Jon Niese Is Key to This Phillies Series

April 30, 2010 by Flushing Baseball Daily  
Filed under Fan News

A week-and-a-half ago, nobody thought that the Mets would be the team in first place when they went up against the Phillies this weekend, but it’s true. The Mets have been winning at a better pace than the Phillies lately despite the fact that it is the Phils who are generally regarded to have the better lineup and rotation.

So what chance do the Mets have of coming out of this series maintaining possession of first place?

Well that depends on how Jon Niese pitches tonight. I say that because the Mets are going up against Roy Halladay tomorrow for the first time since the ace pitcher has been wearing a red uniform. They’ll have the good fortune of sending Mike Pelfrey , who has been their best pitcher so far this season, up against him; however a win against Halladay can never be assumed.

Likewise, the Phillies are going to have a tough time of it on Sunday thanks to Johan Santana , who has been downright filthy aside from one bad start against Washington. Making things better for the Mets, they will be going against the struggling, 47-year-old Jamie Moyer.

So realistically the Mets might be expected to lose Saturday, but win Sunday. That makes tonight’s game the one that could swing this series.

So it is up to Jon Niese. He has been effectively lately, but has not been able to go deep into games and has, probably more than any other Mets starter, been helped by making three starts at home. His 1.86 WHIP could be a sign of impending doom.

So the Mets can come out of this series still in first place with a big night from Jon Niese tonight. Can he show he can be successful on the road? And in Philadelphia no less? We’ll see tonight.

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Philly Phanatic, Go Away: Marketing Ploys the MLB Needs To Ditch

April 30, 2010 by Eddie Dzurilla  
Filed under Fan News

It was a different world back in 1987.

No one had a cell phone. The Internet had not been invented. GM wasn’t broke. Barry Bonds had a normal-sized head.

And that’s when I learned to hate baseball mascots.

Some buds and I had tickets to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play the Metsies. Now, mind you, getting a Buccos ticket back then was not the hardest row to hoe...the team was having trouble drawing in cavernous Three Rivers Stadium, which had all the charm of a Soviet era housing complex.

But these seats were behind the dugout...way past the budget of me and my Iron City brew drinking cohorts, who went to nearly every game that season in nose bleed nirvana. However, we had scored them for free from one of my customers at the bar I worked at back then while slogging through grad school.

The Bucs had put together a young, good club that later went on to win three straight division championships starting in '88 under manager Jim Leyland. The team had the aforementioned Bonds with a normal noggin, along with Bobby Bo, Andy Van Slyke, Sid Bream, and Doug Drabek.

Plus, we were all looking forward to a Mets team that was just off of an '86 series championship, what with Mookie, Hernandez, Daryl, and Dwight in their heyday. 

So we sat down to watch the game...and the friggin’ Pirate mascot got up on the dugout in front of us. Again...and again...and again. We spent a good portion of the game trying to peer around some schmoe who thought he was being cute and entertaining.

Siddown, will ya!?

Mascots are part of the dumbass side of baseball. The marketing stuff that teams engage in to “spice it up” and make it “jazzy” for a generation of fans who can’t enjoy life without the Ritalin they grew up ingesting.

They got started with the Philly Phantic and San Diego Chicken (what the heck a chicken has to do with a man of the cloth is anyone's guess). Like fire ants and kudzu, which are also annoying, the trend seems to have spread through the majors unchecked.

Now, I’m a big fan of minor league ball. And somehow, the schmaltzy marketing crap doesn’t bother me as much at that level. It is the minors; after all...I expect some sideshow carney stuff. 

But the majors? 

Have some standards. It’s The Show.

Here’s my list of things that make a major league game...less major. Signs of the continued decline of our civilization.

 

Mascots

I love you, you love me, we’re a dysfunctional family...if you want to watch big furry things, watch Barney on TC. What's next, free teething ring night?

 

"We Will Rock You"...

...and a bakers dozen of other really, really bad rock tunes played over and over and over again at the ball park. 

At DC-10 volume. 

What the heck ever happened to the organ, and conversing about the game during play? Nah. Let’s listen to some dead guy from England who wouldn’t have known a bunt from a swizzle stick back before he took the big dirt nap tell us how he’s gonna “rock us” whenever it’s rally-cap time. Bleeech.

Same goes for the stupid “Hey” song, sung by a guy who was convicted of pedophilia. Can it. Bring back the organ.

 

Different-Colored Jerseys

I’m watching the Rangers play the White Sox, and I can’t tell which team is the home squad! Why? Because the Rangers have on bright-red jerseys, and the Sox, for God knows why, blue.

They look like a couple of softball teams...I kinda expected to see “Dizzy’s Tavern” or something like that emblazoned across the front. 

