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Phillies Blog Articles - January 2010

Phillies front office profile: Benny Looper
by Scott Butler 1/2/10

Benny Looper was born on September 29, 1948 in Granite, Oklahoma and attended Granite High School. He played his college baseball at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

Benny Looper played five seasons of minor league baseball. He was picked by the Houston Astros in the 27th round of the 1966 amateur draft but did not sign. Looper was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the 1968 secondary draft and debuted with the GCL Cardinals that year.

Benny Looper played for six different teams in his five years of baseball (GCL Cardinals, Lewiston Broncs, Modesto Reds, St. Petersburg Cardinals, Arkansas Travelers, and the Tulsa Oilers) before retiring in 1972.

Looper spent the previous 23 years with Seattle in several capacities. He was the VP of player development from 2002-2003, VP of player development and scouting from 2003-2006, and Vice President of player personnel from 2006-2008. He joined the Phillies in 2009 as the Assistant General Manager of scouting and player development, assisted by Chuck LaMar.

Benny Looper is also t he uncle of major league pitcher Braden Looper, who pitched for the Cardinals, Mets, Marlins, and Brewers, and is currently listed as a free agent. His son, Aaron Looper, was a draft selection of the Seattle Mariners.

Scott Eyre decides to retire
by Scott Butler 1/7/10

After 13 season in major league baseball and two with the Phillies, Scott Eyre decided to call it quits. The 37-year-old Eyre finished his career with a 28-30 record and a 4.23 ERA in 617 appearances with the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Phillies. He also played a pretty important role in the Phillies 2008 championship.

He said after the World Series that he would either return to the Phillies in 2010 or hang it up. He was true to his word. Eyre wanted a $2 million contract like he had last season, but Ruben Amaro only offered him a minor league deal and even mentioned he did not expect Eyre to pitch for the Phils. But Scott said the offer probably did not matter. "I had most of this retirement thing planned out," Eyre said. "I think even if he would have offered me a better contract I still don't think I would have taken it."

Not that it was an easy decision. "I'm going to miss going to the clubhouse. Being with the Phillies, I'm going to miss seeing Chad Durbin sitting at his locker doing the crossword puzzle. I'm going to miss watching Brad [Lidge] read his biblical books in his locker after batting practice, eating the biggest sandwich I've ever seen anybody eat. I've talked to guys about it. I talked to [Jon] Lieber about it. Basically, you miss the camaraderie with the guys. And the Phillies' clubhouse is great. That's one of the reasons why Cliff [Lee] didn't want to leave. It's one of the best clubhouses you could be in. I don't care what anybody says about theirs. I've been in a few of them. This is one of the best. I never once said, 'I don't want to go to the field today."

Those are pretty revealing comments, really. Let's hope the clubhouse will be just as good next year.

Brett Myers signs with the Houston Astros
by Scott Butler 1/9/10

Next season, for the first time in his life, Brett Myers will not be wearing Phillies pinstripes. Myers has reportedly reached a deal with the Houston Astros to pitch as a starter, pending a physical.

The 29-year-old righty played eight seasons with the Phils and compiled a 73-63 record with a 4.40 ERA in 240 games. A starter for most of those years, he was the closer for the Phillies in 2007 and on the mound to clinch the NL East crown.

I wonder if Ed Wade even lives in Houston, because he sure does take a lot of players from the Phillies. Myers and Feliz are the most recent, in addition to Chris Coste and the Lidge trade. It might just be a publicity stunt since the Phillies play at Houston during the first week of the regular season, April 9-11. That ought to be interesting.

Mark McGwire didn't need steroids...at least not against David Letterman
by Scott Butler 1/12/10

I know Mark MGwire doesn't apply to the Phillies even in the slightest. McGwire told Bob Costas in his recent interview that he didn't need performance enhancers to hit 70 home runs. Right. What a turd. But who really cares, right?

But he probably didn't need steroids to hit a home run off David Letterman in this clip on You Tube. Of course, he did miss one....

Lidge has knee surgery and might be ready for opening day
by David Rocksteady 1/14/10

On Wednesday, Brad Lidge had what was described as minor arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The surgery was performed by team Physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to cleanup loose bodies in the knee.

