The Ballad of Phil Plantier

Originally published on April 9, 2014

Phil Plantier swung hard. He hacked. Almost painfully so. Plantier got down in a crouch so low that it almost appeared that he was sitting on a chair. When he launched into his swing, he would come up out of that crouch with a swing so violent that his torque almost positioned his body at 180º from where he started. He was the rare southpaw slugger who kept both hands on the bat and returned it to face the field - almost as if pointing trajectory - in his post-swing. If he made contact, (note the "if" and not the "when"), his long balls sailed high and mighty, but with seemingly a touch of topspin that made them appear to almost "crash" down when they landed beyond the fence.

Currently the hitting coach for the San Diego Padres, where he enjoyed his best big league season in 1993, the outfielder may be best remembered for his rookie season with the Boston Red Sox in 1991. As an 11th round pick by Boston in 1987, Plantier developed his power stroke in the Red Sox farm system and steadily rose as a top prospect - even skipping the AA level altogether.

After a midseason callup from the AAA Pawtucket in 1991, Plantier put on a show at Fenway. In 148 at bats, he hit .331 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI. Similar to what Kevin Mass did in New York a year earlier, Plantier made a splash in Boston - remember, this was '91 and Boston was desperate for a star, and Plantier was a New England kid (NH). Quickly becoming a cult hero in Beantown, Plantier was unable to match the same production in 1992, and was traded to San Diego following in the season.

It was that next season, that Plantier enjoyed his best year as a player as he slugged 34 home runs and knocked in 100. He has the distinction as the player with the fewest hits to reach 100 RBI in a season with 111. That's making them count! After an injury-plagued season in 1994, Plantier was part of an 11 player trade with the Houston Astros, that notably brought Ken Caminiti and his trend-setting goatee, (what, is he memorable for other things too?), to the Padres.

Plantier was never able to match the same promise or production in the rest of his career as he did with Boston and San Diego respectively. He suited up for Detroit, Oakland, San Diego (again), St. Louis, and finally, with Toronto, though he didn't appear in any big league games with the Jays, before retiring in 1998. Plantier finished with a .243 average, 91 home runs, and 292 RBI as injuries played a part in his demise as a productive player.

The memory of Phil Plantier will live in my mind for a long time. Though his time as a major leaguer was limited, his stance and his swing were memorable. He always looked like his hack took so much out of him that he was in pain. Honestly, in a way, that's kind of cool. That's baseball.