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Archive for October, 2007

Free Agent Open Season

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, October 30, 2007 11:43 AM Comments: 10

Thankfully, on Sunday the Red Sox ended the charade that was the Colorado Rockies autumn baseball season. After weeks of steamrolling teams, the Rockies got a taste of their own medicine and were handedly beaten by a far superior team. The Red Sox World Series also heralds the annual opening bell for the free agent season. It was rung loudly on Monday by Alex Rodriguez’s announcement that he will opt-out of his remaining contract with the Yankees and test the market. No doubt a shrewedly calculated move by Scott Boras, but one I hope will ultimately backfire now that the market is deflated with the Yankees out of the picture. As this creates a prospect for the Phillies hole at third-base, the World Series outcome may have closed the door on another more likely candidate. Mike Lowell took home the World Series MVP – hitting .400 with 6 runs and 4 RBIs and a .500 on-base percentage – and quite possibly raising his value high enough to out price the Phillies. Nonetheless, the Red Sox have always had a strong interest in resigning Lowell and he will probably remain in Boston despite their policy not to sign catchers approaching 35 years old.

Then there are some of the other high profile free agents like Mariano Rivera, Curt Schilling, and Andy Pettitte.  All are high priced and should be avoided unless the Phillies are willing to offer a Mets-like deal.  But that would be unwise.  Torii Hunter is a potential replacement if the Phils lose Aaron Rowand, and he has signaled that he would like to play in a city with large African-American population in order to grow the game within that demographic.  Although he’s leaning to DC to be with his buddy Dimitri Young, there’s no reason Philadelphia wouldn’t be on that short list.   Pedro Feliz and Mike Lamb are also candidates to fulfill the third base job, but might not be a large enough improvement to warrant the spending.  Really, though we all know the priority will be pitching this off-season.  Pat Gillick has hinted a pitcher would more likely arrive in Philly via a trade than through free agency, but there are definitely some worthwhile arms out there – Josh Fogg, Bartolo Colon, and Russ Ortiz come to mind.  We’ll delve more into those scenarios in the coming weeks.  For now though, those are the rumors du jour, soon we’ll also discuss the chances the Phillies could potentially resign some of their own free agents, most notably Aaron Rowand, and JC Romero.

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Phillies 2008 Schedule

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, October 24, 2007 07:23 AM Comments: 4

We all know 2008 is going to be the Phillies year. The marathon journey to the World Series will be long and hard, but building upon the experience of the 2007 season, the should have a leg up on their competitors. They are after all, the defending National League East Champions. The road map for 2008 has been laid out, as the Phillies earlier this week released next year’s tentative schedule.

After Spring Training wraps up in Clearwater, the Phillies will head home for two exhibition games against the Toronto Blue Jays. The regular season begins March 31 at home against the familiar Washington Nationals, who will have to wait to open their new park. The first Mets series comes three weeks into the season as the Phils host a weekend series April 18-19. In terms of interleague play, the Phils tangle with the American League West next year – Angels at home with trips to Texas and Oakland right after. The Boston Red Sox are back on the schedule as the Phillies geographic rival and will be in Philly June 16-18. The season ends, as always, with a flurry of NL East matchups in September – 21 to be precise. And what better way to wrap up the season than with another home series against the Nationals.

As for the Phillies roster next season, that is anything but finalized. Of course there will be countless rumors flying around this off season, but to follow the World Series buzz of tonight, here is one involving Sox third-baseman Mike Lowell.

Another team Lowell recently expressed interest in is the Phillies. “Where would I fit in the offense? You look at Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley and guys like that, and that has to bring a smile to your face,” Lowell told the Philadelphia Daily News. “And I’ve always hit well in that park. So that would definitely be a team I would consider.”

Lowell had the only three-homer game of his career in Philadelphia, and is batting .353 (24 for 68) lifetime in Citizens Bank Park. His father, Carlos, spent two years at Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia and played for the Hawks.

“I grew up an ardent Phillies fan because, on that trip with my parents, we stopped at a Burger King and they were giving away baseball cards. I got a Mike Schmidt,” Lowell told Paul Hagen of the Daily News in ’03, when the Marlins were in the World Series. “I asked my dad, ‘Is he a good player?’ He said, yes, he was a very good player. That was 1980 and Schmidt won the MVP that year.”

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Ryan Howard Hitting Clinic at Penn

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, October 18, 2007 07:35 AM Comments: 1

Ryan Howard ToppsEveryone’s favorite first baseman is teaming up with everyone’s favorite baseball card company for a clinic next month. Topps announced last week that Ryan Howard – who graces the front of so many glossy packs – will be hosting the Topps Ryan Howard Baseball Clinic on Saturday, November 10th at the Hollenbeck Indoor Annex facility at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Topps Ryan Howard Baseball Clinic will be a one-day instructional seminar on the fundamentals of baseball and will showcase Howard’s MVP insight and career experiences. In addition, the baseball clinic will staff coaches of all levels from the Philadelphia local area.

“I hope to teach these kids the meaning of teamwork and the fundamentals of a good swing,” the slugger said.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t pass along the recipe for a 199-strikeout season.

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Fantasy Winners

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, October 16, 2007 07:26 AM Comments: 0

Will somebody please beat the Colorado Rockies? I mean seriously. First of all, Major League Baseball should have totally rigged the pennant-series so that the matchups were NY-Boston and Chicago-Philly. Imagine 50 million people would be interested in those games, instead you have some of the worst ratings in history as two expansion teams in crazy time zones battle it out. Second, the Rockies are good, don’t get me wrong, we all saw that, but they’re more lucky. When you have rookies pitching and everyday a new guy steps up to win the game, there is obviously luck involved; there has to be when you win 20 out of 21. You have to give them credit for playing as a team, but here’s hoping a better team beats them in the World Series.

On to more celebratory news. I would like to announce this year’s winners of the Phillies Nation Fantasy Baseball League! As you know, there were six divisions this year (four more than last year), so we have winners of each division as well as an overall winner. Here they are:

Schuylkill – Shadyside Swingers, Julie Michael – 102 points
Delaware – Mark The Shark, Mark McClure – 90 points
Poquessing – Chevy Chase Hill Raiders, Hank Park – 115 points
Cobbs – PlzGiveMePost SeasonBaseball, Breandan Nemec – 94.5 points
Pennypack – Let’s Play Two, Larry Beckler – 91 points
Wissahickon – Flatutory Apes, Rocco Qatar – 107.5 points

Congratulations to all the winners, but special props to Hank Park who took home the overall crown with his Chevy Chase Hill Raiders’ 115 points. Prizes this year will be an assortment of our homemade Howard-Utley ’08 gear and Phillies paraphernalia. Please send us an email via the contact form with your address and we will mail your prize to you.

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Manuel is Our Man

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, October 10, 2007 07:46 AM Comments: 12

Last night, the Phillies and Charlie Manuel agreed to a new contract that will keep the manager behind the helm in Philadelphia for at least two more years.  The club will have an option to extend the contract to 2010 however financial details were not disclosed.  This past season he earned $800,000 for his services excluding bonuses.  Since taking the job through a contrived interview process before the 2005 season, Uncle Charlie has amassed a record of 262 wins and 224 losses (0-3 in the postseason).

I doubt anyone is surprised by the move, as many have hailed Manuel as the underlying reason for the Phillies success this season. The common argument is that he held the team together throughout a season plagued by injuries.  Pat Gillick noted, “He helped lead our club back to the playoffs, and he and his coaching staff did a great job, especially with the injury issues they faced throughout the season with a number of key players.”  Although I agree with the move to bring back Charlie, I find this line of reasoning a bit hard to swallow. Injuries are a part of the game, and more so than the manager, the replacement players bear the responsibility of keeping the team on pace.  Kyle Kendrick, Tad Iguchi, Brett Myers – those are the guys who should be getting the credit in this case.  Furthermore, I am hesitant to say Charlie actually lead this team to the playoffs.  How does this guy lead?  Looking at his statistics from the Japanese league, he surely doesn’t lead by example, as say Mike Scioscia or Larry Bowa.  He’s not a brilliant tactician like Tony LaRussa or Joe Torre, and can barely manage his way through a double switch.  Plus throughout Ryan Howard’s seven month struggle with his swing, Manuel has done not nothing to help remedy the situation. He’s definitely not a vocal guy either, rallying the troops in the face of adversary does not suit his persona.

Thus I would be careful of all the different streams of praise we shower down upon Manuel. Nonetheless he is deserving of the job for one reason: players play for him.  His hands off approach suits this ballclub which is filled with a range of talented young leaders.  This may just be a matter of him being in the right place at the right time because if he were managing the Royals, and they played their hearts out for him, I still don’t think they would be in the playoffs.  The Phillies core roster is young but not immature, they need a wise old manager to nudge them along but for the most part allow them to play their game.  That is where the foundation of the Phillies success lies.

Between the Uncle Charlie we’ve come to respect and ridicule, and the Phillies confident two-year commitment, there is the prospect of a Manager of the Year award for the 2007 season.  There is no denying that as a playoff team, the Phillies’ manager should receive automatic consideration for the honor and deservedly so.  However, is he more deserving than Ned Yost of the Brewers or Bob Melvin of the DBacks?  Melvin did more with less experience and talent, and Yost took a team that was six games under .500 in 2006 to the brink of the playoffs.  Yet, although I think one of these guys will take the manager of the year, I am optimistic on the prospect of having Charlie Manuel back next season.

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What Went Wrong

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, October 09, 2007 10:42 AM Comments: 6

Now that the Phillies have landed at PHL and were greeted by their adoring fans, we can begin the six-month long process of figuring out what went wrong this post-season and how to fix it. We all watched the games and recall what a painful sight it was to see the club at a loss in the batters box and shaky everywhere else. Not even Charlie Manuel’s grab bag of lineup configurations could get things going. Yet to really gain perspective, below you will find a hearty list of lowlights of the Phillies first-round playoff experience.

Game 1 – Philadelphia

  • Jimmy Rollins 0-3, 2 LOB
  • Shane Victorino 0-4, 3 LOB
  • Chase Utley 0-4, 4 Ks
  • Ryan Howard 0-4, 3 Ks
  • Cole Hamels allows 3 runs in the second inning

Game 2 – Philadelphia

  • Rowand, 0-4, 2 Ks, 2 LOB
  • Ryan Howard, 2-4, HR, 2 Ks, 3 LOB, picked off
  • Kyle Kendrick 3.2 IP, 5 ER
  • Kyle Lohse 1.1 IP, grand slam allowed
  • Jose Mes 0.1 IP, 3 ER

Game 3 – Denver

  • Jimmy Rollins 0-3, 2Ks
  • Chase Utley 0-2
  • Pat Burrell 0-4, 3 Ks, 3 LOB, 1 bad route in leftfield
  • Ryan Howard 0-4, 2 Ks, 2 LOB
  • Aaron Rowand 0-4, 2 Ks, 2 LOB
  • J.C. Romero 0.1 IP, 1 ER

As you can see, Rollins, Utley and Howard went a combined 7-for-34 (.206) with 15 strikeouts in the series. Chase Utley was 0-7 against lefty pitching and all told the Phillies recorded 26 total strikeouts. A series that was billed to be a slugfest only featured the Phillies as another notch on the Rockies improbable run. But just as the Mets failed down the stretch, so did the Phillies in the playoffs. There will be plenty of time in the off-season for the leaders of this team to reflect and eventually discuss their poor showing. Really though, all that matters is what they do next year because expectations are running high, especially if Charlie Manuel is back.  Listen to me discuss that and other points of note for the 2007 off season on the end of season wrap up with Mike on WNJC 1360.

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Congrats to the 2007 Phillies

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, October 07, 2007 11:28 AM Comments: 8

Last night the Phillies had their post-season dreams dashed by the Colorado Rockies by a count of 2-1. There’s not much to say about the game that hasn’t already been said about the series in general. Hitters didn’t hit, rather they struck out. The bullpen was shaky at best, but not on the whole terrible. Jamie Moyer pitched another fantastic game when it counted and solidifying his role as the team’s stopper.  It was clear, however, that guys without playoff experience sure could have benefited from some.

Plenty more will be said about the Phillies performance in the playoffs in the coming days by myself and others, but I’d like to take this moment to send a heartfelt congratulations to the team and the organization. This quality team is going to be around for a while and this season was just the first step towards decade of success. Not many teams win the World Series in their first playoff experience (save those damn expansion teams). The Phillies are building towards that goal. I could see it in the players faces during the ninth inning. It was the classic dear-in-headlights look that said, “Wow, we were not prepared for this, no wonder we got steamrolled.” The whole scene reminds me of the Emily Dickenson poem, Success is counted sweetest. Yet, in the mire of failure and self-reflection can only come strength – the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies will look back on this season and realize what needs to be done to not simply play in post-season games, but to win them all (or at least one of them).

But in the meantime, we should enjoy this season and acknowledge the joy that fell upon the city, if only for a week, and remember we all deserved it. Congratulations to the 2007 Philadelphia Phillies and thank you. Go Phils!

  • 8 Comments
 

Down But Not Out

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, October 05, 2007 01:25 PM Comments: 14

The Phillies head to Colorado on the brink of elimination after a 10-5 loss to the Rockies. Game 2 coupled with Game 1 have showcased the inconsistency that Phillies fans have come to expect in the team. Some players are performing, some are not. Jimmy Rollins continues to make a case for the NL MVP award as he opposes fellow-front runner Matt Holliday, even though the playoffs technically do not count for voting. J.C. Romero pitched another solid inning, but that is pretty much where the story ends. Kyle Kendrick was rocked for five earned runs early, Chase Utley, although he had two hits yesterday, has been ineffective at the bat. Then there’s Jose Mesa, who must be sleeping with David Montgomery because there is no logical reason why he should be in a Phillies uniform.

But it’s far from over, this is why they play a five-game series. Since the inception of the divisional series only the 2001 New York Yankees have won a series after losing the first two at home. I believe one of those comeback games involved the Derek Jeter grab-and-toss relay throw to nail Jason Giambi at home. And that’s what needs to happen in Colorado. Someone has to put this team on their shoulders and finish the job. With the Rockies offensive JRoll can’t do it alone and in this case the job seemingly falls on Jamie Moyer. After his outing on Sunday, we all have supreme confidence in the guy but at the same time we know our Phillies. Yesterday I had the chance to talk with the guys over at Bleacher Bloggers about the keys to the Phillies must-win Game 3. You should really click on the link and watch the video – I sent them a ridiculous picture of myself which I hope will inspire fans and the team (I come on with 2:10 remaining).

If I come across as overly confident, it’s because we taped the show before Game 2. But still, the Phillies are not going to roll over and play dead. Even though they made it to the playoffs thanks to a Mets collapse, they’re not showing up with video cameras like it’s the All-Star game. They’re there to take care of business and reclaim their authority over Coors Field. Go Phils!

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNK9L9kLZa8[/youtube]

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Phils Spot Colorado 1 Game Lead

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, October 04, 2007 01:50 AM Comments: 0

Everyone take a step back from the edge of the Walt Whitman, we got a whole series to play. Although the Phillies looked as the flat weekend Daily News, there is still plenty of time to rally. Cole Hamels got tagged for a few runs and the offensive was anemic yesterday while the Rockies continued to play like the hottest team in baseball. The bats were just not connecting as Rollins, Utley and Howard were silent with an 0-11 performance, including a golden somberero by Chase. In many ways though, I see parallels to this past weekend series against the Nationals. On Saturday, with the first chance to clinch the division, the Phils came out nervous and unproductive. Once they got that game out of their system, Sunday was a different story. And although the majority of Phillies have no playoff experience, it would virtually impossible for them to repeat their offensive struggles on Thursday. Kyle Kendrick will be opposed by fellow rookie Franklin Morales, which I think may put the youngster at ease and allow him to settle in against the Rockies lineup despite his poor outing against Colorado on September 12. Let’s hope so.

In between the nail-biting of yesterday’s game, I had the opportunity to talk Phillies with Brandon Rosage of MVN Outside Radio. We discussed JRoll’s MVP chances, the loss of Adam Eaton, and prospects for the remainder of the series.

Don’t forget more Phillies radio coverage on WNJC 1360am this Sunday at 11am and 6:30pm.

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Phillies – Rockies NLDS

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, October 02, 2007 01:53 AM Comments: 24

The Phillies will be playing the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 National League Division Series. The youthful franchise, which was founded in 1993, is making its second trip to the post season and is coming in red hot. The trouble with hot teams is that they win games they’re not supposed to…take for instance Tuesday night. In an intensely fought 13-inning game, the Rockies slid into the playoffs on a questionable call at home plate. No matter. The Phillies are pretty toasty themselves.

Down the stretch, the Rockies won 14 of 15, while the Phillies won 13 of 17. Just before the respective winning streaks began, the two teams split a four-game slugfest in Philly. There is little doubt the upcoming series will any different; both teams have MVP-candidates, top ranking sluggers, and ballparks that love the long ball. Speaking of which, Ryan Howard was officially awarded for his heroics in the final week with NL Player of the Week honors.

Looking forward to the series, you have to wonder how the Rockies will handle the momentum from last night. I’m sure they will be exhausted after playing nearly five hours of baseball and hopping on a flight to PHL. Matt Holliday looked a little banged up, but I’m sure will be in the lineup on Wednesday. He, Todd Helton and the rest of the Rockies will be up against Cole Hamels who will once again be pitching in the biggest game of his life, this Wednesday at 3pm. He will be opposed by the lefty Jeff Francis. Francis finished the season 17-9 with a 4.22 ERA, and went 0-1 in two starts against the Fightins. He lasted a mere three-and-a-third innings in his September 13 outing, ultimately being chased by an Utley homer.

The upcoming games will be surrounded by an incredible atmosphere. I think we’ve finally had time to allow this to sink in and enjoy the prospect of a World Series. Many of us – although terrified to have our hearts broken again – still believed and a well-deserved playoff series has come to the city. Although I was stranded in DC Sunday evening, technology afforded me the opportunity to share my joy with Mike and the crowd on the radio at WNJC. For fans in similar situations around the country and the world, I recommend leaving a comment on where you will be watching the game, in hope of rallying some crowds. For the Washington, DC contingent, Rhino Bar & Pumphouse in Georgetown is where Phillies fans will congregate. I unfortunately will be in the wrong playoff city, and plan on watching the game at America’s Original Sports Bar in Phoenix. No matter where you are though, you can feel it. This is the playoffs.

[quicktime]http://www.philliesnation.com/nl_east_interview.mp3[/quicktime]

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