Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Starting Cole?

Cole Hamels said something stupid.

"I can't wait for (the season) to end," he said following his latest debacle on Saturday night in Game 3.

Boy, was that dumb. Players aren't supposed to want the the season to just end. They're supposed to want to keep playing, to want to win. Giving up is not part of the game and shouldn't be part of any competitor's vocabulary.

Lots of people (including me when I first read the comments) were pissed off by these remarks. Hamels should have been apologizing for his performance and trying to figure out ways to do better if the need arises, not wishing for the whole thing to be over.

And many people concluded, based on these comments, that Hamels should not start Game 7, should the need arise.

Now, of course, every Phillies fan (myself included) hopes desperately that Charlie Manuel has to make the decision of who to start in Game 7. If only we have to make that hard decision, we'll all be happy.

But should Manuel in fact start Hamels?

Well, let's assume, just for the sake of discussion, that the Phillies win Game 6 without having to use absolutely everyone on their staff. Martinez pitches six innings, Chan Ho Park pitches the seventh, Scott Eyre and Brett Myers combine for the eighth, and Ryan Madson gets the save in the ninth.

That would probably be the best scenario for the Phillies since they wouldn't have to use Hamels, JA Happ, Joe Blanton, or Cliff Lee, all of whom are available because if the Phillies don't win Game 6, there's nothing else to talk about.

In that situation, whom should Charlie start?

Well, look at the options.

Joe Blanton pitched six innings and gave up 4 runs. Not bad, but no one's begging to put him back out there; and especially not on short rest.

JA Happ hasn't had a start since Game 4 against the Rockies, when he gave up three runs in three innings. He's rested because he hasn't seen much action out of the bullpen, but in that limited action he hasn't been impressive, twice walking the first batter he faced.

Cliff Lee would be working on 2 days of rest, so you couldn't expect to get more than three or four innings out of him. And since he probably hasn't pitched under those conditions in a very long time (if ever), you have no idea what to expect from him.

And then there's Hamels, who hasn't pitched well this postseason, and who said something really dumb. But who also won the World Series MVP last year and who has frequently risen to the occasion.

Maybe I'm too simple a mind, but I take Charlie Manuel at his word when he says that the only thing running through his mind when he makes decisions about what to do is winning the game.

So, what's the right move in this hypothetical situation?

Start Cole Hamels in Game 7.

Put him on a short leash. Have Happ warming up before the game and in the bottom of the first inning.... And have Lee warming up in the second, and Blanton in the third. Hell, have Matt Stairs warm up if it'll make you feel any better.

But there's no doubt in my mind that under those circumstances, Manuel should pitch Hamels, stupid comment and all.

Of course, the real hope is that Charlie is forced to make this tough decision in the first place.

And that's the far bigger issue. Starting pitching has absolutely been the deciding factor in every game this series, except for Brad Lidge's meltdown in Game 4.

So, what do you look for in Game 6? One word: Pedro.

One more

As a Phillies fan, of course, I'm happy.

We won.

Now, we have to do it again.

This is not easy, but this is the task before the Phillies.

Cliff Lee again did a good job, and Chase Utley again reminded Brian Cashman why he's going to write a very big check to acquire him as a free agent in a few seasons.

For now, though, he's a Phillie.

And so, we move to NYC.

What should the discerning fan have noticed tonight?

First, the Phillies offense came alive, but Ryan Howard remained silent. At his best, Howard can carry a team for weeks on his offense. His continued struggles are not good, but they also give hope because when he comes alive, it will matter.

Second, the top of the order came alive. Chooch is amazing. Pedro Feliz can hit a fastball as far as almost anyone (except Howard) in baseball, but it's the top of the order that makes this offense run, and tonight for the first time, the top of the order came alive.

Third, Lidge is out. This had to happen, but it's not easy or obvious. Charlie Manuel is a great manager, and a huge part of what makes him great is his ability to put people in positions they are used to where they can succeed. That's what Charlie does. He doesn't ask people to do things they aren't comfortable with.

He decided to remove Lidge from the closer role, and he's not coming back.

Fourth, Utley's refusal to accept a curtain call. As depressed as I was this morning (and the entire city felt the same way), I was never concerned about how the people in the Phillies clubhouse felt. I knew that they'd come out ready to play. And when Chase Utley tied Reggie Jackson's record for home runs in a World Series but refused to take a curtain call, he sent a message to the rest of team. Depression is for pussies. He wants to win, and the rest of the team agrees.

This ain't over. No need to take a bow.

So, on to New York.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It Had to Happen

During this amazing season, two factors marred the Phillies' success, lingering in the background of every discussion of how good this team was: the inconsistency of Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge.

No matter how large a lead in the division standings, people would end every conversation about this club with a "Yeah, but if Lidge..." followed quickly by a "And who knows what you'll get out of Cole..."

For the first two rounds of the playoffs, against the Dodgers and Rockies, the Phillies were able to keep those doubts at bay. It even appeared to some that Charlie Manuel's handling of Lidge down the stretch had revived this imperfect closer, perhaps given him just enough mental rest to reset the clock.

This weekend, we saw those doubts brought to the forefront. Hamels' forgettable 4 1/3 inning performance on Saturday followed by his inexplicable comments that he just wished the season would end was compounded by Lidge's meltdown that turned what would have been one of this city's most memorable come from behind victories into one of its most indellible moments of pain.

Sunday, November 1 will live alongside Black Friday as a memory no one in Philadelphia is able to forget.

Going to the mound tonight is the seemingly unbeatable Cliff Lee, and Phillies fans are hoping that Cole doesn't get his wish just yet. At the very least, we want to be spared the indignation of watching the hated Yankees celebrate on our home field.

Tonight we root for Lee and hold our collective breath if he isn't able to pitch a complete game and we're forced to turn to the bullpen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The old cliche is true. In baseball, momentum is the next day's starting pitcher.

And for the Phillies coming off last night's gem by Cliff "I now own Philadelphia's heart" Lee, momentum for the Fightin's takes the mound in the form of 37-year old Pedro Martinez.

There's never been a more dramatic figure in baseball. Before he arrived in Philadelphia in July of this season, I admit that I was not a fan. I respected his stuff and granted that he deserves a Hall of Fame induction when his career finally closes, but I'd never understood all of the drama Pedro creates.

There's just something about this guy. Partly, it's his high jinks when not on the mound. Before he joined the local nine, I was swayed by all of the ESPN footage of Pedro being a bit of a goofball in the dugout and before games. Only now do I appreciate that all of that is on his non-throwing days.

When Pedro's on the mound, he's all business; and he knows that business very well.

Which is another aspect of his game that I've only now fully appreciated.

This man used to have some of the nastiest stuff in sports. He could get away with a mistake because his fastball was just too fast, and his curveball just too deadly for hitters to resist.

Now that the fastball has lost a few mph, and the curve and the change-up aren't what they used to be, you can really see just how intelligent a pitcher he is (and probably always has been). Pedro knows how to beat batters with his mind.

That's what he'll have to rely on tonight against an incredibly powerful Yankees line-up, and that's also what makes Charlie Manuel's decision to start Pedro perfect.

