Monday, December 31, 2007

Year In Review - WTF?

After months of neglect brought on by the blocking of and other favorite websites by a former unnamed employer (who is now currently getting karmic justice in business circles), I'm back to salvage my poor neglected blog. They are a New York based company, so perhaps the propeller-head who manages the web blocking software was a Mets fan. Regardless, I'm in a better place now.


How screwed would we be as Philadelphia sports fans without the Fightin' Phils?? Yeah, I know they got their butts kicked by Colorado in the playoffs, but for crying out loud, they not only got to the playoffs, but shut the collective piehole of one of the most annoying fanbases on the face of the Earth in the process....the New York Metropolitans. Good stuff.

And it's a good thing too, because the rest of the Philadelphia sports scene was a steaming pile of cat excrement.

The Eagles managed to find a new and exciting way to aggravate their fanbase (misuse of the draft) to go a pedestrian 8 - 8 (I predicted 10 - 6 when the schedule came out). Their on-field issues were constantly overshadowed by the issue with Andy Reid and the behavior of his fuckhead older kids, Garrett and Britt. Let's also not forget about the thin skinned nature of their franchise quarterback, Donovan McNabb. The Sixers continued their rebuilding process (begun when they traded Iverson over a year ago) by firing incompetent GM Billy King and hiring local boy Ed Stefanski, all while remaining a sub-.500 team in a bad conference. The Flyers finished in dead last in the NHL and couldn't even bring themselves to get the first pick of the NHL draft (which they lost to Chicago).

In light of this somewhat dismal view of the local sports scene, I want to do a quick overview of the chances each franchise has to bring the local fanbase the championship they richly deserve. Each franchise is listed in the order in which I believe they can win it all.

The Phillies

Love the Phillies chances next season to do some further damage. Yeah, I know they lost Aaron Rowand, but I don't believe he will replicate his numbers from last year (a career statistical career). Love the acquisition of Brad Lidge, because it enables Brett Myers to move back to the starting rotation. As I opined on several occasions last baseball season, Brett Myers needs to be in the rotation for this ballclub to succeed. The whole deal with moving him to the bullpen worked last year for the most part, but the Phils had a patch work rotation down the stretch that was begging for a starter of Myers' status to come to the fore. As currently constituted, the team is already better now than it was heading into the playoffs this year. Phils: Trending upward.

The Flyers

The Flyers almost completely overhauled their team this past offseason and really, they had nowhere to go but up. But even the most dyed-in-the-wool Flyers fan couldn't have foreseen bagging Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, and Kimmo Timonen to shore up what was a team sorely lacking in actual hockey talent. How much better is this Flyers team than last Flyers team? They've already traded their self-proclaimed "most improved player", the middleweight enforcer formerly known as Ben Eager. Doubt they would have considered that option if they didn't feel they were in better shape talent-wise. The only fly in the ointment so far has been the slow start of Scott Hartnell (6 G, 8 A in 35 games) and the extended absence (20+ games) of Simon Gagne, due to post-concussive symptoms. They've barely treaded water since he's been out, but I believe they will seperate from the Atlantic Division pack when he returns. He should inject some life into a moribund offense that is living off of the 2nd ranked power play in the NHL.

Don't rule out a trade of goaltender Antero Niittymaki for a veteran scoring forward rental type-player at the trade deadline next year should minor-leaguer (and former NHL starting goaltender) Brian Boucher pan out down with the Phantoms and current Flyers incumbent goaltender Marty Biron continue his fine play. Also - don't rule out the firing of John Stevens if the team's play does not get a bit more consistent in the month of January. Yeah, I know he just got a year's contract extension, but this organization is not shy about paying former coaches to go away and is probably still paying Craig Ramsey for the "coaching job" he did 6 years ago. Flyers: Trending upward.

The Eagles

Where to start with this bunch? Their coach has to get undistracted from his home life and get this franchise back on the right track. Who will their QB be next year? Can they draft guys and actually put them on the field? Will they realize in a passing offense that having elite receivers is a good thing? Will they realize that their best player is, in fact, a running back? I think Andy Reid, in the coming year, will, at the VERY least, be fighting for the right to maintain control over the football operations of the franchise. I think he's ready to get the full Mike Holmgren treatment, where Holmgren gave up the football operations side of his job and concentrated solely on coaching.

Another big question: What are the Eagles going to do with McNabb? Most pundits have him going out of town, but if this was so, why did McNabb play in meaningless games down the stretch? What do we make of McNabb's year this year? I know his stats look great, but if you watched him, you can tell he holds the ball way too long, he still does not have the mobility he will need long term, and his accuracy has not improved with age. Also: Brian Dawkins is not getting any younger. Eagles: Plateauing

The Sixers

Finally, in the waning days of 2007, they fired Billy King. Other than the fact that he was well-dressed and the WIP morning liked him because he kissed their ass, what did he do right?



Yeah, kind of what I thought. This franchise has been an afterthought since the Iverson trade (a move I still say was the right thing to do) and the move to new GM Ed Stefanski was the right thing to do as well. He immediately went about the business of moving the bloated contract of overrated Kyle Korver for an expiring contract and a first round draft pick. The next best asset he has for trade is Andre Miller, probably the Sixers' most consistent player. He must also figure out what to do with Andre Iguodala (whether to sign him long term and for how much) and the rest of the swing guards Billy King compiled over the last few years; I'm sure some of them can actually play. Stefanski has stated he wants the Sixers to be a player in free agency next summer and I'm not really sure why. I can't think of a team that acquired a franchise player through free agency and flourished afterward, with the exception being when Shaq left the Orlando Magic to play with the Lakers. I really believe this franchise will not flourish again until they hit rock bottom, which, unbelievably, they are not at right now. At least at the bottom, there will be redemption in the form of a franchise player in the draft. Sixers: Trending downward.

Best Philadelphia Athlete: JRoll. For his NL East predictions. For his MVP. For delivering in the clutch.

Most Disappointing Philadelphia Athlete: This could go to anyone. I'll go with Jevon Kearse. I know he was coming off of an injury, but he has never matched his rookie year promise (and he probably never will).

Figure on the Hot Seat Going into Next Year: The aforementioned Andy Reid, who is due for a demotion to "just coach".

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Phils Sweep Mets!

The Mets are just one of those sports teams where, I not only hate the team, I intensely dislike their fanbase. Not all of them, mind you. Just the miscreants who are showing up at Citizens Bank Ballpark to douche-bag it up with their cheesy little chants and synchronized clapping. I beg Mets fans: Please stay in North Jersey or Queens or wherever the little crappy hovel is that you call home. Don't come to Philadelphia to watch sporting events. We just don't want you here.

Today, the Phils completed a sweep of the Mets with an 11 - 10 thriller down at the Cit House by raking former Phil Billy Wagner, who for some reason, always feels compelled to comment on the state of the Phils despite not having played here now for over a year and a half.

With the score 10 - 8 in the 8th inning, Mets manager Willie Randolph reveals his abject desperation to salvage one game in this series and brings in notorious choke artist Billy Wagner into the ballgame to try to close down the Phils. Now, anyone who remembers Wagner when he was a Phillie remembers him for two things:

1.) You cannot bring him into anything but a 9th inning save situation.
2.) Even if you bring him into a 9th inning save situation, he will choke up the lead in a big game that has playoff bearing (remember the 2005 Astros series in Sept? Don't remember? Check here and here).

Anyway, Wagner enters the game and promptly gives up a dinger in the 8th to his archnemesis Pat Burrell to make the score 10 - 9. That was Burrell's 2nd home run of this game and the 4th of the series. I can't imagine any of Burrell's homers have been as sweet to him as the homers he gets off of hated nemesis Billy "The Rat" Wagner. The Phils died after that, so it was then onto the 9th and the Phils bring in Tom Gordon.

Tom Gordon pitches the top of the 9th and did so flawlessly, which was no mean feat itself with the way he's been pitching lately. Then, with Wagner still in the game, he gives up a single to Jayson Werth. Not only did Werth get on base, but he inexplicably was able to steal both 2nd and 3rd base. Pinch hitter Tad Iguchi singled him home to tie the game and he then able to steal 2nd base with Jimmy Rollins at the plate. How the tying run in Jayson Werth was able to get to 3rd is bad enough, but to allow the winning run to get into scoring position was positively amazing to me. Further galling anyone with any knowledge of the Phillies, Wagner then intentionally walks Jimmy Rollins to get to....(wait for it).....Chase Utley? The same Chase Utley who hits lefties at a .359 clip? Really? All-star Chase Utley? Really? I can almost picture Billy Wagner wanting to "bring his heat to announce his presence with authority" Nuke Laloosh style when he was facing Utley. Utley works the count full and promptly singles to right field, scoring Iguchi with the game winner and sending South Philadelphia into total bedlam by completing the sweep of the hated Mets.

Other happenings in this series:

- In Game 1 of this series on Monday, otherwise known as the "Chase Utley Returns" game, Phils win 9 - 2 as Utley goes 3 for 5 and is given a heroe's welcome with "MVP, MVP" chants during the game. His home run in the 5th going the other way was one of the most exciting moments of the year.

- Game 2 was brought home by the Big Man, Ryan Howard, who went 3 for 5 with a 2-run homer en route to a 4 - 2 Phillies win. Pariah Adam Eaton pitched into the 6th inning in this one and didn't hurt the team (hopefully a sign of things to come).

- Game 3 had the weird ending in the top of the 9th with Brett "The Hitman" Myers on the mound and the Mets threatening to at least tie the game. With the Phils barely hanging onto a 3 - 2 lead, Brett Myers struggling mightily, and Met runners at 1st and 3rd, Met Shawn Green hits a dribbler to Jimmy Rollins who tossed to Tad Iguchi for the first out. As Iguchi went to throw to 1st to attempt to get Green out, the runner from 1st, former Phil Marlon Anderson plows into Iguchi and the play is called by the umpire as "baserunner interference" (ala what happened to the Phils against the Padres last week). The result was that Green was declared as out and the ballgame was thankfully over. This was a fortunate turn of events for local members of the media who might have had to ask Myers why he choked again, risking life and limb in the process.

Other Phils/Mets stuff:

-Apparently, there was some trouble in the stands at last night's game as a Mets fan got jacked up. Where's Michael Irvin and the NFL Prime Time team when you need them? (, the best national sports blog on the internet, provided the link. )

-I didn't see this until today, but apparently, a writer from the NY Post thinks the NL East race is over. We might need this guy to keep up writing crap like this, because I think the Mets have lost every game since he wrote it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mr. Softee Weekend Update

This Monday post has been brought to you by Mr. Softee, because the summertime favorite is not only in wide consumption by the overheated denizens of the Delaware Valley because of the blast furnace like temperatures of the past week or so, but it also aptly describes the efforts of the local teams.

The Phillies

Holy Shit is it hot in this pennant race! No time like the present to drop 4 of the first 6 games of a pivotal homestand. Especially since the teams they lost to are contending with the Phillies for a playoff spot

The Dodgers took 2 of 3 from the Phils at CBP last week, including a 15 - 3 laugher that featured 10 runs given up by the softest portion of the bullpen, Jose Mesa and Clay Condrey. The next day, in a BPS, emergency starter Fabio Castro walked 6 in 5 innings of work, which, didn't necessarily lose them the game, but it didn't help. What really didn't help was the soft approach the Phils used by the Phils hitters in this game off of Dodger starter Chad Billingsly, who was made to look much better than I think he really is. For good measure, Tom Gordon faced 4 hitters and gave up 3 runs out of the 'pen, all without recording an out.

After the Dodgers smacked the Phils around, it was the Padres' turn to come into the Cit House and beat the Phils like they stole something. The series did startoff off on the right foot for the Phils, as Carlos Ruiz did the right thing and took out Marcus Giles in an attempt to break up a double-play (By the way, Greg Maddux: Go Fuck Yourself. I know playing on that pussified team that Atlanta trotted out every year made you a HOF pitcher, but just fucking stow it with the whole difference between a dirty play and a hard play. Like you'd know the difference as a pitcher! If those Atlanta teams tried either a dirty or a hard approach, they would have had more than just the one Championship. Does that liner that Morandini hit off your foot in '93 still hurt?). Unfortunately, the umpires didn't see it as the right thing, and they called out Ruiz and the hard slide unfortunately fired up the Padres as they whipped up on the Phils in a particular disturbing manner by a score of 14 - 3.

Worse than that, it brought out the best in league malcontent Milton Bradley, who postured and vogued his way to a 2 homer, 6 RBI game. Bradley even went on to hit another homer off of Tom Gordon to spur the 4 - 3 comeback win for the Padres. Normally, that kind of performance would get a player brushed back off of the plate or even hit (Memo to Phils pitchers: Utley has been out for a month and STILL fucking leads the league in HBP. STILL!). The Phils pitchers? Not so much. I think Bradley got brushed back by Lohse (I think), but that's about it. Fortunately, the Phils did have a manhood saving game yesterday, beating the Padres 14 - 2. These shenanigans leave them 6 games behind the Mets in NL East and 3 behind the Padres in the Wild Card. Just in time for football season....

The Eagles

Hoo-boy, is it hot out here! My electric bill is taking a beating from all of the hours that my central air conditioner is running. Know what else took a beating? The Eagles first team defense when they played against the Steelers last Friday, that's who. The final score (Eagles lost 27 - 13) and the second half matter only to those guys struggling for jobs. What matters to Eagle fans the most is a question of how the first team guys looked. Well, on defense, where the starters played most, if not all, of the first half, the following numbers tell the tale:

Steelers Time of Possession: 17:03 (out of 30 minutes)
Drives over 70 yards: 2
3rd Down Efficiency: 4/7

Those numbers tell me that the Eagles defense was softer than than anything you can get at the Boardwalk ice cream shop. It was obvious watching the defense that they didn't do a good job of getting off of blocks. They seemed to get pushed around, giving credence to what happened on the first drive of the Baltimore pre-season game when Baltimore took the ball the length of the field for a touchdown on the opening drive.

Sure, I understand it's preseason. I absolutely understand that these games don't count. But there were just too many bad things going on with the first team units that look to be a continuation of bad trends from last year that have not yet been addressed and don't look to get addressed.

The first team offense shouldn't be excluded from this conversation, either. They only converted 1 of 7 3rd downs and generally looked like they were just hoping not to get hurt or anything.

Some highlights:

- Kevin Kolb hung up good numbers (26/37 for 242 yds) and has looked better and better each week he has played, which is what you look for from him in these games. He also threw his first TD pass, a 4 yd pass to Lee Vickers.

- Tony Hunt had 7 carries for 36 yards and ran with authority when given the opportunity.

Fortunately, the Eagles don't have to wait long to play again and to try to get this effort out of the way. They play the Jets this Thursday at the Linc.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jeremiah Trotter and Dr. Cicotti

The news that came out today and tonite was very fitting of the unrelenting, miserable, shitty rain that has fallen down in waves over the Delaware Valley today. As I haven't written in a week, there is a lot to discuss.......

The Eagles

Fortunately, after last Monday's preseason debacle against Baltimore, the Eagles redeemed themselves with a 27 - 10 win against the Carolina Panthers. The game was never that close. As bad as they looked against the Ravens, they looked that good against Carolina. I'm not one to cut apart preseason games, but I do have a couple of observations:

- The number one story in this game concerned how Donovan McNabb would look on the field. Would he be able to move in the pocket? Would he be strong in the pocket? How bad would the rust be? The answers, in order: Yes, Definitely, Not so bad. Donovan will be fine this year as long as he remains upright.

- Paging "The Running Game". Paging "The Running Game". If anyone has seen "The Running Game", please call Andy Reid and that guy who used to coach Detroit who now calls our plays.

- Brent Celek and Rashad Barksdale continue to put in good showings and prove that they belong on this team. Celek had 4 catches for 45 yards and Barksdale had an interception. As a matter of fact, if I'm Joselio Hanson, I would seriously consider not getting a long term lease. Think "week to week".....

But the BIG STORY today was that the Eagles cut MLB Jeremiah Trotter. I am still in a little bit of shock over this story. My initial reaction was utter shock. I wouldn't have been more shocked if you told me that devout mormon Andy Reid was caught in a hotel room with a bottle of scotch, an 8-ball of coke, and a naked Lindsay Lohan (some fans would even rationalize it for Reid...."fucking guy should blow off steam at some point"). Even with Trott coming off what has been described as a sub-par year, all signs pointed to improvement. Trotter dropped weight and was described by camp onlookers as "flying around the field". The LBs around him were going to be improved with Takeo Spikes and Chris Gocong (who couldn't be any worse than Dhani Jones), taking pressure off of Trott to make all the plays.

Everyone knows the organization loves Omar Gaither, who was openly described last year as a potential successor to Jeremiah Trotter. I guess this means the future is now with Gaither.

Whether this was the right move or not remains to be seen. A lot of moves made by Eagle front office since the Lurie regime was put into place had been initially panned (namely, Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Duce Staley, Hugh Douglas) only to work out later on. On the other hand, this is also the organization that gave us Doug Pederson, Torrance Small, James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, Mark Simoneau, Freddie Mitchell and Jerome McDougle. Maybe this will be more of the same, maybe not. If it doesn't work out, you can be sure Lurie and Reid will hear about it. One source of concern: Gaither is about 25 pounds lighter than Trotter (listed at 262 lbs). The last time the Eagles tried to replace Trotter, they used Mark Simoneau, a smallish LB, who eventually wore down to the point of ineffectiveness. If this does occur, look for the bigger rookie LB Stewart Bradley (6'3'' 254lbs) to potentially get a look at MLB.

The Phils

Coming off of a 3 - 3 road trip, where they should have been 5 -1 is a little frustrating. They lost two winnable games against the Pirates where they were up in both games by 4 runs, only to relinquish the lead in embarassing fashion both times.

The Phils start a 10-game homestand against teams they are competing against both for the wild card and for the division. The Dodgers are up first and are in for 3 games (I'm going to the Thursday afternoon tilt), then the Padres for 3 games, and the hated douche bags Mets for a 4 game series. The Phils need to come out of this homestand with a minimum of a 6 - 4 record in order to seriously consider themselves playoff worthy. Anything less than that, as these are teams they are in direct competition with for a postseason appearance, and the Phils will be courting another off-season of questions.

