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 Philly.com)

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 thepitch.com. 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 him....it 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.