After the obvious decision to start Cliff Lee in Game 1, it was a real conundrum of what to do in Game 2. This year (including this postseason) Cole Hamels hasn't been the same guy who won the World Series MVP last year, but he did in fact win that MVP award.

So, shouldn't he, a pitcher in his prime, be the number two starter in the World Series?

Pedro pitched a brilliant game against the Dodgers in the NLCS, but that was the first time he'd gone deep into a game since the middle of September, and it was in 80-degree, sunny Southern California. Tonight, Pedro will be pitching in weather predicted to be in the mid-50s (and dropping).

And that's where his mental advantage comes into play.

Cole Hamels has had several difficulties this year, but the most glaring one in the postseason has been his inability to brush off mistakes (either his or those of the fielders behind him). Instead, he seems to dwell on those errors, and tries to do too much to compensate for them. That leads to another mistake, which then snowballs.

Tonight, with an opposing pitcher (AJ Burnett) known equally well for dominating lineups and having severe meltdowns on the mound (having led the majors in wild pitches this season), the Phillies need a rock on the mound.

Let the Phillies line-up get into Burnett's head and they'll be just fine.

Let this New York crowd get into your own head, and there will be trouble.

So, if Pedro Martinez could avoid a complete meltdown while pitching for the Boston Red Sox with 50,000 fans in old Yankee stadium chanting "Who's your daddy?" in 2004, then I think tonight's crowd and, more importantly, tonight's Yankees' line-up is unlikely to faze him.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Great Start

What can you say about Cliff Lee?

A complete game, 1-run performance. Through most of the night, he simply made the Yankees look silly.

The image that best captures tonight was the Lee nonchalantly catching the baby popup from Johnny Damon. Lee was completely in control.

And, by the way, the best way to deal with a shaky bullpen is to get a complete game from your starter.

This performance will definitely go down in Phillies history.

Fortunately, the Phillies lineup also came through. Chase Utely's two homeruns should put to rest the rumors of his alleged injury, at least for the duration of this series.

Of course, this is October, and even more so than during the regular season, the cliche holds true. Momentum is defined by the next starting pitcher. Tomorrow night that means Pedro.

Pedro Martinez returning to the stadium where the fans will remember their "Who's your daddy?" chant from the 2004 ALCS.

Worth A Thousand Words

From Tony Auth at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

4 More Wins

That's the challenge, and this Phillies team is relishing it.

For the first time in more than 125 years, the Philadelphia Phillies are returning to the World Series for the second consecutive year.

The task before them is significant. The Yankees appear to be the Bronx Bombers of old, the team that uses two words ("so far") to show their attitude toward baseball's biggest prize. Those two words, used in the phrase "26 World Series Championships so far" express an expectation.

While Philadelphia fans spent the larger part of the past 25 years wondering whether their teams would ever win another championship, and Phillies fans in particular have suffered through the most ignominious history of all sports teams (10,000 losses!), Yankees fans have become gradually more agitated that they were stuck on 26 titles.

The difference between franchises could not be greater, but this Phillies team is determined to erase that difference. Their goal was not, has never been, to get to their second consecutive World Series. Their goal is and has always been to win the World Series.

That gave last night's celebration a familiar feel. The party on the field wasn't reminiscent of the 2008 NLCS victory, and not simply because this time it was celebrated at home. No, the celebration last night reminded me much more of the Division clinching victory just a few weeks ago.

This team was happy to have crossed off another item on its To-Do list, but this wasn't a culmination of anything. There's still more work to do.

It's not given that the formidable Yankees will be their World Series opponents. Though the Angels are in a tight spot, they're not to be taken lightly, and certainly this Yankees team won't do so. And if they do manage to come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Yankees and take on the Phillies in the Series, the Angels will be riding high on a wave of their own expectations.

Regardless of the opponent, this Phillies team is ready, because they know their job.

Four more wins.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What a game!

Monday night's ninth inning comeback against the Dodgers will go down in Phillies lore. Overshadowed in the hoopla surrounding J-Roll's RBI double to win the game was the incredible performance by the Phils' bullpen.

By now, everyone has realized that Brad Lidge has shaken off a miserable season and regained some of his dominant 2008 form. And while that might be true, that's not the entire story.

Last night, Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, and Lidge gave the Phillies 3 scoreless innings of relief. After Joe Blanton's shaky start, those three shutdown innings made J-Roll's heroics possible.

Lidge's story is well documented, including a long feature by The New York Times about this closer's journey from the depths during his final two seasons in Houston to his resurrection last season with a perfect 48 saves in 48 attempts and then a return this year to being completely unreliable.

Look also, though, at Park, who returned from the disabled list for this series. Madson, who can't get out of his own head long enough to become a dominant closer, despite possessing a 98-mph fastball, and Eyre.

Of the group, Eyre's story is perhaps the most amazing of the group.

Eyre has several loose bodies (probably bone spurs) in his pitching elbow and is going to undergo surgery as soon as the season ends, not to prepare for spring training. No, the surgery is just so he can lead a normal life without pain because Eyre announced earlier this year that this would be his last season.

Of course, he declared the same thing following last year's World Series victory. Yet the Phillies managed to convince him to stick around for one more season.

Acquired after the Cubs gave up on him last year, Eyre has become such a valuable member of the bullpen that he's a virtual co-closer. Part of Charlie Manuel's genius has been limiting Lidge's work in the ninth inning, and most often it's been Eyre taking the ball for the first one or two outs in the final frame.

And just to add another wrinkle to the story, Eyre is nearly broke (or at least he was in spring training). He had invested almost all of his money in the Allen Sanford Ponzi scheme, and during spring training claimed at one point to be unable to pay his bills.

So, yeah, this might be the journeyman lefty's swan song, but if so, he's putting together quite an ending.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Things to Watch

As the playoffs kick off today, here are some of the key things to watch.

1. Jimmy Rollins' defense. Rollins was a gold-glove shortstop most of the season, but when the Phillies became dull and lifeless in September, he started making errors. Even more than his bat, his play in the field is a reflection of the team's attitude.

2. Lee's start. Cliff Lee was phenomenal in his first five starts, then not so much in the rest. When there were problems, the first inning was particularly problematic.

3. Utley's start. Chase hit a home run in his first at bat of the World Series last year. The Phillies' offense was fine. He's in a slump as the playoffs begin. If he pulls out of it, the offense will follow.

4. The bullpen. Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, and Pedro Martinez are all in the bullpen today. Charlie Manuel hasn't committed to any of them being the Game 3 starter. Will any (or all) of these three be used to shore up a shaky 'pen? If called on in Game 1, we're likely to see that repeated as long as the Phillies stick around.

5. The closer. Even more than innings 5-8, the 9th inning's importance is magnified in the playoffs. I'm assuming Ryan Madson gets the call in a 1-run save situation today, but Charlie's kept mum on his plans. Maybe Happ? Maybe Lidge?

Oh, and Go Phils!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Step One

The Phillies' win over the Astros, coming moments after the Marlins' victory over Atlanta, which actually clinched the 2009 National League East Division Title was step one.

Step 1: Get to the playoffs.

