Jonathan Papelbon’s 300th Save Mirrors His Philadelphia Phillies Career

June 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

Jonathan Papelbon earned his 300th career save in a manner befitting his entire tenure as the Phillies‘ closer.

For starters, much like Papelbon’s Phillies career, it probably should have never happened (subscription required), as ESPN’s Keith Law wrote at length when the Phillies signed Papelbon to a four-year, $44 million contract.

“The history of signing relievers to deals of that length is simply too awful to ignore,” Law wrote then. This season, the myth of the proven closer is taking a new and severe beating from the failures of relievers like Jim Johnson and Grant Balfour.

Papelbon’s 300th career save should arguably never have happened because, up 5-2 in the eighth inning, the Phillies loaded the bases only to see Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown all strike out.

Had any of those three “sluggers” driven a run in, the save situation would have been off the board and Papelbon would likely not have begun the ninth inning.

Then, much like Papelbon’s tenure in Philadelphia, his ninth inning got messy.

It took him 28 pitches to retire a wholly non-threatening San Diego Padres lineup that is presently dead last in the National League in batting. Papelbon had the Padres down to their last strike before hitting Padres catcher Rene Rivera (hitting .227 this season) with a pitch to load the bases.

And finally, like his whole Philadelphia story, everything somehow ended pretty well for Papelbon. He induced a fielder’s choice groundout, the Phillies won and Papelbon had his milestone save.

This too is consistent with both the perception and the reality of Papelbon’s two-and-a-half seasons in Philadelphia.

Papelbon blew a high-profile save in Texas in the first series of this season, and quickly the emphasis on his diminished velocity was all anyone wanted to talk about.

Two months on, Papelbon’s earned run average is a paltry 1.48, he is striking out more than seven batters per nine innings and his WHIP is an above-average 1.07. Papelbon only has 14 saves, but then it is hard to save a game your team is losing in the ninth inning.

And it is not like Papelbon’s prior two seasons were subpar, either. He made the 2012 All-Star team, saving 38 of the Phillies’ 81 wins that season while posting a 2.44 earned run average and a 1.06 WHIP.

2013 saw some regression (29 saves, 2.92 earned run average, seven blown saves), but Papelbon was hardly the reason the Phillies only won 73 games last season.

Papelbon’s main crime right now is being overpaid to perform a role that a team that is 10 games under .500 simply cannot afford to splurge on.

But Papelbon did not force the Phillies to offer him all that money, and neither Papelbon nor the Phillies could have known how fast the Phillies would plummet into mediocrity.

At a time when every move Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has ever made is under white-hot scrutiny, the Papelbon signing can only fairly be called a net positive—even if Papelbon is often hard to watch, or like.

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Ryne Sandberg Is Driving the Philadelphia Phillies Like a Rental Car to Nowhere

May 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

Ryne Sandberg waited a very long time to manage a Major League Baseball team. The obvious joke here is that hopefully some day, he will actually get to do so.

Jokes aside, Sandberg can be forgiven for not accepting the status quo of a Philadelphia Phillies team that struggled terribly the past two seasons largely due to the former manager’s blind reliance on the formula that won him two pennants and a World Series.

Charlie Manuel hit Ryan Howard fourth as though there was never another choice. He left Jimmy Rollins in the leadoff role about two years too long. And so on.

Sandberg‘s extended minor league apprenticeship understandably means that he probably does not feel like accepting losses in hopes that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies ownership group will be patient with him.

If anything, Sandberg‘s managerial style points to a man trying to win as many games as possible in this fallow period, right now, so that he can tell the club’s brass that he can be trusted to win games if and when the team gets good again.

Sandberg is pushing buttons with his roster like you might press every button (and the gas and brake pedals) on a rental car—hard, fast and too often.

Unfortunately, Sandberg‘s need to win an extra game or two now is doing terrible things to the Phillies’ hopes of winning dozens of games in the future.

Center fielder Ben Revere entered the season as one of the few young players carrying the potential of doing exciting things for the Phillies, particularly in the leadoff spot. Revere hit .305 in 88 games last season and stole 22 bases. Over 162 games, the projections were thrilling.

Revere has struggled with injury a bit, but right now he is fully healthy and relegated to the bench in favor of the platoon of John Mayberry Jr. and Tony Gwynn Jr.

Does Sandberg think the superior talents of the platoon juniors’ fathers are going to magically appear now? Both Mayberry Jr. and Gwynn Jr. are past their 30th birthdays and hitting under .220.

So what is the point of this move? Revere is 26. If he is not the Phillies’ center fielder of the future, fine. But you still have to play him to try to squeeze a hot streak out of him so he can be traded to a contender in July.

Sandberg‘s treatment of Revere is odd, but compared to his mishandling of Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, his deployment of Revere is totally logical.

Hamels opened the season on the disabled list. So naturally in his fourth start of the season, Sandberg had Hamels throw 133 pitches in seven innings.

The Phillies still owe Hamels, 30, $90 million over the next four seasons. Blowing his shoulder or his elbow out in this already listing season is not the preferred course of action.

Then again, at least Hamels is as of this writing still active.

Cliff Lee, 35, is on the disabled list with a strained left elbow. Hey, how did that happen? Lee is a workhorse.

Here is how it happened. Sandberg has had Lee throw over 100 pitches in eight of his 10 starts this season, including a season-high 128 pitches on April 16—Lee’s fifth start of the season.

The Phillies still owe Lee $37.5 million, with $25 million of it due next season. Having Lee’s ulnar collateral ligament start floating around in his left elbow not would not only disable him, it would completely destroy his trade value should the Phillies want to explore that avenue later this summer.

Point to the struggles of the Phillies bullpen all you like. Risking the health of the team’s two best pitchers is not an option. The Phillies lost Hamels’ 133-pitch start; they lost Lee’s 128-pitch start, too.

The situations of Hamels and Lee are so dire that no one even talks about A.J. Burnett’s hernia anymore.

To recap, Sandberg is overextending older players in his rotation and burying a young center fielder in favor of veteran stopgaps, all in the name of prodding this aging team to 20-24 wins through 44 games.

Unlike a rental car, though, Sandberg cannot just return this team to Amaro Jr., et al in September and get himself another one for April 2015.

So it is time for Sandberg to ease up on the throttle where the old guys are concerned and to let the young guys (including Cody Asche and Jake Diekman) succeed or fail over the course of a full season.

Because while Sandberg may think what he is doing is creating optimum results, the modest short-term gains are almost guaranteed to be followed by an extended breakdown.

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5 Biggest Winners and Losers of Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training

March 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

Spring training is nearly over for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Before they open the 2014 regular season against the formidable Texas Rangers in Arlington, the Phillies will fly back from Clearwater to play the annual On-Deck Series. “As has been a tradition since Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004,” says the Phillies website.

As for the Phillies’ spring training performances, they were a mixed bag. Read on for the most notable winners and losers from these exhibition games as we get ready for the important games to begin.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training Report: Surprises, Busts and Injuries

March 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

Unfortunately and fortunately for the Phillies, lately it seems that even when they do not play they make news.

Fortunately, because when the Phillies do play they have a real knack for losing. Their .294 winning percentage is the worst in all of Major League Baseball so far this spring.

Unfortunately, because the news they make is not the kind of news any Phillies fan really wants to hear.

While there have been a few bright spots—Marlon Byrd hitting .364, Ben Revere hitting .343, Roberto Hernandez out-pitching everyone not named Cliff Lee so far—the surprises, busts and injuries from Clearwater have been making all the headlines at home.

The biggest surprise is one that, in retrospect, maybe should not have been that surprising at all.

Manager Ryne Sandberg and shortstop Jimmy Rollins continue to quietly but firmly disagree about the importance of spring training and about Rollins’ putative role as a team leader.

The silently seething discord bubbled over very recently when’s Buster Olney turned in this item, including the following:

…sources indicate that some in influential positions in the organization want Rollins to be a leader by investing himself more thoroughly in daily work and setting a strong example for others. If Rollins isn’t going to do that, the sentiment of some is that the team would be better off moving him as soon as possible.

Of course, since Rollins can veto any trade, “moving him as soon as possible” depends on his cooperation.

Maybe the surprise is not that this situation devolved so nastily, but that it did so with such speed.

As indicated earlier, at least Rollins’ petulant antics are taking some of the attention away from the numerous Phillies who have struggled at Clearwater thus far. If Rollins was not causing such a stir, fans might notice that:

  • Maikel Franco is hitting .206 with no extra-base hits in 35 at-bats
  • Chase Utley is hitting .188 with no extra-base hits in 32 at-bats
  • Cody Asche is hitting .138 with 11 strikeouts in 29 at-bats
  • Freddy Galvis is hitting .118 in 34 at-bats

For that matter, the Phillies faithful might take a peek at the pitching statistics and see that:

  • Opposing batters are hitting .381 against Jonathan Papelbon
  • Kyle Kendrick’s earned run average through five innings pitched is 7.20
  • Jake Diekman’s earned run average through six innings pitched is 7.50
  • A.J. Burnett’s earned run average through nine innings pitched is an even 10

Perhaps the best thing you can say for the Phillies right now is that they are almost 100 percent healthy. It is just too bad that the one guy casting the biggest black mark on their team health is Cole Hamels, who is set to earn $22.5 million this season.

According to Chris Branch of the News Journal, Hamels “was ‘thoroughly impressed’ by his bullpen session Sunday. He threw a little more than 30 pitches and said his next bullpen should come Wednesday.”

Regardless, it will be “at least May” per Branch for Hamels to rejoin the Phillies rotation.

Hopefully, a May return will not already be too late for a Phillies team that desperately needs a fast start to the regular season to quell the understandable doubts about them.

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Ryne Sandberg Already Picking the Wrong Battles as Philadelphia Phillies Manager

March 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

Ryne Sandberg waited a very long time to become a major league manager. So you can understand that, finally having the chance to run a club from the beginning of a season, he would want to do things his way.

But Sandberg‘s way this week was the wrong way.

Depending on whether you believe him or not, Sandberg‘s decision to rest Jimmy Rollins for three consecutive days this week in favor of proven reserve Freddy Galvis was either necessary rest for a veteran player, or a message.

As is his wont, Rollins ran his mouth earlier in the week when his slow start (and his team’s) was brought up in his earshot.

“Who cares,” Rollins said, according to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. Perhaps to soften his tone, Rollins followed that sharp remark with this: “You come (to Clearwater) and you work towards getting ready for the start of the season. Then, when the season starts, things matter.”

In the days that followed Rollins’ latest sermon on the meaning of spring training baseball, it seemed that maybe Sandberg only heard Rollins’ first two words.

The day after Rollins’ apathetic quote, Lawrence wrote the following:

Sandberg was asked whether Galvis could compete with Rollins for playing time in 2014.

‘Freddy’s a guy that will get playing time at various positions,’ Sandberg said. ‘He’s a guy that I like in the lineup. I feel good about what he brings to the table. The biggest thing, I like his energy and his positive influence that he sets out there. He’s a positive influence on everybody around him.’

And what have you thought about Jimmy in that regard this spring?

‘Uh, no comment,’ Sandberg said.

Sandberg‘s Fifth Amendment take, combined with Rollins’ ongoing ride on the Phillies bench, sent the bored baseball media into full controversy speculation mode.

Leading the charge was’s (subscription required) Buster Olney, who wrote that “Sandberg, a Hall of Famer himself, has shown that he is not accepting the status quo, and the numbers on the back of a baseball card don’t necessarily guarantee anybody playing time.”

Sandberg has since let a lot of the air out of this balloon, saying today, according to Todd Zolecki of, that his “no comment” was the wrong move. “I would like to have not said that and expand on what Jimmy has to offer and what he means to the ballclub,” Sandberg explained.

