What GM Matt Klentak should be considering

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, October 30, 2015 04:02 PM Comments: 19

KlentakSeven years ago today, we were preparing for a victory parade on Broad Street. And we were four days from Ruben Amaro Jr. being named general manager of the Phillies.

But today the Mets are in the World Series, and Matt Klentak is now general manager of the Phillies. Things happened between then and now; let’s not talk about it.

Instead, let’s talk about the future. Along with President Andy MacPhail, Klentak symbolizes a new era for the franchise, one in which outsiders with a heightened analytical perspective plan and execute strategy. This team of outsiders have a lot to consider, starting with the overall direction of baseball operations. Remember, we’re at a much different place than we were on Oct. 30, 2008.

To me, here are the most pressing things Klentak – and MacPhail – will consider in Year One.

The Overall Direction of the Phillies

As Klentak and MacPhail mentioned during Monday’s introductory press conference, nothing happens until this is addressed. That means understanding the franchise’s current strengths and weaknesses, taking stock of every baseball operations department, then creating a strategy that plays to current strengths while remaining unique to the vision of its leaders.

So what are the strengths? I’d say a major strength comes from the Phillies’ Latin pipeline, especially the franchise’s Venezuelan academy. Surely the club has a few stronger scouting lines, too. And the scouting that led to the 2015 trade-deadline windfall of prospects was very impressive. Continue reading What GM Matt Klentak should be considering


Klentak announced; front office has a new face

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, October 26, 2015 05:03 PM Comments: 6

KlentakThe Phillies on Monday morning formally announced the hiring of Matt Klentak as the franchise’s 11th general manager.

Klentak, 35, previously served as assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and, before that, director of baseball operations of the Baltimore Orioles. In Baltimore, he worked under Andy MacPhail, who will be his boss in Philadelphia.

He emerged as a favorite in the general manager hiring process, partially because of that previous association with MacPhail. Make no mistake, with the Phillies, Klentak and MacPhail will work closely in running baseball operations. They’ll set a new strategy for the Phillies, build their front office, then construct the team they feel can win the city its third baseball championship.

This is a clear change from how the Phillies have typically operated. They’ve been seen as a family organization – most franchise executives, directors and managers were promoted from within. Ex-players routinely found their way back to the Phillies to make high-risk decisions. But three things signaled a true sea change for the Phillies: the rise of co-owner John Middleton, the hiring of MacPhail, and the hiring Monday of Klentak. And it was those three men who sat at the dais Monday, showing the new face of the front office.

Middleton stole a moment from the Klentak press conference – as owners wont to do – to describe the passion of the Philadelphia sports fan to Klentak. It was a surreal, almost bizarre aside, during which Middleton quickly appeared as serious as a Port Richmond kid whose bike tire was slashed. He recited the history of the Phillies franchise, mentioning Cookie Rojas in the exact same way younger fans will mention Jim Eisenreich. Then he waxed poetic about the sound and fury of Citizens Bank Park during the Second Golden Age of 2007-11. Blood was shooting from his eyes. Middleton meant business. “Long as you don’t screw it up, you’ll be a king. A damn king,” was basically how he put it to Klentak.

MacPhail, meanwhile, was calm and composed in discussing what he sought in a general manager: someone who embraces using all kinds of tools to win, while possessing energy, excitement and understanding of the way modern baseball operates. He was frank at times, and even let the media in on the hiring process more than was necessary. MacPhail has quickly shown to be a promising leader of the Phillies franchise.

Klentak was somewhere in between the rabid emotion of Middleton and the cool wisdom of MacPhail. He spoke at length about needing to balance analytics with scouting, and especially about needing to develop a new Phillies culture. Kltank’s first job as general manager will be to help change how business is conducted within the front office.

“We need to understand who we are, who we want to be, and how we’re going to get there,” he said. Before any major free agent signings, trade deadline moves or even draft picks, that comes first.

But Klentak also, interestingly, spent half his speaking time thanking everyone who played a role in his career and life. As if it was an Academy Award speech, Klentak acknowledged everyone from baseball executives to Amaro to his college coaches. When he thanked his wife and children, Klentak seemed to tear up. To me, this is a man who’s absorbing the biggest day of his professional life. He’s aware of the stakes, he’s excited for the journey, and he truly knows what it means to be at such a major life-changing turning point.

We’re going to hear a lot about Klentak’s analytical mind, and about his age (he’s younger than Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard), and certainly we’ll hear about his past association with MacPhail. But we’ll also hear about a man who, right now, is starting the biggest job of his career. He has a massive system to understand, a front office to build, a system to create, and tens of millions of dollars at his disposal to begin. On top of that, he’ll have to navigate the Philadelphia media complex – and inane questions about “timelines” – while assuring fans that good times are coming soon. And by the way, these fans are hungry to win again.

We’ll have more this week on the biggest questions Klentak will have to answer right away. Until then, it’s a big day for him, for the Phillies, and for baseball fans in Philadelphia. The franchise is no longer smoke and mirrors – it’s three men united by one obvious goal: win a championship. It’ll be exciting to watch them go for it.



“We can build an environment that allows our players to succeed.”


2015 Player Review: Jerad Eickhoff

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Thu, October 22, 2015 12:34 PM Comments: 1

595191When the Phillies traded former World Series MVP Cole Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman to the Texas Rangers, they received a bounty of players in return. The six player return was highlighted by catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, and right-hander Jake Thompson.

Among the six were three other arms, including Alec Asher, veteran lefty Matt Harrison, and Jerad Eickhoff. Alfaro, Williams, and Thompson were the prizes of the blockbuster trade. Thompson was rated Texas’ top pitching prospect and the 49th best prospect by Baseball America. Likewise, Alfaro was considered to be one of, if not the best catching prospect in baseball and was rated as the Rangers’ fifth best prospect by Baseball America. Williams was rated as their fourth best prospect just ahead of Alfaro.

To say the least, those three players were brought in with the hopes that they could one day be major cogs on the next contending Phillies squad. The other three were unknowns.

So when Eickhoff made his major league debut for the Phillies and threw six scoreless innings against the Miami Marlins, it was a pleasant surprise. When he pitched seven innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts against a talented and contending Chicago Cubs offense, it was impressive.

Continue reading 2015 Player Review: Jerad Eickhoff


Brown’s disappointing Phillies career likely over

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Tue, October 20, 2015 09:54 AM Comments: 10

domonic-brown-phillies-7bcda854e3829797The Phillies outrighted four players from their 40-man roster Monday, including former top prospect Domonic Brown. With this move, Brown’s career in Philadelphia will likely come to an end.

The 28-year-old outfielder leaves behind one of the more disappointing tenures in recent Phillies history. Just two seasons ago,  Brown showed flashes of  his potential by hitting 27 home runs and posting an .818 OPS en route to his first and only All-Star appearance.

But since the midway point of the 2013 season, Brown has hit just .244 with 19 home runs and a .650 OPS, which ranks 117 out of 133 outfielders. He missed the first two months of the 2015 season due to an Achilles injury, but recorded a slash line of just .228/.284/.349 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 189 at-bats after returning to the starting lineup. His season would be cut a month short after suffering a concussion during a wacky play against the Mets at Citi Field.

With the emergence of younger players such as Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera, and with young outfield prospects in their farm system, the Phillies’ decision to cut Brown was an easy one, but one that this ball club could not have envisioned just five years ago.

When Brown made his major league debut back in 2010, the Phillies thought the lanky outfielder would become a mainstay in the middle of their lineup for years to come and establish himself as one of baseball’s best hitting outfielders.

They were wrong, but only because Brown failed miserably to live up to his potential.

Back in 2011, Brown was rated baseball’s fourth best prospect behind the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Four years later, Trout has won an American League MVP award and Harper will likely be crowned the National League’s MVP for the 2015 season. The only accolade Brown has is a lone All-Star appearance based on a torrid month and a half stretch back in 2013.


2015 Player Review: Cameron Rupp

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Fri, October 16, 2015 12:22 PM Comments: 9

iHeading into the 2015 regular season, Cameron Rupp sat behind Carlos Ruiz on the Phillies’ catching depth chart. As the season progressed, that began to change as a manager Pete Mackanin started to favor the 27-year-old Rupp over the 36-year-old Ruiz.

And for good reason, too. The Phillies’ rebuild was already underway, and mainstays like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Cole Hamels had already gone their separate ways. The organization was undergoing a transformation and players like Ruiz and Ryan Howard, the only players remaining from the 2008 World Series team, represent an old guard that the Phillies are trying to move on from.

Aside from Mackanin looking to see what his younger position players could do, Ruiz made the decision to favor Rupp at catcher an easy one due to his lack of production at the plate. In 284 at-bats, the fewest Ruiz had in a full season, he posted a slash line of just .211/.290/.285 with just 16 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs. Ruiz was not effective as a defensive catcher either, as he looked slower than in years past and his arm from behind the plate lacked noticeable zip. The 10-year veteran managed to throw out just 11-of-57 base-stealers to go along with 11 errors–the second most among major league catchers.

While Rupp wasn’t perfect, his age and his defense behind the plate made him the better play over Ruiz, especially on a rebuilding team. His 6’2″, 260-pound frame helped him reach wide pitches and balls in the dirt. Also, his cannon arm from behind the plate helped him throw out 20-of-33 base-stealers.

Continue reading 2015 Player Review: Cameron Rupp


2015 Player Review: Ben Revere

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Tue, October 13, 2015 10:00 AM Comments: 12

Ben Revere continued his consistency at the plate for the Phillies in 2015.

Ben Revere continued his consistency at the plate for the Phillies in 2015.

2015 was a busy season for Ben Revere. He saw his tenure in Philadelphia come to an end before the July 31 trade deadline, and joined a Toronto Blue Jays club that had just finished equipping itself for a run towards an AL East title, and their first postseason birth since 1993, when a certain someone hit a certain home run against a certain team in a certain World Series.

But before joining the Jays, Revere manned center field and batted lead-off for the worst team in baseball. The 27-year-old  entered his third year as a member of the Phillies after coming off his second-consecutive season of batting over .300 He looked to repeat the feat of leading the club in batting average for a third-straight time, but he would do so surrounded by little offensive talent.

During his tenure in Philadelphia, Revere was incredibly miscast, and because of that, he received much more criticism than was warranted. He took awkward routes in center field, he couldn’t throw out a base-runner to save his life, and he had no power to speak of. These were valid faults in Revere’s game. Yes, his arm from center field never instilled fear in any base runner tagging up from third on a ball hit to the outfield. Yes, his home runs were few and far between. But the faults in his game were amplified because of the lack of offensive talent around him. He was expected to be one of the main contributors at the plate, but his shortcomings wouldn’t allow it and fans had trouble accepting that fate.

Revere was not the perfect player for the Phillies. But he was a very good player, and more importantly, a consistent player for this organization. That trend continued in 2015.

Continue reading 2015 Player Review: Ben Revere


Celebrating Andres Blanco’s career season

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, September 29, 2015 11:17 AM Comments: 5

433217“I don’t care if they can’t understand what I’m saying … I want to talk!”

Andres Blanco said that to Leslie Gudel after Sunday’s Phillies’ win over the Nationals.

Born on April 11, 1984, in Venezuela, Blanco was signed as an amateur free agent by the Kansas City Royals at age 16. He debuted four years later but couldn’t stick in the major leagues for a full season. For anyone. The Cubs took him on. Then the Rangers. Nobody gave him a full year.

