Friday, December 07, 2012

Heading Down

If rumors that the Phillies are about to acquire Michael Young are true it will be ` pure Ruben Amaro move, and this a day after he broke the mold by trading for Ben Revere.  Young, by all accounts the consummate professional, is a player who appears to be in decline.  Should his current trajectory continue downward, he would be yet another attempt by Amaro to squeeze one more year (or two!!!) out of a stop-gap infielder.

The Phillies would be better off starting Kevin Frandsen, which is why they won't!

The Revere Is Coming! The Revere Is Coming!

Newly acquired centerfielder Ben Revere has been compared to Juan Pierre.  Let's look at the film.

By all accounts Revere is an outstanding fielder.  And Pierre?  Never more than adequate.  Revere has a weak arm.  Check.  Revere can burn up the bases.  Check.  Revere is a slap hitter.  Check.  Revere has yet to hit a home run in nearly 1000 major league AB's.  Well, Juan isn't the second coming of Babe Ruth but once in a while he has an accident and the ball goes over the fence.  Hard to imagine in 1K AB's Revere hasn't had at least one!  Revere bats from the left side and wears his hat slightly tilted in the same orientation.  Check.

Was this acquisition the answer to the Phillies' needs.  Not entirely.  Film clips of Revere show a hitter who reminds me more of Michael Bourn, the centerfielder whom the Phillies happily decided not to overpay.  And there is the key.  Revere is cheap.

Speaking of costs, what about the two pitchers the Phils gave up?  Vance Worley never impressed me.  He may have pitched through an injury most of last season, but what I saw was an average arm with limited stuff.  Batters had figured him out by last season and it's quite conceivable the Phils' alleged brain trust figured that out!  The other pitcher the Phils traded was Trevor May, who prior to last season was one of their top prospects.  May had a losing season at AA Reading last year and walked a lot of batters in the process.  (Yes, Virginia, there is a connection between free passes and losses.)

On balance this looks like a good trade to me.  The Phils' alleged brain trust resisted the temptations to land an unpredictable outfielder (Upton), an overpriced one (Bourn) and a completely risky one (Hamilton) who wasn't really a possibility in the first place.  Perhaps they were constrained by dollars alone (the Braves outbid the Phils for Upton's services), but this time it looks like Ruben Amaro did his due diligence.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


While we were sleeping the Phillies went from a team players wanted to play for to a team viewed as past its prime and no longer a desirable home address.

Free agents signing multi-gazillion dollar contracts can afford to leave a little on the table in exchange for a chance at the post-season.  No one realistically views the Phillies in that category any longer.  With too many holes and too many ifs, the Phils have entered rebuilding mode whether they publicly admit it or not.

* * * * * * * *

I always rooted for Shane Victorino.  Sure, he made his share of bonehead mistakes, mostly as a base runner, but he was a high-energy guy with good skills.  BUT $39 million for three years!!!!!?????  What could the Red Sox have possibly been thinking?  My guess is they suspected the Yankees were about to sign him and struck preemptively.

* * * * * * * *

Andy Reid is firing coaches and players before this dismal season ends in a pathetic attempt to lay blame anywhere but where it belongs, at the feet of the guy who hired/signed them in the first place.  Time's yours, Andy.   Time and material.

* * * * * * * *

I saw a promo picture from the Sixers the other day.  It might have had something to do with the 50th anniversary of the franchise here.  Is that possible?  Anyway, the real point of this little rant is that in the back row stood Andrew Bynum.  So I guess I can stop asking if anyone's seen him.  There he is.  Standing around and doing nothing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fast News Day For Most Teams

What kind of news day was it yesterday? The only major league sports team to see action in Philadelphia, the Sixers, was relegated to page 3 of the Inquirer.

The first two pages were taken up with suspensions (Phillies), dismissals and rumblings about firings (Eagles) and an absence of any progress (Flyers).

Now to the news....

Carlos Ruiz, starting catcher and heart of the team, was suspended for the first 25 games of 2013 for failing a drug test.  The drug in question was Adderal, a stimulant banned by MLB.  If all available information is correct we know the following:

Adderal is frequently prescribed for people with ADD, or attention deficit disorder.  According to the collective bargaining agreement, MBL, players using the medicine may apply for an exemption to continue taking it, presumably if they have been diagnosed with or previously treated for ADD.  Now, I'm not a doctor (nor do I play one on the internet), but I would hazard a guess most MLB teams do not want starting catchers taking a drug for attention deficit disorder.  It just doesn't fit the job description.

But wait, there's more!

If a player fails a test because of the presence of stimulants, he is given another chance to pass a test.  Only after failing TWO tests is he suspended, and then for 25 games, not the 50 game suspension reserved for steroid users.

So, if we do have the facts correct (always a question), Carlos Ruiz did not apply for an exemption, failed a test and still continued to take the medicine.  Now we are into a gray area in which the question of "how could he be so stupid?" has to be raised.

If these facts are correct and I were a teammate of Ruiz, I'd be damned pissed off.  Erik Krantz is exempt.

* * * * * * * *

The same day Ruiz was suspended, Jason Babin was released by the Eagles.  Now, truth be told, the Eagles could just have easily released about ten other guys, so the decision to pick Babin seems somewhat arbitrary.  Coach Reid said his departure would give more playing time to younger guys, a dubious reason at best.  The mustachioed one also claimed the release would give Babin time to hook on with another team.  How magnanimous of a guy clinging for life himself!  Another reason might be financial (yes, I know, hard to believe money plays a role in these matters).  Babin is owed only the remainder of his salary for this season and not the two or three years remaining on the contract he signed a few years ago.  Seems it has something to do with his having already been granted some kind of severance pay at another time.  I'll bet the timing is crucial here, but no one is saying...or cares.

So, a guy who led the team in sacks a year before is unceremoniously dumped with five games remaining in the season.  Perhaps beat report Jeff Lane said it best:

The wide nine, in theory and even occasionally in execution, can be an effective way to stop an NFL offense. But Andy Reid's decision to base his entire defense on Jim Washburn's defensive line scheme and then expect an unqualified coordinator to run it with the wrong personnel was a failure of epic proportions.

And then on Tuesday, Mr. Wide Nine himself, defensive end Jason Babin, was unceremoniously released by Reid.

* * * * * * * *

The NHL and the NHL Players Union agreed to meet with an arbitrator to try and break the deadlock that has already cost at least a third of the season and seems likely to cost the entire one soon.  The catch in this announcement was the absence of the word "binding" in front of "arbitration".  What it means in practical terms is that two groups who despise each other are asking a third party to step in and try and move things toward a solution.  The bet here is that the arbitrator will have to be in one room and the waring parties in two separate ones.  Just the sight of each other will scuttle any progress.

* * * * * * * *

Oh, and the Sixers won.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Tides

The San Francisco Giants have won two of the three World Series with excellent pitching and nothing much more except luck.  Career years from has-beens and never-weres really made the difference.  Talk about mediocre teams winning it all.  A few months from now, let alone years, no one will recall more than two or three players on both teams.

* * * * * * * *

Change "Anyone seen Andre Bynum?" to "Anyone heard of Andrew Bynum?"  Right up there with the worst trades to say nothing of vetting by a Sixers team in history.  The alleged brain trust of the Sixers are already spinning this one as a salary cap gain, but in the meantime they will get nothing for the trade and cap hit this year and look like fools.

* * * * * * * *

I have a confession to make:  growing up, this nice little Jewish boy rooted hard for the Irish of Notre Dame.  It's been several decades since I rooted for their football team, but, then, I haven't really rooted for any football team unless, of course, rooting against teams from the South counts.

* * * * * * **

The Phillies have been quiet thus far this off-season but I fully expect them to make a huge mistake and sign either B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn to big deals.  Neither is the answer to their problems in centerfield.

* * * * * * * *

Approximately two weeks from now the idiots who run the NHL will cancel another full season.

* * * * * * * *

Speaking of football, local teams had up and down seasons.  Temple entered the Big East a year too late.  Last season they were very competitive.  This season they were very inexperienced.  Meanwhile, Penn continues to play just well enough to lead the Ivy League.  When facing outside teams, the Quakers don't seem to have sufficient horses, but when the games count in the standings, these guys inevitably stand up!

Villanova rebounded from a terrible season in 2011, very uncharacteristic, and managed at least one post-season game before bowing out.

Philadelphia isn't really a great college football town, but a quick look at, say, the last ten years shows fans here could do a whole lot worse.

* * * * * * * *

And last but not least, it appears the Miami Marlins latest fire sale will go through without baseball's inept commissioner, Bud Selig, doing a damn thing about it.  The Marlins are no strangers to giving a collective finger to their fan base, all ten of them.  The Marlins already extorted a new stadium on threat of leaving town.  Then they cut their overhead dramatically, shedding any players who were making big money (thanks to ridiculous contracts approved by the same brain trust).   The rest of MLB should vote to move the franchise out of the state and strip the current ownership of operating authority. 

One can dream.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

For Sale: Slightly Used Set of Expensive Free Agents

The sick joke that is Miami baseball just sunk to new lows with the announcement yesterday of what most of the media is calling a "blockbuster trade" but which I prefer to label for what it is: the latest confirmation that Miami is the worst baseball town in major league baseball.

Even having won two rental World Series, here is a franchise that unloads players with anything above minimum salaries the way Bain Capital unloaded leveraged companies.

Thanks to years of abuse by different ownerships, the so-called fan base is nothing more than 19 visiting tourists, 200 ushers, 150 vendors, 8 season ticket holders and all the sea gulls who can find a landing spot every night. If you've ever watched a telecast from Miami, it looks more like a de Chirico painting than a baseball stadium.  Foul balls rattle around the empty seats for minutes until finally coming to rest unclaimed!

