Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Bench Dogs getting their due

Six strange individuals. By name: Todd Pratt, Tyler Houston, Nick Punto, Ricky Ledee, Jason Michaels, and Tomas Perez. As one: the Bench Dogs. They have been coming off the bench all season for the Phillies, and doing everything asked of them and more. And now they are being recognized, not only for their work, but also for their...how shall I say this?..."creativity".

Yesterday, MLB.com had an article on Todd Pratt (found this morning on phillies.com), focusing on his determination and excitement on the field, as well as his enthusiasm off of it. And then this morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer had an article on the entire group, highlighting not only the fun and laughs they bring into the clubhouse, but also the determination and excitement in playing the game of baseball.

Six individuals, six sick minds, one overwhelming feeling of fun in the clubhouse.

What makes these guys who they are?

  • Tomas Perez is the ringleader when it comes to post-game celebrations that include a shaving-cream pie in the face.

  • Tyler Houston shaves his bat handles.

  • As a group, they worked to incorporate the post-game "beat down", inflicted on the player that gets the game-winning base hit.

  • Houston and Pratt started the growing team trend of going blonde: in all, that group now includes Houston, Pratt, Perez, Pat Burrell, and Michaels. The MLB.com article suggests that Mike Lieberthal might be next.

  • But it's just not the off-the-field stuff that make these guys special. It's the clubhouse and on-the-field stuff that works for them, too. They offer a warped sense of leadership, getting the team "up" for any occasion. They serve as the team cheering squad. And they are ready to go whenever they are called upon, and in whatever role. They never stop working, and none of them are satisfied with their results: they are always looking for more. All of that works for the Phillies, when these are the results:

    Houston is 10 for 20 with three double and eight RBIs as a pinch-hitter.

    Ledee made the big catch and scored the only run with a home run on April 27, when Kevin Millwood threw a no-hitter at Veterans Stadium. Ledee has hit a homer every 22.3 at-bats, third-best on the team.

    Michaels has hit .325 with five doubles, one home run and five RBIs in 11 starts. His three-run homer in the top of the 17th inning on June 27 gave the Phillies a 4-2 win over Baltimore.

    Perez has hit .346 in his 34 starts. His single in the bottom of the 11th on July 19 drove in the winning run in a 4-3 victory over Montreal.

    Pratt's pinch two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th on June 21 beat Boston, 6-5. Half of his 26 hits have been for extra bases.

    Punto has hit .320 against lefthanders and his speed has made him a valuable pinch-runner. He went 3 for 3 on July 13 in New York, which included a two-out single off Armando Benitez in the top of the ninth inning to key a rally that tied the score. (Inquirer)

    The best part about this group is that they are always striving for more, a better contribution to the team. The rest of the team knows that as long as these guys are backing them up, everything will work out just fine.