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.