Of course MLB's alleged brain trust has the final say on this unloading to Toronto, but Bud Selig isn't going to invoke any "good for baseball" clauses to prevent this latest fiasco. He hasn't the cojones.

If I had more energy I'd look up how much the good people of Miami forked over for this new stadium, but I don't and, anyway, they pretty much deserve what they get for being such lousy fans in the first place.

There are plenty of cities that would love the chance to root for the home team.  Miami has never been one of them.  We knew that before the lime green stadium opened and we know it will remain a place where foul balls go to die.  Baseball, the game?  It died years ago there.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Spreading Our Wings

Hey, I thought this was a baseball blog!!???

Well, things are quiet on that front for now, so let's broaden our approach.

* * * * * * * *

The Eagles' onfield alleged brain trust has taken quite a battering this season, justifiably.  The head coach has had fourteen years to learn clock management but still cannot master its finer points.  Moreover, he has one of the best running backs in the game and cannot use him near the goal line.  Of course, he has one of the worst offensive lines in the game, which might explain things.

The Defensive Coordinator was fired after six games and replaced by a relative novice (stewardship division).  His charges have performed worse in the process.

The offensive Coordinator has never impressed, so it's hard to start faulting him for this season's play-calling.

BUT, without doubt the biggest area of deficiency over the course of a few seasons has been in the realm of free-agent signings.  This team is loaded with big name signees who have played miserably.  None seems worse than Nnamdi Asomugha.  Wait!  Demestress Bell is in the running for this honor.  

Then, of course, there is the drafting of Danny Watkins.  An unmitigated disaster.

So, in the end, the head coach is a poor field general and even poorer judge of talent.

No wonder the Eagles have a losing record.  (And we never even mentioned the quarterback).

* * * * * * * *

Anyone seen Andrew Bynum?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


Go ahead, Ruben, sign a player with an attitude problem.  He'll be a big hit in this town.

* * * * * * * *

Anyone seen Andrew Bynum?

Sunday, November 04, 2012


Have you noticed the conversation about the New England Patriots inevitably centers on Tom Brady? The Denver Broncos?  On Peyton Manning.  The Giants, his brother Eli.  On the Eagles?  The coach.

* * * * * * * *

Bob Brookover wrote a piece in today's Inquirer listing his preferences for filling the many holes on the Phillies.  I agree with many of them.  Unfortunately, so do most of the other 29 MLB teams.  The problem with the Phils is they are hamstrung in the money department.  The were not only big spenders of late, they were over-spenders.  They raided the minor league pantry too much and signed too many players to ruinous long-term deals.

* * * * * * * *

Temples' entry into the Big East has been a difficult one.  Too bad, really, because last year's team would have fared much better given its strengths on both sides of the ball.  The current squad is young, which bodes better for the future...hopefully.  Remember this, too:  last year's squad was really Al Golden's. 

* * * * * * * *

The remainder of the NHL season is circling the bowl.

* * * * * * * *

Anyone seen Andrew Bynum?

* * * * * * * *

One last thing....

I received a marvelous email Saturday afternoon.  Attached was one of those 1950's illustrations showing a housewife with the caption reminding viewers to turn back their clocks one hour that night.  It also reminded viewers not to turn back the country 50 years on Tuesday.

Here's one vote for Barack Obama. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Go Figure

It sure didn't seem like Jimmy Rollins had an award-winning season, but there is it in black and white:  Rollins wins 4th Gold Glove.

To be sure, Jimmy had a better season in the field than at the plate but from my seat on the couch it looked like he'd lost a step in 2012 and I don't mean from home to first.  Yes, he was sure-handed, but he certainly didn't look like a Gold Glove winner.

J-Roll's award should be the only hardware taken home by a Phillie in this post-season unless one counts the chains several of them are carrying around.

* * * * * * * *

BTW, anyone seen Andrew Bynum?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bad Times

Detroit, the city that is, cannot catch a break.

Their Tigers, a balanced team with fine starting pitching and a lot of thunder in their lineup, was just swept by San Francisco in the World Series.  No one predicted such a rapid, ignominious exit.  The win gives the NL its third straight WS championship and the Giants' their second in three years. San Francisco isn't really such a great club but in this era there are no great teams only good ones cobbled together.  Of course the other factor is the history of nobodies, has-beens, never-weres and flashes-in-the-pan rising to the occasion on the biggest stage.

* * * * * * * *

If you had an employee who publicly blamed himself for a series of poor performances, what would you do?  If your foreman announced to all the world he hadn't done a good job preparing his workers for the tasks at hand, what would you do a his boss?

If your COO assumed responsibility for poor production time and again, changed some of the managers immediately beneath him in a desperate step to achieve positive results, vowed to set things right immediately and still failed miserably week after week, would you sit by idly?

* * * * * * * *

Anyone seen Andrew Bynum?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Suffering Fools Gladly

Word has it Larry Bowa is being considered for the manager's job in Miami.

Great.  Take one of the worst towns for baseball, mix in an alleged brain trust whose collective IQ is smaller than their individual shoe sizes and what do you have?  A serious case of ineptitude.

From a blathering clown hired for four seasons and fired after one to considering a hyperventilating screamer who has failed at every stop.  Miami owner Jeffrey Loria hasn't a clue.  If he isn't busy trying to hire a manager who will appeal to the Latin fan base he's focusing on retreads.  Bowa was intensely disliked in Philadelphia by the people who counted the most:  his players.  He flopped badly in San Diego, too.  I guess that makes him the ideal candidate for Miami.

* * * * * * * *

The Tigers have their backs to the wall and will count on Anabel Sanchez to stave off further disaster.  Sanchez was pretty successful when he came over to the Tigers but that was due in no small measure to unfamiliarity among AL hitters.  The Giants know Sanchez, which gives them the advantage.

Meanwhile, who tries to send Prince Fielder from first to home on a double?  Fielder moves pretty well for a small-sized mountain, but not from first to home.  Maybe the third base coach figured the Tigers wouldn't get another hit.  He was pretty much right on that front.

* * * * * * * *

Anyone seen Andrew Bynum?

Friday, October 26, 2012

More Random Walking

Hunter Pence again, right in the middle of things!  Talk about good timing.

* * * * * * * *

Anyone seen Andrew Bynum?

* * * * * * * *

The guy who couldn't tackle, aka Asante Samuel, is back in town this weekend and judging by his tweets he is still as shy and retiring as when he played here.

* * * * * * **

Is there a major sports commissioner more disliked than Gary Bettman?  OK, maybe Roger Goodell, but anyone else?

* * * * * * * *

On a list of 100 post-season surprises, the firings of Bobby Valentine and Ozzie Guillen are numbers 101 and 102.

* * * * * * * *

Were you surprised to learn the Giants have been in more World Series than the Cardinals?  I was.

* * * * * * * *

The President of the NCAA reiterated his approval of the punitive sanctions imposed on Penn State's football program by declaring among other things the governing body wanted to see university control reestablished over the football program.

I'm glad the programs at, say, Alabama, South Carolina, Ohio State, USC et al don't act like autonomous entities and that their coaches are paid salaries commensurate with the heads of other departments.

* * * * * * **

Rumors have circulated the Yankees want to dump A-Rod and the Phillies might be interested.  I know you read this blog faithfully, Rube, so do us all a favor and take a pass.  We thought the idea was to lower the median age on this team.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Random Walk

Hunter Pence didn't make out too badly, did he?

Traded to the Giants at the July deadline, Pence struggled for his new team but came up big in game seven of the NLDS.  Now Hunter is going to the World Series.  Funny game.  Ha ha.

* * * * * * * *

Bicycle racing authorities have stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France medals and expressed the hope he would be forgotten.  Well, he won't be....yet, but they can be certain that generations hence no one will remember someone whose name has been expunged.

Armstrong isn't out of the woods yet.  Tour officials are going to want their money back.  I assume if an athlete has the desire and arrogance to succeed at any cost he is prone to cheating.  Isn't that right, Mr. Bonds?

* * * * * * * *

Anyone seen Andrew Bynum lately?

* * * * * * * *

It isn't looking good for hockey this season.  I haven't a clue what date is the magical tipping point after which the league will cancel the entire season, but I am sure the alleged brain trust of the NHL knows it.

* * * * * * * *

Believe it or not, I follow local college football to a degree, that is, I always check to see how Penn, Temple and Villanova fared.  Temple really isn't doing that badly this year considering how many starters they lost and, of course, their move to a better overall league and caliber of opponent.

Penn has played poorly, plagued my sloppy play.  After so many years as one of the elite teams in the Ivy, it is a comedown to watch the Quakers struggle.

Villanova had an awful year last season after losing so many outstanding players from its championship and near championship teams.  They have begun to jell, however, and are now ranked in the top 25 of their respective division.

If you have never watched a game at Franklin Field, I urge you to buy a cheap ticket and go.  Highly entertaining.

Friday, October 19, 2012


The NHL labor dispute threatens to cancel the entire season, something only hockey seems capable of doing not once but twice in the span of a few short years.  I have paid attention to many of the details proposed by both sides and remain convinced the players have the better arguments if for no other reason than they play the toughest sport in the world (sorry, NFL fans), have relatively short careers (on average) and deserve as much salary in the contemporary sports world as any athletes.  Actually, there are other good reasons to support them not the least of which is the current owners' proposal represents a ridiculous reduction in their salaries while increasing requirements for years of service before becoming free agents.  Ownership in nearly every successful major sport cry poor all the time but few if any have sold their franchises for less than stunning profits over the last many years.  While they wait to cash in their franchises they can at the very least write off their losses.  There are few less transparent ledgers in all of finance than the books of major league owners.

