Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rumors And Other Tid Bits

A few ex-Phillies have been in the news lately.

Johnny Estrada was traded by the Milwaukee Brewers to the New York Mets yesterday. The move means Estrada will be playing for his fifth team since beginning his big league career in Philadelphia in 2001. It says something about him that he has moved so often but I cannot say exactly what! Suffice it to say quality catchers do not move around much as a rule so something that doesn't meet the eye is at work here. Oh, and by the way, he will be eligible for arbitration after next year and can become a free agent. He has a long way to go to catch the peripatetic Kenny Lofton, but he's also a lot younger.

Meanwhile, rumors have the Phillies showing interest in Randy Wolf, who is recovering from "minor" shoulder surgery after recovering from major Tommy John surgery a year and a half earlier. That's one too many surgeries in my humble opinion. Frankly, Wolf would better suit the Phils as a fifth outfielder. The guy can hit. Regrettably, he cannot pitch all that well any longer and as a flyball pitcher is ill-suited to Citizens Bank Park. Even if they get him for a song, the Phils would be better off spending the money elsewhere.

Finally, rumors, however unsubstantiated, that the Phils might be interested in reacquiring Scott Rolen are absolutely ludicrous. In the first place, this guy loathed playing here. In the second place, he is a shadow of his former self. And in the final analysis, he loathed playing here.

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One final word on Jimmy Rollins for now. If you haven't had a chance to listen to the full interview with him on MLB's site (among others) after he won the MVP, get a nice cup of coffee and plant yourself in front of your computer for the 25 minutes more or less that the interview runs. There have always been a lot of reasons to like Jimmy the person, but this interview, the lengthiest I've ever heard with him, underscores how generous of spirit and how supportive of his teammates Rollins is. He is the complete package: admirable human being and wonderfully talented professional athlete.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

J-Roll Is Second Consecutive Phillie to Win MVP

Jimmy Rollins was named the National League's MVP for his memorable 2007 season. His win marks the second straight year a member of the Phillies infield has been named the league's MVP and sets up the unprecedented and very real opportunity for a third member of that infield, Chase Utley, to win next season.

Congratulations to a great player who loves the game.

For the MostValuablePost on the subject, check out Erik Grissom's Philliesflow. Grissom's take should be required reading in the blogosphere and mainstream media, especially in Colorado.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Jim Salisbury wrote a very fine piece on Jimmy Rollins over the weekend in which he elaborates how hard the shortstop worked from an early age to get where he is today, namely, one of the premier players in the game. The piece also fills in details on how Rollins' multiple champions and boosters, his father, coaches and Jim Poole, the first Phillies' scout to watch him play, helped further his career. There is even a great picture of the diminutive Rollins, high above the crowd, celebrating a winning home run for his high school team. Naturally, he's smiling ear-to-ear. My only quibble with the piece is the quote at the end in which Poole says " "I hope he wins the MVP. When it comes to Jimmy Rollins, I'm his biggest fan."

Poole is going to have to get in line regarding that claim, and when Jimmy is named the MVP tomorrow afternoon, the line will get even longer.

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The indictment of Barry Bonds for perjury and obstruction of justice has brought out the expected number of opinions pro and con. Most commentators who oppose the indictment question why Bonds is being singled out when there are plenty of other abusers, some admitted ones. Other skeptics wonder why the Federal Government took so many years to bring the indictments if they had solid evidence all along.

Among the more amusing caution flags was one waved by the Inquirer's David Aldridge who wondered, "And what happened to our post-Duke reflexive gene, where we weren't going to convict people in the media anymore just because they've been indicted? Does Bonds not deserve his day in court to face his accusers?"

Actually, if nothing else, Mr. Aldridge, Bonds was indicted because he had a day in court and the Federal Prosecutors and a Grand Jury didn't believe his testimony.

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If Alex Rodriguez re-signs with the Yankees, some of the credit will be given to the Sage from Omaha, aka Warren Buffet. It turns out that Buffet, the billionaire investor and friend of Bill (Gates, that is) is also chummy with the MVP third baseman. Apparently, he urged Rodriguez to get in touch with his true feelings -- that he loves being a Yankee -- and negotiate directly with Steinbrenner fils and Cashman without the intervention of his agent, Scott Boras. If you believe Boras had nothing to do with this whole thing, I have a bridge for you from another borough of New York.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Follow The Money

Listen to the Phillies alleged brain trust and one theme recurs: they consider themselves a mid-market team without sufficient financial resources to compete with Boston, both New York teams, Chicago and both Los Angeles teams.

The Inquirer's Bob Ford and the Daily News' Bill Conlin are merely the latest observers to weigh in on the matter of money and the spending thereof. Bloggers and their commenters are also all over this issue complaining bitterly that ownership's stinginess will doom the Phillies to another season that falls short. The Phillies front men on the subject, Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro have flatly said their is a limited budget for new acquisitions and the Phillies are not going to exceed it.

There's no reason to recapitulate the list of prior contract commitments, ongoing obligations and the projected demands of players and their agents as the annual free agent market opens for business. The feeling is that short of a few good trades, and reviews of the Lidge deal before he takes the mound at Citizens Bank Park are generally positive, the Phils are not going to acquire or re-sign the high-priced talent out there. Instead, they are floating names like Randy Wolf and Bartolo Colon, players who aren't going to address their urgent need for quality starting pitching. Meanwhile, Gillick and Amaro have also flatly stated the third base situation isn't targeted for any improvement in 2008 while the outfield has already lost two of the five guys who spent time playing there last season including Aaron Rowand, their most productive outfielder.

I keep reminding myself the Lidge deal, or the Billy Wagner and Freddy Garcia trades of the past, came out of nowhere. We all know what happened with Garcia, but Wagner was reasonably successful here when not hurt or unhappy. Before recent times, one has to reach back a long, long way to find a successful trade. You all know who I'm thinking of.

Is the problem of dollars a local one, attributable to a consortium of owners who cannot or will not seize control if not the purse strings and spend, spend, spend a la the Steinbrenner clan, Peter Angelos in Baltimore or ownership in Boston? Is this a question of television revenues apart from the shared ones dispersed by MLB to all the teams? Do the big market clubs with their own cable systems or deals in place with cable systems generate far more revenues that can be cashed in once the clock strikes midnight in early November? What can the Kansas Cities, Pittsburghs and, yes, Philadelphias, do to remain competitive? Some might argue the whole question is moot. Look at Colorado. They did it without a big payroll, so why can't everyone else. The truth is, teams like Colorado can do it without a big payroll through shrewd scouting, drafting and trades, but the sad truth is their window of opportunity is very brief, as they are about to find out, when all that low-priced talent like Matt Holliday has a big year and is immediately in line for an expense, long-term contract. Colorado, I'm sorry to say, is an aberration.

What baseball really needs is some sort of salary cap. Will a cap level the playing field? It's hard to say if it has done that in baseball and football. We do know that only a few teams in baseball can consider the astronomical demands of Alex Rodriguez and his agent (or is that the other way around). And you can count on one finger how many teams could pay a Japanese club tens of millions of dollars just for the negotiating rights to a pitcher. The draft and free agent compensation systems have not really yielded much parity. Yes, Colorado made it to the World Series and over the last several years Houston appeared in the Series for the first time, Chicago made it to late October for the first time in memory, and Arizona and Florida, two upstarts, won the whole thing. And little old small-market Oakland has been the darling of those who argue money isn't everything. But in the end, the teams that can afford to sign or keep high-priced talent are normally the ones that make it to the post-season year in and year out. The trend suggests the teams with more money to spend will continue to be likely participants in the post-season while the ones with little capital will continue to fall short.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Pros: Great stuff. Reasonably young. Excited to be coming to Philadelphia. Michael Bourn was expendable, Geoff Geary was on the bubble and Mike Costanzo was never going to be an every-day big leaguer...if that.

Cons: Albert Pujols still plays but fortunately in another division. A fly ball pitcher in a fly ball park. Recovering from knee surgery. Free agent after this year. Michael Bourn might hit.

Conclusion: Any move that freed Brett Myers to return to the starting rotation has to be seen as an overall plus for a team desperate for pitching. Depending on how he fares at Citizens Bank Park, Lidge might be a one-year rental or the change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered. Still, there is something about this trade that has Philadelphia Phillies written all over it. Rather than draft closers like Chad Cordero and Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies are forever signing mid to late career closers with baggage, in this case an alleged fragile psyche and a knee that requires healing. The trade we'd like to see is the Phillies' scouting and development staff for, say, Colorado's, or, realistically, an infusion of more talent among the bush beaters.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Getting Better

With the hand-wringing and wailing over the Eagles into its second day, you might have missed the article below the fold in which GM Pat Gillick strongly hinted the Phillies may not do anything this off-season to improve themselves at third base. Asked to explain, Gillick replied: I don't know if it will be addressed. ...we're going to concentrate on improving our pitching.

That means Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs will man the hot corner because there certainly isn't anyone in the minors ready to step in. Mike Costanzo cannot even hit in the Arizona Fall League according to a report over at Beerleaguer. It is becoming increasingly doubtful the locally-connected Costanzo will ever help the big club.

That means we can already expect to see a scarlet C next to the Phillies' name when those inevitable pre-season report cards evaluating off-season moves are issued around February. Come to think of it, the Phillies have rarely landed a big free agent, the last one being Jim Thome, who cost them a bundle (and still does) and who in reality was only sought by two clubs at the time, his then-current one (Cleveland) and the Phils. More likely, the Phils will land the usual second and third tier free agents who love to come here such as Helms or Adam Eaton. In other words, the guys who receive no other offers.

If help, pitching or otherwise, is to be secured it will have to come via trade. The sticky part there is the Phils have precious little anyone else wants. The likely bait will either be Shane Victorino or Michael Bourn. Of the two, Victorino has proved he can hit at this level but he has yet to prove he can remain healthy. Bourn is unproven at the plate and certainly not Victorino's peer with the glove. He is slightly faster. His injury last season was a freak accident. The bet here is the Phils will feel compelled to part with Victorino, the better of the pair, if they want anything decent in return. If they are unable or unwilling to re-sign Aaron Rowand, they could begin next season with Pat Burrell in left, Bourn in center and Jayson Werth in right. Pardon me if I find that troika uninspiring. Coupled with the two-headed third base option, the Phillies will have lots of potential holes in their lineup. Gillick argues that with better pitching they won't need as many runs scored. If things play out they way they appear to be headed, he'd damn sure better get that better pitching.