The lasting impact of the 2000 Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies manager Terry Francona (far R) paces in the Phillies dugout before his final game managing the Phillies (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP)
Philadelphia Phillies manager Terry Francona (far R) paces in the Phillies dugout before his final game managing the Phillies (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP) /

Without a doubt, the terrible 2000 Philadelphia Phillies season changed the franchise.

This marks the final installment of our 20th-anniversary commemoration of the 2000 Philadelphia Phillies, an awful baseball club that was fit for ridicule, but that ultimately paved the way for better days ahead.

For the past several months, we’ve detailed the 2000 Phils as much as possible by highlighting some unsung heroes, looking at a few impactful trades, and even getting into some ridiculous quirks about that season. The bottom line though, is that that team was horrendous. They didn’t exist in a vacuum, however. Some of the elements of that woebegone season would end up being important for the direction of the franchise in the years to come.

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First, and most obviously, 2000 finally spelled the end for manager Terry Francona and his hideous tenure in town. No, he didn’t get much to work with, but he looked completely overmatched on a nightly basis for four years straight. That’s why it’s so hard to wrap our collective heads around the fact that he would go on to guide multiple World Series championship clubs in the following years.

The Phillies made the right move, though, by bringing in Larry Bowa to serve as overlord of an improving club for the next few campaigns. And while Bowa’s teams never made the playoffs, by the time he ceded the reins to Charlie Manuel, it was obvious that something good was finally brewing.

As for the MLB draft, the 2000 edition yielded Chase Utley in the first round, a shining light in the darkness of that year of Phillies history. We didn’t fully know it at the time, but the team had found the heart-and-soul player it desperately needed, even as they looked lost on the field all year long.

Strangely enough, even though the 65-win Phils tied with the Cubs for the worst record in baseball in 2000, they were knocked down to the fourth draft slot for the following year thanks to MLB’s stubborn insistence that the two leagues alternate draft picks. 2001 happened to be an American League year, meaning that the AL-worst Twins were able to select Joe Mauer first overall. The Cubs then picked Mark Prior, who would have fit in nicely with the “colossal failure” motif the Phillies have gone for over the years. What a shame. Ultimately, the Phillies ended up with Gavin Floyd at the fourth pick, which ended up being a bust. They did, however, pick a slugging first baseman in the fifth round who would have an impact for years to come.

Pat Burrell built on his solid 2000 rookie campaign to become the Pat the Bat that we all knew and (mostly) loved. And Jimmy Rollins got his feet wet at the end of the season before taking over shortstop full-time for the next decade-plus. Sorry, Desi Relaford. Other standout performers from 2000 such as Bobby Abreu and Randy Wolf would continue their productive Phillies careers well into the next decade, though neither was around when the club won it all in 2008. And as for Scott Rolen…yes, he was very good, but he was out the door less than two years later in a trade that didn’t make the team any better. So, the less said the better.

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2000 was awful for the Phillies, but they would go on to win at least 80 games in each of the next 12 seasons. That stretch, of course, included multiple division championships, two NL titles, and a World Series win. All of those lousy nights down at the Vet 20 years ago didn’t feel like it at the time, but they were a test for all of us to pass en route to the most dominant run in team history a few years later. The 2000 Philadelphia Phillies proved that sometimes you’ve got to go through hell to get to heaven.