* * * * * * * *

I am rooting hard for the Tigers to win the World Series.  Detroit, as I've said in this space several times, needs all the good news it can garner.  Then there is the small matter that I dislike both St. Louis, who appear likely to be the NL representative, and San Francisco.  St. Louis was always a smug team when self-anointed genius Tony LaRussa was at the helm.  With him gone they are marginally more acceptable though hardly the best team in the league.  The Giants are a very arrogant bunch, especially Tim Lincecum, and deserve to be brought down more than a peg or two.  Of course, that doesn't always happen in sports, as all of us know from experience.

* * * * * * * *

The Sixers were thrilled to acquire Andrew Bynum during the off-season and, indeed, his presence promised better days ahead.  Now, his presence remains uncertain as his historically balky knees continue to give him trouble.  He hasn't appeared in a pre-season game to date is not expected to.  He is also expected to miss the season opener and perhaps several more games.  Worst of all, I've yet to see a picture or video of Bynum showing him looking pleased to be in a Sixers' uniform.  The bet here is he has a difficult season, marked by long stretches where he has to sit out, and then does not re-sign.  You heard it here first (I think),

* * * * * * * *

Is there any local team less interesting to read about let alone watch than the Eagles?  Who gives a damn at this point what Andy Reid thinks, says or does?  The Eagles' coach has always accepted full responsibility for his team's shortcomings, which are legion.  The problem with Andy's mea culpas is that they are as automatic and meaningless as everything else he promises to do to correct obvious deficiencies.  Reid's game-planning and clock management are legendarily poor.  His personnel judgements have also been horrendous, Danny Watkins being the most recent example.

But being so boring, predictable and in essence unaccountable (he's still in his job 14 years later, isn't he?) are the worst crimes of all.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Truly Not

Let's face it, the Orioles didn't reach the post-season because of an explosive offense.  Sure, they hit a lot of home runs over the course of the season, but it was their stellar bullpen that normally feathered their nest.  So, it comes as no surprise they exit their first post-season in fifteen years for lack of base hits.

Will the O's challenge again next year?  They were missing one of their few stars, Nick Markakis, for the last month of the season and the entire post-season.  They got career years from a few others.  They have a fine young third baseman in Manny Machado, who is just beginning his career.  They have an savvy manager in Buck Showalter.  Still, they have a lot of holes to fill and need good follow-up years from Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen and Jim Johnson in particular.

Meanwhile, 35 miles to the south the Washington Nationals blew their chance with an outright collapse in game five against the Cardinals.  The Nats had everything going for them in this.  Their Cy Young candidate, Gio Gonzalez was on the mound.  They took at 6-0 lead after three innings.  They were playing at home before a post-season starved audience.  And, unfortunately, they were playing St. Louis, whose recent post-season magic is second to none.

So, no Baltimore-Washington Parkway Series, folks.  A true baseball fan would still be keenly interested in the games to be played.  I guess I am not a true fan.  I will say this:  I hope Detroit wins it all.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Play On

The Orioles' magical carpet ride has at least one more scheduled stop thanks to their latest late-inning victory, a 2-1 victory over the Yankees in thirteen innings.

At this point it seems astonishing those guys have any energy left after a season of late-inning heroics.  Without doing the actual calculations, it wouldn't surprise me to learn the O's have played the equivalent of about 175 games so far in 2012.  Not that they are complaining.  They would gladly play at least nine more!

Meanwhile, in DC, Jayson Werth prolonged the Nationals' magical season with a walk-off home run to even the series versus St. Louis.  While I have no particular love for the Nats, I don't dislike them with nearly the same intensity as I feel toward the Cardinals, even without self-anointed genius Tony LaRussa at the helm.  Right now the $126 the Nats paid Werth looks like a good deal.  I also have to keep reminding myself Washington is playing without one of its top pitchers.  I'm sure management has privately second-guessed itself on the decision to shut down Strasburg.  I applaud the unselfishness of their decision, a sentiment apparently not shared by everyone in the clubhouse according to reports.

In the Queen City, on the other hand, it appears Dusty Baker's tenure is in serious jeopardy as the Reds collapsed along the river front and dropped their series to the Giants.  San Francisco is another team I love to dislike, but I do have to admit they have learned how to win, in this case at the expense of their former skipper.

Detroit closed our their series with Oakland behind Justin Verlander, who hurled a brilliant game.  Detroit needs good news, the city, not the team, and I wish them well...until they face the O's.

One final note on the playoffs to date:  how did the alleged brain trust of MLB ever decide to award the play-in teams home field advantage?   Why did Washington and New York, both division winners, have to play their first two games on the road?  Do Bud Selig et al want to turn the regular season into the somewhat meaningless exercise it has become in the NHL and NBA vis-a-vis winning the division as opposed to qualifying for the playoffs?

Saturday, October 06, 2012

How 'Bout Them O's?!

The Orioles will go to the post-season when Nate McCouth's career is resurrected.


For those of you just starting to pay attention to the Orioles, how many players on that team could you name a week ago?  A day ago?  Today??!!!

A lineup sporting Endy Chavez, Nate McClouth, Mark Reynolds, Jim Thome (sorry, Jim) AND Joe Saunders on the mound?  C'mon, get real.

So all they do is chase the Yankees down to the last day of the season, then go into Arlington and do a Texas hold 'em on a powerful lineup to advance to another showdown with New York.

A manager's role is frequently overrated, in my humble opinion, but not when it comes to this team.  Buck Showalter should get the Manager of the Decade award now.

The fact remains, this is not a frightening lineup.  One of their best players, Nick Markakis, has been on the sidelines for a month.  Chris Davis has been in the majors for five years and doesn't really have a spot except DH, which he yielded to Thome.  Davis slammed 33 home runs this year, nearly half his career total of 77.  Adam Jones is a very fine player and they have some decent pitchers sprinkled about.  Jim Johnson saved 9 games in 2011 and 51 this year.  He has 71 saves for six years of service.  Still, when you look at the auto- and semi-automatic outs in this lineup you have to believe they are on a magic carpet ride.

Where will it end?  Haven't a clue.

Bad Calls Before And During

The addition of a Wild Card playoff game in each league beginning in the current season has alternately been called a one-game playoff, a play-in game, a winner-take-all game or, after last night's Cardinals-Braves game, a joke.

The alleged brain trust running MLB (hereafter know as ABTMLB) has rarely upheld a protest, especially in the post-season (fact-checkers alert here) and particularly on a judgement call.  Last night's appallingly bad call of the infield fly rule, made by the sixth umpire on the field down the left field foul line, may or may not have altered the outcome of the game, but it underscored the argument that a one-game, winner-take-all playoff in baseball should be restricted only to teams tied at the end of the regular season for a contending spot.

Baseball is a game of series.  Teams never travel to a city, play a single game, and move on (unless making up a rain out toward the end of the season).  That's not the nature of the game with every team normally carrying 4-5 starting pitchers.  It's all about setting up rosters to play a series, not a single game.  Managers spend considerable time trying to set up their rotations for the end of the season to have their top pitchers ready for crucial games.  This isn't football, played once a week in a different city.

The only reason the ABTMLB concocted a second Wild Card spot was money.  No surprise there.  That they limited the playoff to a single game was also pretty obvious:  the season already threatened to extend into November under the previous post-season setup.  This concoction was a travesty before last night's poor call and the fallout will surely increase pressure to revise the system.  The answer would be a shorter regular season, an unlikely development since all those teams failing to qualify for the post-season would probably lose money with fewer dates scheduled.  (Miami would probably save money since it wouldn't have to open its stadium and turn on the air conditioning for the seven fans, 300 ushers, two alligators and assorted other workers in attendance.)  The solution would be to discard interleague play, which the fans no longer give a damn about.  Even the players have little enthusiasm for this novelty whose luster wore off a long time ago.

Last night's call looked bad live; on replay it looked worse. The infield fly rule requires at its invocation that the umpire signal as soon as the ball reaches its apex and the fielder(s) "comfortably" settle under it.  In the Cardinals-Braves game the all came late in the action and the ball dropped because of poor communication by the fielders.  The Braves had played uncharacteristically poor defense last night, leaving them trailing the Cards.  They also failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities that could have altered the game's outcome. 

But all anyone will ever remember is the bad call.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Passage Of Time

Rootin' for the O's.  It's been a long, long time since the O's played post-season baseball (1997).  If there's any justice...oh, no, on second thought....

Just win one for Brooks, guys.

* * * * * * * *

The firing of Bobby Valentine still leads the headlines on ESPN's site more than a day after the fact proving once again how Red Sox-Yankees centric the all sports network is when it comes to baseball.

Valentine's firing was the worst kept secret in baseball.  Indeed, his firing was expected as soon as his hiring was announced.  Valentine was hired on the basis of a long-standing baseball tradition:  ownership had concluded the players had taken too much advantage of the previous manager and needed to be punished with an iron fist.  The Phillies tried it with Larry Bowa and look what that got them.

Baseball owners never learn.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Summing Up

81 up.  81 down.  Right where they started.  Mediocre through and through.  Losers of two of their last three to, appropriately, the new kings of the divisional hill, the Washington Nationals.

What happened?   Injuries.  Bullpen woes.  Lack of run support and clutch hitting.  Shoddy defense.  Too many AAA guys auditioning on the job.  If the Phils were going to snap their divisional winning streak, this was the way to do it, under-perform at nearly all levels.  It was a team effort with a few notable exceptions (see post below).