Step 2: Set up the rotation for round one. This appears to have happened almost by accident. With his start tomorrow, Cliff Lee is set up perfectly to pitch Game 1 of the Division Series, and Cole Hamels is set up for Game 2.

Step 3: Rest the regulars. I fully expect Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, and the rest of the starting eight to get some time off. Until Tuesday night, they were starting to look tired, so now's the time to get them fresh for October.

Step 4: Win the Division Series.

And that's where I'll leave it for now because in watching the Phillies celebrate on the field, no one could mistake that for this team, this is just Step One.

'64 No More

Last night's win for the Phillies was huge.

First, combined with Atlanta's loss to the Marlins, it lowered the Phils' magic number to 1 and soothed the nerves of millions of fans who were starting to experience the recurrence of PTSDD (Post-Traumatic Stretch Drive Disorder) with flashbacks to the infamous 1964 collapse of our local nine.

Second, the offense returned. Most of the runs came on grand slam by Feliz and the two-run homer by Werth, but seeing the bats come alive again is always good, and there's nothing wrong with home runs.

Third, the Phillies punished an inferior team and a weak pitcher. The loss to Yorman Bazardo on Monday was so galling because Bazardo (and many of the pitchers they'll be facing this week) are just getting a chance to show top management what they've learned this year. Almost none of them will be on a major league roster next year, but for teams just playing out the string, it's a chance to see how the youngsters face the pressure of a major league outing and get a measure of how much farther they have to improve. When facing these pitchers, a line-up like the Phillies should destroy them and make top brass reconsider their call-up, not turn them into the second coming of Greg Maddux.

Fourth, the Phillies didn't look bored. The past few days, this team just seemed to need a long nap, and unfortunately, they decided to take it while still wearing their uniforms and standing on the ball diamond. Last night marked the return of a ball club with some giddyap in their step.

Fifth, and most importantly, following his impressive 4-out save on Sunday, Ryan Madson came in to shut the door with a 6-out save against the Astros last night. More than anything, the Phillies have needed someone out of their bullpen to step up and simply become the guy. The guy who refused to let another game be blown. The guy who didn't care that it was September. The guy who said, Trust me... and had the rest of the team believe him.

With a fastball that is now regularly traveling in the 98 mph range and a change-up that ranks among the best in baseball, Madson has the stuff to be the guy. He's had it for more than a year. But every time he's taken a step toward becoming that guy, he's followed it up with two steps back. Perhaps these two outings will convince the team...and convince Madson himself that now, he is the guy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1964 Redux

NDespite their best efforts to the contrary, this year's edition of
the phightin' Phils is not going to repeat the soul-crushing collapse
of the 1964 team. I still think the Braves' two losses to Philadelphia
in Atlanta earlier this month will prove to be the margin of victory.

After 156 games, though, this year's club has definitely left a bad
taste in the mouth. What happened to the plucky young upstarts who
would never say die?

Instead of a season filled with memories like the 10-9 victory over
Pittsburgh, after a 9-1 deficit in the 9th, this year's squad is going
to leave the locals with too many memories like last night. A
lackluster performance by everyone involved that was just painful to

Is this team demoralized because they realize that with even a
mediocre closer (as opposed to the lousy pair they have in Madson and
Lidge), this season would have been sealed up a week ago?

Yet the faithful keep believing...

Down 8-2 with two runners on, one out, and the Big Man Ryan Howard at
the plate, the crowd went wild...only to be let down again.

Will we be let down even further in a few weeks?

Sent from my mobile device

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Is anybody else starting to see some disturbing similarities between this year's Phillies team and the Mets teams of 2007 & 2008?

With a very comfortable lead coming into the stretch run, the back end of the Phillies bullpen is completely incapable of converting a save, much the way Billy Wagner and company imploded in New York in September of the past two years.

Consequently, the Phillies' only hope for winning games is to generate such a huge lead (6 runs seems to do it) that even their leaky as a sieve bullpen can't blow it.

So far, the primary difference has been the chasing team. Whereas the Phils the past few years went on a tear and really took care of business against the Mets down the stretch, the Braves have been hot against everyone except the Phillies. I'm hoping that taking two of three last week in Atlanta will hold them off.

But I'd feel much more comfortable if they actually reduced that magic number to 0...and quick.

And of course, none of this bodes well for sticking around in October for very long.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lights Out?

Every Phillies fan has been waiting for this. Last night, it happened.

Leading the Nationals by two in the ninth inning, Phillies' skipper Charlie Manuel brought in Brad "Lights Out" Lidge to close out the victory.

Instead, Lidge gave up a single to the first batter. Watching on TV, viewers could see Lidge's intensity as he turned around to retrieve the ball from second baseman Chase Utley, and this lip reader could swear he saw Lidge shout, "Let's go."

Unfortunately, Phillies fans know how this story goes. When Lidge lets the first batter on base, bad things happen.

Last night that meant a ground out from the second hitter, follower by a hit batter, and a walk to load the bases.

Manuel had seen enough. And this night, he had options.

In the seventh inning, Manuel had brought in former starter turned closer turned starter turned reliever Brett Myers. Myers got the final out in the seventh and then set down all three in the eighth.

That kept Ryan Madson in the bullpen instead of on the field in the eighth inning.

And when Lidge took the mound, Madson was already up in the 'pen. So, when Manuel decided that last night would not turn into Lidge's 11th blown save of the season, he was able to bring in Madson, with his 97-mph fastball and devastating change-up.

Earlier this season, Madson had failed in the closer's role when Lidge was on the disabled list; but by pulling his closer last night rather than letting him fail.

And even more significantly, by setting up his use of the bullpen to have Madson available to bail out Lidge, Charlie Manuel clearly indicated to Lidge, Madson, and the entire team that his patience has run out.

It's September, and there's no more time to talk about players coming around. This is the pennant drive. Come up short in the next 8 weeks, and the Phillies won't be parading down Broad Street in November.

Will Lidge be back on the mound in the ninth inning tonight in a save situation? Perhaps, but he now knows that his manager has other options and is willing to use them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Matty's Demotion

Matt Stairs (or "Matty" as Charlie Manuel refers to him) has been in a slump.

20 straight at-bats without a hit for a guy who is primarily a pinch hitter is actually a bit more than a slump. It's a potential pink slip.

Charlie Manuel has proven himself to be a master at using his bench. So many games have been won via the key pinch hit that seemed odd at the time.

Consequently, when Charlie, who clearly loves Matty as a player, chooses not to use him as a pinch hitter when the bases are loaded with only one out and a right handed pitcher on the mound, as he did tonight in the 6th inning.

Well, it might be a bit too much to say that Matty is in the dog house, but things are not going so well for the man who had one of the greatest moments in Phillies history last year with his home run against the Dodgers in the NLCS, which was followed by one of the greatest press conferences of all time.

Seriously, look at it.

So, what's happening here?

Have the Phillies (Charlie) seriously lost faith in the active career leader in pinch hit home runs or is Charlie just playing more of his Jedi master mind games to get Matty back on track? This is worth paying attention to as we approach the stretch run.

MLB Network

I love baseball.

I don't trust MLB...or any other professional sports organization to report on itself.

