Trea Turner, the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop, has been one of the team’s disappointments most of the season. Instead of bailing on Turner in his first year with the Phillies, Philadelphia fans proved why they are the best anywhere. Their adoration snapped Turner out of his funk, which in turn lit a fuse for other players. It’s only been a week, but if the Phillies continue playing like this, the City of Brotherly Love may have a lovefest down Broad Street early this November.
So how did we get here?
Following the Phillies improbable trip to the World Series in 2022, the team made a handful of moves to shore up pitching, particularly the bullpen. However, they set their sights on one impact player, Trea Turner, and got him.
Fans were jubilant, and why not? In addition to the Phillies, there were rumors that the Dodgers were trying to re-sign him. There were also rumors that the Giants, Padres, Mariners, Orioles, and Cardinals had interest.
In early December, the Phillies announced they had agreed to a deal with the free-agent shortstop. The contract is reportedly for eleven years and worth $300 million.
Turner’s measurables demonstrate why so many teams were excited by the opportunity to add him to their rosters.
According to Statcast, over his eight-year major league career (before the 2023 season), Turner is a .302 hitter with 124 HR. In the past few seasons, Turner appeared to enter his prime. Since 2020 his average is .316. In 2022 he hit a career-high 21 home runs and was the only shortstop with at least 20 homers and 20 steals. Since coming to the majors, Turner has also been one of baseball’s five fastest players yearly.
Phillies fans had ample reason to believe that Turner and an upgraded bullpen could be the difference between coming within two games of a World Series championship and a parade.
From the start of the season, things didn’t go as expected. April ended with the Phillies struggling to stay above .500. By the end of May, the team fell six games under .500, and Turner’s batting average was .236. Although Turner’s average improved about ten points by the All-Star break, he certainly wasn’t the $300 million man fans hoped for when he was signed.
It was about to get worse.
July concluded, and August began with a seven-game road trip. The Phillies dropped two of three to the Pittsburgh Pirates but salvaged three of four against the Miami Marlins.
The game they lost to Miami was a 12-inning affair. After going 0-for-5 at the plate, Turner couldn’t handle a hard-hit ball, allowing the tying run in the 11th inning. The Phillies would have won the game had Turner thrown Josh Bell out at first. During the road trip, Turner went a brutal 3-for-29 (.103), including eight strikeouts. He was dropped from second to seventh and then eighth in the batting order.
When the Phillies returned to Citizens Bank Park on Friday, August 4, the reputation of Philadelphia sports fans — stop me if you’ve heard this one — did you know they once booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus — to expect the “boo-birds” to be out in full force.
But that’s not who these Philly sports fans are.
When Turner, batting eighth, came to the plate in the second inning, fans gave the struggling shortstop a standing ovation. Surely, Turner must have wondered, if even momentarily, how some of the well-known pranksters on the team convinced the crowd of over 36,000 to participate in this gag.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Turner came to bat carrying a 0-for-17 streak. Like his previous two earlier plate appearances, he had a runner in scoring position. Again, many of the Phillies-faithful remained on their feet throughout the at-bat. Turner laced a line drive into right field for an RBI single.
Maybe this was the break Turner needed. Still, the Phillies lost the first game of the homestand to the Kansas City Royals, one of the losingest teams in MLB this season.
Then came August 5 — the night may be the turning point in the Phillies 2023 season.
After the Phillies jumped out to a quick lead, K.C. took the lead in the fifth inning. A Harper two-run blast in the bottom of the fifth brought the Phillies within one run.
The 42,000+ at the game Saturday gave Turner even more enthusiastic ovations than the night before. Turner was hitless in his first two at-bats. In the sixth inning, he came to bat with Realmuto on second and Rojas on first. With the fans standing and cheering him on, Turner smashed the first pitch 383 feet into the left field stands.
It was Turner’s first homer in nearly a month (July 8). It sent the crowd into a complete frenzy, reminiscent of a playoff atmosphere. The fans, who gave all their energy and support to Turner during every plate appearance Friday and Saturday, helped him break out of his slump and were rewarded with a blast that gave the Phillies the lead.
The hysteria continued as a relieved Turner trotted around the basepath and as his teammates greeted him at the plate and in the dugout. The madness did not subside until Turner emerged from the dugout for a curtain call.
In the eighth inning, Turner smacked a long RBI double, suggesting his slump might truly be over.
Since then, Turner has been on a tear, and it’s woken up other bats in the lineup that had been inconsistent to cold.
In the seven games between August 4 and 10, Turner has gone 10-for-27 (.370), scored four runs with eight RBIs, four doubles (over four consecutive games), and two home runs. The Phillies have won five of six games since August 5 and are now a season-best 12 games over .500. Granted, these games were against the lowly Royals and last-place Nationals.
The energy fans give players is reflected in their performance. I can’t think of fans anywhere else that would have given a high-paid free agent like Turner standing ovations every time he came to the plate as the Phillies-faithful did. Igniting Turner didn’t just get him going. It seems to have reignited many other bats, and maybe Michael Lorenzen, who threw a no-hitter on August 9 in his Phillies home debut. Tougher competition is on the horizon, and to be honest, the bullpen still is a rollercoaster ride, but you have to like what you’ve seen the past week more than any time this season.
Although the Phillies played one of their best games of the season in the weekend opener against the Minnesota Twins on Friday night, the bats went cold Saturday and Sunday, scoring only one run in the two games and dreadful pitching.
Still, Turner remained the hottest bat in the Phillies lineup, going 7-for-12, with two more runs and two RBIs. His season batting average is now up to .252 with an OPS of .703. Now the team needs to get everybody else producing again and the bullpen delivering consistently.
Philly sports fans showed Turner how great they are this past week. It’s time to put away the Santa Claus story forever and let Trea Turner tell the sports world how Philly sports fans are the best.
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President of Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). He can be reached by email at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.