Players like Andres Blanco are everywhere in baseball. They shoot up the farm system but stall because of myriad reasons. For a guy like Blanco, one would surmise his offense didn’t justify an everyday position. Maybe his contact tool wasn’t as strong. He also isn’t the fastest player. So a middle infielder with average offense and poor speed – that doesn’t play as well.

But he was good. He rose far enough to be considered part of a major league roster, and luckily, Blanco could play multiple positions. Teams need versatile utility players, even if their bats are weaker and their speed is slower. So he jumped around – Kansas City to Chicago. Chicago to Texas. Texas to Washington. The Nationals cut Blanco after one spring training; he was 27. He had endured quite a few injuries. He could have fled baseball.

The Phillies signed him the next day. Blanco played mostly for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs but in 2012 endured yet another spat of injuries, focused at his shoulder. Again, he could have fled, and he nearly did. But he persevered and got another chance.

Andres Blanco loves baseball. You see it in his hustle, his powerful swing, and most of all, in the way he’s helping the team off the field.

“To be a professional is a big thing, and that’s something we try to teach to the young guys right here, no matter what type of player you are, or who you are, or how much talent you have. You have to be professional in general,” Blanco said Sunday. “Respect everybody like Chase did when he was here. Even if he was hurt, even if something bothered him, he always played as a professional. That’s what we try to keep here, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

That’s Blanco speaking after Jonathan Papelbon choked Bryce Harper in the Nationals dugout. To put it clearly, Papelbon choked Harper. There are no discussion points from there. It’s unacceptable and, to put it bluntly, assault. That Blanco – who hit a go-ahead home run off Papelbon quickly after that incident – wanted badly to speak after the game tells you a little more about the lifetime bench bat who could never stick on a major league roster.

Blanco is considered a veteran leader on the Phillies. Players have called him a “father figure.” More appropriately he’s been referred to as an “older brother” figure. And this is important, because the Phillies currently employ seven Venezuelan players (including Cesar Hernandez, Elvis Araujo and Maikel Franco) and a host of Latin American players. Being the elder statesman who has bounced around the league and understands the rigors of playing for tomorrow, Blanco has handed the younger Phillies plenty of knowledge. For one, Blanco and Franco have a strong relationship.

Sometimes the hard play and continual effort pays off, and this year it has for Blanco. He’s hitting .287 with a .356 on-base percentage and .480 slugging percentage. His six home runs are a career high; his strikeout-to-walk rate is nearly a respectable two to one. He has played four positions and was recently rewarded with the cleanup spot in the order. In a season where most things have gone wrong, it’s essential to hear fruit-bearing stories like Blanco’s.

Blanco is arbitration eligible in 2016, which means the Phillies still control him. With the Phillies going younger still, it’s possible Blanco won’t be on the big-league roster in 2016. It’s understandable if that’s the case, but it would be unfortunate. Andres Blanco has given the Phillies plenty of gifts this season. His efforts deserve to be praised, and he certainly deserves to talk.


Which AL team should you root for this fall?

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, September 25, 2015 10:42 AM Comments: 5

CARTER3The Phillies won’t be in the postseason, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore baseball’s month-long deathmatch to determine its ultimate champion. Oh contraire. There are many reasons you should embrace the postseason.

But since our beloved Phils won’t be in the dance, maybe there’s a team you’d like to put your rooting interests behind. Here’s where I can help; I’ve created a non-scientific formula guaranteed to help you – discerning Phillies fan – choose the right team to endorse in this year’s pennant chase.

Earlier I tackled the National League. Now let’s look at the American League.

New York Yankees

Rivalry / History: -4.2
You could argue the Yankees are the Phillies’ top American League rival. There’s recent history (2009 Super Annoying Series), proximity and solid payroll and fanbase comparisons. On a related note, how amazing is it that the Phillies and Yankees came so close to playing each other in the 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1980 World Series … but never did?

Been There Before: -8.3
The Yankees didn’t reach the postseason last year. They didn’t reach the postseason in 2013. It doesn’t matter. They get there a lot. They’re annoying. Go away.

Fandom and Raucousness: 8.5
Major points to the Yankees here. Even if it’s an ivory palace, Yankee Stadium would be shaking in the postseason. And you can’t deny that playoff baseball looks better in the Bronx.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 3.7
A solid offense but a subpar pitching staff means the Yankees are average. They do hit plenty of home runs, however. But here’s the thing: Isn’t it unfair that the Yanks have all these overachieving older players? Teixeira comes out of nowhere … A-Rod defies all logic with a miracle comeback season … Carlos Beltran is probably 50 and still knocking the ball around … look, it’s been a difficult few years here.

Star Power: 5.3
Rodriguez, Teixiera and Beltran are still marquee names to many, along with CC Sabathia. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda are good starters. Jacoby Ellsbury just gets lost on this team.

Former Phillie Cachet: 0.0
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Final Score: 5.0
You’re not rooting for the Yankees. If you are, you hate fun.

Minnesota Twins

Rival / History: 0.9
There’s practically nothing about the Twins that angers Phillies fans. I’m docking a tenth of a point because … Trevor May?

Been There Before: 3.7
It wasn’t too long ago that the Twins were regulars in October, along with the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. In recent years, however, the Twins have plain stunk. Now they’re good again. Like the Astros, change in the American League is a welcome sight.

Fandom and Raucousness: 4.6
Target Field hasn’t yet seen playoff baseball, but fans seem to be highly engaged. Time will tell.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: -1.2
The Twins aren’t that good at baseball. The offense is weak and the pitching is weaker. How the heck did the Twins do this, anyway?

Star Power: 0.6
Miguel Sano is a young kid with tremendous power; he’s on his way to being a star. Otherwise Joe Mauer is still here, and Byron Buxton has huge potential. That’s about it, unless you think Big Pelf has any sort of stroke.

Former Phillie Cachet: -0.1
Trevor May. That’s all we got here.

Final Score: 8.5
You can’t go wrong rooting for the Twins, but frankly, they’re not a great baseball team. You’d be killing other really great teams in the process. Just stay away!

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Rival / History: 1.0
The Angels are one of those teams where there’s practically no actual history or rivalry. Maybe a trade here and there, but seriously, no opinion at all of the Angels. That’s a plus-one.

Been There Before: -0.7
The Angels are pseudo mainstays in the American League postseason, but not enough to bore you.

Fandom and Raucousness: 4.4
Color me slightly unimpressed by the Anaheim scene in October. Rally Monkey be damned.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: -0.5
If not for Mike Trout the Angels might have the worst offense in the American League. There’s nothing great about the pitching, either, unless you really love Huston Street. And look, I do not. The sheer fact the Angels have come this far is nothing short of a miracle.

Star Power: 3.0
Some kid from Vineland, N.J. Also Albert Pujols. Jered Weaver is not the same Jered Weaver. Otherwise, a barren land.

Former Phillie Cachet: 2.9
Shane Victorino is here, and we all love Shane. Too bad Shane is playing atrociously in Anaheim.

Final Score: 10.1
The Angels remain a harmless team; if they go far in the postseason, I won’t be upset. It won’t be great baseball, though.

Houston Astros

Rivalry / History: -3.3
Ugh, the Astros. The Phillies and Astros hooked up in an instant-classic National League Championship Series in 1980. As payback for beating them, the Baseball Gods decided to turn the ‘Stros into physical thorns in the Phils’ sides. Both 2005 and ‘06 ended because they couldn’t beat Houston, and it seemed the only team that constantly beat the Phillies between 2008 and ‘11 were … you got it …

Been There Before: 3.9
It’s been a little while since the Astros reached the postseason. Their tank-to-swank story is pretty incredible, especially if it ends with an appearance in October (still not assured yet). Give them their props.

Fandom and Raucousness: 4.7
Truthfully I’m uncertain about how the Houston crowd plays in the fall. Minute Maid Park is a huge place, and it’s been quite a few years since the Astros were playing meaningful baseball. I’ll give the Astros a slightly above average mark here.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 7.0
Only the Blue Jays have an offense more entertaining than the Astros. They clobber the ball. The Astros also pitch well, leading the American League in a few major categories. The bullpen has struggled, however. Still, this is a solid product.

Star Power: 3.0
A lot of non-household names here, but Carlos Correa is already the best shortstop in baseball (at age 20), and Dallas Keuchel may win the American League Cy Young. Tons of young talent primed to become big.

Former Phillie Cachet: 0.0
Oh boy. Here’s the thing: The Astros have Jon Singleton, Jonathan Villar and Domingo Santana. We know that. But all three are likely to fall short of the Houston potseason roster. So look, we may have traded away a potential stud (Santana), but it’s not hurting us yet! Optimism! … Also the Astros once employed the ghost of Fausto Carmona! Net zero!

Final Score: 15.3
The Astros are young, hip, and not the Yankees. You can’t go wrong here.

Kansas City Royals

Rivalry / History: -0.4
Of course there’s a history, but it’s pretty old now. Thirty-five years old. And anyways, the Phillies won that series. I see very little reason to dislike the Royals.

Been There Before: 1.3
The Royals surprised everyone when they reached the postseason last year. Then they floored us by actually winning the American League. So they’ve been there before, but seeing the Royals in October is still a relative phenomenon.

Fandom And Raucousness: 6.1
Kauffman Stadium is a great ballpark and shines in the postseason. Those fans are rabid at times. All-around good atmosphere.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 4.0
The Royals are the Cardinals of the American League – slightly above-average offense and pitching staff, getting by on a little luck. Plus there’s a lot of small ball in KC. So no, they’re not the most entertaining team. But they do baseball relatively well.

Star Power: 2.2
The Royals’ “young” core of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain is notable but not necessarily marquee. Johnny Cueto is a top-tier starter, but he has struggled since coming to Kansas City. But hey, Ben Zobrist is here!

Former Phillie Cachet: 2.2
Former Phillie Ryan Madson is in the bullpen and having a great renaissance season. Former Phillie Joe Blanton was here, but now he’s in Pittsburgh. And Former Phillie Erik Kratz was here, but now he’s a Phillie again. Sorry, Erik Kratz.

Final Score: 15.4
The Royals are not a bad choice. They’re not the best choice, but they’re not a bad choice.

Texas Rangers

Rivalry / History: 0.6
Two obvious pieces of recent history: The Phillies swiping Cliff Lee as #MysteryTeam during the 2010-11 offseason, and the Phillies trading Cole Hamels for a slew of prospects back in July. I’d say net positive here.

Been There Before: -0.3
The Rangers are, in a way, the Phillies’ doppelganger. They’re a few years removed from the postseason, but for a few years, they consistently contended. So while we’ve seen the Rangers more than often in October, they’re not a tired sight.

Fandom and Raucousness: 5.2
Whatever that stadium is called, it actually has a nice vibe come crunch time. Rangers fans are good fans; they might be the only good thing about the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 3.5
The Rangers are very, very average. But they have Cole Hamels. Which is exciting.

Star Power: 5.3
It’s Texas – of course they have stars. Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton are here, as are young studs Rougned Odor and Delino DeShields Jr. Also they have Cole Hamels. Which is exciting.

Former Phillie Cachet: 6.5
Remember the time the Phillies signed Wandy Rodriguez, but then didn’t? Wandy was on this roster once. Oh! Also Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman, who helped put the Rangers over the top. Go Rangers!

Final Score: 20.8
Root for the Rangers and you’re rooting for Cole and Jake. Okay mostly Cole. But some Jake.

Toronto Blue Jays

Rivalry / History: -1.0
A guy once did something against the Phillies that really stunk. Also Major League Baseball recently made us the interleague rival du jour of the Blue Jays. Still, I feel very little ill will toward the Jays.

Been There Before: 8.0
The Jays are the consummate “Haven’t Been There Before” team. The last time they were there … well, the guy did something against the Phillies that really stunk. It would be fantastic to see the Jays back in the dance.

Fandom and Raucousness: 7.1
Have you watched any Blue Jays home games? Holy crow, those fans. They’re riotous. So fun.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 7.9
You know what’s fun? Cueing up Blue Jays’ highlights every day because, at some point, someone hit a home run. And the Jays don’t hit cheap homers. They annihilate the ball. They move runners over. They play with energy. And the pitching has improved tremendously over the course of the season. So fun. So. Much. Fun.

Star Power: 5.5
Jose Bautista is the modern-day God of Longball. Edwin Encarnacion makes his arm a perch after he hits one out. Josh Donaldson is like the Royals’ stars in that he’s pretty damn good but still unknown to the layman. Also, this team has Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, who are both big stars. So yes, good star power here.

Former Phillie Cachet: 3.0
Ben Revere! I love Ben. He deserves to be in the postseason. Also, I failed to mention this earlier, but we should give the Jays a half-point for being the first home of one Harry Leroy Halladay. They’re like our blood brothers. Maybe?

Final Score: 30.5
If you don’t root for the Toronto Blue Jays you hate America. I mean … wait … I’m confused …



In my National League rundown I decided a Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS is most preferred, and frankly, I’d probably rather see the Dodgers get there because of Jimmy and Chase.

Here, I’d love to see a Blue Jays vs. Rangers ALCS, but we’re likely to see that in the ALDS, instead. So, while I love Cole, I’m going Jays here. Give me a Blue Jays vs. Astros ALCS, with the Jays and Dodgers hooking up in the World Series.


Papelbon adding to Nationals’ woes

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Thu, September 24, 2015 01:40 PM Comments: 6

Jonathan PapelbonRemember this guy? Of course, how could Phillie fans forget.

Jonathan Papelbon accomplished a lot during his time in Philadelphia. He earned two All-Star selections, compiled an excellent 2.31 ERA over 237.2 innings-pitched, and passed Jose Mesa as the Phillies’ all-time leader in saves with 123. But his abrasive and personality and his willingness to speak the truth without a hint of a filter transformed him into public enemy number one until he was traded to Washington before July’s non-waiver trade deadline.

Since the trade, the Nationals have completely derailed. They have coughed up the NL East to the New York Mets; so much so that they find themselves 6.5 games back with just 11 games left in the regular season. And as Peter Gammons pointed out early Thursday morning, they sport a losing record since acquiring Papelbon.

The Nationals still have a steep hill to climb despite the Mets’ recent struggles. Over their last eight games, the Mets have stumbled to a 2-6 record. The Nationals were able to cut the deficit a tad, but back-to-back losses to the Orioles while the Mets have lost two straight to the Braves have killed the Nationals’ momentum.

Wednesday night’s contest against the Orioles was the latest chance for the Nationals to gain ground on the struggling Mets, but the club failed to win despite entering the seventh inning with a one-run lead with ace Max Scherzer on the mound. The thorn in the Nats’ side was Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who hit a two-run home run off Scherzer with two outs in the seventh inning to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead.

Then enters Papelbon, who with two outs in the ninth appeared to purposefully plunk Machado near the head with a fastball.

Clearly, Machado was displeased with what appeared to be a deliberate attempt by Papelbon to hit him two innings removed from his key home run. In a post game interview with CSNmidatlantic.com’s Rich Dubroff, Machado took a shot at Papelbon by calling the move “cowardly.”

Home plate umpire Mark Ripperger ejected Papelbon following the pitch, and rightfully so. A pitch earlier in the at-bat was dangerously close to Machado’s head, and while Machado crushed a home run to give the Orioles the lead two innings prior, he didn’t showboat or emphatically flip his bat in triumph.

