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Archive for November, 2007

New Phillies Book

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, November 29, 2007 08:21 AM Comments: 15

The Fall of the 1977 PhilliesJust in time for the holiday season, a new Phillies book has been released this week chronicling the 1977 Phillies called, The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball Team’s Collapse Sank a City’s Spirit. The new piece of literature is written by Mitchell Nathanson, an Associate Professor at Villanova’s Law School. For those of us who have just recently entered the heartbreaking legacy that is the Phillies history, the ’77 club took part a deeply depressing National League Championship series against current first base coach Davy Lopes and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Game Three the Phils blew an early lead in dramatic fashion thanks to some shoddy umpiring; and almost immediately the boos rained down in deafening measure. I won’t spoil the story, instead allow the author the summarize it.

Too often, the Philadelphia sports fan has been dismissed as a lout, a boorish dolt immune to reason, his vocabulary whittled down to a singular “boo.” This is particularly true when it comes to Phillies fans, who are more likely to turn on their team than any other in the city. Although the Eagles, Sixers and Flyers may hear it from the rafters when they’re not going well, only the Phils will hear it when they are. The strained relationship between the city and the Phillies, however, has deep historical and sociological roots; roots that directly correlate to the city’s self image. The Fall of the 1977 Phillies explores these roots by providing a social history of Philadelphia through the lens of its professional baseball teams – first, the beloved Athletics and later, the despised Phillies. It traces the roots of the city’s inferiority complex back to its origins in the early 19th century and examines how, over time, the city’s loss of national stature in the political, financial and intellectual arenas (much of this at the hands of jealous New Yorkers) eventually changed the character of the city altogether. For where once optimism and progressive thought abounded (it was, after all, the New World home to the colonial age of Enlightenment), negativity and cynicism soon became the city’s calling card – hostile traits that eventually found in the floundering Phillies a perpetual whipping boy.

This book likewise charts the gradual lifting of the city’s collective spirit starting in the 1950′s, when a collection of political “Young Turks” led by future mayors Joe Clark and Richardson Dilworth, along with city planner Ed Bacon, overturned the corrupt local Republican machine and set Philadelphia on a course of reform and renewal that by the 1960′s and ‘70′s would be hailed nationwide as one of the few successes amid the failure of urban renewal in virtually every other major American city – most notably New York. As a result, Philadelphia shed its inferiority complex and truly embraced the revived Phillies – who, as a result of the building boom, finally escaped deteriorating and depressing Connie Mack stadium, relocated in palatial, pristine Veterans Stadium and hence became the face of a city reborn — for the first time. These good feelings swelled during the 1970′s and reached their peak during the summer of 1977, when Philadelphia seemingly thrived while New York teetered, occasionally in the dark, on the brink of bankruptcy. On the field, the Phillies put together what many believe to be the best team in their history, their 1980 world championship team included. By the start of the 1977 League Championship Series against the Dodgers, it seemed clear to everyone that this Phillies team, much like the city of Philadelphia, bore no resemblance to its inglorious past.

The events that unfolded both in the stands and on the field at the Vet during the afternoon of what has become known in Philadelphia simply as Black Friday: Friday, October 7, 1977, would forever change how Philadelphians viewed the Phillies and ultimately themselves. After Black Friday (considered by some to be the worst single moment in Phillies history, eclipsing even their infamous 1964 collapse), Philadelphians would question whether things really were as different with both their team and their city as they were led to believe. By the game’s disastrous end, it would become clear that these Phillies had much in common with the bumbling teams that preceded them and soon, as events would unfold in the city that cast the reforms of the Young Turks in a darker, harsher light, the Phils would once again become the face of a city awash in doubt and self loathing. The Fall of the 1977 Phillies uses this game to form the structure of a book that puts the city’s relationship with the Phillies into a larger, societal context as it attempts to figure out just why it is that Philadelphia seems to find itself so distasteful.

Feel free to leave a recollection if you survived the ’77 series or if you have any questions for the author.

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Tom McCarthy Back in the Booth

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, November 27, 2007 08:02 PM Comments: 15

Abbreviated from the Phillies Press Release:

Tom McCarthy, who spent the last two seasons as a play-by-play announcer for the New York Mets on WFAN, is returning to his roots as a member of the Phillies broadcasting team, Rob Brooks, Manager, Broadcasting announced today. His contract is five years in length.

“He will do play-by-play for three innings when Hall of Famer Harry Kalas is not on television. Harry will continue to provide play-by-play for six innings on TV while also doing the fourth inning on radio as he’s done in years past,” said Brooks.

Jim Jackson will return handling pre- and post-game shows on WPHT The Big Talker 1210 AM and the Phillies radio network.

Scott Franzke will keep his play-by-play duties while Larry Andersen, Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews return as color commentators.

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Phils to unveil additional home jersey

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, November 27, 2007 11:50 AM Comments: 0

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

The Phillies are set to show off some new new duds for the dudes. In a news conference expected to take place at noon Thursday, the team will unveil its home alternate jersey and cap for 2008.

What will they look like? That depends on what blog or Internet site you visit. One suggests “Philadelphia” across the jersey; if that’s accurate it would be the first time the name of the city has appeared on the jersey since 1900. Another says it will be an all-white jersey and a cap that’s blue with a red beak. The Phils aren’t confirming anything except the announcement.

You might remember the Eagles in September rolled out their yellow-and-blue anniversary alternates for the Lions game. The Birds scored 56 in their lone romp of the season, and the colors seemingly were just as offensive to those used to the green, white and silver.

The Phillies have had their apparel duds, too. A uniform that was all-burgundy with white trimmings, for Saturdays only, made a one-game appearance during the 1979 season before criticism made them disappear. Then came the infamous introduction of the blue caps for home day games in 1994. Those saw the light of day for only as long as it took for the Phils to lose their first two games wearing them.

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Outlining the Outfielders

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, November 25, 2007 08:08 PM Comments: 17

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Phillies purchased the rights to outfielder Chris Snelling from the Tampa Bay Rays. The 25-year old Snelling hit .246 with a single homer and 7 RBIs for the Nationals and Athletics last year but missed most of the season due to a left knee injury. With the prospects of resigning Aaron Rowand become less likely by the day and the trade of Michael Bourn, the Phillies have begun to piece together a potential replacement strategy. Ruben Amaro Jr. summarized the signing by saying, “Chris has always had a great bat, but he has battled some injuries in the past. We feel he will be healthy this coming year and adds a lefthanded hitter and some depth to our outfield.” Still, it is likely that Snelling will have to compete for a spot during Spring Training.Another slightly more prominent outfielder signing over the holiday came with Torii Hunter and the Angels agreeing to a 5-year, $90 million deal. Although Torii was never a top priority for the Phillies, it does show that the talent pool for outfielders is quickly shrinking. This begs the question, do the Phillies need another outfielder? Here’s who is on their current depth chart with some notes on each.Phillies Depth Chart

  • Pat Burrell – probable starting left-fielder; inconsistent but useful at the plate; legs like a rusted Tin Man; 1 year/$14 million remaining on his contract
  • Shane Victorino – probable starting center-fielder, moving over from the right field position last year; dynamic at the plate and in the field; had a 1-year/$410,000 contract last season
  • Jayson Werth – probable starting right-fielder; played 92 games last season in a career year stats-wise; may not an everyday player; had a 1-year/$850,000 contract last season
  • Gregg Dobbs – played 14 games in left-field with 1 error last year; more of a third-baseman or pinch-hitter; had a 1-year/$385,000 contract last season
  • Chris Roberson – speedy yet inexperienced; saw minimal time last season mostly as Burrell’s late-game replacement
  • Chris Snelling – (see above)
  • T.J. Bohn – played 18 games with Seattle in 2006, picked up off waivers from Atlanta

So that’s what we’re working with if the season started today. The front office is still committed to bolstering the pitching staff this off-season, but there wouldn’t be any harm in exploring potential outfielders. Below is a list of free agent outfielders (including Aaron Rowand) courtesy of the ESPN Free Agent Tracker.

Left fielders Center fielders Right fielders
Barry Bonds
Milton Bradley
Luis Gonzalez
Geoff Jenkins
Rob Mackowiak
Orlando Palmeiro
Shannon Stewart
Rondell White
Mike Cameron
Jeff DaVanon
Darin Erstad
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Andruw Jones
Kenny Lofton
Corey Patterson
Aaron Rowand
Cliff Floyd
Shawn Green
Jose Guillen
Bobby Kielty
Trot Nixon
Reggie Sanders
Preston Wilson

Out of the center fielders, Andruw Jones stands out a possibility. He had an off-year last year, which is why he is having a hard time garnering the contract he thinks he deserves; but that might be exactly why he is attractive to the Phils. Jones is asking for $14 million a season and might settle for a 1-year deal for the chance to prove that he’s still got at least half decade in the tank. Although the Phillies are already on the hook for Burrell’s $14 million next season, they were offering Mike Lowell $12 million. Other than that possibility, the Phils might have to work with what they got.

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Jimmy Rollins Wins NL MVP

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, November 20, 2007 01:55 PM Comments: 15

NL MVPIt will be announced shortly that Philadelphia’s own Jimmy Rollins will win the National League Most Valuable Player Award. With Ryan Howard’s win last year, this will mark the eighth time in NL history that two teammates have won the MVP consecutive years – first since Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds did it in 2000 and 2001. JRoll will also join the ranks of the four other Phillies to win the award along with Howard, Mike Schimdt (’80, ’81, ’86), Jim Konstanty (1950), and Chuck Klien (1932).

The year began contrversally for our fiery shortstop as he repeatedly made outrageous claims like the “2007 Phillies were the team to beat.” The smack talk simultaneously got under the skin of NL East opponents and inspired the Phils to step on the field and prove it. Well, of course we all know, not only was Jimmy spot on with his prediction, he made sure the prophecy was self-fulfilling.

This season JRoll played in all 162 regular season games and the 3 games that made up the Phillies abbreviated playoff run. In 716 at-bats mostly from the leadoff spot, he scored 139 runs while driving in 94, and had 212 hits including 38 doubles, 20 triples and 30 homeruns. He remained a terror on the basepaths stealing 41 bases while being caught only 6 times for a 87% success rate. At short he compiled a .985 fielding percentage while making just 11 errors and turning a career-high 110 double-plays alongside Chase Utley and the since-released Tad Iguchi. Although he was unable to carry his hot hitting into his first playoff appearance, he made good use of the 2 hits he did have (a triple and a homer) driving in four runs.

For the 2007 season, Jimmy Rollins lead the league in Games Played, At Bats, Plate Appearances, Runs, and Triples. He finished second in Hits, Total Bases, Extra Base Hits. Simply put, he deserved to win the National League’s Most Valuable Player and he did. Congrats Jimmy!!

JRoll's Banner

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A Brief Phillies Calendar

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, November 19, 2007 10:06 AM Comments: 8

Sunday’s release of the Phillies 2008 Spring Training schedule coincides with a few other notable dates that Phillies fans should keep on notice.  First off, this Tuesday the NL MVP will be announced and Jimmy Rollins remains a strong condender.  Besides leading the Phils to the playoffs this season, he has already brought home a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award.  Here is how mlb.com breaks down the competition, keeping in mind the votes have already been cast by the 32 member committee before the playoffs began. 

Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers: Fielder led the league in home runs and finished tied for third with with 119 RBIs. He also batted .288, slugged .618 and had a .395 on-base percentage, all figures that rank among the league leaders. Since Milwaukee moved to the National League in 1998, no Brewer has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting and just three (Carlos Lee, 17th in 2005, Richie Sexson, 12th in 2003 and Jeromy Burnitz, 19th in 1998) received votes. That will change this season with Fielder.

Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies: Holliday helped the Rockies win the pennant by finishing first in two Triple Crown categories (batting .340 and driving in 137 runs). His 36 home runs were the fourth most in the NL behind Fielder, Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard (47) and Cincinnati’s Adam Dunn (40). Holliday also finished among the league leaders in runs (120, third place), hits (216, first) and total bases (386, first).

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies: Rollins (.296, 34 HR, 94 RBIs, 41 SB) had more total bases (380) than any player in the league except Holliday (386), and Rollins played Gold Glove-caliber defense. No NL shortstop, however, has won the MVP Award since Cincinnati’s Barry Larkin in 1995.

The next important date on the schedule will be Thursday, November 29.  On this day, the Phillies will unveil new road uniforms.  Sources indicate they will feature “Philadelphia” across the chest.  According to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Uniform Database, this would be the first time the city’s name appeared since “Phila.” graced the chests of the 1900 team.

Finally, with the Spring Training schedule announcement comes the offical date for those heart-warming words, “Pitchers and Catchers report.”  That day will be February 14th, otherwise known as Valentine’s Day.  Let the countdown begin.

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Charlie Manuel is Second-Best

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, November 15, 2007 12:24 AM Comments: 1

The Manager of the Year awards were handed out on Wednesday, and Charlie Manuel just missed out on his. Uncle Charlie finished a commendable second to Arizona manager, Bob Melvin who lead his team to 14-win improvement in 2008. Manuel certainly deserves a great deal of credit in leading the Phillies to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. His clubs have consistently finished near the top of the division while amassing 88, 85, NL Manager of the Year Award Votingand 89 wins in seasons as a Phillies manager – something very few can claim. He has another two years to improve upon these numbers and further bolster his legacy in Philadelphia; but as we all know, the road to respectability was a long and arduous one.

Almost as certain as Opening Day comes in early Spring, the rumors of Charlie Manuel’s impending firing soon follow. The Phillies have had notoriously bad starts under Manuel’s reign and usually by the second week, fans are calling for his head. The specific reasons vary ranging from the way he fills out a lineup card to the mismanagement of double switches. Not to mention the fact that his slow West Virginia drawl doesn’t fit well with the city that demands proper English be spoken. There are a lot of shallow reasons to dislike Charlie Manuel, there is no denying that; however, when it counts (and that is in the standings) Manuel has performed as well as any manager in recent years.

This year’s team was wrought with injuries and plagued by inconsistent pitching, but Manuel managed through all that. His hands-off approach allowed the players the opportunity to overcome the injuries on their own. This approach worked. Speaking today, Manuel credited some of these guys by saying, “They’re the ones who made me look good. We came together a lot, with Kendrick, Romero and Dobbs helping. We never gave up.” (I’d probably also add Michael Bourn and Tad Iguchi to that list.) But it should be said that these players could have just as easily not fulfilled their roles and Manuel would have taken the heat.

So for all that has been said about Charlie Manuel, it appears his passive managerial style works for this team. Still, when push comes to shove, Uncle Charlie isn’t afraid to make his opinion known. Recall his mini-tirade back in 2005:

“I’m not here to hurt anybody’s feelings, but at the same time, we’re trying to get to the playoffs. I don’t worry about hurting people’s feelings. People call me ‘Uncle Charlie’ and ‘Good Time Charlie’ and ‘Happy-Go-Lucky Charlie’ and all that BS. You can take that to ram it up your [butt]. I’m here to win games.”

Classic. Just keep winning those games Mr. Manuel.

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Phils Sign Romero to 3 years

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, November 12, 2007 11:49 AM Comments: 6

The Phillies signed left-handed reliever J.C. Romero to a three-year contract extension over the weekend.  The deal is worth $12 million, and includes a club option for 2011 that would bring the total value to $16.75 million.  I think most will agree that this is a good signing.  There is no guarantee that Romero will pitch like he did in September over the next three years, but at this point, considering the state of the Phillies bullpen without Romero this was a necessary move.  The 2008 bullpen is thus shaping up as follows:

Closer
Brad Lidge

Setup men
Tom Gordon
Ryan Madson
J.C. Romero

Potential Rest of Bullpen (Pick 4)
Kane Davis
Francisco Rosario
Yoel Hernandez
Matt Smith
Scott Mathieson
Mike Zagurski
Clay Condrey
J.D. Durbin
Kyle Lohse
Joe Bisenius
John Ennis
Anderson Garcia
J.A. Happ
Julio Mateo

Looking for work
Antonio Alfonseca
Jose Mesa
Jon Lieber
Freddy Garcia

As for my four, assuming everyone is healthy, I would like to see Matt Smith (LHP), Clay Condrey (RHP), Scott Mathieson (RHP), and Francisco Rosario (RHP) round out the ‘pen.  What’s your four? 

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Phillies Trade for Pitching

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, November 07, 2007 11:20 PM Comments: 33

The Phillies 2008 pitching staff came into focus a little more on Wednesday as Pat Gillick made a deal with Ed Wade for closer Brad Lidge.  The trade implies that the club will move Brett Myers back into a starting role to solidify the rotation with Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Kendrick, and Eaton (with Myers officially losing his ace role).  Lidge, who is third on the all-time Astros save list, struggled a bit last year recording just 19 saves in 27 opportunities.  He does tend to come up big with strikeouts though as he averaged 11.8 per nine innings last season.  However it should be noted that he did have surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee the day after the season ended.

The Phils also picked up infielder Eric Bruntlett who hit .246 with 14 RBIs last season, while seeing time at shortstop, third base and the outfield.  Heading to Houston will be Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and former top pick of the Phillies 2005 draft, Michael Costanzo.  The departure of Bourn and Geary may come back to haunt the Philllies if they are unable to resign Aaron Rowand and/or J.C. Romero.  Bourn came up huge last year, albiet briefly, when Shane Victorino went down with injury and although he has been considered a valuable part of the Phillies future, trade rumors have surrounded him since his call to the majors.  Geary was less consistent and often the odd-man out when it came to roster moves, but now since he’s about out of options, it made sense that he was involved in the trade.

I like the move if only because it brings Brett Myers back into the rotation where I believe he is more valuable.  I know we’re not getting the Lidge of 2005, but if he pitches well in Spring Training and shows he is healthy, I think he will be good enough.

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Gold Glove Winners

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, November 07, 2007 12:38 PM Comments: 7

Yesterday Major League Baseball announced its annual Gold Glove winners and Philadelphia’s own Jimmy Rollins and Aaron Rowand each took home some hardware. Aaron Rowand lead the National league in centerfield assists with 11, while committing just 2 errors in 405 chances. JRoll put up similarly staggering numbers with 11 errors in 717 chances at arguably the most difficult position in baseball. I’m pretty sure Jimmy was also rewarded for his consistency since he did play in every single game this season. For both players it marks their first career Gold Glove.

The accolade for JRoll adds to his already strong resume for National League Most Valuable Player, which will be announced on Tuesday, November 20. It is notable that the other frontrunner for the award, Matt Holliday, was left out of the Gold Glove winner’s circle, despite having the second best fielding percentage at his position. So, if Holliday isn’t even the best fielder at his position, does he still have a shot at MVP? Of course, but Friday will tell us more about his and Jimmy’s chances as the Silver Slugger Awards will be handed out that day for the best hitter at each position. JRoll surely is a front runner for that position, despite his All-Star snub in favor of J.J Hardy and Jose Reyes. Neither of those guys will likely take home the Silver Slugger, but there will be stiff competition from Florida’s Miguel Cabrera. Still it seems the MVP-question now hinges on Friday’s Silver Slugger decision. If JRoll were to win both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, one would think he’d be a lock for MVP even if Holliday won a Silver Slugger too…right?

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