Lots of news from Dr. Cicotti today. ESPN posted a great round-up of the Phillies injury situation. As Chase Utley continues to recover, and the Flyin' Hawaiin due back this week, the Phils announced tonite that Cole Hamels might be missing for 3 weeks because of a sore elbow. Four or five weeks without Utley was bad. Hamels missing 4 starts would be devastating, I think. I would think the Phils would be due for some good luck this season (pitching in shambles and losing every player of note to injury at some point) but then again, the baseball gods have tiny, icy cold black hearts as far as the Philadelphia 9 go.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Whatever You Do, Just DON'T PANIC!

Before getting into the Eagles' preseason debacle, I wanted to mention that the Phillies start a 6-game road trip tonite in DC, with 3 games against the Nats and 3 more in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Kyle Lohse goes tonite for the Phils.

Birds Preseason Opener

I don't think this is what Andy Reid and the rest of the Eagle organization had in mind. The Eagles went down to Baltimore and got the crap thumped out of them 29 - 3. Now while this is only preseason and, as I documented yesterday, the Eagles are without several of their regulars. This means they went into their bench way before Baltimore did, but in spite that fact, the game and it's results was still disturbing.

The Eagles defense let up a 12 play, 93 yard drive with most of their first team on the field. Not only did they let up the long opening drive (a big bugaboo from last year you might recall), but they got pushed around in doing so. Come to think of it, not only did they get pushed around on defense, but the Baltimore defense blitzed incessantly and kicked the snot out of the Eagles offense. The way that Baltimore dominanted the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball means that the offensive and defensive line coaches should have the rapt attention of their respective units in the film room and during practice.

On the other hand, Baltimore looked like they actually game planned this one (teams don't always game plan for preseason games) and wanted it more than the Eagles (which is odd, because the game doesn't count). Furthermore, the Eagles will have the opportunity to make amends for this loss this Friday, when they take on Carolina. So, if they have a good showing this Friday, I think you can chalk this up to a bad night.

While I am concerned by the loss, I think there were some good things to take from the game:

- Brent Celek looked pretty good at TE.
- Jeremy Bloom makes me think we'll get a punt return TD this year if he can stay on the field.
- Rashad Barksdale didn't look totally out of place to me at CB. I thought he played well.

Other observations:

- I thought Kevin Kolb's play was uneven. He missed a couple of obvious blitzes. I wonder if he has the ability to audible, given his rookie status and this being a preseason game.
- The entire offensive line sucked all game, but where were Max Jean-Gilles and Winston Justice? You read all of these great things about them in the paper, yet they didn't look like much last night.
- Mike Patterson does not have enough credibility with Eagles fans to not show up and make a couple of plays in a preseason game.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Injury Bug Bites Home Teams

If there has been a common theme connecting the two local teams figuring prominently in the Philadelphia sporting consciousness, it is the appearance of the injury bug and the impact it's had (and is having) on the respective teams.

The Eagles

I haven't written much about training camp, mostly because I haven't had time (also don't feel the need to write about the riveting punter competition between the Austrailian rules guy and Dirk Johnson). But if there is one disturbing trend that I've seen emerge from training camp is that almost every Eagle of note is either coming back from an injury from last season or is nursing some sort of injury that keeps them out of practice. The list:

Jon Runyan (back spasms)
Brian Dawkins (achilles tendonitis)
Donovan McNabb (knee)
Brian Westbrook (knee swelling)
LJ Smith (groin problems after sports hernia surgery in the offseason)
Lito Sheppard (strained ab muscle)
Shawn Andrews (sprained ankle)

Every one of the players listed above is either a Pro-Bowl caliber player or a player that plays just below that caliber. This list represents the heart and soul of the entire team. Does this list make anyone else nervous coming into this season?

I am especially nervous about Brian Dawkins. Dawkins' injury, while it is thought to not cost him regular season time, could potentially lead to him tearing or further damaging his achilles tendon. It seems the achilles injury is the new season-killer amongst NFL players. Takeo Spikes tore his achilles a couple of years ago and is just now rounding back into the form he had before he sustained that particular injury. I'm sure Quentin Mikell is a good guy and an adequate backup at Dawkins' safety position, but he's no Brian Dawkins. Dawkins is the leader of the defense and I would argue he's every bit as important to the success of this team as Donovan McNabb. Dawkins' status during the pre-season warrants monitoring.

The other injury that makes me nervous is on the other side of the ball. And no, it's not McNabb, Westbrook, or even LJ Smith, who may well be done for the year with his groin injury which no doubt is related to his sports hernia. It's actually Shawn Andrews. "The Big Kid" has grown (literally and figuratively) into one of the best offensive guards in the NFL. He was on crutches and a walking boot at the end of last week. Any prolonged absence by Andrews could impact the ability of the Eagles to run the ball effectively as they promised they would do more of at the end of last season. The injured ankle is also the same one that Andrews had surgery on in 2004. Again, this injury bears watching.....

The Phillies

Two players who may not be coming back as quickly as hoped are Shane Victorino and team leader and the best 2B in baseball, Chase Utley. Both of these players have endeared themselves to the fans for their hardnosed style of play and their hustle has been missed since they've been injured (witness Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth's misadventures on the basepaths and in the outfield over the course of last weekend).
Victorino was supposed to start a rehab assignment over the weekend, but since he felt tightness in his calf, he did not make that assignment. He is now scheduled to begin his rehab this Tuesday for AA Reading. Hopefully, he makes it back by the weekend...they desperately miss his speed in the outfield and on the basepaths. Victorino's speedy backup, Michael Bourn, will probably not be back anytime soon either, as he sprained his ankle in the same game that Victorino hurt himself in.

It was hoped that Chase Utley could come back by August 23rd when he was originally injured. That looks like a pipe dream at this point. Utley is scheduled to see a hand specialist today and from what I've heard on the radio, might not be back until September. While the team has been able to hang in there in the NL East in Utley's absence, don't believe for a second this team won't need Utley down the stretch.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Rantings From The Sleep Deprived

I had a long day and night on Saturday, drinking until late. I woke up Sunday and today feeling like crap and am in sleep deprivation mode. I think this is a good time to get some stuff off my chest:

- Why is Rob Charry allowed to talk about sports on the radio? Is there anyone less entertaining and less informed than Charry in the local Philadelphia market? This is the best we can do here? Really? Come to think of it, is WIP really all that relevant anymore? The morning show is really a one-trick pony sort of show (that trick being the Eagles) and the mid-day show is just OK. Hey Steve Martarano! Steve Fredericks called. He wants his radio schtick back. And then there is the unlistenable Howard Eskin. The only show on 'IP that I feel I must listen to is the Saturday Show with Glenn MacNow and Ray Didinger.

- Why does the Philadelphia Inquirer, supposedly the "paper of record" in Philly, have so few really good sportswriters? There's Tim Panaccio, maybe Jim Salisbury, and who else? Maybe Bob Brookover. Where is today's Sal Pal? Where's Frank Dolson? Bill Lyon? If Stephen A. Smith is considered the star of the Inquirer sports page, then we are in trouble.

- How the fuck does Abraham Nunez swing the bat on Saturday night after watching Derrick Turnbow throw 6 straight balls in the Eighth inning? Abe, that is why you will NEVER start in the big leagues.

- More power to all of those people showing up at Eagles training camp this year, but there was no fucking way you were going to get me to sit around in 90+ degree heat with 20,000 other people in cramped bleachers to watch practice, unless it was the Eagles cheerleaders doing the practicing.

- Gary Sheffield is an arrogant prick. How do I know? I finally saw the "Inside Sports" with the segment about Gary Sheffield, where he accused Joe Torre of treating African-American players differently from the rest of the team. I also saw the Bob Costas show on HBO that had Victor Conte associate Patrick Arnold. I just recently listened to the audio book version of "Game of Shadows". After ingesting all of this information, I've come to the conclusion that Sheffield is either a liar, an idiot, or he lies and thinks we're idiots. Does anyone really believe he had no idea what he was putting into his body when he started working out with Barry Bonds? The quote "Steroids is something you shoot in your butt" will live in internet infamy. Also - it's obvious that Joe Torre simply did not like Gary Sheffield as a person or a player. That doesn't make Joe Torre a racist. It just means he came to the same conclusion that Milwaukee, San Diego, Florida, Atlanta, and Los Angeles already came to in letting go or trading the talented slugger: that Gary Sheffield is an arrogant prick.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Phillies July 2007 By the Numbers

It's been discussed on talk radio, in blogs, and in barrooms everywhere, but "The Big Tease" is fully in progress. That's when, as a fan, you've written the Phillies off, only to have them peel off some wins such that they get back into the race and they FORCE you to pay back attention to them. Usually, this ends up with us, the fans, getting kicked in the balls, wondering when we would ever learn. Yet, you cannot simply shrug your shoulders, say "oh well", and simply move onto football season. This season ain't over yet, the Phils are in the thick of things regardless of how things seem, and August will tell the tale. But for now, let's review July......


The number of wins the Phils scored in the month of July. The Phils managed to win 5 more games than they lost in the month of July en route to a 15 - 10 record. With their success in July, they managed to close the gap in the NL East to being only 3 games behind the Mets and 1 game out of the wild card. They are doing all of this with one the worst pitching staffs in the Majors (24th out of 30, with a 4.72 team ERA) and have now lost their best player, Chase Utley, to a broken hand on a pitched ball for about a month. They ended the month with a flourish, winning 9 of their last 11 games and continue to do get along with their patchwork pitching staff. They also had quite a bit of home cooking, going 8 - 1 at the Cit House.


The ERA for Jamie Moyer during the month of July. The Phils have been asking alot of the 44 year old Moyer because of the injuries to their starters and maybe the old guy is just wearing down. In 4 of his 5 July starts, he gave up no less than 4 earned runs per start; including a staggering 10 earned runs against the Dodgers on July 16th. I don't think we are going to need Moyer to be Cy Young (or even Chris Young for that matter), but he will need to avoid getting pounded as he did in July.


The July batting average of one Patrick B. Burrell III. Burrell seems to have woken up to the point where he raised his BA a full 59 points from .201 to .260 and even chipped in 6 homers and 22 RBI. "Pat the Bat" will need to step up offensively with the injury to Chase Utley if the Phils are to have any hope to stay in playoff contention. If Burrell was just average in May and June instead of completely and hopelessly terrible, the Phils might be in first place right now.


The July batting average of Carlos Ruiz. I like Ruiz. He's a nice player. I think he's been hurt or something. It's obvious the team has no confidence in Rod Barajas at this point as Barajas had a meager 16 ABs in July. Regardless, if this keeps up.....I got a fever.....and the only cure is more Chris Coste behind the plate. I don't think Coste is Johnny Bench reincarnate or anything, but I KNOW he his better than Barajas right now and maybe even better than Ruiz right now.


The combined number of wins for rookie Kyle Kendrick and journeyman J.D. Durbin in July. If the Phils make any noise with respect to the playoffs, they can look back at the contribution of these two young starters in July. They also had a combined 3.32 ERA to go with their 6 July wins. With the acquisition of Kyle Lohse from the Reds, the Phillies will be moving Durbin to the bullpen, but the Phils could slide Durbin right back in there if they need to in an emergency situation. Durbin looks great in stretches, but seems to lose his concentration and go brain dead occasionally. Kendrick has good composure and doesn't get rattled no matter how bad things disintegrate for him during a game.


The number of men on the Phillies that have been accused of beating their wives (Brett Myers and newly acquired Julio Mateo). Can we trade one of our wife beaters for an outfielder on HGH or something? Or how about a functional alcoholic outfielder with power? Just asking....

Other Notable July Events:

- July 15th brought the event many of us had been anticipating for some time: the franchise's 10,000 loss. Actually, there was a good bit of national press about it at the time (check here for the SI article) and some anticipation by the fan base in the run up to the loss (check out this website). But when it occurred on July 15th, with a 10 - 2 thumping by the Cardinals, the fans applauded the current team on the field, as if not holding them accountable for the team's past. It is obvious there are quite a few players on this team that we have really embraced (Howard, Rollins, Utley, Rowand, Victorino, Hamels, etc.) to the point that the pressure is really on GM Pat Gillick to put some players around these guys we like so much and Manager Charlie Manual to put them in a position to win nightly. Most nights, we question whether or not Gillick or Manual have what it takes to get that done. The applause was a vastly underrated gesture by our fans that didn't get much notice, but it came because the current crop of players have earned our respect. It was for a franchise, however, that I'm not sure always deserves our loyalty.

-Outfielders Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn were both injured on the same game on the last day of the month against the Cubs. Both are on the 15 day DL and both should be commended for getting injured while trying to make a play. Victorino was hustling to avoid getting caught on a double play and Michael Bourn was injured running full speed after a foul ball. Bourn, even after badly spraining his ankle (it was obvious from the replays how he hurt himself), stayed in the game and finished the inning. He was ultimately pulled when he got back to the dugout for his turn at bat.

- Ryan Madson sustained the same (or similar) shoulder strain injury that shelved Brett Myers and will be out for the remainder of the regular season. Huge loss considering he was one of their most consistent right handed arms out of the pen. All of the attention was on losing Utley for a month, but looking back, this might be a loss fans ultimately deem more costly in the long run of the season.

High Point of July 2007:

I'd have to say taking 3 of 4 from the San Diego Padres in their home park. The Padres have the best team ERA in baseball and the Phils just flat out raked in that series, outscoring the Padres in four games by a score of 28 - 8. If we could have just bottled some of that....

Low Point of July 2007:

That's easy. The Chase Utley injury on 7/26. It is the injury that may just kill the Phils chances this year if they cannot keep afloat until he returns. One thing I have been impressed by to date is the play of newly acquired Tad Iguchi. He'll just fill-in at 2B until Utley gets back, but he's been so impressive so far (.444 BA in 5 games so far) that the Phils should look into playing him at 3B if he's capable of playing there. It is my understanding that he hasn't played it since he's been in the States, but according to what I heard Jody Mac say on SR 950 the other day, he did play some 3B in Japan.

Chew on this:

I actually kind of think they're screwed. Their pitching is terrible and thin. Utley is out for a month. But they are so close to being playoff eligible, that if they catch a little luck with newly acquired Kyle Lohse, Tad Iguchi, and if Durbin can keep it together in the bullpen, they can take this race into September and beyond.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eagle Camp Officially Opens; Hamels Wins

Eagles training camp officially opened as the remainder of the veterans reported to Lehigh yesterday. One of my favorite things about training camp opening up is to hear the players bitch about the conditions at Lehigh and what they bring to make their lives easier. For example, I give you the following quote from Takeo Spikes from Today's Courier-Post:

"Toilet tissue - preferably Charmin," Spikes said. "You have to have at least 300 or better thread counts. That's very big to me because if you don't have that, I don't know if I can go out and perform up to my level."

Spikes is bringing his own toilet paper? Really? Can't the Eagles supply the good stuff? And 300 count sheets? Isn't that like wiping your ass with linen? Can you imagine Ray Nitschke asking Vince Lombardi for 300 count sheets? "Yeah, sorry Coach, I can't give my best today. I wiped my ass with generic shit paper last night, and I just don't think I can go today."

Anyway, camp begun for rookies and selected vets last Friday, but really didn't start until yesterday, when everyone is required to report. They should begin practice this afternoon after physicals in the AM. I'll have a bit more on the Birds later this week (probably Friday), as there has been a lot going on with the Phils right now. One thing this exercise has done, is made me remember that baseball is not that period of time between the Super Bowl and training camp. Baseball was sort of my first love, but it's definitely been and a love/hate relationship in the past 15 years as I started ignoring baseball through my college years, got back in love when I graduated in '93, and wanted a divorce after the '94 strike. I guess a reconciliation has occurred.

Phils Win, Get Hurt, and Deal

The Phils won the opening game in their series against the Cubs by a score of 4 -1. Cole Hamels was dominant and Brett Myers picked up his first save off of the DL. The offensive heroes was CF Aaron Rowand, who knocked in 3 runs and new 2B Tad Iguchi, who hit a solo homer.

The win came at a price as both Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn sustained leg injuries. Both got their injuries hustling to make a play (Bourn in the field and Victorino on the base paths). They were both placed on the 15 day DL today, but neither is expected to be on the DL much past 15 days. Chris Roberson was called up from AAA Ottawa to help out.

Today, the non-waiver trade deadline, the only deal of note that the Phils swung was to pick up reliever Julio Mateo from Seattle for a minor league IF Jesus Merchan. Mateo will be stashed in the minors until needed. Because of a domestic battery charge looming against Mateo, he is being assigned to AA Reading, because he cannot leave the country as he would have to to play for AAA affiliate Ottawa.

The Phils go again in Wrigley, with Adam Eaton pitching tonite.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Phils Sweep Bucs; Make Trades

The Phils swept the Pirates in a weekend series at the Cit House and made a couple of moves to bolster their chances to at least keep pace with the Mets until Chase Utley gets back.

The Phils bashed the Pirates in this series, outscoring them by a total of 23 - 7 for the series. On Friday, Jamie Moyer was the beneficiary of a lot of early run support and the Phils trounced the Bucs 8 - 1 in a rain-shortened 7 inning tilt. Pat Burrell had a homer and 3 RBI to provide the offensive punch.

Saturday saw JD Durbin get in some early trouble, falling behind 5 - 2, but the Phils tacked on 8 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and came away with a 10 - 5 win. Chris Coste struck a big blow in that most productive inning with a 3-run homer.

Kyle Kendrick was the hero on Sunday, holding the Pirates to 1-run on 6 hits as the Phils completed the sweep with a 5 - 1 win. With the score 3 - 1, pinch hitter Chris Coste came up in the 8th inning and salted away the win with a 2 run single. We lost another key player for the year in this game, as Ryan Madson went down with what is being termed as a strained shoulder. Furthermore, it is the same exact muscle in his shoulder that Brett Myers injured earlier this year. Not quite as big a blow as losing Chase Utley, but bad nonetheless.

The Phils start a road trip tonite at take on the Cubs at Wrigley. Cole Hamels is pitching tonite, so I'll definitely make an extra effort to tune in.

New Phils

Pat Gillick made some moves over the past 72 hours that I think can help the ballclub until Utley can get back to the lineup and he may not even be done yet.

Last Friday, he got 2B Tad Iguchi from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for minor league pitcher Mike Dubee. I was a little surprised by this trade, because I thought the Phils would be comfortable taking their chances with Abe Nunez playing 2nd until Utley got back, but apparently, the White Sox were so willing to part with Iguchi, they accepted virtually anything (which describes low-to-middling minor league pitcher Mike Dubee perfectly) to dump salary and make room for highly touted 2B prospect Danny Michar. Iguchi should be able to admirably fill in until Utley can make his return. Good deal, in my estimation, by Gillick.

Today, in a bit of a surprise, the Phils acquired starting pitcher Kyle Lohse from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitching prospect Matt Maloney. It's a surprise, in that the Phillies really liked Matt Maloney, who won 16 games for Lakewood last year in route to winning the "SALLY League"(South Atlantic League) pitcher of the year award. He was 9 - 7 this year in Reading and was considered a good prospect by the club. Lohse is another salary dump type of deal, in that he is going to be a free agent at year's end. His numbers aren't great (6 - 12 record and an ERA approaching 5), but he's got a couple of CGs and is a young guy (28 years old). If he performs well down the stretch, it would be a win-win for Lohse and the Phils.

I'm just OK with this deal only because I thought Maloney had a chance to be something good, but I guess the Phils figure they don't have time to find out if he'll be any good and if they lose Lohse to free agency, I guess they'll just take their compensatory draft pick and walk away.

Are the Phils done? Not so sure. Do they really need to keep Rod Barajas, who is barely playing nowadays? Maybe another team needs a fat veteran backup catcher. Could they use Michael Bourn as a chip to get bullpen help? Will they decide to cash in on Aaron Rowand's career season in a big deal to net more pitching? Stay tuned...

Friday, July 27, 2007


Yesterday, the Phils' pennant hopes took a kick to the balls as the Phils' Chase Utley broke his hand getting hit with a pitched ball during the Phils' 7 -6 choke job against the Washington Nationals.

The Phils had the lead in this game 5 -2 after a 5th inning where Pat Burrell stroked a 2-run single to plate Utley and Ryan Howard. They promptly choked up the lead, giving up 2 runs in the seventh inning and then 3 more in the eighth inning thanks to some brutal relief pitching by the Jurassic Jose Mesa and lefty Mike Zagurski. They tacked on an excuse me run in the 9th to come within 1 run, before bowing out to lose 7 -6.

The loss is insignificant in the big picture; what's worse is the injury brings to a halt the momentum that the team seemed to be gaining. Utley's injury comes on the heels of an emotional walk-off homerun by Ryan Howard the night before as well as the imminent return of Brett Myers from the DL. His .336 average, 17 homers, and 82 RBI all place him in the elite class of baseball and the Phils will absolutely not replace those numbers over the month of so he is gone.

Furthermore, there is nothing the Phillies can do to replace Utley's leadership. He has clearly assumed the mantle of team leader, the player whom the other guys on the team rally around. It is obvious he is leaned on in the field to provide leadership and has the respect of his teammates as he is not a guy who pops off to the press.

To make matters worse, let's just say there IS a pennant race for Utley to come back to in a month. Will Utley be able to pick up where he left off? This might be the day we look back on after the season and consider it the day we got knocked out of the pennant race.
(Picture above comes from

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Phils Beat Nats to KickOff Homestand

The Phils began a 6 game homestand with a 5 - 4 win over the Washington Nationals. The Phils were led by the bat of Aaron Rowand, who went 3 for 4, including the go-ahead run in the 8th inning on a solo home run. Jimmy Rollins hit his 20th home run of the season and Ryan Madson picked up the win in relief.

Between the series against the Nationals and the Phils opponents this weekend, the Pirates, the Phils should make some hay this week and possibly gain a bit of ground on the Mets.

The Phils begin this homestand after a 7 game swing on the West Coast, where, in all honesty, I thought they'd fall apart against some of the quality competition out West. Instead, they went a respectable 4 - 3 against the LA Dodgers and the San Diego Padres; both quality teams that are fighting for supremacy in a very competitive NL West.

Some Highlights:

- JD Durbin was a revelation on this trip. He salvaged the only Phils' win in LA, going 6 innings in a 15 - 3 shellacking of the Dodgers. Then, he went the route and shut out the San Diego Padres 9 - 0 this past Sunday. Durbin stepping to the fore could not have come at a better time.

- Ryan Howard had 5 homers during the West Coast swing to bring his total to 27, good for 2nd in the NL and 3 behind Prince Fielder of the Brewers. Don't forget that he had a stint on the DL for a strained quad and missed some games. Quick prediction: He'll beat out Fielder by August 1st for the home run lead in the NL. In the San Diego series alone, Howard was 7 for 10 with an astounding 8 walks. That's Barry Bonds territory and that's how hot he is right now.

- Tom Gordon came off of the DL on July 16th and pitched OK in two 1 inning appearances, giving up no runs and 1 hit. He'll be pitching the rest of the year with a partially torn labrum.

Some Lowlights:

- The Phils were on the short end of two one run games; especially heart breaking was losing the pitching duel that the Padres' Chris Young and the Phils' Cole Hamels locked up in for the opener in the San Diego series where the Phils lost 1 - 0. Sad to not see Cole come away with the win after pitching so brilliantly in his hometown.

- Jamie Moyer got raked for 10 earned runs in the opening game of the road trip against the Dodgers for the loss, which was his third in a row, bringing up the question of whether or not the Phils are expecting too much out of the 44 year old southpaw. He did comeback, however, to beat the Padres 12 - 4 on the 21st of July, ending his personal losing streak, but he now has an ERA over 5.

Old Faces:

Playing the Dodgers brought the Phils face to face with two of their old teammates, Mike Lieberthal and Randy Wolf. Lieberthal is backing up wunderkind catcher Russell Martin and is hitting .280, despite battling some nagging injuries. He went 3 for 4 in the game where the Phils beat the Dodgers 15 - 3. Makes sense, doesn't it? Lieberthal does well personally, but his dump gets it's ass kicked.

Wolf did not pitch in the series because he is on the DL battling shoulder soreness. Before he went down to injury, Wolf was 9 - 6 with a 4.73 ERA.

"The Bronx is Burning"

On a completely seperate topic, I have to say I am enjoying the ESPN series "The Bronx is Burning". Some blogs and websites are panning the mini-series, but I think it's been well done so far. John Turturro is a revelation as a paranoid, alcoholic, but brilliant Billy Martin. Daniel Sunjata bears a striking resemblance to the cocksure Reggie Jackson and Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner is very underrated. Since Steinbrenner has not been a particularly public figure in recent years, I think some people think that Platt's acting is a bit over the top as "The Boss", but people forget how insane this guy really was when he was at the "top of his game". The scene where he gives the team a pep talk in his office to the tape recorder is just the height of megalomania on Steinbrenner's part (like, the team REALLY needed his "inspiring" words) and you can feel John Turturro's (as Billy Martin) disgust when listening to the tape in his car.

A couple more observations on the series so far:

- Geez, is Thurman Munson being portrayed as sensitive or what? So far, after 3 episodes, he continued to bring up the famous Sport article where Reggie Jackson shot his mouth off and he constantly expressed his open hatred of Jackson. Interesting that Munson just couldn't put the article behind him and just write Jackson off as a very necessary jackass (which he seemed resigned to do by the end of the 3rd episode). He probably went to his grave hating Reggie Jackson.

- Speaking of Jackson, can you imagine how that Yankee clubhouse would have "embraced" a guy like Barry Bonds? There must have been a ton of jealousy in that Yankee clubhouse, with Jackson being one of the first big-time free agent pickups in MLB history. Jackson may have been the Bonds of his time, in that he was arrogant and supremely talented, but the comparison ends there. Jackson was a winner throughout his career (unlike Bonds, who only found post-season success late in his career) and even when he came off as arrogant in an interview, you could tell Jackson was smart, even when you disagreed with him. Bonds might be Albert Einstein on the baseball diamond, but we'll never know, because he treats the press (and the fans) with contempt. Bonds could have never survived (and thrived) in New York the way Reggie did because of the press alone. Another difference: Jackson never cheated.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sad Times for the Big 4, but hope for Becks?

The 4 major team sports in this country have gone through quite a few travails in the last 5 years or so. The NFL has had issues with individual off field player behavior with 1/3 of the Cincinnati Bengals getting into trouble as well as the Pacman/Tank/Vick troika. The NHL has dealt with labor strife and a sad descent into irrelevancy. Major League Baseball has had labor strife (forget 1994?) and a steroids scandal that throws the integrity of the last decade into question. And now, the NBA has perhaps American Sports greatest scandal and biggest nightmare. As if the brawl at Auburn Palace a couple of years ago wasn't bad enough for the sport, the FBI is investigating the possibility that NBA official Tim Donaghy influenced the outcomes of games that he had bet on.

The fact that outside influences (such as officials' gambling habits) could impact the outcome of games is the worst nightmare of the commissioners of the 4 major sports. If people stop believing that things are on the up and up, then people will probably lose interest in attending games, buying jerseys, and worst of all, corporations could stop buying luxury boxes. It would become the realm of the professional wrestling, which, (SURPRISE!) is scripted and attracts fans that only a carny could love....not exactly the demographic your big 4 sports are looking for.

All of this brings me to my point; with the big 4 sports having all of these issues, and, with the exception of the NFL, all of them losing the cache they've had in the past, why can't David Beckham suceed in raising the profile of soccer and the MLS in this country? Beckham made his debut last night with the Los Angeles Galaxy in an exhibition match against Chelsea FC. The place was sold out and commanded sports headlines in all of the papers this AM.

