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Archive for July, 2006

Trade Abreu or Save Abreu?

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, July 20, 2006 01:31 PM Comments: 0

Eleven days remain until the trading deadline and as always there is considerably more talk than action.  Much of it surrounds Bobby Abreu who has been dangled as trade bait since Pat Gillick took over as GM.  Yesterday he proved his worth by propelling the Phils to a 5-4 win with a two-run double in the ninth.  Despite all the rumors many baseball insiders feel that unless the Yankees come through with an offer Gillick cannot refuse, Abreu has a greater chance to be dealt in the coming off-season if at all. He will have a year remaining on his contract then, plus a club option that his agent says must be picked up if Bobby is to waive his no-trade clause.  Many fans - especially those with season tickets in right field - feel the Phils need to unload Abreu as soon as possible.  Yet as Pat Gillick (and we here at Phillies Nation) have often stated, losing his offensive production and ability to get on base will leave a gaping hole in the Phillies lineup.  In Bobby Abreu’s eight-plus years with the Phillies, he has arguably proven himself one of the top ten Phillies hitters of all-time.  Here is where he stands in comparison to other Phillies’ careers:

  • 4th all-time in walks (3 away from second place)
  • 2nd all-time in intentional walks
  • 3rd all-time in doubles
  • 9th all-time in runs scored (1 away from eighth place)
  • 3rd all-time in strikeouts (that’s a bad stat, of course)
  • 4th all-time in slugging percentage
  • 7th all-time in runs batted in
  • 7th all-time in total bases
  • 6th all-time in stolen bases
  • 5th most games played by an outfielder
  • 7-time member of 20/20 club (a consecutive streak still in progress)
  • On pace to surpass Lenny Dykstra’s single season record for walks (129 in 1993) by 25 walks
  • Tied record for most consecutive games with a home run with 5
  • Tied record for most consecutive games with a RBI with 10

Although Bobby is far from the best Phillies player of all-time, he certainly ranks up there in terms of Phillies outfielders with the likes of Richie Ashburn, Chuck Klein, Cy Williams, and Johnny Callison.  So regardless of what uniform Abreu dons next week or next year, he has already solidified his place in the Phillies record books.  That said, we can now review some of the rumors concerning where he (and a few others) could be traded:

From what I gather from this chatter, there is a good chance that "Standing Pat" will have an easy time living up to his nickname.  Though I would also like to throw in a bit of conjecture myself:  with Shea Hillenbrand’s dismissal by the Blue Jays yesterday, perhaps Gillick might find in him a new third baseman.  Just a thought, since it seems at the current time, that might be the best move the Phillies could make.

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Bullpen Blows Hamels Homecoming

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, July 18, 2006 01:14 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies found a way to lose last night in their series opener with the Padres.  After the team scored three in the sixth and two in the seventh to secure a 6-3 lead, the bullpen handed the game right back to San Diego.  Rick White did his job, but Franklin, Cormier and Geary did not.  Franklin gave up a run and left two on base for Cormier, who promptly served up a 3-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez (his second of the night) to completely waste the lead and get himself yanked after just one batter.  Fultz allowed a second insurance run, charged to Geary, and the Phils were unable to mount another comeback against the Padres Hall of Fame closer, Trevor Hoffman.  The game as a whole resembled many of the Phillies losses: giving up runs early, allowing hits to the opposing pitcher, a valiant comeback (complete with a Howard home run), crucial errors, and finally a bullpen meltdown spearheaded by Ryan Franklin. 

I’m not a Phillies-hater but when I watch the Phillies los, strong feelings of frustration, disappointment, and resentment overcome me.  The series wins against Pittsburgh and in San Francisco provided a little hope in achieving the now 48-23 record needed for 90 wins.  That record means the club must win 66% of their reamaining games, or in other words, they need to win every series.  For every series they lose, they need to sweep one.  Buster Olney assessed the strength-of-schedule for 12 of the NL teams in the playoff hunt and the Phillies have the ninth most difficult – which is a good thing.  The Phils have 53 games against teams with below-.500 records, including every game in September.  This means of course the Phils are currently in the toughest stretch of the remaining schedule; including this West Coast swing, and games against the Mets and Cardinals before mid-August.  Therefore if the Phillies can fight back and win this San Diego series and steal a few games against the Mets and Cards they should be in good shape to remain in the playoff hunt.  That might be a lot to ask for, but it does mean that these next three series will ultimately determine whether the Phils have set themselves up for a playoff push.  It just so happens that the outcomes of the next week’s games will also go a long way in helping Pat Gillick decide if he should make moves before the trading deadline.  Tomorrow we’ll looks at some of those possibilities.

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Phillies Lumber Awakes from Slumber

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, July 16, 2006 12:38 PM Comments: 0

After the Phillies starting pitching gave up some more first inning runs, the offense battled back yesterday in San Francisco and powered the team to a 14-6 victory.  Pat Burrell continued his recent outburst by going 4 for 4 with a double, homer, and 4 runs batted in.  Ryan Howard also launched a bomb 460 feet to right-center which gave him 30 homeruns on the season.  Chase Utley’s hitting streak increased to 17 games on his 2 for 5 day.  Only Mike Lieberthal, in his first start since returning from the DL, was unable participate in the Phillies’ 18-hit parade.  One troubling stat from the game was the another two errors for the Phillies; fortunately they did not have any game-changing implications like Utley’s on Friday.

Cory Lidle pitched five and two-thirds innings and surrendered 8 hits, 5 runs (4 earned) and 4 walks.  His record improved to 6-7 which gives him the most wins among Phillies starters (not counting Madson’s wins as a reliever).  Cory Lidle, it can be argued, is the Phillies most consistent pitcher for reasons surrounding his mediocrity.  He leads the team in innings pitched since he is the only starter to remain healthy, out of jail and at his abilities.  His slightly sub-.500 record and 5.02 ERA is about what we expected from Lidle.  Just before the All-Star break he complained that he was pitching better than his plus-5 ERA indicated.  He claimed a comparison between his road ERA and home ERA would prove it.  Well, Cory, I’ll let you in on a little secret, a 4.40 road ERA is not much better than a 5.49 ERA.  Giving up twice as many homeruns at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark will tend to inflate that average.  Say what you want about the park, but Lidle is supposed to be groundball pitcher.  While that statistic has remained constant, his fly ball-to-line drive ratio has increased in favor of the former.  Still, thanks to low expectations, Cory Lidle has been the Phillies most consistent pitcher.

Today the Phillies face a rubber match against the Giants.  The magic number for the Phillies wild card berth stands at 49, meaning they need to go at least 49-24 the rest of the way to finish with 90 wins which will likely secure them a playoff spot.  Brett Myers takes to the hill in his first start with the team since the Phils unwisely sent him out in Boston.  The afternoon should give the San Francisco fans a prime opportunity to return the hospitality showed to Barry Bonds upon his visit to Philadelphia.  Of course, it was wise of the Phillies to keep Myers on the road for the time being, but there is little chance him being spared the wrath of his hometown fans.  He is slated to pitch in South Philly this Saturday against the Braves.  Pitching perfection might be his only chance for absolution in the eyes of the fans, and likely not even that will be enough.

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Howard Home Run Debry

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, July 11, 2006 11:44 AM Comments: 1

The Phillies did it again – producing a second consecutive Home Run Derby champion.  Ryan Howard blasted his way past rival phenom the Mets’ David Wright to capture the title and wowed the crowd with monster moonshots.  His final home run hit the sign in right-center that won the crowd 500 airline flights and even hit one over the batter’s eye in deep center – something he’s now becoming famous for.  Howard’s home runs of course were aided by the now back-to-back winning pitcher of the Derby, Phils bullpen coach, Ramon Henderson.  The offensive display just goes to show how the Phils have enormous offensive potential but a seemingly a pitching staff full of Ramon Hendersons.   

While I don’t foresee Ryan Howard pulling a Bobby Abreu in the second half of the season, he is in danger of being exhausting himself.  He mentioned in the post-derby interview when asked if he was tired, that tired "is probably an understatement."  Perhaps this could have been avoided if Chase Utley was more flamboyant and came out to home plate to towel Howard off and offer Gatorade like David Ortiz did for Wright.  Fortunately the Phillies have an extra day-off coming after the All-Star break on Thursday, but did anyone else notice that Utley (not to mention Gordon) was conspicuously missing from most of the cheerleading until a rather cold embrace at the end when Howard won?  Could there be some friction in the future of the Phillies?

Moving on to some higher level discussions, check out Todd Zolecki’s interview with Phillies big-wig, Bill Giles.  In it, Giles clears up our question raised yesterday as to who gets the final decision concerning the Brett Myers situation – I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Charlie Manuel.  The other interesting point concerns Giles’ perception of fans:

Q: Does it matter to you that the public is so down on this team?

A: I don’t know that that’s true. Too many people believe the talk shows are the pulse of the public, and I don’t happen to believe that at all. There are crazy people that call in and the announcers create a perception, but I don’t believe it. I just don’t think the public… I know so many people that are dyed-in-the-wool Phillies fans who love the team – win, lose or draw.

That right there is what we’ve been talking about - taking fans for granted.  First of all, Giles sounds way to much like Richard Nixon who was in denial to the end and is obviously not a compliment.  And second, there is dissatisfaction with the Phillies by fans; maybe not all the fans, but certainly a significant portion.  Fans stopped attending games in droves last year, and this year they are outspoken in their disappointment – this is something you cannot ignore by saying it’s not true or blaming it on WIP.  This is a very dangerous mindset for the Phillies as an organization to have and now to publicly acknowledge.  The owners should see this as a potentially sinking ship and first plug the leak and then try to woo back the crew that jumped overboard.  This is precisely why we started a write-in campaign to tell the owners they need to wise up.  So if you haven’t already, contact us with your views and help the Phillies owners recognize the true feelings of Phillies fans.

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Half Time

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, July 10, 2006 02:03 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies ended the first half of the season with their first series win in over a month.  I was at the game again yesterday and was pleased with the performance compared to what I witnessed on Friday.  Although Cole Hamels was a bit shaky in the first – walking the first batter and allowing two runs with over 30 pitches - he settled down to earn the win.  Ryan Howard had the day off in preparation for his back-to-back outings in Pittsburgh, so Utley played first and Nunez got the start at second.  Abraham finished the game as the only Phils’ position player not to record a hit and thus didn’t help his .136 average on the season.  Still, the big news that emerged from yesterday’s game revolved around the embroiled Charlie Manuel.

Charlie spoke of the pressure of constantly being reminded that his job stability is regularly put into question by the fans, the media, and hybrids such as myself.  Yesterday at the park, I was intrigued by a large man in Ashburn Alley wearing a sandwich board calling for Manuel’s firing.  It reminded of one of those crazy preachers that roam college campuses imploring us to repent because the end is near.  While it is understandable that Manuel is perturbed by all the talk, it’s simply one of those many unwritten rules of baseball that the manager gets blamed for underachievement.  But that isn’t the real story that came out of Manuel’s press conference.  In my opinion, the more interesting point came in the catalyst of Manuel’s outspoken interview; that is, what to do with Brett Myers.

It has been reported that Myers will rejoin the Phillies on Friday in San Francisco with the possibility of pitching Sunday.  It is likely Brett will ease his way back into the rotation with a "rehab" assignment and an appearance or two out of the bullpen.  Strictly in terms of starting pitching there is no question the Phillies need Myers.  The team is fourth-worst in the league in runs allowed and has a strange habit of spotting opposing teams runs in the first inning.  Cory Lidle is currently leading the team in ERA with an average just over five.  Myers meanwhile has posted a 3.86 mark in 16 starts.  Yet within the context of his alleged assault charges, the decision of when to use Myers becomes more complicated.  Manuel has yet to put forth a specific date, claiming "we haven’t decided."  However, "we" is the operative word in that quote.  Does it mean he and Rich Dubee? or are Pat Gillick and Dave Montgomery included in the equation?  This ambiguity is what sparked Charlie’s comments on the rumors of his impending firing.  After initially hearing "I hope it’s my decision" from Manuel, the Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury followed up with a phone call and heard "I meant, I’m the manager and I better be able to make that decision." 

The Brett Myers plot line has surely tested the Phillies.  It is often said that the true test of a person or organization is witnessed in how they respond to adversity.  The Phillies failed the first exam when it took several days to properly respond to the situation.  This next hurdle will provide a similar test to the Phillies resolve as an organization and Charlie Manuel as a manager.  Many people think Myers, despite being a bright spot on a poor pitching staff, should not be welcomed back to the Phillies.  One needs to only look across the street at the T.O. saga to see how an organization responds to a bad seed.  I agree with the Eagles that the best thing to do is distance yourself from bad publicity so trading Brett Myers wouldn’t be a wholly bad idea.  While it seems Myers is set to return to the club, how the fallout is handled will provide further insight on whether the Phillies are mismanaged on the field or from the front office.

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I Haven’t Missed Much

Posted by Brian Michael, Sat, July 08, 2006 10:40 AM Comments: 0

I arrived back in Philadelphia on Thursday night, and of course the first thing I wanted to do – besides having a cheesesteak, which I did – was go to a Phillies game.  So last night Rob and I headed down to see the Phils open the series against the Pirates as well as for some post-game fireworks.  Let me tell you the fireworks were great as always and the game, well, was disappointing as always.  My first Phillies game all year seemed pretty indicative of the entire 2006 campaign thus far.  It was sloppy, boring, and ended with a loss to a terrible team.  In the first inning, Chase Utley mishandled a double-play ball and wound up recording not even a single out.  Soon after with a potential double play started by Ryan Howard, Jon Lieber failed to cover first for the relay.  Although it’s questionable whether Lieber would have made it to the bag, it was sad to see him not even leave the mound.  It was as if he had a shock collar on and vacating the mound would have automatically strained his hamstring.  Later in still the first inning, Chris Coste completely missed a perfectly thrown one-hopper from Bobby Abreu which allowed another run to score.  Two runs in totaly were scored by the Pirates in the first, and although allowing first inning runs have plagued Phillies starting pitchers all season, I figured the two could be easily overcome playing against the worst team in the league.  I was excited for about a whole minute when JRoll lead off the game with a double; but after the Phils failed to get another hit until the fifth, my enthusiasm quickly yielded to boredom.  I thought Pat Burrell could rekindle the fire in the ninth, but after being fooled by a changeup and slider, he let a delicious 92-mph fastball sail right down the pike for strike three.  Fortunately bad baseball usually doesn’t take long to complete, so within two and a half hours the fireworks began, thus validating the price of admission.

Another aspect of the Phillies which I miss while living abroad is reading the daily recap in the good ole black and white version of the newspaper during breakfast.  I especially enjoyed Todd Zolecki’s and Marcus Hayes’ articles which followed the theme of Charlie Manuel’s post-game quote, "I don’t know if it’s you guys or the players or what, but somebody out there has got something against us. Or somebody’s not living right. If you guys are very religious, please go to church. Pray for us."  Oh geez, Charlie, that’s the best you can do?  It’s obviously divine intervention that is causing the Phillies to lose, not poor defense, inconsistent starting pitching or anemic bats – not to mention erratic management.  That reminds me of an odd sight during last night’s game.  A new fan group (at least new to me) could be spotted in section 303:  Manuel’s Mafia.  I don’t quite get the organized crime reference nor the concept of a managerial fan group (especially for our manager) but I probably would have gone for something like Charlie’s Charity Cases or maybe Manuel’s Malignants.  Anyway, those thoughts only offered me a brief respite to last night’s embarassing loss.  But if you need more more tragically funny Phillies news, check out Phillies Notes which features Cory Lidle blaming the park for his ERA, Pat Burrell’s slump, and Adam Bernero’s walking papers.  Go Phils!

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Tough Losses and Big Events

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, July 06, 2006 03:00 AM Comments: 0

Well, Padres returned the favor.  After the Phillies snatched the first game of the series with a bottom of the ninth game-winner, San Diego responded last night with a three-run homer in the final frame.  Scott Mathieson pitched a solid eight innings allowing three runs off six hits while recording five strikeouts and no walks - although two of the runs allowed came off a homer by Padres pitcher Jake Peavy. ( Talk about something that needs to change in the second half of the season – giving up hits to opposing pitchers is killing this team.)  In the ninth, Arthur Rhodes, who took the loss, put two men on before yielding to Tom Gordon; and for the second night in a row, Gordon failed to deliver.  He served up a three-run shot to Khalil Greene to give the Padres a 6-3 lead and eventual victory.  I don’t know, but perhaps the recognition as a closer via his All-Star nod has thrown Gordon off his game a bit.

I’m about to board a plane back to the promised land, I call Philadelphia, so I’ll make this last part quick.  Check out our new Events page, which will keep you updated on all the Phillies Nation tailgate parties, road trips, and other fun festivities.  There you can also find a recap of our bus trip to DC which was a huge success and may lead to another one to see the Phils battle the Mets up in Flushing.  For a slideshow recap of the DC trip, click the picture below.

Click for slideshow

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Rowand and Ruiz Spark Phillies Win

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, July 05, 2006 07:51 AM Comments: 0

The Phils pulled out a much-needed win in the bottom of the ninth last night against the Padres.  Aaron Rowand delivered a walk-off single to score Ryan Howard as Tom Gordon got the win.  The come from behind mentality may have been aided by a team meeting called by Jimmy Rollins prior to the start of the game.  Even the veteran closer was impressed by the leadership of Rollins, "He was definitely taking the reins. I think the time was right.  And he gave everybody an opportunity to say whatever they wanted to say."  It seemed like it worked, because instead of letting the game slip away after some poor fielding and ineffective relief pitching late in the game, the team rebounded to secure a win in the first game of their homestand.

The Phillies were also aided by Carlos Ruiz’s first career homerun, which put the team up 5-2 after a five-run fourth inning.  Ruiz was of course called up earlier in the week to replace the ailing Sal Fasano who is on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his right knee.  Ruiz’s two run shot was a crucial boost for the rookie who struggled in his first callup earlier in the season and now will be relied on heavily with both Fasano and Lieberthal on the mend.  It is also especially gratifying since Ruiz, as well as Jason Jaramillo, were left off Baseball Prospectus’ list of top 15 catching prospects (though it’s possible Ruiz’s major league service may have disqualified him).  I hate to put more pressure on the rookie, but Ruiz will need to continue contributing offensively if the Phillies are going to head into the All-Star break on a positive note.

Finally, speaking of the All-Star break, Bobby Abreu still needs your votes to send him to Pittsburgh -  vote now for him here.

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Petition the Punxsutawney Phils

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, July 04, 2006 05:37 AM Comments: 0

In today’s Inquirer, Phil Sheridan wrote a nice piece on the current state of the Phillies in the context of how they are perceived by the fans.  He referred to the club as the Punxsutawney Phils -  which is a pretty apt description because year after year, without fail, we all buy our tickets for the Phillies rollercoaster but ultimately end up disappointed.  It reminds me of the Nick Hornsby quote I referred to last year, "Never be bad enough to go down, but never good enough to win anything, and the stasis made you want to scream with frustration."  Yes, our beloved club makes us scream with frustration more often than not.  Sheridan believes players will feel that fan frustration upon returning from their tumultuous road trip tonight.  "But if the Phillies felt pressure before, there’s a chance some of their heads will actually explode when they face the fans this week. The mood here is a lot angrier and uglier than it was before Brett Myers’ arrest for alleged domestic assault and the team’s clumsy response to it. "

We sure are angry, just check out the new Sell the Phils site.  But to help fans further cope with the depression, Phillies Nation is starting a bit of a write-in campaign.  We would like you, the fans, to write us with a short story about how you became fans of baseball, the team and why it’s so frustrating that the ownership can’t match the intensity of the fan base.  We’ve seen in Ed Wade’s last days that a grassroots effort to petition the organization and the threat of reduced ticket sales can actually have an effect.  The national media has been ripping the club, and have correctly recognized, "Philadelphia fans are famous for their passion and can’t easily stomach ownership pulling an Emperor Nero and fiddling while Rome burns."

This is why we need to let the ownership know how we feel.  We’ve already collect a dozen or so letters on through our myspace site before officially launching this campaign, so pop over to the Contact Us form and join the swell.  After all, today is July 4th, you should seize the opportunity to make our founding fathers proud.  All the letters will be collected and personally delivered to King George, oops, I mean David Montgomery.  Hopefully then, the Phillies executives will stop taking the fans for granted and start to behave like a responsible club both in terms of player personnel and public relations.  To end, I’ll let Phil Sheridan take us home:  The right baseball decision is also the right public-relations decision. Give this city a baseball team worth loving, and the ballpark will no longer be a place to dread.

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Phillies Avoid Sweep

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, July 02, 2006 08:40 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies pulled out a victory on Sunday and closed the chapter on their 2-7 road trip.  Aaron Fultz got the nod in the much anticipated mystery of who would start and quickly reserved his place back in the bullpen.  Of course everyone was hoping (as always) for a surprise solid start by another inexperienced Phillies pitcher, but (as always, see also Adam Bernero’s start on Friday) the opponents took the lead in the early innings.  Thankfully, the Phillies fought back aided by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard homeruns as the team collected 17 hits and 11 runs on the day.  The win also means the Phils finish their interleague schedule with a 5-13 record against the AL East.  Although the American League dominated interleague play as a whole this year, perhaps things would not be as bad for the Phils had they locked up with an easier division.

The duo anchoring the right side of the infield also learned Sunday that they, along with closer Tom Gordon, are headed to Pittsburgh next week as Philadelphia’s representatives to MLB’s 77th All-Star Game.  All three certainly deserved the honor as they have been the only few Phillies to demonstrate consistency on the year. With their selection, the Phils are one of only four NL teams sending more than two players to the midsummer classic – the Mets meanwhile have at least four in the starting lineup alone.  It will be Flash’s third appearance and the maiden voyage for the other two.  Ryan Howard was also selected to participate in the Home Run Derby.  Although the league leader in homers is certainly an immediate favorite, PNC Park could prove difficult for the Phillies slugger.  Howard has hit a majority of his home runs the opposite way this year but PNC plays deeper to left than to right.  Also, the Phils have a chance to send a fourth player, in the form of Bobby Abreu, who was selected to the Fan Ballot by Astros manager Phil Garner.  Say what you will about Bobby, but as a member of the team, he surely deserves your vote – so vote now!

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