Phillies Rookie Aaron Altherr Hits Inside-the-Park Grand Slam vs. Nationals

September 26, 2015 by Arman Walia  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Aaron Altherr may be a rookie, but he made a name for himself Friday night against the Washington Nationals

During the top of the third inning with the bases loaded, the 24-year-old Altherr hit a liner to center field off pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor attempted to make a highlight-reel diving catch but failed. The ball rolled back to the center field wall, allowing Altherr to clear the bases and book it home. 

We haven't seen anything like this since 1999.

Altherr also hit a solo home run in the fifth inning. The Phillies went on to win 8-2. 

[MLB]

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on BleacherReport.com

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Pete Mackanin, Phillies Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

September 22, 2015 by Tim Daniels  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies removed the interim tag from manager Pete Mackanin's title Tuesday by announcing an agreement on a one-year contract extension with a team option for 2017.

Incoming team president Andy MacPhail noted the connection the 64-year-old former infielder has been able to build with the players is a major reason why the Phillies decided to keep him. Todd Zolecki of MLB.com passed along the entire statement:    

Mackanin took over the managerial role in June when Ryne Sandberg stepped down.

The change didn't lead to better results on the field. The Phillies sit in Major League Baseball's basement with a 56-94 record. It will be their worst season since at least 2000 (97 losses). The franchise hasn't lost 100 games since 1961, but that streak could end over the next few weeks.  

That said, the poor season didn't come as a surprise. Philadelphia is a team in transition as it works to move into a new era. Cole Hamels and Chase Utley were among the veterans traded as part of the retooling process.

Keeping Mackanin, a baseball lifer who's going to instill fundamentals and work ethic in the next wave of prospects, is a wise move in the short term. John Finger of CSN Philly broke down one aspect of the job Mackanin has thrived at:

The Phillies were 26-49 this season under Sandberg, and some complained about the manager’s style and lack of communication. However, under Mackanin, the avenues of communication between the manager and players changed. Mackanin has been much more open with his players and also speaks Spanish, which is beneficial in the modern game.

The ability to communicate and get along with a roster filled with young players is also no small caveat.

The Phillies would have struggled to sell the job to any top managerial candidates this winter. The roster is at least a couple of years away from starting to seriously climb the standings, and even when it does, there will be some growing pains along the way.

Mackanin can be a stabilizing force throughout the process. Then, once the Phillies feel confident the club is ready to take the next step toward contention, they can decide whether he's earned the opportunity to retain the role or if it's time to explore other options.

 

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on BleacherReport.com

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies’ Long-Overdue Ruben Amaro Jr. Firing Opens Door for New Era

September 10, 2015 by Jacob Shafer  
Filed under Fan News

It finally happened—Ruben Amaro Jr. is out as general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. And, at long last, there's a chance for a new direction in the City of Brotherly Love.

We'll get to that new direction shortly. But first, it's necessary to perform a brief autopsy of the Amaro regime.

The team announced his firing Thursday, per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, one day after the Phillies were eliminated from postseason contention.

Of course, in reality, the Phils have been out of contention for months and even years. Yes, they advanced to the World Series in 2009 in Amaro's first season as GM, made it to the National League Championship Series in 2010 and won the NL East in 2011.

Since then, however, Philadelphia has missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. This year, it's sunk to a new low with the worst record in baseball.

Much of the blame for that stretch of futility rests squarely on Amaro's shoulders.

First, there's his noted aversion to analytics in an era when advanced stats and player evaluation have become the norm.

For his part, Amaro didn't even have an analytics department until after the 2013 season, when the Phillies added Scott Freedman as a consultant from MLB's Labor Relations Department. Even then, Amaro sounded skeptical. "I don't know if it's going to change the way we do business," he said at the time, per Zolecki

That attitude helps explain Amaro's head-scratching tendency to keep aging players past their sell-by dates.

Take the infield core of shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard.

Yes, they helped the Phillies win a championship in 2008 and contributed to the success of Amaro's early years as GM.

But Amaro re-signed Rollins to a three-year deal with a vesting option for a fourth year after the 2011 season, agreeing to pay the veteran through his age-36 campaign. And, much more infamously, he handed a five-year, $125 million extension to Howard in 2010, a full two seasons before the first baseman's existing contract was set to expire.

Hindsight is 20/20. But considering how far Howard's stock has fallen in the intervening years, that will go down as one of the more boneheaded baseball decisions in recent memory.

Then there was the string of big-money deals and extensions Amaro handed to starters Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Yes, all three contributed, spectacularly so in the cases of Lee and Halladay. But all three ultimately became albatrosses, as Halladay and Lee succumbed to injury and decline and Papelbon curdled into a distracting malcontent.

Even when Amaro engineered deals as the rebuild finally lurched forward, it often seemed like too little, too late.

To pick one example: We'll never know what the Phillies could have gotten for Utley at the deadline last year, when he made the All-Star team, rather than this season, when he was a recently injured shell of his former self and yielded a couple of interesting but unspectacular prospects from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But it would've behooved the Phillies to find out (granted, Utley did have a no-trade clause).

The same holds for Papelbon and, to a much lesser extent, Cole Hamels, both of whom Amaro shipped out this summer but whose names popped up in frequent rumors last year as well.

Writing for FoxSports.com, Mitch Goldich summed it up neatly.

"One of the common criticisms levied against Amaro is that he doesn't seem to have a plan," Goldich noted. "I'd argue it might be more hopeless than that. That even if he did have a plan, there's no guarantee he'd have the discipline to stick to it. Even when he knew the right thing to do, he couldn't help himself."

We could go on re-counting blunders (the lopsided swap that sent Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants in 2012, for example, or the time Amaro said grumbling fans "don't understand the game," per Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly). But you get the picture. Amaro is gone, none too soon, and the door is open for something new.

What will that be? And whom should the Phils slide into the general manager's chair?

Whoever takes over won't have to worry much about cutting the fat. With the trades (late or not) of Rollins, Papelbon, Utley and Hamels, as well as outfielder Ben Revere, Philadelphia doesn't have many more pieces to move. (Howard, with his .228 average and $25 million owed next season, isn't going anywhere.)

You could argue the Phillies would've been better served bringing in a new GM to oversee their trade-deadline machinations instead of keeping Amaro on board through July and August. 

In a way, though, this will allow Amaro's successor to hit the ground running. Even if they didn't always net the biggest possible return, the Phillies restocked a farm system that ESPN's Keith Law ranked No. 25 in baseball before the season.

In particular, the trio of prospects acquired in the Hamels dealright-hander Jake Thompson, outfielder Nick Williams and catcher Jorge Alfaro—should help a once-barren system bear fruit.

Add third baseman Maikel Franco, right-hander Aaron Nola and closer Ken Giles, plus shortstop J.P. Crawfordthe Phils' No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.comand you have an emerging core any executive should be able to build around.

The new GM will also have money to play with, as CBS Sports' Mike Axisa noted:

In fact, the Phillies only have about $65 million in salary on the books next year according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. This is a club that has run payrolls north of $165 million every season since 2011. The Phillies aren't hurting for money, they've always been a super high payroll team, so they'll have the resources to go out and sign some big free agents this winter.

That could include a front-line starter such as David Price or Johnny Cueto, or a bat like outfielder Justin Upton.

Handing big contracts to veterans, though, was how Amaro dug his grave. That's not to say the Phillies shouldn't go after expensive free agents, but first they need to bring in a GM with the acumen to make the right moves.

And, yes, they need someone who embraces analytics as an essential facet of baseball in the year 2015 and doesn't look at them as some newfangled fad.

Scott Proefrock, who served as assistant general manager for Amaro's entire tenure, was named acting GM. But he's merely a placeholder.

In fact, as Matt Breen, Jake Kaplan and Justin Klugh reported for Philly.com, "The new GM will be handpicked by [Andy] MacPhail, who will succeed Pat Gillick as team president after this season."

And MacPhail insists he'll give his hire some breathing room, per John Clark of CSN Philly:

MacPhail will have plenty of names to choose from, but here's an interesting one: J.J. Picollo.

Picollo has been with the Kansas City Royals since 2006, working his way up from director of player development to his current role as assistant GM. At age 44, he has the relative youth mixed with a player-development background, which can help shepherd a franchise out of the rebuilding darkness.

In addition to Picollo, Kaplan floated a handful of names, including 34-year-old Los Angeles Angels assistant GM Matt Klentak, 38-year-old St. Louis Cardinals assistant GM Michael Girsch and Miami Marlins director of pro scouting Jeff McAvoy, also 38, who's spent time with the analytically inclined Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros.

No matter what, Philadelphia should target a candidate who combines freshness with meaningful experience and brings a track record of making sound, evidenced-based decisions, relying more on advanced scouting and numbers and less on gut.

Someone, in other words, who has a plan.

And so we're back to taking shots at Amaro. Really, though, this is a moment to celebrate for Phillies fans. After years of frustration and futility, a new era is about to arrive.

Whether it'll be successful, and how quickly, remains to be seen. But already, there's something brewing in southeastern Pennsylvania—a feeling folks there haven't had in a while: hope.

 

All statistics current as of Sept. 10 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on BleacherReport.com

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Ruben Tejada Hits Inside-the-Park HR After Domonic Brown Flips over Side Wall

September 2, 2015 by Katie Richcreek  
Filed under Fan News

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada drove a shot down the right field line of Citi Field in the second inning of Wednesday's 9-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies for an inside-the-park home run after Domonic Brown botched the catch.

The Phillies right fielder was racing toward the ball with enough momentum to send him over the side wall after missing it:

The two-run homer gave the Mets a 3-0 lead over Philadelphia.

[MLB]

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on BleacherReport.com

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies