Should the Philadelphia Phillies Trade Franchise Cornerstone Chase Utley?

July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Fan News

Chase Utley is one of the greatest players in Philadelphia Phillies history, yet suddenly, with a season going nowhere and an aging roster in need of a serious reboot, Utley has become one of the most polarizing players as well.

The summer is slipping away in Philadelphia, and there are months to go before a meaningful football game will be played. There is only so much talk of the offseason moves by the Flyers and Sixers that Philly sports fans can take. The Phillies, and all their warts, dominate the airwaves.

The hot topic has shifted from “buy or sell” to “who can we sell,” with Utley being one of the top names—and hottest debates—on the list.

The Phillies have been the alpha dog in town since winning the World Series in 2008, mostly because the fans believed the baseball team had the best chance to bring another title to a city that has hosted just one parade in the last 30 years. People in Philly will never forget that parade, in part because it meant so much to the town and in part because of Chase Utley’s epic “world f*cking champions” speech on the dais.

Utley was a hero on that championship team before his three-sheets-to-the-wind speech at Citizens Bank Park, but he became an instant legend after it.

As wildly inappropriate as it was—someone think of the children, and all that—Utley said what everyone in town was feeling. F*cking finally, or as the team put on as many t-shirts as they could print…Phinally

Utley had just three hits in that World Series, batting .167 in the five-game series over Tampa Bay, but on the strength of two home runs, five runs scored and four driven in, he has long been considered one of the 2008 World Series heroes.

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t live around Philly how much Utley has meant to the city. There is seemingly at least one kid named Chase in every grade school classroom in the area. Hell, my next-door neighbors named their dog Utley. Is there a more fitting honor than that?

For some reason—for many reasons—fans in Philadelphia aren’t able to let that guy go, even though that guy, and at least that player, has been gone for a long time.

The 2008 World Series was a blessing for Philadelphia, but the aftermath has felt like something of a curse. The team overspent on far too many contracts, paying too many players more than it should have as a thank you for helping bring a title to the town. The Phillies gave Jamie Moyer a sweetheart deal after the World Series, so it was no surprise when someone as important as Ryan Howard got $25 million per year for what feels like eternity.

The Howard contract, more so than the other megadeals that have come since to the likes of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, has felt like a tightening noose around the neck of the franchise. 

And yet at times over the last four seasons, it has felt like Utley, more than Howard or any other player, has been the one holding the team hostage.

Fans seem willing to accept (or excuse) the fact that Utley’s knee injuries set the team back in spring training for two straight years, forcing management to make decisions with the roster it may not have done had Utley been healthy or, at the very least, more forthright with his inability to get on the field.

Freddy Galvis looked like he could be the replacement to Jimmy Rollins before the 2012 season, but the Phillies decided to re-sign Rollins to a fair-market deal in part because nobody knew what the hell was going to happen with Utley.

A few seasons later, and nobody seems upset that Rollins may be dealt, despite his long-standing, deep connection to Philadelphia and the Phillies franchise, but it feels like half the city is up in arms about Utley moving on. 

This should not be an emotional decision. This should be about baseball, for all the players, but especially Utley. 

When he is on the field, there are few players better than Utley at any position. Utley will certainly go down in history as one of the best second basemen of his generation, but his inability to stay in the lineup is as much a part of his career narrative as his production when he’s there. 

Since 2010, Utley has played in 355 of a possible 570 regular-season games.

Over the last three-and-a-half seasons, Utley has been out of the lineup for 215 games, a number that equates to missing an entire season and a third of another.

Let’s face it: Utley has made it pretty easy to calculate his value over a replacement player when the Phillies have needed a replacement for him so damn often. (Note to SABR heads: It’s a joke. Sadly.)

There is no denying the value Utley has provided to the Phillies in his career and how he has been able to maintain that production despite missing so much time. From Todd Zolecki at

Utley, 34, is the heart and soul of the clubhouse, respected by everybody that has pulled on a uniform. He is in the final year of a seven-year, $85 million contract. He missed a month this season because of a strained right oblique and missed much of the previous two seasons because of knee injuries, but he is hitting .284 with 10 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs, 30 RBIs and an .866 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. If Utley had enough plate appearances to qualify, his OPS would be tied with Robinson Cano for the third best among second basemen in baseball. His .517 slugging percentage is his highest since a .535 mark in 2008.

Filed under the rule of “that’s baseball,” through 84 games, the Phillies were 25-30 with Utley in the lineup and 15-14 with him out, according to Baseball-Reference. As good as his numbers have been this season, they haven’t meant a whole lot in terms of victories. Of course, that hasn’t always been the case. 

In 2012, the Phillies were 43-38 in games Utley started and 38-43 in games he didn’t. The year prior, when the Phillies won a franchise-best 102 games, the team was 64-36 (.640) when Utley started and 38-24 (.612) in the other games. In 2010, they were 68-46 (.596) in his starts and 29-19 (.604) over the rest of the season. 

Maybe it all means nothing. 

Since reaching back-to-back World Series, winning one in 2008 and falling to the Yankees despite Utley’s best efforts to almost single-handedly secure another title—he had a ridiculous 1.448 OPS and 22 total bases in 25 plate appearances over the six games—the Phillies are 228-150 (.603) in regular-season games Utley starts and 120-100 in the others (.545).

(Note: The Phils are actually 230-156 (.596) in games Utley plays and 118-94 (.556) in games he does not appear, but factoring in pinch-hit appearances or late-inning replacements didn’t seem as practical.) 

The Phillies have been a much better team when Utley is in the lineup. There is no debating that, especially when you factor in the production of the players the Phillies have employed in his stead. 

Still, before the end of last season, which saw Roy Halladay shelved, Ryan Howard also out with injury and a rash of other roadblocks back to the playoffs, the Phillies had a winning percentage in the games without Utley that would have qualified them for the playoffs each of the previous two campaigns.

The Phillies have been better with Utley, but until last year, the team was always still good

Now, even with Utley, it’s hard to consider anything “good” about this Phillies team. Sure, there are some good parts—Cliff Lee, for example, is still good—but the sum of all the parts leaves something to be desired.

Why not, then, trade some of those good (read: valuable) parts before it’s too late? 

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is certainly entertaining offers for whatever parts he has worth value to potential playoff clubs. Hovering just outside the playoff race for most of the season, the Phillies have been at or below .500 for most of the year, needing to make up eight games on a field of four teams vying for the wild cards in the National League. Time is running out. 

If the Phillies want to make a run at the National League East, they have to make up 9.5 games on the Braves and 2.5 games on the Nationals. In other words, if the Phillies play .700 ball the rest of the season, they would finish with 95 wins, which means the Braves would still win the division by one game based on their current winning percentage on the season (.590). 

Remember, the Phillies are notoriously a second-half team. Still, even the run in 2010 to go from 41-37 to 97 wins saw a late summer surge of .667 baseball. Last season had the Phillies in last place at this time and their second-half run got them to 81-81, but even that run, while nine games over .500, was just a .556 winning percentage 

This Phillies team is not capable of playing .700 baseball the rest of the way, or even .600 baseball the rest of the way, which probably still wouldn’t be good enough to pass the teams in line for the two wild-card positions.

