Roy Story 2: Oswalt Is Big Piece to October

July 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Phillies are last team standing on top at the trade deadline. Again.

This time last year, the Phillies added hot pitcher Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians, a grizzled lefty coming off a 2008 Cy Young Award. In the process, the Phillies dumped future prospects while bolstering an already decent rotation with 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels.

Lee added to his legend by posting a 5–0 record, 39 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched, and a 0.68 ERA in his first five Phillies’ games down the stretch to a stellar 2009 World Series performance.

The problem, to most diehards, was no World Series. Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies’ general manager, wanted to supplant the struggling Cole Hamels and helped set up a lethal rotation for years to come.

Another problem, was dealing with money. Aging veteran Jamie Moyer was owed $9 million dollars in 2010, and contracts wavering over hitters Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth put the organization into a corner negotiating the future of Lee.

Amaro solved his problems instantly by hooking his main fish–Roy Halladay, another AL Cy Young Award winner (2003) of the Toronto Blue Jays. The cost? Dealing more minor leaguers including first round pick Kyle Drabek.

The story of 2010 has been the roller coaster standings ride, frustrating fans and the Philadelphia media, entering the season with heavy expectations from two-time defending National League Champions. Aside from a subpar offense this year, the injuries to Jamie Moyer, J.A. Happ, and Ryan Madson have plagued the pitching. With Chase Utley shelved until Labor Day, they’ve been on brink of going over the edge in the standings or going overboard on selling the house, such as Jayson Werth, who becomes a free agent after 2010.

Now Amaro is going big or going home with this deal. Oswalt solidifies the rotation, and with the positive numbers on his career in the second half of the season, (56-16), there are reasons to get amped for a top of the line pitcher. He’s a few months younger than Halladay, and with playoff experience under his belt with teammate Brad Lidge, the locker room should gel in competing for that coveted third straight National League crown.

Questions will linger off of Oswalt and his endurance heading into the future. With his last ‘reported’ shot July 7, it seems coincidental that he pitched a one hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

If fans want this chapter to close on a good note, look toward the near future. Chase Utley will return, Jayson Werth may pick up slack after a sluggish mid-summer form, bench players are collecting at bats, and the production of young Domonic Brown might be the best timing in energizing the offense that is now carrying the load for an impressive rotation, just a mere three games out of the NL East and Wildcard.






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Philly Scene of the Crime Takes Place in Ruben’s Mind

July 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

This is not the movie Inception, where Leonardo Dicaprio, and a gang of New York Mets’ fans have infiltrated Ruben Amaro’s dreams to sack fans’ hopes of a third straight National League crown. We are in reality, mind you.

So, wake up and smell the putrid scent of second place and third place in the division.

The Philadelphia Phillies are on the cusp of falling off the pennant chase. They are also endangering the future of their own team, as we know it.

I doubt it takes rag-tag thieves to steal the secrets behind any team’s success or failures, especially just looking at the bitter faces of forty-three thousand Phillies fans at the ballpark. Many of which, are venting their frustration at Ruben Amaro Jr. and his decisions.

Since General Manager Pat Gillick stepped down after the 2008 World Series, Amaro inherited the job and showed gusto when he traded a boat load for 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians. Straight on to the 2009 World Series, he slayed the New York Yankees in two games but could not do much else in winning the main prize.

As fans have read countlessly before, Lee was traded away to the Seattle Mariners for minor league prospects while the Phillies swapped their own for Toronto Blue Jays’ ace Roy Halladay. The split decision left some divided like rival political parties, but in the end, an ace is still in town.

The question Ruben Amaro refuses to answer is that whether or not the moves were actually worth it now. I’d like to peg the blame on his head right now, but turning back the clocks, let’s go back to the 2008 World Series (which we still all pine for again, admittingly)to find the stitches of the past and how the present has been involved.

The Phillies were left with this rotation to set up their 2009 squad—Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, and Kyle Kendrick. But in the process, they had to resign Moyer a two year, $16 million contract to keep him with the club through the conclusion of the 2010 season. The next move was signing outfielder Raul Ibanez to a 3-year, $31.5 million dollar deal.

