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Phillies/Braves series deserves some hype
by Scott Butler 4/14/14

It is difficult to hype a series just 12 games into the season, especially with a Phillies team with low expectations. But if such a thing is allowed, this upcoming 4-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park is one to hype.

In many ways, this series could be a measuring stick for the entire season. After an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Brewers, the Phils dug themselves out of a hole by sweeping the Marlins and worked themselves back to a .500 record at home and for the season as a whole. Now they face a Braves team who swept a Washington Nationals team who many feel should win the NL East.

Keep reading...

Winner announced for Phillies tickets!

Kathy Matkowski is the winner of a pair of tickets to see the Phillies play the Mets on April 30!

Thanks to everyone for playing and congratulations Kathy!

Phillies splits per inning and the 7th inning nightmare
by Scott Butler 4/13/14

The Phillies took a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning of last night's game and left with the game tied at four. It was the sixth time in 11 games the Phillies allowed at least one run to score in the seventh inning and the Phils have surrendered a total of 10 runs in the seventh this season. With only 1 run scored on the offensive side, that puts the Phillies at a net loss of 9 runs in the seventh inning.

Four relievers have allowed runs in the 7th inning: Diekman (twice), Rosenberg (twice), Manship, and De Fratus.

These problems, of course, are not limited to the seventh inning. The Phillies have allowed 23 runs in innings 7-9 while scoring just seven.

Keep reading...

Respond now for a chance to win Phillies tickets!

Last week, in anticipation of Opening Day, Phils Baseball offered the chance to win a pair of Phillies tickets by Liking Us on Facebook.

The winner has not come forward, so now is your chance to win Phillies tickets!

For your chance to win, all you have to do is respond through our Contact page with a message heading of "Phillies Tickets" before Sunday's game at 1:35. Anyone who responds will be automatically entered into the contest to win a pair of tickets to the Phillies/Mets game on April 30th at Citizens Bank Park. The winner will be announced during the game.

Good Luck!

Bullpen and defense responsible for all Phillies losses
by Scott Butler 4/11/14

Why are the Phillies in last place after being swept in their first home series against the Brewers?  The answer, without a doubt, is the bullpen and defense. Stop it right there.  Don’t bother looking any further.

Here are a couple of the ugly numbers, courtesy of The Zo Zone:

--The Phillies lead baseball with 10 unearned runs. No other team in baseball has more than seven (Padres and Marlins).

--They are fourth in baseball with nine errors. Only the Dodgers, Marlins and Rangers have more with 11.

It goes much, much, further than pure statistics, however. The bullpen and/or defense has directly caused three of the Phillies’ six losses and had a major impact on every loss this season.

The best way to explain the extent of their impact is to go somewhat play-by-play through all six losses. I will take you through the specific plays involving the bullpen and defense in each painful loss followed by a brief overview. Feel free to read the details if you like, but you might be better off just skipping to the overview.

Keep reading...

What to make of the Phillies through 7 games
by Scott Butler 4/9/14

The Phillies have played 7 games, which is less than 5% of the 162 games that make up a baseball season. Cole Hamels has yet to pitch, Mike Adams is still rehabbing, the Phillies have played just three teams, enjoyed only a single home game, and “hitting season” is still about a month away. In other words, it is early.

Seven games is hardly enough for any proclamations, but it gives an indication, if not a prediction, of what path this story will follow. In my opinion, there are more reasons for optimism than not.  

Keep reading...

Phillies rumors week of March 30-April 8
by Scott Butler 4/8/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of March 30-April 8:

Keep reading...

With Ryne Sandberg, "Everybody hits! Wha Whoo!
by Scott Butler 4/6/14

Watching Ryne Sandberg in the first week of the Phillies season is kinda like getting a brand new wife. You can date a woman for a couple years and get to know her fairly well, but once you get married and she has you locked in, it is a totally different ball game (pun intended). Similarly with Ryne Sandberg, he managed 42 games last season as interim manager, but that was not the real Ryne Sandberg.

We have ascertained some information about the new Phillies skipper in the first week. We learned that he is not afraid to shake up the lineup, moving Howard out of the cleanup spot for the first time in forever (665 games to be exact). We also discovered that Ryno is willing to throw a young player into the fire, giving Mario Hollands his first big league opportunity in the ninth inning of a tie game. And Sandberg also showed that he has tremendous faith in Jake Diekman and zero faith in Brad Lincoln.

Sandberg also explained that he wants to use his entire roster, giving as much rest as possible for his regulars.

"I like to play the whole roster and get everyone in," Sandberg said. "Generally speaking, I believe it takes all 25 guys to get through a baseball season, and to keep everybody fresh and everybody healthy is always a plus to get through the season, especially with our group of core players. For us, we need that."

Sounds smart in theory, but how does it play out in reality?

Keep reading...

Between the seams: scribblings on the Phillies
by Scott Butler 4/6/14

Opening Week is officially over and the Phillies are on the winning side of .500. It was an entertaining week of baseball filled with its fair share of under-the-radar news. Here are a few Phillies tidbits you might find interesting.

Howard abandoned the stretch?

According to Jim Salisbury, Howard "has virtually abandoned the stretch at first. He catches most balls close to his body, costing his infielders valuable inches on close plays. This is something that needs to be addressed."

A first baseman that does not stretch for balls at first? Can't say I heard that one before. To describe it as bizarre would be like saying this winter was a tad chilly with a few snowflakes. I had to double check before writing this to make sure it wasn't an April fools joke.

Keep reading...

Winner announced for Phillies tickets!

We have our winner!

Karen Schumann Seveland Weisenberger is the winner of a pair of tickets to see the Phillies play the Mets on April 30!

By liking us on Facebook this week fans had a chance to win the tickets and Karen is our lucky winner.

Karen, please send your info via the Contact Page or send an email to contact@philsbaseball.com to claim your winnings. Please provide your mailing address and we will mail the tickets to you.

Congratulations Karen!

If you haven't already, you can like us by logging in to your Facebook account and clicking the Like button on our our Facebook page.

Blame Amaro, not Papelbon for his declining performance
by Scott Butler 4/3/14

While it is easy to pile on the Phillies closer for his heinous blown save yesterday, let’s leave Jonathan Papelbon alone for a second.

Papelbon is an easy target right now. Pappy had no command of his pitches yesterday, never found the strike zone, and lacked any mound presence. It's hard not to yell, "I didn't sign up for this" as you toss a bag of Cheetos at the screen and recall his attacks on the clubhouse, the team, and the front office last season. But is that really the proper reaction?

We can blame him personally for not living up to his $50 million contract, but let’s face it, velocity has EVERYTHING to do with his struggles since last season. And is that his fault? If we discover he has not been preparing hard or taking care of his body properly (and I haven't heard any reports of that being the case), his body is doing what most bodies do as they age.

Instead of killing Pappy, I would like to take our blame and redirect it towards the real problem which is the hopefully soon-to-be free agent general manager. 

Keep reading...

One lineup says a lot about Ryne Sandberg
by Scott Butler 3/31/14

In case you didn’t notice, there is a new sheriff in town.  Spring Training, which was previously held at The Charlie Manuel Resort and Spa in Clearwater, moved across the street this season to the Ryne Sandberg Center, a combination boot camp/penitentiary. 

Ryne Sandberg is not Charlie Manuel.  They are about as far apart as Larry Bowa who proceeded Charlie.

When asked about the difference between his style and Charlie Manuel’s, Sandberg avoided mentioning Charlie’s name. “I don’t really need to compare myself to anybody,” Sandberg said on the WIP morning show.

When describing his approach to managing, Sandberg said, “I just have my style, I have my way of doing it and that’s the way it has to be. I have my way of doing things.”

Keep reading...

Like Phils Baseball on Facebook for a chance to win Phillies tickets!

In anticipation of Opening Day, Phils Baseball is giving away a pair of tickets to a Phillies game!

Like us on Facebook between now and 4pm on Friday and your name will be automatically entered into our contest to win a pair of tickets to the Phillies/Mets game at Citizens Bank Park on April 30th. Anyone who has already Liked us is already included.

To Like us, simply log in to your Facebook account and click the Like button on our our Facebook page.

Good Luck!

Phillies Opening Day 2014

Opening Day 2014

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Texas Rangers
March 31, 2014 2:05pm

Get your fix at Phils Baseball with full coverage of Phillies Opening Day 2014

Phillies Opening Day Articles

Phillies Opening Day history

Here's a little Opening Day trivia for the 132nd Opening Day in Phillies history.

Team hitting and pitching stats in Spring Training rarely reflect regular season numbers. Here is some proof.

Cliff Lee is amazingly making only his second career start, showing how underrated the lefty is.

Phillies 2014 Opening Day Lineup

Ben Revere - CF
Jimmy Rollins - SS
Chase Utley - 2B
Ryan Howard - 1B
Marlon Byrd - RF
Domonic Brown - DH
Carlos Ruiz - C
Cody Asche - 3B
Tony Gwynn - LF

Cliff Lee - SP

Opening Series Schedule/Probable Starters

Monday, Mar 31 - at Texas - 2:05pm
Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee

Tuesday, Apr 1 - at Texas - 8:05pm
Starting Pitcher: AJ Burnett

Wednesday, Apr 2 - at Texas - 8:05pm
Starting Pitcher: Kyle Kendrick

Take a look back at previous opening day rosters

Phillies 2014 Opening Day 25-Man Active Roster

Pitchers

Antonio Bastardo
AJ Burnett
Justin De Fratus
Jake Diekman
Roberto Hernandez
Mario Hollands
Kyle Kendrick
Cliff Lee
Brad Lincoln
Jeff Manship
Jonathan Papelbon
BJ Rosenberg

Catchers

Wil Nieves
Carlos Ruiz

Infielders

Cody Asche
Cesar Hernandez
Ryan Howard
Jayson Nix
Jimmy Rollins
Chase Utley

Outfielders

Domonic Brown
Marlon Byrd
Tony Gwynn
John Mayberry
Ben Revere

Phillies rumors week of March 23-29
by Scott Butler 3/30/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of March 23-29:

Keep reading...

Comcast not to blame for possible surcharges
by Scott Butler 3/30/14

When your cable bill rises soon or you can no longer watch the Phillies because your cable/satellite provider dropped them due a new surcharge Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia is seeking, you might consider dialing 1-800-COMCAST to scream at somebody, anybody. Maybe you will consider sending a nasty email or letter to Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast. I certainly would not discourage you and would applaud your efforts, but your anger will be misplaced.

People and businesses are driven by greed and they will do whatever they can to earn more and more. That is human nature and, more importantly, the obligation of a publicly traded corporation.  Yes, that is right, a publicly traded corporation is legally obligated to put the needs of its stockholders above all else. It might be a scummy move when CSN drives up the cable rates for most customers and pushes providers like Direct TV to drop the network altogether, but plenty of other regional sports networks (RSN's) are doing the same thing and they are technically just fulfilling their legal obligation.

Keep reading...

