Philadelphia Phillies Look to Give Shareholders Explosive Second Half Returns

July 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Sitting in my home office looking at the resurgence of my retirement plans as my quarterlies arrive in the mail, I take a glance at my flat screen TV and see that the Philadelphia Phillies are closing out another lopsided victory over the Chicago Cubs. 

As the Cubbies pull off their best Eric Bruntlett impersonation against journeyman Phillie pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, the Phightin’s performance over the last three weeks reminds me of the volatility of my 401k plans and our recent economy. 

And I heed the same advice—ride out the volatility, accept some short, downside risk in order to get long-term (uh, is a three-month schedule considered a long-tem bet?) returns.

As with any good portfolio, diversification is the overwriting component to success.  Judge the sum of the parts and not one individual stock may be having a bad period. 

All you fantasy league guys are the day traders of this world but the Warren Buffetts can see a good value and opportunities in market inefficiencies (trading deadline is a great opportunity for a short-term solution if you don’t mind paying the capital gains tax by giving up a few prospects).

Starting off the Phillies portfolio is leadoff man Jimmy Rollins.  When Jimmy was struggling in an 0 for 28 slump, the stock pickers were ready to dump this value pick like he was the next Bank of America. 

The longest held stock in this Phillie portfolio, J-Roll has paid great dividends over time.  “Look, Jimmy Rollins is what makes our offense go. Jimmy is what I like to call our catalyst” states portfolio manager Charlie Manuel. 

Charlie may have cut the dividend temporarily in these tough economic times by batting Jimmy sixth and sitting him out for three games, but he always had faith in the core portfolio holding. 

Jimmy has responded by raising his average from .202 to .236 after tonight’s game.  His year-over-year numbers may not be great, but when Jimmy’s hot, so is this portfolio.

Shane Victorino would be the Small Cap Growth fund of this group of holdings.  The first-time All Star is providing huge returns in this otherwise mature portfolio.  The spitfire strikes fear on the basepaths and when combined with leadoff Rollins, they provide as a financially sound catalyst for the big boys in the middle of the portfolio, er, order.

Chase Utley is the big blue chip stock in this grouping.  His dividends are higher than almost of all of his peers, is putting up great absolute returns, and has great fundamentals.  He would be tops on the screening list of companies looking to take possession of the four-time All Star, but the Phillies have locked up Utley well into his mid-30s and is now one of their preferred stocks.  He is the darling of Wall Street.

Another blue chip is Ryan Howard.  The tech stock of the group may provide more volatility with his propensity to strike out, but he can carry Manuel the fund manager and the rest of the picks by going on a two-week tear.  Not quite the consistent earnings of an Utley, or the career year he had in 2006, he is stook a good play to hit 45 home runs and 130 RBIs.

Raul Ibanez is the least-tenured holding in this mix of stocks being acquired via free agency from the Seattle Mariners in the offseason.

Ibanez was so hot and provided triple-digit returns in the first half of the season that his trading was halted due to a groin injury.  In his first game back from his stint on the DL, he hit two home runs.  Bought a price of $7.1M, this stock with a relatively good PE was a great pick.

Jayson Werth was the fifth, five-star stock ranked by Morningstar, sorry, MLB to make the All-Star team.  Werth would be my small- to mid-cap value play.  He is streaky to the point of white hot at times.  But we may have seen his full upside and will most likely not grow into a large-cap holding.  If you can stand the volatility, hold tight and expect solid returns. 

Pedro Feliz is my first bond holding.  The steady third basemen will decrease your overall volatility and beta by providing solid defense and a new approach at the plate by using the entire field is providing extra alpha for this otherwise staid holding.

Carlos Ruiz.  Another bond holding, his catching skills and handling of the pitching staff helps steady your overall financial plan.  If Feliz is a high-quality corporate bond, Ruiz is your high-yield play which acts like a stock—he provided strong returns by hitting over .300 through May but his average has dropped 50 percent over the last six weeks.

The pitching staff, like our 2009 stock market, has shown signs of life in the second half.  Over the last month, the starters have steadied the Phillies plan and have given more hope to postseason—this version of retirement—bliss. 

Acting ace Cole Hamels figures to be better in the second half with better fundamentals and pitch location.  I’d expect high returns from the 2008 World Series MVP in the last three months. 

Joe Blanton will be classified as “slow growth.” J.A., the newest member to the asset allocation mix, is the emerging market pick.  Posting the highest returns of any asset class year-to-date, beware of Happ for his little track experience. 

Lastly, closer Brad Lidge is the bank stock of this market needing government assistance and TARP money by taking his cranky right knee to the DL.  He has had modest returns after his returning from delisted from the index.

