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Archive for March, 2010

Internal Discussions

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, March 17, 2010 03:22 PM Comments: 40

I play sports video games a lot. Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become truly great at something, and I think I’m there with EA’s FIFA series. But what I like more than the gameplay itself is managing the team and making roster moves.

With all this Ryan Howard-to-the-Cardinals-for-Albert Pujols nonsense going on this week, I think it’d be fun to ask for some submissions from the audience on the following: Let’s say you suddenly become empowered with the ability to possess (like a demon) another human being’s body, and you now control Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s consciousness. I wouldn’t stay long because he’s a pescatarian and I’d need to stop out for a burger, but you get the idea. What trades do you pull off? Here are some ground rules:

1) It has to be something that would actually be accepted by the other team. Much as I’d like to trade Kyle Kendrick and Juan Castro to the Nationals for Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg, the Nats wouldn’t accept that trade.

2) It has to keep the Phillies competitive in 2010 without completely blowing up the future, and vice-versa.

3) Salary matters. You can get a big contract, but you have to dump some salary in return or get someone who would sell enough jerseys to pay for an eight-figure salary.

4) No one’s untouchable. Now’s the time to indulge those Utley-for-David Wright fantasies you’ve always had.

5) And before some smartass thinks this up, no undoing the Cliff Lee trade.

My suggestions, if you care, are after the jump.

Continue reading Internal Discussions

  • 40 Comments
 

Photos from Today’s Phillies-Tigers Game

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, March 16, 2010 07:28 PM Comments: 8

Here are more photos from this afternoon’s Spring Training game between the Phillies and Tigers. The Phillies pitching (during “A” games) continues to look strong, as does top prospect Domonic Brown. So with a sunny day, the beautiful backdrop of Bright House Networks Field (without question the finest ballpark in either Spring league), a semi-fancy camera and our favorite Phillie stars, it’s hard to take a bad picture.

  • 8 Comments
 

Howard/Pujols Not Just Another Trade Rumor

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, March 16, 2010 09:14 AM Comments: 56

The consensus surrounding the Ryan Howard/Albert Pujols trade rumors is that it’s a non-issue.  Teams talk like this all the time – and they should because attempting to wrangle in the best players in baseball is the focal point of any organization.  The Phillies brass are merely looking at all possibilities regarding their payroll-inflated roster that is sure to keep rising if another move isn’t made.  But this move reaches a different level.  Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols may be a pipe dream – and it sure as hell is being beaten like a dead horse – but it’s still not something that is discussed everyday.

I don’t pretend to know everything about the inner-workings of a baseball club, but conversations like this one can’t take place as often as prevailing wisdom says.  Are the Kansas City Royals huddled in Kauffman Stadium mapping out a way to steal Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees?  Should the Pittsburgh Pirates be scouting David Wright because they can make a play for him?  This type of thinking is reserved for only a handful of franchises.  The Phillies happen to be one.

The thought process behind this deal is not as laughable as one would think.  The non-issue is that there is a 99.8% chance it will not happen.  St. Louis would burn to the ground if Pujols were to be traded well in advance of his contract ending.  To slam the writer of this rumor, ESPN’s Buster Olney, is also a mistake. The guy is simply doing his job, and if that means wrestle up more hits by using two of the biggest names in sports, then so be it.

On the surface, this would seem like a ridiculous trade, however, the Phillies are attempting to find a soft spot in the Cardinals organization.  It’s impossible to tell how deep the discussions became regarding such a blockbuster, but the fact is, the Cardinals are going to have a hard time affording the mammoth contract Pujols will likely garner in free-agency a few years down the road.

You can’t blame the Phillies for “talking” about this.  Also remember that the Phillies are one of the few teams that could actually pull off this type of deal.  Maybe not this exact trade, but they have the resources to make big moves, which not all teams do.  That’s what sets this rumor apart from the rest.

  • 56 Comments
 

Photos from Phillies Spring Training

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, March 15, 2010 05:50 PM Comments: 11

Here are a bunch of photos – including a few dozen of Roy Halladay – from today’s Phillies-Pirates Grapefruit League action in Bradenton, FL. A quick summary of the game: Halladay looked solid even though he gave up his first run of the Spring; Placido Polanco sprained his knee after attempting to catch a pop-up in the swirling winds behind the mound; Cody Ransom hit a solo shot to center and played well in Polanco’s absence; Phillies won 5-1.

  • 11 Comments
 

Buster Olney on 97.3 ESPN FM

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, March 15, 2010 03:30 PM Comments: 26

ESPN’s Buster Olney joined The Sports Bash with Mike Gill today to talk about the reported “internal discussions” the Phillies are having regarding Albert Pujols.

Olney says the Phils are talking amongst themselves – and has reiterated that they have not talked to St. Louis – as they figure out if they can pry Albert Pujols away from the Cards for Ryan Howard.  The Phillies first baseman is a St. Louis native, but Pujols is their native son, so a trade of this magnitude is unlikely to occur.

Listen to the entire Buster Olney interview:  Buster Olney on 97.3 ESPN FM

  • 26 Comments
 

The Dip: Roll Call

Posted by The Dipsy, Mon, March 15, 2010 07:13 AM Comments: 87

#11 Jimmy Rollins Takes off for second

Dave Bancroft, Travis Jackson, Bobby Wallace, and John Ward. No, this is not a list of NASCAR drivers. It is a list of men who have played shortstop in the major leagues and have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Suffice it to say, these guys don’t evoke the grandeur and prestige (tongue firmly in cheek) of that hallowed institution. This is one important reason why Jimmy Rollins, if he continues at pace for another 3-5 years, will go into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not only that, but he has a chance at being considered one of the greatest shortstops of all time.

Sure, maybe I’m not giving the above-mentioned individuals enough credit, but if they were really that great, I would have at least heard of them before I actually looked at the list of actual Hall of Fame shortstops. I am one of those guys that really don’t take baseball before Babe Ruth that seriously. Further, I don’t really consider the truly “modern era” of baseball to have begun until Jackie Robinson broke in. Even so, as it pertains to this discussion, I cannot dispute that Honus Wagner was just incredible and stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. With the way he hit, he could have been a butcher in the field and it wouldn’t have mattered.

The shortstops in the Hall can be sorted into groups.

  1. The guys that played when dinosaurs roamed the earth: Bancroft, Jackson, Wallace, Ward, Hughie Jennings, Rabbit Maranville, and Joe Tinker (check his stats when you get a chance).
  2. Guys who got in mostly through their association with great teams: Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Loe Boudreau
  3. The truly deserving: Joe Cronin, Arky Vaughn, Luke Appling, Robin Yount
  4. The truly great: Wagner, Luis Aparicio, Cal Ripken, Jr., Ernie Banks, and Ozzie Smith

Now you have some context. Jimmy Rollins, during is first ten seasons in the league, has led the league in AB’s and triples four times, won three Gold Gloves (the beginning of a string I suspect), won one MVP and one World Series. He has averaged out of the lead-off spot, 660 AB’s (wow), 105 runs (wow again), and 36 stolen bases while hitting .274. There is no better defensive shortstop in the game. If this caliber of play continues it would take him right over the “truly deserving” category and into the “truly great”.

Of the shortstops currently in the Hall I would take three – and only three – before Jimmy: Honus Wagner, Ozzie Smith, and Luis Aparicio. Aparicio, was a World Series winner, 10 time all-star, 9 time Gold Glove winner, and led the AL in steals 9 straight years (bet you didn’t know that). He was the first state of the art modern day shortstop and an incredible fielder. Ernie Banks only played half his career at shortstop, and if not for that, he would be there with the other three. If you compare Ripken and Jimmy, I’ll take Jimmy’s total offensive game over Ripken’s power. In the field, Cal would catch any ball he could get his hands on, and so can Jimmy. The difference is that Jimmy gets his hands on more balls.

Yes, the roster of Hall of Fame shortstops is not reflective of superior offensive prowess, with shortstop being a defense-first position. Jimmy has more years left to play and hopefully another World Series or two to win. He is a phenomenal two way player who’s biggest sin is not walking more. While Phillies fans tend to be more agog these days over Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, let this little write up serve as a reminder of how good we’ve got it at shortstop. We may actually be in the presence of greatness. Jimmy Rollins is that good.

  • 87 Comments
 

Kendrick Fires Another Gem; Howard to STL?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, March 14, 2010 05:03 PM Comments: 61

First things first, Kyle Kendrick was once again spectacular in his third spring outing.  He tossed four brilliant innings, allowing just two hits, although he did not strike anyone out, which is cause for some concern. The one number that sticks out is the zero runs allowed thus far.  KK is certainly making the coaching staff think twice about inserting Jamie Moyer in the fifth starter spot.  And even if Moyer is given that opportunity to begin the season, Kendrick is proving to be a legit fallback option should the elder statesman falter.

The Phillies lost today, 4-3 to the Orioles.  Drew Carpenter pitched three strong out of the pen, giving up one run while striking out five.  However, Sergio Escalona continues to allow baserunners at an alarming rate.  The lefty allowed three earned runs and four hits in one inning or work. Not good for a guy trying to stick as another lefty in the big league bullpen.

Now, onto the fascinating/crazy trade talk provided by ESPN’s Buster Olney.  He reported today that the Phillies discussed internally a trade that would send Ryan Howard to St. Louis for Albert Pujols. In no way does this mean a trade was talked about between the two clubs, rather, it seems as though the Phils brass has at least thought about sending an offer to the Cardinals.

Doubtful.  There’s no way the Cardinals trade the greatest hitter in baseball and the face of an entire town. Even if they were blown away by an offer that included multiple top prospects, I still don’t think John Mozeliak pulls the trigger.  The shockwave would be too much to handle in a city that lives and breathes baseball on an even higher level than Philly.  Kind of cool to think about such a blockbuster, but i’d put it at about one in a million.

  • 61 Comments
 

Fifth Starter? Not Important Now

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, March 13, 2010 06:33 PM Comments: 39

The loneliest time for any human being? That hour you have to wait for AAA to help change your flat tire.

Look, I’m no tire expert. Dad didn’t wheel me under the 1988 Ford Escort – which I remember most for its front license plate: the old-school Phillies typography and a cartoon Phanatic. My hands never knew oil or sludge and I for years, I couldn’t tell a monkey wrench from an Allen wrench. Horrible, but true. So when I find a deflated tire on my car, I call the pros – the guys who might appreciate that Escort more for its strange hum than its childish license plate.

During that hour waiting for AAA, I started thinking about numerous things, chief among them the Phillies fifth-starter competition. It’s truly the only competitive battle ongoing in spring training. Bullpen entrants will be left up to chance; if Brad Lidge can convince the managerial crew that his knee is elastic, his arm is fantastic and his head isn’t spastic, he’ll be slinging sliders in the ninth inning by opening day. That will eliminate a job for Antonio Bastardo or – shudder – Ryan Vogelsong. But the winner of the fifth starter competition will truly be victorious: He’ll get an opportunity to pitch major innings for one-fifth of the National League champion’s season. The loser? Maybe the bullpen. Maybe Lehigh Valley, where he’ll likely be shagging balls with Vogelsong. Seriously, Vogelsong.

Fifth starter. It’s one of the common buzz terms of spring. Every team seeks a fifth starter. They sign a couple retreads, hand a cookie to a prospect and assure a veteran slop-thrower that he is not completely secure in his position. And some kid who’s already tasted the sour juices of major league rejection gets a lemony shot at redemption. Jamie Moyer is that veteran. Kyle Kendrick is that kid.

Then you add ingredients. Moyer is the $8 million reason the Phillies aren’t shuttling out an all-universe rotation in 2009, led by the studious duo of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, backed by the feisty Cole Hamels and rock-solid Joe Blanton and JA Happ. Because of Moyer and his inability to leave a game he says to love more than flank steak, the Phillies opted to refill the system, swallow the pills and hope that the National League still can’t figure out the wicked combination of 74 MPH curveball and 81 MPH changeup. Needless to say, the preferred exit was with the Clydesdales and Pat Burrell.

Kendrick had his chances. He broke through in the wacky 2007 season, when the National League failed enough to let a bullpen co-led by Antonio Alfonseca reach the postseason. Kendrick’s fastball-sinker routine won some games, then got tired, then stunk. His head blew up. He moved to Allentown. Now he has gained a changeup, a “sick” cutter (always believe a 30-something female ex-”Survivor” contestant) and the tutelage of Halladay, the coffee-slurping breaking-ball king who plows through the elliptical for breakfast.

On one end: The old guy who doesn’t know how to leave. On the other end: The hungry youngster with the greatest teacher in pitching land.

I know who I’m taking.

But that’s not the point. It’s the fifth-starter competition. The winner has the opportunity to start one-fifth of the Phillies games, but will he? Tough to call. For help, let’s run through the names of 2009 Phillies starting pitchers:

Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, JA Happ, Cliff Lee, Chan Ho Park, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Pedro Martinez, Andrew Carpenter, Rodrigo Lopez, Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick.

The Phillies used 12 starters in 2009; only two of the five pitchers who started the season on the rotation ended the season on the rotation (Blanton, Hamels). Durability is a key. The ability to pitch solidly is the other key. Not a key? The ability to pitch well in March, when hitters are working on their timing and managers are shuffling lineups every three innings. Take, for example, Mr. Park.

Park’s spring 2009 numbers would have made Lee or Halladay blush: 21.1 IP / 6 ER / 20 H / 25 K / 2 BB / 2.53 ERA. He translated that to the 2009 season, where right out of the gate, he showed his true colors: 3.1 IP / 5 ER / 7 H / 2 K / 3 BB / 10.38 ERA. While he improved from there, he wasn’t an effective starter, leaving the rotation for the man who lost that 2009 spring battle, Happ. That kid only ran through the National League, barely missing a Rookie of the Year award despite a sub-3.00 ERA. Today, Happ is entrenched in the Phillies 2010 rotation; Park, meanwhile, is trying desperately to win a starting job with the New York Yankees.

What 2009 showed is however strong a man can pitch in March, it won’t mean much once the calendar turns to April. Moreover, you have to look at the big picture. Park was obviously effective as a reliever with the 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers; in 2009, he again showed his worth as a reliever, a man who can turn all his pitches up to 11 for one or two innings, instead of pacing himself for six or seven.

The problem here, is that in 2009, Kendrick barely showed enough to prove he can last six or seven consistently against National League offenses, while Moyer has proven that at least enough to give him a decided advantage in the fifth-starter competition. The good thing, though, is that the Phillies won’t use just five starters in 2010. Someone will get sore or injured. Someone won’t pitch well enough to hold his job. There might be a trade. Anything and everything can and probably will happen – the joy of a baseball season.

This is why when I waited for that AAA-certified auto-repair man, I realized there wasn’t much of a competition for fifth starter. With all likelihood, Moyer will start in April for the Phillies alongside Halladay, Hamels, Blanton and Happ. But Kendrick – wh0 has pitched quite well so far this spring – is the next guy in the ready. He’ll be starting by May or June, when he can prove himself worthy of facing and defeating National League hitting. If he can do that, he won’t find the same fate that found Andrew Carpenter, Rodrigo Lopez and Antonio Bastardo. Instead, he’ll be starting the important games in September 2010, maybe with the division on the line, maybe with 40,000-plus red-clad radicals throwing their towels around and screaming like banshees.

Oh, yeah, he did that last year.

It’s likely he’ll be there again this year, but he won’t prove it in March.

Tim Malcolm is a former regular writer at Phillies Nation. He’ll write once in a while to talk Phillies. He also writes a once-in-a-while scribe of the 2010 Phillies at Pheel! The 2010 Philadelphia Phillies.

  • 39 Comments
 

Odds & Ends and Gameday: Twins at Phillies

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sat, March 13, 2010 12:41 PM Comments: 17

With the rain pushing back J.A Happ’s start, the Phillies altered their rotation for the week. On Monday, Roy Halladay will start and Jamie Moyer will pitch in a B game. Cole Hamels will pitch on Tuesday, Joe Blanton Wednesday, Kyle Kendrick Friday, and Halladay on Saturday. The Phillies have off on Thursday, when Happ will throw again.

Happ will start in today’s game against the Minnesota Twins.  It can be seen on MYPHL 17 and MLB Network at 1:00 p.m.  Carl Pavano will take the hill for the Twins. 

The Twins lineup will consist of almost all regulars, except Joe Mauer: Denard Span, Orlando Hudson, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Michael Cuddyer, Wilson Ramos, Delmon Young, J.J Hardy and Nick Punto.

For the Phillies, all the regulars are in the lineup for the first time this spring: Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Ben Francisco, and Carlos Ruiz.

Here’s your odds and ends for the day:

-Phillippe Aumont, Yohan Flande, Scott Mathieson, Drew Naylor, J.C Ramirez, Jesus Sanchez, Joe Savery, Bill White, Tuffy Gosewisch, Kevin Nelson, John Suomi, Freddy Galvis, Quentin Berry and Tyson Gillies have all been re-assigned to minor league camp.

Scott Matheison is the most surprising name on the list. Ruben Amaro said that Matheison could appear in the big leagues in 2010, but also said that he needed to “refine” his secondary pitches.

-It is still uncertain if J.C Romero and Brad Lidge will be ready by April 5. Romero says not to count him out for Opening Day, although it appears to be a long shot at this point.

Romero threw 30 pitches yesterday, and mixed in a few changeups. Romero will start throwing sliders tomorrow.

Today, Lidge threw to a few hitters. On Monday, Lidge will likely throw in a minor league game.  Both Lidge and Romero see progress.

  • 17 Comments
 

Split Squad Games Rained Out Today

Posted by Pat Gallen, Fri, March 12, 2010 11:32 AM Comments: 32

Sorry Phillies fans, no baseball today.  Due to the monsoon-like rains in Florida, both split squad games have been cancelled with no make up date.  But worry not, the Phils will be back tomorrow taking on the Twins in Clearwater, when it is supposed to be clear with no (falling) water.

J.A. Happ will start against Minnesota.  Feel free to use this space as a spot to reflect on what has happened in Spring Training thus far.  Here are a few story lines:

GOOD: Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Antonio Bastardo, David Herndon

SO-SO: Phillippe Aumont, Shane Victorino’s shoulder, Brad Lidge’s recovery, JC Ramirez

BAD: J.C Romero’s recovery, Jose Contreras, Ryan Vogelsong’s ERA

  • 32 Comments
 
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