Baseball has now launched its own television network, and I'm one of the 145 fans watching at any given moment. It's cool. It's raw. It's not smooth or slick in the way that ESPN is. I like it.

Nonetheless, I acknowledge that what's happening here is importantly different for major league baseball fans. If we start relying on MLB to report on MLB, we're in trouble.

So, as much as I enjoy the MLB network, it's important that we continue to support independent channels of information about MLB.

Otherwise, we'll lose our love.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is a consolation prize?

Approaching the trade deadline on July 31, the Phillies faithful became rabid adherents to the idea that Roy Halladay was the sole savior for this year's edition of the Fightin's. Only Halladay could assure us another trip down Broad Street, and any other addition to the rotation would be a flop, guaranteeing another frustrating season that came up just short.

Ruben Amaro, Jr., the Phils' GM, didn't bring Halladay to lower Broad. Instead, he picked up Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco from the Cleveland Indians in a deal that was widely (though not universally) regarded as a nice consolation.

Four starts into his Phillies' career, Lee has changed the narrative dramatically. Two complete games combined with an 8-inning and a 7-inning outing tend to improve people's opinion of a starting pitcher. When you also surrender only three earned runs during those 33 innings of work, you'll very quickly become a fan favorite.

So, when former consolation prize, and current savior of the franchise, Cliff Lee came to bat in the bottom of the 8th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park last night, the faithful responded appropriately, rising as one to show their support and appreciation for the team's ace.

And just to put the cherry on this particularly delightful sundae, Lee added a second hit to his impressive output from the plate with a little dribbler down the third base line.

Yeah, this is far from consolation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sore Man Out

I'm disappointed in Jamie Moyer.

I never thought I'd write that line, but I just did.

Moyer was removed from the Phillies rotation yesterday and responded by talking to the press about how dissatisfied he was by the decision and even said that he'd been misled by management (meaning Ruben Amaro, Jr. and David Montgomery, not Charlie Manuel). He asserted that he would not become a distraction, but those words can't cancel the sentences that preceded them.

So, instead of writing today about the ongoing struggles of Brad Lidge (please get well soon, Brett Myers!) or the clutch home run by Big Ben Francisco or how JA Happ managed to keep the Phillies in a tough game against a contending team, I'm writing about Jamie Moyer whining to the press.

I can't blame Moyer for his feelings. Given all that he's done in the game and for this team since he joined it three years ago, he has a right to feel hurt. He should not, however, have aired those feelings with the press.

Close Charlie's door and yell till his ears bleed. Send Amaro a bouquet of black roses. But don't tell the press how upset you are. Nothing good can come of that. And nothing will.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Moyer's Bullpen Stint

The Phillies announced the inevitable on Monday, sending Jamie Moyer to the bullpen and adding Pedro Martinez to the starting rotation. After Moyer had another difficult and disappointing start on Sunday, there really was no choice.

It wasn't simply that Moyer's outing was substandard. His 5.0 innings allowing 3 runs wasn't particularly worse than most other appearances this season, but this was against the Florida Marlins. Throughout his career, Moyer has owned the Marlins, with a 13-2 record before Sunday. Their young, free-swinging line-up is ideally suited for Moyer's beguiling assortment of slow and slower pitches. He's mastered this team by taking control of the game and tantalizing the overly eager Marlins.

Sunday, he didn't. So, after surrendering 11 hits to a team he's previously mastered, Moyer also surrendered his slot in the rotation. Of course, no one should shed any tears for Moyer. His career has been filled with far more trying times than pitching out of the defending world champions bullpen.

And there's no guarantee that this situation will last. Martinez has looked good in his minor league rehab starts, but they were, after all, minor league teams he faced. There's no way of projecting what this former Cy Young winner will bring to the mound Wednesday night in Chicago. Should he falter or re-injure himself, Moyer could easily fin himself making another start in just a few days. In addition, no one can have watched this season's Phillies team without realizing how tenuous a strating rotation is in baseball.

Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Brett Myers, Chan Ho Park, Cliff Lee, Andrew Carpenter, Antonio Bastardo, Rodrigo Lopez, JA Happ, Jamie Moyer, and (now) Pedro Martinez have started for the Phillies this season. That's eleven starting pitchers, and counting.

Although the Phillies would love to have a nice, tidy roation of five reliable starters they can pencil in on a regular basis, that has eluded them so far this season.

With no game yesterday, the team got a rest after an embarrassing weekend sweep by the visting Marlins cut their lead in the NL East to 4 games (3.5 after Florida beat Houston on Monday). Of course, that's the most important point.

Despite a sweep by the suddenly resurgent Marlins, despite a rotation that appears to be held together with scotch tape, and despite the circus-like atmosphere surrounding Martinez's arrival and Moyer's momentary shift to the 'pen, the Phillies remain in first place with a solid chance at the playoffs, and beginning on Tuesday in Chicago, they're now trotting out a rotation featuring two past Cy Young winners, one former World Series MVP, and a serious Rookie of the Year candidate.

Yeah, Jamie will be just fine.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happ's Staying

Today, Ruben Amaro, Jr., confirmed two things that some people have been debating.

First, JA Happ is remaining in the starting rotation. This has been an active and vibrant topic despite all of the apparently insurmountable reasons why he simply had to remain in the starting rotation (having the best ERA among the starters, the most complete games, and as of yesterday, the most shutouts). Nonetheless, the Phillies appeared to have an embarrassment of riches that was about to force them to put one of their finest starting pitchers into the bullpen because the other pieces (Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez) appeared unsuited to that role.

Fortunately, sanity has won on this first item.

In addition, Amaro clearly, publicly, and appropriately took the reins of this team. Since the World Series, this team has been the team that Pat Gillick built...and quite appropriately. When you're around for 126 years and finally achieve your second World Series title, the man who put it together should get a significant portion of the credit for having done so.

But at some point this had to become Amaro's team. The relationship between GM and field manager is complicated, but at the end of the day the GM can fire the manager, and the reverse can't happen (the Braves' Bobby Cox and Cardinals' Tony LaRussa leap to mind as possible exceptions).

It's telling that Amaro played an extremely low-profile role during the period leading up to the trade deadline, basically venturing out once a week to read again the same line from the script: "We do not comment on possible trades."

Yet it was Amaro who definitively announced that Happ would not be leaving the rotation. He didn't leave it to Charlie Manuel to announce this, nor did he choose to leave it unannounced. He apparently went out of his way this morning to convene a gathering of reporters to announce HIS decision.

I agree with the decision. Despite a previous post fretting about Happ being destined for the bullpen because the other pieces didn't make sense in 'pen, I've always thought JA Happ was one of the top 3 or 4 starters in the rotation this season, and that was enough reason to keep him in the rotation. For me, his career prospects were always irrelevant. Lightening in a bottle is a rare thing. When you get it, use it.

After a chaotic time leading up to the trade deadline, when the Phillies were more actively involved in both actual and rumored trades than at any point in the past 20 years, it was good to see Amaro firmly assert his control of the team by announcing this decision.

I trust the leadership of this Stanford-educated, lifetime member of the Phillies family, and I'm really HAPPy he also made the right decision.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Odd Men Out?

