While watching the San Francisco Giants run to yet another World Series it's difficult for Phillies fans to avoid noticing Hunter Pence. If the awkward but effective rightfielder isn’t making a huge catch against the wall (Giants fans will talk about ‘Pence Against the Fence’ in which he robbed another former Phillies rightfielder, Jayson Werth, of a potential turning point extra base hit, for years) or is driving in a big run, Pence is rallying the Giants with a motivational speech.
Pence did just that in 2012 when the Giants appeared dead and buried in the NLDS and NLCS.
“You can’t add up how important Hunter was to us during the (2012) playoffs,” former Giant Ryan Theriot said. “He became our leader and he led us to the World Series.”
The Phillies have made a number of gaffes since the 2011 season ended. But the greatest mistake the franchise may have committed is how they dealt with Pence. After givingup a number of top prospects (three may start in the MLB next season) to pick up Pence’s big bat for the 2011 stretch run, the Phillies traded him a year later for what may be nothing, if the oft-injured Tommy Joseph never plays catcher in the majors.
The outfield is arguably the Phillies biggest dilemma. Domonic Brown is an unmitigated disaster. The powerless Ben Revere, who led the NL in hits, would be a nice complementary piece on a potent team. Marlon Byrd had a strong offensive and defensive year. Byrd-Man finished with a solid .757 OPS.
Byrd, 37, put up laudable numbers during his return to Philadelphia but they pale compared to what Pence registered, while playing half his games in a pitcher’s park. Pence had a .777 OPS after posting a .822 in 2013. During the 2014 campaign he belted 20 homers and drove in 74, while scoring 106 runs.
Pence, who is only 31, is also a vocal leader, which is sorely lacking in the Phillies clubhouse.
“The Phillies lost a lot when they gave up on Pence,” a NL scout said. “They gave up so much to get him and they flipped him the next season. They could use everything he gives.”
When he returned to Philadelphia in July of 2013, Metro asked Pence, who was then a pending free agent, if he would consider signing with the Phillies.
“Sure I would,” Pence said. “I loved playing here. The fans were great. The atmosphere was amazing. But I have a feeling something is going to be worked out with me and the Giants.”
Pence knew a deal was on the horizon. The Giants announced that they tied up Pence for five years for $90 million two-months later. The move is paying dividends. The Giants might win their second World Series in three years with Pence.
While the Phillies are an expensive rudderless team, which features a subpar outfield.
“It’s a shame how things have gone here,” Pence said when he visited in July. “I know it’s gotta be tough on the fans and (Ryan) Howard, Chase (Utley) and Jimmy (Rollins). I remember what it was like when I was traded to Philly. It was amazing. The very first day I was there a UPS driver stopped his truck and welcomed me town. Philadelphia is a great place to play but right now I’m loving it in San Francisco.”
Who can blame him?