What Cuban Signing Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez Can Bring to the Phillies

August 30, 2013 by Rick Weiner  
Filed under Fan News

More than a month after reports surfaced that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez had reached a lucrative, multi-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, a deal between Gonzalez and the team has finally—and officially—been reached:

While that's a far cry from the six-year, $50 million windfall he was rumored to have landed back in July, Gonzalez is still arriving in the City of Brotherly Love with high expectations placed upon his shoulders by a team and a fanbase that needs some young, electric arms from the right-side of the mound in the rotation.

With Roy Halladay far from certain to return in 2014 and Kyle Kendrick able to leave as a free agent after next season, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. needed to get this deal done.

Ideally, the Phillies would send Gonzalez to the minor leagues for some fine-tuning before he made his major league debut, but with the minor league season coming to an end and the Phillies going nowhere, a trial-by-fire in the major leagues appears to be the way things will work out.

For those unfamiliar with Gonzalez, B/R's Prospects Guru, Mike Rosenbaum, put together a detailed scouting report on him back in July, noting:

At 6’3”, Gonzalez has a lean, athletic build that doesn’t require future physical projection given his age. But despite his long limbs, the right-hander actually demonstrates plenty of present strength throughout his delivery. Furthermore, his frame helps generate lots of extension towards the plate.

Employing a high leg kick, Gonzalez hides the ball well and, for the most part, does a nice job of keeping his shoulders closed and in line with the plate. However, there are times when he’ll cut off his stride and rip open with his front shoulder, which leads to lower velocity and flatter offerings left up in the zone. Additionally, the right-hander doesn’t always finish his delivery and, in those instances, tends to rely on sheer arm strength rather than executing pitches.

His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s and is most effective when he keeps it down in the zone, while he turns to his three secondary offerings—a changeup, curveball and forkball—to keep batters off-balance.

So what can Phillies fans expect to see from Gonzalez this season?

Assuming that Ryne Sandberg inserts him into the back of the team's rotation right away, replacing Ethan Martin, Gonzalez would be on track to make five starts for the Phillies down the stretch:

Date Opponent
Tuesday, Sept. 3 Washington
Sunday, Sept. 10 San Diego
Friday, Sept. 15 @Washington
Wednesday, Sept. 21 New York (NL)
Monday, Sept. 26 @Atlanta

While there's something to be said for beginning your major league career at home, leaving pitches up in the zone at Citizens Bank Park can be deadly, as the ballpark remains one of the most hitter and home run-friendly locales in the game.

That said, the ballpark doesn't automatically doom Gonzalez to failure, and with the majority of the batters he'd be facing having never faced him before, early success is certainly not out of the question, especially against the Padres and Mets, who have two of the weaker lineups in baseball.

If he starts, Gonzalez would likely run into some rough patches against Atlanta and Washington, especially the second time around against the Nationals, though it would be interesting to see whether he's able to adjust to the adjustments that Washington makes after its first outing against him.

The other option, of course, would be for the Phillies to use him out of the bullpen, limiting the wear-and-tear on his arm—and exposure to the competition—allowing him to ease into the major leagues, pitching an inning here and two innings there.

If it were up to me, I'm starting Gonzalez on Tuesday against the Nationals. His future lies in the team's starting rotation, and the experience that he could gain in five September starts this season can only prove beneficial in 2014 and beyond.

With the Phillies out of contention and looking towards the future, the team has nothing to lose—but more games—by running him out there every fifth day from now until the end of the season.

Regardless of how September plays out, the Phillies got themselves some insurance against another Halladay injury or defection after the season and, more importantly, a pitcher just entering the prime of his career who has the stuff to become a quality No. 2 or No. 3 starter at a middle-relief price.

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7 Reasons to Keep Watching the Phillies with an Eye on 2014

August 30, 2013 by Joe Giglio  
Filed under Fan News

As the 61-73 Phillies head to Chicago for a Labor Day weekend series at Wrigley Field, there won't be a postseason run to look forward to for a fan base that hasn't experienced a losing season since 2002.

Instead of trying to get back into the National League playoff race, the Phillies will be looking towards the future. For the first time in a long time, it's very, very uncertain.

With an interim manager, young players trying to prove their big league worth and major decisions coming on veterans in the offseason, the franchise is at a crossroads.

September might feel like spring training 2014 has come early. Sit back and enjoy watching the path back to contention unfold over the next month.

Here are seven things to watch in September, Phillies fans.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Projecting Whether These Philadelphia Phillies Can Make the Hall of Fame

August 29, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

On present form, none of the current Phillies should be considered for honors of any kind. But Hall of Fame consideration is based on a player's entire career.

Therefore, more focus is put on the bright light the player generated in his prime rather than the dark shadows cast by the last years of decline. That is why a floundering team like the 2013 Phillies could boast a player or two who could end up making a speech in Cooperstown somewhere down the line.

Before we get to those guys, though, we might as well rule out the pretenders.

Chase Utley is a lot of fun to watch when he is healthy, and his peak years were dominating, as David Schoenfield detailed at length for ESPN.com last summer.

As of this writing, though, Utley has not reached 1,400 career hits. Getting to 2,000 hits would be huge for his Hall of Fame case, but that probably means he needs to play at least four more seasons, i.e., until he is 38.

Schoenfield answered the question of Utley's Hall of Fame candidacy fairly and accurately like this: "Can Utley build a case for the Hall of Fame around a six-year peak as one of the best players in baseball? Probably not, although many players have been elected on lesser credentials."

Ryan Howard's Hall of Fame chances most likely went up in smoke when he went down with that torn Achilles tendon at the end of the 2011 National League Division Series.

At the end of the 2011 regular season, Howard had 286 home runs and 864 runs batted in. He was about to turn 32. It would have taken four or five more seasons of 30 or more home runs to even get him in the conversation.

Instead, he hit 30 home runs total in the last two seasons. He is out.

You don't think of Michael Young as a Phillie, with good reason. Still, he's on the roster so he is in this analysis. Sadly for Young, there is not that much to talk about.

He is a career .300 hitter as of this writing, but with each passing at-bat, that lofty average is in danger of slipping into the .290s. He has over 2,350 hits and 1,000 runs batted in.

The trouble for Young will be his 185 career home runs. Hall of Fame third basemen are power hitters. Young is a first-ballot Hall of Very Good player, but that's it.

As Gary Matthews might put it, for me, the only Phillies hitter with a good chance to make the Hall of Fame is Jimmy Rollins.

Rollins already has a World Series ring and a National League Most Valuable Player award. If he retired tomorrow, he would do so with more than 2,100 hits, 400 stolen bases, 800 runs batted in and just shy of 200 home runs.

Derek Jeter has skewed offensive statistics from the shortstop position, but Rollins compares very favorably with many shortstops who are already in the Hall. Specifically, it feels like if Ozzie Smith and his 28 home runs earned a bust, Rollins' stats (and his four Gold Gloves) ought to make it.

Rollins should have two or three more productive years before any real decline takes place. And he is already on record with his hope to be a compiler. Rollins is going to the Hall of Fame someday.

As for the pitchers, there are only three worth discussing. The only way Jonathan Papelbon is getting into the Hall of Fame is with a paid ticket.

Cole Hamels is putting together a solid career, but when a pitcher is 29 years old and still has not amassed 100 wins, well, it is just too hard to anticipate the next 100 wins coming fast enough to put him in a Hall of Fame discussion.

This is especially so since Hamels' wins all came with a team that won five division titles and, until this season, contended or finished at least .500 every year. With the tailspin the Phillies are in and given the length of Hamels' hitch in Philadelphia, he might not reach 150 wins, much less 200.

Cliff Lee has a similar problem. Lee is 35 years old and has 134 wins. It just seems doubtful that he will pitch long enough to merit Hall of Fame consideration.

The last pitcher to consider here is Roy Halladay, whose case is complicated by his relatively low win total (204 to date) but bolstered significantly by the decade he spent battling long odds on subpar Toronto Blue Jays teams.

If Halladay can conjure up 20-30 more victories before his shoulder runs out of pitches, he would be a virtual lock. He just might have a good enough resume now though.

Too bad for the Phillies he will almost certainly go to Cooperstown as a Blue Jay.

It is somehow fitting that the greatest era of Phillies baseball is likely to produce only one Hall of Famer the team can truly call its own.

The stars of that run (Howard and Utley specifically) and the team itself did not stay great enough long enough to have it turn out any other way.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Predicting the 2014 Opening Day Lineup

August 26, 2013 by Marilee Gallagher  
Filed under Fan News

In his short tenure as manager, Ryne Sandberg has used a different lineup almost every night.

For Sandberg, this is his chance to really learn the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of his players. He is learning through experience which players are best suited in which roles and this, of course, includes the order of the lineup.

And while Sandberg has been working with role players and guys who might not even be around next year, his Opening Day lineup is hopefully going to be the one he has to work with for all of the 2014 season. Ryan Howard is expected back, and his inclusion obviously shakes up the lineup.

But will Howard return to his cleanup role or has Domonic Brown locked that down? And what about leadoffis there really only one player suited for that role? Also, will Sandberg break up his lefties and have Darin Ruf hit in between Howard and Brown?

The first-year manager will have all of these questions to answer, but to help him out, here is the lineup that I expect to see take the field on Opening Day. From what the numbers show, this lineup looks to be particularly productive and has a lot of potential if all goes to form.

Based on this season and expectations for next, here is the lineup the Phillies should open the season with.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Stock Up, Stock Down for Philadelphia Phillies’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 21

August 26, 2013 by Matt Boczar  
Filed under Fan News

As minor league seasons move into their final full week of the regular season, the Philadelphia Phillies are using this time to evaluate at least one top prospect at a new position in hopes of finding a path for him to the major leagues.

Maikel Franco, who has played third base for nearly his entire minor league career, will spend the rest of this season playing first base, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.

Franco would still be blocked at first base by Ryan Howard at the major league level, but the Phillies could also move third baseman Cody Asche to the outfield at some point.

Salisbury also noted that Asche has been taking fly balls during batting practice.

Which top prospects could follow in Asche’s footsteps next season and earn a promotion to the major leagues? Will any top prospects earn a September call-up?

How did the rest of the top prospects, according to MLB.com’s 2013 Prospect Watch, fare this past week?

Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and whose is down following Week 21.

 

* Tommy Joseph (No. 5) is out for the remainder of the season due to injuries. Larry Greene, who is ranked No. 11 according to mlb.com’s 2013 Prospect Watch, will now be included in these rankings.

**All statistics courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Should Remain Cautious Despite Roy Halladay’s Solid Return

August 25, 2013 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

Following an 18-inning contest that ran seven hours and six minutes and saw the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks use a combined 20 pitchers, both teams were short on sleep and pitching depth heading into Sunday's series finale.

The D'backs had just enough depth to ensure that they wouldn't have to delve into their starting rotation to finish off their 12-7 win. 

On the other hand, the Phillies saw their starter in Saturday's game, Ethan Martin, go just two-thirds of an inning, so they had to rely on Tyler Cloyd in five of the nine extra innings. Cloyd pitched well, allowing no runs, though he did walk five batters.

However, Cloyd's walk count isn't the full concern here. Rather, it's that he was supposed to start in Sunday's game. He ended up starting, though it wasn't in the mold that was expected.

He couldn't start after throwing 72 pitches just hours earlier, so the Phillies had to do the unthinkable: bring back Roy Halladay even though he was scheduled for another rehab start in Double-A. 

The move came with some concern, and rightfully so.

Although he hadn't been roughed up in his two previous rehab starts, Halladay wasn't exactly masterful either. In his second, more recent outing, Doc only surrendered two runs (one earned), but he also allowed seven hits and walked three batters.

Promoting Halladay off that kind of line wasn't ideal, but then again, neither was playing the longest game in team history the night before. With no better options, Halladay made a triumphant return to the majors and started for the Phillies the first time since May 5. 

He wasn't lights-out, striking out just two hitters and walking the same amount. Only 55 of his 94 pitches were for strikes. Doc also gave up two earned runs, but would've surrendered four if not for Roger Bernadina's heroics at the center field wall that saved what would have been a game-tying two-run homer.

Halladay walked off the mound after six innings with a 9-2 lead behind him and received a standing ovation. Seeing Doc pitch the kind of game he did was encouraging, as was his fastball velocity, which was tweeted by MLB.com's Todd Zolecki:

 

 

Despite Halladay's successful resurgence at the major league level, the Phillies should be cautious with their former ace. One start does not mean much in terms of performance, and though Doc's start did come against a team above .500, there are far better teams in the majors. 

What may get lost in the lights of Doc's decent start was that the Phillies still don't think he is ready to return. 

While Halladay felt he was ready to return to the bigs after his last rehab start at Low-A Lakewood, the front office didn't concur with their pitcher's self-analysis and would have maintained that opinion had they not run out of options.

Halladay should feel confident since the Phillies didn't view Adam Morgan or David Buchanan as superior options for a spot start despite their absence on the 40-man roster. In reality, though, Doc probably should have been given another chance in the minors before coming back to Philadelphia.

One start is great for Halladay, and fans should be thrilled to see him pitching again. But, unless Doc gets hurt again, he's here to stay in the majors, regardless of whether he's ready or not. 

Nevertheless, Doc is back, and he should go to sleep well tonight.

But the Phillies should not.

I'm willing to give Halladay the benefit of the doubt for at least another start, but it isn't yet safe to say that Doc is truly back to his good old self. Give him some time and we'll have a complete report, but for now, take Halladay's success with a grain of salt and be prepared in case things blow up in the near future.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Starting Roy Halladay Too Soon a Mistake, Win or Lose

August 25, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

What the Philadelphia Phillies are doing Sunday in starting Roy Halladay against the Arizona Diamondbacks is a classic symptom of a diseased franchise.

Halladay is returning to the major leagues for the first time in almost four months, per Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.

His last start for the Phillies was also at home and also on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

The result, of course, was less than sunny.

Halladay was torched by the Hapless Miami Marlins for nine earned runs after getting only seven outs.

After watching Halladay throw behind Marlins hitters—not on purpose, but because his shoulder would not let him place the ball with anything resembling accuracy—the Phillies finally accepted reality and shut him down.

Halladay was set for a rehab start at Double-A Reading Sunday. Those Reading Fightin Phils fans who bought tickets for the clash with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats are going to be plenty disappointed.

Last night's 18-inning loss to the Diamondbacks didn't just cost the Phillies a game in the standings—they burned Sunday's originally scheduled starter, Tyler Cloyd, in the process. The Phillies cannot be faulted for that untimely turn of events. They had to try to win the game, and using Cloyd for extended innings in that situation was the right decision.

What they can be faulted for, though, is not having another pitcher in Reading or Triple-A Lehigh Valley who they could bring up to take this start.

Just four days ago, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News headed a blog post with "Roy Halladay doesn't look ready to to face major league hitters."

Commenting on Halladay's start this week pitching for Class A Lakewood, Murphy noted that "Halladay was adequate enough to to hold a Class A lineup to two runs in six innings."

However, Murphy also saw that Halladay "went through a few stretches where he appeared to suffer variations of the same problems that plagued him throughout April and May, when he allowed 33 runs in 34 1/3 innings over seven starts."

Oh boy.

And now, not even a week later, Halladay and his iffy shoulder are going to take on an Arizona Diamondbacks team that knocked a healthy Ethan Martin out of the game in two-thirds of an inning last night.

At present, there are no quotes available from Halladay about his feelings on the decision to expedite his return.

One can easily imagine that Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Ryne Sandberg asked Halladay if he could go, and he told them yes.

He told Amaro and Charlie Manuel he could go against the Marlins in May, too.

There is no good reason—not one—to start Halladay against the Diamondbacks today if he is not 100 percent healed and competent to face major league hitters.

The Phillies are hopelessly out of playoff contention and are playing out the string.

The best-case scenario is that Halladay pitches well and wins the game. That would be nice, sure, but it would not mean much in the big picture.

The worst-case scenario, of course, is that Halladay gets bombed again and comes off the mound citing discomfort in the process. Or worse.

However it turns out, though, this is a foolish decision by a franchise that lately cannot get out of its own way.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Pettibone Shutdown Means Gonzalez Must Be Signed

August 23, 2013 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

Man, the list of injuries for the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff just keeps on growing.

Setup man Mike Adams and Michael Stutes have both seen extensive time on the disabled list this season due to bicep tendinitis, with the former ruled out until spring training next year. Jeremy Horst has been injured for quite some time with a left elbow strain. Fellow left-hander Joe Savery has also experienced left elbow stiffness, but as of August 22, he is the only one embarking on a rehab assignment, according to MLB.com.

As for the rotation, Roy Halladay is on track to return soon, as he has a third rehab start on Sunday, August 25.

However, the news isn't as great for the Phillies' other injured starting pitchers. Southpaw John Lannan has been ruled out for the rest of the season and will likely require surgery for a partially torn patellar tendon, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

Even Jonathan Pettibone, who had been on pace for a return sometime soon, has experienced a setback. Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times tweeted the following in the later hours of August 22:

 

Such news is devastating for a Phillies pitching staff already light on depth. Although Halladay's return is likely, it is still questionable whether the team will truly bring him back to the majors if his command and velocity do not improve.

Last time out against Low-A competition, Halladay threw 90 pitches, but only 52 of them were strikes. He allowed seven hits, walked three batters and at one point threw nine pitches in a row for balls. While he topped out at 89 miles per hour on his fastball, Halladay's heater averaged just 87 mph on the radar gun.

Until Halladay returns, the only guaranteed starting pitchers in the Phillies rotation are lefties Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and right-handers Kyle Kendrick and Ethan Martin. Tyler Cloyd likely remains the favorite for the fifth starter job until Halladay returns or someone else steps in, though his five earned runs in his start against the Colorado Rockies on August 20 doesn't help his case.

I recently wrote an article which previewed some prospects the Phillies might call upon come September when rosters expand to include the 40-man. The list was highlighted by left-hander Adam Morgan and also included starter David Buchanan.

The most important name in that slideshow was not a current Phillies prospect, though. Rather, it's Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the 26-year-old Cuban superstar whom the Phillies have yet to sign.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported on July 26 that Gonzalez had agreed to a six-year, $48 million contract with the Phillies, but today's date is August 23, and no deal has been reached as of yet.

At first it was believed that the only obstacle to a deal was a visa issue, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

With more time came more news concerning the lack of news, and as MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reported back on August 6, the contract may not happen altogether due to possible concerns over the pitcher's elbow, which received surgery at some point to remove bone chips. Then came an update on August 18 which basically said that there was nothing new to report, but does no news mean good news?

What the August 18 update did not rule out was a renegotiation of a contract for Gonzalez. Although the severity of the purported elbow concern is unknown, it has obviously been enough to deter the Phillies from inking the Cuban to a contract. Had Gonzalez been signed, he might have already made his major league debut by now. Instead, Phillies fans and media alike have played the waiting game, but it's gotten to the point where the wait has been too long without any definitive news.

Perhaps the Phillies and Gonzalez are negotiating a less expensive contract with some injury clauses concerning the $11 million vesting option for a seventh year on the original contract. At the same time, the two sides may very well not have held any sort of negotiation session, and there's a chance that Gonzalez and the Phillies may never have a deal in place at all.

Nevertheless, the point is simple: Even if it takes only a slight decrease in salary, the Phillies must sign Gonzalez in order to ensure the safety of their rotation going forward.

Unless the injury is worse than just bone chips, such an ailment should not be holding up negotiations this long unless one of the two sides is unwilling to compromise. Cole Hamels had bone chips removed from his pitching elbow in 2011 and returned with no problems. Reliever Scott Eyre also had the same issue, yet pitched well upon return.

Granted, both pitchers spent enough time within the Phillies organization for the front office and doctors to know them and their injury histories, but bone chips by themselves have not proven to derail any pitcher's career, let alone a contract. Just take a look at Hamels' six-year, $144 million contract extension inked last July as an example.

Gonzalez's presence on the Phillies is incredibly important for the team's future success. With Halladay unlikely to return after this season and Kyle Kendrick potentially gone after 2014, the Phillies lack any sort of dependable right-handed starting pitcher aside from arguably Pettibone. Martin could stick in the rotation if necessary, though Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook notes that he will probably end up in the bullpen when all's said and done.

Considering that the Phillies will be entering a retooling phase at the minimum heading into 2014, they need all the help they can get at any position possible.

Gonzalez will not only impact the Phillies next year, but if the deal remains at six years, he'll be around for years to come. In what will likely be losing seasons for a few years going forward, chances are that the Phillies won't be spending huge amounts of money in free agency or sacrificing the future in the form of prospects in a trade.

Taking that into consideration, if the Phillies don't sign Gonzalez, their rotation will be stockpiled with left-handers and two right-handers at most. Gonzalez would not only provide additional depth from the right side, he'd also be the best of the bunch within the Phillies organization, and that's too big of an opportunity for them to pass up.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Is Ryne Sandberg the Reason for Recent Offensive Surge?

August 22, 2013 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

It's been a week or so now since longtime Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was fired and interim manager Ryne Sandberg took over the reins. In that time, the Phillies have played seven games, winning four of them.

For those of you counting, those four wins for Sandberg in a week are more than the three wins Manuel had in the first two-plus weeks of August.

After having to withstand the wrath of an incredibly hot Zack Greinke and facing the NL Cy Young Award front-runner Clayton Kershaw in back-to-back shutout losses, the Phillies managed to notch a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Sunday, August 18. Granted, it came on a pair of errors by Hanley Ramirez, but a win's a win, and it gave Sandberg the first one in his major league managerial career.

At the time, that win was viewed as somewhat of an anomaly.

After all, since June 22, the Dodgers had gone 42-8 in their last 50 games following that contest, whereas the Phillies have gone 21-31 dating back to the same date. Most of those 21 wins had come before the All-Star break, for the Phillies have barely managed to win any games since the Midsummer Classic.

Sandberg's second managerial series would come against the Colorado Rockies in the form of a four-game set. Although they boast a road record comparable to that of the Phillies, the Rockies have some potent hitters in their lineup, namely Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario. All three inflicted serious damage over the course of the series, with Rosario belting three home runs and Tulowitzki two for himself.

However, the Rockies' offensive powerhouse wasn't enough to trump the Phillies for once.

For the first time in ages, the Phillies managed to hit and drive in runs. In the first game of the series, the Phillies won 5-4, giving them back-to-back games for the first time since mid-July. Though after Colorado handed them a 5-3 loss on Tuesday, August 20, it looked as though reality had set back in.

Mysteriously enough, the Phillies continued to pile on runs and keep games competitive. Even in times when they didn't in the final two games of the series, such as when Kyle Kendrick blew a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 Rockies lead, the Phillies somehow came back to win the ballgame in walk-off fashion 5-4. They also won thanks to Michael Young's ninth-inning heroics the night before, 4-3.

Although winning's always fun, especially when three games out of four went the Phillies' way, the series held more significance than meets the eye. In fact, the Phillies scored at least three runs in all four contests, marking the first time they had done so since July 6 through July 9. It had been a month and a half since the Phillies stitched together a streak of consistent run production, yet they may not be done just yet.

The Phillies' ability to score runs as of late is remarkable enough, but considering that Manuel had been unable to muster such an offensive push out of the team, it's worth wondering: Is new manager Sandberg the cause of the Phillies' recent offensive uptick?

On paper, it's difficult to tell. However, with further analysis, it looks as though some habits are being broken. On normal nights in the ninth inning with Manuel at the helm, the Phillies lost more often than they won, though Jonathan Papelbon can be blamed for that some of the time.

But in the Phillies' four wins so far under Sandberg, three of them have been of the walk-off variety. That means that roughly a third of the Phillies' 10 walk-off wins this year have come under Sandberg, and that's no small feat.

Additionally, Sandberg has seemingly injected some energy into the players themselves. 

Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote about how Sandberg wants to see a different approach from Rollins as long as he's in the leadoff position in his batting order. Essentially, that means that Rollins should focus on hitting balls on the ground and utilizing his speed on the basepaths.

While it may have taken a few games, Rollins has a hit in each of his past two games, including a clutch double in the ninth inning which otherwise might have been a single for the Phillies shortstop. J-Roll was clearly hustling around the bases, and what's more is that he stole third base on the first pitch of the next at-bat. Had he not done so, the dynamic of the inning would have drastically changed, and Rollins might not have scored at all.

Michael Young has also come up in a big way in recent games, and Darin Ruf has seven August home runs now, which is tied for sixth in the majors. Even Carlos Ruiz, whose season seemed to be written off completely, has pieced together a .476 batting average since Sandberg's installment as manager.

Simply put, Philadelphia's position players are starting to make things matter again, albeit at a time when they really don't.

Nevertheless, Sandberg has to be given at least some credit for the Phillies' increase in runs and overall offensive production. Maybe it's just coincidence; then again, maybe not.

Sandberg has already accomplished some things Manuel could not do any longer in his final days as Phillies manager. Most importantly, Sandberg has proved that the baton did need to be passed on for the Phillies to improve, and with continued offensive production, he could be inching closer to having the interim tag removed from his job title after the season.

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Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Veterans Who Submarined 2013 Season

August 22, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

If success has a thousand fathers, failure has at least five.

Except for perhaps Domonic Brown and Cliff Lee, the 2013 Phillies have a roster full of players who must bear some degree of responsibility for the fact that Philadelphia currently trails the awful New York Mets in the National League East.

But I don't have the time to prepare a slideshow documenting every organizational and on-field failing of this franchise in 2013. And I seriously doubt you would much want to read it.

Instead, I'll single out the worst offenders and let the others suffer their shame in isolated silence.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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