On-base machine and super-utility man Tony Phillips dies at age 56

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Sad news via Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, who reports that longtime major leaguer Tony Phillips has died at age 56 due to an apparent heart attack.

Phillips played 18 seasons in the majors for six different teams, including nine years with the Oakland A’s. He was often categorized at a “utility man” because of his ability to play basically anywhere on the diamond, but he was absolutely a starting-caliber player and in many seasons an underrated star.

Phillips was a diminutive switch-hitter with modest power and incredible plate discipline, leading the league in walks twice and drawing 100 or more walks six times. He got on base more times (3,384) than 75 different Hall of Fame hitters, including big names like Joe DiMaggio, Willie Stargell, Duke Snider, Jim Rice, Orlando Cepeda, and Johnny Bench. He began his career in 1982 as a 23-year-old shortstop and ended up logging 500 or more innings at shortstop, second base, third base, left field, right, and center field.

Phillips never made an All-Star team, which is a shame because he was clearly worthy of that honor in multiple seasons and, had he played now instead of in the 1980s and 1990s, his outstanding on-base skills and defensive versatility would have been more properly appreciated. As recently as last year he was playing independent league ball.

Helluva player gone way too soon.

Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg’s status for 2023 ‘a mystery’

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Stephen Strasburg‘s status for 2023 is up in the air after a series of injuries that limited him to one start this season, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.

“It’s still a little bit of a mystery,” Rizzo said about the 2019 World Series MVP before the Nationals were scheduled to play a doubleheader at the New York Mets. “I know that he’s working hard strengthening his core and the other parts of his body. We’re just going to have to see. With the type of surgery and rehab that he’s had, it’s unfamiliar to us. It’s unfamiliar to a lot of people. We’re going to have to take it day by day.”

The 34-year-old right-hander has thrown a total of 31 1/3 innings across just eight starts over the past three seasons combined. He had carpal tunnel surgery in 2020, then needed an operation to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in 2021.

After his only start of 2022, he went back on the injured list with a stress reaction of the ribs.

“We’ll have to see where the rehab process takes us later on in the winter,” Rizzo said. “We’re going to monitor him. He’s local, so we’ll see him all the time and we’ll see where he’s at going into spring training mode.”

Strasburg is a three-time All-Star who signed a $245 million contract after helping Washington win a championship in 2019.

He is 113-62 with a 3.24 ERA for his career.

Meeting with reporters toward the end of a rough season – Washington entered with a majors-worst and Nationals-worst record of 55-104 and shipped away the team’s best player, outfielder Juan Soto, at the trade deadline – Rizzo talked about doing “an autopsy of the organization.”

“I look at the season as a disappointment. I’ve always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we’re the worst team in the league right now. It’s hard to argue with that,” Rizzo said. “The flip side of that is we’re in a process.”

Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez were given contract extensions during the season. Martinez said his entire coaching staff will return next year.