If your hand is up, you're lying. Nobody saw that coming.
The first installment of the National League All-Star voting totals came out on Tuesday afternoon and Phillies' left fielder Brown was not among the top 15 outfielders despite leading the league in home runs and being fourth in RBIs.
That's probably not really a surprise since much of Brown's production has come during an explosion in recent weeks. But that explosion itself has a surprise. Brown has been looked at all along as a work in progress who has never really progressed on the big league level.
Once regarded as one of the top minor league prospects in all of baseball, Brown has been a raw talent, with raw being the optimum word. It could be very frustrating watching him play. He was an outfielder who didn't seem to understand the basic nuances of playing the outfield, such as how to track a routine fly ball, when to dive for a sinking line drive and when to throw for a base instead of hitting the cutoff man.
He was a hitter who at one time would swing at a lot of bad pitches. Then he went through a patch where he hardly swung much at all and seemed more content to try to place balls softly into open areas rather than unleash his considerable natural power. As a base runner, he seemed unable to use his speed to his advantage and had a bad habit of trying to take an extra base when it clearly wasn't there. He was a head-scratcher to be sure. The Phillies finally sent him back to the minors, where it didn't really get a whole lot better.
So this season, Phillies' management decided to toss his great potential into the daily major league lineup for the entire season and see what happened. After a slow start, he's been on fire in recent weeks and now has 17 home runs, 42 RBIs and his hitting .291 entering play Tuesday. Barring a serious flop in the next few weeks, he deserves to go to Citi Field in New York for next month's All-Star Game.
Kendrick has taken an entirely different path. He's never been considered much beyond a fifth starting pitcher who happened to fall into that role over his previous six seasons by default. He's also fallen out of that role several times and into the role of a mop-up middle reliever who gets the ball to try to stop a lot of bleeding. He's the kind of pitcher who has seemed to wilt under pressure. When runners got on base, you could almost see panic coming over him.
But that's now in the past. Somewhere along the way last year, the right-handed Kendrick seemed to perfect a change-up and a fastball that tails back over the inside corner to left-handed hitters. It's made him a much more effective pitcher to the point where this season, he's right there with Cliff Lee as the best starters on the Phillies' staff. Right now, he's 6-3 with an impressive 3.12 earned run average. If he can get a couple of more wins, he'll stand an excellent chance of making an All-Star trip in July as well.
By all accounts, Brown and Kendrick are great guys. Brown has paid his dues surviving his problems living up to his high expectations. Kendrick has done anything and everything the Phillies have asked of him since 2007, often taking a lot of lumps from opposing hitters in the process. Perhaps the Phillies have always believed in him, but his progress the last two seasons has been a pleasant surprise to Phillies' followers.
It's been a dismal 2013 season in Philadelphia thus far. Without a doubt, there are wholesale changes on the horizon. But Domonic Brown and Kyle Kendrick will be part of the Phillies' future to be sure. Considering what each of them has endured getting to this point, All-Star appearances would be wonderful tributes.Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.
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- Philadelphia Phillies
- Domonic Brown
- Kyle Kendrick