Monday, April 14, 2014
In appreciation of Joe Blanton
By David Schoenfield
You may have missed it. I did, until Eric Karabell told me over a fine lunch at the ESPN cafeteria: Joe Blanton is going to retire, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Look, I get it: Blanton became a bit of a punch line in recent years, starting with when the Phillies brought out all their starting pitchers for that news conference one year. You had two pitchers who had won Cy Young Awards in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and two more who had contended for them in Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Then you had Blanton, the fifth "ace." Everybody seemed uncomfortable.
Then the Angels signed him as a free agent last year and he was terrible, 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA. Mike Scioscia kept running him out there, for 20 starts. Everybody definitely seemed uncomfortable with that.
The Angels released Blanton in spring training. He signed on with the A's and had made two starts for Triple-A Sacramento.
So it's easy to make fun of Blanton. But you know what? The guy had a pretty decent career: 85-89, 4.51 ERA, 9.6 WAR, 10 years in the bigs, 248 career starts, made a lot of money. That might not seem like much, but only 429 pitchers started 248 games in their major league careers -- out of the 8,001 players who have pitched in the big leagues. That places Blanton in the top 3 percent of all pitchers for games started.
As Eric reminded me, Phillies fans will always hold a fond place in their hearts for Blanton. In Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, the Phillies leading 2 games to 1, Blanton allowed two runs in six innings and hit a home run as the Phillies beat the Rays 10-2. It was the only home run of his career.
The Phillies never won a World Series with their four aces. They did, however, win one with Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer in the rotation.