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The Power Of The Standing Ovation Has Healed Trea Turner

Trea Turner is sprayed with water after his walk-off
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Trea Turner's 11-year, $300 million contract that he signed last December was supposed to be the big piece that elevated the Phillies from a team that snagged the final playoff spot by one game to a legit contender for the division. Following an electric pennant run that came out of that sneaky postseason bid, this splashy signing of perhaps the game's best-hitting shortstop gave Philadelphia another superstar, some backup while Bryce Harper recovered from surgery, and increased optimism that this franchise was truly serious about earning another championship.

But through the first four months of the season, as the Phillies followed a mostly similar winning trajectory as in 2022, this lineup's successes came in spite of Turner's bat, not because of it. Through his first 107 games, no Phillies batter was a bigger liability than Turner, who slumped his way to just a .657 OPS, versus .809 the season prior. His was missing the ball more often, making weaker contact when he did connect, and ended up less able to use his startling speed because of the fewer visits to first base. The Phillies remained in position to make the playoffs again, but Turner's low point came at the beginning of August, after a 12-inning defeat to the Marlins in which he went 0-for-5 and made the final out with a runner in scoring position in both the ninth and 11th innings, then allowed the tying run to score with two outs in the bottom of the 11th when a hard ground ball brushed by him.

"Obviously I'm the reason why we lost that game," Turner told reporters that night, during a break in a postgame batting cage session.

Philadelphia fans aren't known as the forgiving type, and they'd booed Turner's struggles earlier in the year. But in this case—whether it was because they knew they were stuck with Turner for a decade, because the Phils were still doing OK regardless, or because they just plain had a soft spot for him after he looked so sad in the locker room—they doubled down on the new guy. Back at home after the Marlins series, they gave Turner a standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance, a move he said was "pretty fucking cool" and made his mom cry.

And it worked! That night kicked off a 10-game hit streak for Turner, and in the 17 games since the ovation he's blasting the ball to the tune of a 1.007 OPS. More vividly, he's also been producing the kind of moments that can bond player and fan for life, like this flawlessly timed three-run shot to give the Phillies an 8-6 lead the day after that show of support.

He also had another go-ahead dinger against the Nats in the next series, and later smashed two dongs in one inning. And on Tuesday night, in a hard-fought win over the Giants, he was able to create some good fortune. Facing SF closer Camilo Doval with the bases loaded, one out, and the Phillies losing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, a hitless Turner up to this point whipped a 2-2 pitch right back at its delivery man. At another time, when Turner couldn't seem to perform even basic baseball tasks correctly, this swing might have found a glove for a game-ending double play. But in this universe, Turner added fuel to his fire with a heroic single that pinballed through the infield for a Phillies celebration.

“The last three, four weeks have been a lot better,” Turner said. “Normal me, I guess.”

That's the right way to look at it. Even after what must have felt like an endless stretch of struggle, Turner hasn't allowed his failures to redefine who he is as a ballplayer. To him, this month isn't a hot streak, but the way his Phillies tenure should have gone all along. There's always the looming threat that his numbers will crash again. But looking at the full scope of Turner's career, it's the slump that's the outlier, not the good stuff. He always, even in his lowest moments, had world-class baseball skills within him. Maybe he just needed a push in the right direction.

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