This team is as mediocre as its record states, which is why it makes sense to dump the players who might bring back something in return. Utley may have value, even in a low-level prospect, which will give the team more in return than him playing out the string at second base for as many more games as his body can tolerate this season.

The Phillies have made a lot of bad moves under Amaro, but few would be as ridiculous as re-signing Utley to be the starting second baseman next year. Utley will surely be seeking a multi-year deal, and the idea of the Phillies entertaining the notion of paying Utley tens of millions of dollars over multiple seasons, when he can’t even make it through a full season in his early 30s, is a recipe for disaster.

As important as Utley has been to the city, it’s time to let him go in hopes that he still has enough value to bring something back in return.

Hell, even if he doesn’t, it might make sense to give him a chance to win another ring with a contender this season as a thank you for years of service. If, you know, you’re into that kind of sentimental stuff. 

The Utley that was a borderline Hall of Famer isn’t coming back, even if his numbers—when healthy—suggest he could. The Phillies can’t afford to bring him back next year as a player they would need to rely on to play every day. He isn’t that guy anymore. They aren’t that team anymore.

Sentiment has no place in the business side of baseball, which is a concept the Phillies front office failed to understand when handing out post-World Series contracts the last five years. The team needs to rebuild, and if Howard’s contract precludes them from trading him, they should look to get as much value from the other players around him as possible. 

Sure, it will be strange to see a middle infield without Utley or Rollins, or someone other than Carlos Ruiz behind the plate every day, but those are the realities of the game when a roster gets too old and injured to stay competitive. Letting those players go won’t be easy, but the time to deal with that reality has drawn near.

Fans can debate who is to blame for the Phillies’ downfall—Howard’s contract or Utley’s knees or Rollins’ lack of hustle or Ruiz’s suspension or Halladay’s shoulder or a shoddy bullpen or Amaro‘s other wheeling and dealing or Charlie Manuel’s old-school managing—but the fact remains that the team that brought the city its first title in a generation is no longer there.

Some of the same parts may still be hanging around, but the time to officially move on looks to have resoundingly arrived. That means Utley too.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Faced with Reality That Roy Halladay May Never Be Back

May 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Fan News

Roy Halladay gave up five runs on two hits in the first inning of the Philadelphia Phillies‘ 14-2 loss to the Miami Marlins on Sunday. After a clean second inning, Halladay allowed another four runs to cross in the third, leaving the game after surrendering nine runs while only recording seven outs.

After the game, Halladay admitted he has been battling shoulder soreness. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro told reporters the Phillies will have no choice but to put Halladay on the disabled list.


We’re likely to have to put Doc on the DL. Up until now he hasn’t really expressed any discomfort. He hasn’t been on our injury report. But now it sounds like we’ll have to DL him. Until we do some diagnostic work, we won’t know exactly what’s going on with him, but clearly, it doesn’t seem like he’s very healthy. It was pretty apparent with his performance, unfortunately.

Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki confirmed the news on Monday.  

The Phillies had to be watching the game—seeing one of the great pitchers of our generation completely fall apart for the fifth time in eight starts this season—wondering if Halladay will ever return to top form.

Halladay told reporters after the game that his shoulder has been sore since the Pittsburgh Pirates outing on April 24, validating the belief that something was physically wrong with him during these last two outings. Per the report: 

I felt good all spring. I felt good all year. I just got up after that start against Pittsburgh and had soreness in there and wasn’t able to get rid of it. That’s really all I have. We don’t have a lot of information on it. We did some tests, and obviously they aren’t completely conclusive as to what it is.

As writers, we are asked to take our fan caps off and try to look at a player, team or story in an objective way. I’m not ashamed to admit that with this player on this team involved in this story, objectivity is impossible. I root for Roy Halladay not just because he is on the Phillies, but because it has been a true pleasure to watch him work the last few years. 

There have not been many players in the history of the game like Halladay, so to have the privilege of watching him work every fifth day has been incredible.

Now, watching him fall apart and hearing him search for answers after each demoralizing loss this year has been like seeing a member of your family slip away…with nothing you can do about it. 

At times this year, the old Roy was back, like in his seven-inning, two-hit, six-strikeout win over the St. Louis Cardinals in April or his six-inning, one-hit, eight-strikeout gem against the Pirates the next time out.

I was convinced, as a fan and a writer, Halladay was back. Sure, he didn’t have the same velocity, but after two rough outings to start the season, the former ace had figured out a way to change his game.

Everything would be OK, wouldn’t it? 

Watching his last two outings—Halladay gave up eight runs on nine hits in 3.2 innings against the Cleveland Indians in his last start before Sunday’s debacle—there were flashes of the old Halladay here and there.

In the second inning on Sunday, Halladay threw just 10 pitches, retiring the side in order. The old Halladay looked like he was back, for a fleeting moment.

Of course, that was after walking two, hitting one and giving up a bases-loaded double and a bases-clearing triple in the first inning. The second-inning success was also before the third-inning humiliation, when Halladay hit another batter, walked the next, gave up a single to load the bases and, after a strikeout, served up a 1-0 fastball only to see it smacked over the right-field fence.

Grand slam. 

Adeiny Hechavarria, the Marlins hitter responsible for the bases-clearing homerun, came into Sunday batting .169 with three RBI on the season. After his triple in the first and grand slam in the third, the light-hitting shortstop upped his total to 10 RBI, with seven coming in two at-bats off a former Cy Young Award winner and likely Hall of Famer in Halladay.

Only, this isn’t the same guy he was. He can’t be, and it’s looking more and more like he won’t be anymore. 

If it wasn’t bad enough for Halladay on Sunday—being hung out to dry by his manager and pitching coach when they left him in the game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the third—Halladay had to stand on the mound after the grand slam until the umpires could finish reviewing the play.

During the break for review, Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz trotted out to the mound and chatted with Halladay. The television cameras showed a close-up of the two, leaving viewers to wonder what that conversation must have been like. 

What do you say to the greatest pitcher you’ve had the chance to catch when you both realize it’s over? 

Phillies fans can’t expect Halladay to return and be the pitcher he once was, and after a year filled with injuries and ineffectiveness, it’s fair to speculate if Halladay will ever come back at all. 

What if he can’t get it back? Halladay doesn’t owe anyone anything. How many times can he try to get back the greatness before he realizes it might not be there anymore? 

Phils manager Charlie Manuel was asked a question about Halladay’s future after the game (via 

We always talk to him. As long as he feels like he is healthy and can pitch and the doctor says he’s healthy we pretty much…gotta send him back out there.

I think he’s very professional. I think that how he thinks is what he’s going to come and tell me. I think if it got to that, he’d come and talk to me about that. 

You can infer what “that” is pretty clearly. Nobody wants to talk about “that,” especially not a pitcher like Halladay who just won a Cy Young award two years ago. “That” shouldn’t have come this fast.

Halladay missed nearly seven weeks last season with an extended stint on the disabled list after several horrible outings in May. He was out all of June and half of July before coming back to, honestly, a similar result to what the Phillies have seen season. In some games last year, Halladay looked like the Cy Young award winner we remembered. Others, not so much.

After a dreadful run in September, the Phillies—following weeks of speculation—finally shut Halladay down with a few starts left in the season. Something was clearly wrong, and it took both the pitcher and the team too long to admit it.

This year was supposed to be different, even though Halladay had a woeful time in spring training trying to find his command and getting his velocity anywhere close to what he needed to be effective at the major league level. Some pundits suggested the Phillies should have left Halladay in extended spring training when the team came back up for the regular season, certain something had to be wrong with him.

Halladay kept insisting he was fine physically, and the team had no other choice but to believe him.

Think about the predicament the Phillies brass were in having to trust that one of the greats in the history of the game could work through his problems when performance after performance is indicating he can’t.

Then, after two horrible starts to begin the regular season and a trip to the DL or demotion from the rotation looming with another bad outing, the guy pitched three straight gems.

We were all fooled into thinking he was back because we wanted to be. 

Nobody thought he was the same Halladay as 2009 or 2010, but if anyone could find a way to get guys out with the stuff he had left, it was Doc.

Maybe we were the ones losing it. 

When Halladay was pulled on Sunday, he kept his back turned away from the dugout until Manuel lumbered all the way out to the mound to take the ball. 

Halladay walked off to a smattering of groans, boos—most of the boos were likely directed at Manuel for leaving Halladay out there so long—and applause, with some fans left hoping that a cheer or two might serve to remind the ace know of how much he means to the team, the fans and the city.

“You’ll get ’em next time, Roy.”

Watching someone you love slip away is never easy. Knowing he may never come back—at least not as who he once was—is even harder.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

On Jonathan Papelbon, Obama, Guns and What Athletes Can and Can’t Say

April 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Fan News

In the last two presidential elections, several members of the Philadelphia Phillies openly campaigned for Barack Obama. Jonathan Papelbon was not one of them.

Yesterday, Papelbon was talking to CSN Philly about the bombings in Boston—Papelbon used to live near the blast area—and he said how unsafe he feels at sporting events, specifically being so close to the fans. 

On that notion, Papelbon and I agree, stadiums and the players (and fans) are not nearly as safe as we should be. The thing is…Papelbon took his clearly emotional yet justifiable fears and went…off book. Via

I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I really, truly don’t. Today’s day and age has gotten so crazy, every, you know…all this stuff going on and, you know, shoot, man, Obama wants to take our guns from us and everything and you got this kind of stuff (the Boston bombing) going on, it’s a little bit insane for me, man. I really don’t even know how to take it.

OK, look, I know that gun control is a big issue in society right now and I know that there are a lot of people in this world who actually believe the president is trying to take away their guns. I also get that Papelbon is legitimately scared after a street he walked down for years was bombed. But to somehow correlate the two into a sound bite about the safety of being in a stadium is severely wrong-headed for a baseball player in that situation.

Again, I agree with Papelbon that stadiums aren’t safe enough and it doesn’t take much for a maniac in the stands to attack a player who is shaking hands, signing autographs or giving a few high-fives. This is a different world we live in than when most of us were kids. The rules—and in some cases the access and ability to interact with celebrities—have to change.

But what in the world does that have to do with Obama, or guns, or Obama taking our guns? Does the Phillies closer want to start packing in the bullpen? Those fans on Ashburn Alley in Philly can get pretty rowdy late in the game, but he tried to combine two very disparate topics into one talking point.

The gun control debate is our nation’s most polarizing issue right now, so it’s no surprise a famous athlete would use his stature in the community—and his ability to talk into a microphone and have everyone in the country hear him—to share his thoughts.

But…well…should he? 


Athletes speaking their minds

Should Papelbon have mentioned Obama taking our guns away at all, let alone in the context of the Boston bombing?

Let’s answer that two ways.

First, specifically: No. Papelbon was a moron for saying the line he did, even if it was in context of a confusing and emotional time for him. The president is not actually going door to door with a bucket asking law-abiding citizens to hand in their firearms. That’s not even close to what the gun control debate really is, and for someone like Papelbon to make a flippant comment like that on television doesn’t help anything.

Now, more generally: Was Papelbon right to make a comment, any comment, about today’s hottest political fight? Yes and no.

Yes, Papelbon is entitled to his opinion and if someone is going to put a microphone in front of his face and ask him about a societal issue—the Boston bombing is certainly a societal issue—he is entitled to use that time to make his point. If Jimmy Rollins and other members of the team can stand hand in hand with Obama at a rally on an off day, Papelbon is well within his limits to say something before a game that may not jibe with the current path our President hopes policy will go.

And then there’s the “no” side of whether or not he should have commented. It’s the same “no” that would pertain to Rollins or any other player on a team sport who delves into political commentary.


Can sports be apolitical?

Republicans buy shoes too,” is the old saying attributed to Michael Jordan about his not speaking out on societal or political issues. That is the go-to line whenever athletes jump into political pools. More to the point of this specific issue with Papelbon, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and the wholly apolitical not only buy shoes, but shirts, jerseys, caps and tickets to support their local teams.

We want to root for our favorite teams without having to necessarily agree with the beliefs of the players, coaches or owners.

If you are a liberal in the Philadelphia area, you must hate the comment Papelbon made this week, making it difficult to root for the guy the next time he comes in to close a game. 

Last year when Rollins was stumping around town for President Obama, the conservative fans must have been incredibly annoyed as well. Hearing an athlete talk politically forces fans to acknowledge that players have affiliations outside of our favorite team. 


The greater issue

This concern isn’t just about guns, or Papelbon. Players on the same team have different views on the same topic, and it’s up to fans to either ignore those beliefs or make a conscious decision to root for (or against) that player accordingly. 

I don’t want to suddenly make this a story about Tim Tebow, but he is the best example of an athlete with a set of beliefs—religious, political or otherwise—shaping his fanbase. It can be hard to root for a team when you know a player on the roster has different beliefs than you. You know that his personal success earns him more fame and more money, both of which can be used to spread the word of those beliefs.

In a way, rooting for him to help the team can be a tacit approval of everything else. At the same time, he’s just one member of a team that includes many other players, some of whom feel the exact opposite. Are we, as fans, just supposed to ignore it all?

Most fans root for a team because that team plays the closest to our house. That’s how we usually choose our sports allegiances: proximity and familial lineage. For generations, sports fans haven’t cared who owns the team or how they got the money to afford a professional sports franchise in the first place. The team is close, we can go to the games and watch them on TV, and the rest never mattered.

We love our local athletes if they can hit, run and pitch better than the guys from the other city, even if the players on that team are actually more likable guys or fall in line closer to our system of beliefs.

We never had to care about all this other stuff in the past because the players were never this accessible during their careers. Now, thanks to 24-hour sports networks, Twitter, etc., we know about so much it makes it harder to be a fan.

Now, I’m not asking for us to go back to the era of don’t ask-don’t tell, or whatever the proper vernacular in sports may be, but I do wonder if we simply know too much about our team-sport athletes.



I know I’m a hypocrite, both as a writer and as a sports fan, for even suggesting that we know too much. I get that.

We want our athletes to be themselves and share their lives and experiences with us. We certainly want them to be good talkers, so it gives us stuff (like this) to write. So if this article scares Papelbon or the next Papelbon out of talking to the media, I’ve just cut off my own face to prove a point to my head. Or whatever the expression is. 

Just because an athlete says something we don’t like, or says something socially uninformed—such as saying the president of the United States wants to round up all the firearms of law-abiding citizens—doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want them to say it. Right? Besides, who are we to stop our athletes from talking? Writers? Reporters? Please. 

We live in a day and age where people can become their own private publishing house. If someone has something to say, they’ll find a way to say it, stupid as it may be. We should probably just embrace that.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Could Not, Would Not, Should Not Trade Cole Hamels

July 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies could not trade Cole Hamels, could they? They would not trade their lefty ace, would they? 

They certainly could trade him, as the team is reportedly fielding offers (via Jon Heyman of CBS Sports). Whether they would trade him is still up for debate in Philadelphia despite general manager Ruben Amaro specifically stating he plans to re-sign Hamels to a long-term deal before next season.

The question of whether or not they should trade Hamels, no matter how far the team falls out of the playoff hunt this season, is the easiest to answer. They should not.

Simply put, if the Phillies trade Hamels, they will never be able to re-sign him. If they keep him, there is still a chance the lefty ace will stay in town.

With the 2012 season all but lost at this point, why would the Phillies front office give up on a future with Hamels if they still think there is any hope to re-sign him? Can the Phillies realistically expect to get more in return for Hamels than the bargain-basement, rent-a-player price for a guy who is planning to test the free-agent waters in the offseason? Why would a team overpay for three months of Hamels unless they thought they could sign him?

Most importantly, if Hamels has given the Phillies every indication—the only franchise for which the man has ever played—that he intends to test the free-agent market at season’s end, why would that decision change for a new team? 

Do people really think the Dodgers or Yankees or Rangers will pay top-prospect price for three months of Hamels because they think they can take that time to sign him to a long-term deal? If he won’t re-sign in Philly right now, why the heck would he sign with anyone else before becoming a free agent? He owes them nothing.

Not that Hamels necessarily owes the Phillies anything either. He has every right to test free agency to see what the deep-pocket owners in Los Angeles, Texas, Anaheim or New York will offer him. Phillies fans should hope Hamels will give the Fightins a fair shake to match any offer that comes in this offseason. He certainly owes them at least that. 

No matter what the price on Hamels, the Phillies should pay it.

Amaro understands that. Fans are clamoring for him to sign Hamels now, indignant at the fact the organization hasn’t “done enough” to sign him already. How does anyone really know how much they have done? Just because Hamels isn’t signed yet does not mean the Phillies have not tried. 

When, in the history of sports, has a negotiation for a contract that will certainly pay more than $25 million a year been played out in public? When has a team announced in the middle of a season that they’ve offered a five-year deal worth $20 million per season, while the player wants a 10-year deal for $27 million per season, and laid out a timeline for when the two sides will eventually meet in the middle? 

When has that ever happened? Never! It has never happened because that’s not how teams negotiate with players. Keeping the fans in the loop through every single step of the negotiation process would be asinine.

Having said that, with how terribly wrong the Phillies season has gone, fans have begun to look ahead to starting the 2013 campaign without Hamels, and they are freaking out. Letting Hamels leave after the season, without getting any compensation in a late-season trade this year, is enough to rankle quite a few disgruntled diehards.

People in Philadelphia point to the Roy Halladay trade for what a team can get in return for a player it knows it cannot re-sign. Toronto pulled in some of the Phillies top prospects in Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor.

Less than three years later, the players Toronto received for Halladay are a bit of a mixed bag. Drabek was in the Toronto rotation this season after a terrible 2011 campaign. He was slightly better this year before blowing out his elbow, requiring his second Tommy John surgery in six years.

D’Arnaud has yet to reach the majors, but he has been regarded as one of the top catching prospects in the game. Regardless of where he was sent, the Phillies were set to trade d’Arnaud somewhere, as Carlos Ruiz is the everyday backstop in Philadelphia. 

Bradley was flipped in a trade with Oakland for Brett Wallace, who was then dealt to Houston for Anthony Gose. Gose, ironically, was originally a Phillies prospect traded to Houston as part of the Roy Oswalt deal. He has yet to see major-league time.

Confusing, isn’t it? That’s the roll of the dice teams get when they trade top talent for a bag of prospects.

Toronto had allegedly taken three of Philadelphia’s top-four prospects in the Halladay trade and, three years later, still doesn’t have much to show for it at the major-league level. Besides, Halladay had already agreed to an extension with Philadelphia before getting dealt, so that completely upped the price tag on his sale.

It would be very surprising to see Hamels agree to a deal like that. Again, if he is signing anywhere before free agency begins, why wouldn’t he re-up with Philadelphia?

The recent blockbuster that best compares to Hamels’ situation is CC Sabathia going to Milwaukee from Cleveland for a two-month rental in 2008. Milwaukee thought it might be able to keep the southpaw, but essentially rented him for nothing more than a playoff run that never panned out.

The Brewers traded Matt LaPorta—a relatively well-regarded prospect who has been a disaster in Cleveland—along with Rob Bryson (who is currently in AA), Zach Jackson (who is now in AAA in the Rangers’ system) and a player to be named later (who ended up being the Indians‘ current centerfielder, Michael Brantley). 

The Indians traded a Cy Young Award winner for a bust, two minor leaguers and a player to be named who happened to pan out, and the only reason the Brewers were willing to give up that much was because at the time, the rules were set up to give teams compensation if players left via free agency.

The Brewers lost Sabathia to the Yankees that offseason and recouped New York’s second-round pick and a first-round supplemental pick from MLB. The Yankees rode Sabathia to the 2009 World Series.

With the compensation rule changed, whoever loses Hamels to free agency—including the Phillies—will not receive that compensation, meaning any team that tries to sign the lefty ace will be walking the Hamels high wire without a net. 

Contrary to popular belief, the lack of compensation may be more reason to keep Hamels in Philly in hopes of re-signing him. The Phillies are smart to kick the tires to see if some team is willing to completely overpay for a few months with Hamels, but without the guarantee of compensation, it’s unlikely the Phillies will be able to fleece another team of its top group of prospects. 

Amaro has to know that if he trades Hamels, he forfeits any chance to re-sign him in the offseason.

Sure, the Phillies could work out a deal with Hamels to trade him to a contender for prospects with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge agreement that he’d re-sign at the end of the year.

Why would Hamels do that? More importantly, why would the Phillies trust him to do that? It would never happen.

If Hamels agrees to stay in Philadelphia, he will sign right away. No prospect in the world is worth the risk of renting him out on a handshake.

Trading Hamels, therefore, is a sign of giving up on him completely. Hamels has his family in Philadelphia. He walks his dog in a backpack around town. He wears Capri pants during charity fashion shows. He is very comfortable in Philly. As an adult, the town is all he knows. 

Giving Hamels a two-month experience elsewhere and expecting he will decide to return to Philadelphia is not a viable option. This isn’t his personal Rumspringa, for crying out loud. 

Letting the best free-agent pitcher in the game leave for so much as a day will be signing his walking papers for good. The Phillies are better off holding on to Hamels and guaranteeing him they will match any realistically competitive offer.

The guy is that good, and he will be worth that much money. With a TV deal that ends in 2015, the Phillies are just three years away from the biggest payday in local TV history. They should not worry about money, even if Hamels puts them over the luxury tax. He is worth the money.

So, promise to match any serious offer. And if Hamels wants to leave after that, the Phillies can hold their heads high, knowing they did everything they could to keep him.