With the addition of Cliff Lee to the Phillies rotation, Rodrigo Lopez's time with the team is rapidly drawing to a close. He's unlikely to start again (barring injury), and at the moment, they don't seem to need him in the bullpen, so he's likely to be moved. I argued in a post the other day that the move would probably be for a Triple A catcher. That move didn't come before the trade deadline, but that doesn't eliminate the possibility of the move.

The July 31 deadline was actually the non-waiver trade deadline. Players can still be traded. Indeed, the Phillies have made several post-waiver deadline trades in the past that went on to have major impacts. Last year, Matt Stairs and Scott Eyre were added, and that's also how the Phillies acquired Jamie Moyer in 2006.

The only difference is that after the non-waiver deadline a player must first clear "waivers" before they can be traded. Major, star-caliber players (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jake Peavey, etc.) are unlikely to clear waivers without being claimed by another team, but someone like Rodrigo Lopez isn't likely to excite too much waiver wire activity. And even if he does, a waiver claim doesn't eliminate the possibility of a trade. Claiming a player off waivers forces original team to (1) work out a trade with the team making the claim, (2) take back the player, or (3) lose the player to the team making the claim without getting anything in return.

Since the Phillies aren't trying to sneak a former Cy Young winner through waivers, there's a very good chance they'll be able to get Lopez through. And since I suspect that their preferred acquisition is a Triple A level backup catcher, there might not even be a need for the team on the other side of the trade to put their player through waivers.

If I'm right that takes care of one of the seven potential starting pitchers the Phillies have, but they'll only need five, so who's the second odd man out?

The top of the rotation is set with Cole Hamels, Lee, and Joe Blanton. The three people subject to all of the speculation are JA Happ, Jamie Moyer, and Pedro Martinez. Pedro has said that once he's ready, and clearly he thinks he is just about ready given his performance in the second rehab start on Friday.

Given Happ's success this year (7-2 with a 2.97 ERA), he would seem to be a lock for the rotation. Two factors weigh against that. First, unlike Moyer and Martinez, Happ has recent bullpen experience, having started this season in the 'pen where he also had success (2-0, 2.49 in 12 games). Neither Moyer nor Martinez has extensive experience in relief.

Second, Moyer has turned around his season. One month ago, it would have seemed downright absurd to suggest keeping Moyer in the rotation and moving Happ to the 'pen. In July, however, Moyer put up strong numbers (4-1 with a 3.30).

Of course, nothing will happen until Pedro is ready. His comments make clear that he believes he's ready now and after this stint on the 15-day DL, should be activated for the majors. It's possible, though, that GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. will disagree and keep him in Triple A longer.

So, there's a very good chance that Happ will move to the bullpen when Pedro is ready to join the rotation. If either Moyer or Martinez struggles, Happ could always move back into the rotation, having made that transition flawlessly once already this season.

By mid-August, we're probably looking at a Phillies rotation of Hamels, Lee, Blanton, Moyer, and Martinez. And for the first time in my memory any team will be in the situation of removing a Rookie of the Year candidate (Happ) from the starting rotation despite doing a great job as a starter.

JA Happ would indeed be an odd man out.

Friday, July 31, 2009

'Roid Rage?

Big Papi was ridin' the 'roid train.

Am I disappointed in David Ortiz? No.

First, I don't know what he did, why he did it, when he did it, or what effect it had on his performance.

Second, I don't care.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am opposed to the use of steroids by any professional athlete. I believe the current MLB policies are slightly less draconian than they should be, but overall I think those policies are correct.

I do not, however, consider the Steroid Era as the greatest black-eye on the game. Nor do I consider the players who cheated (and I do acknowledge that these players are cheaters) the lowest form of life.

Instead, I view the Steroid Era in the broader context of a sport where cheating has always been a part of the game. After being enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Rollie Fingers marketed a movie where he demonstrated how he cheated by doctoring the baseball. Legions of baseball beat writers from ages of yore have written about the rampant drug usage (particularly speed) during the '50s and '60s.

None of this was acceptable, but it has always been part of the game, and in loving the game I accept these things as part of it. I want these things eliminated moving forward, but I'm not willing to begin a witch hunt for the perpetrators, nor am I willing to start dishing out asterisks to every record from the past 15 years.

By design, professional athletes go through a brutal selective process of elimination that produces a group of people who will do virtually anything to gain the smallest advantage because that tiniest of advantages might make the difference between making the varsity squad or not, or being dropped from the Single A team or not, or being added to the Major League roster or not. Consequently, those who actually make it to the highest levels of the game have been surviving hundreds (if not thousands) of evaluations by an incredibly coarse, harsh group of critics.

It's not an accident that the people who survive this process are likely to do anything (including breaking the rules) to gain an advantage. The entire system is set up to guarantee that ONLY those people are willing to do so (and those incredibly rare individuals born with an innate gift) survive.

So, yeah, apparently, maybe, I think, according to reports from people who violated the law to release this "vital" information Big Papi was using substances that have subsequently been banned by Major League Baseball.

Does that reduce my respect for what David Ortiz accomplished during those four or five years when he was the most feared hitter in the American League? No. Of course not.

Do I want Major League Baseball to punish ANYONE who is found to have violated the new policy? Absolutely.

Do I want those punishments to be severe? Oh, yeah. Really bad. 50-game suspension for a first violation is good, 162 games would be better.

Do I want any investigation of past offenses/continued revelations and investigations? No. I don't care.

What Big Papi did was wrong (if he actually did what he's alleged to have done). What all of those people did was wrong. But although there were laws against their actions, there were no policies by Major League Baseball against those actions. And in that type of environment, I can't claim to be too holier-than-thou about this situation.

I wanted my team to win. And if I knew that one of my team's players was breaking the law to help improve his performance (and hence my team's chances of winning) I wouldn't be saying anything unless the violation was also so enormously egregious that I couldn't tolerate it.

Using performance enhancing drugs? No, that violation doesn't cross the line I'm talking about.

It is wrong.

It was wrong when it was running rampant throughout clubhouses.

But the reason it's such a big issue has nothing to do with the players violating the policy. The real reason it's so horrible is about all of the people, especially the children, who don't become an All-Star but who are forced to use drugs that will irreparably damage their lives to pursue a dream of becoming a professional athlete.

I love sports, in particular baseball, but I'm not willing to accept a situation where we set up children to ruin their lives by forcing them to use drugs.

That crosses the line.

That's why I want the use of steroids or any other performance enhancing drugs banned with very harsh penalties for those convicted of violating the rules. But as a baseball fan, I don't want to even discuss whether Big Papi (or Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez or Mark McGwire) used steroids.

It doesn't matter. It's over. Let's move on... to this year's World Series, where a drug-free Ryan Howard hits a grand slam off a drug-free Jonathan Papelbon in Game 4 to win the Series for the Phillies.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Next Deal

The Cliff Lee trade leaves the Phillies with an embarrassment of riches.

They now have seven starting pitchers projected to pitch in the majors in August: Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, JA Happ, Jamie Moyer, Rodrigo Lopez, and the still-rehabbing Pedro Martinez.

