Desi Relaford was a below-average baseball player who hit .234 with nine home runs over five seasons and 320 games with the Phillies almost two decades ago. If you don’t remember him, I can’t blame you, but let me tell you what I remember most about Relaford.
I used to play a lot of baseball video games back in the late 90s. I would always play with Phillies, even though they were brutal. To navigate that minor issue, I would trade away the shittiest players for super stars and then beat the brains out of the computer team. Guys would finish the season hitting .483 with, like, 87 homers. I mention this only because Relaford was always the first guy I traded. That’s my story, but most baseball fans around here probably best recall him as the guy who inadequately manned the team’s shortstop position prior to Jimmy Rollins.
So why am I writing about Desi Relaford, a guy who posted a -1.8 WAR on Phillies teams that were more than a combined 100 games under .500 during his time here? I’m glad you asked (I realize you probably didn’t ask, but the question allowed me to pile on a bit more, so go with it). Relaford took on Philly fans and former Phillies coach John Vukovich in a wide-ranging interview on “The Jake Brown Show” podcast. First of all, I’m not sure I can think of a more obscure podcast guest than Relaford, but I guess any time you can get the 44-year-old bench coach of the Daytona Tortugas, you’ve gotta do it. Right?
Here’s a little taste:
The fans, they were trash. I have some really good friends there but as fans? Oh yeah, the worst. It wasn’t just me. It’s just well known … not only are they hard, but they’re just irrational. They boo just to boo.
Trash. Strong words. Tell me more:
I saw them boo Billy Wagner one night because he didn’t throw 100. He threw 100 a few pitches in a row, they’re all excited, he threw 98 and they booed the s— out of him.
Okay, this seems like a good place to pump the breaks. The Billy Wagner thing irks me more than snowballs at Santa. When Wagner first arrived in Philadelphia, the fans were excited, and whenever he came in pumping triple-digit gas the people would go fucking crazy. They loved it. There was not a single person in those crowds that actually booed Wagner with malice. It was the type of thing that an athlete with any sense of humor would have appreciated. Unfortunately, Wagner wasn’t that guy, and the whole deal was misinterpreted. Fast forward 14 years and now you have some Major League
has been never was that wasn’t even on those Phillies teams with Wagner spewing misinformed inaccuracies, probably so blogs like this one will give him the relevance, however temporary it may be, he failed to achieve as a player. Personally, I wouldn’t have even batted an eyelash at this story had it not been for what he had to say about Vukovich, who died 11 years ago today. Nice timing, Desi:
He made it not fun. Like, it was dumb s—. Just always treated me ultra rookie and I couldn’t even be myself. Say if I was in the clubhouse and I was having a good time, talking, being like myself — I’m not shy, I have a good time. I don’t know, I’m not loud, but I’m talkative. I move around, talk to different people, whatever, whatever, but if I was being myself and doing that, then I was a rookie and I didn’t know my place. And if I was in my locker with my headphones on listening to music by myself, then I wasn’t a team-type guy. Or if I was taking groundballs … say I took 100 groundballs and the last ball, I make a bad throw or whatever, he’d like literally yell at me and tell me I wasn’t that good. Or if I went 3 for 4, he would harp on why I didn’t get the fourth hit. Like dumb stuff, it was always something.
Going for his fourth hit? I don’t remember too many of those games, but to be fair, maybe he’s right. Maybe Vukovich was tough. Maybe he alienated Relaford. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe Relaford deserved Vukovich’s ire. It’s impossible to know, but here’s my question: Who starts a pissing match with someone who has been dead for over a decade that can’t defend himself? What is there to be gained here?
“Take THAT, John!”
If there was a substantial allegation of wrongdoing involved, then by all means, say what needs to be said, but this? This makes Relaford seem like the type of guy who blames everybody else for his failures. If it’s empathy or sympathy that he seeks, then good luck with that. My takeaway? Relaford was a loser when he played here, and based on these comments, it appears not much has changed.