In retrospect, this dust-up will easily be forgotten, assuming there are no further fireworks between manager and player.

But Sandberg was wrong to ever pick this fight in the first place.

For one thing, Rollins is the Phillies’ only legitimate option at shortstop in 2014. Galvis cannot hit enough to start at the position, and the minor league shortstops in Philadelphia’s minor league system are years away from the big club.

For another, even if Sandberg thought he could live with Galvis, he could never survive having a benched Rollins lingering in the dugout like a decomposing corpse (only mouthier).

And since Rollins notoriously has 10-and-5 rights, there is no guarantee that Sandberg could rid himself of the incumbent shortstop via trade, even if he found a taker.

In law school, professors teach you early never to ask a question you do not already know the answer to.

A corollary for Sandberg going forward should be never to pick a fight he cannot possibly hope to win.

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Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training Stock Watch: Who Is Rising, Falling

March 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

Last week in this space my message was that the negative perception of the Phillies by the team’s fans and the Philadelphia media probably was overblown.

In the past week, the Phillies have done everything in their power to prove that the fans and the media were right all along.

Look at this list of spring training results.

Thanks to the phenomenon that is the spring training tie, the Phillies are 1-4-2 in their last seven and 2-10-2 overall.

Despite these ugly numbers, quite a few of the Phillies are on the rise based on their individual statistics.

But a few of them are falling like a skydiver with a faulty ripcord.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

5 Philadelphia Phillies Turning Heads Early at Spring Training

March 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

The pessimism around the Philadelphia Phillies, particularly among the team’s fans, has probably gone too far.

Sports talk radio in town cannot get anyone interested in talking about the Phillies because there just does not seem to be that much to talk about. The Phillies are an old team that got older in free agency.

The Phillies are also stuck in the National League East with two teams (Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals) that look to be demonstrably better than they are.

Still, the negativity feels incorrectly unchecked. The Phillies won only 73 games in 2013. They should be better in 2014, though that may not be saying all that much.

But isn’t getting better the whole point?

Here are five Phillies doing their part early in spring training to get people in Philadelphia talking about the baseball team again.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Prospects Creating the Most Buzz so Far in Spring Training

February 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

What do you call a 34-year-old baseball player in Clearwater, Fla.? A prospect.

The Philadelphia Phillies strip-mined their farm system in a series of trades that brought back big names of yesterday (Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt) and today (Cliff Lee) while chasing an elusive second World Series title.

Since then, the strategy employed by general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has seemed almost exclusively to rely on the “back of the baseball card” theory. That is, look at the baseball cards of the available free agents and sign the ones who recently had good seasons.

Which is how you end up with a starting nine on Opening Day where, if Lee gets the start, six of the nine are going to be 34 years of age, or older.

At least we do not need to spend too much time or too many bytes here on kids who probably will not make the club out of spring training.

One who might, though, is corner infielder Maikel Franco.

Franco, who hit a combined .320 with 31 home runs and 103 RBI during stints in Single-A and Double-A last season, “has caught some eyes with his glove, arm and bat” in Clearwater, per Jim Salisbury of

Manager Ryne Sandberg, who could clearly use some youthful energy on this moribund team, is happy with what he has seen from Franco thus far.

“He’s getting some good rips at live pitching. I just like the way he uses the whole field. He’s not a one-way type of a hitter,” said Sandberg, per Salisbury’s report.

With live exhibition action looming, Sandberg told Salisbury that he is eager to see what the kid will do against better competition: “I’m looking forward to seeing him in game action. I want to get a good look at him.”

Salisbury’s report also indicated that “Jake Diekman, B.J. Rosenberg and Justin DeFratus have thrown the ball well in workouts.”

At this point, though, these three pitchers are not really prospects any more. They will either earn their place in the Phillies bullpen or trudge back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Again.

The real prospects in the Phillies system—along with Franco—are probably a year or two (or three) away from making an impact in Philadelphia.

Keith Law of rated the top 10 Phillies prospects in January (subscription required). The list was headed by J.P. Crawford, the team’s first-round draft pick last summer. Crawford has terrific tools (per Law, particularly at bat), but he probably needs a lot more playing time in the minor leagues before coming to Philadelphia.

As for left-handed starter Jesse Biddle, Law speculated that he “probably makes his major league debut this summer, boosting the back of the rotation.”

That’s about the best you can hope for, since the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Matt Gelb recently reported, “This spring is about education for Biddle, who will not make the team.”

Right, because whenever you can hold a potential budding star like Biddle down to give Kyle Kendrick more starts, you have to do that.

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Philadelphia Phillies Veterans Hoping Pride Does Not Precede Another Hard Fall

February 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

If you listen carefully, even with all of those snow piles still dotting the Delaware Valley, you can hear the chirping.

No, not the chirping of spring robins and cardinals. The idle chirping of ancient Philadelphia Phillies trying to convince you (and themselves?) that their time as relevant baseball players is not long gone.

“I feel like I can play 162 games,” said Ryan Howard, according to (citing an Associated Press report.) 

“We’ve had a bad couple years and had injuries and all that stuff, but I don’t think it’s over,” Howard continued.

Removing all doubt from the degree of his own delusion, Howard recently told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News: “I’m more than capable of hitting 58 home runs.”


Resident lightning rod/closer Jonathan Papelbon is also letting the world know that, at least in his mind, the Phillies are far from over.

Eliot Shorr-Parks of was one of many writers who were present when Papelbon let fly this proclamation: “I have looked at what people have predicted us to do. I don’t necessarily agree with that and if I was a gambling man, I would take us.”

Asked to clarify what he meant, Papelbon replied: “To go all the way.”

Of course.

Marlon Byrd, 36 years young and new in Philadelphia for the second time in his career, is similarly going out of his way to allay your fears that the Phillies are too old to compete.

“You keep hearing old, old, old … we’re not an old team,” Byrd said to Corey Seidman of “We can still play. Once you can’t play, then you’re old. We still have a lot in the tank, we just to have to show that and stay healthy.”


The longer all this happy-speak goes on, the more evident it becomes who is behind it all.

“Listen, I don’t want to be foolhardy,” said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “But I do believe we have the talent to make a run at the National League East this year. And if we’re making a run at the National League East, it puts us in position to win the World Series.”

There are those words again. World Series.

Admittedly, there is nothing new to optimistic spin coming from baseball players and management in February. For the most part, such chatter is harmless, too.

With this Phillies team, though, it rings more hollow and borders on the sad.

“I don’t expect the GM of a major league team to actually say things like ‘well, if everything breaks right, we can finish at .500,'” wrote Craig Calcaterra of about Amaro’s remarks. “But I do expect at least a bit of a nod to realism.”

Which is precisely the point.

After winning 81 games in 2012 and 73 games last season, the last words anyone affiliated with the Phillies in 2014 should be tossing around are “World Series.” Or anything related to October for that matter.

Now would be an excellent time for the Phillies to stop talking to the media about all of their big dreams and start figuring out how all of these old players are going to stay healthy and produce.

Because if the Phillies are 23 games out of the division lead again this coming September, all of this February’s chirping will sound even sillier than it does right now.


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Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Potential Breakout Players to Watch in Spring Training

February 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia is still in the throes of the third-snowiest winter in the history of the city, according to Steve Strouss of CBS Philly.

The cold and gray have aptly mirrored the feelings of Philadelphia Phillies fans about a team full of players in the winters of their respective careers.

Five of the probable everyday eight are at least 34 years old. The marquee free-agent signing on the offensive side of the ball is 36-year-old Marlon Byrd.

The Phillies made more news recently by shoring up the pitching staff, agreeing to terms with free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

At 37 years of age, Burnett should fit right in at the regulars’ canasta games.

So it is an old team. Very old, really. And it could use an infusion of youth.

Where might that come from?

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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