Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd Are 1st Teammates to Strike out 180 Times

September 26, 2014 by Bleacher Report Milestones  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and outfielder Marlon Byrd are the first teammates in MLB history to each strike out 180 or more times in a season, per Lee Sinins of Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.

Following Thursday's game against the Florida Marlins, Howard has an MLB-high 188 strikeouts, while Byrd is tied for second place in the National League at 181 with Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond.

In the American League, only MVP front-runner Mike Trout (181) and Houston Astros first baseman Chris Carter (179) figure to reach 180, though Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (173) was well on his way before getting suspended for amphetamine use.

For Howard, the lofty strikeout total comes as no surprise, with this season marking the fifth time he's piled up 180 or more in one season. Previously, Howard had 180-plus strikeouts in four consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2009, a span that also qualifies as the peak of his now-disappointing career.

In Byrd's case, the strikeouts come as more of a surprise, as he had previously never topped 144, the total he posted last year. The outfielder's late-career renaissance has not been hampered by his increased proclivity for the punch-out, as Byrd has more than made up for the lack of contact by posting the two best homer totals of his career in the last two seasons.

Prior to 2013, Byrd never had more than 98 strikeouts or 20 home runs in one season. He then had 144 and 24 last year, only to top both marks in 2014. In addition to his 181 strikeouts, Byrd has 25 home runs heading into the final three games of the season.

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Old Core, Crotch-Grabbing Closer and Oodles of Losses Demand Phillies Rebuild

September 19, 2014 by Scott Miller  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia fans did not need Jonathan Papelbon to grab his crotch in their general direction the other day, Roseanne-like, to decide that these Phillies are one unlikeable ballclub.   

No, they delivered that verdict long before Papelbon's lewd gesture, which swiftly earned him a seven-game suspension. Just two seasons after leading the National League in attendance, the Phillies rank ninth this year. No team has suffered as precipitous a decline: Through 78 home dates, the Phillies are more than a half-million fans off last year’s pace, down 579,350, per Baseball-Reference.com.

No other team is close. Texas is next at 378,785.   

The Phillies, through Thursday night's series finale in San Diego, were tied for 25th in the majors in on-base percentage (.302), tied for 26th in slugging percentage (.364) and 28th overall in OPS (.666). Runs are harder to come by than smiles at Citizens Bank Park, as a team that won it all in 2008 and returned to the World Series in '09 has become bloated and rusty.

Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz got big contracts, got old and now need to get gone. Loyalty has backfired on the Phillies, who stubbornly stayed with their core until long after its expiration date. And now they are paying for it.

"Sometimes it's a tough call to make," Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick, now acting as the Phillies' interim president while David Montgomery undergoes treatment for cancer, tells Bleacher Report. "Actually, our players who have been with us for a period of time have been healthy. Utley, Rollins, Howard. Chooch [Ruiz] was out for a time with a concussion.

"We haven't scored a lot of runs. Losing Cliff Lee has hurt us, too.

"We've got some challenges."

It has been a rough, rough season in Philadelphia. Montgomery, 68, is especially beloved throughout the Phillies organization and universally liked throughout the industry. He underwent surgery to remove cancer from his jaw in May but continued to work throughout chemotherapy and radiation treatments until diminishing returns caused ownership to call Gillick in from the bullpen and his senior advisor role with the club.

"He needs some good recovery time," Gillick says. "But he's doing fine."

So Gillick, the architect of the '08 World Series champions, stepped back into active duty and will roll up his sleeves to help clean up the mess. The Phillies have thrown more and more good money around, some $500 million worth over the past three seasons, chasing their glorious recent past.

They are losing ground.

In his first year as manager, another Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg, plugs in Darin Ruf, 28, when he can at first, though Howard is guaranteed $60 million over the next two seasons. He currently is second in the majors with 177 strikeouts, and he's hitting .222 with a career-low .374 slugging percentage.

The manager watches prospect Maikel Franco this month at third and hopes center fielder Ben Revere (.309/.326/.368, 47 steals in 54 opportunities) can continue to refine his game.

"I can say he's made very good strides in different parts of his game," Sandberg says of Revere. "I think he's really improved his stolen-base capability. Maybe there have been times this year where he could have been a little more aggressive."

The same can be said for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who astoundingly allowed the July 31 trading deadline to pass without lighting a stick of dynamite under any part of this roster. Gillick, with increased authority in Montgomery’s absence, since has said that Amaro's job is safe for the immediate future. The fans who continue to stay away in droves are outraged.

"One thing is, you've got to be patient," Gillick says. "Sometimes you can't meet all the challenges at once.

"Let's put it this way: You have to move cautiously but aggressively. It's not like you've got to take everything down in one fell swoop. You've got to plan your way. It takes time."

Sandberg at midseason made a move toward Ruf, who pounded 38 homers at Double-A Reading in '12, but Amaro publicly backed the veteran Howard and, well, that was that for the time being. On Thursday, with Howard in a .154 (4-for-26) dive over his past 10 games, Ruf was in the lineup for a third consecutive day.

At one time, outfielder Domonic Brown, 27, was going to be the next big thing in Philadelphia. An All-Star in '13 who smashed 27 home runs while hitting .272 with 83 RBI, he's slumped this season to .237 with 10 homers and 61 RBI.

"You can't expect young people to come to the big leagues and be productive right away," Gillick says, and while that's certainly true for younger Phillies such as Ruf, Franco, Cody Asche and Freddy Galvis, Brown has had enough of an audition that it's probably time to move on there, too.

Rollins, 35, hasn’t played since Sept. 8 because of a strained left hamstring, and his .243 batting average equals his career worst in 2010—though his .717 OPS is up from last summer's .666. His option for 2015 vested at $11 million in July.

The Phillies also are on the hook to Lee at $25 million for next summer (plus a $27.5 million club option or $12.5 million buyout in '16), to Utley through '18 if he hits a series of vesting options (and at the very least, $15 million for '15) and to Ruiz through '16 at $8.5 million per year.

Cole Hamels? He signed a six-year, $144 million deal through '18, owns a 2.47 ERA through 28 starts and is 10.1 innings from reaching 200 for a fifth year in a row. But given the shape this last-place team is in, the quickest reboot might be to deal Hamels this winter for a package of players.

Then there is the crotch-grabbing closer, whose four-year, $50 million deal runs another season (and vests for '16 with 55 games finished in '15 or 100 finished in '14 and '15 combined).

What all of this is not going to do is reverse the Phillies' hemorrhaging attendance.

"In Philly, if you don't win, they don't come out," Gillick says. "They come out to see winners. It's the way it is in Philadelphia. We have very knowledgeable and sophisticated fans, but that's the way it is."

Yes, the Phillies have one enormous mess on their hands.

"Ruben has got a pretty good idea of what he wants to do," Gillick says, a sentence that surely petrifies those knowledgeable and sophisticated fans even further.

"Sometimes you can't do everything people expect you to do right away," Gillick continues. "It's got to be the right deal, the right move."

With or without Amaro, this much is guaranteed: With Gillick again in a hands-on role, the odds of the Phillies making the right deals and the right moves this winter have increased dramatically.

 

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

Contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

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Jimmy Rollins Injury: Updates on Phillies Star’s Hamstring and Return

September 8, 2014 by Joseph Zucker  
Filed under Fan News

Jimmy Rollins left Monday night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates after suffering an injury on a triple in the bottom of the fourth inning. According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop strained his left hamstring:

Although the curtain is closing on the 2014 regular season, Rollins believes that he'll be back before the year is over, targeting sometime a little over a week away for his return, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News:

Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer thought that, all things considered, Rollins has played above expectations in 2014:

Coming back before regular season is out carries major financial weight for both Rollins and the Phillies. Gelb wrote in December 2013 that an $11 million vesting option would be wiped out if the 35-year-old finished the season on the disabled list. The option could come back in play, however, if a doctor finds him ready to go for the 2015 season.

With Philly cemented in last place in the National League East and holding no hope of making the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how Rollins' recovery is handled. There's no reason to rush him back to the field, and the team would possibly save money if it kept him on the shelf.

It adds a little intrigue into what is an otherwise dull road to the finish in Philadelphia.

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