Lidge can begin throwing again in 10 days and his recovery time could be by opening day or slightly thereafter. The Phillies are saying it is a routine, relatively non-invasive surgery. A doctor from Bryn Mawr Hospital was a guest on Daily News live agreed with their assessment, saying that they aren't doing much more than cleaning some cartilage out.

Obviously this is not the best timing for a knee surgery, but Lidge says that it felt better in the playoffs and nothing showed up on the MRI, so the best idea was to rest it. But Lidge told CSNPhilly.com, "Then it started bothering me as my offseason workouts intensified, so I called and said, 'Let's take a look at it.' I didn't want to have to grind it out through another season."

This will be Lidge's second offseason surgery after having bone chips removed from his right elbow shortly after the 2009 season and it is his third right knee surgery since the end of his '07 season with the Astros.

Hopefully this is not a major setback, but the news has not been good for Lidge every since he lifted that trophy in 2008.

Lidge surgery - time to worry about bullpen?
by Scott Butler 1/16/10

Lot's of fans have been telling me lately that they are worried about Brad Lidge and the rest of the bullpen. Should we be worried? Uh, yes, maybe we should.

At the top of the list is Brad Lidge, of course. Most people are scared because of his two surgeries this off-season. That's not what should worry you. In fact, those surgeries are probably good things, because his injuries clearly had some effect on his brutal season last year. The question is simply which pitcher will we see: the 2008 version or the 2009 one? If anyone had answers to that, we probably would have seen it last year. We can only sit and hope.

JC Romero. He recently had left elbow surgery and is expected to return after Lidge. For a guy who was suspended for most of last season and hurt for much of the rest, it's hard to decide what we can expect. One thing is for sure, it is not a good thing when two of your top relievers are hoping to recovery quickly from surgeries.

Baez and Madson are now pretty key pieces. Ruben Amaro has been pretty good with his decisions so far, and we need to hope that Baez is the Raul Ibanez deal of 2010. But Madson is the one we need to rely on. He will be the veteran reliever in the pen and he must step up. It is pretty evident that he is not best utilized as a closer, so why even try. Put Baez in that spot and keep Madson as your setup man. That should at least hold them over until Romero and Lidge return.

With Scott Eyre and Chan Ho Park now gone, we will definitely see guys like Sergio Escalona, Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick, or even Scott Mathieson.

If you want to be worried, it is the names above that should do it.

Chad Durbin and the Phillies avoid arbitration
by Chester Snipes 1/18/10

One down, three to go. The Phillies avoided the old salary arbitration process with Chad Durbin today. They agreed to a one-year, $2.125 million contract. They did it just in time, too, since they were set to exchange arbitration numbers on Tuesday. Durbin went 2-2 with a 4.39 ERA in 59 appearances last season and was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 71 appearances in 2008.

Now it gets fun for Scott Proefrock and Ruben Amaro. The Phillies now have to deal with three other players who are eligible for arbitration: Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, and Carlos Ruiz. Hopefully both sides will release their figures sometime tomorrow.

It's arbitration time for the Phillies
by Scott Butler 1/19/10

The numbers are out! The Phillies and the three arbitration bound players, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, and Carlos Ruiz released their figures to the public. Here are the numbers given by each player and the Phillies:

Shane Victorino
Team: $4.75 million
Player: $5.8 million

Joe Blanton
Team: $7.5 million
Player: $10.25 million

Carlos Ruiz
Team: $1.7 million
Player: $2.5 million

In the case of Shane Victorino, it looks like the Phillies are trying to work a multi-year deal. Victorino has two years left of arbitration (including this year) and the contract would be for at least that long and probably longer. Victorino is 29 years old and made $3.125 million in 2009.

Joe Blanton will be a little trickier. With both sides almost $3 million apart, they have their work cut out for them. Blanton is 29 and made $5.475 million last year, in which he went 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA, struck out 163 batters and walked 59 in 195 1/3 innings. If nothing else, Blanton is a workhorse. He has made more than 30 starts every season and has pitched no less than 194 1/3 innings during that time. He has a career record of 63-54 with a 4.21 ERA. This is his last year of arbitration eligibility and I bet we won't see him after this year.

This is an interesting situation, because there is a good chance Blanton's salary was a big reason why we didn't keep Cliff Lee. Boy would it look bad if the Phillies pay Blanton less than they would have paid Cliff Lee, who will only cost $9 million this year.

