? If so, with what?
To date, Revere is the extent of the answer.
To date, Revere’s not good enough.
That’s not fair. In fact, it wasn’t when it happened to Pence a year ago. Pence, remember, was never supposed to be featured in the lineup. He was, at most, a supplement to Ryan Howard, to provide protection for him how Jayson Werth did.
But down went Howard, with an Achilles in the 2011 NLDS, and Pence was exposed. Even though he posted reputable numbers – his .289 average, 28 home runs and 94 RBIs in what amounted to one season in Philadelphia is almost exactly comparable to Upton’s season last year – the golden boy of 2011 became a goat in 2012.
Expectations for Revere seem simple enough. He said Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro Jr., told him to “just come in here and play your game,” something he started Thursday, melting the hearts of the bitter Philadelphia media.
Come April 1, though, the bright lights at Citizen's Bank Park come on.
The question then will be, who and what will melt then?