If a MVP award was given following each round of the playoffs in the MLB, the Phillies’ choice after the Wild Card Round would be obvious: Alec Bohm.
Over the course of the 2-0 sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, Bohm went 2-for-5, reaching base five times overall with two doubles, two walks, and one perfectly-timed hit-by-pitch in the top of the ninth inning in Game One. Oh, and his defense was spot-on throughout the series, including several key stops to shut down a potent Cardinals offense.
Now, if you lived under a rock for the past six months (or worse, are a New York Mets fan), you may be incredibly confused by how Alec Bohm would even be thought of as the man worthy of a series MVP.
“Isn’t that the guy that said he f***ing hates it in Philadelphia?”
The simple answer to that question is that Alec Bohm has matured a lot this year, both on and off of the field.
The Story of Alec Bohm
Alec Bohm was the third overall pick in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft as the Phillies selected him out of Wichita State. A 6′ 5″ third baseman with a strong bat and a proclivity to put the ball in ball, the Phillies saw a bright future in the Omaha, Ne. native. While some believed Bohm’s future would lie at first base or potentially a corner outfield position, the Phillies committed to Bohm at third base.
Just two years later, the Phillies called upon the then 24-year old Bohm just a few weeks in the 60-game shortened 2020 season. With a struggling offense and no Minor League Baseball play, the Phillies killed two birds in one stone by allowing the young Bohm to continue developing in the Majors while hoping he would contribute to a team looking to make the playoffs.
And boy did he contribute. In 44 games, Alec Bohm hit for a strong .338 average with a 137 OPS+ on the year. The right-hander hit the ball to all fields throughout the 2020 season, quickly solidifying his place as the everyday third baseman. Bohm did so well, in fact, that he ended the season in second place in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Who claimed the Rookie crown that year? Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams, who earned 14 first place votes to Bohm’s nine.
Then came the sophomore slump.
A tale as old as time, Bohm fell into the classic professional sports trope as he fell onto hard times in the 2021 season. Two months into the 2021 season, Bohm barely kept his batting average above the Mendoza line after hitting to all fields the season prior. And while Alec Bohm would eventually rebound and bring his average up to a, still sub-par, .247, his offense was not the largest glaring flaw in 2021.
That would be his defense.
The Phillies got a small taste of Bohm’s defensive shortcomings in 2020, when he committed four errors over 38 games played at third base. In 2021 his total errors committed at third base increased to 15 in 103 games played. While the errors increased in frequency, they became more apparent and appalling to Phillies fans as his offense took the downward turn it did in 2021.
When Bohm was first drafted in 2018, he cited his work ethic as to why he should remain at third base despite the questions regarding his defense in college. That work ethic was not enough to keep his starting job in 2021 as he was benched by manager Joe Girardi in August.
Bohm would eventually be demoted for AAA for a majority of September to continue putting in work as the Phillies attempted in vein to make the playoffs.
Left with the offseason to work, Bohm continued to work hard to improve his game, hoping to turn things around.
“I F***ing Hate This Place”
Coming out of Spring Training, Bohm began the year with what seemed to be the same problem.
On April 11th, in his second game of the year, Alec Bohm made three errors in the first three innings against the New York Mets. On one routine grounder, Bohm completed the play, earning a sarcastic round of applause from Philadelphia fans. It was in this moment that Bohm said the now infamous phrase: “I f***ing hate this place.”
I think we have all been there. A moment of complete frustration when it feels like everything you try to do fails. It’s easy to look around and say to someone “I hate it here.”
The difference here, however, is that Bohm was caught saying so on camera in front of millions of people. Make all of the arguments about how much athletes make that you want, but at the end of the day, they are all people and crack under pressure all the same.
But this moment not only represented rock bottom for Bohm, but it sparked what became a beautiful redemption story.
A Phillies Tale of Maturity and Growth
Now, it is worth noting that Bohm could have easily attempted to walk-back his comment. He could have tried to convince lip-reading fans that he said he hated those plays he just made. Instead, the young man owned up to his mistakes.
In the post-game press conference, Bohm apologized for his comments, being open about his frustration and admitting that he did not actually hate it in Philadelphia. The cynics likely believed that he did so purely out of the need for an appearance of professionalism. While I do not believe that was the case, even if he issued the apology purely out of need, it was an important step for Bohm to publicly recognize his fault.
While his defense would be the butt-end of many jokes throughout the season, Alec Bohm’s offense was critical to the Phillies early on, reaching a .317 batting average on May 9th. A late-May slump that encompassed much of the team, however, found Bohm’s average having plummeted to .251 on June 4th.
A New Regime… and Day Care
The day before, the Phillies’ manager Joe Girardi was relieved of his duties with Rob Thomson taking his place. And while some pundits (cough cough Ken Rosenthal) claimed that a new manager would not change the Phillies’ team, Topper changed everything.
Thomson came in and gave the youth on the Phillies a chance, eventually dubbing them the “Day Care.” Bohm in particular was given all of the room in the world to succeed, and to fail along the way. In the 111 games that Thomson managed, Bohm started 102 of them.
In a sense, Bohm became a leader amongst the Day Care both in on-the-field work and in mischief.
His offense stole the show in the month of July as Alec Bohm hit a ridiculous .434 average on the moment along with an out-of-this-world 204 OPS+ (compared to the rest of the league on the month). And while a hot streak like that is just not sustainable over a long period of time, it certainly made up for his .231 average in September/October, which stood as his weakest split of the year.
Not only was Bohm trusted to contribute offensively, but he was also trusted to make third base his own. On the year, Bohm started in 132 games at third with only a handful of appearances at first and designated hitter. His 13 errors on the year at third do represent a positive change over 2021, though it cannot be said that Bohm did not struggle throughout the year.
And while he drew the ire of those like Keith Hernandez for poor fundamentals, Alec Bohm learned over the course of the season to take everything in stride and to keep on working. For every bad play Bohm was accused of making, he responded with a flashy defensive play one would expect of a seasoned defensive veteran.
Soon he would also get a chance to taste his first postseason action as well.
Alec Bohm and the Postseason
When the Phillies arrived in St. Louis, site of the end of the 2007-11 regime, there was a lot of anticipation over who would step up and lead the Phillies through the series.
Surely it would be Bryce Harper or Kyle Schwarber? Possibly the Best Catcher in Baseball? Or maybe Rhys Hoskins, who matched up well against Miles Mikolas? Wrong. The Phillies will need their veteran core to step up in Atlanta, but that is not who brought them through in St. Louis.
That, my friends, was Alec Bohm. With two of the Phillies’ nine hits, both doubles, Bohm found himself on base five times over the series. In the ninth inning of Game One, Bohm was patient against a wild-throwing Ryan Helsley, taking a pitch off of the elbow to drive in the Phillies’ first of the game on the inning on a hit-by-pitch. Later that inning, Edmundo Sosa pinch-ran for Bohm, scoring what would be the deciding run.
In Game Two, Bohm led off the top of the fifth inning with a double into left-center field. After being bunter over by Brandon Marsh, Bohm was batted in on a sacrifice fly from Schwarber to give the Phillies the 2-0 advantage.
But alas, it was Bohm’s defense that stood out the most. Alec Bohm was involved in a dozen outs (including a 5-4-3 double play) over the course of the two-game series. From foul outs to diving saves on liners, Bohm shut down potential Cardinal rallies on a number of occasions. He also made a few key plays as well in the post-game champagne party.
Over the course of the season, the Phillies saw Alec Bohm go from a frustrated child to a blooming leader who is learning every day. But while he is still growing, there are two things that we know for certain about Alec Bohm:
- He is a hard-working gamer
- He f***ing LOVES this place.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Scott Kane