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Archive for March, 2007

John Vukovich Passes Away

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, March 08, 2007 11:03 AM Comments: 0

Sad news from the Phillies:

John Vukovich, the longest tenured coach in Phillies history, died early this morning at a Philadelphia Hospital.  He was 59 years of age.

"Vuk" spent 31 of his 41 years in baseball as a member of the Phillies organization.  A third baseman, he was originally selected by the Phillies in the January 1966 draft out of American River Junior College in Sacramento, Calif.

Mr. Vukovich played parts of seven seasons with the Phillies (1970-71, 76-77, 79-81).  He returned to the organization as a major league coach in 1988 and wore the uniform for 17 consecutive years, through 2004.  Following that season, Mr. Vukovich was named a special assistant to the general manager, working under Ed Wade and Pat Gillick.

Details on a funeral service will be announced later.        

The Phillies will be wearing a black patch (“Vuk”) on their uniform jerseys starting next week and through the 2007 season.

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Why the Mets are Better than the Phillies

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, March 07, 2007 08:14 AM Comments: 0

A lot has been said about the Phillies confidence going into this year.  It started with JRoll’s "we’re the team to beat comments," and continued yesterday when Cole Hamels said he was shooting for 20 wins.  This has obviously distressed the Mets and Mets fans because they now have to remove themselves from their island fortress and being to consider other teams.  Thankfully, Phillies Nation and Hot Foot – a Mets blog are here to help.  Below is a posting from Tommy Dee – the only New Yorker I could find that wrote in complete sentences – that should help instigate this debate.  To read our response, check out Why the Phillies are Better over on his site.

Okay it’s not like we started the recent and highly juvenile "we’re better" argument. As New York fans we’d just assume let all of our talking happen on the field. Maybe Jimmy Rollins was craving a cheese steak when he let his emotions get the best of him, but J-Roll (as in roll over and play dead in the fall) laid down the gauntlet. Brett Myers, who obviously hasn’t been beating up his girlfriend lately, angrily stated that he "hated the Mets" because their fans often tend to cheer too loud in Philly. Imagine that, a pitcher complaining to ownership that Met fans shouldn’t be sold tickets. Actually Brett, you’d be even more pissed if you found out that two tickets can be scalped from Phillies faithful for the beta version of Rocky and a jar of cheese whiz. Hell, throw in a Dr. J poster and us orange and blue faithful are sitting front row.  

But lets keep this civil. Brian Michael and I – a lifelong Met fan and representative of Hotfoot.metsblog.com – have decided to take this debate to the bloggers.

My task is to present a valid, well-thought case based on fact, which would lead me to conclude there is no possible way the Phillies finish with a better record than the Mets this season. 

Seriously though, you guys really think you can win?

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‘Roids Flare Up

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, March 06, 2007 01:45 PM Comments: 0

More names dropped today in the latest round of steroid allegations.  From Sports Illustrated:

David Bell, a veteran of a dozen major league seasons, received six packages of HCG at a Philadelphia address last April, when he played for the Phillies. The cost was $128.80, and the drug was prescribed in conjunction with an Arizona antiaging facility. Bell acknowledges receiving the shipment but tells SI the drug was prescribed to him "for a medical condition," which he declined to disclose, citing his right to privacy.

Chalk up another ex-Phillie whose alleged steroid use didn’t enhance their performance while in Philadelphia.  Sure David’s innocent until proven guilty, but just even to be mentioned means that you’re doing something wrong.

On a related note, did anyone feel a little uncomfortable having Gary Matthews in the booth for this weekend’s broadcast of the Phillies-Yankees game?  I mean, the Sarge is great and he did a decent job in his announcing duties, but I felt bad for him knowing that earlier in the week his name was soiled in the papers.  Having your son accused of using steroids while you are trying to build a broadcasting career seems like tough business.  I didn’t hear him mention anything on-air specifically about Junior, but the topic will undoubtedly be breached as the season progresses.

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Phillies Pay Howard

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, March 02, 2007 02:41 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies and Ryan Howard agreed today to a 1-year, $900,000 contract extension.  Howard came into the day as an unsigned player not eligible for salary arbitration, which means the Phillies did not technically have to throw money at the reigning NL MVP.  The reality of the situation however, demanded the Phils show some love to their superstar who made only $355,000 last season.  The figure of $900,000 is a reasonable sum to this end -  it is the largest amount given to a player with less than two years service time.  I think more so than the dollar amount, the timing of the signing is important.  Today was the first day teams could sign players in Howard’s position.  So after a winter of negotiating and stuffing Chase Utley’s piggybank, the Phillies demonstrated their commitment to Howard. 

A long-term deal, though discussed, was ultimately put on hold.  Howard does not become a free agent until 2011 so there is time to work that out…unless of course Ryan is injured or it turns out his best years are behind him.  But if Howard performs and stays healthy, he will get paid – it is hard to believe the Phillies brass would be so daft not to.  I trust Ruben Amaro when he says, "It is our goal to keep our star players in pinstripes and we’re going to work to that end. We didn’t get to the finish line on this, but we’ll have continued talks on this one." 

The difficulty of this situation lies in the fact that teams pay a player based on what they expect he will do in the future, not what he did in the past.  That is why player projection is such a valued business.  For Howard to make $900,000 in 2007 thus is an agreeable sum.  Hopefully being underpaid will motivate him to continue dominating the league, even though I don’t think money motivates this guy.  After all, if you watched his HBO Real Sports interview, he still receives an allowance from his mom. 

UPDATE:  Ryan Howard absolutely crushed a ball today in Clearwater.  The home run off Cleveland’s Rafael Betancourt not only soared past the batter’s eye but also over a second fence.  He literally hit it out of the park.  The Phils won 6-4 behind Brett Myers and are now 1-1 in the Grapefruit League.

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Ace In The 9 Hole

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, March 01, 2007 10:50 AM Comments: 0

The Phillies bullpen situation is so bad that the remote possibility of Brett Myers slamming the door in the 9th inning has been " hypothetical discussed." This strategy is solely based on the circumstance that the Phillies can not move a starting pitcher from the rotation , which is currently log jammed at six pitchers. Myers is enthused about the prospect of his versatile use through a given season:

"I like going every fifth day, but I also like having the ball every day. I get so excited when the coaches say: ‘Pitchers, get your spikes on. We might have to use you to pinch-run or bunt.’"

It’s a good mindset to have to have if your name has been discussed in a possible relief role. Conversely, Myers could have gone the "For Who, For What" route.

The possibility of Jon Lieber being moved by April 2nd remains a mystery to everyone who follows this team. Pat Gillick was unable to find any takers for the veteran pitcher over the winter. The only chance of moving Lieber during Spring Training this month is if another team is desperate for a starter due to injury to its staff or the realization that a young talent has immature skills for the big league game.

Using a fifteen game winner to periodically close out a game when Flash Gordon can’t pitch , either due to fatigue or injury, would be an insult to me if I were a relief pitcher on this staff. Let’s not forget that Geoff Geary was one of the top relievers in the National League last year throwing 91 2/3 innings with a 2.96 ERA. Matt Smith impressed after his arrival to the club in the second half via the Abreu/Lidle trade. With Ryan Madson returning to the role which he belongs , the Phils have a talented, yet unproven bullpen core. Also, Fabio Castro performed excellent in his mop-up-duty role.

O.k., so I’m joking about Castro. But, last year we were all clamoring for Charlie Manuel to put The Dictator in pitching situation that actually was crucial to the outcome. He obviously mastered the art of pitching in a game where the run differential is +/- 5 runs, appearing in 13 of such games out of his total 20 appearances in 2006.

Continue to pray that a team other than the Phils gets decimated by injuries this Spring. Then, and only then, will Jon Lieber’s value become high enough to garner a bullpen pitcher with greater than or equal to value of Antonio Alfonseca.

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