Some fans may be upset about getting nothing in return for him when he leaves, but the mere chance at keeping him in the fold is worth taking that risk. Unless the package in return includes a major-league-ready starting pitcher, what the Phillies get in exchange will be a complete roll of the dice. 

With the season all but lost in Philadelphia, the view of the future will always be better with Hamels on the mound. The Phillies have to know that. 

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Chase Utley’s Return May Be Too Little for the Phillies, Too Late for His Career

June 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Fan News

Chase Utley is scheduled to return to the Philadelphia Phillies as early as Wednesday, and it won’t be a moment too soon. Or, if you look at it another way, it’s 75 moments too late.

If Utley does make his season debut at second base for the Phillies this week, how long he stays there is anybody’s guess.

When they take the field on Wednesday, the Phillies will have played exactly 400 regular-season games since they last made the World Series, in 2009. Utley, the everyday second baseman in Philadelphia, has played in just 218 of them. (To be fair, he did play in all of Philadelphia’s 14 playoff games since 2009.) 

Last season, Utley didn’t start the 2011 campaign until May 23, missing the first 47 games because of a knee injury everyone at the beginning of spring training thought would be all set to start the season. Last year, the Phillies were in first place by two games when Utley returned, appearing in all but 12 of the team’s final 115 games of the season. The 2011 Phillies went on to win a franchise-record 102 games, increasing their stellar winning percentage from .617 without Utley to .635 with him.

Things sure have been different this season in Philadelphia.

Without Ryan Howard, who ruptured his Achilles tendon to end last season’s disappointing playoff run, and with a host of injuries up and down the rest of the roster—most notably the loss of Roy Halladay for six-to-eight weeks—the 2012 Phillies are a last-place team, nine games out of a division they’ve dominated for half a decade.

There is a lot of blame to go around Philadelphia. Fans point the finger at manager Charlie Manuel for mismanaging situations with his lineup and pitching staff. It’s hard to totally blame Manuel, really, when his most recent managing gaffe was pinch-running Juan Pierre for Jim Thome instead of pinch-hitting for Michael Martinez. Not exactly Utley, Howard and Halladay we’re talking about here.

Still, Manuel should take some of the blame for the way the season has gone. So, too, should general manager Ruben Amaro, who has thrown piles of money at aging players who haven’t lived up to lofty expectations or can’t seem to get on the field.

Then there is Utley, who has to warrant some of the blame, right? You can’t blame a guy for being hurt, but you can blame a guy for not being forthright about his injuries in the past, playing when he should have rested and telling the team now two years in a row that his body would be ready to start the season when it wasn’t even close.

The Phillies are more than 45 percent of the way through the season, and Utley hasn’t taken a swing or fielded a grounder yet. Someone wasn’t being honest—be it Utley or his doctors or Amaro or someone—when spring training began.

Certainly, Utley will get a standing ovation when he steps onto the Citizens Bank Park grass. But should he? It will be good for fans to have Utley back, but is anyone even sure he can be productive at all?

It would be callous to suggest Philly fans boo Utley—though he was booed during a rehab stint last week after going 0-for-5 with a key strikeout late in the game—but a standing ovation is akin to applauding the way his injuries have been handled. Nobody should be OK with how the Phillies and Utley handled this the last two years.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…seriously, dude, shame on you!

Utley was supposed to be ready for the regular season this year, just like last year. As the spring progressed, more and more Grapefruit League games were played without Utley. The closer the season came, the more serious the issue with Utley’s knees seemed to become.

Suddenly, he wasn’t going to start the season and had no clue when he would return. Fans were told the issue did not require surgery, nor was the issue technically “chronic,” and Utley would spend time in Arizona working with specialists on stretching exercises to help alleviate the pain.

While the Phillies languished at the bottom of the standings for weeks with a floundering offense, Utley was in Arizona…stretching.

When he returned to Philadelphia to be with the team, the rumors swirled he could be back in late May or early June. Utley eventually left the team again for extended spring training before playing nine games with the Clearwater Threshers, just four of which he played in the field.

In nine games, Utley hit .156 with a .513 OPS, one home run and five runs batted in with Clearwater before reporting to Lehigh Valley to complete his rehab stint.

Even if people just assume his bat will come back, how does anyone know if Utley’s knees will hold up to the rest of the season? How does anyone know if Utley coming back means he can play more than every other day for the rest of the year, or the rest of his career? How does anyone know if Utley can even get through a week of major-league games, let alone three months?

If injuries can derail his career to the point where he missed more than 75 games for a team that desperately needed him in the lineup this year, who can say he won’t come back for one game and miss the next three weeks with pain? Who can say Utley won’t be back for a week and be unable to withstand the pain enough to ever play again?

I am trying to be fair. I know the guy is hurt. It’s not as if Utley just decided to take off 75 games because he was tired. Having said that, neither the Phillies nor Utley have done a good enough job explaining what the future holds for the All-Star second baseman.

That, of course, is because neither of them have any idea.

With that, Phillies fans will be left watching a broken-down former MVP candidate who, even when supposedly healthy last season, was a shell of his former self. In 103 games last year, Utley hit just .259 with an OPS of .769, both the worst marks of his career as a full-time major leaguer—by a mile. He had just 38 extra-base hits on the season, including only 11 home runs, and had just 44 runs batted in for a team that scored 713 runs.

As bad as 2011 was for Utley, it followed a season in 2010 that statistically wasn’t much better. For the last two seasons, it’s been evident his power is all but gone and, while his career average is still .290, he batted a combined .267, lowering his career average five points over that span. Ironically, the only reason his average is not any lower is because he was hurt so much, he didn’t have enough at-bats to drive it down.

In a two-year span, talk in Philadelphia went from suggesting Utley was a surefire Hall of Famer to wondering if there is even a market if the team elects to try to trade him this season.

Nobody knows if Utley can hold up in the field, even if he changes positions to the outfield or first base as a bridge until Howard returns. If Utley proves he can still hit, maybe an American League team will take a chance on him as a designated hitter who could play the occasional game in the field.

That’s where Utley is at this point. Three years ago, Utley would have been one of the most valuable commodities on the open market. Now, he has become a liability for his own team to the point that they may not be able to trade him if they want to.

With the Phillies on the hook for $15 million this year and next, Phil Sheridan of the Philly Inquirer is already floating the idea of Utley’s potential retirement at the end of this season being something the Phillies may hope for; this would at least allow them to recoup the salary they will be forced to pay him next year if he tries to play and the same thing happens again next spring.

The guy missed nearly 50 games to start last season and all but swore it wouldn’t happen this year. Until it did, causing him to miss the first 75 games this season. How can anyone in the organization trust that Utley won’t be out the first 100 games next year, even if he is able to play everyday the rest of 2012? Can Philadelphia afford to pay a player $15 million for less than half a season two years in a row?

Fool them once, shame on you. Fool them twice and they will have to be crazy to believe it a third time.

For now, though, it’s not about next year for Philadelphia just yet. Still nine games out of the division, the Phillies are just 5.5 back in the wild-card race and in serious striking distance with nearly 90 games left to play. If the Phillies get Halladay and Howard back, with a somewhat-healthy Utley, they aren’t that far off from the team that won all those games last season. In fact, people thought this Phillies team could have been better than last year’s club.

Utley will also get a standing ovation because his return brings hope that this is just the beginning of the good fortune that will soon befall the City of Brotherly Love. Utley’s return is a sign that things may get back to what we thought this season could be.

