Featured Cards: 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #396, Johnny Estrada; 2003 Donruss Studio #166 Kevin Millwood
It really seems hard to believe that this trade took place 10 years ago. At the time, it seemed like Christmas came early to the Phillies and their fans — the Phillies received a potential All-Star for their backup catcher — and the trade heralded the beginning of a new era of Phillies baseball. The team had just spent lots of money to acquire Jim Thome and David Bell to join an existing nucleus comprised of promising young talent (Marlon Byrd, Brett Myers, Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Jimmy Rollins & Pat Burrell) and talent in its prime (Bobby Abreu & Mike Lieberthal). Millwood’s arrival made many of us believe that a run of playoff appearances was surely at hand.
Yes, a new period in team history arrived, but it was a disappointing one. Although Millwood provided Phillies fans with one amazing thrill on a warm, late April afternoon, he never lived up to the promise he showed while with the Braves. This mirrored the disappointing four-season run that started in ’03, in which the team failed to live up to preseason expectations in every year. Of the aforementioned group, only Myers, Burrell and Rollins remained when the Phillies finally made the playoffs in 2007. Amazingly, however, the four key members of that rotation were all still pitching elsewhere in the majors in 2012.
I won’t get into the background/genesis of the trade or who “won” it — the Hardball Times posted a wonderful examination of the trade earlier today which did that, calling it “one of the strangest and most seemingly inexplicable trades of he 21st century.” Rather, I’ll take the anniversary of the trade as a reminder of how lucky all Phillies fans were to experience the run of playoff appearances from 2007 through 2011 — because even when a team makes all the right moves during the winter, there are no guarantees about the coming season.