Sunday, April 29, 2012

No One Is Immune

Note to Charlie Manuel:

They fired Terry Francona and he won TWO titles.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


The Phillies aren't hitting.  What's new?

They squandered a golden opportunity in the first inning, getting men on first and third with no outs only  to score bupkas!   The middle of the order wasn't even close to middle of the road.  They were horrible with Jimmy Rollins "leading" the swirl down the bowl toward the Mendoza line.  Three more years of J-Roll?  Great!

Meanwhile, Roy Halladay suffered his second straight loss and looked less than commanding in doing so.  Halladay hasn't looked overwhelming in at least his last two starts.  In truth, he hasn't really looked all that overwhelming all year.  Those Springtime rumors of loss of velocity, rumors which he hotly disputed, may not be so off the mark.  It takes more than velocity to make a winner and Halladay as much as any right-hander in baseball over the last ten years has used movement, guile and an assortment of pitches to reach the top.  That said, if his velocity is falling off, it removes one element from his repertoire and anyone who thinks it isn't an important element is sadly mistaken.

So, here we have a team that cannot hit consistently and a pitching staff that looked dominant a month ago and now looks eminently mortal today.

The Phillies are boring to watch right now.  They're boring to write about, too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Pepper

I guess it can get uglier than this, but it's hard to imagine.  What isn't particularly hard to imagine is that fan interest in the Phillies is about to start falling off.  Not, it should be said, because the fans are fickle, which they aren't.  Nor can it be because these Phils can't hit a lick, which they can't.  No, fans are going to stop coming to the ballpark because the Phillies are so damn boring to watch these days.  They might be this year's leading soporific.

* * * * * * * *

Earlier this month I wrote that Cole Hamels isn't likely to sign a long-term deal with a a fading team, especially since he will likely be the premier starting pitcher among the free agents.  Why would he want to stick around and lose a lot of games 3-2 and 2-1?  Ruben Amaro seriously miscalculated when he didn't push hard to sign Hamels before the season got underway.  Of course, I don't really know if Amaro tried hard and failed or didn't try hard enough.  I do know it won't matter now because Hamels will be gone.

* * * * * * * *

Shane Victorino could join Hamels on the train out of town next off-season.  He should be in demand, too.

* * * * * * * *

Charlie Manuel gets and deserves a lot of credit for the Phillies' success over the last five seasons.  Of course, the success also had something to do with the players.  Now, Manuel doesn't have much beyond a good starting rotation and closer and one or two good position players.  Indeed, his loyalty to veterans, a well-documented tendency, likely led Manuel to encourage the signing of players like Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton and Juan Pierre.

Thome, for one, is washed up.  He'll hit a mistake out of the ballpark for old time's sake, but he cannot hit consistently any longer.  The bat has slowed down to a crawl.   The desperate move to start him in the field only underscores how blind his manager is when it comes to cherished veterans.  One option would be to let John Mayberry play first for a couple of straight weeks.  If last year was a complete aberration, let's find out once and for all.  Charlie cannot pull the trigger on either player.

* * * * * * * *

Chase Utley is getting his wish.  He is either recuperating or inching toward retirement in complete isolation.  It's even doubtful his manager and general manager know what is really going on.  Meanwhile, Ryan Howard is staying much closer to the team as he tries to recover from a devastating injury.  At least we are getting progress reports with him.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reverse Curse Time

We all hoped John Mayberry's positive showing last season would carry over into the new one.

No such luck.

Mayberry doesn't seem to have a clue at the plate.  The left-field or first base job was his to grab.  All he had to do was hit about .275 with the same percentage of walks and power numbers as last season.  No one was asking for a .300 hitter; just a consistent one with occasional power.

Clearly, 2011 was the aberration in a career that has never taken off.

So, sports fans, I am officially invoking the Reverse Curse in Mr. Mayberry's case.

He should start hitting any time now.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's Official

Shoot it.  Print it.  Frame it.  This is your official team portrait for 2012.

