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Archive for January, 2009

The 2008 Phandom 25: The Home Run

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, January 23, 2009 08:00 PM Comments: 22

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.

***

2. Matt Stairs!
Date: October 13, 2008

With one mighty swing, everything changed.

Forty years old. Endless experience in major league baseball. Good teams that didn’t go far enough: The Expos of 1992 and ’93, the Athletics of the late 1990s. Bad teams that did nothing: The Royals of the 2000s. Never a moment that approached the pinch hit he’d be handed against the Dodgers in game four of the National League Championship Series.

The Phillies and Dodgers were tied. While the Phillies creeped out to an early lead, Los Angeles responded late. They got a few runs off Joe Blanton, then Casey Blake popped a mammoth shot that put the Dodgers ahead 4-3. A sacrifice added a run. The Phils were down two, close to a series tie, needing something to wake them up.

The Dodgers bullpen did their job until the eighth, with Hong-Chih Kuo in his second inning to pitch against lefties. Ryan Howard led off, and in a big spot, singled to center field. That brought in righty Corey Wade, but it wouldn’t matter. Pat Burrell popped out, but Shane Victorino found the groove, lasering a ball into the right field corner. It looked like a double, felt like a double, but somehow, kept going, and cleared the fence for a tie game. That woke ‘em up.

Though Pedro Feliz lined out, Carlos Ruiz — a playoff MVP if there ever was — kept the inning alive with a single. That proved absolutely key. It turned the Phillies lineup and gave Charlie Manuel a chance to look into his bench, ready to make a giant contribution. Would it be Greg Dobbs? Sure, he was the best pinch hitter in baseball, but he had to be saved. Eric Bruntlett? Well now at a tie, it may be better to hold onto Bruntlett for a potential defensive replacement. Chris Coste? Can’t use the backup catcher. Maybe Geoff Jenkins? Or maybe Matt Stairs?

The decision came down to those two, and as Joe Torre elected hard- and high-throwing Jonathan Broxton as his next pitcher, Manuel knew what he had to do — point to the hard- and high-hitting Stairs.

He took a pitch. Then another. Then a strike. Then a close ball. Then, down three and one with Jimmy Rollins on deck, Broxton thought he could get Stairs with a fastball inside.

Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad move.

Stairs bit his lip, flinched, then locked in on the pitch. He began his swing, quick as the night, and connected with the ball at the most perfect spot — the absolute most perfect home run swing you have ever seen. The ball flew in majestic fashion, reaching its highest point on par with the “76″ sign above the scoreboard. It landed in the back rows of the Dodger Stadium grandstand, some 420 feet away from home plate. It was Stairs’ first postseason homer, his 255th of his career, and the biggest one he’d ever hit.

The mighty swing gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead, and they wouldn’t let it go. JC Romero started the eighth and Brad Lidge finished it, then worked a scoreless ninth for one of the most tense wins in Phillies history. For Stairs, nothing would top it. Nothing would top getting his ass hammered that way. No, for that moment, Matt Stairs wrote his name into Phillies history. And we’ll never forget him for that.

The video: Stairs kills it

From the comments:

Jeffrey: Base hit! Baby steps, boys. Baby steps.

Dave: And now Vic will perform the GIDP….

Matty: Can Victorino put one in the right field bleachers? Please?

CT: VVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIIIIIIICCCCCCCCCCCCC!!!!!!!!!

Manny: I like Stairs right now… let’s see

Matty: Broxton in a non-save situation? This is too good…..

Dave: MOONSHOT!!!!!!!

Lou: the phillies have just won this series.

  • 22 Comments
 

100 Greatest Phillies: 63 – Lee Meadows

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, January 23, 2009 05:19 PM Comments: 13

Lee Meadows
Starting Pitcher
1919-1923

Career w/Phillies: 857 IP / 48-61 / 3.64 ERA / 307 K

“Specs” Meadows wore glasses on the field, thus his nickname. He also had his best years with the Pirates, winning 19 games three times. With the Phillies, he did win 16 games once, and more than 10 three times. Meadows sadly wasn’t a very good control pitcher, walking as many hitters as he struck out, and hitting 30 batters with the Phils.

Comment: Another case of a deceiving record, Meadows was on some bad teams. He gave up little in the way of runs, and always pitched a lot — pitching more than 230 times three times with the Phils. An under-appreciated arm.

  • 13 Comments
 

Fan Friday – Sister Janice

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, January 23, 2009 01:14 PM Comments: 18

Growth chartI am a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and I work at Holy Family University.

I believe I qualify as a great Phillies fan, because from 2000 to 2007, I lived in Texas, and I guarantee that I was the only Phillies fan in that great state! I could not listen to the games, of course, but I subscribed to MLB.com and I watched every single game that was not blacked out for me (Houston games). The Sisters all knew when I was having my “holy hour.”

My office here at the University is decorated with Phillies photos, bobble heads, and everything else that my co-workers, who know how much I love the Phillies, have brought in for me. I have my red shirt ready to wear during the World Series games, and my rally towel to wave. I have to add that I really do storm heaven for them during their games!

Working

  • 18 Comments
 

Phillies Leaning Toward Moises Alou

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, January 23, 2009 08:34 AM Comments: 127

Jim Salisbury reports the Phillies are interested in outfielder Moises Alou, as they continue searching for a right-handed bench bat.

Alou, 42, is a great hitter for his career, with a .303 AVG, 332 HR and 1,287 RBI. But he’s perenially hurt, and hasn’t played a full season since 2004. Last season he only played 15 games for the Mets.

Word is Alou wants a significant amount of playing time, and might be looking more at deals from American League clubs who need some DH work. From the Phillies’ end, it’s not so much a risk since Alou would be used as a fifth outfielder and bench bat, but he’d be expensive for that role.

  • 127 Comments
 

100 Greatest Phillies: 64 – Eddie Waitkus

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, January 22, 2009 09:35 PM Comments: 3

Eddie Waitkus
First Baseman
1949-1953, 1955

Career w/Phillies: .280 AVG / 9 HR / 197 RBI / 9 SB

Eddie Waitkus was traded to the Phillies from the Cubs in 1949. A top hitter, he was coming off a .295 season. Fifty-four games into the season, he was shot by a crazed female fan, ending his season and potentially his career. But no, no, Waitkus returned. He returned with gusto, backed by a score by Randy Newman. Yes, Eddie Waitkus was “The Natural.” Okay, okay, he was the inspiration, not the real thing. But he did return from the tragedy to play very well. He hit .284 and scored 102 runs for the 1950 Phillies, then — though struggling in 1951, had a fine 1952 campaign before an abbreviated 1953. He returned in 1955 and played well in 33 games. Sadly, the shooting did a number on his mind, and his body followed soon. He died of cancer at age 53.

Comment: Waitkus had a short Phillie career, but helped to contribute to the 1950 pennant winners. Though his story is tragic, his spirit lives on through the wonderful score of Randy Newman. Ah, Randy Newman.

  • 3 Comments
 

Commentary: Phillies Have The Makeup Of A Big-Time Program

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, January 22, 2009 12:27 PM Comments: 43

Turnover is a major part of the game in college sports. For the established, big-time schools (in basketball, let’s say, there’s Duke, UNC, UConn, UCLA) it’s simple to keep in contention, as they recycle big-name, blue-chip players every year. For some other major-conference schools, however, it’s a little more of a challenge. These schools – such as Villanova, Wake Forest, Maryland and USC – might suffer a year or two of downturn because they’re waiting for the right class to revitalize the program.

One of the terms most used in college sports is “departing senior.” Teams that have a lot of departing seniors might be very good, but won’t be so good the next season. The Phillies? They had a few departing seniors – Pat Burrell, Tom Gordon, Rudy Seanez; they patched one hole with Raul Ibanez, another “senior” who will be on board for a few years. So those losses won’t affect the Phillies much; in fact, they might even help.

Like a good college team, the Phillies have a wealth of experienced players entering their “junior” years. Jimmy Rollins, the floor general, has the talent and leadership; now he has the experience that puts him ahead of the pack. Look around the league – would you rather have the untested Hanley Ramirez, the short Jose Reyes, the elder Derek Jeter or the perfectly primed and experienced Rollins? To lead my team, I’m taking Young James.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are also readying for their junior years, and though Utley won’t be starting his on time, he’ll jump right in and invigorate the team upon arrival. There’s Brad Lidge, Carlos Ruiz, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, Ryan Madson, JC Romero, Chad Durbin – all these players are secured, entrenched in their primes and carry big-game experience.

Two key younger players finishing up their sophomore seasons are Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino. They’ve just found their niches, and are starting to understand what it takes to contribute to a winning program.

There are other seniors – such as the wily Jamie Moyer and well-established Geoff Jenkins – who won’t be asked to do too much, just stay on the ball and provide the teaching to the younger guys. And some red-shirt players will make some rumbles during the season; hopefully Carlos Carrasco, JA Happ, Kyle Kendrick and Lou Marson can help the cause.

But then there’s the hotshot freshman who’s now ready to take the mantle and lead the team. Cole Hamels had the skills, and now he has the ring, accolades and big talk. He’s the guy everyone will be looking to, the guy who’ll be making the big plays. It’s key to keep him hidden just enough – to not overexpose him; he’ll be big down the stretch.

Yes, this team is primed for another run in 2009. They have the makeup of a champion once again. Clearly the window is open for another season, and remains open until probably 2012, just at first glance. They’ve built the makings of a big-time program; hopefully these next few years will solidify that cause.

  • 43 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: CC Sucks!

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 21, 2009 10:54 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.

***

3. Victorino takes CC to school
Date: October 2, 2008

I have attended hundreds of Phillies games in my 24 years on Earth. Many played like company picnics — a couple thousand people hanging out in the multi-colored seats of Veterans Stadium, shirtless fathers, bumbling children, cigarette-smoking mothers in skimpy t-shirts. A lot of haze. Not a lot of drama.

A few games had the trappings of stunners. Most of those games occurred at Citizens Bank Park, with newly minted crowds, crab-fry-munching families, red-clad newbies from La Salle or St. Joe’s. While I knew I was maybe the biggest fan of the 42,000 in attendance, it was nice to see 42,000 in attendance.

On October 2, 2008, I arrived at Citizens Bank Park after an arduous early afternoon drive on Interstate 95. I drank. And drank. And played cornhole. And drank. The sky grew a weird tint of violet. My brothers all had tickets for different areas of the ballpark. And I drank. And I entered the park, excited for my first taste of playoff baseball in 15 years, and saw a sea of red at Citizens Bank Park. A glorious, biblical sea of red.

That sea caused a tidal wave unheard in a Philadelphia ballpark in decades. The wave picked up steam in the second, with a runner at third, a run across, and pitcher Brett Myers hankering in for an at bat against the invincible CC Sabathia. It grew with each pitch. A foul. A ball. A foul. A ball. A foul. A ball. A foul. With each pitch, the wave grew in complexity — at first, applause, then cheers, then disbelief, then laughter. The at bat became comical, as if Sabathia was scored to the Benny Hill theme song. And when Sabathia unfurled that final pitch, a low fastball that Myers didn’t bite, the wave crested, rolling toward the shore. It was something I’d never experienced in Philadelphia.

The wave rolled on high, chanting “CC sucks!” as Jimmy Rollins stepped in. Patient as ever, he walked on four pitches. Suddenly the bases were loaded, Shane Victorino stepped in, and the wave was nearing the shore, ready to crash and topple the 300-pound Sabathia from the mound, as if he was Charlie Brown. And like Snoopy, most of us were laughing hysterically. CC Sabathia? Pitching this poorly? Haha!

If the Phillies didn’t win the World Series, this moment would’ve topped the list. But they did, and maybe, they don’t win if this moment doesn’t happen. This moment, this very moment, is one of those moments that is key in comprising legend. It’s a premonition, a prologue — the first giant wave before the tsunami that would occur less than a month later.

Victorino, after rattling off a foul and finding himself in a small hole, licked his chops. Sabathia needed to eliminate Victorino, but these are why these moments exist. Sometimes things don’t go as they’re planned. And all the while, the wave rode, the fans stood, cheering, howling, hoping for something — a ball, a wild pitch, a single, a blooper. Something.

Sabathia unfurled a changeup that played inside. Victorino pulled it, and the ball flew through the violet sky, into the sea of red, causing the wave to swallow Sabathia whole. We were drunk with adulation. I had a headache, a lost voice, and a red face. Red as the sea. With a 5-1 lead off the invincible Sabathia, there was almost no reason to complete the game. It was inevitable.

The game ended at 5-2. Victorino’s grand slam was the difference, and then some. In small context, it won the game and slayed the beast. But in the larger context, it represented the moment the Phillies became a legal threat. Now they could do anything, and at any time, and against any man. The team meant business.

When the game ended, I emerged in the parking lot, a voice hoarse, a head aching. But all ill feelings were exalted from my system — for now, I had seen a team committed to the goal, and a city committed to its team. For now, we were all the biggest fans, a sea of red that never broke.

The video: Victorino hits the granny

From the comments:

CT: The crowd is loving Brett making contact here… beat that ball Brett!

SJ Mike: That was the greatest at bat EVER! This tops Myers bases loaded at bat vs. the Mets.

Manny: HOLY SHIT WE ARE GONNA BRING THIS BIG BEAR DOWN !!

Jamie: FLYING F**KIN’ HAWAIIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 24 Comments
 

And Now, How The Payroll Shapes Up

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 21, 2009 06:57 PM Comments: 33

So in the past few days, Ruben Amaro Jr., Scott Proefrock and Co. have dwindled the long arbitration-eligible list to one. Of course, that one is the big one, Ryan Howard, but wasn’t he a shoo-in for a table discussion?

Here is the Phillies payroll for 2009:

C – Carlos Ruiz – 0.6 ML (proj)
C – Chris Coste – 0.5 ML (proj)
C – Ronny Paulino – 0.5 ML (proj)
IF – Ryan Howard – N/A
IF – Chase Utley – 11.0
IF – Pedro Feliz – 5.0
IF – Jimmy Rollins – 8.5
IF – Eric Bruntlett – 0.8
IF – Greg Dobbs – 1.15
OF – Raul Ibanez – 8.5
OF – Jayson Werth – 3.0
OF – Shane Victorino – 3.125
OF – Geoff Jenkins – 6.75
OF – Matt Stairs – 1.0
SP – Brett Myers – 12.0
SP – Adam Eaton – 8.5
SP – Jamie Moyer – 6.5
SP – Joe Blanton – 5.475
SP – Cole Hamels – 4.35
SP – Chan Ho Park – 2.5
SP – Kyle Kendrick – 0.5 ML (proj)
SP – JA Happ – 0.42 ML (proj)
RP – Brad Lidge – 11.5
RP – JC Romero – 4.0
RP – Scott Eyre – 2.0
RP – Ryan Madson – 2.0
RP – Chad Durbin – 1.635
RP – Clay Condrey – 0.65

The payroll of the 25-man roster, with a few additions (28 total), currently is $112.455M. This is before Ryan Howard. The 2008 payroll for the 25-man roster was $98.269M. A loss in arbitration for Howard would give the team a payroll of $126M; a win by Howard would make it $130M. Add in Jim Thome’s final $3M, and you’re approaching $135M.

Here are the current indicators for the 2010 Phillies payroll:

C – Carlos Ruiz – ARB 1st year (3)
C – Chris Coste – ARB 1st year (3)
C – Ronny Paulino – ARB 1st year (3)

Clearly a logjam at catcher. With Marson’s resurgence, don’t be surprised if two of these guys are gone by year’s end. The third (Paulino, in my mind), might get a one-year deal before arbitration.

IF – Ryan Howard – ARB 3rd year (4)
IF – Chase Utley – 15.0
IF – Pedro Feliz – 5.0 option (0.5 buyout)
IF – Jimmy Rollins – 7.5
IF – Eric Bruntlett – ARB 3rd year (3)
IF – Greg Dobbs – 1.35

Utley jumps up 4M. Considering the dearth of prospects at third base (and a possibility of a Jason Donald trade in 2009), they pick up Feliz’s option. The Phils could stay with Bruntlett another year, long as he performs well enough in 2009. Howard could be looking for 20M or so. So it might be the time to trade him.

OF – Raul Ibanez – 11.5
OF – Jayson Werth – 7.0
OF – Shane Victorino – ARB 2nd year (3)
OF – Geoff Jenkins – 7.5 option (1.25 buyout)

Ibanez and Werth make a combined 9M more than in 2009. Victorino will likely see a jump in salary (or a long-term deal). That said, the Phils won’t pick up Jenkins’ option, saving 6M (which is what Victorino would likely get with a multiyear deal in 2010). Look for young, non-arbitration talent to fill the holes, and by then, Michael Taylor and John Mayberry Jr. could be ready.

SP – Adam Eaton – 9.0 option (0.5 buyout)
SP – Jamie Moyer – 6.5
SP – Joe Blanton – ARB 3rd year (3)
SP – Cole Hamels – 6.65
SP – Kyle Kendrick – 0.7 ML (proj)
SP – JA Happ – 0.6 ML (proj)

Myers and Park come off the books, and the Phillies would be the dumbest franchise alive by picking up Eaton’s option. These three losses would save the Phillies 23M. Blanton may expect a raise to about 7M, or a long-term deal. By now Carrasco might enter the picture, but he’d only be making a half million. Happ and Kendrick wouldn’t be arbitration eligible yet. Still, I don’t expect a Hamels/Moyer/Blanton/Happ/Carrasco rotation. Re-signing Myers might cost about 10-14M, and that’s if 2009 is a good season.

RP – Brad Lidge – 11.5
RP – JC Romero – 4.0
RP – Ryan Madson – 4.5
RP – Chad Durbin – ARB 3rd year (3)
RP – Clay Condrey – ARB 2nd year (3)

Durbin would probably get 2M or so, if not a longer deal. Condrey would likely get close to a million. Eyre becomes a free agent, and might lean toward retirement. Obviously a starter could take a bullpen spot; moreover, a bunch of hopefuls will fight for spots. Still, expect a middle relief signing or two by 2010.

So, just as a very early indicator, the Phillies might be searching for starting pitching and maybe a first baseman in 2010, while dealing with nine potential arbitration cases. Expect that number to dwindle before the offseason.

I’ll have more about the offseason moves later.

  • 33 Comments
 

Law Ranks Phillies 11th In Farm System Assessments

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 21, 2009 06:03 PM Comments: 29

ESPN Minor League writer Keith Law named the Phillies the 11th best farm system in his annual organization rankings:

Philadelphia Phillies: This system has improved dramatically in the past year, in particular because of the emergence of two tools guys, Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, who weren’t really on the radar last winter. The system could make a big move up if a few high-risk/high-reward picks from this year pan out.

Hat tip to reader Justin. Everything outside of the top 10 is insider only.

Frankly, that’s a great sign. The Phillies were usually one of the bottom feeders, especially during the Ed Wade era (ironically, the Wade-run Astros are dead last this year). It’s good that the toolsy players are panning out enough to justify a higher ranking in some minds. Hopefully the payoff is richer.

  • 29 Comments
 

100 Greatest Phillies: 65 – Willie Jones

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 21, 2009 05:44 PM Comments: 7

Willie Jones
Third Baseman
1947-1959

Career w/Phillies: .258 AVG / 180 HR / 753 RBI / 39 SB

Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones. Yes, the best nickname in Phillies history – Jones got the name from a popular 1930s song, “‘Wooden Head, Puddin’ Head Jones.” Well, that stinks. Still, Jones was a pretty solid offensive popular, and helped the Whiz Kids as a 24-year-old, scoring 100 runs for the only time in his career and reaching a career-high 163 hits and 25 home runs. Because of his 13-year tenure with the Phillies, Jones ranks 15th in team history in hits and 10th in home runs, though he’ll soon be surpassed by Ryan Howard, who is just three behind him. He was also a great clutch hitter, but most of all, he was a fantastic glove. He led third basemen in fielding percentage seven consecutive years, and is among all-time leaders in putouts.

Comment: I could probably rank Jones in the top 50, but his offense was merely average, taking some of the shine off his superb defense. I will say that with the listing of Jones, we’re staring to enter solid territory.

  • 7 Comments
 
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