The 2000 Philadelphia Phillies: Desi Relaford’s Last Ride

(Photo by TOM MIHALEK/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by TOM MIHALEK/AFP via Getty Images) /

Any acknowledgement of the 2000 Philadelphia Phillies isn’t complete without discussing shortstop Desi Relaford.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 20 years since Desi Relaford last picked up a bat or put on a glove for the Philadelphia Phillies. And I say that in all sincerity, because it seems like just yesterday that he was the poster child for the complete ineptitude of the organization during that period of time. Thankfully, those days are long over, but it makes for a fun (in a very twisted way) trip down memory lane.

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As I touched on in my introduction to this “celebration” of the 2000 Phillies, they…were…awful, going 65-97 as they bottomed out in Terry Francona’s final miserable year at the helm. But ol’ Tito had some help to get there, and one of those big contributors was Desmond Lamont Relaford. His friends called him Desi.

Relaford, to refresh your memory, was the lightest of light-hitting shortstops back in the day, about on par with Rey Ordonez, although he was a veritable Sammy Sosa compared to Rafael Belliard. Desi had actually come to the Phils as a minor leaguer by way of trade with Seattle at the 1996 deadline in exchange for Terry Mulholland, who you didn’t remember was still pitching then but who actually played for TEN MORE YEARS after that.

By the start of the 2000 campaign, Relaford had spent parts of four seasons with the Phils and entered that year as the starting shortstop. His MLB numbers up to that point: a .238 average, 6 home runs, 74 RBI in 237 games played.

The 2000 Philllies would drop their opening game (big shock) 6-4 to Arizona, but it was a day to remember for Desi. Relaford went 3 for 4 in the game and managed to take Randy Johnson himself deep for a home run. Johnson was clearly still unnerved after being schooled by Paul Byrd two years before.

Maybe there was hope for Desi yet.

Not quite.

Relaford would collect just four hits total over his next 15 games, and his average sat at .159 by April 29 of that season. After collecting a pair of RBI in the opening game, he didn’t knock in another run until May 4. He also didn’t steal any bases during that time, as he swiped his first bag of the season on May 13. He was literally doing nothing. Meanwhile, we were all waiting for a youngster named Jimmy Rollins to come up and claim the shortstop job for good.

Amazingly, though, Desi had one of the more surprising weeks in team history in late May, going 9 for 16 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI over a 5-game stretch. But that was the end. Over his next 45 games, Desi Relaford hit .172 with no home runs, a measly 10 runs scored, 13 RBI, and four stolen bases. That stretch would be his last work in a Phils uniform, as they dealt him to San Diego in August for the proverbial “player to be named later”.

From the Padres, Desi would bounce to the Mets in 2001, where he managed to somehow hit .302 in 120 games. What a kick in the pants for the Phillies. Relaford would never find that kind of success again, however, in stints with the Mariners, Royals, Rockies, and Rangers, playing his last MLB game in 2007.

Next. The 2000 Phillies: Preparing for futility. dark

Good for him to make a career out of bargain basement talent. And hey, at least it was memorable for this old Phillies fan. I’ll personally never forget Desi Relaford; he’s the punchline that just keeps on giving for my generation. And no mention of those late-90’s/early 2000’s Phillies “teams” is complete without him.