Since there's never been a surplus of pitching in Major League Baseball, it's virtually guaranteed that Lopez, a journeyman who's pitched well since replacing the best-named pitcher in baseball, Antonio Bastardo, who also pitched well until he was injured after replacing the still-injured Brett Myers (Yeah, the fifth spot in the Phillies rotation has seen more occupants than a seen on Septa's El during rush hour.) that Lopez will be shipped out of town.

So, the irony can't be missed that despite all of this chaos--which itself is an incomplete picture of all of the moves the Phillies have had to make with their rotation (anybody remember Andrew Carpenter's spot start?)--the Phillies nonetheless find themselves in the position of being able to be a seller in the trade market before Friday's trade deadline. And they're offering up that most elusive quantity...a proven, healthy starting pitcher with Major League experience and in the midst of a career year.

Farewell, Rodrigo Lopez!

We barely got to know you. Your 3.09 ERA is almost a half run better than your previous career-best of 3.57 with the Orioles in 2002. And it's hard to ask more of an ace (let alone a fifth starter) than to go 3-0 in four starts.

What more could you have done?

Nothing. But that's beside the point.

You re-established your career, and you're about to receive a reward for that. You're about to become the centerpiece of a trade deadline deal that will send you to someone direly in need of a fifth starter (last I checked that was about 29 of the 30 teams in baseball) who have an expendable Triple A catchier because that's the one area that yesterday's trade opened up in the Phillies system.

And it truly says something about the changes to the Phillies organization that a blockbuster trade at the deadline to acquire the previous year's Cy Young award winner, said trade including two top pitching prospects, that that type of deal doesn't leave the Phillies light in pitching depth. Instead, it was the loss of Lou Marson, who appears likely to inherit Victor Martinez's spot behind the dish in Cleveland, that is going to have the greatest ramifications for the Phillies.

While Chooch Ruiz and Paul Bako are fine for now with the major league team, you can't expect Ruben Amaro, Jr. to go into a penant run with no back-up at Triple A for the second-most precarious position in baseball (second only to starting pitching).

So, goodbye, Lopez. I wish you well, and I'm really anxious to see how highly other teams view you. Tonight's start will almost certainly be your last for the Phillies, but that doesn't mean it's your last contribution to this year's team.

The catcher you bring in return could easily wind up playing a crucial role in what's turning into the most exciting Phillies season since...well, since last year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Deal

Let me preface this post by being one of the only bloggers to admit that I have no clue what actually happened between the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Indians in the past few days or weeks.

One way or another, the Phillies today announced a trade to acquire the Indians' Cliff Lee in return for Single A pitcher Jason Knapp, Triple A pitcher Carlos Carrasco, Triple A shortstop Jason Donald, and Triple A catcher Lou Marson.

Providing context, the Phillies have been for viewed by all major media outlets (and rumormongering bloggers like me) as the heavy favorite to add Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays ever since Toronto GM Ricciardi announced his willingness to trade Halladay a few weeks ago.

Whether the Phillies were ever serious contenders for Halladay, whether Ricciardi ever truly intended to trade Halladay, whether the Indians were lucky to get as much as they got or could have gotten far, far more....these are fascinating questions for baseball geeks like me. I'd gladly read a large book about these things. But these are also very complicated questions about negotiations and baseball evaluations and priorities and human emotions of fear and desire and the dreams of millions of fans (including me) for another parade down Broad Street.

So, for the moment (until that very large book is written), you and I have to content ourselves with this very uninformed, and short blog post.

And I feel obligated to limit this post to a discussion of what actually happened.

What happened is phenomenal.

Ruben Amaro, Jr. is a genius.

He managed to address the Phillies' two primary gaps: a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher and a right-handed bat off the bench without giving up a single player from the current major league ballclub or even giving up the one of the top "untouchable" prospects from the minors.

I'm not trying to diminish what the Indians have received. I think they got one hell of a haul. I've always been suspicious of pitchers who are head cases (among the classic examples for the Phillies are Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers) and Carrasco is allegedly another one. Sometimes, they come through, but most often, their physical skills are overwhelmed by their mental deficits.

So, I'm willing to watch Carrasco go, and maybe he turns out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but we get last year's Cy Young winner in return.

Lou Marson? Well, as I said in a previous post, I'm convinced that Marson is ready for the bigs.

Jason Knapp? I'm just not willing to project guys that far out. Veteran baseball guys get paid the big bucks to do that. To me, Knapp is a hope and a prayer.

Jason Donald? By all accounts, this was a journeyman kinda guy for a long time who seemed to catch fire last year at Double A and hasn't done much at Triple A. Maybe he's a regular in the big leagues. Or maybe not.

By any reasonable assessment, that's a lot that the Indians received.

But the Phillies got




They also go a right-handed bat off the bench.

This is baseball, so nothing guarantees nothing. I don't know whether the Phillies will win the World Series this year (but this atheist is praying hard for it). What I do know is that Ruben Amaro, Jr. has significantly improved his team's chances for doing so.

And in doing so, he did not sacrifice any of the pieces (see yesterday's post) that everybody thought he'd have to give up to do so.

I like this team. After today, I like this General Manager even more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Roy Halladay

The name says it all. Fans drool uncontrollably at the prospect of adding Doc Halladay to the top of the Phillies rotation.

And I admit that I'm as excited by the idea as everyone else, but I'm not willing to ignore the cost completely.

Trade Kyle Drabek? Sure.

Sorry, but I'm interested in another trophy, and 20 years from now, when we're looking at the third trophy in the Phillies case, we'll talk about how tough it was to give away the future Hall-of-Famer Drabek, but that it was the right decision to shore up an unreliable rotation.

I don't doubt that Drabek is as good as the press and Phillies staff seem to think he is. I do, however, think that when you're projecting the future of a prospect with a Tommy John surgery under his belt, you have to be cautious. Doc Halladay is the closest thing to a sure-thing there is. For him, I'd trade Drabek.

Trade Dominic Brown? Sure.

Five tools at Single A have a habit of turning into one or two tools in the bigs, if they ever make it. Again, I'm accepting all of the evaluations as accurate, I'm just not willing to give up on Halladay to keep a possibility that far from the starting line-up.

Trade J.A. Happ? No way.

I understand Happ's value as an older player is significantly lower than Drabek's to baseball professionals, but this guy is having a phenomenal season. Adding Halladay to a rotation that features last year's World Series MVP and this season's Rookie of the Year candidate, comes as close to making another parade down Broad Street a reality a surething as you can get.

I also keep coming back to the differential. What's the added value of Halladay over Happ in the rotation?

During the regular season, you're talking maybe one or two aditional wins. And given how pathetic the rest of the division is, that's not likely to make difference in winning the division or affect seeding for the postseason.

So, the trade is solely for the postseason.

OK, then let's copare the rotations. In the postseason, you're only going to roll out four starters barring injury. So we're comparing

Halladay, Hamels, Blanton, Happ
Halladay, Hamels, Blanton, Moyer/Martinez

I love Jamie Moyer, think he's been an amazing player. He adds real value in the clubhouse and in the dugout. And lately there have been glimers of him regaining some of the form he had last year.

But no pitcher in baseball is more reliant on the umpire behind the plate. Give Jamie an extra inch inside and out, and he's a completely different pitcher. I'm actually surprised that Charlie hasn't started juggling his rotation precisely to align Moyer with certain umps.