Cliff Lee shaves naked with rainbow T-shirt before starts
by Scott Butler 3/30/14

According to Spanish translator Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz "witnessed Cliff Lee before one of his starts. He was buck naked shaving in front of the shower with a rainbow t-shirt. He was trimming it with one of those nose hair trimmers."

That's just a little snippet of what fans heard yesterday at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce "Inside Pass to the Phillies" event at Citizens Bank Park yesterday.

Keep reading...

Phillies roster and the many layers to outrighting Kevin Frandsen
by Scott Butler 3/26/14

One of the strangest developments of this long Phillies offseason was the announcement Sunday that Kevin Frandsen had been outrighted to Lehigh Valley. Frandsen elected not to accept the assignment and decided to become a free agent, forfeiting his previously guaranteed $900,000 salary. It was a pretty risky move for Frandsen to forgo nearly a million bucks after all teams passed on him, but the risk paid off. According to the Washington Post, the Nationals will pay him “at least $900,000 and worth up $1.2 million with bonuses, according to a person familiar with the situation.”

It was a peculiar development for several reasons.

First, the Phillies thought highly enough of Frandsen to guarantee his salary, which is not a common occurrence with arbitration eligible players. It was obviously a cost saving measure, but it also limited their options if he performed poorly or a better option came along in Spring Training.

Keep reading...

Jayson Stark wants to frighten you about the Phillies
by Scott Butler 3/23/14

If injuries to Hamels, Ruf, and Galvis don't get you down, or the team's MLB worst 7-15 record, or the abysmal hitting from nearly everyone, this is sure to put you in a bad mood.

Jayson Stark's latest post provided comments on the Phillies from several scouts, and you may want to look away because this is some scary stuff.

Keep reading...

Phillies rumors week of March 16-22
by Scott Butler 3/23/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of March 16-22:

Keep reading...

With Jimmy Rollins, it’s immaturity for everyone
by Scott Butler 3/22/14

I think I found the perfect way for a regular fan to help the Phillies win. Become a local reporter for the Braves or Nationals. Then pick out a veteran star on that team and post an article about a controversial topic from an anonymous source. Then do nothing and watch as the local media picks up the story, creates an uproar from fans, causes radio shows to discuss it, and forces the player, his teammates, and management to respond to it.  Done correctly, it can tear right through a locker room like an airborne illness.

That is exactly what occurred when Buster Olney masterfully created a mini controversy with the following line from his story last week you all have heard of by now:

Keep reading...

Playing Pepper 2014: Philadelphia Phillies
by Scott Butler 3/20/14

Each year, Daniel Shoptaw from C70 At the Bat asks bloggers from around baseball to do a little Q&A regarding their teams heading into the new season. As much as I truly despise the Cardinals, I didn't hold that against him and offered up my thoughts on the Phils. That's just the kind of stand up guy I am.

Here are my answers and you can click here for the rest of the responses.

Keep reading...

Phillies rumors week of March 10-15
by Scott Butler 3/16/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of March 10-15:

Keep reading...

Enjoy a day with the Phillies
3/9/14

Here is your chance to get up close and personal with the Phillies. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a pretty cool event for Phillies fans at Citizens Bank Park on March 28. Your day begins with food and drink service in the Diamond Club at 2:30 pm (included in ticket price). From 2:45 to 3:45 you will attend autograph/photo sessions and a question-and-answer session with Phillies players. At 3:05 you will go on the field at Citizens Bank Park for an on field presentation (weather permitting) until 4:30.

Also included is a game ticket for the On Deck Series exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates beginning at 7:05 pm.

Tickets cost $95 and include the entire pre-game event, game tickets, and free parking in lots T & U off Pattison Avenue for guests who arrive prior to 3:00 pm.  Also, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is offering readers of Phils Baseball $5 off the ticket price. Just enter the code PHILLYBLOG1 on the checkout page before payment and be sure to mention you were referred by PhilsBaseball.com. Click here for full details.

Phillies rumors week of March 2-9
by Scott Butler 3/10/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of March 2-9:

Keep reading...

And the role of Cole Hamels will be played by...
by Scott Butler 3/9/14

If the Phillies somehow win the World Series this season (hey, stop laughing!), stories will abound of how the Phillies proved age is just a number and how the core group once again asserted their dominance and how Ryne Sandberg created a winning atmosphere, yada yada yada. But the real reason for another parade will be the names David Buchanan, Jeff Manship, or Sean O’Sullivan. One of those three pitchers will likely fill the shoes of Cole Hamels in the rotation for who knows how many starts (given the false hope created by Howard, Utley, and Halladay in Springs of Offseason's Past, I'm guessing it's for more than just a couple starts).

These depth signings can often make or break a season. Just imagine 2007 without Tadahito Iguchi or 1993 (if you're old enough) without Kevin Stocker.

Keep reading...

Phillies rumors week of February 23-March 1
by Scott Butler 3/2/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of February 23-March 1:

Keep reading...

Seven months later...Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is real and does exist
by Scott Butler 3/1/14

The eyes of the baseball world were on Steinbrenner Field for the Phillies/Yankees game to watch the debut of the most anticipated international signing...and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez pitched, too.

What once seemed like the highlight of the Phillies Spring schedule, Gonzalez was barely more than a curiosity on a day when the Yankees unveiled for the second time their star international signing, Masahiro Tanaka. Without having seen MAG throw one meaningful pitch, I am close to proclaiming the Gonzalez case closed. Don't expect MAG to become the next MCW or JVR or AI or TO. 

I don’t say that because his mechanics are unsound or his breaking ball doesn’t have enough bite or there isn’t enough zip on his fastball.  That all could be true, totally false, or somewhere in between – nobody knows for sure.  It’s more of a gut feel type of thing based on the way his story has developed.

So let’s recap the story of the 27-year-old Cuban defector.

Keep reading...

MLB's monopolistic blackout rules and a lawsuit that could change everything
by Scott Butler 2/22/14

I recently did the unthinkable and…gasp…cancelled my cable. I watched my Comcast internet and cable bill drop $53 - now all I pay is 8 bucks for Netflix. For a cheap guy like me, there is no greater feeling. 

Of course, I will come crawling back to Comcast in April, begging them to accept my 53 dollars again. Why? Oh, that is simple. If I want to watch the Phillies I have no other choice.

Welcome to Major League Baseball’s blackout rules; a maddening display of how MLB chooses to run their business – preying on the very consumers who pay their bills. Not that this is a surprising revelation. Baseball has conducted business in this fashion all along, taking advantage of an absurd antitrust exemption which allows them to do…well…whatever they want.

Their multi-billion dollar (yes, billion with a ‘b’) TV deals show how easy it is to make money if you don’t need to worry about those burdensome things called ethics.

Baseball is making the kind of cash from their local TV deals to make Scrooge McDuck blush: $8.5 billion for the Dodgers, $3 billion for the Angels, $2.5 billion for the Phillies, and $1.2 billion for the Padres, just to name a few. Don’t mistake these deals as the result of incredible demand – baseball’s attendance, national ratings, and local ratings are actually flat or declining. Instead, these dramatic increases are a response to the reality that live sports are one of the last remaining vestiges in television with a near DVR immunity. The networks and cable companies know this and are trying to reel in the piles of cash while they still can.

Baseball could not reap such rewards without their exploitative broadcast policies which not only affect baseball fans, but every cable and satellite subscriber in America.

So this article is designed to do a few things. I will first give a little background on blackouts and explain how they work. Then I will show how Major League Baseball, with a little help from regional sports networks and cable/satellite providers, is exploiting everyone. Finally, I have the potentially great news of a lawsuit from a bunch of fans that could change everything.

Keep reading...

Phillies rumors week of February 9- 16
by Scott Butler 2/17/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of February 9-16:

Keep reading...

Why guarantee Mayberry's contract?
by Scott Butler 2/16/14

I just finished criticizing the player option in Burnett's deal when I realized I almost forgot to mention this headline from a Matt Gelb article that made me want to vomit in a nice, fresh, pile of white snow: John Mayberry Jr., Kevin Frandsen signed guaranteed contracts

Here is a snippet from Gelb's article:

"The majority of contracts for arbitration-eligible players are non-guaranteed, but Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said the team extended guarantees to both. Mayberry signed for $1.5875 million this winter while Frandsen agreed to a $900,000 deal. It is possible the Phillies saved money when signing both players by including the guaranteed language."

This has to be a joke. I mean, seriously, the Phillies felt the need to guarantee a contract to John freakin' Mayberry? It is beyond comical at this point. My good buddy Maybuggles hit .227 last season and finished with a -1.1 WAR which ranked him #230 of 237 players with at least 350 plate appearances.

Keep reading...

Burnett's player option could have serious consequences in 2015
by Scott Butler 2/26/14

AJ Burnett's contract is now official at 1 year/$16 million with a $15 million mutual option in 2015. If the Phillies decline the 2015 option, Burnett can exercise a player option for $7.5 million that can escalate to a max of $12.75.

His 2015 player option is troubling.

His option ensures that if Burnett pitches poorly and/or is hurt, the Phillies are guaranteed to pay a 38-year-old pitcher $7.5 million in 2015. Roy Halladay is a likely Hall of Famer who was the runner up for the Cy Young Award just three years ago and at age 36 is still with the Phillies...as a guest instructor. The Phillies have already agreed to pay Burnett a minimum of $7.5 million when he will be two years older than Halladay was last season.

It may sound like I am pinching pennies here. I mean, c'mon, it is $7.5 million for a team that just signed a $2.5 billion TV deal. But $7.5 million severely limits the Phillies options next season.

If Burnett is unable to perform this season, it makes a really, really, bad situation that much worse. Don't believe me? Well consider this:

If the contracts for Rollins and Adams vest and we include the roughly $10 million for player benefits, the Phillies are already locked into $146.5 million towards the luxury tax for 10 players next season. That leaves them with $42.5 million for the remaining 15 players on the active roster before Burnett. But Burnett's $7.5 million drops the Phillies available money under the luxury tax to $35 million for 15 players.

Keep reading...

Burnett signing could have deep ripple effects
by Scott Butler 2/13/14

Hey, it's not our money. Thus concludes my analysis of the AJ Burnett signing.

That is way oversimplifying things, but for a team likely contending for no more than third place, as long as Burnett doesn't cost prospects and won't affect the team after this season, the Phillies can waste their money however they want. That is a big part of why I like the Burnett deal.

The Phillies are better today with the addition of Burnett than they were one day ago. Questions of how much better and does it even matter offer an interesting debate. On the low end of the scale is Keith Law's Phillies Flounder with A.J. Burnett Signing article (requires Insider subscription) in which he thinks the team was so awful to begin with, the signing won't make a hell of a lot of a difference. On the other end is Corey Seidman's opinion that "the addition of Burnett alters the Phillies' entire offseason."

Which opinion is correct doesn't really matter because the Phillies' entire offseason philosophy was little more than hoping to get lucky enough with injuries to keep some fans in the seats.

Keep reading...

Reaction to Moyer and Stairs in Phillies broadcast booth
by Scott Butler 2/12/14

The Phillies have their new broadcast team, adding Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs to the booth. Guess they weren’t old enough for Amaro to add to the Phillies 40-man roster – oh snap!

Here’s my gut reaction to the moves:

Jamie Moyer has forgotten more about pitching than I will ever know. I would love to spend the day/week/month with Jamie Moyer. Wait...don’t laugh...it’s not what you think...I want to talk pitching with him. Anyhow, he brings a lot of smarts to the table. But I remember him as being a nice guy but really, really boring. We’re talking boring enough to plan naps around boring. Some players act completely different when they are no longer playing, but I'm not so sure that is the case with Jamie Moyer.

Matt Stairs is the exact opposite. He is a guy I would love to hang out with for about 4 hours a night/2 days a week/between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am/on the days between Thursday and Sunday. I mean, the dude pounded 2 beers simultaneously at the Wing Bowl. And he smashed quite possibly the biggest home run in Phillies history.

 

Keep reading...

Baseball should be stripped of antitrust exemption
by Scott Butler 2/9/14

With several MLB teams signing multi-billion dollar television contracts, business is good for baseball owners. Despite plummeting national TV ratings and flatlining or declining local ratings last season, local TV money has gone berserk.

How is MLB able to do it? Part of the answer is not something the owners want publicized: it is baseball’s antitrust exemption.

What are antitrust laws?

Antitrust laws are statutes developed by the U.S. Government to protect consumers from monopolistic business practices and ensure fair competition exists. Or, as the Federal Trade Commission describes it, “These laws promote vigorous competition and protect consumers from anticompetitive mergers and business practices.” (2) These laws were made official by Congress through the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890.

How baseball gained their antitrust exemption

Keep reading...

Phillies rumors week of February 3 - 8
by Scott Butler 2/9/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of February 3-8:

Keep reading...

Phillies rumors week of January 26 - February 2
by Scott Butler 2/3/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of January 26-February 2:

Keep reading this post

Phillies rumors week of January 19-25
by Scott Butler 1/26/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of January 19-25:

Keep reading this post

Don't underestimate the value of Mike Adams
by Scott Butler 1/26/14

Remember Ryan Madson in 2008? How nice it was to have confidence entering the 8th inning with a lead? Remember how important he was in the 2008 postseason with a 2.13 ERA?

Ruben Amaro certainly remembered. When he brought in Mike Adams last season for 2 years/$12 million, he hoped he added the pitcher who compiled a 1.98 ERA in 297 games with the Padres and Rangers from 2008-11. What Amaro did not want was a repeat of the bullpen's 4.89 eighth inning ERA in 2012 – remember, the good old days of Chad Qualls?

Mike Adams was supposed to change that. Of course, with Adams limited to just 25 innings due to injury, 2013 ended up being that repeat performance. The Phillies 8th inning ERA last season improved negligibly to 4.33 and from 2nd worst in baseball to 4th worst.

What if the Phillies had the 2011 Mike Adams last season? In 2011, he pitched to an obscene 0.99 eighth inning ERA in 63.2 innings. Obviously it would be a huge stretch to assume he could repeat those numbers after an offseason surgery and considering his overall ERA went from 1.47 in 2011 to 3.27 in 2012, but let's see what would happen if he had.

Keep reading this post

Phillies rumors week of January 12-18
by Scott Butler 1/19/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of January 12-18:

Keep reading this post

Mickey Morandini might actually be right choice as broadcaster
by Scott Butler 1/18/14

I almost laughed out loud when I read the title: Morandini may be next Phillies broadcaster. Seriously? The guy whose voice sounded like a mix between Shaggy and the guy from the Men’s Warehouse commercials? Maybe it wasn’t that bad, but that is how my little kid memory recalls it.

Anyhow, that was my mind set when I read Bob Brookover’s piece which mentioned Mi-ck-ey Mor-an-dini as a potential color commentator for the Phils.

Now I think I’m sold.

My opinion already had begun swaying after reading his interview on Phillies Nation about his new coaching job at AAA.  Unlike the scripted and intentionally boring, non-committal answers Chase Utley provided us in his awkward publicity tour last week, Mickey Morandini was refreshingly honest.

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Phillies rumors week of January 5-11
by Scott Butler 1/12/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of January 5-11:

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You will miss Chris Wheeler even if you don’t know it
by Scott Butler 1/9/14

I am a huge Chris Wheeler fan and I'm not afraid to admit it. There, I said it.

If you were to base Chris Wheeler's popularity simply on radio callers and comments on websites, I am clearly in the minority here. As Pat Gallen pointed out on Phillies Nation, "Wheeler caught quite a bit of crap from the average fan." I’m not going to go through the whole list of grievances here – you know your reasons.

As one writer described, "My father hated Wheels. There's a good chance your father hated Wheels. If not your father, then your uncle, or your mom or your older brother. So...you probably came to hate Wheels too."

And that's fine.

Broadcasters, particularly in baseball, are a very personal thing to most people. It's also very subjective, which is why I won't try to change your minds (trust me, I've tried and it doesn't work). But I do hope you can appreciate his work in the booth for nearly four decades.

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Phillies rumors week of December 29-January 4
by Scott Butler 1/5/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of December 29-January 4:

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Phillies 2014 New Year's Resolutions
by Scott Butler 1/1/14

Pretty catchy title, huh? I came up with that one all by myself. I also fed myself, dressed myself, and I even wiped myself and put on my big boy pants all by myself.

It might be a generic title and one I normally try to avoid, but in this case I think it actually works. Your favorite drinking establishment was no doubt filled with New Year’s Resolutions last night, but you can probably count on one hand the number of people who really plan on fulfilling it. It's like the old head in the toilet prayer, “Please God if I can survive this night I promise I will quit drinking forever," partaken by many a partier last night.

Like most unfulfilled resolutions, it doesn’t matter if these can, will, or even should happen for the Phillies. But if the circumstances allow, here are a few things the Phils should resolve to accomplish by this time next year.

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Phillies rumors week of December 22-28
by Scott Butler 12/29/13

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of December 22-28:

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Phillies won't contend until at least 2017
by Scott Butler 12/26/13

Your Phillies roster includes Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee, and Carlos Ruiz...

...in 2016.

Those five players, who will all be over the age of 35, are either under contract or have vesting options through the 2016 season.

Oh, for the love of Pete.

If those players unmercifully remain in 2016, they will have an average age of over 36 and a combined salary of $89 million, which is $11 million more than they earned in 2013.

In 2016, Howard's and Ruiz' contracts are guaranteed, Utley's contract automatically vests with 500 plate appearances in 2015, Papelbon's vests with 55 games finished in 2015 or 100 games finished from 2014-15, and Cliff Lee earns $27.5 million or a $12.5 million buyout.

We witnessed this offseason the oppressive nature of these bloated contracts. Entering this offseason, the Phillies had salary obligations and estimated arbitration salaries totaling $135.7 million for 13 players. When added to the roughly $10 million in player benefits, it left around $20-25 million to spend on the rest of the roster before hitting their self-imposed cap of around $165-$170 million. The Phillies literally did not have enough cash in their pockets to afford Ellsbury, Choo, McCann, or Cano, so they were forced to sift through the bargain bin for Marlon Byrd and Roberto Hernandez.

It gets no better in 2015 or 2016, either. A quick glance at their salary obligations (prior to the offseason) from 2014 through 2016 shows just how dire a situation the Phillies find themselves in.

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Phillies rumors week of December 15-21
by Scott Butler 12/22/13

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of December 15-21:

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Phillies rumors week of December 8-14
by Scott Butler 12/15/13

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of December 8-14:

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Phillies must trade John Mayberry before tomorrow's Rule 5 Draft
by Scott Butler 12/11/13

John Mayberry must not be on the Phillies 40-man roster this time tomorrow.  Mayberry must be traded tonight.

Why the urgency? The Phillies were given a gift last week when they earned an extra Rule 5 draft selection from the Cubs through a grievance. It gives the Phillies the 4th and 7th picks in tomorrow's Rule 5 draft.  Problem is, they have two selections in the draft and only spot available on their 40-man roster. If they want to take two Rule 5 guys, someone from the current roster has to go. That player needs to be John Mayberry.

I will touch on the Rule 5 aspect in a second, but first, let's talk a little John Mayberry, Jr.

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Even healthy, Phillies offense not as good as you think
by Scott Butler 12/10/13

Prepare yourselves for a really depressing article.

It wasn't supposed to be that way, though.

My original intention with this post was to show you that with just a little bit of luck, the Phillies still have one of the top offenses in the National League. Give us a full year of Howard and Utley and the performances we hope and expect from Asche and Brown, the Phillies might make some noise.

Well, not so fast there, Skippy.

I wanted to see how the Phillies offense projects this season if Howard and Utley are healthy, if Domonic Brown can replicate 2013, if Asche can hold his own, and if the rest of the starters simply do their jobs. I'm not asking for 40 bombs from Howard, 100 runs from Revere, or a .300 batting average for Rollins. Just a healthy team and a little bit of good fortune.

The goal here is to set a baseline for the offense if the starters can stay on the field and perform the way they are expected.

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Phillies rumors week of December 1-7
by Scott Butler 12/8/13

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of December 1-7:

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Thanks Cubs! Phillies gain extra Rule 5 selection
by Scott Butler 12/8/13

The Phillies gained an extra pick in next Thursday's Rule 5 Draft and the reason is mysterious.

The Phillies were awarded the Cubs' pick (4th selection overall) after winning a grievance over Chicago's handling of their selection of Lendy Castillo from the Phillies in 2012.

Players chosen in the Rule 5 Draft must be on the selecting team's active 25-man roster for the entire season, but they also must be on the 25-man roster for at least 90 days during the season. The rules are in place to prevent teams from “drafting and stashing” players on the disabled list to keep them off the active roster.

Castillo was on the Cubs' disabled list for 91 days with a groin injury in 2012 before activating him in September, when rosters expand, giving him 92 days on the active roster. It doesn't take much math sense to recognize that 92 is greater than 90, so technically the Cubs were not in violation.

Then why were the Phillies awarded the pick? With no official explanation, my answer came from "commenter" in the comments section of Todd Zolecki's article:

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News flash: the Phillies are old and expensive
by Scott Butler 11/29/13

Captain Obvious here with an insightful observation: the Phillies are an old team. If Family Feud asked 100 people to describe the Phillies in one word, old has to be the #1 answer. Number two on that list should be expensive. Put those two together and what do you get? The Phillies are an old, expensive team.

Ruben Amaro is counting on another term for the 2014 season: talented. While it is easy to point out the high salaries, increasing age, and declining skills, let's not forget that this still is a talented team. If Amaro cashes his lottery ticket this season and somehow his core can remain on the field, the 2014 Phillies should be competitive. The problem with the Phillies situation is that they have no choice but to count on older, injury prone players who hopefully can hang onto their skills just a little longer.

Despite their huge payroll, the Phillies had very little to spend this offseason, which explains why the Phillies were never serious contenders in the Brian McCann/Jacoby Ellsbury/Shin-Soo Choo sweepstakes. Amaro pointed indicated in an interview last week with Mike Missanelli that he expected their payroll to be similar in 2014 to what it has been in the last few seasons, which is around $170 million. After signing relatively cheap deals for Byrd and Ruiz, the Phils have roughly five to ten million left to spend with glaring needs in the starting rotation and the bullpen.

The reality of the situation is that while the core names from the talented and inexpensive 2007 team are mostly the same, their value nearly seven seasons later is quite the opposite. Let's look at the transition in graph form.

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Phillies rumors week of November 17-23
by Scott Butler 11/24/13

In the third installment of the newest regular feature on Phils Baseball, we run through the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of November 17-23:

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New podcast: Examining Ruben Amaro's tenure
by Scott Butler 11/23/13

In the latest podcast, I go year by year and walk through Ruben Amaro's tenure from start to finish. Here are a few the things I touch on:

Major trades: Good deals like Lee and Halladay and awful trades like Oswalt and Pence.

How the Ibanez and Polanco signings hurt the Phillies.

Why Jayson Werth should have been traded.

The destruction of the Pence trade.

Comparison with Pat Gillick.

How much do Phillies have left to spend this off season?
by Scott Butler 11/19/13

Teams who finish with 89 losses tend to have many holes to fill and the Phillies need lots of shovels and dirt. They filled two needs by signing Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz, but still need to look to free agency for at least two starting pitchers and bullpen help. So, how much do they have left to spend?

To answer that question, we begin with the guaranteed contracts. If we include Carlos Ruiz's still unofficial 3 year/$26 million deal and assume he earns $8 million in 2014, the Phillies have $138.5 million in salary obligations for ten players, roughly $135 million of which counts towards the luxury tax. That luxury tax threshold is based on the average annual value (AAV) of each contract, which is calculated by dividing the total guaranteed money by the number of years.

Cole Hamels' contract, for example, earns him $138 million over 5 years, but it also includes a $6 million buyout in the sixth year, guaranteeing him a minimum of $144 million over 6 years and an AAV of $24 million. Even though Hamels will only make $22.5 million in 2014, it counts as $24 million towards the luxury tax. On the flip side, Rollins will make $11 million in 2014, but he has a $9.5 million AAV because it is a four-year, $38 million deal.

Included in both the actual 2014 payroll and the luxury tax number is roughly $10 million in player benefits.

Where we stand with their current salary obligations is a 2014 payroll of $148.5 million. Their payroll for the last two seasons was over $170 million, so if they remain at that level in 2014, they have about $21.5 million to spend. With a luxury tax figure of $145 million, it leaves them with a maximum of $44 million to spend before reaching the luxury tax.

That realistically leaves Amaro with between $21.5 million and $44 million to spend on the rest of the players. Still with me?

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Reflecting on Carlos Ruiz contract
by Scott Butler 11/18/13

Signing Carlos Ruiz to a 3 year/$26 million contract is another clear overpay, but the pile Ruben Amaro just stepped in was nearly unavoidable.

There are plenty of reasons to knock this deal.

Ruiz is 35. That is old. Corey Seidman pointed out on CSNPhilly.com that since 1965, only two catchers 35 or older have hit at least .290 in 400-plus plate appearances: Jorge Posada and Carlton Fisk. Only Fisk, Posada, Mike Piazza and A.J. Pieryznski had an .800 OPS after that age.

The contract is also significantly costlier than most predicted. MLB Trade Rumors predicted a 2 year/$14 million contract and the Rockies were only willing to offer 2 years and $15 million. The Phillies appear to be the only team willing to guarantee a third year. It also easily tops Russell Martin’s two-year, $17 contract from the Pirates last winter.

Crashburn Alley found that in the previous three seasons, only one catcher (John Buck) has earned a contract of three years or more, seven were gives two-year contracts, and everyone else received a one-year deal.

However...

Their options were limited. The Phillies have nobody in their farm system qualified as a starting catcher, and their limited budget essentially eliminated Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia as possibilities. AJ Pierzynski is a lefty the Phillies do not need who is actually older than Ruiz. Dioner Navarro would be much cheaper, but he is also a significant downgrade. That left Chooch.

This was in no way a win for the Phillies, but it wasn't a complete debacle, either. It gives the Phillies a quality defensive catcher who works well with pitchers and can hit a little. While Amaro added an older player again and overpaid again, given their options it was not the most egregious move he could have made.

Phillies rumors week of November 10
by Scott Butler 11/17/13

Did you know a new Phillies rumor is generated every 3 seconds during the offseason? Yeah, I totally made that up, but it probably isn't that far off.

That is why I love MLB Trade Rumors because they track all rumors and have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (I swear I'm not making a dime for this plug!). Last week I decided to go a step further and put all of their Phillies rumors from the past week in one page. Most of you seemed to like the idea (you lazy bastards), so I am making it a regular feature (at least during the hot stove period). If you want the rumors in real time, make sure to visit MLB Trade Rumors Phillies page.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from the week of November 10:

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Marlon Byrd signing not as bad as you think
by Scott Butler 11/16/13

Let me start by saying $16 million guaranteed for a player with a link to PED's who had a career year at age 36 is a ridiculous sum of money and a move that will likely fail. That said, the Marlon Byrd signing was not quite as bad as it appears.

First of all, Marlon Byrd's 2013 season was by no means a complete aberration. His 2013 season was undoubtedly the best of his career with a .291 average, .336 OBP, .511 slugging, .847 OPS, 24 homers, 88 RBI, and 35 doubles. But, as Beerleaguer pointed out, he had plenty of success prior to 2013. From 2007-11, he hit .291/.346/.445 with a .792 OPS and full-season averages of 16 homers and 38 doubles. If Byrd can approach those numbers it would be a serious upgrade.

Secondly, $8 million per year for two guaranteed years is reasonable given the current market in baseball. Hunter Pence hit .267/.325/.483 with an .822 OPS and signed a 5 year/$90 million contract with the Giants. Slightly better numbers overall than Byrd from 2007-11 and worse than Byrd last season yielded Pence $2 million more per season for 3 additional guaranteed years.

Pence was by no means the only recent bloated contract. Pence's teammate Tim Lincecum signed for 2 years/$35 million after posting a 4.76 ERA over the last two seasons. Then there is my favorite, BJ Upton signing for 5 years/$75.25 million last season. As foolish as Ruben looked jumping on Byrd and "setting the market," we may find in the next few months that $16 million for Byrd is a bargain.

Thirdly, the Byrd deal might indicate Ruben is ignoring his instinct to sign another potentially crippling multiyear contract for outfielders like Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Nelson Cruz, or Curtis Granderson. With little room under the luxury tax and $121.5 million in salary obligations for eight players prior to the Byrd signing, the Phillies cannot afford a huge free agent spending spree and still fill their needs for a catcher, two or more starters, and bullpen help. The aforementioned names will also require forfeiting a second round pick, something the Phils can ill afford to toss away.

Phillies right fielders in 2013 ranked 27th in hitting (.243), 25th in OBP (.305), 20th in slugging (.405), and 22nd in OPS (.709), making Byrd an enormous upgrade. Byrd won't put up Jayson Werth numbers, but he upgrades right field significantly at only $8 million per year. Marlon Byrd may not solve all problems, but he gives the Phillies roughly $40 million to play with before reaching the luxury tax.

Cameron Rupp as Phillies starting catcher...not yet
by Scott Butler 11/10/13

Cameron Rupp had a good go at it in his four September starts with the Phillies last season, hitting .308 with two ribbies in 13 at-bats. Nice job, but it doesn't trump a combined .258 average in 2013 combined between Reading (.245) and Lehigh Valley (.269).

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Keeping tabs on Phillies rumors
by Scott Butler 11/9/13

With so many rumors flying in every direction now that free agency is upon us, I thought it might be a good idea to put it all in one place. So, thanks to the guys at MLB Trade Rumors who do a great job of keeping us up to date on every Phillies rumor, here is a sampling of the Phillies rumorville over the past week.

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Ryne Sandberg directly challenges Ryan Howard
by Scott Butler 11/4/13

Ryan Howard has an average of 43 home runs and 132 RBI during his 10-year career. However, in the last two seasons he averaged 12.5 homers and 49.5 RBI, a drop off of over 30 homers and 82 RBI. Needless to say, the Phillies need the old Ryan Howard back.

Howard missed 173 games over those two seasons, so his averages will improve just by getting on the field. But it will take more than simply showing up for Howard to regain his old form. Howard needs to give a better effort and his new manager was not afraid to convey that message to the public.

Ryne Sandberg spoke about Howard on Sep 23 and did not mention the words slider or home run once. Instead, he referenced Howard getting in better baseball shape three times and acknowledged overall better preparation six times. Here are some of the key phrases he used:

get into baseball shape

have a good work ethic

better in-shape player

better frame of mind

he can be better prepared

To put this in simple terms, Ryne Sandberg called out Ryan Howard publicly. This was a direct challenge to Ryan Howard delivered to the entire fan base. Howard cannot possibly see it any other way.

Ryno first challenged Howard to get into better baseball shape. "Maybe, in some ways, he'll be disappointed in this season," Sandberg said. "It all adds up to a year where he'll be ready to go. It'll all start right now with the games in Florida along with his workout program the whole winter. Him being healthy will allow him to get into baseball shape. I look for him to come back and be a big guy right in the middle of the lineup. … I know I'll have a conversation with him about continuing to have a good work ethic and get the training in he needs to this winter."

Part of the reason for Howard not being in great shape, as Ryno acknowledged, is that he was not healthy enough to be in shape. But Howard cannot use that as an excuse anymore.

Sandberg also challenged Howard to be better prepared overall next season. "From what I've gathered, I think he can be better prepared to face somebody to start a baseball game," Sandberg said. "Whether it's through the hitting coaches, having conversations, going over scouting reports, we have plenty of video, whatever it might be, I think he can utilize that."

Those comments may appear innocuous at first, but they are about as harsh as you will hear from a manager. What it means is that the most expensive player and subsequently most untradeable player is not giving his best effort. Sandberg was careful to say better prepared rather than not prepared. No matter how he spins it, the message is clear.

But Ryno did not bash Howard and was not there to criticize. Sandberg's intention, it seems, is to get the most out of the most important offensive piece in the Phillies lineup.

“He has a knack of driving in runs. Cutting down on strikeouts would be a priority. All of that could come with a better in-shape player, a better frame of mind, and a healthy player.”

Sandberg took a starkly different approach than his predecessor. Charlie Manuel was indeed a players manager and with that, he rarely voiced any criticisms publicly. Ryno put it right out there for everyone to see. Whether it works, well, we have to wait for that answer.

The gauntlet has been raised. It is up to Ryan Howard to respond now.

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2011 Phillies Playoff Central 2011 Phillies Playoff Central