Jimmy Rollins scored his 1,200th run on Friday, making him the fourth player since 1921 to score at least 1,200 runs with 400 or more steals. Impressive numbers, indeed, and. . . Hall of Fame worthy??
Jimmy appeared well on his way to a place in Cooperstown after an MVP 2007 season in which he hit .296 with 30 home runs, 20 triples, 41 stolen bases, and 139 runs scored. But Rollins has not come close to replicating that season ever since and from 2009-2013 he is batting .254 with a .315 OBP.
Hard to think Hall of Fame for a player with clear deficiencies in his offensive game, but remember that Rollins plays a predominantly defensive position (we'll get into that later) and in comparison to all-time shortstops, the numbers are there.
Jimmy Rollins vs. all-time shortstops
Here is how Rollins' numbers stack up among shortstops all-time.
Chase Utley is giving the Phillies way more than they could have imagined this season. For a guy with chronic knee problems who has missed 185 games over the past three seasons, just having him on the field is a huge success. The fact that he is hitting .271 with 7 home runs, 24 RBI, and an .823 OPS is icing on the cake.
But he also has been really weird this season. Utley is a bit of an awkward dude to begin with, but his play on the field has never been weird. Utley has always been an ultra-focused player who works the count, makes great decisions, plays fairly sound defense, and runs the bases well. But not this season.
Last night was a great example. With no outs in the first inning, Utley hit a double and considered going to third before throwing on the breaks...then changing his mind and getting thrown out. He broke the cardinal rule: never make the first or third out at third base. Later in the game, he had a chance to easily throw out a runner at the plate but hurried his thrown and air mailed it to Ruiz.
Those are not the only two blunders of Utley's 2013 season.
Last night might have been the most complete offensive effort all season for the Phillies. While 10 hits and 6 runs is hopefully a sign of things to come, it has not been a common occurrence for the 12th ranked Phillies offense. With 33 games in the books, we should now be at the point where their personality begins to arise.
So, what is the identity of the 2013 Phillies offense? That was a fairly easy question to answer during most of the Phillies' playoff run. The Phillies would score in bunches, hit a lot of home runs, strike out frequently, and struggle with fundamental hitting.
The identity of the current offense is more difficult to pinpoint. With a couple completely new additions (Michael Young & Ben Revere), a young outfielder (Domonic Brown), and two aging stars with injury issues (Howard and Utley), it was going to take time for the offense to take shape. Last night was game number 33 of the Phillies season and they have now completed one-fifth of the season - that should be enough to give us a pretty clear picture of the hitting unit.
And the personality of this team is, well, they just look...old. They aren’t great, they aren’t awful, they are just kinda there. The offense is grasping onto enough of a semblance of talent to stay out of the statistical basement, but they don’t have enough to be even considered average.
The Phillies are 2 games under .500 and if it weren't for the Mets and Marlins, the Phillies would be 5-14 right now. There are plenty of reasons for this, but one number sticks in my mind: 1-5. That is the Phillies' record in games in which Cole Hamels has pitched.
Hamels gets a pass on a couple of these outings, but a 6-9 record was unacceptable for Cliff Lee last year and a 1-5 record is unacceptable now for Cole Hamels. Low run support might be a valid excuse for Kyle Kendrick or John Lannan, but not for the recently anointed Phillies staff ace.
That title of staff ace was bestowed upon Hamels more for signing a big contract than for his performance on the mound. As soon as he signed Colbert Michael Hamels on the dotted line of a $144 million contract he became the Phillies ace, vaulting right over Cliff Lee in the process.
Phillies April Storyline
The 2013 Phillies barely resembled the same team as the previous season on Opening Day. They had a different Opening Day starter (Cole Hamels) and only two players were on the Opening Day lineups from 2012 and 2013 (Rollins and Mayberry). What began with a sliver of excitement ended with major concerns.
Phillies April Win/Loss Totals
Feeling down about the Phillies on a miserable Monday? If you are a glass half-empty kind of guy, you might take pleasure in knowing that some former Phils are having really bad seasons. Just to give you a basis for the truly alarming numbers you are about to see, keep in mind that the league average for WHIP is 1.31 and Chad Qualls had a 1.53 WHIP last season for the Phils.
Carlos Ruiz returns to the Phillies today and he will do so without his long lost friend Aderall. Although it might be a fun drug at parties or to cram for a big exam for college students, Aderall doesn't exactly scream baseball.
Aderall doesn't improve bat speed, it doesn't add distance on home runs, and it doesn't help players rebound quicker from injuries. But what it does provide might be the biggest benefit of all for a catcher: it improves concentration.
Think about the life of a catcher for a moment.
Like a father watching his son ride a bike on his own for the first time, I am super proud of Kyle Kendrick and you should be, too. Or, as Jim Salisbury put it, "Kyle Kendrick has become a man."
The ups and downs in Kendrick's career are like a bike ride through the Appalachian Trail: minor leaguer-turned major leaguer-turned playoff starter in 2007; major leaguer in 2008-turned minor leaguer in 2009-turned major leaguer in 2010; reliever-turned starter-turned reliever-turned starter in 2011 and 2012; and a fake trade for Kobayashi thrown in for good measure.
And here is the latest twist: after last night's complete game shutout, Kendrick's 2.41 ERA is the best on the staff...and it didn't come from nowhere...
The numbers are impressive:
2013 Phillies Win/Loss Chart
Wanna see how the Phillies are really doing this season. Follow along with the 2013 chart and be sure to check out previous seasons.
$3.58 million per win. That is how much Cliff Lee earned last season for the Phillies. After going 17-8 the year before with a career winning percentage of .617 and an average of 15 wins per season, Lee finished with just 6 wins in 2012. So was it just a case of bad luck or was it possibly the signs of a declining pitcher?
Cliff Lee probably calmed all fears with a 1.52 ERA and an average of 7.9 innings in his first three outings, but should we be concerned with 5 earned runs in 5 innings on Saturday and a blown lead yesterday in a tight game?
Save your concerns for the Phillies 9-14 record, their 10th ranked NL offense, their league leading 23 double-plays, or go right on down the list of players not hitting (Revere, Brown, Kratz, Howard....), because there is no need to worry about Cliff Lee.
It was just one of those years and one of the strangest starts to a season for a starting pitcher. Cliff Lee was winless in his first 13 games before a July 5 victory due to a combination of a fairly high 4.13 ERA and poor run support of 2.6 runs/9 while he was the pitcher of record. Even so, the difference wasn't large enough to explain a goose egg in the win column. Consider it a case of the wrong place at the wrong time 13 straight times.
Figures don't lie, but liars figure. I guess that makes me a liar, because I figured the hell out of Ben Revere.
When the Phillies traded for Ben Revere in January, you had to figure he would be a centerpiece for the organization for years to come. The potential was sky high. He hit .294 in 2012, stole 74 bases over the last two seasons, was tied for 3rd last season with 9 bunt hits, and played a mean centerfield.
Suffice it to say that the start to Revere's Phillies career won't have anyone printing any Wall of Fame plaques. Revere is hitting .211 with one extra-base-hit and 7 runs scored in 18 games. Odds are he is just in a slump and maybe batting leadoff for a new team in a new league was too much for him. That might be the case, but what he is hitting is not as worrisome as how he is hitting.
Everyone and their grandmother knows that Ben Revere has not hit a big league homer, so it is safe to say Mike Schmidt's home run record is safe. A better comparison is with Juan Pierre, who doesn't work many walks but makes up for it by slapping hits through open spaces. So far, though, Pierre is looking like Babe Ruth compared to Revere.
Not only is Revere not getting extra-base hits, but he is barely getting the ball out of the infield. Out of his 56 balls in play, only 12 of them, 21.4%, have left the infield. That is not too much of a surprise considering his career rate is 31.7%, but this is where the stats can lead you down a bad path if you aren't careful. I took Ben's 68.3% ground ball rate as the sign of a player who understands where his bread is buttered and knows he must utilize his speed. Surely, this would be the season where he started to refine his approach and drive the ball. Right?
Roy Halladay pitched eight innings and allowed just one run on Sunday for his first win of the season. Problem is, that win came against a Marlins team that has scored nine earned runs in 75 innings against starting pitchers this season for an ERA of 1.08--technically Halladay’s 1.13 ERA in the game was worse than the average starter. Facing a historically putrid offense rendered it impossible to permanently change any opinions. Regardless of the outcome, everyone will wait until he faces a real offense like the Cardinals on Friday.
So what can we take from his outing?
Phillippe Aumont entered a tie game in the ninth, walked the leadoff guy, recorded only one out, and proceeded to lose the game for the Phils to an awful baseball team. Yep, and I could not be prouder of him.
Phillippe Aumont surely has the stuff to be the future closer of the Phillies organization, but he has not shown the head of a future closer early on in his career. The whole Roy Halladay story has brought with it constant references to Harvey Dorfman, Doc's mentor and the author of Halladay's Bible, The Mental ABC's of Pitching. That book chronicles the mind of a major league pitcher and provides the context of which to judge all pitchers. The Mental ABC's helps us understand the importance of a pitcher's presence on the mound - strong minded pitchers are careful not to show emotion and to never give the slightest indication of weakness.
We witnessed with Cole Hamels in 2009 just how important a pitcher's presence is to his success. Hamels constantly voiced his displeasure with umpires and showed his frustration when fielders made a mistake. The result was the worst season in Hamels' career.
I bring this all up because Aumont has displayed much of the body language of an immature and un-veteran-like pitcher on the mound.
Remember last offseason when the Marlins were picked by many to win the NL East? Those time certainly have changed. The Marlins dumped salary and players in a way even they had not done before.
It is borderline criminal what the Marlins have done to their roster and their fans. Here's a quick look at how much they have changed in just one year.
To discover the answer to the whole Roy Halladay fiasco, we are going to play our own version of Mad Libs with the below paragraph.
Roy Halladay has been [ADJ. FOR FOUL ODOR] this season. His control has been [ADJ. LIKE BAD], he has little cut on his cutter, and his fastball must look like a(n) [ADJ. FOR SOMETHING BIG] because it has been [ADJ. LIKE SMASHED]. Halladay has done all of this with a reasonable velocity of 88 to [NUMBER].
Fun, right? OK, maybe I need to get a life.
All games aside, it is that last number which makes Roy Halladay such a curious case this season. When news broke in Spring Training that Roy Halladay's velocity was as low as 84, smoke alarms went off all over the Delaware Valley. The walks and lack of movement weren't huge concerns. Those were both sure to come around - I mean, this is Roy Halladay we are talking about here. It was the V-word that frightened little children.
Which is what makes his first two outings so perplexing: his velocity has been fine. Halladay has only lost a couple ticks off his fastball, still throwing consistently in the low 90’s and marginally harder than both Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick.
I hate cliff hanger endings. In the era of season finales and mid season finales, TV dramas drop cliff hangers on us like crazy. Who knew Roy Halladay was also in on it?
On March 17, I planted myself on the couch to enjoy a Sunday afternoon Spring Training ballgame. It was my first chance to watch Roy Halladay pitch since his injury riddled 2012 campaign. Instead of preparing a shiny new scouting report for you of the new Roy Halladay, I was exploited by a cliff hanger. Halladay, unbeknownst to us, was fighting a stomach virus and lasted one inning. It would be 17 days before we got to watch Doc again.
April 3rd would be everyone’s chance to figure out, once and for all, what to expect from Roy Halladay. Yet for me, I felt no less confused at the end of Halladay’s performance than I had after observing his “stomach virus” game.
In what proved to be a truly peculiar evening, Halladay allowed three runs and threw 40 pitches in the first inning in the same game in which he became the first pitcher since 1916 to strike out nine batters in less than 3 2/3 innings. As head scratching as the outing proved to be, there were a few takeaways from Halladay’s performance.
Jonathan Papelbon announced, "If we're not the top bullpen in Major League Baseball, we'll definitely be the top in the National League." Uhhh...what? The Phillies 3.94 bullpen ERA last season ranked 10th in the NL and without Papelbon that ERA balloons to 4.24. But what else would you expect from a guy with an alter ego named Cinco Ocho?
Pappy might have gone a little too far here, but it seemed reasonable entering this season to expect a solid Phillies bullpen. Amaro added possibly the best setup man in the league in Mike Adams in front of one of the best closers in Papelbon, to go along with a veteran like Durbin and a bunch of quality young arms. In theory the Phillies' relievers could be a strength of the ball club.
Nothing like a combined 15.42 ERA from Durbin, Horst, and Valdes to alter your expectations.
But what has really changed with the bullpen?
One obvious change is the eighth inning. The Phillies 4.89 ERA in the eighth inning last year ranked second worst in all of baseball and they blew 13 eighth inning leads. Ruben replaced that with Adams' career 2.28 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, 6.9 H/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 9.0 SO/9. In his last four seasons before last, the 34-year-old posted ERA's of 2.48, 0.73, 1.76, and 1.47 with an average of 59 appearances per season which came almost exclusively in the eighth inning.
But what about the innings leading up to the eighth?
Two nights ago at about 7 pm it felt like one of those cartoons where an angel sits atop your right shoulder and the devil sits over your left. Last night they were arguing about the Phillies 0-2 start.
The angel says, “Don’t worry about it! The Phillies were 0-2 in 2009 and made it to the World Series and they became division winners in 2007 after an 0-3 start.”
Then the devil chimes in, “This is absolutely a must-win. You can’t win it in April but you sure can lose it in April.”
No matter how you perceive things in Phillies World, this was a good win for the Phils.
So the Phillies lost on Opening Day...again. The loss should come as no surprise considering they are now 8-16 in the last 24 Opening Days. But it was just one loss and there were plenty of positives to give us some reason for optimism. Here's a glance at the good and the bad from Opening Day.
The biggest positive was glaringly obviously to anyone: Chase Bleepin' Utley. Wow, did Chase look good or what last night?!
Before you flip on the TV for the Philllies’ 131st Opening Day in franchise history, here’s a little Opening Day trivia for you.
Phillies Opening Day Records
Phillies overall Opening Day record: 62-66-2
Phillies Opening Day record – Home Games: 23-34-1
Phillies Opening Day record – Road Games: 39-32-1
I love this time of year. This time right now where hope springs eternal and every fan calculates what it will take for their club to win it all. I can remember back to the truly horrendous days of Steve Jeltz, Don Carmen, Steve Searcy, Dale Sveum, Ricky Jordan, Juan Bell, Braulio Castillo, etc. from the 90’s thinking if this happened and that happened, the Phils would actually have a chance. Hey, it worked in 1993 didn't it? Ahh, the long list of what-if's to make the Phillies a champion.
Those what-if's of a couple decades of futility were replaced with expectations in the last few seasons for our home town Phils. Now, for the first time in a long time, we need to round up those what-if's again. Can the Phillies win another World Series in 2013? Absolutely, unequivocally, and without a doubt...
...if Roy Halladay has anything at all left in the tank.
...if Ryan Howard can return to his old form.
...if Chase Utley's legs don't fall off.
...if Domonic Brown’s spring is indicative of his true potential.
...if Kratz can tread water until Chooch returns.
...if Ruiz can hit without his meds.
...if Michael Young can hold his own at third and hit a little, too.
...if Mike Adams isn’t damaged goods.
...if the young Phillies relievers can make a difference.
The what-if's are the beauty of Opening Day, a day in which the Nationals are tied with the Astros for the best record in baseball.
Five months, 27 days, and three hours is now down to less than 24 hours.
What if this is the start of another championship season...
The baseball offseason is a laboring, arduous, laborious, one. Six months of dark, bitter, sterile days as we wait for Opening Day. It's tough to pick up the newspaper (do people still read those things?) and consider yourself lucky to find more than one Phillies article.
But the rite of passage has occurred with the return of our boys to Philadelphia. And with that, the Phillies entered the forefront of the Philadelphia sports discourse once again. On Friday there were no less than 17 articles on philly.com and a plethora of insightful topics.
Here are a few of the more interesting headlines and from Friday. Among the discussions were a look at how the Phillies don't value sabermetrics, adjusted training routines for the big guys, the impending injection of youth, and a severely depleted and horribly ranked farm system.
Yuniesky Betancourt finished his Phillies Spring Training with a .447 average (21 for 47) in 51 plate appearances. From 2007-11, only Derek Jeter played more games at shortstop than Betancourt (thanks Matt Gelb). Yet the Phillies let him walk without so much as a bag of doughnuts in return. Yes, and it was absolutely the right move.
Betancourt had a productive spring and that is nice for him. Yeah, well Ben Francisco parlayed a 2011 spring average of .361 into a .244 average during the season and he was gone by the next year. That is just a random player sample but it shows that spring stats oftentimes mean next to nothing.
Call me crazy, but I would rather base my baseball decisions on 1,019 regular season games than 18 Grapefruit League games. The result is a player who, since 2009, has the lowest on-base percentage in baseball (.275), fourth lowest OPS (.658), and has the second worst fielding value among infielders (-41.3) according to Fangraphs.
Pampered, spoiled, and famous. They are filthy rich celebrities who get the chicks.
Sums up the life of a Major League baseball player, doesn't it? We, as fans, get carried away with obsessing over the money and fame of professional athletes. We see their six, seven, and sometimes eight figure contracts and forget that they used to be Little Leaguers playing for fun just like us.
I see a player like Domonic Brown and see a rich, privileged, arrogant kid who has had his butt kissed since he was two, who even now at the minimum salary makes more money in a year than many of us make in a decade. In his first taste of the majors he acted the part of a superstar with his gaudy wardrobes and leisurely strolls around the bases as if he had a small stash of MVP trophies in his mother's basement. He acted like the majors were his right and he deserved the privileges that went along with it.
The baseball world moves very fast. That’s why I always find it interesting at this time of year to think back to where the Phils were last year. You might be amazed at how much you forget in just one year, so I thought I would remind you through a short hike down memory lane.
After their best regular season ever with 102 wins, last offseason was supposed to follow the Phils second championship in four years. Instead, it followed their earliest postseason exit since 2007. They not only lost in the first round to the St. Louis Cardinals, but it was a 1-0 loss in the decisive fifth game with Doc on the mound and concluded with Ryan Howard crumbling to the ground on the very last pitch.
And thus began the Phillies offseason. They started with some housekeeping and declined the options on Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt. With Lidge and Oswalt officially gone, the attention turned to the role of Phillies closer.
With three Philadelphia college basketball teams and thousands of student athletes ready to take center stage in March Madness, I wanted to divert your attention from baseball to plug a great local charity. Trish Harrington, a friend of mine and of course of Phils Baseball, alerted me about Simon's Fund, a local Philadelphia charity she works with that screens student athletes' hearts -- and raises awareness about the leading killer of student athletes: sudden cardiac arrest.
Here is your math question for the day. The Phillies will have 25 players on their active roster on Opening Day. Twelve of those players will be pitchers, which leaves...raise your hand…thirteen position players.
On Monday we focused on the final roster spots for pitchers. Now let’s take a stab at the those thirteen position players. Of those thirteen, we can knock off six starters right off the bat.
Phillies Starting Position Players
C – Erik Kratz
That leaves seven players to account for: two starting outfielders, two backup outfielders, two infield bench players, and a backup catcher.
Doc leaves Phils wondering.
Phils concerned about Halladay.
No, those are not just sentence fragments intended to expose my weakness with the English language. Those are a few of Tuesday’s headlines. It’s frightening stuff. When I was alerted to the atrocities occurring on the mound at Bright House Field, my initial thought was, “If Doc is done, the Phillies are done.”
Should we be concerned? If the comments from the Phillies skipper and pitching coach hold any merit, the answer is hells yeah.
In 21 days the Phillies active roster will be set. Which 25 players will be named on that roster when the season begins on April 1? It is one of the few intrigues in the Purgatory that is Spring Training. You know things are bad when Charlie Manuel’s incident with a tricycle is considered news. Funny how the bench warmers garner more headlines than the entire starting staff, but that’s what you get in a land where the sun shines and stats mean nothing.
Let’s continue the trend and try to focus on those last few roster spots and project the Opening Day roster. We will do the pitching today and the position players in the next article.
If you want a few good quotes you go to Cole Hamels. His cavalier attitude with his words is gold for bloggers like myself. He provided us with a few more yesterday.
First, Hamels offered his thoughts on playing in the World Baseball Classic:
"I know my allegiance is to the Phillies and this organization winning the World Series," he said. "I think winning the World Series is a little bit more important than whatever trophy they give for the World Baseball Classic. The World Series is ultimately the goal that I would go for no matter what they are throwing out there for the champions of the World Baseball Classic."
Tell me everything you know about Phillies assistant hitting instructor Wally Joyner.
Time's up. If you were able to name more than two things, you win. I knew the name and guessed correctly that he played for the Padres and was a first baseman, but really didn't know a darn thing about the guy. To be honest, I don’t even really care. More often than not, the worse you are as a player, the better you are as a coach. If that's the case, how did Greg Gross get fired? Oh, too soon? Sorry GG.
In case you are interested, Wally Joyner was a first baseman who played for the Angels, Royals, Padres, and Braves. He is a career .289 hitter with 204 home runs, 973 runs scored, and 1,106 RBI.
Can we ever really know how good of a coach he will be? Probably not, but Wally Joyner's comments regarding Domonic Brown won me over pretty quickly. "We straightened his hands out a little bit, allowing his wrists to cock," Joyner said. "He's a big boy. He looks great. We want to take advantage of that size and leverage. That's one of the assets that Ryan Howard has. And he uses it. He has a lot of leverage. He stays behind it."
Brown was impressed, as well. "It seemed like God maybe sent an angel down toward me."
If John Mayberry was an animal he would be a cat, because he is already working on his fifth baseball life. It’s amazing to think just how fortunate Mayberry has been in his career. Here's a look at the many opportunities Mayberry has been given and why he used up his last.
Call up #1: John Mayberry finished his 2009 season at Lehigh Valley with a .256 batting average, a .332 OBP, and 13 HR. Not exactly the kind of numbers that draw big league attention, especially for a 25-year-old with 2,306 career minor league PA’s. Nonetheless, Mayberry received his phone call and hit .211 in 57 at-bats with the big club.
Is Ryan Howard set for a big year? If Mike Schmidt's comments hold true, the answer could be YES.
In one ear and out the other. That's how you can describe the discussions between Mike Schmidt and Ryan Howard over the years. No matter how low his average gets, no matter how many times he strikes out, Ryan Howard has been stubbornly convinced that his way is the right way.
Or at least that has been his thinking during his nine major league seasons.
Is it possible 2013 will introduce the new Ryan Howard? Mike Schmidt's comments certainly points us in that direction. The Phillies all-time home run leader sat down with the media on Thursday and provided some interesting comments regarding the Big Piece.
The weather stinks, the outfield is still a mess, the team is adding wrinkles by the minute, and prognosticators might not be looking fondly on the Phillies this season, but here is a reason for optimism: Roy Halladay looked good on Tuesday.
Yeah, I know, of course he looked good because he has to look good. Like anyone would tell us if he was awful. Halladay, Dubee, Charlie, and Ruben can blabber all they want about Doc's new training program and how great he feels. But this time is a little different. This time it was two all-stars talking.
Halladay was one of the first to throw live batting practice in Clearwater on Tuesday. Two of the batters he faced were Michael Young and Chase Utley.
In my last article I discussed five under-the-radar Phillies, but another player who has been surprisingly overlooked is Ben Revere. With so much focus on the big guys and the Three Stooges surrounding him in the outfield, Ben Revere's impact on the Phillies has been largely undervalued.
His speed, along with his ability to rack up singles, has the potential to transform this Phillies lineup. Chicks dig the long ball, but the threat of speed at the top of the lineup can be equally as sexy (at least to old school guys like myself). How many times have we watched Jose Reyes sneak his way on base, steal second, and score without another hit? Revere might be holding a role of relative anonymity at the moment, but if he continues to progress, he could become a permanent spring fixture in Clearwater for the next decade.
But he has to take more walks. A lot more walks.
When Spring Training first begins, reporters and cameras flock to the usual suspects like Howard, Halladay, and Utley; and newcomers like Adams, Young(s), and Revere. But what about John Lannan...and Kyle Kendrick? They could be sucking their thumbs in the corner and nobody would notice.
Clearly the success of the Phillies rides with the superstars, but I thought I would focus on some of the guys getting no attention but who may play a key role with the 2013 Phillies. Here are five supporting characters to keep your eye on in Spring Training and throughout the season.
Wednesday was the first official day for pitchers and catchers. It was also the first official day for every reporter to stick a microphone in the face of every player's face to get a few quotes.
It is great to finally have baseball in the discussion again. And it is also annoying. With virtually no new Phillies news for months, all of a sudden there are five thousand Phillies articles with the same exact quotes in all of them. If you want to know what the players had to say and don’t have the time, energy, or patience to read the entire articles, here are the Cliff’s Notes versions.
Harry Kalas is a legend in Philadelphia. A man so beloved that he was memorialized as a statue, a ballpark restaurant was named after him, and his voice celebrates each Phillies home victory. Harry was synonymous with Phillies baseball for 39 years.
Now try being the guy who replaces him.
That task was given to Tom McCarthy. Nearly four years after Harry's death, Tom narrates the next best era in Phillies broadcasting.
The Jersey man who once considered medical school and whose jobs took him from Trenton to Philadelphia to New York and back to Philly again has finally made a permanent home with the Phillies. What stories did the new voice of the Phillies have in store for us? I just had to find out.
"Ruben? Ruben Amaro, will you come in here please? We have to talk. It's about your report card."
Report card time has not been fun for Mr. Amaro in the school of PhilsBaseball. I would have sent poor little Rub home crying after his offseasons in 2008, 2009...OK... after pretty much every one of his prior offseasons. But now, for the first time in the history of this blog, Ruben Amaro does not get a failing grade.
That opinion puts me in the minority, because Ruben is getting destroyed for his work over the winter. Sports Illustrated just gave him a 'D' for the offseason and fans are none too happy with Amaro’s multitude of “low risk-high reward” moves. Hard to blame them, either. Ruben openly said he was looking to free agency in the winter, so fans naturally assumed that meant guys like Hamilton, Michael Bourn, or BJ Upton. That is especially the case considering the precedent of wild spending set by him and the owners. We are so used to getting the big name that it is hard to watch other teams grab them.
T-minus 10 days until pitchers and catchers report and 21 days until the first Phillies Spring Training game. With Chad Durbin likely being the last major addition to the 2013 roster, so likely ends the Phillies offseason. With the offseason nearing its unofficial close, now seems as good a time as any to compare the last two offseasons.
Below is a list of the major offseason moves (including the deals at the trading deadline) over the last two seasons along with the money added or lost with each deal. The salaries listed are based on a full season and with some of the team controlled players (like Ben Revere) the figures are estimates, but it gives you a good idea.
The Phillies hosted their Winter Breakfast on Friday in a State of the Union of sorts. Fans were greeted this season by Ruben Amaro, Charlie Manuel, Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen, and Tom McCarthy. As I mentioned on Saturday, it was a fantastic event. During the breakfast (which featured a ton of great grub, I might add), fans had the opportunity to ask questions in a Q&A session.
Before we get to the answers from Charlie and Ruben, I thought I would share part of my brief conversations with Erik Kratz and Kevin Frandsen. I didn't take down any direct quotes, so you will have to trust my memory on these, but you'll get the gist of it.
Cole Hamels is great. He so does not fit in here in Philadelphia yet he so does. He doesn’t look the part, but “Welcome to the Big Leagues” is all I have to say about his toughness.
What I love even more are the glorious quotes he provides. While most guys either give you the scripted answers, say nothing, or just hide in the corner, Hamels will give you an honest answer. Most of the time it gets him in trouble. Does, “I can’t wait for it to end” ring a bell for anyone? And I’m sure his responses have created multiple coronaries for his agent. But from the prospective of a fan, it doesn’t get any better.
Hamels surprised everyone yesterday when he announced that he never had any shoulder soreness during the offseason, as reported. After they badgered him on the topic, he made his point quite clear.
"Since these are the questions that you guys are asking, I haven't really thought about anything of that sort because I haven't even picked up a paper," Hamels said. "That's the honest truth. I wasn't the one who started it. I know I feel good and I'm ready to go. That's all I can really answer because that's where it is. It's the same program, and I'm looking forward to spring training and finally getting out of the cold."
He stopped just shy of saying, “that’s a clown question, bro.”
The questioning then moved towards his expectations for the team.
"We just have a lot to prove," Hamels said. "I think ultimately we can't take the back seat and hope that we can coast through. We really have to go after it from the very beginning and not really hope we can play catch-up. These teams now, they're a lot better, the players are a lot better in the league, and they're not going to allow you to really catch up."
Gotta love a guy who puts a target on his own back. Hey, it worked out pretty well for Jimmy Rollins.
It finally set in yesterday, the sobering realization that the Phillies are the third best team in the NL East. This feeling cauterized yesterday upon learning that the Braves acquired Justin Upton. One year ago, the Phillies were defending their fifth straight National League East title and coming off the best record in baseball for the second straight season. Now, they are coming off a .500 mark and hoping to sneak into the playoffs. It was a tough morning to be a Phillies fan.
But my mood changed quickly. I had the good fortune to attend the Phillies Winter Breakfast yesterday at the Diamond Club at Citizens Bank Park and was reminded why it is great to be a Phillies fan. The event itself was enough to brighten even the coldest January day. Charlie Manuel, Ruben Amaro, Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen, and Tom McCarthy enlightened season ticket holders in an entertaining Q&A session.
Looking back on a fantastic day with great baseball guys, I came away with a better understanding of what it really means to be a Phillies fan. All it took was three words from Kevin Frandsen: "they were teams."
The Phillies finally got the corner outfielder they have been seeking all along...Delmon...Young. Yeah...I guess.
He’s no Josh Hamilton, but at least Delmon Young has done something at the major league level. He has a career .284 batting average with 89 home runs. He will also be the only corner outfielder on the Phillies roster who has played a full season with at least 450 at-bats. Hey, when your beer choices are Natty Ice or nothing at all, you take the beer.
Ruben Amaro may have sold his soul a bit to bring in a guy who needs two hands to count all of his on and off the field issues, but he gives the Phillies another option and only costs $750,000 if he stinks. Albert Pujols makes that much over a two week vacation.
Delmon Young will be Phillies starting rightfielder
The Phillies situation is so dire in the outfield that Young is already slated to be the Phillies starting rightfielder despite making only 29 starts in the outfield last season. “Ideally, he’d be playing right field every day for us,” Ruben said. “But that’s not etched in stone. That will happen when he shows that he can play every day in right field for us.” He can show that by putting on his uniform correctly, remembering which dugout is his, and running 100 feet without collapsing.
It might not be quite that simple since he underwent microfracture surgery on his right ankle on Nov. 10. But Young owns the right field job if and when he is healthy. Ben Revere is the starting centerfielder, leaving Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr., and Laynce Nix to fight for the last three outfield slots.
I almost cringed when I heard Todd Zolecki say this, but I agree that John Mayberry gets one almost by default since he is the only guy who can realistically backup Revere and play center (and by “play center” I mean he can run and hold a glove at the same time). Plus, the Phillies cannot option Mayberry to the minors anymore and he has been decent against lefties. Again, it’s Natty Ice or nothing.
Nix probably takes another spot because he has a guaranteed contract and offers a left-handed bat coming off the bench.
That leaves Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf to fend for themselves.
Dom Brown or Darin Ruf?
Popular opinion states that Domonic Brown has the inside edge on that final roster spot and that Darin Ruf needs to prove he belongs, but I am not so sure it is not the other way around.
First of all, both players have options remaining, so either one could be sent to the minors. Secondly, Domonic Brown has had three opportunities to prove he belonged in the majors. He has a career .236 average with 12 home runs in 147 games to show for it. Brown is still just 25, but has he really earned another chance?
Finally, the boss, Charlie Manuel loves the long ball and sure does talk a lot about Darin Ruf. It probably doesn't hurt that Ruf hit 10 bombs in 120 at-bats in the Venezuelan Winter League. I could definitely see Charlie throwing Ruf into the fire to see how he handles it.
In all likelihood, this will come down to a fight in Spring Training. Brown vs. Ruf. The battle begins in just a few weeks.
The Phillies don't take the field on Opening Day for another 71 days (not that I'm counting), but it is never too early to think about the Phillies 2013 starting lineup. It certainly is not too early for Charlie Manuel, who already discussed the lineup at the Phillies holiday party on Dec 11.
Here are the parameters for this discussion. We are looking at the lineup for the first 25 games before Chooch returns from his suspension and assuming Domonic Brown will play right field and Darin Ruf will play left. I don't see Charlie using anyone other than Utley and Howard at third and fourth, so let's eliminate that option, as well.
Projecting the Phillies lineup is not as easy as it might seem considering the only two givens in the batting order are Utley at third and Howard at cleanup. The leadoff spot will likely go to Jimmy Rollins or Ben Revere, but beyond that the lineup discussion gets a bit murky.
Let's talk about the possibilities at each lineup spot before exchanging lineup cards.