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Archive for December, 2009

Charlie the Red-Faced Phillie

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, December 24, 2009 09:31 AM Comments: 16

You know J-Roll and Utley and Ryno and Shane,

Madson and Jayson and Chooch and Rauuul,

But do you recall, the most famous Phillie of all?

Charlie the Red-Faced Phillie, had a very shiny nose

And if you ever saw him, you would even say he knows

Just how to hit a baseball, taught all the players how to swing

Charlie was still looked down on, the city never liked his ways

Then one cold October eve, Charlie came to say

Lidge go throw us one last pitch, bring us home the championship

Then how the city loved him, as they lined the streets with glee

Charlie the Red-Faced Phillie, he went down in history.

-Merry Christmas from Phillies Nation

  • 16 Comments
 

Phils Add a Reliever?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, December 23, 2009 04:32 PM Comments: 73

According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Phillies have signed a relief pitcher, yet, he isn’t sure who it is yet.  There are a slew of names out there that have been linked to the Phils in recent weeks, the latest being Danys Baez and Mike MacDougal.

Fernando Rodney signed with the Los Angeles Angels so (thankfully) it isn’t him, which leaves the usual suspects: Baez, Capps, Dotel, Valverde, MacDougal, among others.

I’d still like to see Matt Capps as I think his career numbers prove that last season was a fluke.  Although, with the pressures of Philadelphia, it’s tough to say how players will respond to a winning climate.  Baez, too, would be a decent signing, as long as it is for far less than Rodney’s asking price of somewhere around $5.5 million per.

  • 73 Comments
 

The Adversaries in Atlanta

Posted by Corey Seidman, Wed, December 23, 2009 04:14 AM Comments: 49

While Jack Zduriencik, and to a lesser extent, Ruben Amaro Jr., have been stealing headlines this offseason by wheeling, dealing, shuffling, and replenishing, Frank Wren is quietly assembling a formidable team in Turner Country.

For eight years, Wren was as an understudy to long-time Braves GM John Schuerholz, a man whose name is usually written in sentences that contain the words “genius” or “legendary.” After seventeen successful seasons as the General Manager of the Braves, Schuerholz, the architect of a team that won an unprecedented fourteen consecutive division titles under his watch, assumed the role of team president.

Wren took over then, but the club he inherited was more of a second- or third-place team in the NL East; the Braves had slowly fallen behind the Phillies and Mets in terms major league talent level, despite producing and sustaining an above-average farm system.

An injury-plagued 2008 season led to a 72-90 finish in Wren’s first year as GM. The Braves lost 14 of 18 games to the Phillies and ended the season with a record closer to that of the last-place Nationals than the Phils.

In 2009, the team fared much better, going 86-76 and winning 23 of 36 against the Phils and Mets.

But after watching the Phillies hit (and occasionally pitch) their way to two World Series berths, Wren has attempted to stockpile as much firepower as humanly possible through trades and free agency. And to make things even scarier for Philadelphians, he doesn’t seem to be finished piecing together his 2010 puzzle.

Wren got to work early by signing righthanded reliever and former Joe Torre-workhorse, Scott Proctor, to a minor-league deal. A week later, an agreement was reached that will keep Tim Hudson in Atlanta for three more seasons. On the second day of December, Billy Wagner sold himself to a third NL East employer by agreeing to a one-year pact with the Braves. And one day later, former Dodgers closer Takashi Saito signed a deal.

When the team’s 2009 closer, Rafael Soriano, agreed to arbitration, the Braves had a strange dilemma on their hands, as they all-of-the-sudden possessed a glut of late-inning relievers. Keeping Soriano and his $8M price-tag would have been difficult, so Wren shipped him off to Tampa Bay for Jesse Chavez, a righthanded reliever who pitched 67 solid innings for the Pirates in ’09 before being traded to the Rays in the offseason.

On December 11, the Braves and outfielder Matt Diaz agreed to terms, allowing the unquestionably underrated Phillie-killer to avoid arbitration.

Finally, on December 22, Wren and Yankees GM Brian Cashman worked out a trade that sent the great Javier Vazquez back to New York in exchange for outfielder Melky Cabrera. Reliever Boone Logan was also traded to New York, and pitching prospects Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino went to Atlanta.

By trading Vazquez, the Braves lost an extremely effective starting pitcher who struck out ten batters per nine innings pitched in 2009, while walking only two-per-nine. Every single number Vazquez compiled last season was extraordinary (1.02 WHIP, 238 K’s in 219 innings,) as evidenced by his fourth place finish in the race for NL Cy Young. It’s difficult to call the Braves “winners” in a deal that loses them such a dominant starter, but the Vazquez trade benefits the Braves in multiple ways.

For starters, his $11.5M salary is wiped off the books. Secondly, it allows Atlanta to enter the 2010 season having a set rotation of Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, and Kenshin Kawakami. While the 2009 Phillies and Red Sox proved that you can never have enough starting pitching, the Braves had an excess at the position and used that advantage to patch up an ugly hole in the outfield.

Cabrera hit .274/.336/.416 last year with 13 homers and 68 RBI in 485 at-bats. His defense was just about middle-of-the-pack and he was worth 1.6 wins above replacement. The Braves outfield was terrible in 2009, but the addition of Cabrera solidifies it. If the outfield were to be left alone from this point forward, Cabrera would be flanked by Diaz (a player who deserves to play everyday) and Nate McClouth.

But, unfortunately, Frank Wren isn’t interested in leaving the outfield as is.

As a guest on 790 The Zone in Atlanta Tuesday, Wren dropped a few not-so-subtle hints about the Braves plans in the coming days. “There’s definitely some more things we’re doing,” he said, “We’re going to add a run-producer that’s going to round out our offense.”

Now, the “run-producer” Wren mentioned could be a guy like Adam LaRoche (re-acquired by the Braves in July of ’09,) or Marlon Byrd, but the Braves could also be players in the Jason Bay or Matt Holliday sweepstakes. Holliday will likely be too expensive for the Braves, but not Bay. He’ll get something in the vicinity of $64M over four years, meaning the Braves would only be paying a few million more in 2010 salary than they would have been with Vazquez on the team.

Bay would make much more sense with the Braves than the Mets, because the Braves appear to be headed in the right direction. Bay’s agent recently expressed the free agent outfielder’s disinterest in signing with a third-place club, which is what the 2010 Mets are looking more and more like each day.

Bay is not a superstar capable of single-handedly catapulting a team to greatness, but he is a .280/.376/.520 hitter that is projected to hit 32 homers next season. His defense is atrocious, but with all things included, he’d add about three wins to the 2010 Atlanta Braves. Considering this is the tail-end of Chipper Jones’ career, it makes sense to sign Bay and make the most of a 3-4-5 that would include the two sluggers and catcher Brian McCann.

The Atlanta bullpen was improved by the signings of Wagner and Saito, as was the outfield by trading for Cabrera. In dealing Vazquez, they gave up a surplus for a deficit, but locked themselves into a starting rotation that just about every other major league team should envy.

If Frank Wren can make one more splash by signing Jason Bay, those old foes from Atlanta could give the Phillies a run for their money in 2010, Roy Halladay or not.

  • 49 Comments
 

Odds and Ends: Rodney, Halladay

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, December 22, 2009 07:33 PM Comments: 34

- Fernando Rodney is close to being scooped up by the Los Angeles Angels, according to the Detroit Free Press.  The Phillies, however, are reportedly also in on the former Tiger closer.  Can’t say I’m overly thrilled about this possibility, although there isn’t much out there in terms of back-end help. Rodney wants to close and while he does have good stuff, can be wild at times.  His 4.40 ERA and 1.47 WHIP back up that notion, so for those pining for the 32-year old righty, perhaps you should temper expectations.  While the bullpen is the most pressing issue at the moment, the Phillies should look elsewhere – and it appears they may have to if the Angels nab him.  If he gets more than the two-year, $12 million Mike Gonzalez got from Baltimore, the Phillies should jump ship immediately.

-In today’s Toronto Sun, Roy Halladay showed Toronto just how classy he is. Doc took out a full-page advertisement thanking Blue Jays fans for his time north of the border.  Great show of love by Halladay toward his old town. You can tell the guy really gets it and enjoyed what that city gave him for so long.  He won a Cy Young award there, made a lot of money, but did not win.  Halladay will finally get that opportunity here and we couldn’t be more enthused to see him wear that number 34 with pride.

-Javier Vazquez is now a Yankee. The Braves traded the starting pitcher to the AL East for Melky Cabrera.  Vazquez has 12 career wins against the Phillies, the most against any team in the majors, so it will be good to see him go.  He faced the Phillies three times in ’09, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA.  He now joins the Yankees as their number three or four starter, and I have to say, it was a very strong move by the Yanks.  He solidifies an already very good rotation, he was had on the cheap, plus will provide a ton of innings for the champs.  Brian Cashman is doing a very solid job this offseason.

-Jason Marquis is now a Nat.  He joined the Washington Nationals, signing a two-year, $15 million contract to join the worst team in baseball.  It was reported that the Phillies had interest in the 31-year old, another iffy proposition.  Marquis has been consistently average throughout his career, as is evident by his 4.48 ERA.  The Phillies, sadly, are already paying for mediocrity with a large sum going to Jamie Moyer this year.  This move would have been an awful idea.  Pay a number five starter $7.5 million on average?  Marquis’ career stats look very Adam Eaton-like, so it was a wise move letting the Nats take on that hefty sum for lack of upside.

-Brandon Morrow is now a Blue Jay.  Toronto shipped Brandon League and a prospect to Seattle for the 25-year old righty.  Tell me why the Phillies couldn’t receive Morrow in the Cliff Lee trade?  He has just under 200 career innings under his belt and sports a 3.93 ERA.  Morrow mostly threw out of the bullpen in 2009, but can start and has done well in limited action.  He is 4-3 lifetime with a 4.42 ERA as a SP.  He has the tools to be a very good closer for many years, or even a decent mid-line starter.  Again, this guy couldn’t have been thrown in for a Cy Young winner?

(UPDATE: Wed., 8:56 am): The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that the Phillies are talking with Mike McDougal, former White Sox, Royal, and National.  The lanky righty saved 20 games a year ago and has closed before in KC, but has bounced around the league while posting inconsistent numbers over the life of his nine-year career.  Is he an upgrade over Condrey?

  • 34 Comments
 

Top Moment No. 17: NLDS Game Three

Posted by Amanda Orr, Tue, December 22, 2009 02:30 PM Comments: 2

Top Moment #17:  Phils take series lead on Howard’s sacrifice fly

The third game of the National League Division Series was truly one for the ages.  It had to wait an extra day due to snow, but for four hours and six minutes, the Phillies and the Rockies see-sawed in one of the most well played games of the postseason.

Chase Utley opened the scoring with a solo shot in the first inning.  The Rockies answered back against J.A Happ, who couldn’t seem to find a rhythm.  It wasn’t often Happ struggled, but the frigid temperatures got to him.  He lasted only three innings, surrendering three runs.

The Phillies finally got to Jason Hammel in the fourth.  Howard stroked a RBI single, Raul Ibanez drew a bases loaded walk, and Carlos Ruiz slapped a single to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.  After Carlos Gonzalez tied the game with a home run (he gave the Phillies plenty of trouble during the NLDS), Chooch delivered again to continue his unbelievable postseason hitting.  But again, the Rockies tied it.

In the ninth inning, Chase Utley checked his swing, and the baseball bounced off his foot.  However, the umpires missed the call (like they did so many times during the postseason), and a hustling Utley was ruled safe at first.  Ryan Howard followed with a deep sacrifice fly that scored Jimmy Rollins from third.  The Phillies took a 6-5 lead, and Brad Lidge completed the save despite allowing a couple base runners.

It is notable that Game 3 was the coldest game in playoff history, and it wasn’t over until 2:14 AM Eastern time.  The Phillies took a 2-1 series lead, and Philadelphia fans could finally get some sleep – but it was worth the late night.

  • 2 Comments
 

The Dip: Business is Business

Posted by The Dipsy, Tue, December 22, 2009 09:11 AM Comments: 134

The Dip is back. Welcome to another edition penned by our own commenter, The Dipsy. Agree or disagree with what he says? Tell us by leaving your comments.

After a six month dance comprised of equal parts fixation, stubbornness, and incompetence, Ruben Amaro finally delivered Phillies fans Roy Halladay, gift wrapped with a bow on top, just in time for Christmas. While the front office finally seemed sated, the attendant loss of Cliff Lee – in an altogether separate trade – has left many fans with a bitter taste in their mouths because most of us believe it didn’t have to happen. Fans can view the departure of Cliff Lee in a number of ways: stupid, short sighted, panic induced, and cheap spring to my mind. I view the deal as the squandering of a once in a lifetime opportunity to become one of the great teams of its era. While the fans have been told the reasons why it had to go down this way, we’re still not sure we really understand. But maybe not understanding is better, because if we knew the real reasons, we might be that much more angry.

It’s A Baseball Decision

Giving up prospects to get a really good player does serious damage to your farm system – I get it. If we were getting blue chip prospects back from Seattle I could ALMOST understand it. From all accounts they are decent prospects. To my way of thinking, you don’t trade an underpaid Cy Young winner when you’re in the middle of a string of World Series runs just so you can add players to your farm system. If the Phillies had kept Lee, the minor league talent still would have been middle of the road. But we don’t need any players from there right now, anyway.

Worried about replenishing the pipeline? If I’m not mistaken we get compensatory picks for Lee and Blanton when they leave after next season. If the plan was always to make that second trade for prospects, it would have made a helluva lot more sense to make the Halladay trade then hang on to Lee and trade him during spring training when you can get more value. Perhaps we could have even traded Blanton instead. As a baseball decision, this was a poor one. But it was more than that.

It’s a Business Decision

David Montgomery, Wharton graduate, made a statement last week that the Phillies were “already in the red”. If you’re like me, you found these remarks to be disingenuous and insulting. There are a zillion ways in accounting to measure valuation and profits and I’m sure Dave had his pick of which one he wanted to use to back up his assertion. Just for fun though, lets assume that he’s being truthful. Operating from this premise I offer the following remarks.

Baseball teams are capital assets. The money that is made goes back into the team. That is why the Skull and Bones Society that is Phiilies ownership has turned a 30 million investment into about $500 million. This is called “capital appreciation”. Montgomery thinks we have no concept of this. I have my own business and on any given day you can ask me how my revenue stream is and I can say “it sucks”. Never mind that I’ve socked away a ton into my business over the years. Yet, because of the nature of businesses and how they are set up, I can still look a guy in the eye and tell him that, at the moment, “I’m in the red”. This is what the Phillies do.

Let’s assume that the Phillies really ARE struggling financially. Given the amount of gold bullion they rake in every year on attendance, TV, concessions, advertising, merchandising, blah blah, if they can’t turn a profit, I would suggest that they are working with a flawed business model and that they need to change it. I don’t know any business (and we are talking “business” here) that would allow the guys that run it to lose them money every year…well, except the Pirates owner. As a consumer, I implore the ownership to make the appropriate personnel changes to make the club profitable so I don’t have to see another Cliff Lee fiasco in my lifetime.

At the risk of venturing into esoterica, I would call the reader’s attention to a thing in business called “branding”. It is the concept that a business utilizes, through capital expenditure, marketing, commitment to excellence in the product space, and overall product quality, to gain an additional revenue stream that can be attributed directly to its reputation – it’s what all right-thinking businesses aspire to. This revenue stream can inure to the business during poor business cycles when other competing products are more effected. Think: McDonald’s, Clorox, Gillette, iPod. In sports, think of the Cowboys, Yankees, Dodgers, Lakers, Jeff Gordon, etc. Why do you think the Cowboys have so many fans in states not named Texas and why these same fans stuck with them after the glory days of the 70′s, and when they stunk in the 80′s. Because they did everything they could to win, had great players, and did it for a long time.

If the Phillies had kept Cliff Lee and won another Series, there would be kids growing up in Nebraska as Phillies fans. Buying Phillies stuff. Flying in for Phillies games twice a year. There’s a tangible dollar value in that. Montgomery knows it yet looks elsewhere because he and his partners won’t be around in 10 years to reap that money.

When the Phillies kissed off the chance to keep Cliff Lee for another year, they sent a message to everyone that while they’d love to be in the World Series, it would have to be on their terms. That approach inspires no one. While trading Lee saves the Phillies a few bucks in the short term, they missed the opportunity to become a money-making machine in the long run that another World Series title would bring them. The chances of that happening without Lee are considerably less. And THAT’S why trading Lee is a bad business decision, too.

  • 134 Comments
 

Year in Review: Shane Victorino

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, December 21, 2009 05:15 PM Comments: 9

http://blog.nj.com/timesupdates/2007/10/large_victorinoRarely will you ever see Shane Victorino end up last in a race.  However, one of the finest Phillies moments of the 2009 season was when he did.

Victorino was voted in as the final player on the National League All Star roster for the midsummer classic in St. Louis, receiving 15.6 million votes online. He was the fifth and final Phillie to join the squad, along with Utley, Howard, Werth, and Ibanez.

Fans around the country became aware of the Flyin’ Hawaiian because of his immense speed and that jovial expression.  His speed is evident in the 13 triples he provided last season – the most in baseball – to go with his ability to cover a ridiculous amount of ground when patrolling centerfield.  He earned his second Rawlings Gold Glove following the ’09 season.

Offensively, Shane has been one of the most consistent Phillies since his tenure began.  He’s hit between .281 and .293 in his four full seasons in Philadelphia, plus has stolen 102 bases in that same time frame.  His walks, RBI, on-base percentage, hits, and doubles have all risen each season he has been here.

In addition, he was one of the most steady Phillies in the postseason, hitting .293 with three homers in 15 games.  All of those qualities are making him a household name, but will also make him a rich man very soon.

That brings us to the contract situation.  Will Shane be here after the 2010 campaign?  He is eligible for arbitration this offseason and after making $3.125 million last year, that number will surely skyrocket following the intangibles and superlatives laid before you.  Figure that number to be somewhere in the $6 million range for ’10.  Beyond that, it’s unknown how much money the Phillies have to spend when other names like Werth, Rollins, and Howard all heading for free agency.  Is Shane expendable with the impending Domonic Brown take over in the outfield? We will soon find out.

Whether he stays or goes in the next 12 months, he is the heartbeat of this team.  He makes the blood flow, especially when Jimmy Rollins struggles, because of his speed/smarts at the top of the order.  Shane is a vital cog to the success of the Phillies, that much we know.  Let’s hope it continues for many years to come as part of this championship-caliber franchise.

2009 numbers: .292 avg., 10 HR, 62 RBI, 25 SB, 39 2B, 13 3B, 102 R, .803 OPS

GRADE: 8.4/10: Shane had an All-Star season from start to finish, although he did hit the skids at the end just a bit.  Still, he’s one of the best all around players in the game and is an integral part of the Phillies.

  • 9 Comments
 

Top Moment No. 18: Pedro Outduels Lincecum

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, December 21, 2009 01:41 PM Comments: 5

Throughout the month, Phillies Nation will be counting down the Top 25 Phillies Moments of 2009.

Top Moment #18: September 3, 2009 – Pedro Martinez outduels Tim Lincecum in 2-1 victory

Entering September, it appeared the move to pick up Pedro Martinez was pure genius. His addition alongside the newly acquired Cliff Lee more than made up for the minor offensive slump the Phillies were experiencing late in the season.  This home game was Pedro’s fifth start with the team which had won his first four. He was facing the Giants young phenom, Tim Lincecum.  It was a much anticipated match up of the Old Goat versus the Freak.

As an archetypal competitor, Pedro was up to the challenge…well maybe, not at first.  The Giants opened the scoring when left fielder Eugenio Velez smashed the first pitch of the game over the wall for a leadoff home run. Pedro later said the hit was a wake up call.  He was able to recover and escape the inning then soon settled in for another impressive performance.

After Jayson Werth tied the game with an upper deck homer to left field in the second inning, Martinez and Lincecum went on auto pilot.  Then with two outs in the sixth, the Giants righty drilled Chase Utley with a fastball to the upper back. Ryan Howard made Lincecum pay by smacking a double to score Utley and give the Phillies the lead.

Pedro exited the game after seven innings and finished with five hits and one run allowed with nine strikeouts and no walks. Madson breezed through the eighth and Lidge overcame a stressful ninth to close it out for the Phillies’ 77th win of the season. Tim Lincecum’s eleven strikeouts helped to end the pitchers’ duel in just 2 hours and 8 minutes.  It also helped to send the Phillies offense deeper into a slump as Raul Ibanez struck out three times with Ultey and Howard each recording two.

Nonetheless, Pedro went on to finish the regular season 5-1, with the team going 8-1 when he pitched.  Unfortunately he came up short in the World Series with two losses; but no matter his future with the Phillies, he can point to this game as proof that the Old Goat has still got it.

Highlights from the Gameday Comments:

  • 5 Comments
 

Join Us for Spring Training 2010

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, December 21, 2009 08:06 AM Comments: 3

Phillies Spring Training TailgateMore so than Santa’s impending visit, I can not wait for Spring Training. The Phillies will be back with a vengeance in just over two months as they escape the cold northeast for sunny Clearwater.

If you plan on heading south in March for some Phillies fun in the sun, then you should meet up with us for our 4th annual St. Patrick’s Day tailgate outside Bright House Networks Field.  There will be plenty of free food, beer and giveaways.

Oh yea, did I mention the Phillies are playing the Yankees?  So yea, it’ll be as big as a Spring Training game can get.  Even if you don’t have plans yet, start thinking about it – a trip makes a great last-minute gift idea.

If you’re interested in coming, sign up below and we’ll send you more details as the date approaches.  In the meantime, keep shoveling that snow!

  • 3 Comments
 

Top Moment No. 19: Phils Slam Two

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sat, December 19, 2009 08:30 PM Comments: 15

Throughout the month, Phillies Nation will be counting down the Top 25 Phillies Moments of 2009.

Top Moment #19: Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez Slam Past Nationals

The Phillies had their share of grand slams in 2009; a major league leading eleven of them to be exact.  Grand slams are not classified as rare, but they aren’t seen on a daily basis.  Two grand slams in one game, however, may be a little rare.  After all it happened four times in franchise history: 1921, 1997, 2003, and April 27, 2009.

April was a rough month for Joe Blanton, and he continued his struggles in this game: 4.1 IP, six runs, eight hits and three walks.  The Phillies found themselves trailing 6-2 in the fifth, but Ryan Howard’s salami to straight away center field tied it up.

The Nationals were homer-happy themselves.  Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, Elijah Dukes hit a monster shot, and Nick Johnson broke the seventh inning tie with a two-run home run.  It started to look like it got out of hand for the Phils, who trailed 11-7.  But if there was one thing learned about the 2009 team, it was to never give up on them.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies were able to inch closer and load the bases for Raul Ibanez. ”I knew I hit it far and I was just hoping it wouldn’t hook out.  I was trying to go short with my swing and drive in the runner from second base,” Ibanez said.  He did that and more.  Ibanez smashed a grand slam which ultimately won the game.

After the game, Phillies Nation’s own Tim Malcolm recapped the victory: “This, my friends, was a game for the ages. And at this point, nobody can ever count the Phillies out of any game. These guys can win anything.”  We found that last sentence to be very true.

  • 15 Comments
 
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