Another point in favor of the MLS (and soccer) rising as a sports power is that the players are sort of just like you and me, but not as well paid. If you read the SI article on Beckham, you'd know that not everyone makes big time coin in the MLS; centerback Kyle Veris of the LA Galaxy makes 17k/year.....essentially below the poverty line. Other players make what some graduating college kids will turn down when they start their careers this summer (The Galaxy's Alan Gordon makes 30k). I would think this would make for hungry players on the field and good marketers off the field. These guys will hustle for the fans and sign autographs, make appearances at malls, whatever it takes. Essentially, this lack of big time money accrued by the players will make them more accessible and fan friendly. This is the formula that has helped the ascension of NASCAR in this country to a marketing powerhouse.

The ultimate question is will the imported star power of a high profile player like David Beckham combined with the hunger of young, up and coming players like Kyle Veris make for a league that will rival the 4 majors and bring soccer to the consciousness of the American sporting public? Only time will tell, but the other 4 major sports certainly have done their part in making some people turned off lately by the big 4 to at least take a look at the New Guy with the Spice Girl wife.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Phils Drop a Tough One, but Sign Pick

Phils dropped one to the Padres last night 1 - 0. Cole Hamels was the hard luck loser in this one, going 7 strong innings and giving up 1 run on 2 hits. He was outdueled by Padres righty Chris Young, who also went 7 innings and gave up only two hits, striking out 6. Offensively, Utley had 2 of the Phillies' 4 hits and Ryan Howard walked 3 times. Adam Eaton pitches for the Phils tonite against ex-Phils farm hand Justin Germano.

Phils Sign Savery

The Phillies signed their first-round pick the amateur draft, lefty Joe Savery. As a college player, Savery should have a shorter route to the Majors (theoretically) than a player drafted out of high school. Because of that, don't be surprised to see Savery, projected as a starter, pitching next year as a September call-up.

Speaking of up and coming pitchers, Bill Conlin had a nice article today, going over the current ownership group's failure to consistently produce good pitchers from within. One guy who has won 10 games whom Conlin does not mention in his article as having been drafted, signed, and developed by the Phillies is tonite's starter, Adam Eaton.

Eaton was traded away by the Phillies in the Andy Ashby deal in 1999 (The Phils got Ashby for Adam Eaton, Carlton Loewer, and Steve Montgomery). He went on to win 11 games twice for San Diego and will almost certainly win 10 games this year for the Phils (he has 8 wins to date).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bit of this, Bit of that....

Phils on the Left Coast

They lost today in LA by a score of 5 - 4. Ryan Howard went yard again (3rd time in 2 games) and rookie Kyle Kendrick absorbed his first loss. The Phils are a somewhat aimless 6 - 7 for the month of July so far and 5.5 games behind the Mets as of this writing.

What is so frustrating about what the Phils are going through is that they are still within striking range of the division, but I get the sinking feeling they are outgunned.

The Mets seem to have a better lineup, but they have come back to Earth of late, being barely above .500 for the month themselves. Chris Wheeler's favorite player, Jose Reyes, has been putting up more pedestrian numbers as compared to earlier in the year and Beltran and LoDuca have not been hitting for the past month (.238 and .193 respectively). It must have spooked the Mets so much that they fired their hitting coach, moved first base coach Howard Johnson to be the hitting coach and brought in Ricky Henderson, of all people, to be the first base coach. They even brought up highly touted outfielder Lastings Milledge from the minors. Some of these moves reek of desperation, so much so, that if the Phillies had even the hint of a better pitching staff, they might even be in first place right now.

Can the NFL be Far Away?

With only 12 days till full blown training camp begins for the Birds and Fantasy league sign-ups in full swing, football is in the air. The NFL is also in the headlines, as Michael Vick got indicted yesterday for all sorts of bad things, namely for running a dog fighting operation, and an exceptionally cruel one at that. The details of what was done to dogs that couldn't or wouldn't fight is cruel and I don't feel like recounting it because it's nauseating. I'm no member of PETA by any stretch of the imagination, but what Vick and his misanthropic group of buddies did to these dogs was unconscionable and these acts demand that Vick be punished.

It will be interesting to see how Herr Goodell deals with this situation. I think the Falcons should do the right thing and suspend him immediately and indefinitely. It might also help new coach Bobby Petrino, in that, this incident could be his "out" to get rid of the coach-killing QB, whose dedication to the game has been questioned even before his highly publicized kind-of, sort-of weed bust and this dog fighting indictment.

Prediction: Between action by the Falcons and the NFL, I predict Vick will not play at all this year and I doubt he will return to the Falcons as new coach Bobby Petrino will want to groom his own QB rather than someone else's headache.

BTW: Kissing Suzy Kolber has just been killing with the Michael Vick stuff. If KSK puts you off,
you've probably misplaced your sense of humor. Check here and here.

Eric Who?

Saw this article about the Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Eric Lindros. Did you know he was even still in the league? Apparently, he's contemplating retirement. One day, Flyers fans are going to have to come to terms about his legacy with the franchise. The Flyers history DVD the NHL put out last year does cover this period, but it doesn't fully cover the Lindros-Flyers divorce. One day, I hope the real Lindros stories get leaked or addressed (yes, even the Brind'Amour wife rumor). Maybe John Buccigross' book on Keith Jones, due for release in the fall, will have some tales to tell about the end of the Lindros era, as Jonsey was Lindros' road roommate that final year.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Your 10,000th Loss Starting Lineup!

Break out a 6-pack of your favorite malted beverage and celebrate, for the Philadelphia Phillies, in losing last night to the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 10 - 2, have breached the 10,000 loss barrier.

I can't believe it's only 10,000 is my first reaction. My second reaction is to look back at some of the many players who came through here and to lose myself in the nostalgia of the Lance Parrish era or the exciting work Dickie Thon turned in at SS.

In honor of the Phillies 10,000th loss, I've compiled a Phillies lineup consisting of players that I feel best represents the mediocre existence of the Phightin' Phils from the last 30 years. Some could argue that some of these players actually had good statistical careers. I say bollocks to the numbers....these guys were either representative of incompetent management, pumped up expectations, and/or just plain sucked.

We will go around the horn:

C: Mike Lieberthal (1994 - 2006). Some will not agree with including Lieberthal in a lineup of mediocrity, but if you watched Lieby play, you would nod knowingly. Lieberthal had some real good offensive years (particularly 1999 and 2000), and a gold glove (1999), but was never a true leader on the teams he played. Some pitchers (Schilling early in Lieby's career and Jon Lieber later) would not pitch to Lieberthal, opting in most cases for a more experienced backup.

Lieberthal is not considered a good handler of pitchers, despite his lengthy stint behind the dish for the Phils. This is more than likely due to his laid back California demeanor. After his landmark 1999 season, he never came close to putting together an offensive and defensive year quite like that one, despite the fact he was awarded a lengthy and pricey contact extension after that year. Never a real patient hitter, he never seemed to adjust to how pitchers were approaching him after the big contract extension he got in he seemed to be the poster boy for complaceny on some of those Phils teams in the early 2000s. Lieberthal was essentially a cornerstone player for 12 years (he was part time in his 13th year) while he was with this franchise, and they did not get to the post season once.

1B: Travis Lee (2000 - 2002). I could have put a number of guys here, but I chose Travis Lee. Despite coming into the league with excellent advanced notices (he was the 2nd overall pick in the 1996 MLB draft), he never lived up to his potential in the majors. In his 2+ years with the Phillies, Lee hit a very mediocre .259 and hit a paltry 34 home runs. Worse than his poor statistics, Lee was a stiff looking ballplayer who also looked like he'd rather be somewhere else than playing baseball. His demeanor made it seem as if he swigged a valium smoothy before each game. If the Phils should have made someone take greenies, it probably should have been Lee.

He came to the Phillies in the ill-fated Curt Schilling deal in the middle of the 2000 season. You must recall this little gem of a trade: Phils ace Curt Schilling was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Vicente Padilla, and the enigmatic Lee. This was the trade that signalled the front office's complete lack of desire in building a winner despite having Schilling and a young Scott Rolen. When Schilling called the team out over their frugality and questioned their willingness to win, the front office took it personally and the team chose to trade Schilling and get what they could rather than risk embarassment of Schilling not re-signing with the Phils when his time came. Schilling went on to win 2 World Series rings (Arizona 2001 and Boston 2004) and has won 20 games three times since leaving the Phils.

2B: Tommy Herr (1989 - 1990) This was the most creative Phillies management could get: A used up 2B from nearby Lancaster, PA, with a less than stellar attitude. Herr was part of the Cardinals good ole boy network brought in by Lee Thomas when he first came to Philadelphia. This good ole boy network included Manager Nick Leyva, who had consecutive sub-.500 seasons before being fired, and one monumentally bad last place finish in 1989. Herr hit .287 with 2 HRs and 37 RBI in 1989, but according to noted author John Kruk in his book "I Ain't an Athlete, Lady....", Herr was not an exemplary veteran leader:
"Larry Bowa, who had been my manager in San Diego and was now the Phillies
third base coach, talked to me. He said 'Man, just be yourself. Have
fun. We've got a bunch of deadasses here, but don't let them bring you
down. Just go out and have fun. Play your game. And don't
worry about the bullshit that goes on here, because you're going to see some
stuff you've never seen before. Guys pouting and not caring if we win or
lose as long as they get a couple hits'. "

"He was right. Later that year we called a kid up from the
minors. And Tommy Herr, who was the second baseman at the time, goes over
to him and says, 'Grab a bucket and start bailing'. Like, welcome to a
sinking ship. I couldn't believe that attitude. "

I don't care what Herr did with the Cardinals. Hearing this little ditty ruined my impression of him as a ballplayer and the story about the piss poor attitude with the team beautifully illustrates the malaise around the franchise in the late 80s.

SS: Steve Jeltz (1983 - 1989). Steve Jeltz makes this list purely on his own "accomplishments" and not by proximity to some other horrible event in Phillies history. Nicknamed "The Jet", he had to have been in the top 10 players in the league when it came to his trademark jheri curls. Unfortunately, his game was not as good as his hair. He was the only switch hitter I've ever seen to hit equally bad from each side of the plate. Jeltz hit a paltry .219 when he became the Phillies full-time SS in 1986. It didn't really get much better: .232 in 1987, and a brutal .187 in 1988. In 1989, he shared the SS position with Dickie Thon and showed some nice versatility in playing 2B, 3B, and some outfield. He hit a career high .243 and was shipped to the Kansas City Royals for a pitcher named Jose DeJesus.

3B: David Bell (2003 - 2005). Bell signed as a free agent before the 2003 season, with the thought that he'd be a good complementary player in a lineup featuring Jim Thome, Jimmy Rollins, and Pat Burrell. Bell was hurt most of 2003 and had a decent 2004, with a .291 average and 18 homers. In 2005, Bell formed 1/2 of the blackhole of the bottom of the Phillies lineup (Lieberthal was the other half of the blackhole), hitting .248 with 10 HRs. He was 2nd in the NL that year in grounding into DPs with 24.

Worse than his crappy play was Bell's crappy contract, which scared off any potential trade suitors in addition to making him an expensive player to waive. As a result, the Phillies kept David Bell and instead traded Placido Polanco, a versatile player capable of playing all infield positions, for a reliever we'll discuss a little later. Bell got worse and worse during 2005 and Polanco has hit over .300 and played a key part in the Detroit Tigers run to the pennant last year. Polanco was also just voted in as a starter in the AL All-star game. This was a situation where the Phillies should have paid Bell to go away or trade him and pay his contract and install Polanco at 3B. Having Polanco at third today would have headed off the bad free agent signing of Wes Helms this past offseason.

CF: Jeff Stone (1983 - 1987). Jeff Stone is probably one of the fastest men ever to play for the Phillies. When he was in the minor leagues, he stole bases by the bushelful. He was considered a jewel of the at-the-time barren Phillies minor league system. Stone batted .362 and stole 27 bases his rookie season in 1984. But for some reason, he could never crack the starting lineup for the Phillies, even during some of the really dark years of the middle 80s. For years, Jeff Stone seemed the punch line to a joke as his intelligence was indirectly questioned. As I was looking for some info. on Stone on the internet, I found a blog called "The Phillies Chronicles" that linked to a story on Jeff Stone by a publication called The story, published in 2004, recounts Stone's career and it makes you feel bad for the oft-lampooned Stone. You get the sense that he suffered from anxiety issues during his playing career and was just beaten down by critical managers like John Felske and Frank Robinson.

I think Stone does bear some responsibility for his failings in baseball, but what the Jeff Stone story illustrates is the Phillies' inability to nurture their own talent over the years (especially those years in the middle to late 80s).

LF: Ron Gant (1999-2000). Gant wasn't a Phillie for very long and had a pretty good career before coming to the Phillies in 1999. The reason he makes this list is because this is who the Phillies management was passing off to the fans as a legitimate power threat. Keep in mind that this was dead in the middle of the steroid era where eveyone was either 'roided up or corking their bat (or both...ahem, Sammy Sosa) and here is Ed Wade pawning off a used up Ron Gant on his fanbase like a flea market vendor selling a used jock strap. Gant hit 17 home runs in his only full year with the Phils.

RF: Von Hayes (1983-1990). Ole "541" himself. The Phillies obtained Hayes in a deal with the Indians in the offseason before 1983 season that cost the Phils 5 players; notably popular 2B Manny Trillo and Julio Franco, who is still playing for the Mets today and was an All-Star caliber SS in the American League in the 80s.

The alleged "Next Ted Williams" was not so much a complete bust as a ballplayer as he was the product of unrealistically high expectations by Phillies management. While some in the sabermetric era will try to sugarcoat Hayes' lifetime numbers and make them out to better than they were, if you watched him play, you know better. He was a good athlete but didn't always seem interested. He had a lackadaisical air about him that made him seem more like a glider than a lunch pail guy. I also remember that he was (inexplicably) a big hit with the ladies back in the day. For those of us that remember those bad Phillie teams from the mid-to-late 80s, Hayes epitomized the blaise attitude of the Phillies teams of that era.

SP Kyle Abbott (1992, 1995). The list of Phillies starters that could be considered for Team Mediocrity is long and distinguished: Floyd Youmans, Bruce Ruffin, Kevin Gross, and Mark Leiter all come to mind. I settled on Abbott for the connection to Von Hayes and a current member of the Phillies' front office.

Abbott was obtained by the Phillies from the Anaheim Angels (or whatever they're called this week) along with Ruben Amaro, Jr. in exchange for Von "541" Hayes. Just reading about that trade makes me throw up a little. Amaro had a middling career as a guy who yo-yo'd between the minors and the Phils bench and continues in his assistant GM role with the Phils (nepotism lives...don't forget his father was a long time member of the organization) and will probably be the GM of the Phils one day even though no one knows if he can do the job or not.

Kyle Abbott was inserted into the starting rotation for the 1992 Phillies and promptly posted a stunning 1 - 14 record with a 5.13 ERA. This guy was the 9th pick of the 1989 draft....the fact that we got him for Von Hayes should have told us something.

RP Ugueth Urbina (2005). I won't list his statistics here or even mention what they were. Just the surreal set of happenstances around Urbina warrant his spot on this team.

Ugueth Urbina was obtained from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Placido Polanco. Earlier, when writing about David Bell, I chronicle how Polanco has hit well over .300 for the Tigers, was MVP of the ALCS, and was in his first all-star game this year. Needless to say, losing Polanco is a blow the Phils feel to this day.

Urbina, on the other hand, pitched OK for the Phils in the half season they had him. During the offseason between 2005 and 2006, Urbina was arrested for attempted murder as he was eventually convicted of attacking 5 farm workers with a machete and attempting to pour gas on them on his property in Venezuela. Other charges that got tacked on (in addition to attempted murder) included deprivation of liberty and "taking justice into your own hands", which I guess are illegal in Venezuela (which is run by a dictator). Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in the slammer, making him the only pitcher to now need to know how to avoid the high hard one, rather than deliver the high hard one (I'll be here all week. Enjoy the Veal).

I'm sorry, but when the guy you trade away turns into an all-star and the guy you get in return gets convicted of attempted murder, I'd have to say that was a trade that just didn't work out and frankly, typifies the intersection of poor management and bad luck that we, as Phillies fans, contend with on a yearly basis.
Well, that's my lineup. Any number of other guys could have been plugged into this list. For example, I refrained from using guys like Scott Rolen, because when the big mama's boy was here, he was a good ballplayer....he just didn't like it here. Another example is Lance Parrish....he hated us, we hated was pretty much a mutual understanding.
My sincere hope as a fan is that it does not take another 10,000 losses for one World Series championship.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Phillies June 2007 By the Numbers

June, while on the surface appearing to be an average month by an average ball club, was not especially kind to the Philadelphia Phillies and may well be the beginning of the end of this baseball season.

Starting pitching, seen as the strength of the team coming into the season, now appears to be a bigger weakness than their already shockingly weak bullpen with the season ending injuries of Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber. The Phillies and Garcia are pretending as if he'll be back, but I wouldn't bet on it when it comes to shoulder and rotator cuff problems. Lieber broke his foot and had season ending surgery the other day. Both will be free agents at season's end and neither will be back with the team next year. More on this later, but onto the numbers for June.....


The number of wins the Phillies pulled down in June. It's also the exact number they won last month. As of June 30th, the Phils were in 3rd place; 6 games behind the division leading Mets in the NL East and 2 games behind 2nd place Atlanta. If this number means anything, it signifies the mediocrity of this team. They were 3 games above .500 for the month (15 wins, 12 losses), but they couldn't seem to gain any ground on the Mets (they went 3 - 2 with the Mets in June) and they could only hold serve in Inter league play (6 - 6 vs. their AL counterparts).


This is the ERA of the Phillies' starting pitchers for the month of June. All of them. In the beginning of the year, I stated that the success and failure of this team would be dictated by the starting pitching and June has borne out that prediction. You cannot win in this league when your starters have an ERA this bad for any length of time. With holes in left field and third base (again with the hole at 3rd base this year) and no real protection for Ryan Howard in the lineup, the Phils cannot out slug teams on a regular basis, so they definitely need better work from their starting rotation. For the year, the Phillies' team ERA is 4.91, good for DEAD LAST in the National League.


The number of home runs 1B Ryan Howard hit in the month of June. The Big Man appears to be back. While his average is not above .300 yet (he's at .251 for the year), Howard did hit .280 for the month of June. The quad injury is probably still bothering him, and even though he has no protection for him in the lineup, Howard is beginning to produce as a clean up hitter should as he is in the top 5 in both HRs and RBIs in the National League as of this writing.


The batting average that 2B Chase Utley hit for in the month of June. He was definitely the MVP of the team in June, and added 6 HRs and 23 RBI in addition to hitting for a high average. Utley, far and away the best 2B in baseball, was also selected to start his second All-Star game. Since starting somewhat slowly in April, Utley has clearly picked up the mantle of offensive leader on this team.


The batting average that LF Pat Burrell hit for in the month of June. The Phillies can no longer give this guy regular at-bats. I thought he was killing this team with his miserable May (.179 in May 2007), but Burrell actually managed to be much worse during June. For the good of the ball club, Pat Gillick needs to bite the bullet and get rid of this guy by any means necessary. Burrell has not listened to the various suggestions he has received over the years with respect to his looping swing and strange idea of the strike zone (he was actually deemed to need contacts to see properly, yet refuses to wear them). His lack of pride and weak will continually undermine this team until he is gone. The best power hitter the team has in AAA or AA ball, or even playing Michael Bourn more often, cannot be worse than Burrell at this point.


The number of losses sustained by SP Jon Lieber before his injury. Lieber's ineffectiveness aside, his injury hurts this ball club on a couple of levels. On one level, they are now down another starting pitcher after already losing Freddy Garcia, who is also likely done for the year. On another level, the whole move of Brett Myers to the bullpen was orchestrated to get this fat loser some starts so the Phillies could ship his fat free agent ass out of town at the trade deadline in exchange for some bullpen help. That will now not happen and coupling the Lieber injury with the Myers injury (from which, Myers has not yet returned) and the whole move of keeping 6 starters and stashing Brett Myers in the bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster. Some believe that Myers will be returned to the rotation after the all-star break, but Myers himself has disputed that in the press.

I predict Myers will return the rotation, as I believe the plan was to be all along, but Myers will not be happy about it. The Phillies brass wasted a whole year of his career because of Jon Lieber. I'm speechless as I write that.......


The ERA of RP Geoff Geary for the month of June. Congratulations Geoff! You've won an all expenses paid trip to beautiful Ottawa, Ontario, in lovely Canada! See you in September!

Other notable events in June:

- Wes Helms finally registered a couple of home runs in limited duty. He has all but lost his starting job and is platooning with Abraham Nunez and, occasionally, Gregg Dobbs. Don't be shocked to see him moved at the trade deadline. He is a veteran bat off of the bench that would be coveted on a good team.

- In addition to Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Aaron Rowand will both be going to the All-star game. It is the first all-star game for each player. Don't be surprised to see free agent to be Aaron Rowand moved at the deadline if the Phillies can get a competent starter for him. I'd like to see the Phils sign Rowand long term, however, as his attitude and hustle fit right in with Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.

- Jayson Werth went on the DL on June 29th with a sprained wrist, bringing back fan-favorite Chris Coste.

- Rookie Kyle Kendrick went 2 - 0 with a 5.06 ERA taking Freddy Garcia's spot in the rotation during the month of June. Kendrick is not heralded as a hot prospect, but has not looked terribly out of place either. Too early to get too excited yet, but not bad so far.

High Point of June 2007:

The 3-game sweep of the Mets, at Shea Stadium, from June 6th to June 8th. The homer hit by Rollins during the June 7th game was a classic.

Low Point of June 2007:

A tie between getting swept in a day-night doubleheader by the Mets on June 30th and losing Jon Lieber for the season with a foot injury. Losing Lieber led directly to the Phillies desperately reaching out to talented, but troubled J. D. Durbin to start the first game of the DH against the Mets. After striking out the side in the first, Durbin got roughed up and the Phils lost game one of the DH. The likes of J. D. Durbin and J. A. Happ (who also got roughed up by the Mets in his first ML start) are who the Phillies will be depending on the rest of the season because of Lieber's injury.

Chew on this one:

Three of the top four Phillies in terms of salary are either ineffective (Pat Burrell at $13.25 million) or were ineffective before they were injured for the year (Fred Garcia at $10 million and Lieber at $7.8 million). That is a lot of money to have tied up in injury and incompetence.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rubber Match Today vs. Tigers

The Phils split the first two games of their series against the Tigers, getting pounded on Friday (6/15) by a score of 12 - 8 and winning yesterday's game 6 - 3.

Friday (6/15): Jon Lieber really didn't have a chance in this one and they way he fielded his own position, he didn't give himself much of a chance. He couldn't motivate his fat ass to get to a dribbler off of the bat of pitcher Jeremy Bonderman and later, misread a sign from the bench and threw away a pick-off attempt to first base. Oh yeah; he also gave 7 runs in 5 innings of work. The Phils did hit 5 homeruns in this game, with Jimmy Rollins particularly enjoying a good game with 2 homers and a triple (Howard, Victorino, and Dobbs hit the others). But it wasn't enough to overcome the surging Tigers.

Saturday (6/16): Veteran Jamie Moyer baffled the Tigers with 7 innings of 2-run ball and the Phils got home runs from Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand to seal the win. Victorino went 3 for 5 in the game, scoring a couple of runs and knocking in one. With this win, and the Mets loss to the Yankees last night, the Phils are only 2 games behind the Mets in NL East.

Today, the Phils will send Adam Eaton (7-4) to the mound against Justin Verlander (7-2), who threw a no-hitter in his last start.

Other Phils Items:

- I was excited as anyone by the prospect of the Phillies acquiring Freddy Garcia in an off-season deal, but I can't believe they didn't do a bit more homework with respect to his arm. It was revealed earlier last week that the Phillies did not do an MRI on Garcia's arm and did not give him a physical exam period when they traded for him. On Friday, it was revealed that Garcia would NOT undergo surgery to repair his ailing right shoulder and will undergo a rehab program. The fact that the Phils knew he had posted those years of throwing 200+ innings and DID NOT look at the health of his arm is simply galling.

I doubt Garcia will be effective for the Phillies this season if he makes it through this rehab program and it's certainly speaks poorly for GM Pat Gillick that he allowed this to happen. The entire rotation gets thrown into chaos because of Garcia's injury and it pretty much means you need to keep pending free agent Jon Lieber for the entire season. Reportedly, Myers is NOT a candidate to return to the rotation. You have to hope at this point that a starter from the minors, like Kyle Kendrick or the heralded J.A. Happ can step up and fill Garcia's role in a positive fashion.

- Apparently, the Phils number one from last year, Kyle Drabek (currently pitching with Lakewood), is dinged up with an elbow injury.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Phils Sweep Pale Hose, Get Ready for Tigers

The Phils completed the sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, by defeating the South Siders by a score of 8 - 4. They completed the sweep with six solid innings from rookie starter Kyle Kendrick and a grand slam off of the bat of Aaron Rowand. The Phils seemed to do all the right things in this series and pulled to within 2 games of the division-leading New York Mets. You have to like the position the Phils are in at the moment.....they just need to avoid those nasty bouts of inconsistency that they are prone to get caught up in.

Other items of note from the series:

- Wes Helms FINALLY hit his first home run of the year in the 3rd game of the series on June 13th, a mere two months into the season. Are you telling me that we don't have a guy in the minors who could have turned in Helms' .252 average with 1 homer and crappy defense at a lesser price than whatever it is they're paying Helms? Really?

- Just a masterful 7 inning pitching performance from Adam Eaton in game 1 (6/11) of this series, which the Phils won 3 - 0. With this win, he raised his record to 7 - 4. He did not give up any runs and struck out 5. He's helping in salvaging Pat Gillick's reputation as some of his other free agent acquisitions (*cough* Wes Helms*cough* Rod Barajas) have not worked out so well.

- Speaking of Rod Barajas, I wonder how much longer we're going to have this guy on the team. I already documented some his defensive blunders here that have hurt the team, but when is this guy going to hit? He was 1 for 9 for the series to bring his average to a mind-boggling .214 average. In the third game of the series against the White Sox, he even managed to treat the fans to a 3 strikeout performance. The fans are now seriously starting to get on this guy. This isn't like Pat Burrell, where he makes so much money, you can't gas him or trade his salary. Barajas needs to be made to disappear in favor of Chris Coste and soon.

- Cole Hamels had another stellar outing in game 2 of this series (6/12), going 8 innings, giving up two runs and striking out 9 in the Phils 7 - 3 win. Basically, it seems the starting nod for the NL in the All-Star game will come down between Hamels and the Padres' Jake Peavy. Unfortunately for the Phils, Hamels will not be starting against the mighty Detroit Tigers this weekend.

- Shane Victorino stole his 20th base of the season on Wednesday. He stole a base in each game of the White Sox series.

- With the RBI in Wednesday's game, 2B Chase Utley now has 53 RBI, good for 2nd in the NL behind Carlos Lee of the Astros.

The Phils have a 3-game set coming up against the Tigers at the Cit-house.

Other Philly Sports News:

- The Flyers re-signed goalie Antero Niittymaki to a 2-year deal as insurance against Martin Biron falling on his derriere. At the season ticket holder Q&A session I went to that featured GM Paul Holmgren and coach John Stevens, it was obvious when listening to Stevens speak that he holds Niitty in high regard and that he wasn't simply being nice in a hockey sort of way.

- Donovan McNabb actually did a little practicing for the first time since his knee injury in last year's Tennesee game. Naturally, the way the sports media is in this town with the Eagles, the media was all over it and I was completely bored of this story about an hour after I heard about it. Call me when training camp starts, please.......