NL Boxscore Philadelphia vs. San Francisco

San Francisco «00000000001190
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:C.Hensley(1-0) L:A.Bastardo(0-1)
HR: PHI- None SFG- None

Juan Pierre LF400000000.300
  John Mayberry PH-LF100000000.212
Shane Victorino CF400000000.277
Jimmy Rollins SS400000000.286
Hunter Pence RF401000001.326
Ty Wigginton 3B401000000.240
Laynce Nix 1B400000002.188
Carlos Ruiz C301010010.306
Freddy Galvis 2B301000000.237
Cliff Lee P200000001.333
  Jim Thome PH100000001.083
  Antonio Bastardo P000000000.000
Angel Pagan CF501000000.220
Melky Cabrera LF503100000.314
Pablo Sandoval 3B401000001.333
Buster Posey C401000001.361
Brett Pill 1B401010000.300
  Clay Hensley P000000000.000
Ryan Theriot 2B401000002.190
Nate Schierholtz RF400000001.310
Brandon Crawford SS400000002.196
Matt Cain P200000001.000
  Hector Sanchez PH100000000.267
  Gregor Blanco PR000000000.143
  Santiago Casilla P000000000.000
  Sergio Romo P000000000.000
  Javier Lopez P000000000.000
  Brandon Belt 1B111000000.211

E_T.Wigginton, L.Nix. LOB_Philadelphia 4, San Francisco 6. 2B_C.Ruiz, B.Pill. S_F.Galvis, C.Lee. GIDP_F.Galvis, A.Pagan, B.Posey 2, B.Pill. DP_Philadelphia 4 (T.Wigginton, F.Galvis and L.Nix), (L.Nix, J.Rollins and L.Nix), (J.Rollins and L.Nix), (J.Rollins, F.Galvis and L.Nix); San Francisco 1 (B.Crawford, R.Theriot and B.Pill).

Cliff Lee10.0700070102-811.96
Antonio Bastardo (L 0-1)0.121101012-94.50
Matt Cain9.020014091-641.88
Santiago Casilla1.010000012-70.00
Sergio Romo0.11000003-30.00
Javier Lopez0.10000105-30.00
Clay Hensley (W 1-0)0.10000003-20.00

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Past Their Primes

The Phillies offensive woes are particularly acute at three positions traditionally considered power spots in the lineup:  left field, third and first bases.  Until at least one or, better, two of these spots become more productive the Phils prospects remain bleak.

Keep in mind the pitching has been holding the fort but primarily against inferior lineups.  When the Phils begin to face the mashers, their pitching will be harder pressed and their offensive ineptitude fatally exposed.

As a long time favorite in this corner, third baseman Placido Polanco shouldn't be singled out for failing to produce in 2012, but it's hard to ignore his numbers have been declining steadily during the past two seaons except for a brief torrid spurt at the beginning of 2011.  It was thought his futility over the last two years was due to multiple injuries, but that excuse won't suffice this season after he had surgeries to correct the problems.  Polanco, always a savvy contact hitter, simply isn't getting good wood on the ball.  He was always good at going the other way; now he just isn't going in any direction but down.

The left-field and first base platoons are also a dismal failure at this juncture.  No one except Juan Pierre is hitting.  John Mayberry has been struggling mightily in his opportunities at both positions.  Calls for Dom Brown can be heard but it should be noted the one-time phenom isn't exactly hitting the cover off the ball at AAA.  Lanyce Nix, Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome haven't picked up any slack either.  Thome may be a threat to change a game with one swing, but his one for eleven average suggest that one swing may come along once a year at this point in his career.  Thome has always been a favorite of manager Charlie Manuel.  Manuel, for his part, has always been partial to veterans who can hit.  He has a lot of veterans in his dugout but it looks as though many of them are past their primes.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Et tu, Pitching?

Now, they aren't even getting terrific starting pitching, and against the Mets, no less!

The Phils dropped their second straight game to the less-than Amazin' Mets yesterday and added insult to injury by failing to score a single run.  Let's face it, folks, these Phillies cannot and will not hit.

Oh, sure, they'll bust out every now and then and, momentarily, fool the Phaithful into believing they have just enough offense to go with their superlative starting pitching to make due.  Ah, but when that superlative starting pitching surrenders four home runs in two games while the home team is dinking a single here, a bunt there, you know this cannot be good.  Eliminate the seven runs in one game last week against the Marlins and you have a picture of futility so far in 2012.

The newcomers among the Phils aren't contributing anything to write home about with the exception of Freddy Galvis, who wasn't expected to contribute and already has including the astonishing transition to second base as if he'd played there all his life, which he has not!  Oh, and for good measure Freddy is leading the team in rbi's.  Not what we expected from this second baseman.

Yes, yes, it's early but the last time I checked the games in April still count in the final standings.

Friday, April 13, 2012

For What?

Pat Burrell is going to retire a Phillie.

Too bad.

Here was a surly, under-performing, womanizing mediocrity who provided far more chills than thrills during his eleven tortuous years in a Phillies uniform.  Then, he moved on to Tampa and San Francisco, where he drove a steak in the heart of the Phillies while engaging in a shouting match with some of his former teammates.

Honor him?  For what?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lots of Fist Pumping

It was quite a night to be a Philadelphia sports fan.  The Phils broke out of their lethargy behind Roy Halladay, pummeling Josh Johnson in the process.

The Flyers gave up three first period goals in their Stanley Cup opener vs. the Penguins in Pittsburgh and roared back to tie it late and win it in overtime.

The Sixers won their second straight after more than a month of free-falling.

* * * * * * * *

The Phils game was billed as a matchup between two of the best right-handers in the National League.  As the financial brochures like to say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Halladay needed a lot of pitches in the first three innings, 59 to be exact.  After that, he settled down to his usual bulldog self.  Johnson, on the other hand, was giving up lots of hits, eleven of them to be act, before taking an early shower on a cool night.

The Phils wound up with 14 hits, naturally a season high for them.  So, for one night at least, offensive worries were put on hold.  It is not insignificant that their breakout came against one of the best pitchers in the league.

Let's see if they can sustain the effort.

Monday, April 09, 2012


I am not a baseball expert but I play one on the internet.

The starting pitching has been as good if not better than expected. (Remember, however, they were playing "lowly" Pittsburgh.)

The starting offense has been even worse than expected.

The closer has been as good as expected.

The middle of the bullpen has been as unreliable as expected.

The manager has been as inscrutable as expected.

The defense has been as uneven as expected.

Add it all up and you have a starting staff that held the opposition to two runs in three games and an offense that managed six runs total in three games.

It's too soon to panic, especially since expectations are being met.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

And They're Off....Sort Of

The Phils won their season opener today, 1-0, behind Roy Halladay and Jonathan Papelbon in a fashion that will likely be emblematic of the season to come. After a shaky first inning Halladay baffled but did not overpower a mediocre Pittsburgh lineup. Papelbon came in and blew away the side in the ninth (though the call at first base on the final out was questionable). The offense didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball either and wasted all but one of their few scoring opportunities. Good pitching and meager offense. Get used to it. There were a few signs things will be different this year. First and foremost, John Mayberry started in left field. He played a key offensive role in the Phils' lone run, stroking a double to right field that moved Ty Wigginton into scoring position, which he did a batter later on a sacrifice fly by Chooch. But more significantly, Mayberry made two catches in left field, one a beauty, that he and only he of all the outfielders on the team except Shane Victorino could have made, and even Victorino may not have been tall enough for the big catch near the wall. Mayberry had a lousy Spring and wasn't scheduled to start in left today, but Charlie Manuel decided to insert him against lefty Erik Bedard. Look for Mayberry to get plenty of more starts until he plays himself out of the lineup. The other startling development was Jimmy Rollins, the new three-hole hitter, bunting for a single in his first AB. Fans have been asking Rollins, no, make that pleading with Rollins, to do that for eleven years. Halladay more or less picked up this year where he left off last year, that is, having some trouble with the first inning before settling down. But the silent one did just that, holding the Bucs without another hit for seven straight innings. It all went according to script, at least the one the Phils will use per force all season if they expect to compete.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Aimless Predictions

Let's begin with a biggie....

Cole Hamels does not re-sign with the Phils.  If you were Hamels and you were looking at this club right now, would you sign a long-term deal with an aging bunch who figure to be entering a lengthy rebuilding phase soon?  Moreover, if you were Hamels, wouldn't you want to test the market given you would likely be the premiere free agent pitcher available?  So long, Cole.

* * * * * * * *

Roy Halladay has a mediocre year.  Of course, mediocre for Halladay would be pretty good for just about anyone else, so what exactly do I mean by "mediocre"?  Halladay goes 13-11.

* * * * * * * *

Ryan Howard doesn't play at all this year.  Chase Utley does play, but not much nor well.

* * * * * * * *

The middle of the Phillies bullpen will be a disaster.

* * * * * * * *

The Miami Marlins will win the division if their pitching remains healthy.

* * * * * * * *

Jonathan Papelbon will surrender a career-high number of home runs.

* * * * * * * *

Jimmy Rollins will step up to fill the vacuum left by his injured infield mates and have a solid year.  He will be the leader on and off the field.

* * * * * * * *

The Phillies will officially switch from long ball to small ball without the power of Howard and Utley.  The trouble is, they will be relying on some fairly old folks to provide the spark.

* * * * * * * *

The Phils will not fare well with Jim Thome starting at first base.  The first pop up down the right field line will reveal just how long past his prime Thome is.

* * * * * * * *

In a desperate move to get some power into the lineup, Charlie Manuel will be forced to give John Mayberry more playing time despite his awful Spring.  Pundits will point out there is little correlation between an awful Spring and the regular season.  Mayberry will take over the starting job by May.

* * * * * * * *

 By the end of the season the second toughest ticket in town will be much easier to come by.