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Archive for October, 2006

Free Agent Extravangaza

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, October 30, 2006 06:51 PM Comments: 0

With the World Series ending over the weekend, the rest of the baseball world can now finally join us Phillies fans in lazy days of the off-season.  The Cardinals’ 10th title also means that the free agency ferris wheel is now officially open for business.  On the Phillies, Mike Lieberthal, Randy Wolf, Arthur Rhodes, Rick White and Aaron Fultz, each filed for free agency and more could follow.  Of these guys, I think Wolf would be the top priority to resign, then Fultz, then White leaving Arthur Rhodes and Mike Lieberthal waiting for a destination at Philly International.  Still, the futures of these five guys will not make or break the Phillies’ 2007 season; it is the potential incoming free agents that are more fun to talk about.

Topping the Phillies’ wish list this winter are Alfonsio Soriano and Gary Sheffield.  Landing Soriano would be a huge steal, but would undoubtedly require a significant amount of cash – cash that would not be available if the Phils are forced pay any of Pat Burrell’s remaining contract.  The Phils also have to resign Brett Myers who is coming off a 1-year deal and is eligible for arbitration.  Soriano did not like playing left field in DC and as a hottest free agent of the off-season, he will likely have the leverage to demand a return to his old position, second base (despite his poor fielding numbers there).  Although Sheff’s Chefs would be a great addition to the litany of Phillies fan groups, the aging, oft-injuried outfielder may not be the solution the Phils are looking for.  The Phils need a bat to protect Ryan Howard, that is a fact; now whether it comes in the form of an outfielder, third baseman or catcher is the question.  An option for a third base bat could come in the form of Aramis Ramirez , whom we’ve discussed before and has since filed for free agency.  The Phillies are also interested in Akinori Iwamura, a 27 year-old Japanese third baseman.   

So basically what I’m saying is that it’s open season for free agents.  If you’d like you can keep track of the news here and continue to post your rumors, no matter how wishfully insane they are.

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Moyers Agrees To 2 Year Extension, Wolf Outta Here?

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, October 23, 2006 01:39 PM Comments: 0

Jamie Moyer agreed to a 2 year, 10.5 million dollar extension earlier today. He was one of the bright spots during the Phils stretch run for the NL Wildcard until their elimination on the final day. In the month of September Moyer recorded a 4-1 record to the tune of a 4.03 ERA. The eternal pessimist n me whispers the stat that Moyer has pitched 1200+ innings over the last 6 seasons. I can’t help but reckon that at one point over the next two years, Moyer will simply run out of gas. After all, Philadelphia is where star players from the sports universe come to beach themselves when their careers are finished.

But, the most interesting part of this story is the collateral damage to Randy Wolf. With the electric left handed dynamo Cole Hamels already solidified in the rotation the services of a 3rd lefty will not be needed. Wolf is coming off of a 4 year, 22.5 million dollar contract which eclipsed to 9 million for 2.5 months of work during the 2006 season.

Wolf returned from Tommy John surgery July 30th for a start against the Marlins which he pitched 4 1/3 innings to render a no decision. In 11 starts afterward he figured into the decision only 4 times, though all wins. His paltry 35 earned runs in 56 1/3 innings didn’t give me any indicator to exhume optimism about Wolf’s return to the club in ’07.

Sure, he was coming off surgery. With an entire off season to rest he could come back to full Randy Wolf form. But, what is Randy Wolf form? Averaging 6 innings of work and bolstering a 4.21 career ERA? That could get him a starter’s role anywhere in today’s MLB but not for the 2007 Phillies.

If he was willing to accept 1.5 million dollars and a specialist role I’m sure Pat Gillick would be happy to have him.  Then we can all watch in excitement to see the Wolf Pack up in left field cheering on their guy as he comes out of the bullpen to pitch to the powerhouse left hander at the plate. Unless Randy Wolf has a gut check on his ability I doubt we will see number 43 in the pinstripes next year.

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Phillies Hire Old Managers as New Coaches

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, October 17, 2006 10:17 AM Comments: 0

Yesterday the Phillies announced the hiring of three new coaches to replace the ones they fired two weeks ago.  Each new coach - Art Howe, Jimy Williams, and Davy Lopes - is a former major league manger and is thus expected to bring significant experience to the Phillies staff.  Between them, they have led seven teams to playoff appearances.  They are also familiar with Charlie Manuel - Lopes played with the Phillies skipper in LA and Howe was in the league at the same time.

Art Howe will be the new third base coach as well as infield instructor.  Most might remember him recently as a talking head on Sportscenter and Baseball Tonight and former Mets manager.  Howe, who is 59, owns a career managerial record of 1,129-1,137 with the Astros (1989-93), A’s (1996-2002) and Mets (2003-04).

Coaching first base will be the 61-year-old Davy Lopes.  He will also serve as an outfield and baserunning instructor.  As a player, he is one of only 36 men to steal more than 500 bases in a career, so hopefully he can unlock the stolen base potential of Shane Victorino among others.  Lopes, the least tenured manager in the lot, spent parts of three seasons managing the Brewers from 2000 to 2002, guiding them to a 144-195 record.  Personally, I am not a huge fan of Mr. Lopes, after he talked smack to my mom when she threw out the first pitch at a Phillies game. 

Finally, Jimy Williams will be charge of managing the bench.  The 63-year old has a combined 910-790 record as manager with the Blue Jays (1986-89), Red Sox (1997-2001), and Astros (2002-2004).  His claim to fame is that he was the manager of those three teams in the period just prior to their World Series appearances.

Now, I am not sure whether any of these guys are being specifically groomed to take over the Phillies helm (they, like Manuel, have contracts that expire after the upcoming season); but Pat Gillick certainly setup up a secure safety net in case he decides to fire Manuel in the middle of the 2007 season.

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ARod to the Phillies

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, October 16, 2006 11:35 AM Comments: 0

Does anyone out there seriously believe this ARod to the Phillies hype?  I mean it has been profiled in the Philly papers, mentioned in the NY papers and tossed about by everyone else.  As much as I would love having a stud third baseman, I do not think Rodriguez is the answer.

First of all, this season has proven that ARod does not handle the media or fan pressure well.  Although there is no city in America with greater media scrutiny than New York, Philadelphia is not far behind.  Most likely he would be unloved by the fans and ridden hard by the media.  I feel bad for the guy, but it comes with the territory of being the most well-paid man in baseball – not to mention the fact that he has a personality that is only slighty warmer than Barry Bonds.  ARod exudes a holier-than-thou attitude that would not be appreciated in this city.  For instance, he extolled back in 2004, that he was a better player than most because while some players were driving their kids to school, he was working out in the gym – like the two are mutually exclusive.

Second, there are the trade rumors that surround ARod coming to Philly.  Most of them involve a straight-up deal, ARod for Pat Burrell.  One MLB executive said he has heard rumblings of the deal, but says he doesn’t think those rumors are coming from the Yankees or the Phillies.  "It could make sense," he says.  "A-Rod did well with Pat Gillick."  While on the surface this does make sense as both teams are looking to unload what they perceive as an overpaid, underperforming player, but the logistics just aren’t there.  Both players have no-trade clauses that would need to be waived.  I feel ARod’s ego is just too big for him to settle in Philly besides the fact that it would be an unhealthy match, especially in the clubhouse.  Pat Burrell has always maintained that he would only waive his for the Red Sox or Yankees; but last time I checked they were not in the market for a potential DH that strikes out too much or is a liability on defense.  The Yankees are in the market for a high-end pitcher, something the Phillies desperately need themselves.  Therefore any deal involving the two players would likely at least involve the Phillies coughing up a pitching prospect, if not *gasp* Cole Hamels.

Finally, despite the fact that Pat Gillick has worked with Rodriguez in the past, I do not think he is dumb enough to pull the trigger on this move.  Gillick has shown that he prefers a lean payroll, as well as one sans no-trade clauses.  In many ways, I see ARod as a Bobby Abreu-type player.  For the same reason the Phillies needed Abreu to move on, I feel ARod will not end up a Phillie.

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Cory Lidle Dies in NYC Crash

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, October 11, 2006 04:31 PM Comments: 0

Moments ago it was reported by an anonymous source within the Federal Aviation Administration that the plane that crashed into The Belaire apartment high rise in Manhattan was registered to former Phillies pitcher Cory Lidle. The Yankees pitcher was piloting the plane this afternoon along with another person and both are considered dead. Four others were killed as a result of the crash.  Information is still becoming available and we will keep you posted if any information is revised.

Most importantly, the staff of PhilliesNation.com would like to send its prayers and sympathies to Cory’s family including his wife Melanie and his son Chris during this tragic time.

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Lots of Phillies News

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, October 10, 2006 10:17 AM Comments: 0

The internet just got turned on at my new house in DC, so I have a backlog of Phillies news to report.  Let’s just dive right in.

  • The major stories coming out of the first round of the playoffs revolve around the Tigers knocking off the Yankees.  Let me first say, for those that watched the Tigers celebrate on TV, that looked like a lot of fun (even though they didn’t technically win anything).  Speculation out of New York and the Yankees HQ in Tampa Bay points towards the firing of the legendary Yankees skipper, Joe Torre.  Upon hearing the news, I immediately pictured him as the next Phillies manager.  It seems that will have to wait until next year with Uncle Charlie set to return to the Phils.  All signs still point to him as manager, despite his own recommendation to allow someone else to manage the Phillies next year.  Still, think of the possibility of having Torre fill one of the Phillies coaching vacancies.  How funny would it be with Larry Bowa directing third-base traffic in the Bronx if Joe Torre would land in South Philly.  The early odds though put Torre either heading to Texas or staying with the Yankees.
  • In case you missed it, check out Phillies Nation contributor Julie Michael in the Delco Times talking about the Phillies’ future.  
  • A recent interview with Jamie Moyer has his return in question.  When asked if he will stay in Philadelphia or desires to return to Seattle, he responded, "We have a mutual option, and at this point I don’t know what I’m going to do."
  • A Dodgers writer thinks Randy Wolf would be a good choice for the Angels.
  • Check out the off-season feature over at A Citizen’s Blog.  It features the 1950 Phillies, affectionately known as the Wiz Kids, with profiles of Phillies greats including Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Jim Konstanty, Curt Simmons, and Del Ennis, coach Eddie Sawyer
  • If the Red Sox deal Manny in the offseason (which they never do) they will certainly consider picking up Pat Burrell as a replacement.  Perhaps a trade for Trot Nixon might even be in the cards?
  • The Phillies have added Florida State University to their 2007 spring training schedule.  The game will be on February 28 in Clearwater. 
  • Based on the relationship between wins and salaries, Baseball Prospectus released its Marginal Wins report.  The Marlins had the most bang for Jeffrey Loria’s buck; Dave Montgomery paid a bit too much.
  • Finally, congratulations goes out to the two division winners of the Phillies Nation Fantasy League.  In the Schuykill Division, it was the "Ligers" who took home the crown and in the Deleware Divsion, "kruk rules" proved most worthy.  Nice work everyone.
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The Phillies’ Magic Number

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, October 05, 2006 12:25 PM Comments: 0

Pat Gillick said in the past off-season, that he wanted to get the Phillies five more wins.  In 2005, the Phils went 88-74, and thus Pat’s goal for 2006 was 93-69 – an impressive number, no doubt, but certainly not far from the Phillies reach.  However Pat would be the first to admit (and he has), he did not improve the Phillies enough for 93 wins.  Recognizing this along with his own scouting report on the National League competition, Charlie Manuel revised these numbers later in the season and claimed many times that 85 wins would propel the Phillies to the playoffs.  Charlie did two things with his pronouncement.  First, he lowered the expectations of fans which were somewhat inflated by Pat Gillick’s straight-talking charm.  Second, he underestimated the rest of the National League, specifically the Western participants.  Making the NL playoffs this year required at least 89 wins.  So while the Phillies, who finished 2006 with a 85-77 record, did achieve Manuel’s goal, they certainly fell short of the playoffs.

I must say I appreciate the manager setting a measurable goal for the team; it is good to know he is not afraid to be held to task.  However, this season he set the bar too low – a trend that has plagued the Phillies in the past decade.  Missing out on the playoffs has nothing to do with the fact that Los Angeles won 9 of their last 10 games.  The Phillies must simply strive for dominance: dominance in the division, in the league, in interleague play, and from start to finish.  The Mets and their fans went into the season assuming they would crush the division, and they did just that.  Obviously determination can only take you so far, for a certain amount of skill is required to win a division in a 162-game season.  But there is no reason the Phillies shouldn’t think this way heading into the off season.  Down the stretch, they won games when it counted.  After July 26, the club went an NL best 41-29.  In order for the Phillies to reach the playoffs they must prepare for the 2007 season with lofty expectations.  The last few years have proved that 85 to 88 wins in a season is achievable despite a starting slow.  If the Phils begin the 2007 season with a stronger focus on the fact that every game counts and even 95 games can be won, I think they will have a much better chance of making the playoffs.

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Coaching Changes in Philadelphia

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, October 03, 2006 03:43 PM Comments: 0

The first axes fell on the Phillies now two day old 2006 offseason.  It was announced today that first base coach Marc Bombard, third base coach Bill Dancy and bench coach Gary Varsho will not be returning to their positions in 2007.  Dancy, however, who has been with the club for 32 years was offered an alternate position in the Phillies organization.  On the flip side, pitching coach Rich Dubee, hitting coach Milt Thompson, bullpen coach Ramon Henderson and catching instructor Mick Billmeyer had their contracts extended for one year.

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Whether they’re rooting for Phillies or Eagles, Delco fans are passionate

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, October 01, 2006 01:51 PM Comments: 0

Delco Times
Tim Logue, Of the Times Staff

With just a week to go in the regular season, it was an odd sight. There were the analysts on ESPN’s "Baseball Tonight" talking about which teams in the National League would advance to the playoffs, and all of them were picking the Phillies.

Just as strange were the National Football League picks rolled out by ESPN.com a few weeks earlier. Of the 12 football analysts, just one had the Eagles wining the NFC East in 2006.

"I think those picks are good for both teams," said Michael Rogers, a Phillies and Eagles fan from Upper Darby. "It’s good to see the Phillies finally getting some attention and it’s good for the Eagles to be under the radar. After everything that happened last year, the less people focus on them the better."

Though the Phillies’ playoff hopes were hanging by the thinnest of threads Saturday, the state of the franchise has improved dramatically since July, when their own general manager was questioning whether the team was good enough to win not only this season, but next.

And the Eagles, with a rejuvenated Donovan McNabb, improvement along the offensive and defensive lines, and the absence of a one-man circus at wide receiver, are looking more like the 2004 Super Bowl version than the 2005 Titanic edition.

For Philadelphia sports fans, true satisfaction is always a championship away, but many are excited to see the stock of their baseball team on the rise and their football team’s on the rebound.

Continue reading Whether they’re rooting for Phillies or Eagles, Delco fans are passionate

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Fightin Phils : You Gotta Believe In Next Year

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, October 01, 2006 12:07 PM Comments: 0

Our season ended at 6:32 P.M. last night when the Padres held off the D’Backs in the 9th Inning to clinch a playoff berth for the second straight year. I came upstairs from the basement, where I was watching the game on MLB.tv, and proclaimed "maybe next year?"

When I go to bed at night I listen to 610 WIP because I cannot sleep in silence. Even though I can hear an errant SEPTA bus every 32 minutes or a car horn from Frankford Ave, which is three blocks from my home, those city sounds don’t replace the sweet sounds of Philadelphia sports talk. Last night and this morning, the topic on every Phillies fan’s mind who called in was ‘What do we do for next year?’

The great thing about being a fan is the ability of  wishful thinking concerning your club. We analyze the teams’ needs to complement their strengths so that in 2007 the Phils can hit the field in April with an even better squad then the previous year. While the fans are clamoring for Aramis Ramirez, Barry Zito and to fire Charlie Manuel, the second that final out is made in today’s game, next year is going to be all that we’ll have to hold us through the winter.

But, just because you can manage a successful team when playing  ‘Franchise Mode’ in Madden or MLB The Show doesn’t mean that in reality your Playstation formula of success will work here on planet Earth. There are a lot of variables in accessing the needs of a team and the means that team is willing to go to meet them. Of course, there is the price tag. Then there is the contractual language, pay scale in relation to league service time, player ego, past performances, while weighing all of this into the budget for next season. Besides the Yankees and Redsox, the rest of the league has to attempt to balance these coefficients when creating a winning, yet financially feasible, club for the following year.

The Phils will be getting freed up money from their Free Agents to be, whom may will not return to the club.

Projected Free Agents

Jeff Conine – 1.7 in 2006, 2M option for 2007
Jose Hernandez – 850,000
David Dellucci – 1.8 Million
Mike Lieberthal – 7.5 Million
Randy Wolf – 9 million
Arthur Rhodes – 4.8 Million
Julio Santana – 800,000
Rick White – 600,000

This list excludes the guys who were traded from the team by July 31st: Rheal Cormier, Ryan Franklin, Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle. Just for kicks to add to the list, Ugeth Urbina who is in jail and Alex Gonzalez who retired. Also, the possible declining on picking up Aaron Rowand’s five million dollar option for next year will be lingering in the offseason.

While looking toward next year the Phils have to decide if Manuel should be the opening day manager next year. They have every reason to fire him though he is under contract until 2007. If Charlie Manuel is fired, who will replace him? How will this new manager affect the players both positively and negatively? Personally, I think the manager in baseball is the most overrated thing on the field. In baseball, as are all sports, the players make the manager look a genius. All that the manager can do are put players in the game who won’t make him look like befuddled.  I have to admit that Manuel hasn’t made the right  personnel times over the past seasons.  It’s time to find a manager who makes himself look, by putting the right players in the lineup or on the mound, instead of going with the players who proved they can not come up big in crucial situaitons.  (Ryan Franklin, Arthur Rhodes and Pat Burrell).

Finally, as usual, it’s Pat Burrell. Will Pat Burrell get traded? If so, to who and for what? The fan response to any player who doesn’t play up to par is ‘Trade Him Now!’ If our player isn’t playing up to snuff then what makes you think someone else would want that guy on their team? Though in sports, there are certain coaches and managers who see player potential over their value of production. It’s the reasno why Maurice Clarett was draft by the Broncos or why Darryl Strawberry continued to play baseball even with a well known cocaine problem.

At least two teams used this reasoning to make a trade offer for Pat. The Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles both attempted to make a trade for Pat Burrell before the trade deadline of 2006. As we know, the Mariners subsequently backed out of their deal and Burrell declined the O’s offer to play in Baltimore. In July, someone wanted this guy to play on their team. Hopefully the same is true in 2007.

On my Christmas list this year I’ll be asking Santa to be making a pick and a delivery. Drop off one 56" plasma screen in exchange for getting Pat Burrell off of this team. Santa probably knows he is getting the raw end of the deal. But, that’s what he gets for never bringing me those Nickelodeon Moonshoes I always wanted.

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