Charlie Manuel is running this portfolio like Will Danoff has run Fidelity Contrafund for the last fifteen years.  He is making the timely buys and sells, or lineup changes and pinch-hitting appearances. 

Not cut from the classic Wall Street mold, Manuel is more comfortable in the style and charisma of a Men’s Warehouse suit and drinking beer out a can than his peers who wear Armani and order $500 a bottle wine.  And Manuel has run as loose of a clubhouse as the SEC chairman Christopher Cox ran under the Bush administration.

So what to look for out this portfolio in the second half.  Will Federal Reserve chairman Ruben Amaro, Jr. have a loose fiscal policy and pursue big free agent pitchers? Will he try to tighten monetary policy and secure another arm to bolster the bullpen?   

Will Amaro, the first-term chairman go after the king of all hedge funds Roy Halladay?  Does he have to sacrifice the returns of the next decade by giving up Happ or a Kyle Drabek or a Dominic Brown. 

Take the cue from your predecessor and “stand Pat” on this one.  One torn labrum or Tommy John surgery can bring Hallady faster than once behemoth hedge fund Long Term Capital. 

Will their signing of diva Pedro Martinez be enough to decrease the volatility of the fifth spot in the rotation?  The REIT pick of this portfolio, Pedro is the noncorrelated asset in this locker room.  Let’s hope this REIT doesn’t default like the domestic commercial real estate market. 

After a June gloom that resembled 2008 stock returns, this portfolio has come to life.  The Phillies were a hostile takeover candidate of the American League by going 1-8 on against the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles, the Phillies in high volume trading were being dumped by day traders faster than AIG last October. 

However, their 12-1 record and nine wins in a row is a leading indicator of the second half succes.  Their one game lead over the Marlins going into the last week before the break has ballooned into a 6.5 lead in the National League East.

So like any good financial advice, it takes discipline and patience to be a Phillies fan.  If you have the intestinual fortitude for this grouping, you may very well be able to toast your stocks, um, Phillies, come October

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Raul Ibanez Situation Should Bring New Responsibility to New Media

June 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

I was taught at a young age the following (albeit slightly altered) phrase—opinions are like bassholes.  Everyone has one. 

In today’s age of new media, the traditional media’s version of this phrase would be to substitute blogs with bassholes.  And their opinion of what is, uh, spewed out from bloggers is much the same as the original phrase.

In the age of new media gaining broader exposure and more mainstream (deserved or not) success, it is time for bloggers to take their craft to a new level of responsibility and professionalism. 

This situation is rearing it’s head in light of blogger’s JRod’s post on and the suspicion of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Raul Ibanez use of steroids:

“…the 37-year old Ibanez has been so good that it has led to the inevitable speculation that his improvement may be attributable to factors other than his new lineup, playing in a better ballpark for hitters, or additional maturation as a hitter. In this day and age of suspicion at any significant jump in numbers, even over small sample sizes, it is what it is—and such speculation is to be expected.”

Now, I think what JRod posted is what many people have been afraid to admit.  Any time a major league baseball player puts up big numbers they will be suspected of steroid use. 

It is largely unfair. Nor do I think JRod has an axe to grind against Raul Ibanez, the Phillies, or bald 37-year olds for that matter.

Ibanez is hitting in pitcher’s friendly Citizens Bank Park.

He is hitting behind (and for a brief while in front of) big fly basher, RBI machine, and former MVP Ryan Howard.  He always has men on base with Shane Victorino and Chase Utley setting the table. 

He is in a new league where pitchers do not know him as well.  He has played 12 stinking games against the god-awful Washington Nationals!

(Sidebar:  David Wright of the New York Mets hit his first home run in 100 at-bats on Tuesday.  Because he has a home run drought, is he to be suspected of being on steroids last year?)

There are times when players have a hot hand (I recall watching LeBron James scoring 16 points in less than three minutes in a game back in March), a hot month, or a career year. 

There are times when as a hitter you are seeing the ball so well, and it looks like one of those beach balls bouncing around in the crowd at Dodger Stadium. 

This white-hot feeling is fleeting and can extend for a short period of time (maybe a few at-bats).  Or it can last for a season. 

And for bloggers—many of which didn’t have any relative success as athletes themselves at a high level—this feeling cannot be related to.

In another posting on this Web site (and many contributing comments), the writer takes a few digs at the traditional media (including ESPN) and why they didn’t expose the abuse of steroids and PEDs in the ’90s during the home run heyday of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Firstly, there wasn’t an empirical proof that there was abuse.  Everyone mused about it. 

People would speculate.  When one athlete was jobbed about it, his response was “I’ve been lifting weights, dude, lifting.” 

It was part of the culture the same way uppers and greenies and everything else was part of the culture in the NFL in the early ’80s.

But let’s ponder this a bit more.  Say if a beat writer strongly suspected a player of using steroids and expressed his incorrect opinion much like JRod did. 

Would said beat writer be able to walk into the clubhouse the next day and be able to interview that player again? 

Would he have the trust of the remaining players on the club to get an interview? 

Would he be able to hang around the batting cage during pregame to pick the mind of the manger or hitting coach? 

Would he be able to continue his job with any level of success and would his newspaper keep him on the beat? 

The answer, of course, is a resounding no.

Heck, he may have to get a police escort down the clubhouse walkway for his own safety.

The point is that bloggers—the ire of beat writers—don’t have to look anyone in the eye.  They don’t have to do their due diligence and be accountable. 

They can write, click, post, and do it all over again, and it is held as public opinion and open for debate.  It is dangerous for all involved.

The beat writers used to aim their displeasure towards the local TV media with their slick hair and tailored suits. They often showed up at the park in the second inning and left in the seventh. They never asked players questions and are seldom inside of a locker room.

Bloggers, welcome yourselves as the newer, tech-savvy version of TV media.  You are everything they are without the salary, the suit, and the attractive weather girl to their left.

And besides, the newspapermen are becoming extinct with the industry facing unprecedented challenges.  In an industry that lost 9,000 jobs from the first of this year, they might be a bit on edge and concerned they will have to sell insurance for a living.

If bloggers are going to be relevant, then there has to be a heightened sense of responsibility and professionalism.  Write your column with a sense of style and correct grammar (I can’t stand reading an article on this site that reads like a conversation a guy is having in his frat house). 

Understand your article can be found anywhere and some 7-year-old Phillies fan in Bucks County, Penn. thinks Ibanez is on steroids.  If you’re going to stake a claim, have proof. 

If you’re going to opine, don’t provide paragraphs upon paragraphs and charts to back up one theory of why a guy is having a career year.  Having an opinion is integral to being a columnist/blogger, but it has to be done with integrity. 

And finally, please, please, please continue to learn the game and not just the numbers behind it.  Become credible.

After all of this, there are several facts.  No one can say that Raul Ibanez is on steroids. (For the record, I don’t think so, and everything I hear is that he is a class individual.)

Bloggers are here to stay.  And many of them, unfairly or not, will be continued to be thought of as bassholes.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

The Honor Is All Ours, Harry

April 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

April 13, 2009.

This will be a date that every Philadelphia sports fan will always remember where they were. It ranks up there with World Series wins, Stanley Cup Championships, and championship parades.

The day the Voice spoke no more.

Harry Kalas passed on Monday in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park before the Phillies opened a series with the Washington Nationals. Our lives are forever changed.

One of the luxuries of this Web site is that there are no deadlines.  There are no ninth inning winning home runs that make you scramble to write a new lead. We can sit in our living room or office or Starbucks and write at our own pace. With the number of Harry memories that I am privileged to have, it has taken me this much time to put together.

If you are under the age of 40 and grew up in the Philadelphia area, all you have ever known is Harry the K. His voice is synonomous with the Phillies. Heck, he has been the face of the Phillies.  

Harry and Whitey were mostly on the radio in the 70s and 80s.  If there was ever a romance between the listener and the announcer, then Harry was the matinee idol.  I think back to falling asleep as a kid to Phillies games in the 70s, Harry and Whitey’s priceless back-and-forth banter leaving a smile on my face and hoping to hear a timeless Harry home run call.

I remember listening to Harry in the car driving home from my own baseball games. After particularly good games, I would dream that Harry would one day belt out, “Swing and a long drive, that baby’s OUTTTA here!” for me, like he has done thousands of times for hundreds of others.  

On particularly bad nights, his voice was representative of the surrogate family member in the car, comforting me and breaking the silence of a quiet and disappointing drive home.

Harry was with us everywhere. The Jersey shore. The Schuylkill Expressway when trying to beat the crowd home. In young kid’s bedrooms. In work lunch rooms. In cars sitting in traffic on I-95. I can even remember tuning in to listen to Harry in Martinsville, Va.  He represented home and needed a friendly voice.

In later years, I was fortunate to work in the Phillies’ front office and meet the broadcasting legend. He was truly a kind soul and a gentleman to everyone.

Harry was all substance and no schtick.  He was graceful, he was professional.  He had a voice for the ages.  Harry was wonderful with the dramatic (“Struuuck him out!).  But his brilliance was interweaving his Midwestern style and charm in a 7-1 loss for a team that was 20 games out of first.  He captured our attention and captured our hearts.

I will always remember where I was for Harry’s 500th home run call for Mike Schmidt.  I will always remember where I was for Harry’s 2008 World Series call. And I will always remember where I was when I heard the legend died. 

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies