Cliff Amazes in PhilLee Debut: Phils Win 5-1

July 31, 2009 by David Rosenblum  
Filed under Fan News

Cliff Lee sure looks good in a Phillies uniform! 

Cliff Lee made Ruben Amaro, Jr. look like the smartest GM in the league after his outstanding start tonight.  Aside from a 12 pitch walk to former teammate Ryan Garko, Lee was perfect through 5 1/3 innings.  For the next 3 2/3 innings Lee wasn’t any worse for the wear, pitching a complete game four hitter, allowing one run on a sacrifice fly.  Not only was Cliff unbelievably good on the mound, but he showed the batting prowess of someone accustomed to hitting. He went two for three in the game with a run scored, missing a home run by inches.

All in all, Cliff Lee’s Phillies debut was perfect.  Nobody could’ve asked for more. If this is a sign for things to come, I have to ask, “Who needs Roy Halladay?”  Not only was Cliff Lee great tonight, but the other player we got in the deal, Ben Francisco, had the best 1 for 4 night I have ever seen.  He hammered the ball in all five of his at-bats and got his first RBI as a Phillie, driving in Cliff Lee.  If this game was in Philly, Ben Francisco may have had three homers tonight with the way he hit the ball.

The Phillies bats were silent for the most part of the game, starting out 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.  Through six innings they led 1-0 on a solo shot by Jayson Werth. Then the hitters got patient and the bats got hot.  After two walks, Ryan Howard got hit by a pitch to load the bases, and a walk to Ibanez make it 2-0 Phillies.  Jayson Werth hit a single to drive in Utley and Howard, and the Phillies took a 4-0 lead.

The Phillies didn’t look back.  Cliff Lee finished the game off with his third complete game in his last four starts. He got the first Phillies complete game since Cole Hamels shut out the Dodgers earlier in the month.  The Phillies finished off July 20-7 to bring their record to 59-42!

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Chase Utley—Some Old School Brilliance in the Tarnished Modern Game

July 31, 2009 by andrew nuschler  
Filed under Fan News

"Took a bead on the northern plains and just rolled that power on."—Bob Seger, Roll Me Away

The Silver Bullet Man doesn't get enough credit for his lyrics in this humble scribe's opinion.  Sure, you can take him literally in everything he writes because his strokes work in that regard, but nobody ever found a subtle literary undertone without looking for it.

The Man could've simply been referring to the northern plains of the Dakotas, Minnesota, or Montana.  Or he could've been alluding to the greater glory the Fates have metaphorically placed above all our heads.

I choose the second—Seger's at a crossroads in his life and he's looking for the right direction, one he thinks he's found for the moment.

Regardless, the metaphor jumped to mind with the Philadelphia Phillies a-knockin' on the door at AT&T Park.  It does so for one reason—Chase Utley.

Whenever the Phils' annual roadie in the City comes around, we get an up-close, flesh-and-blood look at a baseball player who's well on the way to his own northern plains. 

An individual plying the trade he was put on this planet to ply, and—as is always the case when you see someone in his or her natural element—it's a gorgeous thing to see.

Something special to be appreciated as such.

There's a decent chance I should be ashamed to admit this, but I'm not—No. 26 on the Phightin's is my favorite player in Major League Baseball.  Nor is the matter particularly close.

That probably sounds supremely blasphemous coming from a die-hard San Francisco Giant fan, and perhaps it is.

With Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Bengie Molina, Randy Winn, Aaron Rowand, and the emergent Nate Schierholtz on the roster, the Orange and Black has plenty to offer in the way of fan favorites.

Every name on the list seems likable, admirable, and is either good or exceptional with his chosen baseball tools.

Furthermore, Chase reserves a special brand of torture for my beloved bunch—he has a knack for delivering crushing hits, pinch-hit grand slams, and an assortment of other much-appreciated punctures.

Nevertheless, there are too many, more important reasons to root for the guy—some of which I won't get into.

However, one thing I will cover is the way Chase plays the game.

It's not just his excellence on the diamond, although that is clearly part of it.

His hitting is unreal and barely needs mention at this point—.300/30/100/100 from second base essentially every year since he took over the position full-time. 

Throw in 40+ doubles and 15-20 steals when he's healthy and you begin to get a picture of the talent level.

But even casual fans should know about his splinter by now.  To sincerely appreciate this player, you need to look closer.  Specifically, at his defense.

Those of us following his career from its earliest days know that Utley's bat was never the issue.  The perennial All-Star was almost certainly going to rake, the question was whether his leather would exile him to the corner outfield spots or maybe first base.

