Friday, December 27, 2013

Paul Blair

Growing up an Orioles fan I had the pleasure to watch two of the greatest fielders in history at their respective positions:  Brooks Robinson and Paul Blair.

Paul Blair died in Baltimore last night at age 69.

While teammates and fans of his era (the 1960's - 70's) remember a fluid, graceful fielder of slender build and fluid motion, many people forget he was a very solid hitter until being beaned by a pitch in 1970.  He was never the same hitter after that, involuntarily stepping into the bucket on any pitch even close to being inside.  It was a shame because Blair possessed all the talents necessary for a storied career.

He won 8 Gold Gloves and batted .250 for his career, but the latter number would have been much higher had he not suffered that dreadful injury.  Teammates literally stood and watched him in awe as he chased down fly balls deep to cavernous Memorial Stadium's outfield.  He played very shallow and could glide back on the ball with uncommon ease.  I still remember a teammate pulling up to watch Blair leap at the fence to haul in ball that was really the teammate's play to make.

He had a wonderful gait at the end of an inning, too.  He would tuck his glove up near his armpit and glide into the dugout. He wasn't showing off; he was just enjoying the freedom of running and playing a game at which he was so good.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This And That

The baseball HOF ballot has been announced and at least one, possibly two, players seem likely to be voted in immediately:  Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Timing, of course, is everything, so the unluckiest names on the ballot are Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas. Mussina won 270 games and had a career ERA of 3.46, but here's betting he won't be voted in.  Not easy to be that good and fail to get in.  Indeed, a lot of pitchers with less gaudy numbers have been voted in.

Frank Thomas is my candidate for least good player to get in.  Thomas had a career batting average over .300 and smacked 521 home runs, but many fans and maybe even a writer or two will say, "Who'd he play for?"

Lastly, there is the cheaters' division led by Barry Bonds.  He ain't getting in because the baseball world is still pissed off at him.

* * * * * * * *

If football were a 45 minute game, or even a 59 minute game, Temple might be ranked number two or three in the nation.  Unfortunately, it is still a 60 minute game.  Temple has lost more big leads and late than any team I can ever remember.  Is their problem one of conditioning or is their defense easy to figure out after about 30 minutes exposure?

* * * * * * * *

The 2008 Phillies never died.  You can see most of them again this coming April at a stadium near you.

* * * * * * * *

The Flyers struggled mightily to get back to .500 after their disastrous first month and when they finally got there they went to Florida and blew it against a mediocre team.  Afterwards, one of their veteran players and their new coach said aloud the team didn't seem ready to play last night.  Seems a little late for that kind of sentiment, eh?

* * * * * * * *

The Eagles have defied a lot of pundits and sit tied atop the NFL East division.  Of course, theirs is the weakest division in football.  The next several weeks they play a number of teams who could prove the pundits really do know what they are talking about, but it has been entertaining lately to watch Nick Foles mature into a starting least for this season and next.  The Eagles are still going to try and draft a franchise quarterback.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Heading Nowhere....Fast

Bob Ford, the Inquirer's last regularly appearing sports columnist who can actually write, had a wonderful line in today's paper.  He began citing a series of jokes making the rounds about the age of the Phillies' roster.  My bet is most if not all of them were made up by Ford himself, which only gives more credence to my earlier statement.   The one that brought a chuckle was that Matthew Brady would be taking the team photo in 2014.

Yes, fans, your 2014 Phillies are old.  Yesterday the re-signed Chooch Ruiz to a 3-year, $26 million contract pending a physical.  Was that one too many years and nearly $8 too much money?  Absolutely.  In Chooch's case, however, I prefer to think of his deal as making up for having underpaid him for so long.  I don't have a problem with being generous to a guy who has arguably been one of the leaders of this team.

I am not so magnanimous about other deals.

 Of course the most outrageous one the Phillies alleged brain trust, headed by Ruben Amaro, made still must be Ryan Howard's $125 contract, which still has several years to run.  That albatross is followed closely by the $50 million deal offered to Jonathan Papelbon two years ago.  Pap is not only running out of gas, he has used at least 7 of his nine lives in this town, where he bashes his teammates every other outing.  The fans in this town don't take kindly to players blaming teammates.

Most observers have already noted the questionable deal Amaro made a week ago, signing Marlon Byrd to a heft 2-year contract.  The Phils need to improve in a lot of areas most notably the outfield.  Of course they needed to improve the outfield this time last year, too, and did not.

In the end the biggest change the Phils need to make is the GM.  Amaro inherited a good team and has slowly saddled it with bad contracts, questionable signings and the near-total depletion of the minor league system.

Amaro is over his head.  The only thing that bails him out has been the years of sell-outs which, of course, abruptly ended at the end of 2012 and continued through 2013, and huge television contracts.  At some point the owners, who will unload this franchise one day at a huge premium, will also get tired of the string of mistakes and errors of judgement emanating from the GM's office and do something about it.  They will be too late, however, to set their ship on the right course for many years to come.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

You Must Be Joking

I read the news coming out of the Hot Stove League and mutter to myself...repeatedly...."you must be joking!"

The Braves, never a huge draw in Atlanta even during their glorious run in the '90's, announced they will be leaving Turner Field for greener pastures.  Hmm, I thought, isn't Turner Field relatively new?  Yes indeedy! Seventeen years old.  In a nation known to tear down its architectural heritage, good, bad and indifferent, abandoning a stadium after less than a two decades residency has to be some kind of record.  Are you listening, Guinness?  Category:  fastest team to leave a new stadium, baseball division.

I don't know the details of the financing, but if all goes according to modern sports franchise tradition, the Braves are going to ask the public to fork over a big chunk of the costs.  Now, if the good ole folks of Georgia, a red state by any reckoning, want to carp about big government, they can begin by saying no to taxpayer financing of this move.  Oh, sure, the Braves will threaten to move somewhere if they don't get what they want from the public coffers, but would many people outside the Chamber of Commerce in Fulton County notice?  Wait, they would be moving to Kolb County.  Maybe less than half the folks there were actually born in Georgia.  Maybe Kolb Co. is really Minnesota in disguise!

Anyway, the Braves apparently want a retro stadium that seats about 45.000 so the empty seats don't outnumber the filled ones on any given night.  Management talked about better access for the fans, but I always thought you had to make the effort to go somewhere to gain access.

Just when I thought nothing else could surprise me about baseball executives and their greed and stupidity, I read the Phillies alleged brain trust was about to re-sign Marlon Byrd to a two-year $16 contract.  Byrd, as you no doubt recall, started his career here some time around the turn of the century.  Along the way he's played for a variety of teams in North America (yes, sports fans, that includes Mexico), been suspended for substance abuse and turned 36 years old before our eyes.  So, desperate for a right-handed bat and an outfielder, Ruben Amaro succumbed to Philareacquaitis (pronounced Phila reacqua itis) , a disease that though rarely fatal causes General Managers to reacquire players whom they previously traded.  Presumably, Paul Holmgren likes this deal.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

If This Be Tanking....

Picked by nearly everyone in the civilized and uncivilized world to finish dead last in the NBA this year, and in the process challenge the all-time record for losses in a single season held, incidentally, by an earlier iteration of the same team, the Sixers have charged out of the starting gate and won their first three games.

No one, not even those prone to place a $2 bet on the longest of long-shots, saw this coming.  In his heart of hearts, new coach Brett Brown probably didn't either.

It isn't likely to last, but if these guys don't re-read the script soon, they're going to blow it and win too many games to enter the record books not to mention gather enough bouncing ping-pong balls to land the top choice in next year's draft.  Rumor had it the Sixers planned to tank this season to insure the balls literally bounced their way.  So, what's going on?

Can't nobody get it right around these parts?

* * * * * * * *

Well, as a matter of fact, some teams do know their place.

The Flyers have gotten off to an astonishingly dreadful start thanks in no small part to the inept GM Paul Holmgren, who fired his coach after three games and then made one of the trades that has become his trademark, that is, the re-acquisition of a player previously traded.  Steve Downie was described by his new coach as the kind of player "every team needs", which begs the question why has he been traded three times in seven years???!!!!

Downie, a goon who can skate and score (erratically), began his second stint with the Flyers by getting pummeled in his first game back, suffering a concussion in the process.  I guess coach Berube should have added "...needs in the lineup."

Holmgren leads this team by panic and rash moves.  He is quick to fire, reacquire and rationalize.  His owner, Ed Snider, bristles at any suggestion this franchise has lost its way, but the sad truth is the Flyers are becoming also-rans who overspend and don't develop their own players.