Reverting back to the conclusion of the 2009 World Series, the Phillies had to mangle with $8 million dollars of the aging Moyer along with debating to resign rotation horse Joe Blanton. The odd man out was none other than Cliff Lee, who’d be expected to request a large contract extension after his 2010 season would require a payment of $9 million dollars. 

Strapped with an outlook at the future, rather than heavy weight contracts of hitters Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth added on to the responsibility of Lee, Amaro pulled the trigger on trading Lee for said prospects and landing Halladay (and a contract extension), by trading his own homegrown minor leaguers, including the highly touted Kyle Drabek.

Seems as though Amaro pulled a con man’s magic trick on the Phillies’ fan base. But, that’s all he could have done weighted down by the hefty money. If you kept notes or calculations, that’s nearly $9 million dollars per year ($18 million in total) for two futile players in Moyer and Ibanez. Given the circumstances of their contribution, they were ,in terms of value, one-year deals at best.

If the circumstances above worked out in my favor (or any other Phillies’ fan, ideally), Moyer may have retired after 2008, Ibanez could have been lured to sign a big 1-year deal for 2009, and the team would have enough money to disperse to Lee, Werth, Howard, and Blanton.

Imagine it, having the rotation set up as Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Kendrick, Happ. The Halladay trade may have been executed (or not) given the outlook of the team, but on paper, a great team would be set, and Kyle Drabek would still don Phillie pinstripes. That’s a dream come true.

Back to the nightmare fans are facing now.

Will there be any chance for 2010 or 2011?

Optimists, believers, and ones with unconditional faith will say “Absolutely.” They have legitimate reason to feel confident, with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels leading the charge for ample seasons. The spirit of 2008 must roll on (and will do so) for them.

What about the pessimists? Phillies’ fans are quite intelligent and perceptive of the stark realities and what has caused the two-time National League Champs to merely stand back and watch the rival Atlanta Braves and New York Mets make impressive waves.

With the inevitable trade deadline looming, fans will wonder what is concocting in Amaro’s own mind, as his reputation, and job-sake may need a sign at redemption. 





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Phillies’ 2010 Not Quite Mid-Season Report

June 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

We’re far from Thanksgiving, but this time of year in the sports world has me comparing the feast to current events. We’re all now stuffed from the NHL Stanley Cup Finals and the tasty NBA Finals, relaxing while enjoying whatever is on television, such as World Cup action.

As for Phillies baseball, its course is still pre-heating in the oven. The All-Star Game is looming, and plenty of questions are barraging the defending National League Champions. Get your pot-holders ready.

Right now, the main question surrounding this hot-potato topic has been the offense. The usually tenacious hitting has been absent for stretches, costing the Phillies key victories. With a staggering scoring differential (93-43 from May 22 to June 12), tensions have been afflicting the organization, players, and fans. Doubters wondering how the club stumbled in that stretch from first place in the National League East to third have taken a toll on no one more than General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.

He might not deserve all the blame. Injuries riddling the team have caused erratic changes to the team chemistry and consistency.

The most prevalent injury hurting the team has been that of shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Going down on April 12 with a calf injury, an absence extending to mid-May, and then a repeat of that same injury has put a damper on the offense because of the tempo Rollins sets. With a potential return to the lineup prior to the All-Star Break, there is hope for him to aid an underachieving group of hitters.

The other major injury concern has involved the young left-hander J.A. Happ. Going down on April 15 left the rotation dismantled at times when Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, or Kyle Kendrick struggled in their weakest games. At the same time, the one-two punch of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels anchored the Phillies to their best performances. Happ’s rehab and status, much like Rollins’, gradually signals much hope if he repeats his 2009 rookie campaign.

Other injuries to closer Brad Lidge and setup men Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, and Antonio Bastardo depleted the bullpen of much of its firepower. But on the bright side, it has shown that the Jose Contreras pick-up paid dividends. As of June 18, he owns a 3-2 record, a 1.23 ERA, and 28 strikeouts in only 22 innings, which has earned him much praise as the most consistent setup man.

Although I mentioned the Phillies’ hitters as an “underachieving group,” that term may be too harsh. Still, when it comes to clutch situations, time in and time out fans have witnessed the struggles, especially from the bats of Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez.