Turned out to be a lot of wasted wonder and anxiety.

The native of Southern California doesn't appear to be the type to settle for one dimension on the field, even if the absence of breadth wouldn't stand in the way of fame and riches.

I never really thought his defense was a serious issue, but anyone who saw the miracles he turned in the 2008 playoffs and World Series knows the doubts are long gone.

Utley's turned himself into an excellent defender over his career—still guilty of momentary lapses like anyone else, but nails when games or seasons are on the line.

You can take your .998 fielding percentage, I'll take the guy with the proven ability to get it done when failure means joining Bill Buckner's support group.

Yet, to really appreciate Chase Utley, you need to peer even closer.  You need to dissect the way he carries himself on the baseball field.

Take, for instance, the episode with Jonathan Sanchez in Thursday night's game.

The San Francisco southpaw was having some, ahem, control issues with his fastball and one of his heaters got away from him. The wayward smoke went right over Utley's head, at which point the Phillie pride glared back at the mound and made it clear he wasn't pleased.

Sanchez stared right back—I'm sure thinking it was obvious he wasn't trying to hit an opponent in the head during a 7-1 ballgame and taking exception to Chase's blatant feelings to the contrary.

The National League's Most Valuable Player not named Albert Pujols responded by calling time late in the young lefty's wind-up, further indulging the show of bravado.

Guess what happened next?  More heat and emotion from our guy.

Until Utley took a 2-2 pitch over the right field wall for a solo final word in the matter. In the wake of the emphatic end, Chase was so impressed with himself that he put his head down and went into a brisk trot around the bases.

He did NOT show up Jonathan Sanchez.

Despite the back-and-forth, despite the fastball over his head that will provoke ANY hitter at ANY level (even a clear accident, as Mike Krukow pointed out), despite the obvious tension coming off both hurler and hitter, the victor merely swung and scurried.

No jawing, no flexing, no nothing.  Instead, only boring dignity and class.  The way it should be done.

What more need be said?  What possible posture could speak more volumes than the timely four-bagger?  Nothing and none.

It's something the old school understands, which means it's something Utley understands.

It's something I hope I would've understood had I the necessary physical tools and/or the requisite mental profile to play the game at it's highest level.  But I didn't.

Thankfully, with players like Chase Utley still in the game, I can still pretend.

 

**www.pva.org**

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Cliff Lee to Philadelphia: What’s Next For The Phillies?

July 31, 2009 by Jake D'Agostino  
Filed under Fan News

On July 29, 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired Cleveland Indians' standout Cliff Lee. Lee was the left-handed ace for the Indians, and now he has been brought in to make an immediate impact for the defending world champs.

The other player who was shipped to Philly was outfielder Ben Francisco. In return, the Indians picked up four minor league prospects out of the Phillies' farm system.

Right-handed Triple-A pitcher Carlos Carrasco was one of the players sent to Cleveland. The other three players, all of whom played in Class-A, are right-handed pitcher Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson, and shortstop Jason Donald.

While these players will all be difference makers for their respective clubs, Lee is the missing piece the Phillies needed to contend for a championship.

Ace Cole Hamels was phenomenal in 2008 for Philadelphia, especially in the playoffs.

But this year was a different story for Hamels, as well as the rest of the team's pitching staff.

Here is a breakdown of the Phillies' five starting pitcher's ERAs:

Cole Hamels: 4.42; Joe Blanton: 4.11; Jamie Moyer: 5.32; J.A. Happ: 2.97; Chan Ho Park: 4.97. Out of this group, the only impressive ERA is that of Happ.

This is not the pitching of a team that is in serious contention for a World Series victory.

The addition of future Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez will help, but it is not enough to push them over the top due to the fact that he is past his prime. Currently, Martinez is on the 15-day DL.

Brett Myers is also injured, leaving the Phils short-handed on their pitching staff.

Myers was the No. 2 pitcher, but after he went down, all of the other pitchers moved up a spot in the rotation, and veteran Rodrigo Lopez was used as the team’s fifth starter.

However, the addition of Lee will provide relief to a group of pitchers that desperately needs a break.

Right now, it looks like Hamels will remain the No. 1 pitcher, with Lee at two, and Blanton, Moyer, and Happ coming in at three, four, and five, respectively.

Despite weak play from some of the pitchers in their rotation at times, this does seem like a pretty solid lineup when these guys are at their best. If Pedro can get healthy, the Phillies could be a nightmare for opposing teams come playoff time.

Lee could end up being the ace of the rotation. The Phillies still have faith in Hamels, which is the only reason Lee is not the immediate go-to-guy.

Lee is the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner, an award that is one of baseball's most honorable distinctions. He was also the 2008 American League Comeback Player of the Year and was selected to that year's AL All-Star team.

While Lee is not having such a great season in 2009, with a record 7-9, this is due largely in part of a weak Indians offense that has not been up to par in run productive.

Now, Lee is on a team with sluggers like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, as well as base-hit machines such as Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. So don't be surprised to see Lee's record make a substantial improvement in Philadelphia.

Lee has put up some solid numbers in 2009, and his stat sheet would look great if you take the win-loss column out of the equation.

In his 22 starts, he has pitched 152 innings and stuck-out 107 batters, while only walking 33, and giving up just 53 earned runs and 10 home runs on 165 hits.

It is apparent that a change of scenery will do a great deal for Lee, especially a "change of scenery," means that he will be playing in Citizens Bank Park, home of the defending World Series champs.

For the first time in his career, Lee will have a supporting cast that can take some of the pressure off of his shoulders.

Before we talk about what is next for Philadelphia, it is important that we take a quick at the other players involved in this trade.

Besides Lee, Philly is also adding outfielder Ben Francisco. Francisco will not be the starter in his new town, but has been labeled the top backup for all outfielders.

This means that if anybody in any of the three outfield slots is hurt or needs an off day, Francisco is the first guy manager Charlie Manuel will turn to as a replacement.

In fact, when speaking about Francisco's playing time, Manuel said, "He is going to play more than you think. Our outfielders are going to need some time off."

He even started in his first game with the team, filling in for the injured Victorino.

Francisco is a good fielder and is strong as a hitter. This season, he's got 78 hits, 33 RBI, and 10 homers. He is a young, athletic talent that may find himself starting some time down the road in Philly.

On the other hand, the Indians will have to wait before they get any real production out of their pickups.

This is because the Indians are receiving players who have never played in the big leagues before, and they will need some more time in the minors before they can make it to the top level.

First, there is the right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Although he is having an average year in 2009, every season prior to this one, he has been phenomenal.

He is a dominant young player with a rocket arm and a lot of potential. He has a wide range of pitches, so he is definitely a beneficial addition to the Indians’ farm system.

Carrasco will probably make it onto the Indians’ roster in a few years, once he can perfect the skills that he has been developing in Philadelphia.

Next, there is Jason Knapp. Knapp is a right-handed pitcher who is also not doing well this season. But to his credit, he is very young and was magnificent in his first season in 2008.

He is an accurate thrower who has a high ball-to-strike-ratio. This will help him when he is vying for a spot on the top roster in the Cleveland organization.

Then we have catcher Lou Marson. He is fairly efficient in the batter's box and is very reliable behind the plate on defense.

Now that catcher Victor Martinez has been traded to the Boston Red Sox, Marson has a great chance to become Cleveland's starting catcher in just a couple of years.

A week ago, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez were easily the best players on the Indians. But now that they have made their departures, these three prospects have been given the opportunity of a lifetime.

The last piece of the trade was shortstop Jason Donald. Donald is another young prospect who, although he is really starting to pan out well, has plenty of room to improve.

As a hitter, Donald is very productive. So far in 2009, Donald has 104 hits, 34 RBI, and two home runs. However, he needs to limit his number of errors in the field if he wants to play in the big leagues any time soon.

However, he does have the skill-set to one day make the Indians’ lineup as a reserve.

Overall, the Indians are getting a talented group of young players who will not provide immediate help, but all have a shot at being very good sometime down the road.

As for the Phillies, they have made it clear what their purpose in trading for a big name like Lee is. They want to win now.

By pulling the trigger on the deal to bring in Lee, they are setting themselves up to do just that.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made a valuable and possibly season-saving move for his team, but it was not the only one being considered.

For about a week, it looked like the Phillies were going to try to trade for Toronto Blue Jays' ace Roy Halladay. But the Jays wanted top-notch prospects like Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown, and Michael Taylor.

This was something that Philly made clear from the beginning that it did not want to do, and the Phillies stuck to their guns throughout the discussions. Now that Lee is a member of the reigning champs, it appears that any talks of "Halladay To Philadelphia" to sleep.

While the decision to go after Lee is a choice that shows the Phillies want to win and worry about the future when it comes.

But by holding on to all three of their "untouchable" prospects, they have also shown an interest in future success.

In the aftermath of this trade, many top baseball analysts have proclaimed Philadelphia to be the undisputed favorite in the National League East, and some have even put them ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers as the team to beat in the NL.

Whether they overtake the Dodgers for home-filed advantage in the postseason, the Phillies have made it clear they want to win and have set the stage for a deep playoff run.

After supplying depth to the outfield with Francisco and significantly strengthening their rotation with Lee, the Phillies appear to have what it takes to be in it until the end, while the Indians are stepping back and stocking up for years to come.

Cliff Lee is no Roy Halladay, but by adding him, the Phillies are in the next best situation, getting one pretty good constellation prize.

With Lee in the lineup, it looks like the Phillies are destined to finish the year strong, maybe even repeating as the 2009 World Series Champions.

 

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

The Beard: A Sports Phenomenon

July 31, 2009 by David Rosenblum  
Filed under Fan News

This article is taken from my blog Broad Street Heroes, which can be accessed at http://www.broadstreetheroes.com/.  I wrote it a few days ago and apparently Bleacher Report will not let me import it into the site, so, without further ado...

What is a beard?  Some might say it's just facial hair.  Some argue that it symbolizes laziness or lack of direction.  Others just argue that it is annoying and "gets in the way".  These people, my friends, don't understand the true meaning of the beard.  Since the dawn of time, men have been growing beards.  From Moses, to Jesus, it seems that the most prolific people to ever walk the earth sported graceful, majestic, scruffy beards.

In sports, the beard has taken on a meaning unto itself.  Back in the early days of baseball nearly every player wore facial hair.  The earliest proponent of facial hair that sticks out in my mind is Cap Anson, who compiled over 3000 hits in his major league baseball career, all while wearing a very dignified mustache.  On the mound, Rollie Fingers groomed one of the most perfect mustaches ever known to man, and many believe it was one of the main reasons for his success.

Facial hair was prominent throughout the sports world, but the New York Islanders of the early 1980s started a trend that has gone on now for almost 30 years: the Playoff Beard.  The Playoff Beard trend has recently come into popular culture, but most lifelong hockey fans have sworn by it for years now.

The theory goes like this: if your team makes the playoffs, you must not shave until your team wins it all or is bounced from contention.  This past year, the NHL promoted a league-wide Beard-a-Thon, where fans could grow playoff beards for their teams and raise money for charity.

To analyze the playoff beard theory more closely I want to discuss the Stanley Cup Finals.  On one side you had the Detroit Red Wings who sported unbelievable beards.  Unfortunately, they were all topped by Maxim Talbot, Craig Adams, the ageless Bill Guerin, who grew beards so majestic, that they carried the Penguins to the Cup.  Many people would say Crosby and Malkin were the main catalysts for success, but I beg to differ.  The beards were the difference.

Mike Commodores Beard led the Hurricanes to the Cup in 2006Mike Commodore's Beard led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006

Another Stanley Cup Finals that will forever go down in history is the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames.  I remember the series because I was trying to forget May 22, 2004, when the Lightning ousted the Flyers from the playoffs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the last game the Flyers would play until after the NHL Lockout.

Anyway, the Flames came in to the series prepared, with possibly the best set of beards ever assembled.  The Flames had many redheads on the team, from Mike Commodore (whose beard appeared when he was a Hurricane during the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals) to Martin Gelinas, to Mikka Kiprusoff, who has the best beard of any goalie, all time.

In Game six of the series with the Flames up three games to two, Martin Gelinas scored what seemed to be the Cup winning goal for the Flames.  The officials reviewed and said that the puck never crossed the goal line.  In my opinion, the puck clearly crossed the line and the Flames should have been 2004 Stanley Cup Champions, thanks in large part to their beards of greatness, but the referees screwed them.

So, what does a beard symbolize?  Beards are a symbol of dedication, toughness, and strength, plus they are downright intimidating if worn by the correct person.  For some reason most professions frown upon the untidy mess of hair that is a beard and instead insist on a clean shave.  This makes no sense.  Some of the best performances of all time have come when people believe in their beards.

The Playoff Beard theory clearly states that if you are on a hot streak you must not do anything to interrupt that streak.  Just look at Eric Gagne during his 84 consecutive saves streak (although HGH may have had something to do with that as well).  Apollo Anton Ohno, the Olympic Gold Medalist in Speed Skating, believed so highly in his soul patch that he wouldn't dare shave it.  What has it earned him?  5 Olympic medals and 1st place on Dancing with the Stars.

Even Kimbo Slice, a bum who fought on the street, used the beard to his advantage.  Do you think he would've made millions of dollars if he looked normal?  That beard of his was so intimidating it forced ESPN to let it grace the cover of their magazine.  The man went from nobody to superstar overnight, and has his beard to thank.  Look at Zach Galifianakis.  Imagine what his image would be like if he shaved his beard.  I bet he doesn't shave it until he hits a string of three or more terrible career moves.

Johnny Damon attends to his beardJohnny Damon attends to his beard

Take Johnny Damon's epic 2004 playoff run.  His mane of hair has been enshrined in Cooperstown (as well as the movie Fever Pitch), and most of Red Sox Nation believes that if he had shaved that beard, or if Big Papi changed his facial hair, then the Red Sox would never have broken the Curse of the Bambino (of course now we know he took PEDs along with Manny, but that's for a different article).

In 2007, the Red Sox went the opposite route, shaving their heads in the playoffs, and what was the result there?  Another World Series title.  The Tampa Bay Rays, a perennial 100 loss team, sported RayHawks, a form of mohawk, during the 2008 campaign.  It powered them all the way to the World Series, where they eventually lost to my Philadelphia Phillies.

The phenomenon of the beard can apply to other things besides sports.  If you are a salesman and are on a hot streak, don't shave until you miss a sale.  If your employer tells you to shave, decline.  Tell him or her that you are growing the beard as a commitment to reaching your goals, as well as the goals of the business.

As a fan, I firmly believe in the power of the beard.  Believe me, beards are hard to maintain and take endless commitment.  They are itchy, they get in the way, and they are unpredictable.  I grew my playoff beard for the Phillies last season, and refused to shave it for over a month.  I didn't even shave until a week after we won the World Series.

During the playoffs I discussed not shaving until after the BCS National Championship because my Penn State Nittany Lions were undefeated at the time.  I decided to shave the playoff beard in the first week of November.  In the second week of November Penn State lost to Iowa, ending the perfect season and a chance to go to the National Championship.  I still feel that I am to blame because I shaved off the beard too soon.

You might be asking, what prompted me to write such a long expose about the art of the beard?  I actually came up the idea while watching Chan Ho Park pitch three perfect innings a few nights ago.  His beard is like nothing I have ever seen.  Based on the sheer size of the beard, I estimate that it has been growing since early June.

On June 2nd, Chan Ho Park had a 7.32 ERA with a 1-1 record.  Since then, Chan Ho has been unstoppable.  He is 2-1 in that span with 7 successful holds.  In his last 17 outings, Park has pitched 26.1 innings while allowing only 5 earned runs and racking up 29 strikeouts against 4 walks.  With the bullpen in shambles, it looks like Chan Ho has become the rock that is keeping them steady.

7/31/2009:  To update, after writing this article Chan Ho Park trimmed his beard.  What happened in his next outing?  Well he let in a run of course.  It didn't cost the Phillies, but it just goes to show how powerful the beard really is.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Ruben Amaro the Genius, JP Ricciardi the Dunce

July 31, 2009 by SportsChLeague  
Filed under Fan News

Ruben Amaro_MLB_Philadelphia Phillies

Winner

 

 

 

 

 

JP Ricciardi_MLB_Toronto Bluejays

Loser

 

 

 

 

 

All my life I have dreamt about a career in sports; player, broadcaster, executive, any would have been great. In retrospect, I think I may have passed on GM of a major sports franchise. I wrote earlier about Roy Halladay and the need for Toronto and Philadelphia to make a deal and GMs Ruben Amaro of the Phillies and JP Ricciardi of the Bluejays (both seen above) went toe to toe to make it happen. After watching this week, one can’t help but think that rookie GM Amaro made Ricciardi look like a fool and bitch-slapped JP and the Bluejays by procuring Cliff Lee from Cleveland for a pittance next to what the greedy Jays were asking for Halladay. Meanwhile the Bluejays overplayed their hand and now still have a great, albeit disappointed pitcher in Halladay.

Amaro is a disciple of the always cautious but wonderfully successful Pat Gillick. Meanwhile, Ricciardi was brought up by the master of Moneyball super fleecer and also very successful Billy Beane. It appears that Ricciardi either dramatically underestimated Amaro or overestimated his market position. Ricciardi has been widely speculated to be a “dead man walking” with his only chance of survival being a drastic salary purge of the Bluejays bloated budget. Plus his current wishy washy handling of the Halladay affair and wide spread use of the local and national media in trade “negotiations”, did nothing to endear himself to already jaded Toronto fans. By asking for a king’s ransom for Halladay and not budging, Ricciardi watched the trade market shift gears and blow right by him. This most likely cemented his fate as a casualty of the trade wars this coming off-season.

Meanwhile, with his Cliff Lee acquisition, Amaro has come up smelling like a rose. That's not an easy task in Philadelphia which is widely known for its tough press corps and even tougher fan base. By bringing in Lee and earlier Raul Ibanez in free agency, Amaro has Philly fans thinking repeat of their 2008 World Series Championship.

A week ago one GM was the Master, the other the novice; in a week the Master is a dunce and the Novice a genius. Yep, the world of a GM is way too fickle for me…

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Will the Philadelphia Phillies Live Happ-Lee Ever After?

July 31, 2009 by Justin Klugh  
Filed under Fan News

All throughout the land, the angry, vibrant, and at times, classless citizens of Philadelphia were hungry for a victory to match that of yesteryear.  The pressure was on, and Ruben feared his inexperience would show.

“I’ve got to make a deal for a pitcher before the trade deadline,” he thought.  “I’ve just got to!”

It was true.  The Phillies needed another dragon-slayer, if they hoped to be a playoff contender.  As rumors came in from other kingdoms, Ruben had some decisions to make. 

He walked through the land, pointing a questioning finger at several of the kingdom’s top baseball prospects.

“But who will I trade for a starter?” he wondered.

“Not me,” said J.A. Happ.

“Not me!” cried Kyle Drabek, all the way from Lehigh Valley.

Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor had also been squirreled away for safe keeping.

Who, then? Who would go in our blockbuster trade?

Ruben was feeling ballsy, so he decided to trade for the King of Toronto.  “How about some of our top young players?” he asked, his heart in his throat.

“Absolutely not,” the Toronto GM claimed, spitting in his face.  “Get out of Canada.”

Ruben wandered back to his home, hands shoved in his pockets, kicking stones and “Aw, shucks”-ing all the way back.  It was his big idea, and now it was gone.

“Wait a minute,” Ruben exclaimed.   “Those Indians!  They’ve got that Cy Young Award winner, who fears he’ll be trapped in Cleveland forever!” “But I must be cautious,” he continued.

“I could never give up all of our young prospects for the sake of a single playoff run.”

Toronto was off the table, and time was consistently scurrying away, like rats in the subway.

As the deadline loomed, Ruben penciled in a meeting with his backup plan.

The Indians arrived, and slammed their fists down on the table collectively.

“We’ll send Lee your way, Ruben, but you’ve got to give us Happ or Drabek, and a collection of other young’uns.”

Ruben began to sweat profusely and remembered the people’s demand for a future of victorious years, not just the season at hand.

He gulped visibly and gave his response: 

“No.”

“Okay,” the Indians replied.  “You can have him anyway.”

Ruben sent some minor-leaguers his city wouldn’t miss to Cleveland in exchange for the pitcher, and also an outfielder who proved to be useful when Shane Victorino happened to damage himself.

As other contenders from neighboring cities scrambled to make last-minute trades, Ruben sat back in his chair, comfortable with his decision.

He had kept Happ, he had kept Drabek, and still managed to snare the extremely talented Lee.

It was the fairy-tale ending he’d hoped for.  His job was safe for a bit longer.

Merry Trade Deadline, everybody.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Where Have You Gone Pat The Bat?

July 31, 2009 by Adam Bernacchio  
Filed under Fan News


When talking about the biggest free agent signing busts from this past offseason, we often reference Milton Bradley of the Chicago Cubs or Oliver Perez of the New York Mets. Well, I think it is time we start referencing another player as a free agent bust. That player is the Tampa Bay Rays’ Pat Burrell.

When the Rays signed Burrell to a two-year, $16 million contract in the offseason, I thought it was a great move. Here was a guy who averaged 27 HRs, 91 RBI, and a .367 OBP from 2000-2008, he was a clear upgrade at DH over the Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske combination of last year, and I thought he along with Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, would give the Rays one of the best three-four-five hitters in the game.

Because of injuries and just plain being terrible, Burrell has been a major disappointment for the Rays this year. He is hitting a Kevin Stocker-esque .219 with just seven HR’s and 37 RBI in 70 games for the Rays. Not exactly what the Rays were looking for.

I can understand the average dipping a little bit at the age of 32. Burrell was never a great contact hitter as his .257 average from 2000-2008 suggests. But where is the power? He is averaging a HR every 33.9 AB’s this year. Much worse than his 18.6 HR/AB average for the previous nine years.

The Rays are seven games out of first place in the AL East and are four and a half games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card race. If the Rays plan on making one last run at a playoff berth in 2009, not only do they need their starting pitching to step up, but they also need Pat Burrell to start hitting like he is used to.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Drop Opener by the Bay, Lose to San Francisco Giants 7-2

July 31, 2009 by kevin mcguire  
Filed under Fan News

Sloppy defensive play hindered the Phillies' chances of winning last night in San Francisco. After striking first and taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the Phillies failed to capitalize on some opportunities and handed the Giants extra outs. The Giants finally beat the Phillies 7-2 last night.

Rodrigo Lopez took the loss, his first with the club, but he was not totally at fault. With Lopez on the mound the Giants scored seven runs in four innings. Only three were earned runs. The rest were courtesy of errors from Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz. Chase Utley also had an error in the game.

Lopez was also hit hard by the Giants, including a two run in the third inning by Pablo Sandoval.

Sandoval had a good game, perhaps demonstrating to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel why he should have been added to the all-star roster for the National League. The Giants third baseman had two hits, a two run home run and a double, four runs batted in, and a run scored.

Tempers flared a little bit in the sixth inning when Giants starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez hurled a ball towards the head of Utley. Up 7-1 it seemed there was little reason to be sending a message to a guy like Utley. After stepping out of the box late on Sanchez, Utley sent a Sanchez pitch to the seats for a home run.

Utley may have won that showdown but the National League Wild Card leading Giants got the last laugh last night. Tonight the Phillies will send Cliff Lee out for his Phillies debut. They look to even the series before the tough Giants pitching hits this weekend.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Look Beyond Loss to San Francisco Giants

July 31, 2009 by claire reclosado  
Filed under Fan News

SAN FRANCISCO—The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies are in San Francisco, but by the looks of the empty seats around the stadium, one wouldn't know. Now, 36,603 for tonight is greater than a usual Thursday night, but the Giants' Tim Lincecum drew more crowds than the defending champs did (The Freak drew 40,008 on July 27, his last start).

The atmosphere was playoff-ish, but the performance by the Phillies was not playoff-worthy. The team's defense was uncharacteristically sloppy. Pair that with a bad outing from Phillies starter Rodrigo Lopez and we get a one-sided game as the Phils lose 7-2.

Lopez went four innings, allowing seven runs (three earned) on eight hits. Behind him, the defense committed three errors—so unexpected from a team that has the third best fielding percentage (tied with the LA Dodgers) in the Majors.

"Usually he [Lopez] is in command of his pitches—that hurt him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Our defense put him in situations tonight that were tough for him."

Despite the losing streak, Manuel remains confident.

"We got beat tonight, but tomorrow, when we come out, this game is behind us," Manuel said. "When we leave the ballpark here, this game's behind us. Tomorrow when we come out, we come out tomorrow to win a game."

The Phillies' skipper knows his team and knows what's best for them.

"We adopted that about three years ago and it's worked for us and it's a good way for us to play. I give all the credit to our players and the fact of how much they like to play," Manuel explained. "Tonight, we didn't have a good game, but there’s a good chance we'll come back tomorrow and play good."

They definitely need to step it up and play well. They may be the team with the best road record, but as they face the Giants, the team with the highest winning percentage at home, it seems the home team has the advantage. Tomorrow, they look to turn things around as they send their newest starting pitcher, Cliff Lee, to the mound.

Phillies fans are eagerly awaiting the performance of the reigning 2008 AL Cy Young award winner. Manuel seems quite confident in Lee, as he faces Giants rookie Ryan Sadowski in the second game of the four-game series.

"He's a big-time pitcher and we'll put him in a jersey and see how he does," Manuel said. "We break him in as a Phillie tomorrow, so we’ll let him go. I'm sure he'll be okay."

July 31 is the day for Lee to show what he has to offer the Phillies. First step is to halt the losing streak and add to the best road record in baseball.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Here’s a Thought: Looking At The Cliff Lee Trade

July 30, 2009 by Nathaniel Stoltz  
Filed under Fan News

As you probably know, the Cleveland Indians sent lefty starter Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday for prospects Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, and Jason Knapp.

The consensus that I've seen everywhere has the Phillies winning this trade easily, as Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young winner, provides a big upgrade to a rotation that's been giving starts to guys like Rodrigo Lopez, Antonio Bastardo, and Chan Ho Park this season.

It's true that the acquisition of Lee does increase the Phillies' possibility of repeating as World Series champions, and if he pushes them to that goal, Philadephia certainly won't complainno matter what the four prospects do.

So I agree that Philadelphia did a good job of getting a guy that legitimately improves the team's chance of winning a championship. They're built to win now, as the Rollins/Howard/Utley/Hamels core won't be together forever, and Raul Ibanez will likely never hit this well again.

But did Philadelphia really "win" the deal?

That implies that the Phillies got what they wanted, and Cleveland didn't.

It's obvious that the Phillies got what they wanted, but it seems to be less clear what the Indians received.

Let's take a look at the four players Cleveland got.

Carrasco has often been called the best prospect in the deal. I disagree, but we'll get to that in a bit.

He's a 22-year-old right-hander in Triple-A who throws a decent fastball and an excellent changeup. His curve is a usable third pitch.

Carrasco is prone to mental errors and leaves too many pitches out over the plate. That leads to some home run issues that he needs to work through.

With good control of a nice three-pitch mix, Carrasco profiles as a No. 4 starter, maybe a No. 3, and is close to MLB-ready. His homer issues will be easier to handle in Cleveland than in the Phillies' bandbox of a stadium.

Jason Donald is a 24-year-old shortstop who hit well in Double-A last year (.307/.391/.497) but has struggled badly in Triple-A this year (.236/.297/.332). He is versatile defensively and a positive addition on the bases.

Donald's 2009 slump probably ends his chances of being a major league starter, but he could be a decent utility-man with power off the bench and a decent, versatile glove. Then again, it's not hard to find players like that.

Lou Marson offers more hope than Carrasco or Donald. Also in Triple-A, the catcher is hitting .294/.382/.370. He's also hit .286/.375/.476 in 24 MLB PA's.

Marson, unlike Donald, projects to start at his position. He's an average defensive catcher with excellent OBP skills and doubles power. He could be a .285/.375/.400 player in the majors, which is very valuable at catcher.

Of course, the Indians also have top catching prospect, Carlos Santana, in Double-A. However, Santana is a converted third baseman who can play first, third, catcher, and both left and right field. So there should be roster space for both players to get significant time in Cleveland. It's like the Indians' situation; they have Victor Martinez play first base sometimes when Kelly Shoppach catches.

Just 23, Marson could be a Ramon Hernandez-level contributor in a year or two, and could even make an All-Star team or two, depending on the catching depth in the American League.

Then there's Jason Knapp.

I'll just copy-paste my report on Knapp from my Top 100 Prospects slideshow:

"Ranked just 10th on the Phillies' prospect list by Baseball America entering the year, Knapp has really increased his stock this season.

Knapp has struck out 11.71 batters per nine innings while maintaining a decent walk rate and keeping the ball in the park.

On top of the statistical excellence, Knapp has age and stuff on his side. He's only 18 and already pitching well in a full season league against hitters often 21 or older.

Then there's his stuff. Knapp's fastball sits around 95 mph and touches 100, and his slider and changeup both rate as plus pitches.

Knapp may not get much hype, but I can't understand why. Who doesn't like an 18-year-old with triple-digit velocity, two good off-speed pitches, and excellent results in a full season league?"

I ranked Knapp sixth on the Top 100 Prospects list.

I know that I'm close to alone in my extremely high regard for him, but there's no question that if he harnesses his stuff, he's going to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. He should at least become a dominant reliever.

Everyone seems to be fooled because they think Carrasco is the top prospect in the deal. Yes, if the best prospect in the deal is a No. 3- No. 4 starter, which is terrible. But I think Knapp and Marson rate higher than Carrasco.

The Indians are getting a potential ace in Knapp (although one with a long way to go to the majors), a starting-quality catcher in Marson, another good arm in Carrasco, and a utility guy in Donald.

Knapp and Carrasco are also a refreshing change from the Scott Lewis/ Jeremy Sowers/ Zach Jackson/ David Huff/ Chuck Lofgren/ Aaron Laffey chain of finesse lefties that the Indians keep hyping up and then getting disappointed by.

The Indians aren't in contention this year, and it's not likely they will be next year. It's better to acquire three good future starters and one future backup, especially for a guy that's only going to be around for two years when the team won't be contending.

However, it all hinges on Knapp. If he busts, this trade won't look good. While I'm a huge believer in him, there's no question that 18-year-old pitchers can have tons of things go wrong between Low-A and the majors.

However, if he meets his potential, the Indians will certainly get what they wanted: a front-of-the-rotation starter to eventually replace Lee.

So yes, the Phillies got what they wanted, but it's very possible that Cleveland did as well.

Don't rush judgment based on 2009/2010 resultsJason Knapp could ultimately make this trade a tie, or even swing it in Cleveland's favor before all is said and done.

I know it's an unpopular position, but I do think there's hope for the Indians here.

 

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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