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, the Eagles are perhaps the most surprising team currently engaged in activity at the moment. New coach Chip Kelly was supposed to be an offensive "genius", but his team has scored exactly three points in two games, the defense having outscored the offense by recovering a fumble for a touchdown last week against the Giants, the only other points of the time in question.

NFL games are analyzed more closely and ad nauseum than any other human activity of the Fall and Winter in these United States including general elections and the stupidity and venality of Republicans.  Everyone and his cousin has an explanation for the Eagles' ineptness, including injuries to the mediocre corps of quarterbacks, the loss of split end Jeremy Maclin in training camp, a new offensive scheme, a new defensive scheme, the lack of quality cornerbacks and safeties, etc..  In other words, where to begin?

Whatever else you say, the offensive is boring.  Their so-called hurry-up pace hasn't phased any defenses as far as I can tell.  It probably confuses the offense more.

Chip Kelly may indeed turn out to be a genius, but for right now all his has been is living proof that a coach is as successful as his players, and right now he doesn't have many good ones.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Under Water

With basketball about to get underway. four of Philadelphia's five major league sporting teams (the Union being the exception) could easily have losing records by the end of each season.  These are the Winter, Spring, Fall and Summers of our discontent.

The Sixers are being projected to make a serious run at  the worst overall one year record, a distinction held by...the Sixers of 1972-73.  Every prognosticator gives them no chance of winning more than a handful of games...if that.  The New York Times projection put it best:  "The team’s off-season highlights: trading its lone young All-Star, G Jrue Holiday; trading for a player with a fear of flying, F Royce White, and then releasing him; and acquiring a rookie with one good knee, C Nerlens Noel."  

Management insists they are building for the future and this year's record is immaterial.  As long as we're talking long-term here, has anyone in the Sixers' alleged brain trust stopped to consider they won't be anyone IN THE BUILDING by the time there plan is implemented?

Meanwhile, across the street the Eagles are a complete mess.  Their vaunted offensive genius, rookie head coach Chip Kelly, has seen his fast-tempo offense score a total of 3 points in their last eight quarters.  The only touchdown during those two games was scored by the defense.  Speaking of that group, the defense looks much improved thanks in no small measure to the schedule-makers, who lined up three straight inept teams for the Eagles to face.

Kelly was supposed to bring speed, innovation and imagination to the offense.  Frankly, they look as dull as Andy Reid's worst incarnations.  It doesn't help that they've lost their number one and two quarterbacks and have had to resort to Matt Barkley, whose performances under duress and with little time to prepare appear to explain quite clearly why he was still available when the Eagles drafted him in the fourth round.

Michael Vick hasn't been an admirable human being though I am willing to give him some credit for having paid his off-field "debt to society".  He has been an admirable athlete insofar as his willingness to keep on keepin' on despite taking a beating.  But, he cannot stay healthy and when he is healthy he cannot stay consistent.  His days are numbered.  Nick Foles was given a Wally Pipp-Lou Gehrig opportunity and blew it before the concussion.

The Eagles need a new quarterback.

The Eagles need a lot of things, really.  Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana or Slingin' Sammy Baugh couldn't rescue this bunch.

The Flyers have won two straight to move nowhere in their division.  They still are in last place.  In their case it is reasonable to wait a little longer to see if the new system being implemented by new coach Craig Berube can make a difference.  The Flyers of recent times under Peter Laviolette always seemed to be playing a system for which they were ill-suited or incapable of.  The most troubling development of the last year and a half has been the inability of their top scorers to score.  Yikes.

The Phillies started all this losing way back in April of this year.  It appears they will pick up where they left off in April of next year.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Take My Season....Please

The Sixers owners may  be good at making money in the financial markets but their expertise stops at the center post.  Imagine a team that trades twice in consecutive seasons for a franchise big man who is then unable to play a single minute that year and you have an idea how over their heads the Sixers management team is!

The 2013-14 version threatens to break the all-time record for losses in a season, a distinction held by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers.  Get ready fans.  This installment might not win a single game unless they can schedule a game with the Washington Generals.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


Why, oh why, do the owners of the Philadelphia Phillies persist in OK'ing the hiring of Larry Bowa over and over again?

The last time Bowa was hired he was brought in to admonish and belittle, er, I mean manage, the team.  He was poison and was finally fired.  Now the alleged brain trust (alleged where, you might ask?) has agreed to let new manager Ryne Sandberg bring Bowa back for a third time as bench coach.  Extraordinarily stupid move on a team that is making more than its share of them lately.

I predict the first public "He's killing us" comment will occur around late July or early August.

Monday, October 07, 2013

That Didn't Take Long!!!

Peter Laviolette is out after the Flyers began the season 0-3.  Those Vegas bookies know their stuff!!!

Sunday, October 06, 2013


With nothing in the baseball world to attract my attention I remain "focused" on other local teams and sports for now.

Penn State got walloped by Indiana yesterday.  I mean destroyed!  This is the first time the Nittany Lions have ever been beaten by the Hoosiers and when they finally got around to losing they didn't pull any punches.

Among other things the loss underscores how much the sanctions and penalties of the Sandusky scandal have hurt Penn State.  They cannot recruit easily when prospects know there won't be any post-season play. There won't be any post-season play with the kind of numbers the Penn State defense is allowing anyway, but you get the picture.  It's a vicious circle.

Meanwhile, Peter Laviolette, the Flyers coach, was listed by Vegas bookmakers as the first NHL coach likely to be fired.  He's on target, friends.  The Flyers are 0-2 and have looked very beatable.  By the time they've lost their fifth game of the new season, sometime in the next week or two, the coach will be out.

The Eagles are hoping to win a game against the winless NY Giants.  Some odds-makers don't see that happening.  When you face an 0-4 team, even at the opponent's home field, and are the underdogs it tells you a lot about what you already knew.

Go ahead, name five players on the Sixers.  OK, that's three.

Temple has proved a few things already this season.  One, they definitely are not ready for prime-time. Two, rapid turnover of their head coaches does not make it easy to recruit.  They've lost to some real powerhouses and they've lost to some beatable teams.  But they've lost them all.

Speaking of losses, how about the University of Maryland?  In their last year in the ACC, and a year before they join the Big Ten, the Terps have had an impressive start, winning their first four games (and matching all of last year's win total) to break into the Top 25 at number 25.  Then, they faced 8th ranked Florida State in Tallahassee and suffered a humiliating thrashing, 63-0.  When the polls come out early this week Maryland fans will be lucky to find their team ranked in the top 2500.

Back at the ranch, Penn won their home match against Dartmouth in triple OT.  Penn was predicted to win the Ivy League championship this season, but if they take four hours to beat Dartmouth the odds appear much longer than first projected.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Goodbye To All That

This miserable season will be over in a few hours and those among us still willing to admit to being Phillies' fans can shift their attention cleaning out the basement.  Really, now, did you expect me to say "to the Eagles, Sixers or Flyers"?!

These are tough times for sports fans in the Delaware Valley.  All you need to know about the Sixers is they begin their second straight season without a big man in the middle.  Wait!  That's not the bad part.  They begin their second straight season having known in early summer they wouldn't have a big man.

The Flyers begin the season with the same questions about their defense with which they began last season. They also begin yet another season with questions about goal-tending.  One thing seems pretty certain about the Fly boys, however.  During the season they will make a deal to reacquire someone whom they discarded earlier.  They do that...a lot.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are going nowhere fast.  Literally.  They have a hurry-up offense with only one legitimate receiver and a defense that would have a very tough time stopping Alabama.

As for the Phils....   The other night they wasted a superb effort by Cliff Lee in losing 1-0.  They garnered two hits that night.  They have been auditioning a lot of minor league pitchers in particular and the results suggest most of these guys will be minor league pitchers again.  As for position players, they still don't have an intimidating lineup, unless of course, you are standing on the pitcher's mound surveying the scene.

Have a nice off-season...if you can.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


As if anyone needed further evidence of just how much management views players as commodities with self-life expediencies, I offer you last night's sad ending to Roy Halladay's career, not only in Philadelphia but baseball itself.

Oh, sure, there is probably some GM out there who might take a flyer for next Spring, but for all intents and purposes Doc is finished.

He might have been able to come back next February for a try-out had he not rushed back this Summer after shoulder surgery and had the Phillies' alleged brain trust not insisted he take off the rest of the season to give his shoulder time to heal.

The Phillies' alleged brain trust knew Doc wouldn't sit if they hadn't insisted and therein lies the moral to this particular tale.  Go ahead, they reasoned, give it your best.  Secretly, we know you're cooked and not-so-secretly (public protestations notwithstanding) there is a zero chance we re-sign you.  So, yes, go ahead and pitch.

The results were diminishing velocity, accuracy and in the end stamina.  There he was last night in an air conditioned dome with the roof closed sweating like bullets and completely spent.

Very sad.

The Phillies' alleged brain trust will utter the usual platitudes and then, a year or so down the road, honor Doc.  They could have honored him much more by helping him to recover this season, but they let him run out the string and he hung himself with it.

But don't kid yourself,, the Phillies alleged brain trust handed him the rope.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Doctor Is Out

The Roy Halladay era in Philadelphia has ended in bitterness and recrimination with the publication in this morning's Inquirer of comments by the veteran pitcher he was upset with press criticisms covering a range of issues.

Chief among these, of course, has been his poor performance since returning from shoulder surgery.  Running a close second on his list of complaints was open speculation he had returned too soon.  And rounding out his annoyance was the usual fallback position of "wronged" athletes in this town:  Philadelphia's media corp let alone its fans are just too tough.

The Phillies were unlikely to re-sign the aging pitcher given his troubles of the last two seasons.  For his part, Halladay often noted he wanted to pitch for a contender, which the Phils as currently constituted are clearly not.

At least this chapter of the admired pitcher's career is probably over.  Will he even make his next scheduled start?


Halladay made his next scheduled start and was unimpressive.  For the fourth straight game he hit a batter and walked several.  Worse, his velocity remains stuck in the mid to high '80's.  If he is going to reinvent himself as more of a finesse pitcher, he can't hit and walk batters at such a high rate.

In the end, the poorest decision by all concerned, the Philllies' alleged brain trust very much included, was to have Halladay come back at all this season.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Last Refuge

I was out of town the day Charlie Manuel was fired so I am a little late to the "party".  Nevertheless, here goes:

Firing managers is usually the last refuge of inept general managers and Ruben Amaro's sudden dismissal of Manuel was a classic case in point.

Manuel wasn't a great strategist, nor was he a adept at moves such as the double switch.  He was a players' manager, well-liked by most who passed through the Phillies' clubhouse during his tenure.  What he did not deserve was to be dismissed with a month and a half remaining in this, his final contract year.  Amaro was responsible for failing to begin the rebuilding process after last season.  He could not be held responsible for the rash of injuries to key players, but he failed to fill holes on this squad, especially in the outfield and bullpen, and he signed free agents and resident players to ruinous contracts.

For this, Manuel was fired.  It's always easier to fire the manager.  Isn't that the baseball axiom?

Friday, August 09, 2013


Don't get me wrong (as sure a sign as any I expect to be misunderstood), who wouldn't want Chase Utley as his team's starting second baseman?

Few if any professional athletes in this city's history have ever been more admired and respected.  In this space I have sung his praises, strongly suggesting fans never take him for granted.  We watched a dedicated, talented and fiercely competitive Utley lead the Phillies from the wilderness to the Promise Land.

So why am I puzzled the Phillies signed him to a two-year deal worth $27 million with incentives that could extend the pact another three years and $48 million?

Well, Utley hasn't played a full season, or what passes for a full season with a few days off here and there, in several years.  The Phillies' alleged brain trust is gambling again.  Their track record isn't stellar.  For every Cliff Lee there is a Jonathan Papelbon.  For every Cole Hamels there is a Ryan Howard.

Second base may be the second or third toughest position, catcher being number one and first base perhaps being number two. First basemen get stepped on periodically.  Second baseman get knocked down regularly.

Utley has missed a lot of time due to chronic knee ailments.  This year he also went on the Disabled List due to an oblique strain.  The day his contract extension was reported, his picture appeared on the front page of the sports section sliding hard into home plate.   He only knows one speed:  full out.

Utley is still a very productive hitter and an adequate second baseman.  At his age he needs time off even were his knees not a problem.  He also made it clear he wanted to remain a Phillie.  He grew up in this organization, came to maturity in it, and became more or less the face of it, albeit in a quite way.  Utley acknowledged  when re-signing he'd spoken to other players in his position who'd switched teams late in their careers.  "The grass isn't always greener...," he proclaimed.  How could you not like a guy who likes you!!??

The contract is a gamble.  The Phillies are betting he still has about 125 games a year in him for at least two more years.  I wouldn't bet again them...or against Utley.  Still, it's a huge bet.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Et Tu, Bastardo?

Very little can surprise me these days, so the news Phillies' reliever Antonio Bastardo received a 50 game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis case produced a yawn.

The alleged brain trust of MLB is determined to clean up the game.  Good luck, fellas.  This latest round of suspensions came about largely if not only because a disgruntled employee or investor (I cannot remember which and I am too lazy to look it up) blew the whistle in the first place.  Being jilted, wronged or insulted remain powerful incentives for revenge.

One thing is certain in big-time sport:  athletes are going to continue to cheat as long as they develop a walk-on-water syndrome from an early age and as long as huge riches are in the offing.  From an early age the ones who show talent are pampered and showered with gifts, both hard and soft.  They are told they are special, that they are subject to a different set of rules and standards.  They are never told they could be caught; indeed, even if they were warned most of them wouldn't believe it.

Inevitably, some great rich talents are caught in the net like the mighty Lance Armstrong or Alex Rodriguez; and, as we learned again today, so are some poor schmucks like Antonio Bastardo.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Sinking Fast

The Phillies stood pat as the July trade deadline passed, which is to stay they stood upstream without the proverbial paddle.

Was it any wonder?

The Phils had little to trade.  Oh, sure, they had a few commodities of widely different values, but each of those came with enough baggage to negate any final transactions.  Of these, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon stand out.  Lee is still a fine pitcher, but he's owed a ton of money.  It was also notable he developed a stiff neck as the deadline approached and missed two starts.  Timing is everything.

Papelbon is the most overpaid free agent closer in baseball history.  Not the career saves leader.  Not the all time strikeout leader.  Not the most respected closer (especially by his own teammates).  No, just the most overpaid.  He is in decline though still decent.  No one wanted to take on his salary or his personality.

Michael Young is a competent journeyman player with a mediocre glove.  His type aren't a dime a dozen but they aren't difference makers either.

So, the Phils continue to age and decline.

As the deadline approached a number of articles pointed out Ruben Amaro and the Phils' alleged brain trust had done pretty well in these matters over the years.  They had given up a lot of prospects, few of whom have panned out in their new uniforms, and gotten some pretty solid players in return.

That was then.

Papelbon may have angered a lot of fans and teammates when he moaned aloud after the Phils' seventh or eighth straight defeat that he didn't come here "for this", but you have to wonder if Cole Hamels, who signed a long-term deal last year, Cliff Lee, who was happy to return here two years ago and other aging veterans like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins must be thinking the ship is taking on water fast and there are no life boats or shorelines in sight.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Time To Make Some Changes

We no longer need to wait for the Phillies' alleged brain trust to decide if they are buyers or sellers at the looming July trade deadline.  The players on the field have made the decision for them.

The Phils burst out of the blocks following the All Star break with a resounding triumph in their first of nine games on a three city road trip.  From that point on they found every conceivable way to stumble and bumble into one defeat after another.  Mostly lousy pitching.  Terrible defense.  No hitting.  Injuries.  A 1-8 record leaving them hopelessly below .500 for the year.

So, whether or not they admit it, the alleged brain trust is looking into a deep chasm that promises to revive those many years of mediocrity that preceded the Golden Years just past.

Managers will be fired.  Players will be traded.  Some fabulously rich and under-performing players will present a continuous drag on team finances.  Oh, and the Phillies, long absent from the international scene, signed a Cuban pitcher for $48 million and scouts are seriously divided on his value.  Translation:  the alleged brain trust finally takes the plunge and they fork over a boatload of money to a 26-year old defector currently pitching in the Mexican League.

Did we mention that the closer they signed two seasons ago for the ridiculous and ridiculed sum of $52 million says he wants out of here?

And finally, did we mention the GM, who inherited a very good team and decimated its farm system and coffers (seriously though, let's not really feel sorry for ownership) in a desperate attempt to win one more time, should be the first official firing of the post-season?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"I am Shocked To Learn There Is Gambling Going On Here!" (Claude Rains in "Casablanca")

Perhaps Ryan Braun should have kept his mouth closed all along.  From the Commissioner to the players to the media covering the game, baseball and its minions have always tolerated cheaters...provided they don't protest too much.

How do I know this?  Barry Bonds, the fellow who concluded one season late September resembling Olyve Oil and returned for sprint training the following season looking like Popeye.  His performance was enhanced and everyone just stood their in awe and belief.  At least publicly.

Yes, indeed, just don't protest too much.  Mark McGwire and Raphael Palmeiro could have told you all about that, Ryan.  Don't wag your finger or hold up your right hand.

Ryan Braun denied he was a cheater for nearly two years before finally capitulating yesterday and saying, yes, he deserved to be suspended for the rest of the 2013 season and post-season.  Now the holier-than-thous are all over him.  Did you expect anything else? Is Braun the only player to seek an edge from a bottle, syringe or ointment in the last few years?  If you believe that, I have a bridge....

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Begin To Rebuild

Much time has passed since my last post.  During this hiatus the Phils have lost two important starting position players and crept above .500 into second place in the generally mediocre NL East.

An item on ESPN's web site caught my attention the other day:  a listing of the top 50 MLB prospects.  Now, we all know these lists and four dollars will buy you a large coffee (or whatever they call them) at Starbucks (if you have high standards about lists and low standards about coffee), but it is worth noting only one Phillies' prospect, pitcher Jesse Biddle, makes the list.  The Phils have other promising prospects but the reality is they traded away most of the best ones to try and win it all the last two years.

The Phillies have to begin rebuilding.  Any foolish notions of post-season success this year must be abandoned.  GM Ruben Amaro and the rest of the Phils' alleged brain trust don't seem so inclined.  They think the team can catch the Braves for the NL East crown or at least secure a Wild Card spot.

The Phils have plenty of players on their 25-man roster who would bring good returns.  Now is the time to cash in on these players.  Some, such as Chase Utley, won't be re-signed here.  Others, such as Michael Young, play positions at which the Phils do have good prospects on the way up.  Still others like Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee can bring much needed help down the road.

The alternative to selling is to stand pat or, worse, buy at the trade deadline.  Doing so will ultimately prolong the Phils' years in the wilderness.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Holier Than Thou

I pondered the question long and hard over the last home stand and before last night's late inning debacle in San Diego:  what is the matter with this team?  I've mulled the possibilities, considered the sources, analyzed the statistics, dusted off the magic eight ball from my youth.  In the end, I've come to these conclusions:  they cannot hit much, pitch consistently or catch the ball well.  Throw in a front office of dubious ability and you have the 2013 Phillies.

With the July trade deadline looming, it's almost laughable to think the Phillies will be anything other than sellers.  If they persist in the absurd belief of their GM they can contend, the Phillies will only accelerate the slide toward bottom feeders that once glorious teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh suffered through until they stopped trying to right their ships with castoffs, has-beens, never-weres, and free agents long in the tooth.

Yes, fans, we could see decades of mediocrity unless the Phils look in the mirror and conclude they have to start stockpiling for the future.  They traded off what talent that had in their farm system to win it all a year ago.  One and a half years later they are again a below .500 club with holes everywhere one looks.  First base?  A hole.  Second base?  A hole.  Shortstop?  Soon to be a hole.  Third base?  See shortstop.  Outfield?  One decent player.  Catcher?  Soon to be a hole.  Starting Pitching?  Swiss cheese on that?  Middle Relief?  Vacancy signs everywhere.  Late Inning Relief?  Injured and erratic.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Win Or Go Home

Let's not beat around the bush:  Jonathan Papelbon's act has grown old.  His overall stats may be good, but therein lies the limitation of relying on stats.  A couple of lousy outings in a row and suddenly the team's momentum, never barreling ahead at full steam anyway, is stopped dead in its tracks.  The stare.  The histrionics.  The delivery.  None of Papelbon's wearisome repertoire could save the game.

Update:  Papelbon was blaming the Phils' lack of "fundamentals" after the game claiming he was surprised Ryan Howard was playing in when leadoff batter Denard Span opened the ninth inning by beating out an infield hit forcing the closer to cover first base.  Sorry, Pap, Howard was told to play in for the speedy Span. He didn't issue the subsequent walk and base hit.

Last night's inexcusable loss to the Nationals typifies the stumbling, bumbling inability of this year's version of the Phillies to play good baseball.  Recipients of a stellar performance by starter Kyle Kendrick, the offense's chronic anemia and Papelbon's ineptitude let the Nats stay close behind their own fine starting pitcher, former Phils' farmhand Gio Gonzalez and finally tie the game in their last regulation AB's.

Every time the Phillies creep within .500, they play a game like last night's.  Only the mediocrity of the top teams in the NL East keeps them in the race.  A look at the rest of the league makes it clear, however, the Phils have to win the Division.  No Wild Card is coming out of the NL East this year.

It says here no Division winner is coming out of the Delaware Valley either!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Doctors Are In

When the schedule makers sat down in front of June they took pity on the Phillies and penciled them in for a string of series versus teams unlikely to pose much of a challenge.  It appears the opponents never got the memo.

The Phils continued to stumble toward terminal mediocrity with another loss to a last-place team.  Once again Cole Hamels was on the mound.  Until the fourth inning Hamels clung to a one-run lead, but in the bottom of the frame he threw batting practice as the Twins laced one hard-hit ball after another, two of them nearly home runs.  It was SOP for Cole:  cruising along and then, BINGO!

It was also SOP for the Phils' offense, sputtering along and in the process making world-beaters out of opposing starters whose ERA's were heretofore atrocious.  Nothing cures pitching ails quite like a visit from the Philly doctors.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

You're Kidding, Right?

Domonic Brown, one of the lone bright lights on a very dull team, is the subject of a very unflattering story by Bob Brookover in this AM's Inky.

The gist of the story is that a lot of baseball people are put off by what they label "unprofessional" behavior by Brown following his home runs.  Seems he does too much styling for their taste, takes wide turns around first and crosses the plate with some Samurai-like pose whenever Ryan Howard is there to greet him.

The most cited group of offenders appear to be scouts, a group long in the tooth on average and probably old school in general, Reggie Jackson's histrionics notwithstanding.

Brookover also quotes some opponents including nameless souls on the Miami Marlins' roster.  The way things are going in their world, anyone drawing a walk probably is offensive to them.

Frankly, I've been struck by how modest Brown has been during his latest tear.  Indeed, he can't be stylin' too much in this fan's mind given how profoundly boring the Phillies are in general.  Now, maybe Brown's "antics" are relative to the stoicism of the Chase Utley's of the world.  Who knows.

Oh, and who cares???!!!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

The Sum Total Of It

With the first day of June upon us the summer season begins in earnest for baseball, the summer game.

It's clear the Phillies are going nowhere this year or in the foreseeable future.  Beset by injuries, age and mediocrity at most positions, the Phils Golden Age has ended.

Frankly, even a normal season from Cole Hamels wouldn't have righted this ship, but the harsh reality is that the struggling southpaw's dismal season to date is all that stands between the Phils and .500 baseball.

The only real bright spot has been Domonic Brown, whose white-hot month of May, twelve home runs alone, has propelled him into the limelight.

Jonathan Papelbon has had a good season thus far as has Cliff Lee.   Kyle Kendrick has been a serviceable back-of-the rotation starter forced into the middle of the rotation by injuries.

No one else stands out.  Three and half players out of 25.  That about sums it up.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's Never Too Early

Advice to anyone beginning to compile a list of Phillies available at the July trade deadline:  Start with the players likely to be retained because it is a shorter one to assemble.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Old King Cole

It's customary these days to lament Cole Hamels' lack of support, defensively and especially offensively, and wonder when, if ever, he's going to catch a break.

Frankly, he blew his chance last year when he re-signed with the Phillies.  Surely Hamels must have realized he could have signed with plenty of other teams who might field contenders, but instead he re-upped with a Phillies team in clear decline.  In his defense, Hamels might have signed here because he liked playing in Philadelphia, liked his teammates and didn't really need another x-million dollars to make him feel superior.  So, let's give him some credit.

OK, now that we've done the right thing, how about that 1-8 record?  Well, he has a high ERA, too, but when one analyzes the overall scheme it's clear to this observer the further Hamels goes into a tight game without an inkling help is on the way, the finer he pitches, thus opening himself to leaving pitches over the plate (he is among the league leaders in home runs allowed) or suffering through the breakdown of teammates who feel just as tight as he does through much fault of their own.

One day the Phillies are going to score a lot of runs in a Hamels' start and he is going to get the win, but the intervals between such circumstances are not going to contract with this lineup.

* * * * * * * *

Domonic Brown is proving just about everyone wrong about his potential by putting together a pretty decent season thus far.  Nearly everyone, yours truly included, was ready to give up on the former phenom, who prior to this season has battled (in no particular order) injuries, lack of consistency and a brutal lack of confidence on the part of management.

Truth be told, Brown is more of a rookie this year than in any prior season because he has been handed the job and kept it.  Even his defense has improved with regular playing time.  He has been a bright spot in an otherwise fairly miserable and dull  season.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Coulda' Been Worse

Carlos Zambrano?  Well, it coulda' been worse; the Phils could have tried and tempt Pedro Martinez to come out of retirement.

Seriously, folks, Carlos Zambrano couldn't convince 31 other clubs he can still pitch so it's hard to imagine what, other than desperation, motivated the Phillies' alleged brain trust.

But back to more important things....

The Phillies have been maddeningly inconsistent for two seasons in a row but on one front they have never wavered:  they hide injuries or simply lie. The Roy Halladay saga was basically laid at his feet.  Roy never said he was ailing.  Right, and I have a bridge for sale. 

The Phillies, especially the press-friendly pitching coach Rich Dubee, insisted he was fine.

Last winter there were reports Cole Hamels was experiencing discomfort in either his shoulder, arm or elbow.  (I can't recall which and I am not interested in looking it up.  The point is the reports were of some discomfort in an area of significance to someone who throws a ball for a living.)  So far this season Hamels has been wildly inconsistent.  The only area of any regularity has been his propensity to serve up home run balls.

At some point in the next few weeks we may just get word of a "precautionary" MRI or other such test.  Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano will be working himself back into shape, hopefully as a pinch hitter.  As Ben Davis put it, "the dude can hit".  As a former catcher, Davis is also convinced the dude can no longer pitch.

If all of these things come to pass, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick will head the staff.  Now, before you three readers jump down my throat, it's not certain Hamels is injured; he may simply be off his game.  But given this team's track record, I wouldn't bet on it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Time In...Again

The mood struck me.

Last night's hero, John Mayberry, is one of my annual crusades and now I am armed with a great example:  Domonic Brown.

Brown, a former phenom, has been a disappointment for most of his brief big league career because he hasn't lived up to expectations...nor been healthy.  As a consequence, he was yanked in and out of the lineup, sent down to AAA for more seasoning, and generally saw his confidence undermined at every turn.

This season he won a starting job due to a very good Spring and a terrible off-season by his GM, Ruben Amaro.  Failing to really address their outfield needs, Amaro handed Brown a starting job by default via his manager, Charlie Manual.

So, Brown started the season knowing he had a job and he has kept his job knowing the Phils had no one to replace him.  The results have been a fairly good start for Brown, who is showing power, batting a decent albeit middling .257, and not butchering everything hit his way.  In short, he is confident and collar will not get him the hook.

Which brings me to Mayberry.  If John Mayberry knew he were going to start every night he would produce the same results, that is, decent hitting, good power and a very good glove.  But Mayberry has never been able to take the field without looking over his shoulder.

Confidence is everything in sport...indeed in life.  Mayberry hasn't had much because the Phillies have always undermined it.  Give him the job, Charlie, and sit back and see what he can do for a stretch.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Time Out...Again

Here we go again.

The "euphoria" (let's not get too carried away) over the two wins in San Francisco has already evaporated.  Another good outing by Cole Hamels was wasted by meek, indeed pathetic, support.

Let's face it, this is at best a .500 team so these swings should be expected.

Speaking of "swings", Jimmy Rollins appears to have left his in Florida.

That's all for now, folks.  I'm as bored writing about these guys as I am watching them.  I'll be back some day, perhaps soon, when the mood strikes me.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

I Give Up

I give up.

Who can figure this team out.  Blown out at home by Miami, the Phils fly across the country to face the streaking Giants in their cove by the bay and beat them two straight.

I give up.

Bad news just keeps on comin' and still these guys keep on keepin' on.  Roy Halladay is indeed injured.  A partial tear of the rotator cuff  and a worn labrum and he was still pitching.  No wonder he couldn't get much on the ball.  I've suffered from similar injuries and had trouble lifting my arm altogether let alone throwing a baseball sixty feet six inches.

I give up.

Just when you think these guys won't ever score a run again they bash a few home runs, play a little small ball, and lo and behold beat Mssrs. Bumgarner and El Freako.

I give up.

Kyle Kendrick is officially the most reliable starter the Phils run out there on a regular basis.  A nice guy who has persevered, Kendrick is proof nice guys can finish least for now.  Hats off to him.  No one is more deserving.

I give up.

Anyone who thought Carlos Ruiz would save the day has forgotten last year's numbers were an aberration.  So far, Chooch is struggling to hit his weight...really!

I give up.

Instead of reacting negatively to Cliff Lee's semi-calling out, the Phils have responded by supporting him with some offense for a change.  I guess it really isn't a calling-out when someone simply states the obvious.

Monday, May 06, 2013

May Day


In no particular batting order, those are the averages of the Phillies's regular lineup.

Add in the horrendous middle relief and dreadful starting pitching from some but not all the big names and you have a team spiraling out of control.

And it could get worse.

Oh, sure, it's difficult to imagine anything worse than giving up twenty runs to the Indians in two games and seventeen to the Marlins in three (at home, no less) while watching the team's batting average plummet, but wait.  The Phils open a three-game set in San Francisco tonight where they will face some serious starting pitching.

It's been just a little curious to learn Doc Halladay is suffering from various injuries only after he has some bad outings, but, then, the Phillies have never been considered forthcoming about injuries.  Who are they hiding the truth from?  The Marlins figured it out in the very first inning.  By the third inning Doc's ERA had exploded and he was headed for the showers and possibly the Disabled List.

Between denials by Cliff Lee he was doctoring the ball, brouhaha's about Mitch Williams' relationship to the Phils in general and Rich Dubee in particular, Doc's mysterious ailments, Cole Hamels' lack of support (and proclivity to serve up home runs) you have a miserable situation growing more dismal by the day.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Pride And How To Get It

Cliff Lee sort of called out his teammates after last night's shutout loss in Cleveland.  I said "sort of" because he used the royal "we" in saying the Phils should have "a little more pride".

Well, Cliff, the problem isn't pride.  It's just that the Phillies aren't very good including the once-proud pitching staff.

The way to have "a little more pride" is to play better and, frankly, that doesn't look likely. So, maybe the Phils need to acknowledge they have a lot of deficiencies before they go looking for more pride.

Just a thought, Cliff.  Run that by the boys in the clubhouse and see how they respond.

Two Mistakes By The Lake

Anyone believing the addition of Carlos Ruiz would restore the Phils to respectability must have been hoping Chooch took his enforced holiday as a golden opportunity to develop a cutter.

If nothing else, he probably has more on the ball when he returns it to the pitchers than when he first receives it.

The Phils didn't just limp out of Cleveland, they tucked their tails and sneaked out under cover of darkness.  Everyone boarding that charter wore sun glasses to cover his swollen eyes and bruised egos.  The last place Indians smoked the Phils, no destroyed them!  Twenty runs in two games while the Phils "bats" "erupted" for two runs, all in game one.

Cliff Lee returned to the site of his glory and stunk up the joint.  Fortunately, not many fans go to Cleveland games any longer.  Lee joins Roy Halladay as an official sore spot in the rotation.  Cole Hamels also has a spot reserved, a single win over the lowly Mets hardly enough to remove him from the ICU.

The Phillies have faced a lot of newcomers this season and must surely be tempted to resort to that old excuse that the first time a team faces a newcomer the pitcher has the advantage.  There must be lots of budding Cy Youngs out there, at least according to the Phils.

The Phillies have been historically slow starters, but with this walloping in Cleveland, including the first of May, it's safe to assume their pace isn't going to pick up any time soon.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Is There A Doc In The House?

The short answer is an emphatic NO!.

I guess I reversed cursed the Doc a few days ago.  Just when Rich Dubee thought he could sit back and relax because the media he seems to hold in perpetual contempt was no longer questioning whether or not Roy Halladay was done, Cleveland showed up on the schedule.

Now, mind you, coming on the heels of their sweep of the Mets, the Phils probably looked at these two games in Cleveland as a chance to pad their stats and get back to sea level for the season.  Instead, they were torpedoed right out of the slip and went down to an ignominious and ominous defeat.  Halladay was savaged by  a lineup filled with players who hadn't known him in his earlier days as an American Leaguer.

Welcome back, Doc.

Naturally, the Phils' bats were also largely silent, as it their habit when not facing the Mets.  And just as naturally, the bullpen poured gasoline on the fire lighted by Doc.

The Phils are a mess and no three-game sets in Queens are going to set them straight.  Halladay really does appear to be cooked.  Cliff Lee hasn't been so dominating of late.  Cole Hamels finally won a game on the last weekend of April.  Kyle Kendricks has been the lone positive spot in the rotation.  The fifth spot is being handled by a rookie who wasn't even that highly touted by the Phils' own alleged brain trust.

...and Delmon Young is the starting rightfielder as soon as the team leaves the AL and the DH.

Tickets anyone?

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Be grateful for Kyle Kendricks.  And be mindful that is a potentially troubling development. 

Kendricks is a seasoned veteran now.  His development and maturation has sneaked up on us.  A perennial back-end-of-the-rotation guy, he has been the most steady performer thus far this season.

Meanwhile, the Phils' bats have awakened versus the Mets.  Too bad they cannot play lousy teams all the time.  It's hard to feel confidence about a team that bashes lousy pitching.

The biggest surprises among the position players have to be Michael Young, who is hitting well, and Chase Utley, who is hitting well and holding up well.  The biggest worry remains a gimpy Ryan Howard and an underachieving Domonic Brown.  The biggest flop has been Ben Revere, who has already been given a few days off to clear his head.

Cole Hamels gets the start this afternoon and tries to avoid going 0 for April.

MLB released attendance figures for the season to date and to no one's surprise including the Phillies alleged brain trust, the locals lead the league in drop-off from the previous year.  Those turnstiles are not turning fast enough to fund the huge payroll in place.  The alleged brain trust will be in the unenviable but predictable position of having to raise ticket prices for a diminished product.

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, across the street, the Flyers finished their disappointing season with a flourish to finish over .500.  Better things were expected of them, but serious injuries out of the gate, especially on defense, wrecked their chances.  In the end, a lot of newcomers and sophomores from 2012 underperformed.  The other huge problem was the overuse of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov because the coach didn't trust his backup until a late season trade brought in Steve Mason.

No single person, GM Paul Holmgren, or coach Peter Laviolette, is to blame for the dismal season, but on the other hand, they assemble the team and schemes, so it is reasonable to hold them accountable.

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, next door to across the street, the Eagles surprised a lot of people by drafting Matt Barkley in the 4th round.  Nearly everyone around here who bleeds green is in the process of convincing himself the Eagles stole one and Barkley will turn out to be a franchise quarterback.  Thirty-one other GM's were not convinced.  Those are long odds.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


It hardly took a genius or for that matter a genie with a crystal ball to predict the 2013 installment of your Philadelphia Phillies were going to struggle for runs and middle relief.

On the other hand, if someone had put money down that Cole Hamels would enter May winless, just about anyone would have taken that bet.

It's no crime to grow old.  Heck, it isn't even punishable by imprisonment or a fine to be lousy.  But to be so damn boring is more than offensive.

What we can say is Charlie Manuel is already panicking.  He gave Ben Revere, admittedly a flop to date, twenty games to get going and resorted to his favorite leadoff hitter, Mr. James Rollins of Oakland, CA.  Domonic Brown has shuffled between left and right fields.  He may still have a starting job, but even he isn't sure where to go without a scorecard.

Meanwhile, all of the so-called experts including yours truly gave up on Roy Halladay.  It looks like we were wrong.

Ryan Howard looks so over-matched these days we can expect to see more days off.  He moves with such caution these days one has to wonder if that Achilles tendon is bothering him.

Anyone who thinks Carlos Ruiz will return and save the day is dreaming.

Phillipe Aumont is never going to be a reliable reliever.

The hardest ticket in town has gotten progressively easier to find.  By mid-summer it should be downright easy to walk up to the gates a few moments before the first pitch and get just about any seat in the house.  All of those big salaries assumed a full house every night.  So much for the collective wisdom of the Phillies alleged brain trust.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Take It Back, Miami.

I apologize to the Marlins.  After all these years of excoriating the franchise located in Miami I realize there is at least one benefit to their presence in the league: without them the Phils would be wallowing in the cellar.  So, thanks, Miami, for just being around and being lousy.  But watch out, boys, these guys are starting to win now and then.

The Phils are certainly an equal opportunity club these days.  Nearly everyone is giving a chance to stink.  Some, of course, stink worse than others.  Domonic Brown appears to really be the bust he's been since arriving as a phenom.  He cannot hit.  He cannot field.  He cannot stay healthy.

Ryan Howard has actually pulled his average up over the last week, but don't worry, it will fall again.  Let's face it, Howard's decline has been steady.  At this point his manager is sorely tempted to sit the big guy against all lefties, tough or not.  Howard has one home run after seventeen games.  Teams no longer even put a shift on him when hard-throwing righties are on the mound.  They just figure he cannot get around on them.

Jimmy Rollins has seen his average sink, too.

Erik Kratz really is the career minor leaguer we thought he was.

Cole Hamels has yet to win a game.  Roy Halladay has yet to convince me he is back.  John Lannan has the feet of clay we suspected all along.  His knee is made of the same stuff, too.

Ben Revere really was the cheap alternative.  He can field as advertised.  He hasn't done much else.

Right field is a revolving door.  Brown is in left; enough said.

Carlos Ruiz is eight games away from returning.  He won't make that much of a difference...if at all.

Ryne Sandberg is coaching third, presumably moving closer to managing the team.  Perhaps he should consider offers from the outside while he can still get out.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Here's all you need to know about the Phils' three-game sweep by the Cincinnati Reds:  they didn't draw a single bases on balls the entire series.

You already knew they didn't hit or score because that's who these Phillies are.  You also knew John Lannan wasn't going to continue his world-beater imitation once he faced a team other than Miami.

The Phils did waste some fine starting pitching by Cliff Lee and especially Kyle Kendrick.  Both pitchers received no support though truth be told the offense wasn't singling (bad pun) them out in particular.

So, the boys in red pinstripes limped home literally with Domonic Brown clutching his back after swinging at a pitch closer to Covington, KY, than home plate.

They're aging.  They're unexciting.  They're losing. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Time In

OK, five days are up and what better occasion to rejoin the festivities than during the Phils weekend journey to the worst city for major league baseball in the civilized world?!

That's right, folks, "the worst".  No sandlot in the Dominican Republic or aging bleachers in Havana nor the most basic diamond in the Dutch Antilles can compare to baseball in Miami.

Have you ever noticed that baseball telecasts from Miami have their own sound?  The sound of those vuvuzelas reverberating off of the 40,000 plus empty seats.  The PR system that seems to originate from a mine shaft.  The sound of a foul ball rattling off all those seats.  Boos that don't cascade (there is a minimum number to reach "cascade" level.  See Citizens Bank Park for reference.)

Placido Polanco batting cleanup.

Chris Wheeler making at least 100 references per game to the size of the park, made larger by the absence of occupied seats.  Last night's game was probably seen by more tourists from Quebec than residents of Florida including the vendors, ushers and grounds crew.

The sheer extortion of it by the Marlins' ownership, getting the local citizenry to fund the new stadium only to watch him trade away most of their best players.

It almost makes one wish for Bowie Kuhn.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Take Five...As In Days

One week into the season and we know even less about these Phillies than we did when they broke camp and headed north.

The starting pitching is even more suspect than anyone imagined, especially with Cole Hamels sporting an ERA north of ten.

The middle relief is in near-complete disarray.

The defense is lousy.

One pitch separated the Phils from being swept by Kansas City at home.

The Phils took 4-0 leads in two of their weekend games against the Royals...and lost both of them.

Chase Utley is healthy and hitting.  Ryan Howard is healthy and is not hitting.

After one week this observer finds the Phillies astonishingly boring to watch.  Barring any important developments, I already need time off.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

That's Baseball


One pitch.  Down to their last out.  Hitless and phutile throughout the evening.  Wasting a good start by John Lannan in his debut with the club.  On the brink of starting the season 1-4 including two straight losses at home.  Phillies nation edging toward the ledge if not poised to go over it.

Kevin Frandsen pinch-hitting in a tough situation.  Frandsen, who earned a starting spot based on his 2012 performance but who didn't get one because the alleged brain trust decided his position requires, no demands, power and a glove at least as good as Brooks Robinson.

Having loaded the bases with two outs and watched the next two guys go down on strikes, Frandsen, whose parents were in from California for the game, probably went up their looking for the proverbial good pitch to hit, a fastball if you please.  And, lo and behold, he got one.  And, lo and behold, he stroked a double into the gap in right clearing the bases and giving the Phils an improbable last AB 4-3 win.

One pitch away from an even more dismal opening week than even this blogger expected (and my three loyal readers know I am not your garden-variety optimist).

So, what can we say? 

That's baseball.  Fortunately.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Record Setting

Google engineers report there were a record number of searches in the Delaware Valley yesterday afternoon for synonyms for the word "slaughter".

Funny, I wasn't among those searching.  The word "humiliating" immediately leaped to my mind and I found it more than satisfactory to express my feelings about the Phillies home opener.

As I predicted earlier, while troublesome, the starting pitching wasn't their chief concern; nor were the late innings (who happily for them, never got a chance to appear).  No, the big problem would be middle relief and sure enough it was (wait, I need to consult my Thesaurus) pitiful.  No, wait.  How about "beerleague"?  No, wait.  I don't won't to cast any aspersions on that estimable blog.  Let's settle for non-existent.

Now, 33 years is a long time to harbor a grudge, but the Royals apparently did just that.  And with George Brett in the house, the newest incarnation of the "other" team that used to play in Philadelphia, roared back from a 4-0 deficit with the aid of some lousy (and expected to be so) fielding by Domonic Brown and some, well, non-existent middle relief.

Surely the Phils' alleged brain trust is already scouring the waiver wires.  You would have thought they had sufficient time since early February to work these things out, but they came north with these retreads, never-weres, has-beens and pretenders in the first place.  Help is probably not on the way.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Early Interleague Play. Very Early.

Thanks, Cliff, we needed that.

The Phillies staved off being swept in Atlanta when Cliff Lee pitched a gem in the final game of a three-game season-opening series for a 2-0 win.  The victory halted a potential 0-3 start and could be an indication of things to come. Some of the starting pitching (yo, Cole!) will sort itself out but the offense is going to struggle to score runs.

So the Phils return to Citizens Bank Park to begin their home season against the...wait...what league are we in?  The National?  So, why are the Phils opening against the Kansas City Royals?  Hang on.  I had to look this up in the paper this morning.  I couldn't remember who their opening day opponent was and when I read George Brett and Mike Schmidt were throwing out the ceremonial first pitch I blinked a few times.  Just a minute, I thought, what is George Brett doing in town?  That WS was 33 years ago, not exactly a round number.  MLB couldn't find a worthy NL opponent?

Go figure.

Interleague play is bad enough, the novelty having worn off long ago and the inequality of the schedule (as in who plays whom) quite annoying, but since when does it begin in April?

I'm sure the alleged brain trust is thrilled with this opponent for the opener.  How many fans would come to see Kansas City in, say, June? 

Thursday, April 04, 2013


OK, sports fans, it's official; you can worry with impunity.

The Phils had their collective hats handed to them for a second straight game in Atlanta and in the process saw Roy Halladay justify all the pre-season worries about his velocity and other diminished attributes.

Following the game, Halladay vowed he would fix things.  His determination is to be admired.  His professional mortality is another matter.

While we are on the subject of worries, Jonathan Papelbon did nothing to dispel them in this corner.  It's feast or famine with the Phils' closer.  Last night the Braves were feasting.

Among other things, Ryan Howard is hitless in the first two games and has struck out three times in eight official AB's.  Ah, but it's early.  Meanwhile, Michael Young looks like a guy who hasn't played third base for quite a while, not the sort of thing you want to see in your third baseman.

Chase Utley continues to look like the hustling player of old.  Mike Adams looks to be all he was cracked up to be.

The Phils try to salvage a game before returning to Philadelphia for their home opener tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Bright Side

There aren't many cities in which the home team can lose its opening game in a 162-game season and see panic set in, but we're talking Philadelphia here.

The alleged brain trust of the Phils rewarded newly-anointed ace Cole Hamels with the opening day start (in Atlanta) and sat back and watched him get pummeled.  Hamels was just about the only starting pitcher on this squad about whom there had been little worry (if you throw out the pre-season scare about arm soreness), so it couldn't have calmed the natives to see him batted around.  There may be some consolation in past results predicting future performance.  Cole has lost most of his opening starts since arriving in the big leagues.

On the other hand, Phanatics had to be thrilled with Chase Utley's opening day performance.  He homered and tripled and even more impressively began the season in the starting lineup.

Ryan Howard began with a collar.

Chad Durbin looked like the retread he is.  That bridge to Adams and Papelbon looks like one of those hemp jobs over a jungle river gorge.

But let's look on the bright side, eh?  (Yes, folks, I may not mention the bright side often but I do know one exists.)  The Phils have 161 games remaining, some of them against Miami.  See!  Told 'ya!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Drum Roll, Please

The moment all of you have been waiting for....

The Phillies will finish third in the NL East this season, failing to make the playoffs for the second straight year of what promises to be a long hiatus on the outside looking in.

Built to win last year, they are surely more desperate than ever to try and win this season.  Unfortunately, they haven't got the horses, especially in the starting rotation.  Their top three starters feature a Cole Hamels on the continued way up, Cliff Lee who is enigmatic and unpredictable, and Roy Halladay, who is in decline.  Behind them are Kyle Kendrick, a perennial hopeful at best, and John Lannan, who could be a textbook example of a fifth starter were he not really a sixth one at heart!

The offense contains its own bevy of question marks, headed of course by a recovering Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Howard needs more plate discipline.  It's a worrisome sign the Phillies have announced before the first game of the regular season they plan to sit Howard against tough lefties.  Howard needs to adjust and he needs to adjust now.  The trends have been downward for several seasons now.  If he cannot alter the trend line now, he never will.

Utley appears healthier than he has in a few seasons.  How long he will hold up is anyone's guess.  This is the final year of his contract.  Will he be one of those aging stars who puts together a banner season in the final year or will he wear down under the strains of every-day playing?

Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young man the left side of the infield.  Rollins may need more range than ever to cover for Young, whose better fielding days are probably behind him; but Rollins isn't any younger either.

The outfield will be makeshift for what seems to be the billionth year in a row.  Ben Revere mans center.  He should do fine.  Domonic Brown, finally handed a starting job with no visible strings attached, gets his third chance to live up to the hype.  No one expects him to be a star fielder; indeed, he is the starting left fielder, not his more "natural" or at least accustomed position in right.  The Phils preferred right fielder, Delmon Young, starts the season on the DL.   There, at least, he cannot botch any plays.

The teams's catcher, leader and most likeable player in the last few seasons begins the year in banishment for testing positive for a substance for which he could have received an exemption.   The unfortunate fallout forced the Phillies to hand the job to Erik Kratz, who is not Carlos Ruiz' equal in any respect except, apparently, determination.

The bullpen is stronger in the eight inning than it has been for years with the addition of Mike Adams.  Jonathan Papelbon should do fine as the closer.  Getting to these two is still going to be an adventure.  The sixth or seventh inning could prove to be the Phils' undoing.

The bench is mediocre.

The manager and coaching staff don't matter unless the Phils are forced to make double switches every game.

Over the last five or six seasons the hardest ticket to find in these parts included one for a game at Citizens Bank Park.  By August of this year they could be easy to find.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Breaking Camp

The Phils are about to break camp and head north absent the barnstorming of yore.  If they've been watching the weather channel, the alleged brain trust might want to delay their departure.

While I am loathe to attach much significance to spring training results, indeed the superstitious me is convinced there is an inverse relationship between spring training and regular season success, it's hard to ignore the problems that have surfaced with the pitching staff.

On more than one occasion a starter has looked like a batting practice pitcher.  John Lannan's pitiful outing only yesterday isn't altogether surprising; after all, he is a mediocre player.  Roy Halladay's struggles are another matter.  While Doc is getting credit in some quarters for acknowledging he isn't the same pitcher he was a few short seasons ago, the guys in the other dugout could care less how he makes the adjustment.  All they know is they couldn't hit him before and they can now!!

The good news, in a nod to my friend Julia, is that Ryan Howard and Chase Utley  have appeared healthy and productive and Domonic Brown may finally be ready to be the everyday player the Phils envisioned.  That said, this team wasn't built as an offensive juggernaut and the production of the last few years, injuries notwithstanding, bears that out.

Cliff Lee needs to bounce back from his peculiar season a year ago.  Cole Hamels needs to be even better now that he is clearly the staff ace.  Kyle Kendrick has to pick up where he left off a year ago, especially since he is really likely to be the team's number three pitcher whether his manager and pitching coach like it or not.

Jimmy Rollins is a year older.  Still a fine shortstop, nevertheless he has lost a step.  He still is not the prototypical lead-off man and never will be.  The Phils should hand Ben Revere that role and stop tinkering.
That leaves one corner outfield position open.  Delmon Young, whose defense will never be mistaken for that of Pat Burrell let alone Shane Victorino, will probably man that position once he is healthy.  In the meantime, Lance Nyx will see some action there.

While Carlos Ruiz serves his suspension, Erik Kratz will handle the catching duties.  Expectations are low.

New setup man Mike Adams looks healthy and effective.  Jonathan Papelbon should provide all the excitement he did a year ago, a mixed blessing as far as this fan is concerned.

Next post:  My eagerly awaited predictions.  Are the three of you ready?

Sunday, March 10, 2013


One of the most clever signs ever hung in a store window was the following in a Detroit sporting goods store:

Now is the discount of our winter tents.

I was reminded of witty sign when considering the sports landscape in Philadelphia this winter.  It could not be more bleak except for some college hoop teams.

The professional hoop team is pitiful.  The promise of last season and optimism regarding the acquisition of Andrew Bynum have long since evaporated.  The players are mostly over-matched and the coach has become increasingly vocal and irritable about their efforts.  Daily News writer Rich Hoffmann had a particularly poignant line about Doug Collins' public lamentations:  "He bought the groceries and burned the dinner.  He can't now blame the stove."  Collins had a lot to do with the makeup of this team.  He also must have had some role in the due diligence on Andrew Bynum.

Bynum joins a particularly select group of players who arrived in the City of Brotherly Love damaged goods and tantalized (taunted, really) the local faithful with rumor after rumor he'd be back in the lineip at some later date.  Now, if not earlier, it is clear he was never going to play a regular season game in a Sixers uniform.  Good riddance, Andrew.  They team cleared some salary cap with your acquisition.  Some legacy.

Drue Holiday has continued to emerge for the Sixers, but Evan Turner has been impressively unpredictable.  Thad Young is a gamer, but just about everyone else on this club seems to be treading water.

Meanwhile, the Flyers began the truncated season ineptly and except for one day thus far, have been below .500.  Currently, they are three games under .500 and playing with little heart.  There were reasonably high hopes for this club, except for worries about the defense, but some players have been hurt (every team has injuries in this rough and tumble sport) while others have disappeared.  The coach is on the hot seat with an owner not known for patience.

Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is still utterly unpredictable except for his mood, which seems to have gone from cheerful and eccentric when he arrived with much fanfare last season to gloomy with each defeat this year.  Goalies are only as good as the defense in front of them, and the Flyers don't have a good one.  On the other hand, he can be brilliant one night and give up soft goals the next.  One would guess much of his and our frustration could be alleviated if the team scored a few goals, but then, the other night they took a huge first period lead over the Penguins and then surrendered it and, finally, the game.  Bryzgalov, staked to a three-goal lead that night, had to be yanked after giving all of it up.

While GM Paul Holmgren struggles to find answers, the Flyers made at least two moves this season that are characteristic of them.  They reacquired two players whom they traded or otherwise moved previously.  I haven't the inclination to look it up, but the Flyers must lead the league in reacquisition.  (Corrections to this perception can be delivered in the comments section.)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Is It April Yet?

If I've learned anything in 65 years (hold the snickers, please) it's that Spring Training performances don't mean diddly!

Ryan Howard and Dom Brown are smoking home runs one day and Cole Hamels throws batting practice to Dominican Republic the next.

Call me when the games count.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pass The Bucket

It has been awfully quiet here for a long time, but like players, coaches, announcers and hotdog sellers, bloggers need their own warmups.  So, here it goes....

There is a fair bit of optimism in Clearwater this Spring because Chase Utley appears healthier than at any time in three years, Ryan Howard has apparently recovered from his Achilles tear and Roy Halladay seems fit as well.  Let me pause to ask the equipment manager if he has a bucket of cold water available.

Spring Training always takes place in the land of Optimism.  The realities beg to differ.  The infield, with an aging Jimmy Rollins who has been prone to his own assorted ailments, and Michael Young, a solid performer who is probably in decline as well, simply does not inspire confidence.  Howard was so inept versus lefties last year the club has already announced he'll sit for fifteen games or so when opposed by tough southpaws.  That doesn't sound like a guy who was simply struggling with injuries.

Utley only knows one speed:  full throttle.  Anyone who plays with his intensity is a moment away from trying to beat out an infield hit or sliding hard into second to break up a double play.

The outfield is young, very inexperienced and short on defense in the corners.  Any team that relies on its pitching, which the Phils will do, needs solid defense to make up the difference.  And while we're at it, such as staff also relies heavily on a good field general behind the plate.  Carlos Ruiz won't be there for a while as he serves out his suspension.

In a division with the Nationals and Braves sporting lots of talent, the Phils will probably finish third...if they remain healthy.

Thanks, I only needed one bucket.

Friday, January 25, 2013

On Second Thought....

Considering everything Ruben Amaro has said and done in the last few seasons, he ought to do Domonic Brown a favor and trade the lad.  If anyone needed a fresh start, it's Dom.  The Phillies went from anointing him the crown jewel of the organization's youngsters to a guy who needed more seasoning, to a guy who had to earn the job to a guy who, well, what...?  A platoon player at best before the season gets underway?

Listen, I'm unimpressed with Dom's defense and we all can see he hasn't delivered the power numbers expected.  Those things said, does any young player maintain his confidence when the alleged brain trust never misses an opportunity to degrade him publicly?

So, do him a favor, Rube; trade him away.  After all, the Phils are simply trying to hold onto third place before the season gets underway.  Why not start rebuilding now?  The window of opportunity closed a year ago, Rube.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mid-Winter Musings

I can only assume Domonic Brown's inbox is full because the Phillies' alleged brain trust keeps sending him the same message over and over again, i.e., "Dom, the ____field job is yours...sort of.  We're gonna' bring in another guy, though, just in case you can't hack it."

So, who is the "other guy" of the month this time?  None other than an anti-Semitic, out-of-control, overweight designated hitter who hasn't played defense for nearly five years.  Can you hear them now, Dom?

* * * * * * * *

Three games into the "season" and the Flyers already know one thing:  Ilya Bryzgalov is not the answer.  He is the question, however.

* * * * * * * *

Throughout their recently expired golden years (2007-2011), the Phillies almost made some people in town believe they were everyone's favorite sports team.  The firing of Andy Reid and hiring of Chip Kelly set the record straight.  The obsession not only over Reid's firing, but his hiring in Kansas City reached a fever pitch.  Even the Weather Channel provided updates.

Never was someone shown the door with such fanfare and preoccupation.  Lost in the shuffle is the fact that the Eagles really needed to hire a quarterback, two offensive linemen, one linebacker, a defensive tackle, two defensive backs, and a defensive coordinator.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Chip.  Eugene is going to look pretty good come, say, mid-October.

* * * * * * * *

Has anyone seen Andrew Bynum?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Absolutely Not!!

The Baseball Writers' Association of America has spoken, sort of, failing to vote in a single candidate to the Hall of Fame for the first time in nearly four decades.

The resounding withholding of votes for first-time candidates Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, among others, can be roughly translated this way:  "No way we're voting for you creeps this year, but don't worry, we will get over it (or retire and be replaced by younger scribes who don't know you are creeps) and vote you in after a short hissy fit."

There are many writers who staked out the high moral ground and declared candidates like Bonds and Clemens to be cheaters who didn't qualify for the Hall on "character".  These voters are well aware of the avowed racists, drunks and cheaters already enshrined.

Local writer Matt Gelb, who doesn't have a vote and who generally is insightful, argued the Hall is just a museum, after all, not Mt. Olympus.  Sorry, Matt, but the Hall really is about immortality.

Still others argue there is no way the writers should keep the all-time home run king and one of the greatest pitchers ever out of the Hall.  This group probably includes more than a few who still feel Pete Rose should be admitted.  (Enough on that subject...for now.)

In the end, the nay-sayers were bent on punishment for a number of transgressions, including their own failure to blow the whistle.  Holier-than-thou-ism is among the first places of refuge for cowards.