You can't rely on that.

Will Pedro Martinez return to the majors with a chip on his shoulder and an extra five miles an hour on his fastball? Not likely.

I see a significant difference between Moyer and Happ come postseason. So, if the Phillies can add Halladay without giving up Happ, do it. Ship Drabek, Brown, and a few additional bodies north of the border. Just bring back a horse who's willing to sit at the front of the parade.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Werth's toes

A friend of mine who is not a baseball fan claims that whenever Jayson Werth stands in the batter's box with his front foot up on his toes that Werth has trouble. By contrast, when his left foot is flat (my friend claims), Werth does well.

I've been meanign to check this out for a while, and tonight I remembered. In his first at bat, Werth was up on his toes, and he struck out.

Let's see how this theory plays out.

Second at-bat: Up on the toes, flyball out to left field.

Third at-bat: Up on the toes, line drive out to left field.

Fourth at-bat: Up on the toes, line drive double to right field.

Fifth at-bat: Up on the toes, strike out looking.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bad baseball

I'm not a sabermatrician by any stretch of the imagination. I think hardcore mathematical analysis of baseball can improve our understanding of the game, but most sabermetric analyses I see make the numerical fallacy, as I call it.

The fallacy is moving from the importance of numerical analysis to the belief that only things that can be analyzed numerically matter.

Watching the Nationals play against my Phillies reminds me of this

I don't know what numerical analysis can capture the sheer ineptitude of this team. They're just ugly to watch, and I don't mean they aren't handsome people. I mean the way they play baseball is aesthetically offensive. Seeing Adam Dunn throw an empty hand toward the infield after stumbling back to the wall and failing to make a catch. This is just not pretty, and there has to be an effect on the results. Even someone who knows nothing about baseball needes to watch only a few innings of this team before they realize that this is not a good ball club.

And until sabermatricians are able to capture these inherently non-numerical factors into consideration, their understanding of the game will always be incomplete.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The third lineup

Last night's game convinced me that Jamie Moyer is the most umpire-dependent pitcher in baseball. Instead of looking at his (or the opponent's) lineup to determine the pitching rotation, Charlie Manuel should look at the umpire's schedule to determine when Jamie is pitching.

I don't know why Jamie hasn't yet (after a mere 22 years) gotten to the point that Tom Glavine, Gregg Maddux, and others achieved where umps automatically gave them the inside and outside corner, but for whatever reason, Jamie hasn't. And without pitches on those corners being called strikes, Jamie cannot be successful. Last night it was the (not) called third strike to Wes Helms that cost Moyer and the Phillies (though the two walks before that were even bigger).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ruiz hurt?

I can only assume Carlos Ruiz is hurt. Otherwise, there's no explanation for why Chris Coste would start last night and again this afternoon.

In fact, I assumed Coste was starting last night primarily because Charlie Manuel wanted Chooch to start to this afternoon.

So, I don't know how serious this is, but I'll bet money that after the game, we'll find out Chooch is getting some rest because he's tweaked his oblique.

On the bright side, Coste's double today continues his improving offense. After looking just awful the first month of the season, he's starting to put together some nice at-bats.

I noted before that his stance changed from last season. Previously, he was nearly doubled over at the plate with his legs straight. This season, he was crouching at the plate. Beginning last night, he seems to be moving back closer to his old stance. His legs aren't completely straight, but he's standing taller.

Whether this has any connection to his improvement, I have no idea. But I'm happy with the improvement.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Two Important Firsts

In today's game, the Phillies are going for two (or rather three) important firsts for this season.

1. First game where the starting pitcher did not give up a home run. (already achieved)
2. First game where the Phillies did not have to come from behind for the win.
3. First game where the Phillies pitchers as a whole do not give up a home run.

Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Replacing Harry? Impossible. So, don't even try.

Although I've had a few conversations about who will be the next lead broadcaster for the Phillies, I haven't wanted to organize my thoughts enough for post (even a brief one). Instead, I wanted to spend a few days casually reading through the remembrances and obituaries; and thinking back on my own fond memories, including listening to the replay on radio of the shootout in Chicago (1979's 23-22 victory) as Harry described the action.

And of the pieces I've read so far (the sheer volume of the memories speaks to how beloved Harry was), the ones by Doug Glanville in the NYT and ESPN's Jayson Stark are my favorites.

I'm willing to contemplate the future without Harry in the booth. I'm just not willing to look forward to it.

Of the current announcers, it's clear that Tom McCarthy has the voluble personality, easygoing manner, and love of the game to be successful for a long time. Indeed, Fox Sports has already identified him as an upcoming star by tapping him for national broadcasts. And that's great. He'll probably have a very fruitful career, but I just don't see him as a Philadelphia guy, even if he stays here for 40 years. Maybe it's his time with the Mets. Maybe it's his easygoing, open personality.

We're just not as nice as Tom McCarthy is seems to be. And that niceness will always seem to a Philadelphian (and especially a Phillies fan) like a lack of passion. So, he feels like a bit of an outsider to this Phillies fan. Of course, time can change that perception. And certainly, Tom's pairing with Gary Mathews on the telecasts has dramatically improved Sarge's performance in the booth.

Chris Wheeler is now the elder statesman of the group, and I'm hopeful that somehow all of this will dampen the (to my mind) inexplicable venom he has generated among a small group of fans. I'm not a huge fan of Wheeler, but I respect his willingness to call out a player who's underproducing, and I refuse to blame him for not having the same rapport with Harry that Richie Ashburn did. That's just not fair to Wheeler. As for succeeding Harry, well, obviously that won't be Wheeler. First, he's a color guy who sometimes does play-by-play. Second, that small minority of fans who hate Wheeler is very vocal, and especially following such a loss, the Phillies family doesn't need a feud.

In the interim, I expect McCarthy and Wheeler to pair up for the 7th-9th stint, but long-term neither mantel will truly inherit Harry's spot.

There's been talk, of course, of bringing in Harry's son, Todd (who calls the Tampa Bay Rays' games), and while baseball announcing has become something of a family business in the past few years, I don't know whether Todd would even be interested in the position. It certainly would be a characteristic move by the Phillies to keep things within the family, but I've always thought sons who follow in their fathers' footsteps too closely are burdened with the dual curse of being loved by half the fans solely for reminding them of the father and being written off by the other half as the beneficiary of nepotism who never quite measures up to the old man.

The Phillies might, of course, go out and scour the country for a new voice, finding some youngster from a town as unlikely as Naperville, IL, to become the next voice of the Fightin's.

I do hope, however, that they'll give consideration to the remaining duo inside their current staple of broadcasters. Scott Frankze and Larry Andersen certainly have all the makings of a new generation of Harry and Whitey. The grizzled veteran who isn't afraid to speak his mind with a quick wit seems to thrive on the radio with Franzke's youthful exuberance. Great friendships (especially professional ones conducted largely in public) take time to develop, and this pair seems to have done just that over the past few seasons.

Of course, I haven't seen them broadcast a televised game together, and many (if not most) fans don't listen to the radio; so this pairing is relatively unknown in the area. But I'd like to see the Phillies try out this pair in prime time. If it works, all's the better. And if it fails, well, I hardly think Whitey or Harry would have objected to the attempt to re-create one of the great professional relationships in baseball broadcasting history.

Monday, April 13, 2009

RIP Harry

Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn provided the sound track to my childhood.

And now Harry also has left.

I am happy, though, that Harry was finally (after having to wait a mere 28 years) was able to call the final out for a victorious Phillies team in the World Series, and that he died as it seemed he was determined to, working up to the last minute to broadcast a game that brings joy to so many.

Thank you, Harry, for all that you gave to us.

And thank you also to Harry's family. You gave up time with your husband and father so that we could have a bit of him. My condolences on your loss, and my thanks for all of that time.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Madson Makes Me Laugh

It's been so much fun watching Ryan Madson develop as a pitcher. From a gangly youngster who looked awkward on the mound, he has gradually evolved into one of the premier set-up men in the game.

And with the addition of a 96 mph fastball that came from out 0f nowhere last August, Madson's combination fastball-change-up can make the best hitters in baseball look silly. What he just did to Fowler was classic.

Following two 90+ mph fastballs, Madson then threw an 81-mph change-up. Fowler swung...sort of. It was more waving at the general vicinity of the plate as Fowler was just eaten alive by that change-up. It made me laugh.

Now, let's get that go-ahead run and bring in Lidge to close this puppy out!

Coste's Stance

Chris Coste is not standing up as much this season. The past two seasons Coste has stood up almost straight and then bent over forming an upside down L. This season he's crouching much more. He's getting his head to the same place, but doing so in a very different way. He's also having difficulty this season. Perhaps, it's related.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Coste Auditioning for Back-up

With Carlos Ruiz injured and Lou Marson joining the team, the announcers mentioned before the game that Coste would be given an opportunity to secure a grip on the starting catcher's position. Play well and you keep playing. What they didn't mention is the flip side.

If Marson shows he can play in the Majors and Coste struggles over the next two weeks, it just might be Coste who heads back to Allentown when Ruiz recovers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rockies 4-10-09

Impressions during the game.
1st Inning: It was nice of the Rockies to run themselves out of the inning. Instead of having a runner on second with one out after two batters, they wound up with no one on and two outs because of bad baserunning and a really nice play by Howard.

It's way too soon to say anything definite, but it is worth noting as something to keep an eye on that this is the second really nice play by Howard in less than four games. He has shown occasional great fielding in the past, but the play today (unlike the dive to snag a ground ball in the 8th inning of Wednesday's game against the Braves) was the result of fundamentally improved technique. When Spilborghs took off from first too early, Howard continued to move toward Hamels to receive the pickoff throw. That put him in a much better position to throw the ball down to Rollins at second. He had the inside angle to throw the ball rather than having to throw the ball over top of the runner. Frequently during the past few seasons, Howard has thrown that ball directly into the back of the runner going to second. Howard's always been a great athlete, and most of his good fielding plays have been a result of that pure athleticism, but his technique has been terrible. So, it's really nice to see the improvement in the technique.

3rd Inning: Marquis should have scored from second on the double by Spilborghs. He must have been watching the ball instead of watching the third base coach. It, unfortunately, didn't cost them anything, but it's bad baseball.

The inning Cole unraveled. No jump on his fastball. Poor control. Still in Spring training form.

4th Inning: Werth hitting a right-hander (two doubles) is a very good sign.
A bit surprised that the double switch was to bring in Bruntlett to play third instead of Dobbs. Could be a sign that Charlie wants Dobbs off the bench as a pinch hitter. Could be that he wants to get Bruntlett some game time.

7th Inning: I'm surprised Coste was brought in. No mention of any injury to Ruiz, but it's odd to pull your catcher mid-game without an injury.

Ruiz is injured. No word on how severe. Lou Marson might get a shot this year after all.

8th Inning: On the bright side, the bullpen continues to shine. Do I need to knock on some wood?

OK. I should have. Long day. And another bad outing from Durbin. Not good.

9th Inning: Really stretching the bright side, this is a remarkably fast game. 12 runs in less than three hours.

Werth having a great game. My fantasy team is happy. I think this might be the lineup for the season. Werth in the 5 hole and Ibanez batting 6th.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Great Win

I'm hopeful that today's unconventional victory will help get the Phillies bats back on track. Taking those walks in the 7th inning was a very good sign, and with a few well hit balls sprinkled in, it turned in to quite a rally.

I'm still a bit concerned about the starting pitching, but so far it's just one bad outing from three different guys. Unfortunately, all three happened in a row, but it's much nicer to leave home 1-2 than 0-3. If nothing else, it will make Cataldi shut up for a day. Well, that's not gonna happen, but we can dream.

And I loved Charlie's press conference after the game. When asked about pinch hitting Matt Stairs for Carlos Ruiz in the 7th, Charlie said "To tell you the truth, I was worried about Chooch grounding into a double play and I wanted to make sure Stairs got to hit with the bases loaded."

Stairs, of course, took the walk. But it's fascinating that even with Chooch off to a good start (3-9 after today), Charlie still trusts Stairs off the bench more when the game is on the line. Stairs is definitely a Charlie kind of guy. I hope, though that this year will see Chooch put together better offensive numbers so Charlie does trust him in those situations.

Charlie is slow to change his opinion of guys. It took Chad Durbin a long time last year to establish himself as a reliable guy out of the 'pen, and then it took a long time for Madson to replace him as the setup man. That's part of the key to Charlie's success. He trusts his gut and his guys to produce the way they have in the past. He doesn't change those opinions lightly. And guys seem to like that.

Clearly, 9 at-bats haven't turned Chooch into an offensive star in Charlie's mind. It'll be worth watching this season to see when (or if) he can do so.

Friday, January 9, 2009

On Media Coverage

From a column by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz:

"The Pew Research Center says: "The American public is more likely to say the press has been too critical of President George W. Bush in his last days in office than to say the same about coverage of President-elect Barack Obama. About three-in-ten (29%) see coverage of Bush as too critical, while just 11% see coverage of Obama that way. Still, a plurality (41%) says press coverage of Bush has been fair, while a substantial majority (61%) says the same about coverage of Obama. About one-in-four find coverage of both not critical enough."

"There are clear partisan divisions: 62 percent of Republicans say the press has been too critical of Bush, compared to--yes--12 percent of Democrats. And while 37 percent of GOPers say the press hasn't been critical enough of Obama, 11 percent of Democrats feel that way."

This reminds me of all of the stories showing that the press coverage of McCain's campaign was too negative, and thus, the media must have had a liberal bias.

See, for example, this piece on Time's Mark Halperin.

This is very frustrating. Regardless of your perspective on the elections, you have to admit that John McCain ran a bad campaign and not just because of the obvious fact that he lost (good campaigns win, bad campaigns lose).

From the selection of Sarah Palin as his vice president to allegedly "suspending" his campaign to address the economic crisis to not showing up for an appearance on David Letterman, the campaign made a lot of mistakes.

It would be amazing (and truly disconcerting) if such a poorly run campaign did NOT receive negative coverage in the media.