Mostly, Utley will get a standing ovation upon his return because the city loves him more than any other player in the last 20 years (in any sport.) His “World F**king Champions” speech at the 2008 World Series parade cemented his legacy as a darling of Philadelphia sports fans for generations to come, even though he is notoriously one of the least forthcoming and most tight-lipped players the town has ever seen (case in point with this knee business.)

More than anything, Utley will get a standing ovation because of what he has done in a Philadelphia uniform. At his best, he was one of the top players in the history of the franchise. Even now, his return is surely better than what the Phillies have put out at second base lately, especially since Freddy Galvis went down injured and was lost for 50 games for a drug suspension.

See, Phillies fans, it could be worse. Utley could have missed this much time for being an idiot who got caught using drugs, not just a guy who is always hurt. There’s a silver lining somewhere.

In all seriousness, how long Utley can stay healthy this time—if he can ever be healthy again—will go a long way in determining how hopeful Phillies fans should be, for this year and the rest of his career.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Nationals-Phillies Might Be the Best and Worst Rivalry in Major League Baseball

May 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Fan News

Ticket to Wednesday’s series finale between the Phillies and Nationals? Check. Money for cheesesteaks and beer? Check. 2008 World Series Champions t-shirt? Check. Value pack of D-batteries to throw at the right fielder? Wait, what?!

Before the much-ballyhooed series between the Phillies and Nationals began this week, rookie phenom Bryce Harper made a joke to reporters that he hoped to get a few boos and, “I’m excited to get up there and play and hopefully they don’t throw any batteries or whatnot at me.”

Har. Har. Or whatnot.

Harper was six years old when some idiots in the outfield of Veterans Stadium hurled batteries at former Phillies first-round pick J.D. Drew, but the story has been told and retold so many times as part of the lore of Philly fandom (yes, up there with the lazy booing Santa references) that a 19-year-old kid can use the story to stoke the flames of a budding baseball rivalry. 

Harper’s comments were the latest in a long line of yapping coming from our nation’s capital this season, most of which has been directed at the Phillies and their fans.

Whatever they have done in Washington is working.

The ridiculous “Take Back the Park” promotion in D.C. not only got the Washington fanbase to chirp up the disdain for Philly fans this season, but it actually managed to ignite the players into creating a full-fledged rivalry with the five-time defending division champs.

Now, it’s the Nationals who sit atop the NL East, with the Phillies floundering in the basement, five and a half games out of first place in a division they’ve dominated for half a decade. 

Not only have the Nationals won four of the five meetings this season against the Phillies, but Washington won nine of the final 12 meetings last season, putting Philadelphia at 4-13 against the Nationals over the last calendar year heading into Wednesday’s series finale.

This really has the potential to be a great division rivalry in baseball—perhaps one of Major League Baseball’s best given the teams’ proximity and penchant for signing each other’s former players—if only one side would hold up its end of the bargain on the field.

Yes, while the Phillies have been dominating the division, it’s been the Nationals who have not so quietly started dominating the rivalry.

Roy Halladay headed into Tuesday’s game with a commanding record against the Nats at 11-1 in 16 games, allowing just 28 earned runs in 110.2 innings pitched. Since coming to Philly, Halladay has owned the Nationals. Only nobody told that to Harper. The rookie smashed a two-run triple to right center field in the third inning, sparking a four-run rally from which the Nationals never looked back. 

Phillies fans shouldn’t boo Harper just for being really good at baseball. If fans bring foreign projectiles to the game on Wednesday, it shouldn’t be Harper who is worrying about getting hit. It should be the Phillies’ own players. (Note: We do not condone throwing anything at anyone ever.) 

The Phillies had so many chances to get back into the game on Tuesday, but left nine men on base, going just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Tuesday’s numbers were inexplicably better than Monday’s, as the Phillies left 10 men on base, batting 1-for-10 with RISP to open the series. 

The last hope for Philadelphia to keep any reasonable pace in the NL East may be the guy who helped inflame the rivalry to what it has become: Cole Hamels.

Hamels is by far the Phillies’ best pitcher this season, putting himself in the early conversation for the NL Cy Young Award. 

Sadly, most of the national headlines for Hamels haven’t been about how incredibly well he has pitched with all the pressure of keeping a floundering team afloat while worrying about his pending free agency. No, all anyone can talk about when Hamels’ name comes up is how he plunked Harper, admitted he did it on purpose and got suspended for it.

Hamels is totally to blame for creating this situation, and so far, it seems to have backfired quite fabulously (though part of me thinks he was sending a bigger message to the rest of his team than to Harper). 

One plunk in a teenager’s back, and the ridiculous aftermath it created, has turned the Philly-D.C. games into must-see. Unless you root for the Phillies, whereby watching this rivalry unfold has become a rather dreadful experience. 

Hamels didn’t start this rivalry, by the way. Things really got started when Jayson Werth took the money and ran to D.C.—a move any sensible Phillies fan can’t blame him for doing.

It was escalated when Brad Lidge, likely upset at not getting an offer from Philly after doing nothing for the franchise since his record-setting season in 2008, proclaimed the 2012 Nationals the most talented teams he’s ever been a part of. Lidge not only played a huge part in the 2008 World Series championship season, but took up space in the bullpen for a team that won 102 games (and should have won 108) last season. 

To call this year’s Nationals team the most talented was a direct shot at Philadelphia, pouring gasoline on the blaze for no reason. The subtle irony is that Werth—who has been mostly mediocre in his games against Philly (and broke his wrist in a game earlier this season)—and Lidge haven’t done nearly as much on the field as the rest of the upstart Nationals have in making this rivalry so one-sided. Really, though, the Phillies are doing a lot of this to themselves.

There is a silver lining for Philadelphia. If Hamels can help Philly win the final game of this series, the Phils will be just 4.5 back in the division and, at worst, 3.5 back in the wild-card race. The season isn’t over for Philadelphia, which clearly seems to be just treading water until Ryan Howard and Chase Utley eventually come back.

At some point, the rivalry with Washington will tilt back north. The Phillies have been too good for too long to let these upstart Nationals just take over without a fight (Note: The Braves are loving this, by the way). 

The Phillies will get their part of this on-field rivalry going. They just better hope it’s not too late to make a difference this season.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Which Is Worse: A Blowout or Heartbreaking Walk-Off? Philadelphia Just Got Both

April 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Fan News

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you lose the game.” I think that’s right. Let’s say that’s right.

How you lose the game. On many nights, the how can be just as important as the loss itself. The question for people in Philadelphia is simple: Is it better to lose a heartbreaker or get completely blown out?

The Phillies provided the heartbreak on Wednesday. Cliff Lee had one of the best pitching performances in his career, hurling 10 shutout innings against the Giants while giving up seven hits and striking out seven with no walks on just 102 pitches. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out that Lee is the first pitcher since 2000 to throw 10 innings and the first Phillie to throw 10 scoreless since fellow lefty Steve Carlton did it in 1981.

Lee told reporters he tried to stay in the game when his place in the batting order came up in the top of the 11th, but with one out and a man on third, he was pulled in favor of Jim Thome, who struck out after the Giants countered with lefty Javier Lopez. John Mayberry then pinch hit for Juan Pierre and grounded out to end the inning.

In truth, Lee may have been the best option at the plate as well as the mound.

Antonio Bastardo was given the ball in the 11th and looked to be out of a jam with a potential double-play ground ball to third, but the ball was booted by Ty Wigginton to extend the inning. Melky Cabrera then singled in the game-winning run for the Giants. 

Bay Area elation begat Brotherly Love heartbreak.

Is losing 1-0 on an 11th-inning walk-off worse than getting blown out by an archrival?

The Flyers went into Game 4 of their first-round playoff matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a three-game lead and all the momentum after Sunday’s blowout victory. Fans were bringing brooms to the Wells Fargo Center, fully expecting a Flyers sweep (Note: If you bring a broom to a game, you should be forced to use that broom to sweep up the concourse when your team loses).

In a back-and-forth first period, the Flyers had 3-2 lead with four minutes to play after scoring back-to-back goals in less than a minute. Then things went horribly wrong. 

Pittsburgh scored two more goals in the first to take a 4-3 lead into the locker room. Thursday morning, fans were still wondering when the Flyers will come back onto the ice. 

Philadelphia gave up five goals in the second period, three of which came on the power play. Sure, the Flyers only gave up one goal in the third, but that made it TEN goals in the game. 

Ten goals. The Flyers gave up 10 goals to a team completely on the ropes. That’s not heartbreaking, it’s demoralizing. 

Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky each surrendered five goals on 18 shots apiece. The Penguins scored five goals on just 16 second-period shots, making the case the Flyers might have been better served playing the entire second period without a goalie at all.

Having said that, it wasn’t like an extra skater on the ice would have helped much, as the defense just seemed to stop marking any shooters at all. It’s hard to blame either goalie when the other team is using him for target practice. (Note: I know in target practice, the object is to hit the target and shooters are consciously trying to avoid hitting the goalie, but just go with me.)

The big question on Thursday—and presumably much of the sports talk radio chatter in Philly—is trying to figure out which loss was worse.

The Flyers loss is terrible because it gives the Penguins hope going back home for Game 5. After two amazing comeback wins for Philadelphia in the first two games, the Flyers dominated Game 3 at home. Game 4 should have been a victory lap, but now the Penguins have hope, belief and a nothing-to-lose attitude.  

Still, for fans, the game was ostensibly over halfway through the game and, despite the recent comebacks, it was certainly out of reach after the second intermission. Fans had plenty of time to wrap their heads around the loss and look forward to a 3-1 series lead, which, all things considered, is still pretty great.

The Phillies loss, while just the 12th game of a long season, is probably worse. No, it’s definitely worse. A heartbreaking loss is always tougher to swallow than a blowout because up until the game actually ends, your team still has the chance to pull out the win.  

To compound the issues for Philadelphia, a loss like Wednesday night’s served to shine a giant light on the problems with the Phillies this season. They cannot score runs. An extra-innings shutout is the worst kind of heartbreak.  

The Phillies are third to last in the entire league in runs scored, scoring two or fewer runs in seven of the 12 games this season.

The bench was supposed to be an improvement over last year, but it can’t be when guys like Wigginton and Laynce Nix have to play almost every day, making Thome one of the team’s top pinch-hit options off the bench, rather than the glorified coach and great clubhouse presence he was primarily brought in to be. 

The starting pitching in Philadelphia has been great, but somehow that made Wednesday’s loss even worse. To waste one of the great pitching performances in team history with zero runs—thanks in large part to Matt Cain’s great outing for San Francisco—is terrible. 

When the day was done, the Flyers still had a 3-1 advantage in the playoffs. The Phillies are a last-place team. It’s still very early in the season, but Phillies fans aren’t used to that kind of heartache. That has to be worse.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Determining Major League Baseball NLDS Winners by Cultural Superiority

September 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

We already broke down the ALDS by cultural superiority and now it’s time for the NLDS.

We decided to look at eight metrics to determine cultural superiority. The categories we chose are purposefully general, to give us the opportunity to compare on a level playing field. They are: City Nicknames, Average Ballpark Attendance, Popular Food Offerings, Famous Musicians, Songs About the City, Famous Actors, TV Shows Set in the City, Beer.




City Nicknames 

Philly: City of Brotherly Love 

St. Louis: Gateway to the West, The Lou

Winner: The Lou? Is that serious? That’s what people call the toilet. Philly.

Average Ballpark Attendance

Philly: 45,440, 104.1 percent capacity (first in the league)

St. Louis: 38,196, 86.9 percent capacity (sixth in the league)

Winner: Philly.

Popular Food Offerings

Philly: Cheese Steak, Roast Pork, Soft Pretzels

St. Louis: Barbeque. And did you know St. Louis claims to have invented Peanut Butter?

Winner: Philly. It’s not close.

Famous Musicians

Philly: Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon, Jimmy Darren, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Patti LaBelle, The Delfonics, The Stylistics and The Spinners, Teddy Pendergrass, Hall and Oates, Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, Boyz II Men, The Roots, Eve and glam band Cinderella just to name a few.

St. Louis: Fontella Bass, Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow, Michael McDonald, Ike Turner, Tina Turner, Akon, Nelly.

Winner: If this was the ’60s it would be tough. Chuck Berry, the Turners, Fontella Bass? Wow, that’s an incredible list. But the Philly oldies are just as good, plus ’90s stars like Will Smith and Boyz II Men. More recently, The Lou is putting Akon and Nelly up against the Roots? The Roots?

Winner: Philly.

Songs About The City

Philly: You’ve heard all these: “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen, “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John, “Motown Philly” by Boyz II Men, “Summertime” by Will Smith. Have you heard this by James Taylor and Mark Knopfler:

St. Louis: Nelly did a song about his hometown. Jewel did something about St. Louis too. But how can we not put this one…

Winner: Philly in a landslide.

Famous Actors

Philly: Will Smith, Bradley Cooper, Kat Dennings, Kim Delaney, Kevin Bacon, Seth Green, Richard Gere, which I admit I never knew, Rob McElhenney, Blythe Danner, Holland Taylor, Linda Fiorentino, Bob Saget, Kelly Monaco, John Doman of The Wire, Kate Flannery of The Office, Gary Dourdan, Danny Bonaduce, David Boreanez, Grace Kelly, Jack Klugman and Bill Cosby. And that’s just a few of the names I found.

St. Louis: Does St. Louis have the edge here? No, but it’s not a bad list, including John Hamm, John Goodman, Kevin Kline, Robert Guillaume, Vincent Price, Redd Foxx, Scott Bakula, Linda Blair, Nell Carter, Kate Capshaw and Fred “Re-Run” Berry headline the list. Yes, Re-Run from What’s Happening.

Winner: Philly.

TV Shows Set in the City

Philly: There are a lot of shows set in and around Philly, including dramas like Cold Case, Body of Proof, Thirtysomething, plus long-running soaps like All My Children and One Life to Live. But seriously, do I need to go beyond Boy Meets World, It’s Always Sunny and Fat Albert?

St. Louis: After MASH, The Baxters and The John Larroquette Show, it’s depressing. There has to be something I’ve missed. Where did Alf take place? California? Darn.

Winner: Philadelphia.


There are a ton of great microbrews in both, but we’re sticking with the big names.

Philly:, Yuengling. America’s oldest brewery.

St. Louis: The entire Anheuser-Busch enterprise. Oh, wait, aren’t they owned by a Belgian company now?

Winner: Philly. 

Cultural Superiority: 8-0 Philly. And I swear it has nothing to do with where I live.




City Nicknames

Milwaukee: According to this, a lot: Brew City, Milwacky, Miltown, Mildoggy, Ma-waukee, Cream City, Milburg, The Mil, Mill-e-wah-que.

Phoenix: Valley of the Sun

Winner: More fun to say? Mill-e-wah-que.

Average Ballpark Attendance

Milwaukee: 37,918, 90.5 percent capacity (seventh in the league)

Phoenix: 25,992, 53.4 percent capacity (18th in the league)

Winner: Brew Crew.

Popular Food Offerings

Milwaukee: Um…they have a race, every game, between various sausages. This cannot be topped.

Phoenix: By all accounts, the food in Phoenix is really good. Still, Mexican/Southwest food or Brats?

Winner: Brats and other encased meats.

Famous Musicians

Milwaukee: Other than Al Jarreau, it’s almost hard to call any of these people famous. Well, Gordon Gano, the lead singer of the Violent Femmes. Other than that, it’s the bassist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the keyboardist for Talking Heads and Speech from Arrested Development. Fun fact: Speech toured with Al Gore during the 1996 presidential campaign.

Phoenix: A pretty good list of names, including Jimmy Eat World, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, Dierks Bentley, Michelle Branch, Glen Campbell, The Gin Blossoms, Stevie Nicks, Linda Rondstadt, Jordin Sparks and Tanya Tucker.

Winner: Phoenix.

Songs About The City

Milwaukee: According to this post, there really aren’t any. Other than this glorious piece of television history.

Phoenix: There are a lot of songs about Phoenix and Arizona (mostly Arizona). Which would give me more street cred, embedding Wilco’s “Hotel Arizona” or Kings of Leon’s “Arizona“? I went Wilco.

Winner: Arizona.

Famous Actors

Milwaukee: It’s an odd list for Milwaukee, including Heather Graham, Gene Wilder, Jane Kaczmarek, Spencer Tracy and of course, Bob Uecker. I used to watch Mr. Belvedere every single day.

Phoenix: As surprisingly good Arizona was with music, it’s that bad with TV. Linda Carter, who was the original Wonder Woman, is from there. That’s…about it.

Winner: Milwaukee.

TV Shows Set in the City

Milwaukee: Two of the greatest sitcoms of all time: Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, until they ruined it by sending them to California for the last few seasons.

Phoenix: Alice. That’s it. That’s the list. And even she wasn’t planning to go to Phoenix until her car broke down and she had to get a job as a waitress at Mel’s diner. Alice was a good show in its own right, but not quite as good as Laverne & Shirley. Nothing was as good as Happy Days.

Winner: Fonz.


Milwaukee: The Brewers play in Miller Park. Does the mascot still slide down into the giant beer when someone hits a home run?

Phoenix: It’s a little unfair because I have no clue what beer they drink in Phoenix. Is it all microbrews? If anyone knows the most popular beer, leave it in the comments.

Winner: Their name is Brewers. They win.

Cultural Superiority: 6-2 Milwaukee. I thought it would be closer.

So there you have the National League winners. Maybe the best teams have the best area culture too.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Marlins vs. Phillies: Instant Replay, Cowboy Joe West and Robot Umpires

September 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies lost 5-4 to the Florida Marlins in 14 innings on Sunday. Or did they?

The Phillies played the game under protest after a double by Hunter Pence in the sixth inning was reviewed and changed to fan interference…and an out.

I know what you’re thinking: the umpires aren’t allowed to review a play that wasn’t a home run. You would be correct. The rules of the game don’t seem to apply to Cowboy Joe West, crew chief of Sunday’s game, who decided he should take a look to see what exactly happened on the play.

What happened was this: the Phillies went from having runners on second and third with no outs to having a man on first with one out, after Pence’s double was changed to an out. The runner, who was on third, had to go back to first. The problem is, West didn’t go to replay the call until after Marlins manager Jack McKeon came out to complain about fan interference. Following that discussion, West and his crew talked it over and went inside to check out the replay. When they came out, they ruled it was fan interference and an out.

Now, the thing that seems (ahem) fishy about this, before we get to the replay situation, is that the fan did interfere with the play, but there’s still no absolute guarantee that a fielder jumping at the wall is going to make the catch. West just assumed, based on the replay angles he had, that the fans interfered with an out.

Charlie Manuel certainly agrees, telling reporters (via

“When I looked at it on replay, they assumed he’s going to catch the ball, but assuming is not how it’s played. A lot of times when you hit the fence, it jars and you will miss the ball. They assumed that the guy being there is interference. I’ll argue that with you, too, because I played there 20 years. That’s how I look at it. At least we should have got a double out of it with men on second and third.”

Manuel is right. He’ll never not be right. You can’t assume a leaping player would hold onto that ball. But even if West did think that, he’s not allowed to review that part of the play!

“I had two managers on the field,” West said. “One of them was arguing that they wanted an out, and the other was arguing that he wanted a home run. Because they wanted me to go look because they wanted a home run, I got to judge whether it went over the fence or not.

“[Home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild] already thought it was spectator interference. So now we go look at the replay, and we have to take all the evidence that we get from the replay and that’s why we came up with the rule, which is the correct ruling.”

First, it’s not the correct ruling. West assumes it’s the correct ruling based on how he thought the play would end. But more importantly, despite what the home-plate umpire thought, it’s an un-reviewable part of the play. The only thing West was able to review was whether or not it was a home run. If it wasn’t a home run, it was a double, not an out.

Manuel questioned West’s fast-and-loose interpretation of the rule: 

“My understanding is that’s not the rule. Even if you go look if it’s a home run or a double, the defensive play doesn’t come into play there.”

McKeon, whose team clearly benefited from the situation, brought up the notion of “getting it right.” Isn’t that what we all want, after all?

Yes, we want the calls to be right. But unless the ball was pulled out of the fielder’s glove, there’s still no 100 percent certainty he was going to catch that ball. The umpires’ assumption of a possible outcome is as irresponsible as deciding to reverse a call they don’t have the authority to reverse.

Of course, this situation will lead Major League Baseball to revisit the replay rule in offseason (if not sooner), and certainly, any play at the wall, at the plate or involving a fan will have to be eligible for review. Major League Baseball can’t hide its head in the sand anymore with replay. Whether this protest is upheld—once the Phillies came back to take the lead before eventually losing, any hope of the protest being upheld went flying out the window—the league has to address a veteran umpire taking the rules into his own hands.

Not only should MLB institute a wider replay threshold, they should do what the NHL has done and make the call come from the league office. Forget about an extra ump in a booth or managers throwing challenge flags. Let someone sit in the MLB offices and buzz the crew chief when the league wants to look at a play. Then, whatever the league officially decides, stands. There’s nobody for the managers to kick dirt on, either.

The delay yesterday, which saw both managers come out and complain, an unwarranted video replay, an ejection and the game being put under protest, took more than 13 minutes. There’s no way MLB’s review of a close call would take more than two.

People clamor for instant replay, but it won’t solve anything because decisions will still be subjective. Until, of course, you take it out of the hands of the umps on the field. Or, make them all robots.


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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies