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!