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Breaking News (City Line Edition)

Posted by Jim Amato, Wed, April 18, 2007 05:56 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies have made it know that they will be sending Brett Myers to the pen in order to make room for Jon Lieber in the starting rotation.  There have been no comments from either Myers or Lieber, but Charlie Manuel has said that Myers will be the eighth inning set-up man and the guy who fills in for Gordon as closer if Gordon needs a day off or gets hurt.  This seems like Charlie’s way of making this move sound better to Brett Myers.

Now this is just an opinion, but this move reeks of desperation.  I understand the team is 3-9 and something had to be done, but was this the right move or was it really the only move that could have been made short of firing Charlie to try to get the team’s attention?  The Phillies made this move b/c Myers has expressed a willingness to go to the pen to help his team while Lieber pouts about coming out of the pen.  Myers also has the luxury of having just signed a three year deal while Lieber is a free agent after this year. 

We all know what the issues have been for the Phillies in the first twelve games.  They can not hit with runners in scoring position and the bullpen has been a mess to say the least.   In fact they rank last in the NL in ERA and last in batting average against; therefore it would not be too much of a strecth to say the entire pitching staff has been a horrid.  Its not like the Phils can bench Howard or Utley in order to solve the lack of clutch hitting.  Is bringing in Nunez to play third every night or playing Ruiz over Barajas going to fix anything?  I think not.  So how does the Myers/Lieber move help the Phillies?  I contend that Pat Gillick and friends believe that if Lieber goes out and has a few good starts his trade value will go up.  That of course means that Lieber better pitch well, which is not a sure thing.

Even if Jon does pitch well, and the Phillies are able to get a good bullpen arm in return for him, then what?  Bring Myers back to the rotation after he has spent a month (or more) in the pen.  Seems a lot like what they did with Madson last year.  Its going to be a complete disaster no matter what happens.  Is this the beginning of the end for the 2007 Phillies? 

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Pitching, what pitching (City Line???)

Posted by Jim Amato, Wed, March 21, 2007 10:36 PM Comments: 0

Wasn’t the starting pitching finally supposed to be strength for the Phillies in 2007? Well the past two days have seen a few events that could make people think otherwise. Yesterday Cole Hamels had a bad game against a minor league team giving up yet another HR while trying to "work on his mechanics" (read boost his ego) and massage his ERA of over 7.

He is on schedule to be the #2 pitcher right now as Charlie Manuel wants to break up the Phillies righties and lefties.

Hamels himself said he has NEVER had to pitch in a cold environment before; well it can be cold in Philly in early April…

Are we sure we can pencil him in as a 13-15 win pitcher?

And then the sunset and a new day of drama began. Today was the day that Charlie officially announced that Jon Lieber was going to be the starter sent to the bullpen. Needless to say Jon was not pleased with this decision and was headed to the buffet to feed his sorrows.

But wait a second, not so fast Jon. In tonight’s game prized off-season pick up Freddy Garcia gave up 5 hits and 3 earned runs (including a mammoth HR to Troy Glaus) in an inning. He was pulled after 1, not because of his poor outing, but instead because he had soreness in his right bicep. He will be examined tomorrow in Clearwater to determine the damage, if any, but there are talks of possibly starting the season with Freddy on the DL. The bicep was not the first thing Freddy was fretting about this Spring either. He had noticed a decrease in his velocity.

Well at least there is still Jamie and Brett…

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The City Line

Posted by Jim Amato, Sat, May 06, 2006 12:31 PM Comments: 1

OK a quick one today ladies and gentleman because I am headed down for a mean tailgate.  I will post some thoughts about tonight’s Giants vs. Phillies game (at least what I can remember) and a preview of Sunday night baseball (what am I going to watch, The Sopranos or the Phillies?) tomorrow. 

What good timing by the Phillies!  They go on a six game winning streak as the Sabers embarrass the Flyers in game six, the Sixers have been long gone, and the Eagles and the NFL Draft has just been completed.  Those facts and Bonds and the Mets as part of the homestand should really bolster attendance.  Are the Phillies ready for the spotlight?  Well they better be, because they have just been thrust into it!

Speaking of Bonds, what would you do if you caught the ball that tied or passed the Babe?  Post your ideas. 

Tuesday night, Pedro vs. Brett.  That should be a good one.  I am picturing a performance from Myers a la his and Mark Prior’s duel when both were rookies in Wrigley Field.  Myers seems to always step up his game when he is pitching against the opposing team’s staff ace. 

For those of you who wanted Ruiz to catch, you got your wish.  Thanks to Lieberthal being placed on the 15 day DL he will be starting tonight to catch Ryan Madson.  Speaking of Madson, I still believe he is a starter, but let’s move him to the bullpen (he has said he would be willing to do it if that is what would help the team win).  That would immediately bolster our bullpen from average to very nice and it would allow for Cole Hamels to be called up.  I do not buy into Pat Gillick’s theory that the Phillies need to see how he handles being hit around.  He has given up 3 total HRs in the minor leagues and two of them were when his back was ailing him.  The manager of the AAA Richmond Braves said watching Cole was like watching Steve Carlton.  Let’s see what he can do then we can move Madson to the bullpen (or maybe he can be the closer of the future if we groom him correctly) next year.

Anyway I will be in lot U as of 2:30 or 3:00 pm.  Stop by and say hi if you are down there.  I will have my Phillies hat on and a beer in my hand! 

That’s the Story from the City Line for now

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The City Line

Posted by Jim Amato, Fri, April 28, 2006 08:04 PM Comments: 0

"We are lucky to be 9-12 considering the way we have been playing to start the season." That quote is from Bill Giles (who many still consider the face Phillies front office, good or bad) this morning on 610 WIP’s Angelo Cataldi morning show.  Is Bill right?  I say yes.  I also found it interesting that Bill did not give manager Charlie Manuel the obligatory, "he’s doing a good job the players just need to play" answer when Angelo asked him what he thought of the job of Charlie Manuel.  Instead, and I will paraphrase here, he said that Charlie (like the team) needs to do a better job to improve our record. While Bill is really just a VIP fan these days I believe he still gets his two cents in when necessary. Needless to say he did not sound satisfied with the performance of the Phillies so far this young season.

This leads me to what seems to be my weekly critique of Charlie Manuel and his managerial decisions. Allow me to go back to the third game of the series against the Rockies.  The Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the eighth up by two.  Obviously, Charlie started to warm up Flash Gordon for the save.  Well the first two men got on in that inning.  Charlie decided to then start warming up Cormier in case the save opportunity was erased by the Phillies scoring more runs.  As we all know the Phillies went on to score twice to give themselves a four run lead going into the ninth.  What decision does Charlie make? Of course he brings in Gordon, whom need I remind you has had major elbow surgery, has been used a lot in such an early part of the season, and is not exactly a spring chicken anymore.  To add to all of that the Phillies and Rockies were playing a day game the next day.  By bringing Gordon in up four runs Charlie effectively made Tom unavailable if a save situation came up the next day (which unfortunately it did not). I know there is the argument that once a pitcher has warmed up that it is like he has already pitched an inning so why not bring him in anyway.  I disagree with that line of thought 100%.  If warming up is like pitching one inning then letting him pitch is like pitching two.  I really hate this move and Charlie always does it.  For those of you who say we need to take Floyd out of the rotation and give Franklin a chance I laugh at you.  Who would be Charlie’s precious 7th inning guy.  We all know it’s hard enough for Charlie to manage right now, could you imagine if he lost his formula of 7th inning guy, eighth inning guy, closer. The things he could do then…I do not even want to think about it.

I would like to close this week’s edition with just a few comments and questions for you all to ponder. Since the lineup change, the Phillies have been scoring a lot of runs.  They also seem to be hitting better with runners in scoring position.  What no one seems to have mentioned though is that they are scoring these runs without the help of their leadoff batter.  Jimmy Rollins is in a big funk.  His average is down below .300 and the offense can be even more explosive if Rollins gets back on track.  There was talk of the Marlins calling the Mets to see if they would do a Dontrelle Willis for David Wright straight up trade.  I compare David Wright for the Mets to Ryan Howard for the Phils in that they are both home grown talent who seem to be the future face of their respective ball clubs.  My question then is would you trade Ryan Howard for Dontrelle Willis straight up?  Finally, has anyone else noticed that all the Phillies starters seem to run out of after five innings?  Who do you blame?  I blame Rich Dubee and his off-season training program because it seemed last year that all the pitchers got stronger as the year went on.

That’s the story from the City Line for now.

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The City Line

Posted by Jim Amato, Wed, April 19, 2006 01:14 PM Comments: 0

"Some of those plays are pretty tough.  I don’t think fans know how tough it is when the ball is hit right on the screws or it’s knuckling or it’s hit right at you."  That is how Cory Lidle explained away the lackluster play of Bobby Abreu last night in the top of the fourth inning.  Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Church hit back to back line drives in that inning to right field.  These were both balls that were over Bobby’s head, which he seems to have much more trouble with then ones in which he has to charge, but the liner hit by Church was especially bad.  Church’s line drive turned Abreu completely around.  It was such a bad play in fact, that Zimmerman (who was on second after his double over Bobby’s head) held up because he was so sure the ball would be caught by a gold glove right fielder. 

What is most funny about this situation is that Bobby was willing to take the blame for the loss saying, "These were very hard balls, but I am not going to make any excuses.  I probably cost us the game.  Sometimes there is nothing you can do."  All the while Lidle felt it necessary to defend his teammate (which is fine) while at the same time belittling the fans (which is not fine).  Last night’s paid attendance was an announced 20,072, the lowest ever for Citizen’s Bank Park.  This is the third different time this young season that there has been a new low in attendance.  Keep underminding the fans, Cory, and see how this record low is shattered again.

It has been said before on this site, but it is certainly worth mentioning again, we the fans of Philadelphia boo because we are a knowledgeable fan base and because we are fed up.  We boo because Bobby could have made those plays, and even if not, he could have made a better effort.  We boo because the overall ERA for our bullpen is 6.15 after last nights fiasco between Rhodes and Geary.  We boo because our team is 17 for 92 (.185 average), the lowest in the major leagues, with runners in scoring position after last night going 1 for 9.  Finally, we boo because the Phillies are now 1-6 at home.  They should relish playing at home.  They could rival the Eagles for fan support if they just played relaxed.  We are not that bad as a fan base, we just need something to cheer about. 

That’s the Story from The City Line for Now   

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The City Line

Posted by Jim Amato, Sat, April 08, 2006 11:59 AM Comments: 0

I think Charlie Manuel said it best last night after the Phils fell to 0-4 with a 5-3 loss to the Dodgers.  In his post game press conference Charlie, using only the vocabulary and twang that has endeared him so much to this town and its fans, said, "Basically, if you look at us after four games, we pretty much stink."  Charlie is frustrated, as are the fans, but it is only for games.  What is disturbing is that all four games have been at home and the fact that the entire Phillies team, from front office, to managers and coaches, to players preached to us how important it was to get off to a good April.  The team is 0-4 for the first time since 1987 and if they lose today against the Dodgers (weather permitting) they will be 0-5 for the first time since 1934 when they started off the season 0-7.  The question is, how has this happened?  The answer is mostly due to what all were worried about going into the season.  Even with Gillick at the reins these are the same old Phillies.  The starting pitching has been atrocious, they still can not get a clutch hit with runners in scoring position, the catcher and third baseman look overmatched and overpaid, and Charlie Manuel continues to make questionable decisions. 

The Phillies starting staff ERA at this moment is over 9 and so far none of the 4 starters have lasted more than 5 innings.  Surprisingly, the bullpen (aside from Tom Gordon in the ninth against the Cardinals) has been a nice surprise.  For example the combination of Santana, Fultz, and Franklin pitched 6 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball after Floyd self combusted in 2 and 2/3 to at least give the Phils a fighting chance to come back.  The stats are ugly, 21.6?  10.12? Are those ERA’s for real? 

The pitching is the obvious reason for the Phils, slow start, but to blame it solely on the starting staff would be a mistake.  The Phillies are having trouble getting runs batted in and have yet to have that "big" 4-5 run inning that really puts a dagger in the opponents heart.  Charlie’s inconsistency in setting the line up has something to do with the slow start.  Rowand can not bat #2, not until he starts hitting, which honestly he may only be a .260 batter who is a defensive stud.  The Phillies do not have a #2 batter.  Utley is too talented to bat #2.  Rowand is not good enough.  Bell, possible, but not likely.  Who then?  Abreu would make sense.  

     1. Rollins
     2. Abreu
     3. Utley
     4. Burrell
     5. Howard
     6. Rowand
     7. Bell/Nunez
     8. Lieberthal/Fassano        

This lineup would also correct the problem of Howard batting sixth right now.  Abreu was willing to play CF and bat lead off for the Venezuelan national team, he should be more than willing to do it for the team that is paying him millions of dollars, alas I realize that is most likely not true. 

Finally, while the season is only four games old, one more disturbing trend from years past seems to be rearing its ugly head.  No player on this team seems to care about losing.  There is no urgency in their faces, or their actions.  They walk/run around The Money Pit as if it was a private country club and it should be the fans pleasure and honor to watch them play baseball.  Guys, its only a pleasure when you win, or at least put out maximum effort in a loss. 

That’s the story from The City Line

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The City Line

Posted by Jim Amato, Fri, March 31, 2006 08:21 PM Comments: 0

Sorry to all of you for missing last week (especially since it was only the second week), but I can assure you that will not happen again the rest of the season.  Speaking of the season, yeah that’s right it is only three days away!  I love this time of year.  The anticipation is like a kid waiting for Christmas morning to come.  For some reason this year feels different too.  I feel a little more of a spring in my step.  I am feeling down right giddy and I think I know why.  Something tells me (and Jonah Keri of Baseball Prospectus) that

                                    THE PHILLIES ARE GOING TO WIN THE NL EAST

I am sure some of you are thinking that it is easy for me to make this prediction considering I write a weekly column for a Phillies blog and therefore I am obviously a Philles fan, but I am no homer.  If I thought the Phillies were going to be bad I would write that and support my statement, just like I plan on supporting the claim of a division championship. 

I am not going cover all the topics that have been beaten to a pulp as to why the Phillies can be better than last year, although I agree with statements such as Utley and Howard seem destine to be perennial All Stars, Rowand makes us stronger up the middle, etc, etc. I will focus on three reasons as to why I am willing to make such an audacious prediction. 

First, I think Jimmy Rollins finally "gets it."  Jayson Stark’s article on ESPN.com illustrated that to me.  He has also become the national face of the Phillies with features in USA Today, Sports Illustrated and many others.  It is easy to forget that Jimmy is only 27 years old.  He held his current hitting streak together, not in garbage time, but in the heat of a wild card race.  That proves to me he will not melt in the spotlight.  With him confidently, but not cockily, setting the table for the meat of the Phillies lineup the Phils will score runs.  Also, let’s not forget that Jimmy may be the best defensive SS in the NL.

Second I believe that Spring Training did mean something to these Phillies.  They have been playing winning baseball throughout the Spring and I believe that will carry over to April and the beginning of the season.  If you think back to last year, and even the Phils under Larry Bowa, it was horrid Aprils that sunk this teams chances.  A solid effort in April last year and we are the Wild Card team.  I realize the Astros last year dug themselves out of a huge April hole, but that is surely the exception and not the rule my friends. 

Finally, is it just me, or do these not seem like the same Phillies as last year.  They all seem to have something to prove.  Burrell wants to prove that he is not mad that his buddy J-Mike was traded away and that his .209 season was an anomaly to what he can really do.  Abreu wants to prove that the Phils made a good move in not trading him, the entire pitching staff feels they have been disrespected, Manuel wants to prove he is no country bumpkin, et al.  Ultimately I decided I would make this prediction today when the rotation was announced and Franklin was put in the pen to handle 7th inning duties while Floyd was awarded that 5th spot in the starting rotation.  It was said that Gillick brought in Franklin because he was one of his guys.  Franklin had a good spring, but Floyd had a better spring and more importantly Gillick (and Manuel) did not force his guy down the fans throats a la Ed Wade and the Paul Abbott show. 

It just feels like a breath of fresh air has been injected into this team for the upcoming 2006 season.  These facts along with both the Mets and Braves having glaring weaknesses (not that the Phillies do not have weakness) give the Phils as good a shot as any team to win the NL East.  Hopefully, not for me because I can handle the criticism, for us my prediction won’t look bad at the end of April, will look good in July at the All Star break, and will come to be in September.

        And that’s the story from the City Line for this week.

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The City Line

Posted by Jim Amato, Fri, March 17, 2006 01:22 AM Comments: 0

I would like to welcome everyone to a new weekly feature here at Phillies Nation, "The City Line."  I will run the post every Thursday night or Friday morning.  If you are wondering, the name is derived from the proximity of my residences (current and past) to the edge of the city limits.  Just an informal introduction this week and a few minor details to put out there for discussion.

First off let us all take a moment and give thanks that we are not Bud Selig right now.  What a week this guy has had, right?  First, a little over a week ago the biggest speculation in sports today became fact; Bary Bonds used steroids.  Now what does Bud do?  If he runs an indepth investigation, Pete Rose style, you and he know what the results will be: that Barry Bonds and numerous others have been using steroids ( and some pretty serious stuff too) since the late 90′s.  This not only proves that baseball has been tainted for years, but it puts a black cloud over his reign as commisioner.  He already has the strike of ’94 on his resume, add the rampant use of steroids and more then a few would slap the label, "worst commisioner ever" on Bud’s forehead.  If anyone was switching between the first round of the NCAA tournament and the WBC game featuring the USA vs. Mexico, Jon Miller of ESPN was interviewing Bud.  When the question of Bonds and steroids came up he started squirming like a little kid who has to pee.  The perspiration on his brow was almost visable.

And speaking of the World Baseball Classic, Bud’s baby, the USA did not even make the semi finals.  That is a disgrace.  While I admit that I enjoyed watching the WBC much more then I had ever anticipated, there are still some major flaws.  I do not totally blame Buck Martinez or the players either for the early exit.  Buck had a responsibility to the players respective teams to rotate players in and out and platoon like it was a normal MLB team in Spring Training.  Well this is not Spring Training, and if it is then what is the point of the WBC.  Good idea, but needs some major tweaking

Now I know this blog is named Phillies Nation, do not fret, here comes some Phils phodder.  Is it just me, or does it seem that the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.  Another Spring is almost over and David Bell has been inactive almost all Spring with a bad back.  At least David has age as an excuse.  Cole Hamels again is battling a bad back as well and Gavin Floyd is having trouble with his confidence.  Tom Gordon has a sore elbow, Authur Rhodes is throwing wild pitches.  The starters are whining that they get no respect.  Bobby Abreu had a poor showing in the WBC, so poor in fact that his Venezuelan teammate Endy Chavez out homered him, had a better average than him, and more RBI’s.  Now that is impressive.  Pat Burrell has been DH-ing all Spring because of his still sore surgically repaired right foot (that is a situation I feel needs to be monitored very closely as the Spring draws to a close).  Aaron Rowand just broke an 0-20 start.  The list goes on, but you get the drift.  Its time to start winning.  Period.  As the calendar flips from March to April, its good to know that not much has changed with our beloved Phils over the off season.  Still, here is to a fun and successful season!  

                 That’s the story from the inaugural City Line

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