Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Instant polls on the internet are emblematic of a society steeped in instant gratification. Hardly representative let alone scientific; almost always simplistic. But every once in a while an instant poll poses a question with serious implications. A recent instant poll on ESPN asked the following:

Baseball hasn’t had a 50-homer guy since 2002. With that in mind, which would you prefer?

1. Tougher drug testing even if it meant fewer HR’s.
2. Juice ‘em up and let ‘em rip.

As of November 24, in the AM, with 32,375 respondents including yours truly (if you don’t vote you cannot see the totals), the tally stood at 83.9% in favor of No. 1 and 16.1% in favor of No. 2. I got wrapped up in the impending holiday and didn’t have a chance to check in later that day to see the final tally, but even had the percentages changed significantly the early numbers were striking.

There are several interesting preliminary conclusions to draw from this admittedly meager sample:

1. Prodigious numbers of home runs by individual players have fallen off dramatically since drug-testing of any sort was implemented.
2. Prodigious numbers of home runs by individual players have fallen off dramatically since awareness of drug use generally has grown among fans.
3. Those voting appeared skeptical that the home runs totals by some players prior to 2002 were achieved without “help.”
4. Fans would rather see legitimate home runs even if that means fewer of them.
5. The Lords of baseball who claim fans would rather see home runs than tight pitching match-ups might have to revise their thinking.

I have visited the ESPN site subsequent to November 24 to see if the final results were available but I wasn’t able to find anything. If someone out there knows how to recall earlier poll results from ESPN’s site I would appreciate any feedback.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Theo The Fortunate

ESPN has anointed Theo Epstein the boy genius, exorcist and wunderkind of the executive suite and no one who lives in the Bay state will have the temerity to dispute that characterization.

I live in Pennsylvania.

Now before all you Red Sox Nation dwellers, natives and recent arrivals alike, trace me to my domicile and burn a few bats on my front lawn, I am willing to give Epstein a great deal of the credit for helping to assemble the World Series champs. But as the article by Sean McAdam points out, Epstein also tried to unload Manny Ramirez twice, first through irrevocable waivers (not likely) and then by trading him to Texas for Alex Rodriguez (not permitted by the players’ union). In other words, he tried to reduce payroll by getting rid of Sox best position player twice and his failure to do so led directly to a championship.

McAdams’ thesis is that Epstein, who grew up in the shadows of Fenway and is a life-long fan and sufferer, never lets emotions get in the way of business decisions. Thus the willingness to part with Ramirez and the apparent readiness to let a number of his star free agents such as Jason Varitek walk if the deal doesn’t fit within Epstein’s long-range plans.

Some times the best laid plans go awry and we luck out anyway. Theo should agree.

Placido Polanco

The baseball world and bloggers have finally caught up with what I have been saying about Placido Polanco for months now. There are precious few ball players today who can field as well while demonstrating as much bat control in the same package. He is far too valuable to let go.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Player Moves

The Phillies have been busy putting together their on and off-field team for 2005. The manager and coaching staff are in place; many player decisions remain to be made. Here are some suggestions on the next moves:

1. Trade Randy Wolf for a centerfielder. Randy is not going to thrive in Philadelphia. Wrong stuff for the wrong place. His value remains good enough to land a veteran outfielder of more or less comparable age.
2. Send Gavin Floyd to Scranton.
3. Send Cole Hamels to Reading, then Scranton.
4. Take a serious look at either Kris Benson, Brad Radke, Matt Clement or Jaret Wright. I realize a few of these guys are likely to re-sign with their current clubs, but since they opted for free agency at the very least they would probably listen to any offers.

1. Trade David Bell. This might be very difficult given his age, injury history and salary. Eat part of his salary if necessary but move him now.
2. Re-sign Placido Polanco and hand him Bell’s job. Polanco would listen to an offer from the Phils if he knew Bell were leaving.
3. Sign Jimmy Rollins to a long-term contract and stop jerking him around. He should lead off. Full Stop. Period.
4. Put Chase Utley at second base.
5. Do not, repeat Do not, trade Ryan Howard. His day is coming sooner than later.

1. There don’t seem to be many alternatives to Mike Lieberthal at the moment. He, too, might thrive with a new pitching coach in place.
2. Re-sign Todd Pratt.

1. See No. 1 under Pitching. If the Phils can pry Andruw Jones from Atlanta, their problems in centerfield are solved for the next few years at least.
2. Give Pat Burrell one more year to revive.
3. Get off Bobby Abreu’s case about fielding. He ain’t gonna’ change and he ain’t all that bad anyway. Plus, he can hit with the best of them and steal bases, too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Wolf for Jones

Baseball teams tend to avoid trading within their own division, but there are plenty of exceptions. The Phillies haven’t shied away from such moves, the Johnny Estrada for Kevin Millwood trade being the most recent and painful reminder. I mention this because I think the Phils should trade Randy Wolf to Atlanta for Andruw Jones.

Wolf would benefit from pitching in the more spacious Turner Field and from the guidance of legendary coach Leo Mazzone. Jones would benefit from a change of scenery. Both are still young though it has been said that Jones, only 27 years old, has a lot of mileage on him having already logged nine years in the majors.


I couldn’t resist sharing this quote from an article on ESPN’s website about the ongoing negotiations between catcher Jason Varitek and the Boston Red Sox:

After helping the Red Sox win the World Series last month, Varitek plans to meet with the team again this week. He reportedly has asked for a $55 million, five-year contract with a no-trade clause. He has two daughters, ages 3 and 4, and stressed that he wants a deal that will provide stability for his family.

I sure hope the little Varitek girls don’t suffer if their daddy settles for a mere three years and $33 million. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be all that stable an atmosphere if the Varitek clan had to go through all of this uncertainty again three years hence, but maybe during the interim mom and dad can figure out how to shield the little ones from the awful pressure.

Restless Natives

The Cory Lidle signing has drawn decidedly mixed responses among local bloggers. Lidle is a third, fourth or even fifth starter, but it is worth noting that while he got off to a rough start here (call it an adjustment, which is more charitable than I was toward him in my published comments), he finished the last two months of the season with a better record and ERA than any other starter on the staff (admittedly not much of a ringing endorsement under the circumstances.) And, he is a ground ball pitcher, which everyone acknowledges is an essential quality to pitch successfully in Citizens Bank Park. This was a good signing.

I mentioned yesterday the Phils may be getting ready to trade Brett Myers (a mistake unless they receive an established young outfielder in return) or they may be getting ready to trade Randy Wolf (possibly a mistake but how much longer should we wait for him to deliver?). Again, if they move Wolf they have to get an established young outfielder in return, not some Kenny Lofton type. Whatever they do, I think calls for Gavin Floyd and/or Ryan Madson to move into the rotation are at best a gamble given their limited experience in general and Madson's as a starter in particular. Moreover, Floyd’s call-up toward the end of last season was a desperate measure by Ed Wade and Larry Bowa to try and save the season and demonstrate they were doing something. But it was premature move. Floyd may indeed be ready for a full season in the big leagues but no one knows at this time. Suggestions that Cole Hamels be the fifth starter make no sense. He is just coming off another shutdown for arm problems and can hardly be ready for a spot on the parent club. He needs to spend the season in the minors gaining experience let alone his health.

Placido Polanco is not going to sign with the Phillies. As a matter of fact, they won’t even try and he wouldn’t be interested. Polanco deserves to be a starter on merit but there isn’t any place for him in the Phillies current plans; furthermore, the Tomas Perez signing eliminated the need for a utility infielder. Inevitably, David Bell will go down with another injury; only then will the Phillies be forcibly reminded what they had in Polanco.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Comings. And Goings?

The Phillies re-signed right-hander Cory Lidle today, offering him a two-year deal worth $6.3 million. This signing has several implications for the team’s next moves. Assuming Randy Wolfe, Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers will be in the starting rotation, one spot remains open. It will likely go to David Wells, a left-hander, thus balancing the rotation with two southpaws and three righties.. Eric Milton, also a lefty, has priced himself beyond the Phillies’ means, which is just as well. Carl Pavano, another right-hander, was never going to sign with Philadelphia.

The other possibility is that the Phillies are setting things up to trade one of their young hurlers, possibly Brett Myers, for some serious outfield help, thus opening another spot in the rotation. That one might go to Kevin Brown, a move I am clearly on record as opposing. Trading the volatile and unpredictable Myers would be a huge gamble and, if the other pitching moves I’ve cited were to come to pass, would increase the average age of the starting rotation significantly. Another argument in favor of retaining Myers is that is generally thought he would benefit from a new pitching coach and finally fulfill the enormous expectations accompanying his arrival.

The potential odd man out in this scenario is young phenom Gavin Floyd, who could probably stand another half season at AAA.

Monday, November 15, 2004

It's the Future, Stupid

The rumors are bad enough. The reality would be like watching a train wreck.

Indications are the Phillies are going to trade for both Kenny Lofton and Kevin Brown. NY GM Brian Cashman must be licking his chops at his good fortune. Someone is handing the Yankees an opportunity to rid themselves of two aging players and, at a minimum, portions of one huge contract. And who would the generous Philadelphians offer in exchange? Here’s a hint: someone who would immediately take over the position inadequately filled by three different guys in the Bronx last season. Someone, moreover, who would likely fill this position for, say, ten years or more.

So, the Phils will trade Ryan Howard for two guys who will be long-gone from Philadelphia by the time the youngster has less than two seasons in The Show under his belt. To make matters worse, by that time Jim Thome may have started his decline as well.

Memo to the Phillies: it’s the future, stupid.

Friday, November 12, 2004


ESPN is currently running an interesting piece listing its top 50 free agents and the teams with which they are predicted to sign. Only one player, David Wells, is seen as signing with the Phillies. Of course this is all pure speculation based on a subjective list, but it does tell us a few things.

One, not too many players appear to want to come to Philadelphia, especially pitchers. This should not come as a shock. Second, the only ones who seem interested are those seeking short-term contracts. Three, within the East Division the Mets and Expos/Senators will improve themselves if they sign their predictions while the Braves might not if, as predicted, they lose two starters and regain Kevin Millwood. Armando Benitez is also rumored to be heading to the Braves which lends further credence to the notion John Smoltz will return to a starting role, which would be necessary whether Benitez signs or not if both Russ Ortiz and Paul Byrd depart as predicted.

If these forecasts hold up and no position players sign with the Phillies they have few options: trade for Kenny Lofton or someone like Scott Podsednik or make do with what they have. Suggestions that Lofton and Jason Michaels platoon in center would marginally improve the team over last year’s tandem of Michaels and Doug Glanville. If the Phils prefer to trade, the question is who would they offer New York or Milwaukee? Ryan Howard? Not a good move.

None of the choices seem particularly palatable, but standing pat would be even less so.

Nobody's Perfect

Hall of Fame umpire Nestor Chylak once said, “They expect an umpire to be perfect on opening day and to improve as the season goes on.”

Nestor, meet instant replay.

It was inevitable.

Instant replay found its way onto the agenda yesterday at the GM Winter meetings, the first step in what will likely be a multi-year effort by its proponents to steadily erode resistance to electronic second-guessing. If MLB ultimately decides to override the human element under certain circumstances and implement instant replay, one of the game’s most unique characteristics will be lost forever. Only in baseball with its inherent spatial and temporal properties are we able to reconstruct individual plays in our minds’ eyes with remarkable clarity and debate their outcome endlessly. True, televised instant replays already exist but without any authority other than to refresh our memories, sometimes in slow motion and from different angles, but until now no one has suggested that what we and the men on the field believe we saw with our own eyes won’t necessarily count. Nor has anyone imagined that henceforth the game would come to a halt as the arbiters walk over to some shrouded playback device to view the errors of their ways, or not.

A few GM’s and managers are on record as saying one or two crucial calls could have materially affected the outcome of some recently concluded playoff games and they would hate to see that happen. They quickly add that the umpires got all the controversial calls right this year, but some day they won’t be so fortunate. (There were a number of rulings in the playoffs that were reversed upon review by the umpire crews themselves without anyone’s or thing’s assistance.) And while these same front office types are open to discussing the use of instant replay for certain calls, they quickly point out they would never approve of its use to question balls and strikes, at least not now. That slippery slope may already be lined with QuesTec.

Baseball always manages to weather controversial calls. Jackie Robinson’s steal of home plate in the 1955 Series; Jeffrey Maier’s grab of a home run in the 1997 playoffs; Steve Bartman’s similar grab in the 2003 playoffs. The list is endless, as are the ongoing arguments. It’s all part of the game. Yogi Berra jumping up-and-down in violent protest, pointing at the plate; Tony Tarasco and Moises Alou pointing up at the offending fans in disgust and pleading for justice. Those images are etched in our collective memories and enrich rather than detract from the game.

If some of baseball’s lords have their way, these little imperfections will be banished once and for all and, presumably, Nestor Chylak’s spirit can rest easy. Nobody’s perfect, Nestor. That’s why they want their machines.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Rumors are the coin of the realm during baseball’s Winter meetings and Hot Stove League, so what follows should be considered in that light.

Add Kevin Brown’s name to the list of pitchers the Phillies are allegedly eyeing. The attraction? Brown, like fellow geezer and malcontent David Wells, will likely only demand a one-year contract, some of which the Yankees might pay according to the Jim Salisbury of the Inquirer. Remember, now, at this point these are just rumors; there’s little to gain by taking the Phillies to the woodshed yet. That said, what in the world would they even be thinking here? Brown is a vagabond 40 year old who is notoriously prone to injuries, some of them self-inflicted!. On top of those liabilities, his fastball has lost a foot or two recently. Need we remind the Phillies that velocity doesn’t tend to increase as pitchers cross over into their fourth decade?

Heck, if they are interested in Wells and Brown, maybe the should take a run at John Franco or inquire whether or not Jesse Orosco would consider coming out of retirement.

Salisbury also reports that from the Phillies’ perspective the most appealing aspect of signing two aging veterans to one year contracts is that it would allow more time for Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels to develop. Translation: the Phillies might already be giving up on 2005.

* * * * * * *

There don’t appear to be many more mountains for Scott Boras, the super agent everyone except his clients loves to hate, to climb. All that might remain is for him to buy his own team. Having amassed millions, one wonders why he doesn’t acquire a team, stock it from his own roster of free-agent clients, and sign them all to 10-year contracts. Surely they would have given him a discount.

* * * * * * *

The other day I heard a clip from an ESPN radio interview by Dan Patrick of Larry Bowa. As expected, Bowa cited injuries as one of the chief reasons the Phillies failed to make the playoffs last season. Bowa also labeled Citizens Bank Park a “complete joke”. It is hard to imagine why any free agent pitcher who doesn’t throw 90% sinkers is going to sign with the Phillies given the ballpark’s reputation. Any hurler considering an offer from the Phillies is going to look at the experience of pitchers like Mike Hampton in Colorado and conclude, justifiably or not, that no amount of money would compensate for an unfriendly environment.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hot Stove Journal

On this unusually brisk and cold November morning anything with “Hot Stove” in the subject line is welcome.

I am not particularly fond of him but I tip my hat to Roger Clemens. Not too many pitchers are going to win a Cy Young Award after they retire and you can look that up. Clemens, by the way, also fits my definition of a MVP, that is, most valuable to his team not to the League. But I know all about position players vs. pitchers and the MVP award. That one should go to Albert Pujols.

Bobby Crosby won the AL Rookie of the Year award, falling one vote shy of being a unanimous pick. Though he hit 22 home runs, knocked in 64 and scored 70 runs, Crosby also managed to hit less than .240 and strike out 141 times. I am not familiar with the competition he faced in the American League, but on the surface I cannot imagine how he was a near-unanimous choice. For comparison sake only, Jimmy drove in 73 runs last season while scoring 119. There are a lot of quality shortstops in the game at the moment and the bar is set high.

Reports that the Phillies are interested in David Wells are appalling. Wells is 42 years old, one year removed from back surgery, fat and terminally out of shape and prone to putting his best face forward at every contentious opportunity. Yes, he can still pitch (when not on the DL), but it appears his most attractive quality to the Phillies is that he would only demand a one-year contract. This is just the sort of rent-a-player, stop-gap measure the Phillies must avoid. Unfortunately, with all the long-term contracts they gave away (all of which call for raises in the 2005 season), the Phils have little room to maneuver. This way lies madness, however.

A far more intriguing idea is the rumor that the Phils are also interested in Milwaukee centerfielder Scott Podsednik. Podsednik was the National League rookie of the year in 2003 at age 27. Scouting reports said he was less a late bloomer than held back by injuries as a minor leaguer, which is why he “arrived” relatively late. Of greater concern, perhaps, his batting average fell dramatically last season from .314 to .244. However, scouting reports also say he is a very patient lead-off hitter who lead the majors with 70 stolen bases. Podsednik may not come that expensively unless, of course, the cost is Ryan Howard.

One free agent receiving scant attention in the local press is Todd Pratt. I haven’t read anything regarding Pratt’s inclination to return or not to the Phillies, but I’d like to see it happen. Pratt isn’t young; nor is he a Pudge Rodriguez behind or at the plate. But he is a solid veteran whose presence in the clubhouse is reportedly very important. There aren’t many alternatives out there, but something must happen. An injury to Mike Lieberthal would essentially end the Phillies quest for a playoff birth. Pratt may not be the insurance policy that would avoid that catastrophe, but the Phillies don’t have anyone else they could rely on unless they sign one of the middling free agents available. And those players, such as Mike Metheny, are going to want longer contracts than the Phillies are in a position to give.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Get With The Program

A common negotiating tactic by some free agents and their representatives these days is to stake out an extreme position and work backwards. Agent Scott Boras best represents this approach and his poster boy for the current off-season auction is outfielder Carlos Beltran. Boras is seeking a ten-year deal for his client, which means Beltran would be 37 years old at the conclusion of the contract.

Beltran had a monster post-season for the Astros, which followed a good but not great regular half season with Houston, which followed six and a half very good seasons with the Kansas City Royals. You get the picture here. Beltran is good, perhaps very good, but he isn’t the second coming of Willie Mays by a long shot. So, who in his right mind (put your hand down, George) would sign him for 10 years?

The greater likelihood is that someone (you can raise it again, George) would sign Beltran for, say, three years after which he could again become a free agent and start the entire process all over again. This seems to be the pattern these days, the A-Rod signing of last year notwithstanding. (That signing had as much to do with the enmity between New York and Boston as with anything else.) Such a pattern underscores one of baseball’s if not professional sports’ biggest problems. Having freed themselves from indentured servitude professional athletes have become gunslingers, hiring themselves out on an on-going basis to the highest bidder. Pudge Rodriguez played for three teams in the last three seasons. Gary Sheffield is with his seventh team in seventeen years. Fans are left rooting for a uniform, not the players inside them.

So, Scott and Carlos, get with the program. Lower your demands this year; after all, there’s always the year after next.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Pressing Needs

Now that the Phillies have hired a new manager they can move on to more pressing needs. Unfortunately, the likelihood they will fill them is very small. Indeed, if the Phillies aren’t bold, and the Manuel hiring clearly indicates they aren’t particularly so inclined, next year’s team may conceivably be worse than the disappointing 2004 installment.

The Phillies were never going to sign Carlos Beltran so the question remains who else is available? The answer appears to be no one among the free agents. While Maglio Ordonez is intriguing, he isn’t a centerfielder; moreover, he is coming off a knee injury that occurred in July and finally sidelined him from late August on.. Whatever the Phillies do, they must resist even the slightest inclination to rent someone for a season. That means the prospect of signing Steve Finley is remote and should remain so. Finley is 39 years old and no matter how much scouts rave about his physical condition, he is past his prime. Likewise, any interest in Kenny Lofton should also be assiduously avoided as I wrote once before, in late July, prior to the trading deadline. He is nearly 38 years old and, like Finley, his best years are clearly behind him.

Free agent pitchers are going to be hard to come by as well. Carl Pavano will receive a lot of attention from everyone coming off a season during which he went 18 – 8 with a 3.00 ERA.. Let us keep in mind, however, that he is a sub-500 career pitcher over eight seasons with a .421 ERA. Only twenty-eight years old, Pavano may be emerging as a quality pitcher but one season does not make him a certifiable number one starter. In this era of diminished expectations and performance for starting pitchers, however, it is noteworthy that Pavano will be in such demand. Another starter who interests the Phils is the Twins’ Brad Radke. A ten-year veteran, Radke is 127 – 118 with a 4.23 ERA. Radke isn’t a classic number one starter, either, but he would certainly help solidify the Phillies’ rotation.

That brings us to Eric Milton. A seven-year veteran, Milton is 71- 57 with a 4.76 ERA. The most troubling aspect of his game is well-known. Milton is a fly-ball pitcher in a ballpark that is unforgiving to fly-ball pitchers. Since Milton also yields a half a run a game more than Pavano and Radke, he is not likely to be the Phillies first choice among the available hurlers. The Phillies have made Milton an offer but he is on record as saying he wants to test the market.

Based on his last several starts with the Phillies, Cory Lidle will also probably receive some sort of offer. As a sinker-ball type pitcher, Lidle seems better suited to Citizens Bank Park than a lot of the available free agents. With career numbers of 57 – 51 and a .452 ERA he is also right in the middle of the pack.

The Phils still have the nucleus of a solid staff if Randy Wolf comes back from arm troubles, Vicente Padilla stays healthy and focused, Brett Myers benefits from a new pitching coach and learns to maintain his composure, and Gavin Floyd develops. These are all big “ifs” but none are beyond the realm of possibility. Padilla and Myers have the tools; they lack the maturity. Wolf is at a major crossroads. He was being touted last season as a number one starter, a challenge he was not up to. He must produce this season if the Phillies entertain any hopes of improving let alone contending.

If the Phillies cannot land a quality outfielder and starter during this off-season, what are a few of the bold moves they should consider? Listening to any reasonable offers for Pat Burrell and Jim Thome would be a good place to start. By “reasonable offers” I mean demonstrable and considerable young talent. Pat Burrell is never going to be the hitter everyone envisioned following the 2002 season. For two straight seasons he has looked completely lost at the plate more often than not. One bad season is an aberration; two are a pattern. If the Phils are satisfied with an outfielder who will hit between .250 - .260 and drive in 85 runs, they should keep him. If not, move him now while he retains some value and eat whatever portion of his salary is necessary.

Thome is a more difficult and controversial choice. Very popular and productive at times, he is coming off a second half of the season which saw his numbers decline precipitously. More troubling, perhaps, was his health. Though most of his injuries were “minor”, they hindered his performance from Spring training throughout the entire season. Thome, who will be 35 in August, 2005, is literally a big man and might not have the recuperative powers of somewhat smaller and younger. His huge contract would also be a major obstacle to moving him, but I imagine the Yankees would listen, especially with that short right porch beckoning. They alone could afford Thome, but what have they got to offer in the way of bodies? With Ryan Howard waiting in the wings (but not for long), dealing Thome would not be a disaster, just a huge gamble. It won’t happen, of course, but it doesn’t cost anything to inquire.

Freeing up these two salaries would give the Phillies are lot more leverage in bringing in some pitching help. Lest everyone out there think I have completely taken leave of my senses, I acknowledge it would also cost them 189 rbi’s.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Backman Gone

Wally Backman has already been fired by the Arizona Diamondbacks for concealing a troubled past including two arrests. What is this? Major College Football? No one acquitted himself well in this one, Backman for withholding significant personal history and the Diamondbacks for failing to due their homework in the first place, insisting immediately after the revelations they would stand by their decision to hire Backman, and, then, two days later firing him.

In light of this very unfortunate affair the Phillies' overdone due diligence seems somewhat more justified.

Sudden Second Thoughts

(Editor's note: I was certainly viewed within the local blogsphere as favoring the selection of Charlie Manuel as the new Phillies skipper. In fact, I was on the record as favoring Terry Pendleton or John Russell over Manuel or any of the other veteran candidates. When it became clear neither of the neophytes were going to be hired, I advocated choosing Manuel over Jim Leyland.)

I watched Comcast Sportsnet at 5PM yesterday expecting to hear a great deal about and from Charlie Manuel, the Phillies new manager. I wasn’t disappointed, at least not until Manuel began to speak.

Several things struck me, none of them having to do with Manuel’s easy drawl and folksy style, both of which are perfectly refreshing. No, what jumped out was that he still seemed to be selling himself even after he’d been offered and accepted the post. He rambled, didn’t answer questions (not because he was being evasive but because he didn’t really seem focused), and generally came off as, well, awkward.

Later in the same broadcast Jim Leyland was interviewed via phone. He was gracious, articulate, very focused and specific about the team’s strengths and weaknesses, thoughtful, insightful and genuinely disappointed not to have landed the job.

The whole experience was sobering. Manuel certainly seems pleasant and genuine albeit a little evangelical. As Jim Salisbury points out today in the Inquirer there is no requirement that someone possess a Phi Betta Kappa key to manage a baseball team. On the other hand, I recoil when someone brimming with confidence keeps telling anyone within earshot he is brimming with confidence. I cannot recall ever having had second thoughts quite so quickly. I’ll get over them, though. I have to remind myself the manager sets the tone; he doesn’t run, hit, throw or catch.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Good Beginnings

The intercession is off to a good start with the announcement the Phillies have hired Charlie Manuel as their new manager. It is worth noting that he alone among the eight candidates has a winning percentage as a manager. It is also notable that after six seasons as a big leaguer, Manuel finished below the Mendoza line, batting .198 for his career. I will leave it to the statisticians among you to determine whether or not there is any fact-based correlation between futility as a player and success as a manager. For my part I can think of numerous examples to support this hunch. No doubt I will receive some comments confirming or challenging me on this subject.

Now, on to the greater tasks at hand: a pitching coach, starting pitcher(s) and an outfielder.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Charlie and Jim

Jim Leyland is not the man to manage the Phillies.

Indeed, he is a disaster waiting to happen. Leyland wants the job, for now, but some day, when we least expect it, he won’t. And while his track record includes several triumphs, it consistently reveals he will bail out when he no longer wants to put up with [fill in the blank] ________ . This is no way to build for the future.

What the Phillies need is a manager of even temperament and persistence. Charlie Manuel may not be the second coming of Casey Stengel but he will provide precisely the sort of stability the Phils desperately need in order to focus on the real tasks at hand: acquiring some good starting pitching and another position player, hopefully a center fielder.

Manuel is the man for the job.

He is as capable a baseball man as any candidate the Phillies interviewed; moreover, he is more likely to remain committed to the organization. I expect the Phillies to announce his appointment as early as today.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts while awaiting the fate of the Republic.

If Curt Schilling gets his way, his most enduring legacy will be four more years of George Bush. To put in another way, it would be the replacement of one curse by a far worse variety.

* * * * * * *

Three bids. That’s the norm. But since when do the Phillies do anything resembling normal? So, in their infinite indecision they interviewed eight candidates. And the scariest part is that the eighth candidate, a late entry by all accounts, is the favorite. Typical. On the other side of the country the Arizona Diamondbacks wasted no time in hiring Wally Backman as their new manager.

* * * * * * *

George Steinbrenner hasn’t been heard from lately but rest assured he will explode onto the scene shortly by opening up his wallet further and boosting the Yankees already-bloated payroll over the $200 million mark. Steinbrenner has remained uncharacteristically, dare I say graciously, silent as the dreaded Red Sox bask in their glory, but he is surely laying the groundwork to get even. Expect the Yankees to go after every major free agent pitcher out there and Carlos Beltran to boot.

* * * * * * *

We are never likely to know whether or not Barry Bonds used steroids. The popular argument is that performance-enhancing drugs may increase strength but they don’t do anything for hand-eye coordination. Less popular is the inescapable reality that hitting home runs is a combination of both.

Monday, November 01, 2004


By week’s end we should know the identity of the new Phillies’ skipper. The consensus seems to be Jim Leyland will be offered the job if he can convince management his burnout in Colorado in 1999 was a combination of high altitude and low talent.

By all accounts the Phillies’ brass are leaning heavily toward someone with experience, which raises the immediate question of why were Terry Pendleton and John Russell even interviewed. A very unscientific run-through of my ever-diminishing gray cells reveals that prior experience is no guarantee of future success and vice-versa. Indeed, some of the most successful managers had no prior big league success either as managers or players. Earl Weaver and Tommy LaSorda leap to mind.

What we have here is the sort of conventional thinking that lead to trouble with the Phillies when the hired Larry Bowa. In that instance it was pre-determined that a players’ manager was out of the question following Terry Francona. (We will ignore Mr. Francona’s subsequent experience managing players.) So, in came Mr. Bowa, at one and the same time the throw-back candidate (tough, intense) and nostalgic choice (1980 champions).

Ed Wade is a cautious, conservative man as are his immediate superiors. The safe choice is someone who has been there before. The wiser choice would be someone whose baggage has no previous claim checks attached to the handle.