Not every franchise has their cause célèbre, their young player that inspires a cult following because of his minor-league systems. There isn't a large contingent of Yankees fans, for example, demanding that Corban Joseph get his shot in the infield, even if it means figuring out a better place for Robinson Cano. But most teams have one.
Few have one quite like Domonic Brown, though. When the Phillies were rolling -- at this time last year, they were 83-44, with a decent chance at 110 wins -- Brown was a unique prospect. Most prospects are supposed to be a potential piece for the next good team; Brown was supposed to be the final piece of a mostly perfect juggernaut. And in his way was a 39-year-old player on his way to a .289 on-base percentage. There were questions about Brown's defense, but everyone knows about Raul Ibanez's defense:
Huh, I must have messed up the HTML there, but you get the idea. There are reasons to block young players. The Raul Ibanez from last year was not one of them. Brown did get 184 at-bats, but just two after July 29. His role last year was to help the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs compete for an International League championship. Okay.
Meanwhile, Ibanez finished the last two months of the season hitting .239/.277/.381. The Domonicans raged.
After the Phillies' playoff exit last year, Matt Gelb surmised that Brown was probably going to get more playing time with Ryan Howard's injury. A few days later, Ruben Amaro, Jr. said he wanted Brown to get a full year in Triple-A. The Domonicans lit Molotov cocktails and threatened to storm the administration building.
In January, Amaro said that unless Brown "really wows them in spring training", he was going to Triple-A. The Domonicans … really, I think at that point they'd moved on. It was pretty obvious that Brown wasn't going to start.
Brown hit .300/.333/.650 in 20 spring at-bats before a neck injury, and he was optioned to Triple A, where a funny thing happened: He stopped hitting. After an 0-for-4 game with two strikeouts on May 25, Brown's Triple-A line was .231/.274/.333. That'd be disappointing from a 21-year-old shortstop rushed to Triple-A; it was ghastly for a 24-year-old corner outfielder.
Another thing that was happening: The Phillies were contending. On the same day that Brown's stat line bottomed out, the Phillies were four out in the NL East and a game-and-a-half out of the Wild Card. There was no need to experiment. The Domonic Brown Era/Footnote was postponed yet again.
Which is all to say, shhhhhhh, don't look know, but things are looking up. His numbers in the majors since his call-up:
After that May 25 game, Brown started to hit. By the time he was called up, he was hitting .286/.335/.432 -- pretty impressive when you think of the early hole he dug. And so far in the majors, he's acquitting himself well. It's a small sample, but the even strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests a player who isn't getting overmatched.
The Phillies wen't from contenders on May 25 to, well, you know. And after trading away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, they were looking at possibly starting John Mayberry. Not his son, mind you, but the actual John Mayberry. It was a thin outfield. How could they possibly not give Brown a shot then? They did. It's been working out.
It's been a long, miserable season for the Phillies -- their worst season since Jeff Brantley was their closer and Jimmy Rollins was a 21-year-old rookie -- but there's a way to salvage a small scrap of it. With another good month, there could be a final chapter to the Epic Saga Regarding the Trials and Tribulations of One Domonic Brown, Young Outfielder and Base-Ball Prospect, as He Bravely Fights for Playing Time. It's not much. The Phillies would rather be adjusting their rotation for the coming Division Series. But it's something.
You've made it this far, so you might as well be rewarded with a GIF for your patience. Here's Brown throwing out Jay Bruce at home by 89 feet.
Next spring, Domonic Brown could be starting in the Phillies' outfield, no questions asked. It's been a long circuitous path. But we're almost there, everybody. Don't screw it up, Brown.