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley had forgettable seasons to varying degrees.  That Utley came back at all, which many including this observer doubted, was testament to his determination.  His defense was always above average at best, but it has declined.   Unfortunately, he is not the same hitter he once was either.  Often, his stroke looks too self-conscious and mannered.  He would settle into a rhythm once in a while only to lapse back into self-consciousness.  He still takes more first pitches than any player I've ever watched.  You would think he'd swing at one every now and then just to throw the pitcher off, but he gives away that first pitch 99.9% of the time.  (Fact-checkers can correct me at will on that percentage!)  Utley's career has entered a new phase in which he is constantly making adjustments for physical and psychological shortcomings.  I am not throwing out some cheap psychology here, but when a player is faced with his professional mortality, and he is, the effects are enormous.

As for Howard, he was expected to recover from his crippling, season-ending injury from 2011, but no one was sure how much he could recover in 2012.  The answers were mixed.  He played, he struggled to run and move, he struck out a ton (nothing new here), drove in runs at more or less his normal rate, fielded with the same mediocre skills he has always possessed, threw even more poorly and largely had a poor half season with his lowest batting average as a starter.  Of course his manager over-used him and Howard seemed willing to be over-used.  Despite the Phils' futilties, they actually seemed to have a remote chance late in the season to overcome their failings and make the expanded post-season.  However, a collapse in Houston ended the matter once and for all.  At that point, Howard should have taken a seat, but Charlie kept running him out there and one day he dropped a batting circle weight on his foot and broke a toe.  Then, and only then, did Charlie shut him down. 

Roy Halladay also faced his own professional mortality this season, pitching poorly over the second two thirds and going on the DL for a period of time.  The insult added to injury was the ridiculous start in Miami last weekend during which he was rocked.  Nearly everyone in the media expressed the tired cliche that Halladay had "earned" the opportunity for one last start because he was the consummate professional, "a warrior" and had showed in a bullpen session he was up to the task physically.  Horse feathers!  He was batted around like a September call-up.  It had been noted by more than a few scouts as early as last Spring that Halladay appeared to have lost a noticeable amount of velocityl.  He bristled at the suggestion.  Those nameless scouts were right, of course.  Now, the Phillies hope a soon-to-be 36 year old pitcher with tens of thousands of pitches in his right shoulder can still cut the mustard.  It's a doubt the Phils never saw coming...even with a year's warning.

John Mayberry is one unpopular dude in most of the blogosphere, but he isn't unpopular here.  My reading, and it's as speculative as one can be, is that he is the kind of player who needs his confidence boosted all the time.  If Charlie were to tell him he's the starting ___ fielder next Spring and that he shouldn't worry about his job, just go out there and play, he'd been a classic late bloomer.  Now, is this wishful thinking on my part?  Absolutely!  Would Mayberry be better if he could lay of breaking stuff away?  No doubt about it!  But I am sticking with my hunch for another season, at the end of which I am willing to stand corrected...if necessary.

Cliff Lee was living proof the numbers don't always tell the whole story...let alone the truth.  He suffered an astonishing lack of run support including yesterday's loss.  He also gave up his share of gopher balls throughout the season in occasionally otherwise tight games.  Still, his ERA was 3.20 and his won-loss record was 6-9.  He fanned more than 200 batters but still couldn't win consistently.  Lee's demeanor throughout the season often was one of pained frustration which even boiled over once in the dugout.  It was a very disappointing season for the left-hander who only a year before was so delighted to be in Philadelphia.

And The Envelopes, Please

Why wait for one last game?  It's awards time, so without further adieu....

MVP, full season division:  Carlos Ruiz.  This one was easy.  Without Chooch the Phils finish in the deep end of the Panama Canal.

MVP, second half division:  Kyle Kendrick.  Without him the Phils would be looking for another starter this off-season when, frankly, they have more pressing needs.  He solidified his spot as a number four.

Cy Young, team division:  Cole Hamels.  He signed a big contract and got even better.  A stellar campaign topped off by a career-high 17 wins.

Special Mention I:  Michael "Mini Mart" Martinez.  With only one game remaining, the Mini one cannot hit below .100 for the season, but hitting below his weight is a distinct possibility.All he has to do is stop getting cheap hits like last night.  C'mon, Mini, you can do it!  Had Martinez cooperated a little more he could have achieved baseball immortality by topping (or is it "bottoming"?) the Mendoza line.  The "Martinez line" doesn't quite roll off the tongue, but it was the Mini One's only shot at fame.

Special Mention II:  Dom Brown has clearly demonstrated he is a lousy fielder.  His poor defense makes you wonder what player the scouts were watching as he came up through the minors as a highly touted prospect.  Last night, he leaped at the fence in vain for a home run off the bat of Adam LaRoche and, as Gary Matthews pointed out, was about three or four feet to the side  from where the ball cleared.  It's one thing to leap and fail to snare a fly ball that sails over your glove; it's quite another to be in a different zip code at the time.  Brown also overran a foul ball later in the game and looked quite awkward in the process.  Can Brown outplay Darin Ruff in the field?  Inquiring reporters want to know.

Special Mention III:  Jimmy Rollins finished with a career high 62 walks, something fans have been pleading with him to do for years, and still had his lowest OBP in many a season.  Jimmy gets the special Topsy Turvy Award for an up-and-down season marked by achieving 2000 hits and being benched for failing to run out a pop up.

Special Mention IV:  Kevin Frandsen had two more hits last night.  He still doesn't get any respect, however.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Some Good News

Not all was misery in 2012.

Cole Hamels concluded his stellar season with his seventeenth win yesterday.  He could easily have won 20 win a little more support from his offense and bullpen.  Hamels' decision to re-sign with the Phils during the season was one of those "he likes us!" moments.

Jim Thome was traded to Baltimore in mid-season to give the big guy a chance to DH exclusively and, perhaps, reach the post-season one more time.  He accomplished both goals.

Speaking of the O's, they have had an astonishing year by any measure.  The most telling mark of all was their ability to win close games late or in extra innings.  Looking over their roster, one is struck by the absence of many marquee players.  Their most consistent star over the years, Nick Markakis, was injured several weeks ago and probably won't return for the post-season.  Adam Jones has had a fine year.  Jim Johnson saved 50 games and counting.  There are more than a few retreads, has-beens or never-weres on the club, but they have kept on winning.  GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter are rightfully being given a lot of credit, but from a management standpoint the biggest change is probably that infamously meddling owner Peter Angelos has stayed in the background and allowed his front office to run the team.

The alleged brain trust of MLB added a second Wild Card spot before the start of the season to generate (in this order) more income and more fan interest in more cities.  They have succeeded...up to a point.  The second WC winners play a single elimination game, which is bound to leave a bad taste in the collective mouths of the players and their fans.  "You mean that's it?????!!!!"

But, then, again, not all was great news....

Several big articles have appeared in national newspapers and journals hailing the return of post-season baseball to the nation's capital.  Here's one observer who still thinks DC is a lousy baseball town.  Check out the attendance figures for the home games in Washington through yesterday:

76 games
2,264,786 overall attendance
29,799 average
71.8 capacity

Hardly overwhelming support for the first post-season baseball team in DC since 1933.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Doc Halladay got his wish, to make one more start in the 2012 season. essentially overruling common sense and the Phils' alleged brain trust.  His performance was much like most of them since a quick start out of the gate in April, that is, labored, rocky and uninspiring looking forward.  Halladay enters the off-season a huge question mark for 2013.  Nothing he's done or said since going on the DL earlier this season has dispelled that notion.

Ryan Howard's injury-plagued season is also over.  No, he didn't aggravate the Achilles heel injury that sidelined him until July.  This time he dropped a batting weight on his foot, breaking a toe.  If that circle from the back to the front of his size 15 foot (guessing here) isn't a leading candidate for poster injury for the 2012 Phils, I don't know what is.

About the only excitement remaining with four games to play out is whether or not Michael Martinez will end up hitting his weight.  As of this morning, his avoirdupois leads his average .176 to .173.  It doesn't appear there are enough AB's looming to get his average below .100.  Too bad.  It would make a nice storyline in a season with precious few of interest.

Kevin Frandsen may be the most consistent sub ever to be ruled out for more playing time six months in advance of the next season.  All the career minor leaguer has done is bat well over .300, field decently (at best) and play the last few weeks with a stress fracture in his leg.  For all that he gets a shot at a bench position next year.  True, he doesn't have the power numbers or flashy glove normally associated with the better third basemen, but with so many other holes to fill, are the Phillies really expecting a big name to land at the hot corner next season, especially with the abortive Chase Utley move off the table?  On the other hand, he has hit well above his career average.  He is, at best, an uninspiring option.

Phillipe Aumont has gotten a lot of work with the Phils since his September call-up and his performance has been consistent with his reputation in the minors:  hard stuff, lots of strikeouts, lots of walks.  It would seem to this non-expert that by this point in his career command is either there or not and never will change much.  Sure, a pitcher can develop a mew pitch over time, but command is harder to acquire.  Aumont isn't a Steve Dalkowski by any means, either in terms of speed or lack of command, but he is consistently erratic.  When he overthrows his breaking stuff, the guys in the dugout should be on alert!

Josh Lindblom, picked up from the Dodgers at the trade deadline, is another inconsistent pitcher about whom the Phils remain optimistic.  Like Aumont, he has good stuff, and like Aumont, he doesn't control it very well.

For all the arms that have paraded through the bullpen this year, very few answers have been provided.  At least one good, consistent one is a high priority along with an outfielder.  More on this after the patient is put out of his misery.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Prepare Yourselves

It was altogether fitting the Phillies' home season ended with Jimmy Rollins popping up for the final out.  For the first time in 12 years the Phils finished one game under .500 at the Bank.  For a team some observers in March thought was still able to contend, a losing record at home sums up its shortcomings.

Now they go on the road for the final six games of this miserable season.  Will they continue to run out a boatload of youngsters auditioning for spots on next year's roster?  Yes...and no.  Roy Halladay gets the start this weekend.  Some commentators have seriously postulated Halladay has "earned" the right to pitch this game given his stellar career, commitment and work ethic and, oh by the way, the "clean bill of health" he received from the non-medical staff of Rich Dubee and Charlie Manuel when throwing a bullpen session the other day.  File this decision under "Give Me A Break!!!"

On another mysterious front, Chase Utley continues to take balls at third base.  Clips showing him doing everything from charging balls to deliberately bobbling balls and picking them up to hurry a throw across the diamond.  Anyone who has watched Utley knows how determined he is about everything baseball.  The same people will have noted he double clutches on a lot of throws to first base.  I've never seen any other second baseman except Chuck Knobloch turn more plays into close ones on routine balls hit to second.  Utley may have the reflexes for third (though I secretly doubt it), but he doesn't have the arm.  If he gets a chance to play there before the season ends, the Marlins' and Nats' grounds crews won't have over-water the patch in front of home plate; they should be able to lay down bunts without any help.

All of the Utley-to-third nonsense is predicated on putting Freddy Galvis at second base next season.  Galvis will clearly improve the defense up the middle, but do the Phils need another automatic out in their lineup?

The starting rotation next year features at least two dependable pitchers in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee (provided the latter gets some run support), one huge question mark in Halladay, an erratic number four guy in Kyle Kendrick and a back of the rotation type in Vance Worley, who had a marvelous freshman year and a sophomore year marred by injury and...well...perhaps familiarity.  Jonathan Papelbon will be the overpaid closer.  As for the middle relief and setup man?  Take your pick from a half dozen faces, or go get someone proven.

The problem with that last suggestion is obvious:  the Phils have to go and get someone proven to play the outfield.  Rumors they are interested in B.J. Upton are disturbing to this fan.  Upton has had some behavioral issues and his bat has, too, in the last few years.  Signing Upton would be a mistake.

The Phils find themselves in the position of a football team trailing by two or more touchdowns with about 12 minutes remaining in the game.  The temptation is to keep throwing deep and make up ground as quickly as possible.  The better approach is take it one score at a time, mixing up the offense.

The Phils won't score all of their needs in one year, so prepare yourselves for a longer rebuilding period.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Kyle Kendrick v 2.0 picked a lousy time to revert to v 1.0, but why blame him for the Phils' inevitable decline?

The miserable series in Houston is what really put an end to their faint hopes.  The succeeding series vs. NY, Atlanta and the Washington all were played with one hand on the life support switch.  It will be thrown in the next few nights, putting everyone out of their collective misery.

What we do know with certainty is the Phils' alleged brain trust is going to have its most difficult off-season since the first departure of Ed Wade.  The entire picture is blurry from the starting rotation to middle relief to offense and defense.  There are too many holes to fill in one off-season and, frankly, too many hopes riding on gimpy arms, knees, backs and, wouldn't you know it, Achilles heels!

The younger daughter of a close friend of mine is a devoted fan who lives and dies with her Phils.  She has really never known the desert through which this franchise wandered for so many years in the late '80's and '90s with few exceptions.  Five straight divisional championships, two World Series and one winner-took-all championship season seemed to her young mind to be the norm.   She knows nothing of Steve Jeltz and his ilk.  All was Utley and Howard for her...until now.

She will adjust, perforce.  The Phils will begin rebuilding, hopefully within a reasonable amount of time.  There are no guarantees, however.  We jaded old-timers know that all too well.  My beloved Orioles are concluding their first winning season since 1997.

The Phils have been dethroned by a heretofore perennial loser, Washington.  Several top draft choices plus a shrewd trade and free agent signing here and there and, voila! (not really that fast) the Nats became winners.  It didn't happen overnight, and neither will the Phillies' reconstruction.

So, let's get this one over with and get started on the next dynasty.  It was a very good run.

Monday, September 24, 2012

All But Official

While the Phillies await mathematical elimination from the Wild Card chase, aka, reality, it's worth pointing out no one aspect of their game led to their dethronement as NL East champs.  It was a real team effort.

The starting pitching was erratic at best, none more so than Roy Halladay, whose pummeling on Saturday afternoon in front of a national television audience (though in all likelihood the majority of the nation tuned out to watch their favorite football teams) marked one of the lowest points of the veteran hurler's career and perhaps a sign that the end has arrived earlier than anyone thought possible.

Sunday's loss, 2-1, highlighted the offensive funk the Phils were in and out of all season.  Ryan Howard's game-ending strikeout was an all-to-familiar ending to many games.  Howard has been on a home run and rbi tear of late, but his futility and flailing have been consistent since his return.

Just when Chase Utley appears to have regained his stroke, he too lapses back into mediocrity.

The bullpen has been completely erratic all season, relying too often on AAA pitchers auditioning for their chances.

There were too many injuries and far too many inadequacies for the Phils to contend this season.  Now, they will play out the string and begin the process of rebuilding.  It won't be easy with all the holes they have to fill.

* * * * * * * *

I digress.

The Eagles were butchered in the desert Sunday afternoon, the carcasses left to bleach in the sun.

Afterwards, Andy Reid uttered the predictable "This one's on me" crap for which he is famous.  The coach also said his team was not prepared well, another predictable comment.

Surprise us one day, Andy, and tell us BEFORE the game your team isn't prepared.  Then, we won't be so shocked when the fall on their faces.

There were goats galore.  Nnamdi Asomugha was beaten yet again and looked utterly helpless in the process.  He came to Philadelphia with a big reputation, but in the time I've watched him (mercifully infrequently) he has looked absolutely overmatched.

There were also many unprofessional moments in the game, but none more so than DeSean Jackson's whining about pass interference while the play was still unfolding.  That sums up the lack of preparation on this team, its inability to assume responsibility.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Still Ticking

The odds are still daunting to say the least but the Phils are making these last few weeks of the regular season interesting.  With eleven games remaining the Phils won their eighth straight game at home, a 6-2 victory over visiting Atlanta, to cut their deficit for the final Wild Card spot to three games.

Don't get your hopes up.

The math is there but the probability isn't encouraging.

Last night the Phils only managed six hits against Atlanta, but four of these were solo home runs, the most dingers the Phils produced in one game all season.  Ryan Howard homered for the third straight game.  Chase Utley, Kevin Frandsen and Chooch also homered.

The real star of the game, however, was Kyle Kendrick, who won his tenth game of the season and would be the hands-down winner for Comeback of the Year player if the voting started after July 4th.  The new Kendrick has been the key pitcher throughout this late run to respectability.  Stepping into the fourth spot in the rotation, he has been a bulldog.  Every time he goes out the Phils believe (and usually do) they will win.

* * * * * * * *

The night also marked the start of the final series appearance in Philadelphia by the Braves Chipper Jones, President for Life of the NAPK, the National Association of Phillies Killers.  Jones has had a remarkable, Hall of Fame career, propelled in no small measure by his gaudy numbers against the Phils.

So long, Chipper.  We won't miss your sweet swing here, but we will elsewhere.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Big Piece, Big Worries, Big Hit

No one has taken more heat in the press and blogosphere lately than Ryan Howard.  I've piled on with the best of them.

Howard's return from a major season-ending injury (literally!) was perhaps premature as he clearly hobbled in his debut in July of this year.  Since then every expert (or at least several thousand of them) has postulated his/her theory as to the source of his anemic batting average and utter futility versus lefties. 

Some have argued his hasn't regained sufficient strength in his injured leg, the source of much of his power and clearly an aspect of any batter's rhythm.  Others have wondered if his frustrations were a clear sign of his inevitable decline.Still others have put forth the big-man-always-struggles-more-to-recover-his-health theory, one which likely has the least scientific evidence behind it.  Many have worried he is playing too much too soon because the Phils' alleged brain trust still think they have a chance to make the post-season.

Through it all the faithful and scribes have fretted over the huge contract Howard signed a few years ago, which still has three years at $25 million per to go.

Despite all this hand-wringing and brow furrowing, Howard has been knocking in runs at a clip more or less in keeping with his historic average.  It's literally been a case of feast or famine for the Big Piece.

Last night, he silenced all the critics...for a stroking a game-winning home run with two outs in the ninth inning.  Prior to that the Phils did all their scoring in the 3-2 win in the first inning when Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a home run, the 43rd time J-Roll has done so.  The Phils managed only one more hit until Howard's big one in the intervening eight innings.

But it was enough.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


What are the Phils' prospects after dropping three of four to the No Name Astros?   NONE.

They lost in recognizable fashion.  The aberration was the winning since the trade deadline.  Doc Halladay may still be recovering from his injury but the growing feeling is he has begun his decline.

Ryan Howard has decent numbers based strictly on runs batted in per game, but he is clearly no longer a good big league hitter.  He claims he is still no 100% healthy, and who am I to doubt him, but his batting tendencies look awfully familiar and, frankly, awful.

Chase Utley is not the answer at third base.  Neither, in case you wondered, are Michael Martinez and Kevin Frandsen.

The Phillies alleged brain trust needs one good outfielder, a center fielder, a third baseman and a reliable middle reliever.  That means John Mayberry and Domonic Brown are your corner outfielders in 2013.

The Inquirer noted since 2004 the Astros are the only NL club with a winning record against the Phils.  That information comes as no surprise.

Same Old Same Old

I could just as well re-post the preceding entry with a today's date.  Little has changed except a few inescapable facts, not the least of which is the Phils have dropped two of three thus far to the lowly Astros.  What is more galling is that a bunch of nobodies including several AAA or lower pitchers and a guy from the Mexican League shut out the Phils Saturday night, 5-0.