This is the first year of arbitration for Carlos Ruiz . After making around $400,000 last year, he will get a nice little raise this year. Chooch is almost 30 and hit .255 with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 107 games in 2009. It would be nice to see Ruiz win this battle because of what he had done in the playoffs. Some would argue he was the MVP in 2008 and was really clutch again last year. In 32 career post-season games, Ruiz hit .303 with 3 homers and 13 RBI. He also has 12 walks, giving him an on base percentage of .491 and a slugging of .591. I don't think that counts at all in arbitration, but it doesn't hurt.

This is a much lighter arbitration group than last year when the Phillies had 10 arbitration-eligible players and settled with all players. The Phillies haven't gone to arbitration since 2008 with Howard making $10 million. Before that was Travis Lee in 2001.

Arbitration hearings will be scheduled from Feb. 1-21 and teams can negotiate until right before the hearings. The Phillies try to avoid arbitration in almost every single case for one simple reason. Who wants to tell a panel all of the bad qualities of a guy you want on your team?

Baseball’s salary arbitration system determines pay for players with between three and six years of service, and certain "Super 2" players who have accumulated at least 86 days of service in the previous year. The arbitrator's decision is based on stats and years of service. They will look at similar players with the same years of service and say "Manny is better than Moe and worse than Jack, so we will pick a number in the middle."

The decision is all-or-nothing. It's winner takes all. Let's use the Joe Blanton situation, for example, where the Phillies offered $7.5 million and Blanton wants $10.25 million. The midpoint between those two numbers is $8.875 million, so if the arbitrator decides the proper is one penny higher than $8.875, Blanton gets all $10.25 million. One penny less, he only gets $7.5 million.

Phils sign Blanton for three years
by Scott Butler 1/21/10

One down, two to go. Two days after exchanging arbitration figures, the Phillies took care of one of their three arbitration players by signing big Joe Blanton to a three-year, $24 million contract extension, according to a team release today. The deal takes care of Blanton's final year of arbitration and his first two years of free agency.

Prior to signing the deal, Blanton requested $10.25 million this season and the Phillies offered $7.5 million.

Blanton went 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA, struck out 163 batters and walked 59 in 195 1/3 innings. If nothing else, Blanton is a workhorse. He has made more than 30 starts every season and has pitched no less than 194 1/3 innings during that time. He has a career record of 63-54 with a 4.21 ERA.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the two remaining arbitration-eligible players, Shane Victorino and catcher Carlos Ruiz.

You can view Blanton's stats here.

Phillies give Victorino a three year deal
by Scott Butler 1/21/10

Two down, one to go. A day after signing Joe Blanton to a three-year deal, the Phillies did it again, signing Shane Victorino to a three-year extension worth $22 million. The extension will take care of Victorino's final two years of arbitration and his first year of free agency. Prior to the deal, Victorino wanted $5.8 million in arbitration and the Phillies offered $4.75 million.

Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said Thursday the Phillies also could lock up Ruiz to a new contract before the end of next week.

Victorino hit .292 with 39 doubles, 13 triples, 10 home runs, 62 RBIs and 25 stolen bases last season. He was voted into his first National League All-Star team and won his second Gold Glove.

You can view Victorino's stats here.

Who are the Phillies owners?
by Scott Butler 1/22/10

One of the best kept secrets in Philadelphia is the phantom group of people we loosely call the Phillies owners.  The Phillies' ownership group has remained more of a mystery in this town than Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle.   

While winning the World Series in 2008 took a ton of heat off the Phillies owners, fans renewed their hatred for the faceless, nameless individuals who we never see or hear when the club dealt Cliff Lee for the likely reason of saving $9 million bucks.  It is time now that we investigate these Phillies ghosts, who are quite skilled at remaining invisible.  David Montgomery is here to speak for the owners that allowed so many years of horrid baseball before getting lucky in 2008, and to make sure that fans never, ever learn who they really are. 

David Montgomery said recently that the Phillies owners are in the red and have been since they took over the team.  HA!  I guess we should all bow down and thank these wonderful people for selflessly throwing away their hard-earned money for our enjoyment.  Right.  Montgomery was not lying, but he was surely bending the truth as well as any politician out there.  I bet they have been losing money… in their operating costs.  But the team value is an entirely different story.  Let’s put it this way: The original group bought the team in 1981 for $30 million. The 2008 Phillies were reportedly worth $481 million (and that’s before winning the World Series).  That’s over a 1,600 percent increase in the value of the team…1,600 percent!  Trust me, they are NOT LOSING MONEY.