Lately, though, they’ve fared well, after a matinee win over Boston and a hard-fought Yankees series. The fates of both outfielders, hazy as they are, depend on their performance the rest of the way. Werth’s impending free agency and Ibanez’s age have sparked trade rumors.

Struggles (aside from those of Werth and Ibanez) appeared in Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard’s game as well. Victorino’s 0-5 game against C.C. Sabathia may indicate his inefficiency from the leadoff spot, but Utley and Howard’s struggles may have turned a corner after their strong outings against the Minnesota Twins in Friday night’s series opener.

It is early to grade this team in 2010—the oven is still heating for my personal views. Let this team ‘pre-heat’ for a little longer, especially after the All-Star Break. Then, we will see if the roster is absolutely healthy and ready to compete with a resurgent Mets squad and a solid Braves team.



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Reminiscing the Rocky Saga of Brett Myers

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Ever notice that the local sporting goods stores in the decade that carried Howard, Utley, Hamels, (even) Gordon jerseys seemed to not have too many No. 39s on the shelf?

I loved Myers from his first start on July 24, 2002. I thought he was the second coming of a young Curt Schilling with plenty of spice left in between each pitch. Looking back seven years later, what’s left on the table for this former first round pick?

Myers was General Manager Ed Wade’s stallion coming into the new century. The Jacksonville native climbed his way to elite status and earned a lot of attention in such short notice. With a decimated Phillies’ rotation that needed reviving, Myers catalyzed an abysmal staff to lead a group that ultimately won the World Series in 2008.

Before I get ahead of myself, Myers’ story was far from glorious. Aside from showing worth in 2003 with a 14-9 record (and his first career shutout against the vaunted Red Sox), the following year showed signs of stark reality. Barely any run support plagued the starter to a mere 11-11 record with a 5.52 ERA. Hitters found their spots off him, tallying more hits (196) than his innings (176).

2005 was a minor transformation for Brett. He notched 208 strikeouts in 215 innings pitched. He carried a playoff contender to a few games away from the real deal, and he boasted a career best in ERA (3.72).

Everyone in Philadelphia knows by now that Myers ran into legal trouble in June of 2006 when he was arrested and charged with assault on his wife in Boston. Heavy media coverage and angry fans fueled the fire as he took a leave of absence, still managing a decent season statistically.

2007 became a year unlike no other. In rare cases does an Opening Day starter actually pitch the final out of the season as a closer. Myers did that in fashion, shutting the door on the Nationals with his 21st save of the year. It was his biggest, too as the Phillies celebrated what was to be their most adrenaline-pumping yet.

In 2008, Myers had a tale of two seasons. After struggling with only one win between April 22 and June 27, the plug was pulled on as he was sent down to the minors.

Called up on July 20, Myers was a man on fire with a 7-4 record and 3.20 ERA in 13 starts. He also contributed in the NLDS with a legendary at bat against CC Sabathia of the Brewers. 

Then in Game 2 of the NLCS, Myers embarrassed the Dodgers going 3-3 with 3 RBI’s. It was the first time in LCS history a pitcher accomplished that feat.

Fast forward to 2009, late August. He endured a nagging hip injury in May and is hoping for a return to the bullpen sometime before the playoffs begin (if the Phillies clinch a spot).

He becomes a free agent after this season, and on an unlikely return (by some), how will Myers go down in Phillies’ history? He’s been there since 2002 until now, when such journeymen like Jon Lieber, Freddy Garcia, Eric Milton, Cory Lidle, Kyle Lohse have come and gone. Is Myers a hero or just another guy on the mound? A wife beater or bounded potential? A hearty ace or a forgotten number?



Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Comparing The Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia Trades

August 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Cleveland Indians have made dreams come true for two National League teams and nightmares for most National League hitters in the grand scheme of two seasons.


In 2008, the Indians traded heralded ace and reigning American League Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers for several young prospects, including outfield stud Matt LaPorta. This move shook the NL playoff race, as the Brewers were riding with a chip on their shoulder as the underdog.


They already had a young talented ace in right-hander Ben Sheets. Sabathia proved to be worth more than the Brewers bargained for, as he posted jaw dropping statistics.


Sabathia’s 11-2 record and 1.65 ERA in 17 starts helped the duo become a force down the stretch, as the Brewers fought through August and September with a 30-23 record; just enough to taste the 2008 post season as the Wild Card contender.


However, Sabathia was overused in the latter part of September and showed fatigue in a Game Two implosion against the eventual World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.


Speaking of the Phillies, déjà vu came in 2009 near the trade deadline, as the Indians traded another reigning American League Cy Young award winner in Cliff Lee away to the City of Brotherly Love.


So far in four starts, much love has come Lee’s way.


Lee has more base hits from himself at the plate than runs allowed in his four starts, for starters. He’s 4-0 with a minuscule ERA below 1.00. Through 33 innings, he has struck out 34 batters.


Though he struggled somewhat with Cleveland early in 2009, Lee has proved himself a greater value than anyone could ever imagine. Phillies fans are saying Roy “Who?” after acquiring the 30-year-old lefty.


With a rotation deeper than the 2008 Brewers, the Phillies look to soar in strong pursuit of a repeat. It’s becoming quite possible with Lee and Cole Hamels as his partner in crime.


Hamels, who became the October sensation as NLCS MVP and World Series MVP will look to refurbish his recent lackluster performances. The rotation always has right hander Joe Blanton on the mound, young J.A. Happ quickly becoming a force, and the return of the illustrious Pedro Martinez, a former Cy Young winner himself.


Indians fans have not seen a World Series championship in 61 years. If anyone from that fan base had a desire to see Sabathia win it all last year, they have a chance to see Cliff Lee lead the Phillies to an impressive run this year.


Perhaps Lee and Sabathia (now with the New York Yankees) will face off in the 2009 World Series?

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Jamie Moyer Proves Worth Against D’Backs

August 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News


You can adjust your eyes. Jamie Moyer overshadowed Pedro Martinez in a twist of irony. 


Pedro Martinez was in the spotlight for his home debut, but the rain washed away his starting performance for Jamie Moyer to rise from the ashes as a reliever.


Whether Moyer had fire in his belly or that the Arizona Diamondbacks were rusty from the delay, some magic settled in for his surprising strong performance, his first bullpen appearance since 1996 as a Seattle Mariner. Six innings pitched, two hits allowed, and five strikeouts by the venerable lefty helped earn his team-leading 11th victory.  


Persevering through the buzz of Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez arriving in July, Moyer lost his job in the process. Pitching from the fourth inning onward to the ninth Tuesday night, Moyer showcased what he still has to offer. Is it an indicator for how Charlie Manuel should use him?


The prime examples can be when impending double headers September 13 hosting the New York Mets and September 22 at the Florida Marlins. Brushing aside the six-man rotation and the unlikelihood of J.A. Happ sent down, the Phillies may have found the perfect solution down the stretch. The key is Moyer’s happiness.


After his domination of the Diamondbacks, though, it may have been letting a hungry lion out of his cage. He feasted on everything and the young Diamondback hitters were his prey. He may have wanted to prove to General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. a point since he has nothing more to lose. If Amaro is truly obliged, then there will be positive results come October.





Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies’ Pitching Creates Fine Mess

August 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

The 2009 edition of the Phillies’ pitching staff should be associated with a few popular television shows like Full House and Survivor.

The first show speaks for itself as the rotation is becoming a logjam of high quality pitchers. Top to bottom, five starters (anyway it’s setup) have the potential to dominate a game. Along with the rotation, there is the bullpen that is salvaging late inning heroics and showcasing talent left to right, amid the frustration of inconsistency.

The latter show may be where the problem lies within it all.

Someone has to get voted off the island.

For the rotation, let’s review the five pitchers as of August 12. The first and most popular is Cole Hamels, coming off a legendary 2008 post-season. Yet, as of 2009, his brilliance has fizzled and his role as ace has been questioned lately. Cole currently has a 7-7 record with a 4.77 ERA. He’s under control with just 28 walks in 128 innings, but his 20 home runs allowed and 144 hits are warning signs.

Then there’s the newly acquired Cliff Lee, who’s coming off his own legendary 2008 (regular) season though with a Cy Young trophy attached to it. His two starts as a Phillies have proved worth and indicate promise.

Thirdly, there’s Joe Blanton. After a slow April, his ERA has trickled down from 5.17 on June 12 to 4.02 on August 12.