The absolute WORST is the Red Sox wearing green...it’s just plain wrong.

Keep the classic uniforms classic. Home in white, away in gray.

Yeah, I know that other teams have created uniform visual assaults in the past...the Chi Sox in shorts, Pirates in the '70s with those goofy-ass hats, and the old Astros' LSD-inspired togs come to mind...but aren’t we supposed to learn from our mistakes instead of perpetuating them?

 

The Wave...

...is stupid. 

It was invented by drunk, stupid people in Seattle for the purpose of creating something to do during pro football television timeouts. Encouraging people to do it at baseball is also a dumb thing.

 

Dot Races...

...or any variant thereof. 

Is three-card Monte really so exciting? Watching people cheer to see the red dot beat the blue dot beat the green dot on a computer-animated scoreboard is, at best, an appalling demonstration of how the educational system in America has completely and utterly failed our society.

I mean...they’re friggin’ dots...on a friggin’ scoreboard...that a friggin’ computer generated. Mental masturbation without the orgasm. Go home and stare at some test patterns or something.

 

A Member from Every Team on the All-Star Squad

Classic case of the marketing guys overwhelming the common-sense nodes of the brains that run the game.

Sometimes a team sucks and really doesn't deserve to have a member on the team. Like the Pirates. It's not little league soccer, where everyone wins and we don't want to hurt anyone's self esteem. Best players should be on it. End of story.

 

No Beer After the Seventh Inning

This one is always marketed as "family-friendly."

The mommy state strikes again. If someone is drunk and disorderly, toss 'em. Otherwise, allow us grownups to drink beer until the end of the game if we choose to. Unless we're moving to Sharia law here in the states.

 

Instant Replay

Brought to you by the robotic, control-freak NFL where everything must be controlled by Big Brother.

Except, you know what? Surprise—replay isn't perfect.

But at least when it was just the umps, it didn’t take five minutes to call it. Can the replay. Nothing can guarantee 100 percent accuracy, but that thing pretty much does guarantee there will be a long delay.

 

I wouldn’t mind, however, for some brave marketing person to do a re-run of that mother of all baseball promos gone bad, disco demolition night. 

Just to see some stuff git blowed up.

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Brad Lidge To Return to the Philadelphia Phillies Today

April 30, 2010 by Adam Bernacchio  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies bullpen will get a much added lift as Brad Lidge will be activated from the disabled list before tonight’s game against the red hot New York Mets. Then again, the way Lidge pitched last year I am not sure if this is a good thing.

Lidge made his final rehab start Tuesday at Double A Reading going two innings while allowing no hits and striking out four. Perhaps the most impressive part of Lidge’s outing was that he threw first-pitch strikes to 23 out of the 35 batters he faced.

The up and down Phillies bullpen could use Lidge—not the bad Lidge, but the good Lidge from two years ago. The Phillies’ bullpen has already blown four saves in nine chances and are 13th in the NL in OPS against with a .801 clip.

I don’t think Charlie Manuel is going to throw Lidge back into the fire right away. He will most likely let Lidge ease himself in, let him prove himself and then let him regain his closer role.

From a fantasy perspective, if you have room on your roster, take a flier on Lidge. The reward is much greater than the risk.

To make room for Lidge, the Phillies will send down Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo had a 1.69 ERA and struck out five in 5.1 innings for the Phillies this season.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Will the Phillies Regain Their Groove During Big Early-May Homestand?

April 29, 2010 by Jamie Ambler  
Filed under Fan News

I have to preface this by saying I couldn’t be happier with the Phillies new 125 million dollar man, and I’ll never be one to second-guess the Phils for it.

Congratulations, Ryan. You deserve it.

And kudos, Phils, for getting your biggest homework assignment done early. 

OK, now for the main event…

As I skimmed over my 2010 Phillies Pocket Schedule one day last month, one particular homestand stood out to me.

It was the 10-game stretch from April 30 to May 9: Mets, Cardinals, and Braves.

There are no Hatfield Dollar Dog Nights during this homestand.

Bummer.

But that’s beside the point.

At the time, I viewed this stretch as a golden opportunity for the Phillies to gain an early upper hand on some potentially stiff NL competition. As it turns out, the South Philly stars could be aligning in a way that will help the Phils make the most of that opportunity, despite their struggles out west.

The stars could be aligning for the Phillies, because their stars should be returning from the DL over the course of the next week.

Jimmy Rollins (right calf strain) has been on the DL for two weeks. No exact date has been pinpointed for his return, but he could be back during the second half of the homestand.

Utility man Juan Castro has filled in remarkably well in J-Roll’s absence, but there’s no question the Phils missed their offensive table setter.

