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Felske Does It With Mirrors
When all the bats are stacked, when all the balls are stored, and when all the lies are told, one thing becomes evident to anyone who takes analysis of professional baseball results seriously – John Felske ranks among the best managers ever to don a Phillies’ uniform, though it must be said, that the list of good Phillies’ managers is short, and the gold standard was set early with Harry Wright.
First place was never an issue in the 1986 National League East race; the New York Mets, echoing the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, exploded out of the starting gate and almost lapped the field before the end of May. Entering June, the Mets were 31-12, six games ahead of second place Montreal (26-19), and 11 ½ up on the third place Phillies (20-24). Felske’s Phillies worked hard to put up 66 more wins and finish in second place at 86- 75, 21 ½ games behind the the high-flying Mets who won 108 games.
Mike Schmidt rattled his 37-year-old bones for one last hurrah with a league-leading 37 home runs and 119 runs batted in, good enough to win his third Most Valuable Player award. Schmidt also won his 10th gold glove as the league’s best fielding third baseman.
It was the end of the Phillies road for Steve Carlton; at age 41, the proud Lefty was out of bullets. Three years earlier, coming off his fourth Cy Young Award winning year, the Phillies had rewarded him with a four-year $4.5 million contract, the highest in the game at the time. Entering the final year of the contract in 1986, Lefty, as always, was determined to prove his worth. He took the ball on opening day for the 14th time in the 15 years beginning in 1972 (somehow, Jim Kaat got the start in 1976). Carlton was 3-9 in those starts including the 7-4 loss at Cincinnati to begin 1986.
Steve Carlton’s final game with the Phillies was on Monday, June 16, 1986 at Wrigley Field in Chicago; he lost to a 23-year-old rookie lefthander named Jamie Moyer who recorded his first major league victory that day.
On June 24, with a 4-8 record and a 6.18 earned run average, Steve Carlton was given his outright release from the Phillies.