June 23, 2010: What a Day in Sports

June 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Analyzing a truly amazing day in the world of sports

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Crush, Then Crumble in Loss to Minnesota Twins

June 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

I’m sorry folks, I think I jinxed this one. With former Phillie Jim Thome at the plate in the ninth inning with the Phillies up by five runs, I said to my dad and brother, “I wouldn’t mind if he hit a home run right here. We would still be up by three and I don’t see us losing this game.

“Plus, I kinda want Thome to have more homers than that lying steroid user Rafael Palmeiro.”

That was the first time I have ever rooted for a non-Philadelphia sports player when playing a Philly sports team, and I will NEVER do that again. Why? Well, after Thome launched his two-run bomb that I predicted, the Phillies bullpen decided to make me look like a fool.

With a 9-6 lead, the Phillies were still in a comfortable save situation, but some more poor pitching by Jose Contreras led to another run, and with the score now at 9-7 Brad Lidge was called upon. This season Brad hasn’t been used too much, but he had appeared to be over his season long slump this season, going 4/4 in save opportunities with an ERA under 2.00.

Unfortunately, 2009 Lidge showed up today. With two outs and a man on, Joe Mauer came to the plate. Lidge, who was relying on his slider, left one up over the plate and Mauer completed a dreadful top of the ninth by tying the game with a blast to right center field. It’s safe to say that I and the 45,000+ fans in Citizen’s Bank Park were stunned.

In the 10th, more trouble ensued. Chad Durbin came into the game and allowed a home run to Drew Butera, an unlikely hero considering he was the one who caught Thome’s home run ball while sitting in the Twins’ bullpen.

In the bottom of the inning the Phillies looked like all hope was lost when their first two batters got out very quickly, leaving the game in the hands of pinch-hitter Ross Gload.

Gload, a signing that I didn’t really like, has had an unremarkable season so far off the bench. I felt good about him coming to the plate though, because weirdly enough the last two times I have actually watched him bat he has hit home runs (the last time was in person when Roy Halladay got roughed up against the Red Sox).

Anyway, Gload took a low pitch and hit a scorching line drive just fair and just above the wall along the right field line to tie the game at 10.

When Danys Baez toed the mound to start the 11th inning, I turned off the television because I didn’t want to watch. Don’t ask me how the Twins scored the three runs to take a 13-10 lead because I didn’t have to watch to know what would happen.

As I have been saying since the offseason, I can’t believe we signed Baez and it is unbelievable to me that he hasn’t been designated for assignment yet. It’s only been about 30 min since the 11th inning; he should be released by now. In four of Baez’s last five outings he has let up at least one run. My friends and I have gotten used to seeing Baez come into a game and we would take bets on how many runs he would allow.

Amazingly enough, last time we did this was during another Cole Hamels start when Cole went seven strong innings and left with the Phillies down 2-0. Let’s just say when Baez came in the score wasn’t 2-0 anymore. Anyway, enough with the Baez bashing, but seriously—the guy needs to go.

Even though the Phillies blew a chance to gain a game on the Mets, who lost today, there were many positives today. Chase Utley definitely looks like he is out of his slump, going 3-5 with three RBI today and 2-5 with four RBI yesterday. In his last 24 games before these two, he was batting .174 with three total RBI, so it’s good to see him back.

The Phillies, as a whole, have been hitting great in their last four games and seem to have gotten out of the offensive funk that they’ve been in all month. Taking two of three from the Yankees and the first game in this series while scoring in bunches shows that the Phillies have that swagger back, at least on offense.

Ryan Howard had one of the best games that I’ve ever seen him play yesterday, going 4-4 with two HR and was a single short of the cycle (he also added a home run today). Jayson Werth has been batting over .300 in the last week and seems to have found his swing, hitting a home run today. Raul Ibanez even is hitting well, crushing a ball to deep right-center field today.

All in all, it seems like the 2010 Phillies have reverted back to the 2009 Phillies, but with better starting pitching. The offense is back to their run scoring ways, and even though it’s only been four games, you can tell that they are taking better swings and look more in control at the plate. 

The bullpen seems to be back to its unpredictable self, so we have to hope that Ryan Madson can come back soon and pray Danys Baez is on a plane to somewhere far from the Phillies pitcher’s mound.

The one difference with both seasons, the Braves and Mets are much improved, as is our starting pitching. Halladay has been what Cliff Lee was, but even more so. Hamels looked great today after the first, and he was solid in his last start, so he looks like he has confidence back.

Hopefully J.A. Happ can come back and contribute, but if not, Kyle Kendrick has been excellent. Moyer and Blanton have been Jekyll and Hyde on the mound, but you’re bound to see that with a 47-year-old pitcher.

Unfortunately, the ending of today’s game flat out sucked, but the team has its swagger back.Let’s hope the ninth inning didn’t put out the spark that the Phillies just lit.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Swap Aces: What’s the Deal?

December 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Update: After endless hours of changing stories the picture is starting to become clearer.  Essentially, the Phillies are making two trades:

– Trade #1: Phillies receive Roy Halladay and $6 million from the Blue Jays in exchange for prospects Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud

– Trade #2: Phillies trade Cliff Lee to the Mariners in exchange for prospects Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and Juan Ramirez

What baffles me in this scenario is Trade #2.  It doesn’t make any sense!  The Phillies are making two completely separate trades which is much different than the earlier scenario of them using the Mariners to receive prospects that they could pawn off to the Blue Jays for Halladay.  In this scenario the Phillies are trading Cliff Lee and three prospects (essentially 7 prospects if you count the four that we gave the Indians for Lee in July) for Roy Halladay, two prospects, and $6 million.  That is an awefully steep price to pay even though Halladay is perhaps the best pitcher in the game.

My main concern is the Phillies reasoning for depleting their farm system for a slight upgrade.  I’m aware that Cliff Lee wants to test free agency after the 2010 season and he will cost an arm and a leg if that happens so it’s best to lock up the best starting pitcher for a few years over taking the chance that Lee wouldn’t resign.  I understood the trade and why everything was happening the way it was until a few of the remaining pieces were divulged: the $6 million, Kyle Drabek, and the fact that they were two SEPARATE trades!

The Phillies are concerned about their payroll, which they should be since it would approach $160 million with Halladay and Lee, but hear me out here.  The Blue Jays are giving us $6 million.  Joe Blanton has one year left on his deal and his contract is at $7 million for the 2010 season.  Cliff Lee is set to make $9 million in 2010.  Why wouldn’t the Phillies just deal Blanton and keep Lee?  They would be $4 million better off and would have the most dominant pitching staff in the major leagues with Lee, Halladay, Hamels, Happ, and a 5th starter that is still TBD.

It just doesn’t make sense to me that the Phillies wouldn’t go all out for 2010 and work to keep Lee in the mix for this season!  The World Series showed us that the Phillies need two dominant starters to beat a team like the Yankees and keeping Lee in the fold would do give us that.  If Halladay is ready to sign a 3-4 year extension then why should he care if we keep Lee for 2010?  I doubt he would want the team to be worse considering he has never been to the playoffs in his career and would love to get a World Series ring before hanging up his cleats.

If you were Ruben Amaro, Jr. and you had to make this decision would you put together the best team you possibly could, or would you settle for 2nd best?  I know what I would do, but hey, I’m not the GM.

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on BleacherReport.com

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies Back on Track

August 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

In case anyone forgot, the Phillies did sweep the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field yesterday. Behind another sensational performance by Cliff Lee, the Phillies brought their division lead back up to five games. Lee pitched eight strong innings, allowing only one run while striking out eight. In three starts with the Phillies Cliff Lee has shown why he was the AL Cy Young Winner last season. His stats so far: 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA, 24 innings pitched, 23 Ks, and 6 BB. Plus he has three hits which is equal to the amount of runs he has let up.

Lee wasn’t the only highlight of the game.  The Phillies brought their bats out in the series and remembered how to hit with runners in scoring position for the first time in a while.  Ryan Howard hit his first home run of August and Pedro Feliz also “homered” to spark the Phillies in the finale.

The Phillies were able to sweep the Cubs at Wrigley for the first time in the last 25 years.  The Wrigley faithful had something to say about it, trying to help out their Cubs by throwing a beer on Shane Victorino as he was trying to make a catch late in the game.  Fortunately Shane kept his concentration and caught the ball while receiving a shower of beer.

After this energy boost, the Phillies traveled to Atlanta to face the division rival Braves.  Tonight Joe Blanton squared off against Braves ace Jair Jurrjens, who the Phillies hadn’t scored a run against in his last two starts.  After the Braves got out to a 1-0 lead, Chase Utley provided a spark for the Phillies by hitting a two run homer off of Jurrjens (his first of August) to make it 2-1 Phils.

Of course they gave one run back the next inning to tie the game at two.  Both starters pitched through seven innings as the game remained tied due to some tremendous fielding, especially by Shane Victorino, who made two sensational grabs in center field.

In the top of the ninth inning, Ryan Howard showed that he is back in the home run hitting groove, smacking a solo shot to deep center field.  This gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead, and it was Howard’s 205th career home run, passing Dick Allen on the Phillies all time home run list.  Not-so-lights-out Brad Lidge came into the game in the bottom of the ninth to close it out for the Phillies, who were going for their fourth win in a row, one that they sorely needed to put some more room between themselves and the Braves.

After getting the first out, Lidge allowed a base hit, then a stolen base.  Brad then threw some 97 mph high heat to strike out Ryan Church.  With a man on second and two outs, Lidge faced the poor man’s Matt Stairs in Greg Norton, who he walked.  This brought Nate McLouth to the plate for the Braves with two men on.  McClouth hit a fly ball to left field that fell into the glove of Raul Ibanez, securing the win for the Phillies!

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Win 7-0 on Happ’s Complete Game Shutout

August 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

J.A. Happ just showed Phillies management, coaches, players, and fans why he deserves a spot not only in the starting rotation for the rest of the season, but also as the fourth man in the playoff rotation.

Tonight, Happ pitched nine shutout innings for his second complete game shutout of the season. He racked up a career high 10 strikeouts as well, showing that he can be dominant. On a night where Pedro Martinez pitched six strong innings in AA ball where he fanned 11 batters, J.A. Happ overshadowed with a more dominant performance against the Wild Card leading Rockies.

J.A. wasn’t the only story tonight. After a six-game stretch where the Phillies bats were limp and the team went 1-5 while scoring a total of 13 runs, they finally started hitting. Each starter got a hit, including a double by Happ, and Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, and Jayson Werth hit homers for the Phils. Ryan Howard also recorded an RBI tonight, and Chase Utley got hit by a pitch for the 17th time this season and 100th time in his career.

The hot summer night was all the Phillies needed to get back on track in front of a crowd that acted as if tonight’s game was a playoff game. The atmosphere was absolutely electric as J.A. Happ struck out the final batter of the game, demonstrating poise that is needed out of a playoff pitcher.

Tomorrow afternoon Cliff Lee makes his home debut. He will have to do something extraordinary to overshadow his first start where he pitched a complete game while allowing only one run. Hopefully he is the competitive type and will only want to improve on his performance, and maybe try to beat out Happ’s outing from tonight.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Cliff Amazes in PhilLee Debut: Phils Win 5-1

July 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Cliff Lee sure looks good in a Phillies uniform! 

Cliff Lee made Ruben Amaro, Jr. look like the smartest GM in the league after his outstanding start tonight.  Aside from a 12 pitch walk to former teammate Ryan Garko, Lee was perfect through 5 1/3 innings.  For the next 3 2/3 innings Lee wasn’t any worse for the wear, pitching a complete game four hitter, allowing one run on a sacrifice fly.  Not only was Cliff unbelievably good on the mound, but he showed the batting prowess of someone accustomed to hitting. He went two for three in the game with a run scored, missing a home run by inches.