Before revealing these Phillies Phantoms, let’s discuss how exactly they came to be the owners.  In 1981 when Ruly Carpenter announced he was selling the team, Bill Giles assembled a group of investors to buy the Phillies.  With only $50,000 of his own to spend, he needed a little help.  He took a 10 percent share of the team, oversaw the day-to-day operations, and became the spokesperson of the group, allowing the others to hide in the shadows.  

The Buck brothers invested $5 million.  Widener family heir Fitz Dixon and horse-racing mogul Bob Levy combined for $3.5 million.  John D. Betz from Betz Laboratories pledged $5 million.  Taft Broadcasting took care of the rest, throwing in $15 million.

In 1986, Taft Broadcasting sold its 47 percent share to Bill Giles and crew for $24.1 million.  Bob Levy and Fitz Dixon have also since cashed out.  Bill Giles handed over his general partner position to David Montgomery in 1997, who also took a sliver of the company. 

That leaves Claire Betz, the Buck Brothers, and John Middleton as the unnamed sources remaining.  Let’s see what we can dig up, shall we?  Let’s meet the cast:

Claire S. Betz
Claire S. Betz is approaching the age of 90 and shares time between her homes in Gwynedd, PA and Key Largo, Florida.  Claire’s husband, John Drew Betz, bought his share of the Phillies in 1981 and she took over ownership amidst a nice little soap opera.  See, her son, Peter Betz, was murdered by her 16-year-old grandson, Justin Betz, in 1988.  Justin pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and John died of cancer at the age of 72 during the trial.  That’s when she took over his share.  The Inquirer's Bill Conlin valued her stake at 33 percent of the team in a November 2007 article.

The Betz’ made their fortune through a family-owned water-purifying company called Betz Laboratories of which John Betz was the chairman.  Betz Laboratories was later sold to General Electric. She and David Montgomery are also on the board of the Schuylkill Center, a local conservation group. When Claire passes away, the other partners will likely buy her shares.

The Buck Brothers
The Buck brothers: Alexander K. Buck, J. Mahlon Buck, Jr., and William C. Buck.  Officially known as Tri-Play Associates, the three brothers are involved with T.D.H. Capital Corp., a venture capital firm based in Radnor, PA.  The firm was started in 1977 and primarily invests in small businesses. 

They also have been heavily involved in local charity, including gifts to the zoo, orchestra, and education.  “The Bucks are very principled. Very, very gentlemanly. Very, very private,” says J.B. Doherty, general partner of TDH Capital.

John Middleton
John S. Middleton is in his mid-fifties and splits his time between Bryn Mawr and Stone Harbor.  He is a 1977 graduate of Amherst College, and according to them, "Middleton heads his family's business, which includes McIntosh Inns, Bradford Holdings, and Double Play, Inc."  He inherited his portion of the ownership from his father, Herbert H. Middleton.  He is also on the Board of Trustees of Penn Medicine. 

John was the closest thing to passionate out of the group.  Rumor has it, Middleton was a big reason why the Phillies signed Jim Thome in 2002.  He has been attributed as declaring, “I’ll pay for him myself!”

It was announced in November of 2007 that Middleton had sold his family cigar company to the Altria Group, owners of Phillip Morris, for $2.9 billion.  Fans had a brief moment of hope that maybe, just maybe, we could have an ownership committed to winning.  David Montgomery shut down those dreams instantly.  In a statement, Montgomery said, "John Middleton is a limited partner with the Phillies and his personal and business interests have no impact on the operation of the ballclub."  That’s a pretty strong statement from the very mild mannered Montgomery.  As you will soon learn, that is exactly what it means to be a limited partner, limited.  But, if John Middleton could somehow grab a majority stake, he could have called the shots and told Montgomery to hit the road if he wanted. 

Hard to say if Middleton even attempted to buy the team, but the program during a ceremony in 2004 at Amherst said, “Montgomery runs the show. He just reaffirmed that fact. The partners are supposed to stay out of the way, and these partners do. It is fairly well known that John S. Middleton has been an outlier on some issues - breaking loose the money to sign Jim Thome was thought to be one of them.”  

