Saturday, November 1, 2008

We Did It!

Of course, I attended the parade yesterday (and then consumed a wee bit of fermented beverages). It was a blast. I wish it had been longer, but I loved it. And would love to see another one next year.

Here are my photos from the parade itself and the immediate celebration thereafter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Suprising? No. But interesting nonetheless.

http://www.philly.com/philly/wires/ap/news/state/pennsylvania/20081028_ap_recordlowforagame5inseriestvratings.html

I just want to know who the 40% are in Philadelphia not watching. Must be Communists.

And as the 40% in Tampa who are watching, well, I'm impressed. Didn't think that many people knew Tampa had a baseball team.

Worst Commissioner Ever!

Bud Selig's legacy was probably sealed on the day he canceled the 1994 World Series.

I (and millions of other fans) would probably never have forgiven him.

But instead of the bitterness gradually declining over the years, it's grown.

With each succeeding moment of crisis, Bud Selig has shown himself to be utterly contemptible.

I won't trace the entirety of Selig's sorry legacy here. Instead, I'll just mention the lowlights.

1. 1994 World Series Cancellation
Bud Selig accomplished what even Hitler couldn't. We had a year without a Series.

2. Steroids
Amid mounting evidence so incontrovertible a 10-year-old could tell there was a problem, Selig did nothing until the stench of chemically enhanced players reached even Capitol Hill. Facing Congressional action, Selig finally admitted there might be a problem, but the damage remains with an entire generation of players tainted.

3. 2002 All-Star Game
In what Selig clearly thought would be a welcome homecoming in Milwaukee, he was faced with two managers who had adopted the now-common practice of ensuring every player got in the game, instead of making sure they had enough pitchers to finish the game. Selig made the decision personally to end the game in a tie. And then he adopted the silly gimmick of determining home field advantage in the World Series based on the results of the All-Star Game, further insulting the game's history and degrading 70 years of entertainment with the offensive slogan, "Now, it counts."

4. Last Night

There can be no doubt that Bud Selig represented a sea change in the role of the Commissioner. Bart Giamatti ruled with an iron fist and upheld the finest tradition of the office when he prevented Pete Rose from entering the Hall of Fame. Fay Vincent was forced out for having the audacity to not be Bart Giamatti but trying to exercise the same authority.

When the owners decided to elevate one of their own to be the Commissioner, they stripped away whatever autonomy the office ever held; and instead they asked a bookkeeper to mind the till and make sure the cash register kept ringing.

By that standard, Selig has been an enormous success. Financially, baseball is in its best condition ever. New ballparks have sprouted up across the country with taxpayers everywhere footing the bill to ensure that multi-millionaire owners didn't take the team to another community willing to empty more of their coffers.

But for the fans, the Commissioner isn't about bottom lines; hasn't ever been about the economics of the game (except in the sense that they want the game to be fair and their own team not to be economically disadvantaged). For the fans, the Commissioner was officially established to restore and has always been about maintaining the integrity of the game.

And by that measure, Selig's tenure has been a complete failure.

Every time and issue has arisen that has threatened the integrity of the game, Selig has taken the weasely option, clearly putting anything else (in reverse order, it's been television ratings, the desire of two managers to not look bad at an All-Star game, a smooth collective bargaining agreement, and the desire of ownership to "stand up" to the union) in front of the integrity of the game.

So, even when he claims (as last evening), to be making his decisions solely for the good of the game, no fan believes him.

Monday, October 27, 2008

One More Win!

I want a parade, and I'm feeling nervous because everything seems to be coming together to get one.

Last night, I was at the game with Andy, who is my boss, and another friend from work. After Joe Blanton hit his solo home run to put the Phillies up 6-2, I leaned over to Andy and said, "This is starting to feel inevitable, and that makes me nervous."

I mean, the Phillies ace, Cole Hamels, on the mound at home with the opportunity to clinch after we just pummelled the opposition into submission (I think Eva Longoria might have gone back to the hotel and cried).

Phillies fans couldn't get more than this. It's too perfect. It's so un-Philadelphia.

But I'll take it.

All I want now is one more win!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quick Hits

* This is the sixth time the Phillies have gone to the World Series. Harry Kalas has called four of them.

* Charlie Manuel managed superbly under incredibly trying circumstances.

* Gotta love the NYPost's take on it all.

* And yet they'll still talk about Santa Claus.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Up 2-0

Last night's victory was huge for the Phillies.

Traveling to LA is always rough for East Coast teams. Doing so up 2-0, is much better than the alternatives...and it puts some serious pressure on the Dodgers.

I especially like that situation with Jamie Moyer on the mound. If the Phillies can get one or two runs in the early innings, the Dodgers' hitters will start pressing, and that plays into Jamie Mayer's hands perfectly.

I am still concerned about the lack of offense. Despite yesterday's eight runs, the offense has still been in a slumber. Without Brett Myers (3 RBI and 2 runs scored), they would have been in serious trouble. (Boy, who ever expected to write that sentence!)

J-Roll went 1 for 5 (his first hit of the series).
Utley went 0 for 1 (with four walks).
Howard went 0 for 4 (with one walk) and yet to get a hit in the series.

An optimist sees this and thinks "Wow! The Phillies are up 2-0, and the big three still aren't clicking."

I'm very happy that the Phillies are up 2-0, but I'm concerned that this team still isn't living up to its potential, and it will need to do so before this season ends. Otherwise, the season will end short of the ultimate goal—a parade down Broad Street.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

One Down

First, the good news. Cole looked great. After almost giving up a
two-run homer to Man-Ram in the first inning (What was it? Two feet
short?), he settled in to a very good outing. Seven innings, 2 runs, 8
K's and only 2 walks. And the defense behind Cole was solid. A nice
play by Rollins turned into a double play, and Howard's miscue was a
bad hop, not an error.

Fundamentally sound baseball is winning baseball.

And it was again tonight.

The Dodgers only error (combined with nice, fundamentally sound
baserunning by Victorino) cost the Dodgers a run.

The bad news is that a very powerful Phillies offense remained cold.
Seven hits, but none by Rollins, none by Victorino, and none by
Howard. I can't believe that's a long-term recipe for success. And
again tonight (as against the Brewers) the offense had only one inning
of scoring, with no scoring against the bullpen.

But as always in baseball, there's no asterisk in the win column.

--
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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Overconfidence

I'm posting my response to an email from a fellow Phillies fan. BTW, he called me a nattering nabob of negativism (way to pull an Agnew):

I'm seeing WAY too much overconfidence for my taste.

All of these stories about how the past is gone and they've achieved so much. I mean, come on, people, they won ONE playoff series. Big deal. If they get swept by the Dodgers, is ANYONE going to think that's good enough? I won't, and I don't think many fans will either. This city and team is starting to look a lot like the Chicago Cubs did one week ago.

Howard, Utley, Feliz, and Ruiz (i.e., half our starting 8!) still aren't hitting. The bullpen, which had been a rock all season, has suddenly become questionable, and we're relying on Joe Blanton (Joe Blanton!) to be our savior. Sorry, but as much as I'd love to agree with this line, I have to say that the smart money is on the Dodgers right now. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm afraid I'm right.

I just want the next two days to hurry up and finish because I don't think my nerves can take much more of this.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dodger Blue Up Next

Well, we got lucky. The Phillies continue on.

I'm worried about the offense. Burrell finally came out of his slump on Sunday. And normally, I'd think he's going to go on a hot streak (being an incredibly streaky player), but with 3 days off, it would take a miracle for Burrell to "continue" a hot streak. In fact, I think any realist would have to describe any success Burrell might have on Thursday and Friday as beginning a new hot streak, not continuing his existing one.

And with the way Chase and Howard have performed so far this off-season, I'm not exactly sanguine about our performance against the Blue.

Let's just say that as much as I love Victorino and Werth (both spent some time on my fantasy baseball team this year), I can't imagine that they're going to be able to carry us to a parade down Broad Street.

And that's what I want.

In addition, I really disliked all of the media coverage today. It was as if the Phillies had done something. They didn't. They beat the Brewers in the first stage of the playoffs.

I care about a World Series WIN, not just an appearance. So, let's quit acting as if we've done something and get back to work.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

2 Down

Great to get a win against their ace. Tonight was probably his last game in a Brewers uniform. The Brewers can't complain about what they got from him, but I'm still confused by the trade. Doug Melvin really thought getting swept in the first round was worth their entire future? Baffling.

As for tonight's game, I was worried throughout. No runs scored after the second inning? This was an enemic effort from our offense. It has to get better if we're going to do anything in the playoffs. And I really don't like the bad fundamental baseball.

Runner on first and one out in the first inning. How many runs? Zero.

I want a parade down Broad Street. We'll only get that by playing better baseball.

On the bright side, Brad Lidge was back to his "Lights out" self, and Brett Myers will be talking about that at-bat against CC right up to his next start. Reporters will have to press him to get him to talk about his pitching.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

One Down

Great win.

I'm concerned about the lack of offense (particularly with Sabathia waiting on deck), but I'm hoping that the conditions had something to do with the lack of hitting.

As for the debate of the moment (should Charlie Manuel have taken out Cole Hamels to start the ninth inning), I say Charlie absolutely did the right thing.

1. Charlie doesn't like to bring in Brad Lidge in the middle of an inning (that's why he frequently has brought him in to games with a 4-run lead, which is not a "save" situation).

There's a good reason for Charlie's preference. Lidge tends to take a batter or two until he settles in. It's not unusual for Lidge to unload with a wild pitch to the first batter he faces. Lidge has openly discussed this and pointed out that he sometimes takes a batter to settle in. Given that fact, it's always a better idea to bring Lidge in at the beginning of an inning, rather than waiting until there's trouble, when problems to the first hitter such as a wild pitch could be disastrous.

2. This guarantees a no-lose situation for Hamels.

Hamels pitched eight shutout innings in his second season in the majors. That's fantastic, and it will be the headline. He also gets to talk about how much he would have liked to finish out the game, which gives him added incentive to do better next time. There's very little extra bump for Hamels in pitching a complete game shutout vs. an eight-inning shutout. And what little bump there is provides motivation for Cole to do better next time.

So, if Cole comes out in the ninth and doesn't finish it off, you've wasted all of the good created by Cole through the first eight innings, and you have to bring in Lidge in a less-than-ideal situation.

Whereas by taking out Cole, you're able to bring in Lidge (who, BTW, has been perfect in save situations for more than a season) in his ideal situation.

3. And if, by some chance, Lidge blows his first save, that's OK so long as Cole didn't start the inning because Cole gets to shoot off his mouth about how Charlie shouldn't have taken him out of the game, and everyone focuses their venom on Charlie instead of focusing it on Cole for not being able to finish off the game.

So, yes, Charlie Manuel made the right decision. Had Cole been truly dominant today (say he was working on a no-hitter), then it would have been different. But under these circumstances, Charlie did exactly the right thing.

Good decision, Charlie.

And great win, Phillies!

Let's get another one tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gallardo-Hamels Game 1

I'm concerned about this match-up. I think Hamels will step up to the pressure of pitching Game 1 at home. Gallardo, however, presents some problems. The Phillies have a history of doing poorly against pitchers they don't know. Whether those pitchers turn out to be future Cy Young winners or just visiting the show for a quick cup of coffee, the Phillies manage to make all of them look like Hall of Famers.

And we've seen this team tank it offensively far too often. So, although Gallardo with only four starts this year might seem like easy pickings, I'll be much happier after the first inning if they've shown they can get to this flame-throwing righty.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Phillies Clinch!

Howard's Defense

Last night, Ryan Howard committed his 19th error of the season. It cost the Phillies two runs, and maybe another inning out of starter Joe Blanton.

In a conservative estimate, I'd guess that Howard has cost the Phillies somewhere around 30 runs this season defensively—both in his errors and in the plays not made.

Even so, his offensive numbers:

146 RBI
103 Runs
48 HR

and, for a stat I call total offensive contribution (TOC), which is RBI + Runs -HR:

205 TOC.

Those are phenomenal numbers.

Does he where on the starters and the bullpen? Yes.
Does he more than make up for it with his contributions at the plate? Yes.

I would love to see Howard dedicate some serious time this off-season to improving his defense. Just focus on the fundamentals (which is something I harp on) of fielding the ball cleanly, throwing the ball to second base to start a DP, get a force out, or complete a pick off.

A minor improvement in any of these areas would improve his already significant value immensely.

Comparing Howard to Albert Pujols (whom I the best player in today's game), the primary differentiator is their glove. Howard's a liability. Pujols's an asset.

Even so, substitute almost any other first baseman for Howard in September, and the Phillies are 5 games behind the Mets and out of Wild Card contention. So, I'm perfectly willing to live with Howard's deficiencies.

Magic Number 1

Today is the biggest game of the season for the Phillies. Win and they're in.

It's that simple.

And with the Mets moving Santana up to pitch on three days' rest (because if they don't win today, tomorrow doesn't matter), the Phillies can't simply sit back and wait for the Mets to lose. It's time to claim their division title, not wait around for someone else to hand it to them.

Unfortunately, this game will be shown on Fox. That both means bad national announcers (probably including the ever-irritating Tom McCarthy) rather than Harry Kalas in the booth; and it also means that in the event the Phillies do win, I don't know if anyone locally will be showing the post-game celebration.

Of course, it's WAY too soon to be concerned about that.

All I care about right now is getting through the top of the 1st inning without giving up any runs.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Blanton Count

A while back, I wrote that the Pat Gillick's trade for Joe Blanton would be a success if the Phillies won at least 9 games that Blanton started.

With tonight's win, the Phillies are 9-4 in starts by Joe Blanton. By the hair on his chinny-chin-chin...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Myers is off; Burrell is hot

Before tonight's game, Charlie Manuel spoke about how this was a big adrenalin game (just like when Myers was a closer). Problem is that's why he sucked as a starter at the begiining of the season. Completely different approach to the game.

Let's hope he can calm down and fix things.

And note that Burrell's hot again tonight. As I noted last night, this streaky player is on the right type of streak at the moment

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fundamentally Sound Baseball Again

I'm reminded again tonight of the importance of playing fundamentally
sound baseball.

As I've previously written (here and here), the Phillies struggles are
almost always caused by a failure in the fundamentals, not a massive
breakdown in their pitching or hitting. By the same token, their
greatest success has come from getting the fundamentals right.

Tonight's throwing error by Cole Hamels and baserunning error by
Burrell are the difference between leading or trailing this game 3-2.

That ability (or lack thereof) to play fundamentally sound baseball
will determine how far this team goes this year and in the future.

--
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Burrell's Hot

The storyline on the Phillies in September has been that Howard and
Rollins got hot and have carried the team. Gradually people have
started to realize that others have contributed significantly--some in
spots like Dobbs, Feliz, and Utley while others have consistently been
sharing the load though in lower profile roles like Victorino, Werth,
and Ruiz.

And throughout it all Burrell's been struggling mightily...until now.

A streaky player his entire career, Burrell seems to have finally
shaken off the rust as in the four games since Saturday, he's hit two
home runs and a double. When Pat's hot, he can carry a team. If this
is indeed Pat turning the corner, he couldn't have chosen a more
opportune moment.

--
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Mad Dog Madson

Am I the only Phillies fan who clutches his heart when Ryan Madson enters the game in a crucial situation?

I know the numbers, and I've seen the development over the past four years; but still, when he walks to the mound with the game on the line, I feel like Mesa is closing games all over again. And when he finally leaves the mound (typically having done his job effectively), I wipe the sweat from my brow.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Florida Doesn't Deserve Baseball Pt. 2

Although they haven't yet announced the attendance, watching the game
on TV, I see thousands of empty seats, and not just the outfield
nosebleed seats but lots of prime seats down both foul lines.

And this is for one of the hottest teams in baseball (having won 9 of
the last 10) that still has a legitimate, if tough, shot at the
post-season.

Disgraceful. They ought to move spring training to Texas to punish this state.

--
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What will the Cubs do?

That's the question for Phillies fans going into the final week of the
baseball season.

Having already clinched the NL Central title, will Lou Piniella rest
his regulars, treating the remaining games as glorified exhibition
games; or will he instead keep pressing to remain hot?

Lou's decision takes on heightened significance because the Cubs'
final seven games are against the top two teams (as I write
this) in the Wildcard race. Four against the Mets followed by three
against Milwaukee.

I'm expecting Lou to keep the pedal to the metal until the last game
of the regular season, except for his starting pitching staff, which
he might juggle to set up for the first round of the playoffs. I have
two primary reasons for expecting this.

First, regardless of what Lou does, one of these two teams (though I
hope not both) is going to make the playoffs. You don't want to give
up anything to a potential playoff opponent. Anything that gives your
competition a little confidence (such as having won a few against you down the
stretch) in the playoffs is a bad thing. Lou's been around
long enough to know that; he's not likely to make that mistake. This
is even more important against the Mets because if the Mets are the
Wildcard team, they will start the post-season against the Cubs in
Wrigley.

Second, Lou's history includes early exits from the playoffs when he
managed the Mariners. Those teams included the record-setting 2001
club that had the most wins (116) in AL history. That team cruised
into the playoffs, having clinched early, and was promptly dispatched.
Especially this year, with the opportunity to again make history this
time for the Cubs by ending a 100-year World Series drought, Lou is
not going to take it easy until he's hoisting the trophy.

Don't get me wrong. Will Lou this week use Kerry Wood for a 2-inning
save or on three consecutive nights? No, absolutely not. And as I
mentioned, I do expect him to juggle his rotation, but if I'm Jerry
Manuel managing the Mets or Dale Sveum with the Brewers, I have to
view the Cubs as the best team in the league looking to get hot going
into the playoffs, not as a relaxed team looking to ease into the
post-season.

Doing otherwise would be perilous to your post-season health. And in
the case of both of these interim managers, that's likely to determine
whether they they return at the helm next season.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CB Buckner's Game Pt. 2

And now he's taken a shot to the throat. Call the hotel and send a
gallon of painkillers to his room.

Don't worry, CB, it's a late start tomorrow.

--
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The Gambler's Fallacy & Baseball

According to the Gambler's Fallacy a string of the same events shows
that the opposite event is "due" or "bound to happen." 14 flips of a
coin resulting in heads means the 15th is "bound to" be tails because
tails is "due."

So, by parallel reasoning, Brad Lidge is "due" to blow a save since he
has a streak of more than 40 converted going back to last season.

Of course, there's a reason it's a fallacy.

--
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CB Buckner's Game

They say an umpire is at his best when you don't notice him. If that's
true, CB Buckner had a rough night.

The rough part actually started when he took a foul tip bunt off the
side of the head.

All night (literally beginning with the first batter, Jimmy Rollins)
players and (I assume) coaches have been questioning his strike zone.

And then came the 8th inning when a series of suspect ball-strike
calls against the Phillies in the top half of the inning culminated in
an apparently blown call on a play at the plate in the bottom half,
which was rapidly followed up by a close ("I heard a foul ball") check
swing that kept Cody ROss standing in the batter's box (instead of on
first base) where he would strike out a few pitches later.

Rough night to be an umpire when the game's still not over and that
foul tip to the noggin is starting to look like the high point.

--
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Fundamentally Sound Baseball = Winning Baseball

So why are the Marlins winning?

Two throwing errors in the top of the third led to one unearned run
for the Phillies.

Annibal Sanchez failed to get down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of
the third, and the Marlins still managed to score two to take the
lead.

But if the two teams keep playing the same way (fundamentally sound by
the Phillies and a wreck by the Marlins), I'll put my money on the
fellows from South Broad.

--
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Florida Doesn't Deserve Baseball

This is the final home series for the Marlins. Yet with a bitter rival
who's in playoff contention in town and with a serious hot streak that
COULD get them back in the playoff race themselves, the Marlins are
drawing 20,000 fans.

"They're drawing well," says Chris Wheeler.

The sad part (and why they don't deserve a baseball team) is that he's right.

Under these circumstances, 20,000 on a Saturday night is good. Pathetic.

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Fish Smell

The Marlins are always a tough team for the Phillies.

In addition, the Fish have been extremely successful for a small-market, low-salary, no-fans team. That's bound to rub Phillies fans the wrong way.

Finally, the two squads genuinely seem to dislike each other, and that's been going on for years.

So, no surprise then that a hot Phillies squad with a slim lead in the NL East went to South Florida last night and lost to an even hotter Marlins team that has avoided all talk of the playoffs and instead set its sights on being a spoiler, pulled off a big win.

Surprising to me in all of the coverage of Brett Myers implosion was the lack of discussion of Jamie Moyer's comments following his seemingly miraculous victory over the Brewers on three days of rest.

At the time, Moyer said that pitching on three days' rest wasn't a problem. The problem, he said, was the next start after doing so. Sure enough, his next outing was 5.2 innings with 6 ER against the Braves on Tuesday night.

Myers beat those same Brewers on 3 days rest, and his second start was last night.

The only commentator I've seen take up this theme is Rich Hoffman.

In part it got overlooked in the victory Tuesday night, when Howard's 2-run home run made the Phillies look a tad invincible.

What's the point?

Well, if this really is just a three-day hangover, then Myers should be fine for his next start; but this is a cautionary tale about how to handle him and Moyer in the closing weeks and into the playoffs.

The lesson is NOT that we can't pitch them again on 3-days rest. The lesson IS that if we do so, we better have the bullpen ready early.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Welcome!

I decided to split my posts about the Phillies into a separate blog because they were getting lost amidst my political rants and random other postings.

I know all 3 of my loyal readers will be deeply appreciative of this change.

And if, by some random coincidence, you're not one of my 3 previous readers, welcome to the blog.

Here, you'll find me tracing the Phillies pursuit of a second consecutive division crown, and (I hope) a berth in the World Series (I don't dare mention more than that).