On Monday night, former Phillie Bobby Abreu was welcomed back into town when the Phillies opened up a four game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The outfielder, who spent the bulk of his career in Philly, was one of the cornerstones of the offense before getting traded in the summer of 2006. Naturally, I was very curious to see how he would be received by the fans.
His reception was a bit of a mixed bag, with equal parts boos, cheers, and disinterest. And when I heard that, I was a little disappointed, mostly because Bobby Abreu is the kind of player who deserves much more than a lukewarm reception in his return to Citizens Bank Park as a member of the opposition.
I'm not going to sit here and tell the fans how they should react to an opposing player, but there is a bit of a common sense element at play. If the guy is a former player who did well for the team, and then left town amicably, then he gets some kind of an ovation. If he badmouthed the team or something, then he gets booed. Like Scott Rolen. All Bobby did was show up to work and get the job done without much fanfare. He didn't have Jimmy Rollins' charisma, or Hunter Pence's manic energy. He just had his patient, workman-like approach to being the best player on the team, and of his era.
And if you remember, Abreu came to Philly in a lopsided trade that sent Kevin Stocker – he of the 1993 National League Champions – to Tampa Bay. And from that day on, until he was shipped out to the New York Yankees in 2006, Bobby proceeded to hit the tar out of the ball.
In nine seasons with the Phillies, Abreu put together a line of .303/.416/.513, with 195 homers, 814 RBIs, 348 doubles, 42 triples, and 254 bases. It's the kind of performance that you salivate over: a guy who can hit for average and power while getting on base like a boss. Sure, maybe his defense was a little suspect, and he takes a lot of flak for never wanting to run into a wall (Which I argue is not a bad thing. Running into walls is stupid. Just ask Ken Griffey Jr's wrist.), but that in no way should take anything away from the fact that the guy was an absolute offensive menace, whose only crime is being the best player on a bunch of lousy teams.
I'm not the only one who thinks this, either. CSN Philly's Leslie Gudel wrote about this on Tuesday afternoon, and she recounts a conversation she had with her husband about Abreu, and it perfectly illustrates the party lines that people find themselves on when discussing Abreu. Half of the folks thinks he's one of the great all time Phillies (as I do) and the other thinks that he was a lazy stat-padder who was only concerned with making himself look good.
If nothing else, be sure to check out Gudel's piece for the comments, because nothing beats good internet commenters who don't know the meaning of “cognitive dissonance.”
Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe the fans have changed a bit and forgotten exactly how good Bobby was when he wore red pinstripes. Maybe the Halladays and Lees and Utleys and Howards have erased anything that happened before 2007. Whatever the case may be, the truth is that Bobby Abreu was really, really good during his time in Philadelphia. It's just a shame that he wont be recognized for it.