David Montgomery
Bill Giles hired David Montgomery in 1971 to work in the Phillies' ticket sales office and he later became Sales Director.  When the current group bought the team, Giles appointed Montgomery as his top assistant in 1982.  Quite possibly his most revealing quote was, “I just believe the organization needs an image that’s not directly tied to wins and losses.”

Bill Giles
Giles started with the Phillies as the vice president of business operations in 1969.  He was the team vice president until 1982, team president from 1982 to 1987, and General Manager from 1984 to 1987.  Giles decided to step down as general partner in 1997 and took the title of managing partner.  He is the son of former National League president Warren Giles and the current honorary president of the National League.

Limited Partners

Before moving forward, it is helpful to know what it means to be a limited partner.  Bill Conlin describes it in better detail in his article on the limited partnership, but here is the Cliff’s Notes version.  Basically, the general partner (was Giles, now Montgomery) gathers the group, negotiates the sale of the team, is responsible for all debt and lawsuits, and gets a little extra coin in the form of a salary.

So, what does it mean to be a limited partner?  It means they are limited to their cash investment and nothing else.  Don’t like what is going on?  Want to get rid of David Montgomery?  Too bad.  When they agreed to terms as limited partners, they gave all the power to the general partner. 
 
As Conlin said regarding Montgomery, “Unless you can prove misfeasance and worse, it would be hard to dislodge him.”  He says they probably also signed an agreement not to criticize the Phillies’ leadership publicly.  Just like in the Marge Schott situation many years ago, if David Montgomery does not want to leave, he won’t.  Simple as that.

Moving On

We should have no reason to hate any of the individuals running the team.  We don’t know them, and they haven’t done anything illegal or unethical that we know of.  In fact, they appear to be very principled and classy people. 

However…

Buying a professional sports team is not just another investment where you can let your stock broker do all the work and call you every once in a while with an update.  Especially when you ask the city and state for $260 million to help build your new ballpark, you have given up the right to be “fiercely private” as Middleton was described by Amherst.

We have a rare opportunity for greatness with the current team.  We need to take advantage of the moment while we can, and our ownership group has shown us time and time again that they won’t do anything to help.  We already missed the boat once by forcing Cliff Lee out.  Let’s stop it right there and get them out of here. 

Just imagine for a second how different things would be if someone like Pat Croce, Ed Rendell, or heck even Comcast-Spectacor was running the team….

Don’t hold your breath.  We won’t get a new owner.  Many have tried, and none have succeeded.  The Bucks, the Betz’, and the Middletons will keep passing around their shares among themselves until the time that we are all ghosts, just like them.

Click here for a list of sources.

Ruiz gets his in a three year deal with the Phillies
by David Rocksteady 1/26/10

The Phillies have locked up all of their arbitration guys as they signed the final player, Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $8.85 million contract extension. The contract buys out his final three years of salary arbitration with a fourth-year club option worth $5 million to take care of Ruiz's first year as a free agent.

With the signing of Brian Schneider to a two-year contract, the Phillies have a pretty solid catching pair. After trading Lou Marson and Travis d'Arnaud, it is nice to have some consistency at the top.

The contract breaks down like this: Chooch will make $1.9 million this season, $2.75 million in 2011 and $3.7 million in 2012. In 2013 they have a club option for $5 million or a $500,000 buyout. And he receives $100,000 performance bonuses for 120, 130 and 140 games started.

Chooch is almost 30 and hit .255 with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 107 games in 2009. And he is one of the most clutch players in the playoffs, .303 with 3 homers and 13 RBI in 32 games. He also has 12 walks, giving him an on base percentage of .491 and a slugging of .591.

You can view Ruiz's stats here.

Jose Contreras joins the Phillies in a one-year deal
by Scott Butler 1/28/10

The Phillies officially added another piece to the bullpen puzzle by signing Jose Contreras to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. The 38-year-old right-hander has been a starter throughout his career, but pitched 5 games in relief when he was traded to Colorado in the middle of last season.

"Jose is a versatile pitcher who will likely get stretched out in Spring Training as a starter, but our scouts feel he is best suited for a significant role in the bullpen," Ruben Amaro said in a statement.

In his seven-year career, Contreras is 71-63 with a 4.61 ERA. He has a 4.63 ERA in 175 starts and a 3.90 ERA in 16 relief appearances.

You can view Contreras's stats here.

 

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