Rollins was absolutely on fire (9-for-23, 7 walks, .516 OBP) before sustaining his injury prior to the Phillies Home Opener on April 12. The lineup’s on another level when he’s hot.

Joe Blanton (oblique injury), the Phils’ expected No. 3 starter through Spring Training, should make his first ML start of the season against St. Louis, perhaps on Monday.

Blanton has lost just eight times in 49 starts during his Phillies career (including the postseason) and should add stability to a starting rotation that has depended far too heavily on its ace (that Roy Halladay guy) dominating once every fifth game.

And then there’s “Lights Out” Brad Lidge. He’s recovering from knee and elbow surgery and will be activated for this weekend’s showdown with the red-hot Mets.

It could be a good thing that Lidge is starting out 2010 at Citizens Bank Park as opposed to on the road. In 2009, Lidge appeared in 33 home games and 34 on the road. Only one of his 11 blown saves in 2009 came at home.

Last year, he was 0-2 with 6.10 ERA at CBP and 0-6 with an 8.46 ERA on the road. His opponents’ average was .273 at home, yet .331 on the road. Lidge beginning 2010 in Philadelphia should be a small psychological lift for him.

Of course, J.A. Happ is now on the DL. So life’s not perfect for Philly, but good enough.

The Phils will be getting healthier, and they’re at home. So, now’s a great time for them to buck their perennial, early-season trend of struggling at Citizens Bank Park.

After scuffling at CBP for most of 2008, the Phillies went a remarkable 25-6 at home after August 9 through the postseason en route to the World Series championship.

By June 23 last season, the Phillies were 24-9 on the road, yet just 13-22 at home. But the Phillies compiled a 32-14 record at Citizens Bank Park past that point, ignited by a 9-1 homestand in early July against New York, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.

The Phils have the ability to play lights-out baseball at home. And rest-assured, they will. But, just as in year’s past, the only question is when that’ll happen. Of course, this homestand against three respectable NL teams is the perfect place to start.

But what if they don’t?

Well, there’s absolutely no reason to panic. In early May, the so-called Power Rankings are a complete was of time and space, while the MLB standings are next to meaningless. The Phillies know that. And based on past seasons, the New York Mets—the current leaders of the NL East—should know that, too.

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Ryan Howard vs. the Statheads: Why Phillies’ Contract Extension Is a Good Move

April 29, 2010 by Mike Lacy  
Filed under Fan News

Earlier this week, the Phillies gave first baseman Ryan Howard a contract extension through the year 2016.

This contract makes him the second highest-paid player in baseball and seems to ensure that he will be a member of the Philadelphia Phillies for the foreseeable future.

They locked up one of the franchise’s greatest players for years to come. This should be a good thing, right?

Not if you believe the statheads.

Who are the statheads? The statheads (or sabermetric experts, as they’d prefer to be called) rose to prominence in the early 2000s with the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis.

Moneyball showed how the Oakland A’s realized that they couldn’t compete financially with the larger market teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. If they wanted to remain competitive, they would have to find some sort of advantage. 

The advantage they found was sabermetrics. By taking a deeper statistical analysis of the game, they found certain statistics—such as on-base percentage and defensive ratings—that helped teams win but, more importantly, weren’t overpriced like traditional stats like home runs and batting average.

Thanks to the publicity of Moneyball —and more importantly, because the A’s were successful with their approach—sabermetrics went from the fringe of baseball analysis to the forefront. Suddenly, we were bombarded with a wave of new statistics: OPS, WAR, UZR! The statheads claimed that these statistics were the real judges of how good a baseball player is.

What about the old statistics that everyone used to measure players by, such as wins and RBIs? According to the statheads, those statistics are too dependent on outside factors.

To an extent, I understand where they are coming from. I’ve seen lousy pitchers accumulate high win totals merely because they pitch for good offensive teams, and RBI are largely dependent on how many runners are on base when the batter comes to the plate.

On the other hand, sometimes players can’t be summed up just by advanced statistics. 

That is where Ryan Howard comes in.

Statheads hate Ryan Howard. To them, Howard is the type of old-school player who was overvalued before the statistical revolution. According to prominent statheads like Keith Law of ESPN.com, Howard isn’t a great player. To them, he’s actually a liability.

Sure, he hits a lot of home runs (overrated) and has a lot of RBI (only because the Phillies lineup provides him with so many opportunities), but because he hits poorly against left-handers and strikes out too much, he is a detriment to the team.

Not unexpectedly, the statheads were apoplectic when the Phillies gave Howard a contract extension. Not only were the Phillies giving a huge contract to a player based on overrated statistics, but they were also giving a lot of money to a player whose performance would surely decline during the life of the contract.

Another big statheads trend is to compare players due to statistical similarity, and based on those comparisons, they make projections on the remainder of their careers. They figure that if players have had similar stats up until this point in their career, then it is logical that the rest of their careers will play out the same way as well. 

While this seems like a reasonable idea, it’s unclear just how accurate these projections are. These projections ignore the fact that every player’s career path is different. Just because one hitter went into a decline at age 34 doesn’t mean that another player with similar stats will as well.

Another major flaw in the projection system is the abundance of performance-enhancing drugs in the last 20 years. While these players might have been completely clean, it is strange that we saw certain players (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens) have career upswings right around the time they should have been declining.

We also saw some players (Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz) drop off tremendously right around the time stricter drug testing was put into effect.

One valid concern raised is that traditionally, large sluggers in Howard’s mold have not aged particularly well. Howard has worked to counter this, losing 30 pounds over the past two years and undergoing a rigid training regimen. Still, large bodies do tend to break down sooner than smaller ones, and Howard is about as large as they come in baseball.

So it’s clear that the statheads are opposed to the contract. But how do I feel about it? I’m happy, but I do have some concerns.

One big issue I have with the contract is that it wasn’t necessary to do at this time. They had Howard signed for the next two seasons. While he might have been a free agent and able to cash in on the open market in two years, first base is one of the easiest positions to fill. There might have been a number of good first basemen available, such as Prince Fielder.

But in recent years, the Phillies have shown great fear of competing in free agency. The whole Roy Halladay-Cliff Lee maneuvering was done specifically so that they wouldn’t be bidding on a free agent pitcher.

I understand their fear of the open market somewhat. It only takes one team making a ridiculous free-agent offer to a player to drive his price up.

For an example of this, see the Phillies' pursuit of Jim Thome in 2003. The Indians probably thought Thome would never leave, but along came the Phillies with money to spend and the desire to bring in a big name, and the Indians could no longer afford him.

But while open bidding can be frightening, there is also a good chance that the market for Howard wouldn’t have been as open as the Phillies thought. After all, there are only a few teams in baseball who can afford the type of contract that Howard would have demanded (and was ultimately given). If none of those teams were willing to offer up the money, then Howard’s demands would have to come down. 

Since Howard was still two years from free agency, I’m not sure why they gave him such a long and expensive contract. Usually when a player signs before free agency, there is some concession on his part. Some players prefer the comfort of security rather than the uncertainty of free agency. There didn’t seem to be any concession on Howard’s part. So if the Phillies were just going to give him what he wanted, why didn’t they wait?

However, my biggest reason for trepidation about the deal is because I don’t want the contract to become a burden on the Phillies' budget. I don’t want to hear, “Well, we don’t have money to pay other players because Howard is making so much.” People are already fearing that outfielder Jayson Werth will be leaving as a free agent after this season because the Phillies seem maxed out on their budget.

While the Howard deal probably doesn’t affect Werth’s status (the new contract is actually an extension that doesn’t start until 2012), it might affect their ability to retain players like Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins when their contracts come due.

But those concerns aside, I like the deal.

The two most difficult things to find in baseball are a legitimate ace pitcher and a power hitter to anchor the lineup. Howard certainly anchors the Phillies' lineup. The guy is almost guaranteed to hit 40-plus home runs and have 120-plus RBI every season.

The statheads will point out that his on-base percentage may not be the best on the team, but his job is not necessarily to get on base, but rather to get the runners home—and he is clearly succeeding.

(Side note: I find it funny that the same people who claim that Howard only gets a lot of RBI because of the Phillies' strong lineup also criticize leadoff hitter Rollins’ low on-base percentage. You can’t have it both ways.)

If the guy is such a liability, like some claim, then why are the Phillies succeeding? Why have they won three straight division titles, two pennants, and a World Series with Howard as their cleanup hitter? Why have they led the NL in runs the past two seasons? I don’t think they’d be able to do all this if Howard was truly a liability.

Another aspect of Howard that is often overlooked is the way that he changes the game. In a late-game situation, with runners on base, there are few, if any, managers who will not bring in a left-hander to face him, assuming they don’t just go ahead and intentionally walk him. You can be sure that when a pitcher is brought in to face Howard, he is going to be as careful as possible. Howard usually deposits mistake pitches into the seats.

While he can be gotten out by a good left-hander, the fact is that there are very few good left-handed pitchers out there. One reason why the Yankees had success against Howard in the World Series was because they had multiple effective left-handed relievers that they could bring in to face him. They might be the only team capable of doing that.

There’s another factor that statheads often overlook (and sometimes deride because it can’t be measured by statistics). While “clutchness” is extremely subjective and hard to define, Howard definitely seems to have it. I’ve seen him go through hot stretches where he absolutely carries the team.

In September 2008, when the team was fighting for the division title, Howard was delivering big hit after big hit to carry the team to the postseason. Last year in the playoffs, his memorable game-tying double in the NLDS was only the highlight of the way he destroyed the Rockies' and Dodgers' pitching during the Phillies' march to the World Series.

Looking past his contributions on the field, there are other reasons why locking up Howard was a good idea. Barring an unforeseen injury or career downturn, when his career is done he will be in the discussion of greatest Phillies hitter ever. While it’s unfair to compare stats between the 1980s and 2000s, Howard’s power stats will likely eclipse Mike Schmidt on top of the Phillies' all-time list.

While in theory it’s easy to say, “Oh, the Phillies can just find another first baseman,” in actuality it’s a huge blow to a team and its fanbase when a star player and franchise icon leaves. Howard was one of the key players who helped end Philadelphia’s championship drought, and fans have grown attached to him. It would be devastating to many of them if Howard were to ever leave.

For years, Phillies fans were used to ownership not spending a lot of money on players. They knew that the Phillies were never going to bring in the big money free agents. But things have changed, and now the Phillies are among the financial powers of the league. They’re paying big money to their star players, and I can’t possibly complain about that.

It’s much better than being a fan of teams like the Indians, who see CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee depart because the team knows they can’t re-sign them once they become free agents. It’s comforting to know that Phillies management is willing to pay what it takes to keep their star players in town.

So in the end, I am glad that Howard got his contract. I salute the Phillies for doing so and look forward to several more prosperous years with Howard leading the way.

Originally posted on my blog: http://phillyfanindc.wordpress.com

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Birth of an Albatross: The Ryan Howard Extension

April 28, 2010 by Joe Regan  
Filed under Fan News

The sabermetric era has had a notable effect on the general baseball viewing population, from the fans in the $3 seats, to the media, to the higher-ups. Gone are the days, in most circles, where players are valued by being "RBI" men, by being clutch, and by being in the good graces of most media men.

Philadelphia, though, is not one of these circles, apparently. Apparently they find it necessary to provide Ryan Howard with a $125 million dollar extension for his age 32-36 seasons. Outside of a more casual Phillie fan identifying their team's "desire to succeed", it's hard to find anyone who likes this contract.

The terms of the contract are $20 million dollars in 2012 and 2013, with $25 million for 2014-16. The team also holds a $23 million dollar option in 2017, with a $10 million dollar buyout. Immediately, one can see the downside of paying a player this much.

To dive immediately into everyone's favorite player/salary evaluating metric, WAR, we can use Howard's salary to see what level of performance needs to be attained to "live up" to the deal. 

Let's assume that in 2012, teams will be playing $4.25 million per marginal win on the free market, and that this figure goes up by five percent per year consistently until 2016. After doing the math by dividing his salary by this dollar per win approximation, you get annual WAR totals of 4.7, 4.5, 5.3, 5.1, and 4.8, or 24.4 total. Essentially, that's all star caliber production for 5 straight seasons.

Can Howard possibly do this? Perhaps, as he totaled 4.9 WAR in 2009, which multiplied out, would make him exactly worth his contract. Of course, this defies absolutely all sorts of logic to assume no age-related decline.

To do a quick study on the potential effects of aging on Mr. Howard, one can consult his baseball-reference page  for similar hitters. For his full seasons, his best age-comparable players are:

26: Norm Cash
27: Norm Cash
28: Cecil Fielder
29: Richie Sexson.

Cash was by far the best of the three, and can give some hope to this contract. Even Cash, though, was only decent in his age 32-36 seasons, going .265/.361/.471. Respectable, but certainly not worth $25,000,000 AAV at first base.

Far more damning, however, are the 32+ age numbers of Cecil Fielder and Richie Sexson. Neither one made it to age 36, and not by a mile, for starters.

Fielder, a two-year wonder to begin with, finished off his career in MLB with a .249/.344/.439 line in 1,589 PA from 1996-98. Even worse, Sexson limped home in his career, going .211/.306/.392 in 818 PA from 2007-08. 

Is there a high-end, however? Of course, and his name is Willie McCovey. While McCovey had injury problems at some points between ages 32 and 36, he still performed well, hitting .264/.408/.524 with 122 HR. Of course, when you need to use a Hall of Famer and all-time great to make a favorable view of a player's future, you have truly become too much of an optimist.

In a vacuum, this deal is bad enough. However, the contextual elements of the deal make this one truly one of the worst contracts ever given to a player, even when it is yet to begin.

For one, this move ruins any chance the Phillies have to be flexible with their roster, and likely is the end of the line for Jayson Werth in Philadelphia. Werth is the opposite of Mr. Howard, in that he is chronically underrated. A quick glance at their numbers from 2007-09 show why this is the case:

Howard: .266/.363/.565, 136 OPS+, 10 SB / 2 CS
Werth: .276/.376/.494, 124 OPS+, 47 SB / 5 CS

At a glance, it seems to be that Howard is a better offensive player, which is important. However, Ryan Howard, while vastly (and admirably) improved in the field thanks to his commitment towards exercise, is still just an okay first baseman. Werth, on the other hand, is one of the best defensive corner OF's in the majors. Also, as a player with better "young man" skills, Werth seems to be better profiled for a more graceful decline. 

This causes a lot of chaos on the Phillies roster. Already hamstrung with many large contracts, the Phillies will now have to make hot prospect Domonic Brown MLB ready to start in right field in 2011, and then find the funds to sign a replacement for Raul Ibanez in 2012, which should be no easy feat given that they already have $87,000,000 obligated to 8 men. With what looks to be a good young core in Atlanta, it is already hard to see the Phillies being able to survive attrition and stay on top of the East.

More alarmingly, this deal did not need to get done. Howard's current deal expires in 2011, the same time younger men like Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder hit the market. Would it have not made sense to use the extra two years of contractual control over Howard to see how age will affect him going forward, and to possibly use Gonzalez, Fielder, and others to help drive down Howard's asking price? It is truly ridiculous that a team can pay this much money without even a bidding war taking place.

One detail, though, that strikes me as the most alarming is simple: Ruben Amaro Jr. can not properly value his players. 

Thanks to late season runs for the Phillies in 2007 and 2008, as well as a terrific 2008 World Series performance, Howard has become something of a folk hero to many members of the media. Despite not ranking in the top 25 positional players according to WAR in any of the last three seasons, Howard has found himself in the top 5 of MVP voting in each, including a 2008 candidacy that should not have even been a consideration. It's fine to like and actively root for a player, Howard shows a good work ethic, a good attitude, and of course, he does have a very good bat as well.

The job of Amaro, though, is to see through these media creations. His job is to make hard decisions, and to properly allocate financial assets so that other needs can be addressed when needed.

Amaro did not do that here. In fact, Amaro did something that the drunk in the standing room could have done, which is offer his favorite player a blank check and sign off on whatever he wrote down for a dollar value. 

This fact, for a Phillie fan, should be scary. It is clear that Amaro can be sold on hype, and it is also clear that he was gifted into a team with a loaded roster, and seems ready to spoil it with bad moves.

In an age where baseball front offices are attracting more smart people than ever, it simply becomes logical that a team cannot succeed for a sustained period without shrewd minds at the top. What Amaro did is not shrewd, instead, what he did was careless. He has essentially put the near-future of his franchise on the shoulders of a man with a skill set notorious for earlier-than-average declines, when he had a year and a half before this even became an issue. That, of course, is the saddest thing about this deal.

Howard, in his time in the heart of the Phillies' lineup, has accomplished something few others have: win the hearts of the Philly crowd. Unfortunately, if history and research indicate anything, Howard is soon to become the face of the decline as well. I am sure that Howard will be able to invest some of his $125 million into ways to ignore the naysayers once 2016 rolls around, though.

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MLB 2010: Eight Reasons to Dislike the Ryan Howard Contract

April 28, 2010 by tank jones  
Filed under Fan News

Ryan Howard is an excellent baseball player. Phillies fans should be thrilled that he will be with the club long term. Howard has led the league in RBIs three of the last four years. He plays huge in September. He is a fan favorite and one of the top home run hitters in the game. However, giving a 5-year, $125 million contract to Ryan Howard may not work out for the Phillies.

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With Ruben Amaro Jr., Are the Philadelphia Phillies Really in Good Hands?

April 28, 2010 by Tyler Calnon  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is a smart man.

He graduated from Stanford with a B.S. in Human Biology and from all accounts has been a fundamental aspect of the Phillies' success in recent years. 

Amaro is also a baseball man. 

He played in the major leagues for the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians, and Toronto Blue Jays. He spent 10 years as assistant general manager to the Phillies under Ed Wade and Pat Gillick and has been the general manager for two years now. 

With Amaro as assistant general manager, the Phillies made the playoffs for the first time in a decade and won the World Series. In his first full year as general manager, the Phillies returned to the World Series. This kind of success generally gives you a small grace period from serious criticism. 

As long as Amaro has held a significant position in the Phillies front office, they have had a great run of success and have made some tremendous decisions. He has worked with Gillick to keep this window of success open for as long as possible, and he should be commended for that. 

But over the past year, Amaro has made some curious decisions that have made me start to question exactly how competent this new regime is.

Has Amaro really been such an asset to the club, or has he been simply enjoying the success of the foundation that was set by former GMs Gillick and Wade and former scouting director Mike Arbuckle?

Let's take a look.

Amaro's first decision as general manager was to reward Jamie Moyer with a two-year, $16 million contract extension. 

Now, I am one of Moyer's strongest supporters. I appreciate everything he has done for the Phillies and throughout his career and the strength of his determination to pitch as long as he can. But most importantly, because of his experience and pitching acumen, I believe Moyer has more influence on the Phillies' pitching staff than anyone outside of Rich Dubee.

But $8 million a year for a man who will be 47 at the end of this contract?

Moyer got rocked last year, and by the end of the season he was pitching long relief in the bullpen. He has pitched solidly so far this season, but $8 million is still very high, especially considering the Phillies weren't facing any significant competition for his signature.

Next, Amaro signed Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million contract that will keep him on the Phillies until he is 39. 

Ibanez got off to a roaring start last year, putting up almost Albert Pujols-like numbers for the first half of the season. But following the All-Star break, Ibanez slumped miserably and dealt with a debilitating groin injury (probably something similar to the kick to the nuts that he dealt to most National League pitchers early in the year).

Rauuuuuuul (as his name is chanted at Citizens Bank Park) is a fan favorite in Philadelphia and was a significant part of the Phillies' early-season success last year.

But this contract strikes me as strange for two reasons.

One, it guarantees $10 million a year to a guy who will be 38 this year, an age where most baseball players are long past their prime. 

Two, this contract was signed very early in the offseason, long before the outfielder market was set. Similarly aged outfielders like Bobby Abreu were eventually forced to take fliers on one-year contracts for significantly less money. 

I love Ibanez, but this contract looks like it will be hurting the Phillies next year, especially if it prohibits them from locking up Jayson Werth, a superior and younger player (and former owner of the greatest beard in the National League; I mean seriously, that thing was tremendous).

Midway through the 2009 season, Amaro made his most successful decision yet. He traded prospects Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, and Jason Knapp for Cliff Lee. 

Carrasco just hasn't been able to put it all together and achieve to the extent of his talent and looks destined for a future role in the bullpen. Marson and Donald appear to be no more than future utility men. The jury is still out on Knapp and will be for a long time. With his talent, he could be the next Josh Johnson, or he could succumb to further injuries and never even make it to the major leagues.

We all know what Lee did last year.

But ultimately, the verdict on Amaro's entire career as general manager might come down to his subsequent decision to trade Lee to the Seattle Mariners.

Lee had an incredibly affordable $9 million contract and was absolutely beloved in Philadelphia. 

But Amaro decided that Roy Halladay was the pitcher he really wanted, sent more prospects to Toronto to acquire him, and discarded Lee.

The decision to acquire Halladay was a great decision. In my opinion he is the best pitcher in all of baseball, and he signed a very reasonable contract extension to stay in Philadelphia for the next three seasons. 

Don't even bother trying to argue that Lee is better than Halladay. He's not.

But Amaro's polarizing decision was to give up the mouthwatering prospect of a rotation headlined by Halladay-Lee-Cole Hamels in order to restock the farm system. 

I perfectly understand the need to restock the farm system, but it seems like Amaro could have just as easily waited for interest in Lee to rise and then exchanged him for a stronger collection of prospects. 

I like the potential of the group that they acquired. Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and J.C. Ramirez all have the potential to be productive major league players, but I think the Phillies got shortchanged here.

This season, Amaro signed Ryan Howard to a monster five-year, $125 million contract extension. 

I analyzed that decision in full detail in an article yesterday, but simply put, this extension is for too much money and for too many years, and the timing of the extension was strange at best. 

When you put it all together, it makes a curious portfolio. 

Ruben Amaro Jr. has made some great little signings—classic Pat Gillick signings for unheralded players like Juan Castro and Jose Contreras that provide the Phillies with great organizational depth. Pedro Martinez was a vital part of the Phillies' postseason success.

He has made some fantastic trades, acquiring two of the best pitchers in the game within two seasons.

But on the big signings, the most important decisions, it seems like Amaro has made some foolish mistakes.

He hasn't made any horrific decisions yet, the ones that cripple organizations for years (though many will argue that the Howard contract will do just that), but when it comes down to it, it makes you wonder...

Are the Phillies really in good hands after all?

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Amber Alert: Phillies Offense Missing

April 28, 2010 by Scott Michael Leddy  
Filed under Fan News

When you're hot you're hot and when you're not, well, the Phillies batsmen know all too well. After winning their first eight of ten games to start the 2010 season, the roaring offensive firepower that fueled this effort appears to have petered out.

The Phils explosive power was last seen on the 16th of April in Citizens Bank Park in an 8-3 victory over the Florida Marlins, when both newcomer Placido Polanco and Chase Utley belted homers and Jayson Werth chipped in with two doubles.

Then, just like that, the bats went silent.

Yes, the Phils did score eight runs in a win against the Braves the following week, but they recorded only one extra-base hit and has to resort to the lowly "small ball" in order to get the win.

Yes, Jimmy Rollins, the perennial leadoff man has not played a game in over two weeks.

Yes, nobody stays hot forever.

But the Phillies have found themselves in uncharted territory thanks to this recent slump, second place in the NL East. That is not a typo. Second.

The Phillies have been outscored 16-28 in their last five games, and although the numbers aren't terrible, they usually can rely on their strong lineup to give their starting pitchers plenty of run support and are sorely struggling without.

Roy Halladay can't pitch every game (or so they say) and the Phillies, who were favored to be NL Champions at the start of the season, look more like a team struggling to stay above .500 without their timber arsenal firing on all cylinders.

So please, if you've seen the Phillies offense, corner it, give it some treats to calm it down, and call Charlie Manuel immediately.

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1st Place Mets Sweep Doubleheader

April 28, 2010 by Flushing Baseball Daily  
Filed under Fan News

Thanks to a rain-out on Monday the Mets played the Dodgers twice yesterday. The Mets won the first game 4-0 behind a strong pitching performance by Johan Santana. The offense powered them towards a 10-5 victory in a second game where Oliver Perez couldn’t pitch past the fourth inning. The pair of victories left the Mets in first place, half a game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Game 1 Notes

  • Johan Santana’s line: 6IP, 4H, 0R, 3BB, 6K.
  • Fernando Nieve (2IP) and Pedro Feliciano (1IP) combined line: 3IP, 1H, 0R, 2BB, 4K.
  • Angel Pagan went 1-for-4.
  • Luis Castillo went 1-for-4 with 2 RBI’s.
  • Jose Reyes went 1-for-4.
  • Jason Bay went 1-for-3 witih a solo home run and a walk.
  • David Wright went 1-for-3 with a stolen base, a run scored, and a walk.
  • Ike Davis went 1-for-3 with a walk.
  • Gary Matthews Jr. went 0-for-2 with a walk.
  • Rod Barajas went 1-for-4 with a run scored.

Game 2 Notes

  • Oliver Perez’s line: 3.2IP, 3H, 3ER, 4BB, 2K.
  • Hisanori Takahashi (3.1IP), Jenrry Mejia (1IP), and Raul Valdes (1IP) combined for this line: 5.1IP, 4H, 2ER, 2BB, 5K (all strikeouts by Takahashi).
  • Angel Pagan went 1-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored.
  • Luis Castillo went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored.
  • Jose Reyes went 1-for-5 with three runs scored.
  • Jason Bay went 1-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.
  • David Wright went 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and four RBI’s.
  • Ike Davis went 1-for-2 with a walk and three RBI’s. Jeff Francoeur went 1-for-4.
  • Henry Blanco went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Thoughts

  • How great was it watching the offense finally turn out a big game?! Dropping Jose Reyes to the third spot in the order seems to have really worked out so far and what a difference Ike Davis has made.
  • Like I predicted yesterday, the bullpen was heavily taxed during the doubleheader throwing a combined 8.1 innings throughout the day. Unless the Mets make a roster change, manager Jerry Manuel needs to be careful not to burn out relievers the rest of the week.
  • Oliver Perez is hurting this club more than he’s helping it. That’s no giant revelation, but this club should seriously look into doing something about the pitcher if it is serious about contending.
  • On that note, I think it’s time Hisanori Takahashi is moved to the rotation. It doesn’t have to be for Perez, maybe John Maine gets taken out instead.
  • Jason Bay is now hitting .412 over his last five games, it’s about time.
  • David Wright’s RBI-single in the 5th inning of the second game was the 1,000 hit for his career.
  • This was the Mets first sweep of a doubleheader since June of 2007 against the Philadelphia Phillies

Quote

  • “He’s making a strong case for himself to be a part of the rotation if we continue to have issues,” Manuel said about Takahashi.

Line of the Day

2-out RBI – D Wright 4, I Davis 2. Two out RBI’s go a long way in the offense putting up big numbers. The Mets struggled mightily in this category early in the season. They’ve been able to turn it around and it’s why they are in first place.

Up Next

  • The Mets go for a sweep of the Dodgers and their 7th win in a row Wednesday afternoon.
  • Wednesday April 28: RHP John Ely (0-0, no ERA) vs.  RHP John Maine (0-1, 8.64).

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