I've watched portions of two of the three games against the Astros and STILL cannot name more than one player on the team.  I don't know the manager's name.  I don't know the coaches' name.  I have no idea who owns the team.  I saw the empty stands and wondered who draws fewer fans, the Astros or Marlins.

Re: the Astros move to the AL next year (paraphrasing Oscar Levant's legendary line when Milton Berle converted from Judaism to Christian Science), "our loss is their loss".

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Free, Gratis & For Nothing

Sorry, sports fans, but they pay me to worry.  (Actually, they don't pay me a damn thing; I worry free, gratis and for nothing).

If any team has given the Phils fits over the last few seasons in September it has been Houston.  This year the Astros are probably worse than at any time in the past several years, but for some reason their eyes widen when they see red pinstripes.  Let's hope this year Houston plays to form, i.e., rotten.  Then, they can move to the AL and the Phils will never see them again.  Oh, wait, interleague play expands next year.  Maybe the Phils will see them more often!!???

* * * * * * * *

John Mayberry continues to make a case for being given an UNCONDITIONAL spot in next year's starting outfield.  Are you listening, doubters?

* * * * * * * *

It has become pitiful to watch Ryan Howard bat.  He's Dave Kingman without as many home runs per AB.  (Actually, I didn't look that up, so I could be wrong.)  He's batting below .230.  His disgust after another strikeout has become routine.

* * * * * * * *

Can a team really make the playoffs with Michael Martinez starting at third base?  I guess we are about to find out.

* * * * * * * *

"Red Light" Rollins is at it again.  Time to acknowledge Jimmy is great when the going gets tough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

They Are Risen

When you win 14 of 18 games just to reach sea level you know you've been swimming upstream.  Yet, the Phillies have put on quite a surge to project themselves, albeit tentatively at best, back into the second Wild Card race.

The lords of MLB decided last off-season to expand the playoff system by adding a second Wild Card team in each league.  More teams, more fan interest, more money.  Of course there is also the possibility of a slightly longer season extending into November, but why quibble about small matters like playing outdoors in Detroit or Chicago in the same month Thanksgiving falls?

The Phils have roared back to even on the strength of Kyle Kendrick's sudden discovery he's been bulldog all along and just didn't know it.  Then, too, there has been the emergence of Erik Kratz., a longtime minor leaguer who finally got a chance in the Show and made the most of it, offensively and defensively.

John Mayberry has also had a big hand in the surge.  So have a bunch of youngsters in the bullpen, all of whom spent most of the season in the minor leagues.

Cliff Lee is winning again.  Roy Halladay has pitched moderately well.  Cole Hamels has been, well, Cole Hamels.  Kendrick has been sensational.  The fifth spot, previously inhabited by Kendrick, has been manned by minor league pitcher of the year Tyler Cloyd.  Jonathan Papelbon has been doing his best imitation of the Orioles' old closer, Full pack Stanhouse, whose propensity to work himself into trouble forced his manager Earl Weaver to smoke a pack of cigarettes in one half inning.

Chooch is back, catching and, of course, hitting.  Chase Utley seems to have found his stroke.  Jimmy is hitting home runs and occasionally running out popups.  Ryan Howard is...well...Ryan Howard, that is to say, striking out at prodigious rates, flailing at balls low and away, and occasionally hitting mistakes.  Kevin Frandsen has gone down with an injury so Michael Martinez, who only recently was making a serious run at a sub .100 batting average, is hitting a little, raising his average just below the Mendoza line.

So the Phils, given up for dead at the trade deadline, have risen to give their fans [false] hope of an extension to the post-season run of five seasons.

Just don't bet the ranch on their making it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

All Over The Place

Random thoughts while waiting for the NHL season not to start....

Penn State placekicker Sam Ficken must already be nostalgic for the era during which players' names were not written on the back of their jerseys.

* * * * * * * *

All Summer we heard how the Eagles' season depended on Michael Vick's remaining healthy.  Well, he's still standing after yesterday's skin-of-their-teeth victory over a mediocre Cleveland team, only now the questions all seem to concern whether or not his poor performance revealed a lot of "rust".  Commentators during the game (yes, for some strange reason I watched about ten or fifteen minutes of telecast) questioned his judgement on many occasions, four of which ended in interceptions.

If after ten years in the league Vick's judgement is still questioned I think it's safe to say his health is not the biggest problem facing the Eagles.  Vick has never been quick on his feet in the metaphorical sense.

* * * * * * **

The Phillies have won 12 of their last 15 games and should have won at least one more of them (the catastrophe a week ago Sunday night in Atlanta).  In the process they played mostly teams with something to play for including the Braves and Reds.  This past weekend they played a team with nothing to play for or lose and they swept them.  The late season push has the Phils six games back in the second, not first, Wild Card race, trailing four teams and tied with Milwaukee. 

The schedule is their friend and foe.  The Phils only have 22 games remaining in the season, but a lot of them including the next seven are against lousy, cellar-dwelling teams.  Still, there's too much ground to make up at this point.

* * * * * * * *

John Mayberry gets no respect.   Many say that's deserved.  I disagree.  Given a chance to play every day no matter what, he's responded.  Those who argue who was given that chance earlier in the season don't know what they are talking about.  He was in and out of the lineup early on; now, he's in there every day.  EVERY means without exception.

* * * * * * * *

Now, back to the NHL.  There appears to be a real chance the owners will lock out the players again.  The league already lost one season a few years ago.  If the owners are that arrogant, let's hope the players have options in their contracts to play overseas and that en masse they exercise those options.  I can think of no sport that is more demanding on its players than hockey.  Their careers are relatively short on average and full of injuries.  The game, including its equipment, can be dangerous.  The pace is astonishingly taxing.  Fighting is sanctioned; indeed, goons are sought by every team.  The players deserve as much as they can get in the admittedly overpaid world of professional sports.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Don't Go, Mini Mart, Don't Go!

The legendary Mendoza line is in danger, sports fans.  That's right, .200 may no longer be the dividing line between mere mediocrity and outright piss poor.  What, you ask, has happened to move the line south?

Michael Martinez, aka, Mini Mart has happened, that's what!  If the Phillies' Martinez can manage to "run the table" for the remainder of the season, he could presumably end up hitting below .100.

I don't know about the rest of you but I'm rooting for him...hard.  That kind of ineptitude deserves to be immortalized.


Let the record show it is the morning of September 5, 2012, and the Baltimore Orioles are tied for first place in the American League East.  Go ahead, sports fans, name five players on that team!!

* * * * * * * *

Jimmy Rollilns stroked his 2,000th hit last night, a double, to move into fourth place all time on the team.  He needs  a few hundred more to become the all-time leader.

Earlier in the evening Rich Hoffmann, one of the best newspaper writers in town, noted how Jimmy had always been a "red light" player who knows to and more to the point rises to the occasion.  And so he did last night in Cincinnati.

* * * * * * * *

Kyle Kendricks, savaged in this space as much as anywhere, pitched another good game last night and deserved to win...or at least not lose.  He has solidified his spot in the rotation, ahead of Vance Worley, who may have struggled because of floating bodies in his elbow or because he just isn't that good and the league caught up with  him.

* * * * * * * *

Chase Utley continues to take ground balls at third base.  Says here is ain't never gonna' happen.  He doesn't have the arm for the position and, frankly, he doesn't have the instincts for the hot corner.  It's one thing to charge a ball and flip it to first with your glove hand and quite another to charge a topper at third and throw across your body.  That scenario doesn't even begin to discuss screamers hit to your right or left.  No way.  Admirable, perhaps, but no way.

* * * * * * * *

John Mayberry is much bashed in the blogosphere, usually by meatheads who condemn him for playing cold most of the year and heating up at the end.  Funny how it always seems he gets more playing time at the end, thus giving him a chance to get into some kind of rhythm.  The meatheads don't seem to care about that.

* * * * * * **

Speaking of outfield hopefuls, it now appears the biggest question about Dom Brown is not his glove or his bat.  It's his health.  Brown has missed a lot of time due to injuries throughout his career.  If he can't stay on the field it doesn't really matter how good he might be.

* * * * * * * *

Kevin  Frandsen has hit well during his stint at third base.  Fielding is another matter.  Has he earned a chance to start next season?  The Phils' alleged brain trust keeps saying he hasn't.  There aren't too many free agents out there who would replace Placido Polanco, whose career is least in Philadelphia.  Frandsen might get substantial playing time next season by default.

* * * * * * * *

Everyone with the exception of Mr. and Mrs. Papelbon agrees the Phils overpaid big time to sign the closer.  His numbers may not look too shabby, but his performances, especially lately, have been.  Moreover, watching his little act on the mound is tiresome to someone in front of a tv screen; I cannot imagine how the eight guys wearing the same uniform on the field view it, but I'll bet they'd like him to pick up the pace.  Papelbon has served up a few game-losing dingers of late, but his walks and deep counts are what really drive me nuts.

Monday, September 03, 2012

There's An App For That

If, like me, you got together with friends over this holiday weekend, you probably didn't watch yesterday's game versus Atlanta, especially given its 5PM start.

Naturally, I did check the score periodically, on my phone,  and upon learning the Phils had built a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning, I checked in far less frequently.  Even when I looked again in the bottom of the ninth and saw the Phils still maintained a comfortable 7-3 lead, I was quite pleased with the imminent prospect of their sweeping the Braves in Atlanta.

Refreshing the score on my phone, I began to worry slightly (hey, after all, these were the 2012 Phillies) when the ninth inning seemed to drag on.  I delved deeper into the app to discover Jonathan Papelbon was on the mound.  Suddenly, the small bases on the displayed diamond had all turned yellow.  Then the score changed.  7-5.  I excused myself briefly from our company to study the display on my phone more closely.  The score lingered at 7-5 for what seemed like hours not minutes.  Then I hit refresh one more time and the word "Final" appeared next to the totals, Atlanta 8, Phillies 7.

What had happened???

The standing President of the Phillies-killers Society, one Chipper Jones, had launched a walk-off three run homer.  Just like that a victory was snatched from the Phils.  Just like that a clubhouse turned silent and numb.  Just like that a flight to Cincinnati grew much longer. 

In a season of ugly losses and misery, this one would stand out.

After the game, Jonathan Papelbon demurred, saying it was just another loss in a bunch of losses this season.  What else does a guy being paid $12.5 million a season to prevent such endings say under the circumstances?

Friday, August 31, 2012

What's Up, J-Roll?

Damnit, Jimmy, what's going on?

You love the game and play it well.  You re-signed for a three-year deal with the only club you've ever known and most fans (but not all) rejoiced at your return.

So, what's with the lazy play, especially after pulling the same stunt a few weeks ago?  Jimmy is ruining his legacy, which for some folks is tarnished already by his lack of plate discipline and tendency to swing for the fences.  One recent commenter wondered why he didn't run out yesterday's popup given how much experience he has in that particular area.  It's true, he pops up more than ever. 

So, what's up, J-Roll?  Tired?  Bored?  Deflated?  Or are you just indifferent now?

More than one writer including Bob Brookover in today's Inquirer, emphasized how Jimmy's selfishness shifted the focus from another fine start by Kyle Kendrick.  It's likely his teammates are more than a little bored with his antics, too.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welcome Packet

Welcome to Philadelphia, Tyler Cloyd.  In the packet we left in your locker you will find all sorts of useful information about local attractions and customs in the City of Brotherly Love including but not limited to  places to get the best hoagie, how to park overnight in the middle of South Broad Street, the origins of the Mummers and which museum currently houses Easkins' The Gross Clinic.

You will not find run support, however.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where Does It Hurt?

If there is another team in baseball with less credibility when it comes to injury I'd like to know which one.

Michael Schwimmer is sent down to AAA and refuses to report claiming he's injured.  The Phillies' alleged brain trust says otherwise.

Vance Worley is pitching with floating chips in his elbow and truly stinking up the joint.  Neither he nor the alleged brain trust are willing to say anything about the relationship between his injury and poor performance.  His ERA, however, speaks volumes.

Domonic Brown, the 24 year old fading fast phenom, has another injury, a bum knee, but is "playing" in the outfield where he continues to make Greg Luzinski look like Willie Mays.  That running leaping catch in right field a week or so ago was clearly an aberration.

Roy Halladay starts the year with noticeably less mustard on his fastball, denies there is an issue, eventually goes on the DL, then comes back less than overwhelming.

Ryan Howard, he of the torn Achilles, returns at roughly mid-season, clearly limps for a while, but has had very few days off in a losing season.

Chase Utley.....   Well, you know about Chase.  Only he knows what is really going on.  He looks like the Chase of old on the base path, so who knows?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Count On It

It bears repeating....

Confidence is an incalculably large part of success.  The assurance a player will be in the lineup despite one or two "failed" outings contributes mightily to his ability to overcome short-term frustration and disappointment.  The converse, that a couple of hitless nights or errors will cost a player an opportunity to start undermine future success.

The more John Mayberry and Dom Brown play, the more confident they are and the better they perform.

Count on it.

UPDATE:  What was I thinking???????

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Open For Business

I am taking orders for personalized Reverse Curses.  Walk-ins are welcome.

What's happening, you ask?

Dom Brown.

Just this past week I wrote he may hit "some" but he'll never be a decent outfielder.  So, of course, he hits a ton and despite two botched plays at the wall (Bobby Abreu syndrome???) he made a sensational catch last night in the first inning versus Cincinnati.

His home run was the only other bright spot last night, so there isn't much else to do but admit I have the Midas touch, in reverse.

We are open M-F 8AM - 5PM and Saturdays til noon.  We are closed Sundays.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Inquiring Minds

Inquiring minds wanted to know and several answers were provided in last night's late-inning loss to Cincinnati.

Question:  Where has Antonio Bastardo been these last few weeks?

Answer:  Where he's been all season, i.e., working on his home run pitch.

Question:  Why hasn't Cholly used Jonathan Papelbon more?

Answer:  Because he's just as likely to serve up a game-losing home run ball as earn a save.

Question:  What's up with Cliff Lee?

Answer:  Not a heck of a lot.  He pitches well enough to win...sometimes...but the Phils rarely do anyway when he's on the mound.

Question:  With Lee struggling, will the Phillies' alleged brain trust rethink long-term contracts for pitchers?

Answer:  Cole Hamels

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ups And Downs

Kyle Kendrick has more lives than the proverbial cat.  On Sunday he turned in a stellar performance as the Phils routed Milwaukee in the Beer and Bratwurst city 8-0.  Every time we drag out Kendrick's obituary he starts with his "reports of my demise" routine. 

Sunday's outing was his second straight good show.  Right now he's listed as the club's fifth starter, but other than Cole Hamels he's been pitching like a number two lately.

The putative number two these days is Roy Halladay and he continues to struggle.  Last night he was dinked and dunked for two runs to begin the game against Cincinnati and ended up going seven innings. He yielded ten hits, five earned runs and a base on balls while striking out three.  His teammates, in a rare show of support, bludgeoned the Reds' pitching for twelve runs.  Halladay evened his mark at 7-7 but hardly looked like the Doc of old.  The velocity is still down.

Meanwhile, Dom Brown is starting to sting the ball.  He still won't remind anyone of Jayson Werth in right let alone Roberto Clemente,  but he sure looks like a more confident player every day.  Nothing improves one's self-image more than the notion that despite an o for, you're still going to be in there the next night.

John Mayberry, Jr, also had a good night.  Juan Pierre had another good night. And how 'bout that Erik Kratz?  If Chooch was the MVP of the first half, Kratz is making a strong run for biggest surprise if not MVP of the second half!!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some Hit. No Field

Dom Brown may eventually hit in the big leagues but he is never going to field.  Two straight nights of botched plays were sufficient evidence he is a mediocre outfielder at best.  Of the three outfield spots, his "best" might be left field.  There is no doubt right is his worst!

Two nights ago he failed to make a catch that turned into a grand slam home run.  A good major league outfielder would have caught it.  Last night he clearly misplayed a ball that opened the flood gates with two outs and led to another Phillies' loss.  After the game he huddled with long-time teammate, pitcher Vance Worley, and basically apologized.

So, where do we stand with my fearless predictions of a week or two ago regarding Brown and John Mayberry?  Let's just say the Phils' scouting department hasn't called.

Speaking of the scouting department, did anyone ever watch Brown play defense as he came up?  Was he seriously listed not only as the Phils' top prospect a few years ago but as one of the best prospects in all of baseball?  You have to wonder which outfielder the people who compile these lists were watching.

Friday, August 17, 2012

No Retractions Here

Wow, do I have my finger on the pulse, or what????!!!!  (See post below).

Jimmy  is in hot water least with the fans and blogosphere.  His manager is another story.

After failing to run out a ground ball and quitting half way to second base on a double play ball, Jimmy was rewarded with a trip to Cholly's wood shed and a roasting on the talk shows and internet.  Frankly, I stand by yesterday's post:  as goes Jimmy, so go the Phillies.  Yes, the last five years were good ones, but this year is a real stinker and Jimmy is right in the middle of the foul smell.

He's had plenty of company including Cliff Lee and newcomer Josh Lindbolm.  Lee may have struck out 12 Brewers last night but he also gave up three home runs, which Inky writer Matt Gelb, normally a realist described this way:  Besides three mistakes that landed as Milwaukee home runs, Lee was dominant.  Mistakes?  Lindblom was more efficient, at least, giving up everything he had on a grand slam.

The other thing I noted in this AM's Inquirer was a long article on the major-league readiness of Iron Pigs' manager Ryne Sandberg.  If Charlie's on the hot seat it would be a classic case of dismissing the manager because you can't fire the players.  Oh, sure, Cholly isn't the best strategist, and his handling of veterans is often too lenient, but he's been saddled with a lousy team and the most horrendous bullpen of his tenure.

Another aspect of the Phils' miserable season has been the awful defense.  Last night's latest fatal error was brought to you by third baseman Kevin Frandsen, who every day resembles the AAA player he is.

Injuries.  Subpar starting pitching.  Horrendous bullpen.  Poor defense.  Sounds like a losing proposition to me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


During the Golden Age that is drawing to a close, one mantra around these parts has been "as goes Jimmy, so go the Phils".

Well, Jimmy keeps on going.  Last night he played his 1731 game at shortstop surpassing Larry Bowa to claim the top spot in number of games played at that position in Phillies franchise history.  He celebrated by stroking the 41st lead-off home run in his career, a shot that proved to be the game winner in a 1-0 victory over Miami.

One byproduct of longevity is almost certainly a modicum of abuse.  Perhaps only a Cal Ripken managed to avoid it in his long career (actually, some argued his streak was hurting the team at one point).  J-Roll has endured his share, largely because he isn't seen as the prototypical lead-off hitter.  He isn't patient, doesn't walk and generally swings for the fences rather than play small ball.

That said, he is nearing 2,000 hits, a milestone reached by only three other Phillies players (Mike Schmidt, Ed Delahanty and Richie Ashburn) and is among the team leaders in doubles and steals.  All of this while playing Gold Glove or near GG shortstop for all these years.

Oh, and one other small matter:  he loves to play the game and it shows.  His smile is electric.  He chats up every first baseman in baseball.  He has energy.  He motivates his teammates.  Look in the dugout nearly every time the camera catches Jimmy he's chatting away.

No wonder "as goes Jimmy, so go the Phils"!

P.S.  They've gone pretty damn well for the last five years.

Monday, August 13, 2012


In no particular order....

It's hard to know just how much Vance Worley's elbow issues have affected his command, but one thing is clear: his command has been poor much of this season.  He's giving up a lot of hits and walks and throwing a lot of pitches.  His best outing came against Colorado, hardly a ringing endorsement that he had overcome the Sophomore Jinx.  Indeed, Worley has been a bit of a bust this season.

Not as much as Cliff Lee, however.  Again we watched as Lee dominated the opposition until he left a fat one over the plate.  In nearly every outing this season Lee has had a bad inning, or two, that costs him the ballgame.  No one has been a bigger bust this year than Lee.  No one.  How do you spell B U S T?  Two wins by mid-August.

As for my recent prediction about John Mayberry, what can I say?  I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  I want big John to succeed, but opposing pitchers clearly have his number.  A guy who pulls off with as much consistency has he does is never going to change.  Dead wrong.

Juan Pierre has been the biggest surprise of this season other than Chooch.  In late March or April I wondered what kind of outfield would have Pierre starting?  His arm is shot.  He's a slap-happy hitter whose best days are behind him.  Well, his arm is shot, but the slap-happy hitter just keeps on keepin' on.  Yesterday, he beat out an infield single for a walk-off victory in the eleventh inning, allowing the Phils to improbably take two of three from the visiting Cardinals.

If Chase Utley is hurting it's hard to tell because he is playing with abandon.  No where was that more evident than his takeout slide Saturday that broke up a double play.  Utley has been very streaky at the plate.  Overall, he has put together some good games where he appears to have found his stroke, but his average remains below .250 as he struggles for consistency.  He appears to chop at the ball more than ever, which is why he flies out or pops up so much.  Too often he isn't putting a clear follow through on the ball.

Ryan Howard has been striking out at a prodigious rate.  Nothing new about that.  His personal Spring Training/early season is about over now and he should be getting more comfortable at the plate.  Unfortunately, it's been feast or famine with him.  Unfortunately, it's been feast or famine with him several seasons running.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Top Ten Candidate

With so many contenders for the title "Worst Game of the Season" we'd be hard-pressed to single out any one in particular, but last night's debacle is clearly a leading contender.

Staked to a one-run lead right out of the gate thanks to J-Roll's lead-off home run in the home half of the first, Kyle Kendrick did his best impersonation of a career AAA pitcher and surrendered the lead as soon as he could.  He was gone after four miserable innings and though I wasn't watching the game at that time, I have no doubt he received quite an ovation as he departed for the showers.  After the game, Kendricks said he couldn't locate the ball or find any rhythm.  No kidding.

The worst was yet to come, however.

Given new life when they rallied from a 6-1 deficit with five runs in the fifth inning, the Phils' bullpen immediately imploded and handed the lead right back to Atlanta, surrendering six more runs as Braves pummeled the Phils for their eighth victory in their last nine games against the locals.

It was a sorry performance in a sorry year spread out over many players, mostly pitchers.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Fearless Prediction

Here's s fearless prediction (they're all "fearless" when there's nothing left to lose):

Dom Brown and John Mayberry will both be productive for the rest of the season.  Why?  For once, neither feels he will be yanked from the lineup after one unproductive outing.  Once a player has been qualified as a major league player, confidence is the key to productivity.  Yes, yes, I know, Mayberry struggles badly with breaking stuff low and away and Brown is still trying to figure out which way to turn on balls hit at him or over his head.

I am not predicting either will be an All Star (though Brown might be one some day) any time soon, but once each knows he will still have a job the next day after going 0-4, his confidence grows proportionately.

This I predict.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Topsy Turvy

I never can remember whether pitchers or hitters are ahead of the other in April, but I do know this:  big league pitchers who've been at their jobs since April are light years ahead of batters who begin their seasons in July.

Ryan Howard is one of those batters and his anemic numbers and massive number of strikeouts suggest he still hasn't caught up to the guys on the hill.

Still, in this awful season of ups and downs, Howard stroked a walk-off single yesterday as the Phils rebounded to take two of three from visiting Arizona.  In his first three AB's of the day, mighty Howard had struck out, but his final AB proved to be the game winner and the big guy was rewarded by being swarmed by his teammates at first base.

There was more good news this weekend series when Roy Halladay turned in a fine performance following a series of struggles and a trip to the DL.  His fastball had some mustard and more to the point some movement and he won his first game in a very long time. A healthy Doc in the house would be a big boost to the team's fortunes going forward.

Another encouraging sign this weekend was the further emergence of Chase Utley, who has found his power stroke (two home runs) and raised his batting average slowly but surely.  Utley shows few if any signs of the chronic knee problems that have put his career in jeopardy.  It's worth pointing out, however, if he were hurting we would be the last to know.

Of course, this being 2012 and the Phillies, all the news wasn't good.  Carlos Ruiz, having a career year accompanied by his just desserts (an All Star nomination), went on the DL for 4-6 weeks with a partial tear of the plantar fascia.  As someone who has had that ailment (though at a much lower salary) I can do more than sympathize!  How could anyone squat or run at all let alone for nine innings with a condition like that??!!

The week's semi-fire sale began with the trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence and concluded with that of Joe Blanton.  All of these players went West, young man, to the Dodgers (Victorino and Blanton) and Giants.

The new-look or depleted Phils, take your pick, took two of three in Washington and two of three from Arizona.  Go Figure.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

You're Welcome

Not too many ballplayers are traded and take out a full page ad expressing their thanks for the memories to the fans of the team they left behind.  Then, again, not too many ballplayers are like Shane Victorino.

Victorino's full page ad in today's Inquirer included a picture of him with his wife and kids and a very prominent photograph of the Nicetown Boys and Girls club his foundation supported.  That's a legacy worth remembering long after the OPB's, RBI's, and other stats fade into history.

* * * * * * * *

I don't know about you, but I watched a lot of last night's game between the Phils and Nationals.  In part I was curious to see the lineup which featured a lot of new faces and a lot of faces in need of renewal.  Naturally, the oldest face (in terms of tenure not the calendar) was the star of the show.  Jimmy Rollins nearly hit a lead-off home run to set the tone for the two home runs he hit in succeeding at bats.

Newcomer Nate Schierholtz hit what proved to be the game-winning home run following J-Roll's second blast and made a catch in right field that, frankly, Hunter Pence does not come close to.

All in all, a nice night at the park.

Now,  back to the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Buster Olney is among the most overrated commentators on baseball.  That said, his "Winners & Losers" column following the trade deadline is accurate when he grades the Phillies:

Loser No. 2: The Phillies. The Rangers have taken some criticism for not being willing to trade their top position-player prospects for top starting pitchers in the market -- but maybe they wanted to avoid the mess that the Phillies have fallen into, after repeatedly trading prospects and overpaying to keep an accomplished but aging team together. The Phillies dumped Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence and will presumably allow Joe Blanton and Placido Polanco to walk after this season. But a lot of that savings is going to be quickly swallowed up as they work to keep Carlos Ruiz -- and they'll still need to find a third baseman, two outfielders and at least one starting pitcher between now and the start of next season.

The Phillies had a remarkable run from 2008-2011, fielding a team that won one World Series and appeared in a second, but they will be paying off the debt of that splurge for some years to come, given their contracts with Ryan Howard, Lee and others.

Thanks, Shane

Goodbye, Shane, we did know ya' and what we knew was terrific.

Victorino was never dull and often magnetic.  Occasionally he would fall asleep on the base paths, but he would usually roar right back with a running catch on the warning track.  He hit the ball consistently including some pop for a little guy.  He chatted up every first baseman he ever stood next to.

In some respects he was one of the most consistent players of the Golden Age just ending.  He ran, fielded, hit, threw and hit with just enough power.  All of this from a Rule 5 player.

Thanks for the memories, Shane.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

By Comparison

Great rotations rarely stay together for a long time.  Before you can say Smoltz, Maddox  and Glavine, the greatest long-term trio of all time, let me share the only two I have actually watched on a regular basis:

Roy Halladay has won 192 games in fifteen years
Cole Hamels has won 85 games in 7 years
Cliff Lee has won 120 games in 11 years.
By comparison....
Dave McNally won 184 games in 14 years (13 with Orioles)
Mike Cuellar won 185 games in 15 years (8 years with O's all in the second half of his career except the final year)
Jim Palmer won 268 games in 19 years (entire career with O's)
Pat Dobson won 122 games (and lost 129) (2 years with O's) in eleven years but was part of the foursome for the O's in 1971 that won 20 games or more each. 
The O's had a great rotation that was together for eight years.  The Phils trio hasn't been together very long and doesn't appear likely to stay together much longer (they couldn be broken up by 4PM today!).

It's pretty hard to do in the Free Agency era, which is why the O's trio stayed together as long as it did.  Indeed, in the end the Braves' trio broke up largely because of free agency.

* * * * * * * *

You know the old joke, "First in war, first in peace and last in the American League."  Well, the NL version of the Nats have been in first place a long time this season and don't look like they will fade any time soon.  So, do the good folks of the nation's capital care?  Washington currently ranks 14th in MLB attendance.  

So much for a fan base starved for success.  The numbers do not lie:  Washington isn't a great baseball town even in good times.  Too many residents would rather be sitting on the beach in Bethany or Rehoboth, DE, reading their Kindles or acquiring a tan, to spend time in a muggy stadium along the Anaconda River.

Maybe the Nats' alleged brain trust, which went very public in its efforts to discourage hordes of Phillies' fans from filling their park for head-to-head games, ought to reconsider that strategy.