The outlook on young J.A. Happ is bright, as an 8-2 record and stable statistics are leading him to a possible NL Rookie of the Year Award.

The fifth and final spot belongs to the venerable Pedro Martinez. The 37-year-old might be lightning in a bottle. This is what the rotation needs, compared to the 46-year-old Jamie Moyer who unfortunately has proven that his time is just about done. Jamie lost his spot due to horrendous starts, inefficient innings, and lackluster hope that anything will improve.

Martinez is a necessary experiment that may pay off.

For the bullpen, rumors have swirled faster than twister on who’s in and who’s out. From the top, Brad Lidge’s closer role is secure. For now.

He recently blew his Major League leading seventh save versus the Cubs, yet it’s too much of a burden to persecute him. Rumblings have Brett Myers (in his quest to make a late comeback from a hip injury) to replace Lidge. Even reports of Scott Mathieson returning in the future of closer role from his second Tommy John surgery give Lidge reason to work harder.

As long as Ryan Madson remains the bridge, then our closer should feel more comfortable with just finishing off the game since his perfect 2008 is long gone. He’s not Billy Wagner or Tom Gordon. For now.

Lessons can be learned from 2009. Who knew that there could be more pitchers means more opportunities? Look at how the young and spry prospects like Andrew Carpenter and Antonio Bastardo were utilized.

The once forgotten Rodrigo Lopez was in a wasteland for pitchers (known as Coors Field) but achieved an ounce of optimism by pitching well in July for the Phillies. Although the three pitchers mentioned above are on the outs, the Phillies have an arsenal ready to strike if the worst happens similar to Brett Myers.

Give Ruben Amaro Jr. credit for piecing together a fine mess.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Repeats Don’t Come Easy

August 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

If the new millennium has taught baseball fans one thing, it’s that glory must be earned.


Whether it pertains to individual accolades achieved by individuals this decade (some of which are now scrutinized by steroids) or teams, everyone loves a winner. Baseball historically has showcased some of the greatest teams to walk the planet with the New York Yankees of the 1920s, Oakland Athletics in the early 1970s, the Toronto Blue Jays of the early 1990s, and the Yankees of 1998-2000 to name a few.


When generations down the road reflect upon the great teams they watched on sleek HDTV’s and YouTube videos when they were kids, who will be heralded as one of the greatest since baseball is inching closer to parody similar to the 1980’s?


The 2009 season is living proof that the word ‘repeat’ has become an obstacle. With the reigning champion Phillies, a cookie-jar selection of All Stars seems to strike fear into opponents. But mythic Supermen squads like the 1927 Yankees have eroded. Major League Baseball has expanded to 14 American League teams and 16 National League teams vying four playoff spots per league. Front-offices and team rosters are sporadic, free agency is tagged with Christmas bonuses, and the nature of the sport is changing with this ‘juiced’ era along with a dying breed of dominant starting pitching.


Greatness is valued top to bottom. There was a time when an ace (like Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer) would pitch 300 or more innings. Now teams rely on bullpens by committee. There was a time when just two teams faced off in the League Pennants. Now the playoffs consist of Wild Card teams (with no pushovers) hungry for a title. Before the hysteria of money-hungry agents and consumption, teams with venerable players would thrive consistently for at least five years straight, usually landing in the Championship series duel before 1995.


Prime examples of how greatness does not grow on paper can examined by a few teams such as the 2008 Yankees, Mets, and Tigers who were the top three in team payroll on Opening Day of that year. To spare the details, all three failed to make the playoffs.


With big names signing to different places and trade deadlines deals galore, the quest for division crowns becomes a real test this year. Currently, the Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, and Angels (from the 2008 playoffs) are hot for 2009 contention. Throw in other contenders like the Cardinals, Rockies, Giants, and Marlins—you have yourself a tough time deciding who’s better than who from the National League. In the American League, the Yankees and Tigers have picked themselves up while the Rays, White Sox, and Rangers are in a horse-race to knock off the Red Sox for the Wild Card. 


It’s too early to tell if anyone of these teams can achieve repeats or a dynasty, but if a team can somehow emulate the Yankees’ formula from 1998-2000, there’s likely another team nearby kicking and scratching to do the same.


Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies