Archive for January, 2009

These Phillies Aren’t Any Younger

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 28, 2009 08:30 AM Comments: 41

In a hasty moment of mathematical effort, I found the 2009 Phillies 25-man roster could be older than the 1983 Phillies 25-man roster. Inches from 32 years of age, the 2009 Phils may be the oldest collection of Phillies ever.

This brand of Phils will get their age from Jamie Moyer (46), Matt Stairs (41) and Raul Ibanez (38). The 1983 Phils had more 38-plus players (Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Steve Carlton, Ron Reed, Tug McGraw), but where the new kids have the edge is in a plethora of 30-plus players. In fact, of the potential starting eight, only Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino won’t be 30 during the 2009 season.

For posterity sake, the 1980 Phillies were over 30 years old, like the 2008 team. The 1981 Phillies were a shade over 31, and had a great first half. But a bad post-strike second half.

Does it mean much? Probably not. But these Phils aren’t getting younger. Only the Astros should compete with the Phils for the National League’s grandfather title. At some point, the team might see the additions of Carlos Carrasco (21) and Lou Marson (22), but the youth remains to be seen. And with age comes more chances for injury, especially as innings pile up (see Hamels, Madson, Blanton, Durbin, Myers, Victorino, Werth). For now, the Phillies are comparable to the Wheeze Kids.


100 Greatest Phillies: 59 – Willie Montanez

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, January 27, 2009 07:40 PM Comments: 16

Willie Montanez
1970-1975, 1982

Career w/Phillies: .258 AVG / 63 HR / 327 RBI / 11 SB

“Hot dog,” as he was called, Montanez flipped his bat and snapped his wrist regularly, annoying pitchers and opposing players all over the place. He came to Philadelphia as compensation for Curt Flood, the legendary free agent pioneer who didn’t want to play for the Phillies. Montanez was the first to patrol center field at Veterans Stadium, hitting 30 home runs and driving in 99 for a team that finished 28 games under .500. A good fielder, Montanez threw out more than 10 runners from the outfield in both 1971 and ’72. He moved to first base after that, then was traded to the Giants. In return: Garry Maddox. Montanez came back in 1982 to finish his career as a Phillie.

Comment: One of the true colorful characters of the game, Montanez never shied away from the spotlight. He’ll always be remembered as a Vet legend.


Is Happ Getting A Fair Shake?

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, January 27, 2009 10:08 AM Comments: 83

I thought last year was when JA Happ had to prove himself worthy of sticking around on a 25-man roster. The 26-year-old left-hander went 1-0 with a 3.69 ERA in eight games (four starts), pitching in crucial spots down the stretch. It seemed likely he would start 2009 in the Phillies rotation.

Then Chan Ho Park arrived. The righty is determined to win a starting spot, and Ruben Amaro Jr. has put faith in Park that he would battle proudly for the position. With four-fifths of the team’s rotation seemingly set, it looks as if only one of the Park-Happ-Kyle Kendrick-Carlos Carrasco will win out.

If Park loses, he could join the bullpen. If Kendrick loses, he’ll be back where he left off – in triple-A, a little younger. If Carrasco loses, he’ll just go to Lehigh Valley, setting himself for a late-season call-up. But if Happ loses, he’ll have to go back down. Again. At age 26.

Sure it wouldn’t be the end of the world for Happ, but it would be disheartening. Happ has conquered AAA batters, leading the International League in strikeouts while coasting through Lehigh Valley. He has proven himself to at least get a chance at a handful of major league starts. If he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, should he be traded? What is he worth? Or should he be sent back to the minors, hoping at some point Park blows up, or Jamie Moyer slips up, or something like that? What is your solution to the JA Happ quandary?


100 Greatest Phillies: 60 – Ron Northey

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, January 26, 2009 05:31 PM Comments: 3

Ron Northey
1942-1947, 1957

Career w/Phillies: .268 AVG / 60 HR / 276 RBI / 7 SB

An above-average hitter for his Phillies career, Northey twice finished in the top 30 in MVP voting, leading some poor Philadelphia Blue Jays teams, which were grooming better hitters for the show. He slugged 22 home runs and drove in 104 for the 1944 Phillies, while driving in more than 60 three more times – which at the time was a highly respectable total. He also holds the major league record for grand slams as a pinch hitter (three). Traded to the Reds for Harry Walker, Northey would return to the Phils to finish his career in 1957.

Comment: The best hitter on some poor Phils teams before the Whiz Kids came in, Northey doesn’t get appropriate dues. He was powerful, and did all he could to drive in runs, but runs were hard to come by during those years.


A Right-Handed Bench Bat Rundown

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, January 26, 2009 10:30 AM Comments: 98

Ruben Amaro Jr. is searching for that elusive right-handed bench bat. Here’s what we know.

Nomar Garciaparra: The first name surfacing, Garciaparra may not retire, which may make him a possibility for the Phillies. A 1B/3B/SS combo, he would jump into the top right-handed bench spot while providing slight relief for Pedro Feliz and Ryan Howard.
2008: .264 AVG / 8 HR / 28 RBI

Ty Wigginton: Hitting 20+ home runs for three consecutive seasons, Wigginton is a powerful bat who can play 1B/2B/3B/LF. While not amazing with the glove, he’d be a decent defensive upgrade from Howard and Ibanez when necessary.
2008: .285 AVG / 23 HR / 58 RBI

Moises Alou: Somewhere in his 40s, Alou is hurt a lot, but if healthy is a very potent bat who could platoon in left field (or right field, maybe). He barely played in 2008.
2008: .347 AVG / 0 HR / 9 RBI

Kevin Millar: Mr. “Cowboy Up” hit 20 homers as the Orioles’ starting first baseman. That doesn’t keep you a starter. He could play the corner outfield positions, too.
2008: .234 AVG / 20 HR / 72 RBI

Rich Aurilia: He can play all infield positions, but is fitting in more at first base these days. He’s a better contact hitter than Millar, but has half the power.
2008: .283 AVG / 10 HR / 52 RBI

Mark Grudzielanek: The man who once threatened to break the league record for doubles in a season has become somewhat of a one-trick pony. He can hit the ball, but for singles and doubles. He can play second base and shortstop.
2008: .299 AVG / 3 HR / 24 RBI

Thoughts: Wigginton is the best option, bar none. He can step in at multiple positions, and though his playing time might dip, he could still pound 20 homers playing half the time at Citizens Bank Park. I wouldn’t mind Garciaparra or maybe Aurilia, but by adding Wigginton, it would push Eric Bruntlett to a defensive replacement position, which is where he’s best. It would also push Matt Stairs off the roster, which is okay. Wiggy would fit in well.


100 Greatest Phillies: 61 – John Denny

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, January 25, 2009 02:48 PM Comments: 8

John Denny
Starting Pitcher

Career w/Phillies: 650 IP / 37-29 / 2.96 ERA / 375 K

The 1983 Cy Young award winner, Denny gave the Phillies the bona-fide No. 2 starter they had been searching for ever since Steve Carlton arrived in 1972. He wasn’t a Cy Young winner before that, more of a solid but unspectacular tertiary arm for Saint Louis and Cleveland. The Phillies traded Roy Culmer, Roy Smith and Jerry Reed to Cleveland for Denny, and while Reed became a serviceable middle reliever and Smith had two OK seasons as a starter, Denny was well worth it. He went 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA in 1983, then had an equally strong 1984, but a mid-summer injury gave him abbreviated numbers. He pitched a full 1985 but reverted closer to his career norms. The Phils traded him after ’85 to the Reds for Gary Redus and Tom Hume, who would both help the 1986 Phillies finish in second place.

Comment: Though having a short Phillies career, Denny was very good, of course. Sub-3 ERAs are difficult to come by anymore, so when a guy does it twice in four seasons, that makes him pretty special. One of the main reasons the Wheeze Kids made the series.


Eaton Sadly Without A Chance

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, January 25, 2009 12:45 PM Comments: 44

The story of Adam Eaton will be one of missed potential and horrible failure, but that’s the wrong reading. Two offseasons ago, Pat Gillick handed Eaton a contract of $24.15 million over three years to pitch for the Phillies. At the time, Eaton was coming off a bad season — 5.12 ERA with a 7-4 record in 13 injury-plagued starts for the Rangers. Prior to that, he was serviceable, keeping his ERA comfortably in the mid 4s. Looking at those numbers, you’d say he might deserve an $8M per season paycheck.

But no, he didn’t. He was at his best at PETCO Park, Qualcomm Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Shea Stadium, Safeco Field, McAfee Coliseum, the Metrodome — annually the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. That was one red flag. Another flag – his alarming hit rates; he was giving up close to a hit an inning. Hitters hit Eaton, and in Philadelphia, it’ll burn a guy.

Eaton never deserved his huge contract — Gillick totally misread the market in 2007, taking a chance on what seemed to be the only sure thing in a free agent list of retreads. In retrospect, sticking with his guns and giving Gavin Floyd another shot might’ve been a better answer, but who knew?

Now Eaton is without a chance, according to Ruben Amaro Jr. It’s fair — Eaton exploded in their face in 2007, was given another chance in 2008, and though in June he was solid, he never sustained it, reverting back to his former failures. With Kyle Kendrick, JA Happ, Carlos Carrasco and Chan Ho Park in the fold for a fifth starter spot, there’s no hope for Eaton. Which is sad. It’s sad so much promise was placed on a man who, really, never showed that he could deliver at all. Even before reaching Philadelphia.


The 2008 Phandom 25: !

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, January 24, 2009 05:00 PM Comments: 24

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.


1. Champions
Date: October 29, 2008

I waited 24 years.

I waited while watching poor teams. Very poor teams. I waited while sitting in blue seats in Veterans Stadium. And yellow seats. And orange seats. And brown seats. And red seats. I watched while thinking Jim Thome was the cure. Or Gregg Jeffries. Or Billy Wagner. Or Tyler Green. Or Bobby Abreu. Or Kevin Milwood. I waited.

The night the Boston Celtics won the National Basketball Association championship, I cried. I actually cried. “Why can’t it be us?” I pleaded as Kevin Garnett held up a trophy and yelled “Anything is possible!” Yes, I actually cried. Why Boston all the time? Why not one championship for a Philadelphia team? I’d even take the Sixers.

My prayers would be answered swiftly. In fact, the next championship to be determined. The Phillies.

Seriously — the Phillies? The Philadelphia Phillies? With their red pinstripes and funny logo text? With their troubled past and 10,000 losses? With their mediocre stars and half-baked celebrations? Please. Championships came to big-time franchises. To the New Yorks and Bostons and Saint Louises of the world. To the Chicagos and Los Angeleses. Not to Philadelphia. Not to the blue-collar little brother of everyone else. Not to this funny little city.

And yet there I was, standing with legs shaking, hopping madly in front of my television screaming “Come on, Brad! Come on, Brad!” as Eric Hinske confusedly took his stance at the batters box. How the hell did I get here? How did we get here?

While the season itself took 174 games to play out, this moment began to unravel on a Monday night, two prior. Sitting on a stool in a cavernous bar in Mansfield, Connecticut, I watched Shane Victorino lace a single to left field, scoring two runs and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Everyone was bundled, but nobody was sitting. Then I watched as a torrential storm moved over Philadelphia, and the Rays chipped out two runs before the game could be halted. Angry? Yes. Upset? Sure. Confident? Still.

After 45 nail-biting hours, we returned. Shaking but excited, I watched with eyes wide all by myself in a Connecticut house. To my side was my phone, my connection to my father, my brothers — my lifeline. Geoff Jenkins was first. He meant business, bashing the ball into right-center field, celebrating with fist pumps and shimmies. I love Geoff Jenkins.

Then came the leader, the consummate Philadelphian, Jimmy Rollins, who bunted Jenkins over for Jayson Werth, who brought him in by capitalizing off the Rays’ bumbling defense. Boom. A lead. A light.

Rocco Baldelli would bring it right back to squares with a home run. The Rays rallied after that, but Chase Utley made possibly the most amazing defensive play in World Series history, a sttuter and throw to home that ended the inning and caught the Rays in an eager position. All of this wouldn’t deter me at all. I called my dad.

“Don’t worry. It’s okay. Pat’s hitting one here. He’s gonna do something.”

My dad was hesitant, but I was never more sure. And Pat Burrell stepped up, worked the count, then unleashed his most gorgeous swing, which launched the ball into left-center field, inches shy of clearing the fence. It didn’t matter — Pat did his job. His final hit as a Phillie was his biggest.

Shane Victorino followed, and though he failed in his bunt attempts, he bounced one to the right side, moving pinch runner Eric Bruntlett to third. Up stepped Pedro Feliz — unquestionably the most clutch Phillie in the most clutch opportunities — who took a Chad Bradford fastball up the middle for the go-ahead run. And that was all they needed.

JC Romero continued for the eighth and though he let up a hit, induced an excited BJ Upton to ground into a double play — now the biggest double play in Phillies history.

Then it was Brad Lidge’s time. It was time to complete a perfect season. He got an abused Evan Longoria to fly out. Then he gave up a hit to Dioner Navarro, but got Ben Zobrist to line out to Jayson Werth. Breathe in, breathe out. And here we were.

Did I think Hinske could continue the game? Maybe a little. Hey, I’m from Philadelphia. But I knew Lidge wouldn’t spoil his perfect season here. No, not here.

So one strike went bouncing into foul territory. And one more strike was called by the umpire, much to Hinske’s chagrin.

Hinske settled back in. Lidge set up. Ruiz gave him the fingers — slider. Lidge confirmed. He set. He breathed.

Philadelphia waited.

I waited.

I swear I can tell you exactly what happened. Lidge’s pitch started high, dipped low. Hinske took a mighty wail but missed it. Ruiz clasped the ball in his glove. A bunch of fans behind the screen leaped in the air. One fan turned to his friend and raised his arms. An enormous roar rushed through Citizens Bank Park. And that roar — I swear to you — wasn’t just the people in the stands. No, the roar included some South Philadelphians, some Chester residents. The entire region let out an exasparated, long overdue roar.

And I, in my Connecticut house some 300 miles away, leaped into the air, squealing like a 5-year-old girl. I hurriedly found my contacts and pushed “Dad,” still squealing. He picked up at some point, just to hear me in various forms of squeal. He was laughing.

Meanwhile, Brad Lidge was being hugged by Carlos Ruiz, then tackled by Ryan Howard. Others followed. I didn’t see any of this — instead I was stepping around my living room, squealing and cheering and beaming. Without a doubt, it was the happiest moment of my life.

I waited 24 years for this kind of happiness, and when it happened, I had no words. I’ve written more than a thousand posts about the Phillies, and I’ve written thousands of things in my life, but just once, I had absolutely no words. Nothing could match the elation I felt at that moment. Nothing.

That’s why we follow baseball. That’s why we engage so much effort in such an endeavor. Sometimes it rewards us. And October 29, 2008, I was rewarded. We were all rewarded. We were champions.

Easily the greatest moment of 2008. Easily.

The video: We win

From the comments:

Craig: C’mon Phillies. World champions tonight.

NJ: Chase Utley you the man!

Joe: Is that the last at bat for Pat?!? Goodbye, friend.

NEPA: So clutch by Feliz. Great play by Iwamura.

Georgie: Seriously, who sits in a bathtub on the beach holding hands with another person in a bathtub?


Matty: YESSSSS!!!!!!!! CHAMPIONS!!!!!!

Poomie: we are the champions, my friends


100 Greatest Phillies: 62 – Deron Johnson

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, January 24, 2009 02:30 PM Comments: 2

Deron Johnson
First Baseman

Career w/Phillies: .251 AVG / 88 HR / 304 RBI / 4 SB

Like Ryan Howard after him, Deron Johnson could really wallop the ball. But unlike Howard, Johnson wasn’t as devastatingly terrorizing. Still, Johnson could hit the ball. He was fourth in the National League in home runs in 1971, hitting 34 for the Phillies. He also struck out a lot, finishing in the top 10 three times during his Phillies career. He finished 25th in MVP voting in 1970, another solid season for Johnson. In 1973, the Phillies traded Johnson to Oakland after injuries seemed to slow him down. He would post two more double-digit homer seasons before retiring in 1976.

Comment: A hulking brute, Johnson was the force in the middle of the Phils order when they moved to Veterans Stadium. He was a clear profile of the Phillies before Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski, much like Jim Thome was to today’s Phils.


Odds And Ends: Hollins, Prospects, Zolecki

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, January 24, 2009 12:41 PM Comments: 9

A few items that got lost in the shuffle:

  • The Phillies signed outfielder Damon Hollins to a minor league contract worth $450K.

Hollins, 34, hasn’t played in the majors since 2006, when he hit .228 with 13 HR and 33 RBI in a platoon role for the Rays. He’ll likely get an opportunity to prove himself in Spring Training, and end up in Lehigh Valley.

  • Keith Law of ESPN.com rated his top 100 prospects. He had four Phils on his list, including Jason Donald (48), Carlos Carrasco (60), Dominic Brown (84) and Michael Taylor (100).

I’m surprised he rated Donald over Carrasco, who he has said hasn’t proved himself post injury (I beg to differ). He also loves Brown and Taylor. And he doesn’t have Lou Marson here, though he was rated on MiLB.com’s Top 100. Law has said to be more of a Travis d’Arnaud fan. Frankly, I disagree with Marson — his power will come; the rest of the game is there.

  • Todd Zolecki is reportedly moving to MLB.com in February, leaving his post at the Inquirer as beat writer.

Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003 and has been one of my favorites. With MLB.com he’ll take the Ken Mandel post (I don’t get how they laid off Mandel and others, only to bring someone new in for his post), writing and blogging about the Phils. So he’ll still be around.

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