Papelbon didn’t agree with the umpire’s decision to eject him from the game.

“I was pretty surprised,” Papelbon said, via The Washington Post. “I thought Mark let the crowd get into it a little bit there. I think he allowed that to dictate his decision to toss me there. As players, as umpires, man, we gotta keep our cool out there and let the game play out for itself.”

After the game, Papelbon, predictably, wouldn’t admit whether or not the pitch was intentional. Instead, he gave a painfully ambiguous response to a Washington Post reporter.

Another player who wasn’t too pleased with the situation was star outfielder Bryce Harper, who despite his team’s struggles has maintained his MVP-caliber pace at the plate.

“I mean, Manny freaking hit a homer and walked it off and somebody drilled him,” Harper said, via The Washington Post. “It’s pretty tired. It’s one of those situations where it happens. I don’t know. I’ll probably get drilled tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.”

Way to go, Pap.

Regardless, Papelbon hasn’t been the reason for the Nationals’ collapse, although he hasn’t been as sharp since moving to Washington. In 21.2 innings-pitched, he has given up six earned runs after giving up just seven in almost 16 innings more with the Phillies, and has blown two saves after blowing none with the Phillies.

While the closer has been the least of the Nationals’ problems, instances like last night could stricken fans and the organization with a case of buyer’s remorse, especially if they fail to make the postseason.


Howard’s 2015 could be over after trip to ER

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Wed, September 16, 2015 11:37 AM Comments: 7



With just 16 games left to play in 2015, it appears Ryan Howard’s season is over after taking a short-hop throw by Freddy Galvis to his left knee Monday night.

The initial diagnosis was a bruised knee, but Howard was forced to take a trip to the ER later Monday night after his condition worsened, according to interim manager Pete Mackanin.

“He had to go to the emergency room to get his knee drained, so that doesn’t look good,” Mackanin said. “But we’re just going to go day to day to see what happens.”

With just over two weeks left in the season, the chances of Howard playing again in 2015 are slim, especially when you consider his history with knee injuries. The 35-year-old is just two years removed from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the same knee he injured on Monday.

“It’s a possibility,” Mackanin said about shutting down Howard. “Day to day could be eight days from now, so I don’t know for sure. We just don’t want to commit [if], three or four days from now, he says he feels fine. The thing with Howie that’s admirable is this guy wants to play. You’ve seem him over the years, he posts up every day, he’s ready to play every day. That’s a nice trait to have. So we’ll wait and see.”

Howard would join Cesar Hernandez on the Phillies’ recent season-ending injury list. The second baseman suffered a dislocated thumb during Sunday’s game against the Chicago Cubs that will require season-ending surgery.

The veteran first baseman had endured one of the roughest stretches of his illustrious 12-year career before the injury. Over his last 64 at-bats, Howard recorded just 11 hits, good for a meager .172 batting average. The stretch included an 0-for-35 drought, the longest hitless streak of his career. In the process, Howard’s season batting average dropped from .243 to .229, and is the mark the former MVP will likely finish with. If it is, the average would be good for the second-lowest mark of his career in a season where he recorded 400 or more at-bats. Overall, Howard would finish 2015 with a slash line of .229/.277/.443 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs.

Darin Ruf will assume duties as the team’s every day first baseman in Howard’s absence. It’ll be the first time the 29-year-old will get a chance to play every day since the second half of the 2013 season, where he replaced Howard after his knee surgery. Ruf has played in 90 games this season, but has made only 46 starts. Overall, he is batting just .237 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs.

With Howard likely done for the season, the question is this: Has the first baseman played his final game in a Phillies uniform? Howard is set to earn another $25 million in 2016, and with a new general manager incoming, the new brain trust may elect to part ways with one of the franchise’s most esteemed sluggers if they’re unable to trade him.

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