All in all, Cliff Lee’s Phillies debut was perfect.  Nobody could’ve asked for more. If this is a sign for things to come, I have to ask, “Who needs Roy Halladay?”  Not only was Cliff Lee great tonight, but the other player we got in the deal, Ben Francisco, had the best 1 for 4 night I have ever seen.  He hammered the ball in all five of his at-bats and got his first RBI as a Phillie, driving in Cliff Lee.  If this game was in Philly, Ben Francisco may have had three homers tonight with the way he hit the ball.

The Phillies bats were silent for the most part of the game, starting out 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.  Through six innings they led 1-0 on a solo shot by Jayson Werth. Then the hitters got patient and the bats got hot.  After two walks, Ryan Howard got hit by a pitch to load the bases, and a walk to Ibanez make it 2-0 Phillies.  Jayson Werth hit a single to drive in Utley and Howard, and the Phillies took a 4-0 lead.

The Phillies didn’t look back.  Cliff Lee finished the game off with his third complete game in his last four starts. He got the first Phillies complete game since Cole Hamels shut out the Dodgers earlier in the month.  The Phillies finished off July 20-7 to bring their record to 59-42!

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

The Beard: A Sports Phenomenon

July 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

This article is taken from my blog Broad Street Heroes, which can be accessed at http://www.broadstreetheroes.com/.  I wrote it a few days ago and apparently Bleacher Report will not let me import it into the site, so, without further ado…

What is a beard?  Some might say it’s just facial hair.  Some argue that it symbolizes laziness or lack of direction.  Others just argue that it is annoying and “gets in the way”.  These people, my friends, don’t understand the true meaning of the beard.  Since the dawn of time, men have been growing beards.  From Moses, to Jesus, it seems that the most prolific people to ever walk the earth sported graceful, majestic, scruffy beards.

In sports, the beard has taken on a meaning unto itself.  Back in the early days of baseball nearly every player wore facial hair.  The earliest proponent of facial hair that sticks out in my mind is Cap Anson, who compiled over 3000 hits in his major league baseball career, all while wearing a very dignified mustache.  On the mound, Rollie Fingers groomed one of the most perfect mustaches ever known to man, and many believe it was one of the main reasons for his success.

Facial hair was prominent throughout the sports world, but the New York Islanders of the early 1980s started a trend that has gone on now for almost 30 years: the Playoff Beard.  The Playoff Beard trend has recently come into popular culture, but most lifelong hockey fans have sworn by it for years now.

The theory goes like this: if your team makes the playoffs, you must not shave until your team wins it all or is bounced from contention.  This past year, the NHL promoted a league-wide Beard-a-Thon, where fans could grow playoff beards for their teams and raise money for charity.

To analyze the playoff beard theory more closely I want to discuss the Stanley Cup Finals.  On one side you had the Detroit Red Wings who sported unbelievable beards.  Unfortunately, they were all topped by Maxim Talbot, Craig Adams, the ageless Bill Guerin, who grew beards so majestic, that they carried the Penguins to the Cup.  Many people would say Crosby and Malkin were the main catalysts for success, but I beg to differ.  The beards were the difference.

Mike Commodores Beard led the Hurricanes to the Cup in 2006Mike Commodore’s Beard led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006

Another Stanley Cup Finals that will forever go down in history is the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames.  I remember the series because I was trying to forget May 22, 2004, when the Lightning ousted the Flyers from the playoffs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the last game the Flyers would play until after the NHL Lockout.

Anyway, the Flames came in to the series prepared, with possibly the best set of beards ever assembled.  The Flames had many redheads on the team, from Mike Commodore (whose beard appeared when he was a Hurricane during the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals) to Martin Gelinas, to Mikka Kiprusoff, who has the best beard of any goalie, all time.

In Game six of the series with the Flames up three games to two, Martin Gelinas scored what seemed to be the Cup winning goal for the Flames.  The officials reviewed and said that the puck never crossed the goal line.  In my opinion, the puck clearly crossed the line and the Flames should have been 2004 Stanley Cup Champions, thanks in large part to their beards of greatness, but the referees screwed them.

So, what does a beard symbolize?  Beards are a symbol of dedication, toughness, and strength, plus they are downright intimidating if worn by the correct person.  For some reason most professions frown upon the untidy mess of hair that is a beard and instead insist on a clean shave.  This makes no sense.  Some of the best performances of all time have come when people believe in their beards.

The Playoff Beard theory clearly states that if you are on a hot streak you must not do anything to interrupt that streak.  Just look at Eric Gagne during his 84 consecutive saves streak (although HGH may have had something to do with that as well).  Apollo Anton Ohno, the Olympic Gold Medalist in Speed Skating, believed so highly in his soul patch that he wouldn’t dare shave it.  What has it earned him?  5 Olympic medals and 1st place on Dancing with the Stars.

Even Kimbo Slice, a bum who fought on the street, used the beard to his advantage.  Do you think he would’ve made millions of dollars if he looked normal?  That beard of his was so intimidating it forced ESPN to let it grace the cover of their magazine.  The man went from nobody to superstar overnight, and has his beard to thank.  Look at Zach Galifianakis.  Imagine what his image would be like if he shaved his beard.  I bet he doesn’t shave it until he hits a string of three or more terrible career moves.

Johnny Damon attends to his beardJohnny Damon attends to his beard

Take Johnny Damon’s epic 2004 playoff run.  His mane of hair has been enshrined in Cooperstown (as well as the movie Fever Pitch), and most of Red Sox Nation believes that if he had shaved that beard, or if Big Papi changed his facial hair, then the Red Sox would never have broken the Curse of the Bambino (of course now we know he took PEDs along with Manny, but that’s for a different article).

In 2007, the Red Sox went the opposite route, shaving their heads in the playoffs, and what was the result there?  Another World Series title.  The Tampa Bay Rays, a perennial 100 loss team, sported RayHawks, a form of mohawk, during the 2008 campaign.  It powered them all the way to the World Series, where they eventually lost to my Philadelphia Phillies.

The phenomenon of the beard can apply to other things besides sports.  If you are a salesman and are on a hot streak, don’t shave until you miss a sale.  If your employer tells you to shave, decline.  Tell him or her that you are growing the beard as a commitment to reaching your goals, as well as the goals of the business.

As a fan, I firmly believe in the power of the beard.  Believe me, beards are hard to maintain and take endless commitment.  They are itchy, they get in the way, and they are unpredictable.  I grew my playoff beard for the Phillies last season, and refused to shave it for over a month.  I didn’t even shave until a week after we won the World Series.

During the playoffs I discussed not shaving until after the BCS National Championship because my Penn State Nittany Lions were undefeated at the time.  I decided to shave the playoff beard in the first week of November.  In the second week of November Penn State lost to Iowa, ending the perfect season and a chance to go to the National Championship.  I still feel that I am to blame because I shaved off the beard too soon.

You might be asking, what prompted me to write such a long expose about the art of the beard?  I actually came up the idea while watching Chan Ho Park pitch three perfect innings a few nights ago.  His beard is like nothing I have ever seen.  Based on the sheer size of the beard, I estimate that it has been growing since early June.

On June 2nd, Chan Ho Park had a 7.32 ERA with a 1-1 record.  Since then, Chan Ho has been unstoppable.  He is 2-1 in that span with 7 successful holds.  In his last 17 outings, Park has pitched 26.1 innings while allowing only 5 earned runs and racking up 29 strikeouts against 4 walks.  With the bullpen in shambles, it looks like Chan Ho has become the rock that is keeping them steady.

7/31/2009:  To update, after writing this article Chan Ho Park trimmed his beard.  What happened in his next outing?  Well he let in a run of course.  It didn’t cost the Phillies, but it just goes to show how powerful the beard really is.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies