Tagged: Ben Francisco

Phillies Sign Wigginton & Victorino Gets His Own Day

Flyin HawaiianMahalo and Happy Shane Victorino Day!  Yes, Governor Neil Abercrombie declared that today is Shane Victorino Day in Hawaii.  And no, you cannot make this stuff up, folks.

Shane tweeted about the event earlier today:  “Just founded out that Hawaii Governor Abercrombie declaring today as Shane Victorino Day in Hawaii! Whoa…honored! #TeamMana”  But what I really want to know is, where was Mr. Fitch today and did he knit a ridiculously expensive sweater for the occassion?

Seriously, congrats to Shane!  The Flyin’ Hawaiian has earned the honor!

Taking a back seat to the Victorino news today was the signing of utility man Ty Wigginton, 34.  The Phillies will pay half of his $4 million salary next year and they expect he will fill in mostly at 3rd and 1st since both Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco had surgery this off-season.

Wigginton has been tossed around MLB like a ping-pong ball.  The Phillies will be his 7th team entering his 11th major league season.  He is a lifetime .265 hitter and batted .242 last season.

The big draw here appears to be his power, but the right-handed Wigginton will probably see limited at-bats so I question that reasoning.  I also question why the Phillies picked up another aging player on the tail end of his career whose batting average has dropped steadily each year since 2008.

With all the talk about this team needing to get younger, I am confused.  We signed a 34-year old who will likely replace 29-year old Michael Martinez on the major league roster.  And this is after signing and severely overpaying for a 31-year old Jonathan Papelbon (to a FIVE year deal) and 41-year old Jim Thome.  Is it just me, or are the Phillies sort of going backwards here?  I understood the addition of Thome, which is good on a number of levels.  But this one?  Not so sure…

Not to mention Wigginton has a nice list of injuries to his credit, including groin strains, oblique strains, a fractured thumb, a broken hand and a sore back.

While Wigginton did not cost much and has value as a versatile player, the Phils already have plenty of versatile, average hitting  bench guys (Wilson Valdez, Martinez, Ben Francisco).  This seems a bit redundant to me.

Anyone else care to share their opinion?  Feel free to comment below.  And please, have a super Happy Shane Victorino Day :O)

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

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Award Season: Which Phillies Made the Grade So Far

Despite an early exit from the playoffs, the Phillies 102 regular season wins and stellar individual performances have earned some players much deserved honors.

Earlier this offseason, Placido Polanco was awarded a Gold Glove for his work at third base.  Polly also won the award playing second base for the Tigers in 2007 and 2009.  He and Darin Erstad are now the only two players in big league history to win a Gold Glove at multiple positions.

MLB.com also handed out awards on Monday.   Ryan Howard was named the club’s Player of the Year, while right-hander Roy Halladay was chosen the team’s Pitcher of the Year.  And rookie right-hander Vance Worley was voted the Breakout Player of the Year.

Not to be outdone, the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America put its two cents in as well.  Center-fielder Shane Victorino was the winner of the Mike Schmidt Award  for Most Valuable Player and left-hander Cliff Lee received the Steve Carlton Award for Most Valuable pitcher.

The big awards come out next week which will include Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and the Cy Young award.  It is expect that many Phillies will be considered for these top honors, but realistically, none of them will win.  Charlie Manuel is overlooked every year in the manager category; Worley will probably lose out to Freddie Freeman.  As for the Cy Young, both Halladay and Lee will probably get passed over in favor of Clayton Kershaw who had 21 wins and an almost invisible 2.28 ERA.

Of course, anything can happen.  But those are my predictions…how about you?  Leave your best guess in the comments and we will see who gets it right.

And if anyone missed it, here is my annual Phillies Photo Tribute slideshow.  Enjoy!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

2011 Phillies Photo Tribute

I just finished my yearly Phillies photo tribute!  I shot all of these photos during the 2011 season which include game photos, every player who was on the big league roster (even if for only a split second), a few alumni shots and other goodies.

The “For Fun” section is my favorite.  I collect funny shots throughout the year, like players with the giggles, guys sticking out their tongues, silly faces and lots more.  Do not worry, they are all family friendly.  The really fun ones I keep to myself ;o)

Enjoy!

 

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

2011 Phillies Season Ends in a Total Disaster

First, congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals.  They played well and deserved to win this series.  And that statement may be the only light moment in this post today…

I am angry, disappointed and thoroughly disgusted by this loss and the effort this Phillies team put forth in this NLDS series.  I apologize in advance if anyone is offended by what I am about to say, but I need a good rant to get this off my chest.

I do not want to hear, “We’ll get them next year.”  I do not want to hear, “Hindsight is 20/20.”  Because frankly, the issues on this Phillies team are not hindsight.  They are glaring problems that were obvious to me before the series even began.  If they were obvious to me, what I want to know, is why weren’t they to manager Charlie Manuel?

As my first example, take Placido Polanco.  This is a guy who normally hits at least .300 every year.  But he has been playing on a hip that will require surgery this offseason.  Manuel said after the game that Polly was in pain, but still able to play.  Just because he is ABLE to play, does not mean he should have.

Polanco batted .105 in the series and should have been benched both for his lack of production and for his health.  Putting a guy with a bum hip in the line-up every day was almost a guarantee of an 0-4 day.  Wilson Valdez played in 99 games in the regular season and came through many times in big situations.  Valdez would have at least accidentally run into a hit at some point. 

I am not saying Valdez should have played every game, but Polly certainly should not have stayed in the line-up once it was obvious that he was unable to hit with this injury.  This was a huge mistake.

Another huge mistake was Ryan Howard.  Can anyone think of a good reason for Howard to be tinkering with his stance and location in the batter’s box during a playoff series?  No?  Neither can I.  He did pretty well the 1st two games and then suddenly by Game 3, he had moved so far back in the batter’s box that he was almost in New Jersey.

100811-howard-NLDS-400 Howard messed with his approached and screwed both himself and this team, going 0 for his last 15 at-bats.  And why is a guy who is not hitting giving the 3-0 green light?  WTF.  Seriously.

So Howard made the final out of the postseason again, two years in a row, in the most pathetic manner possible.  He hurt his Achilles and went down like a sack of potatoes trying to exit the batter’s box.  He had to be helped off the field.  Fittingly, the look on his face matched the feeling of every Phillies fans in attendance and watching at home; sheer agony.

Next up, Chase Utley….you all know I love Mr. Utley.  But WHY is he taking a chance trying to steal a base in a 1-0 elimination game against Yadier Molina who throws just about everyone he faces out in that situation?

And my new favorite topic of discussion is Jimmy Rollins.  Rollins may be the only player who had a pretty good series until the final game.  He openly scolded fans about being too quiet after Game 2 and asked them to give it their all in Game 5.  Ok, fine.  The fans more than obliged and Rollins proceeded to go 0-4 in the game.  The fans brought it, why didn’t Rollins?  After the game, Rollins would not speak to reporters.  Go figure.

And then there is Raul Ibanez.  I can see letting him start most games, but when he started swinging at balls 2 feet out of the strike zone, this is a sign.  Ibanez goes hot and cold like the flip of a switch.  When he is obviously cold, take him out!  Give John Mayberry Jr. a shot.  TRY something to kick start this horrid offense!

Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz were just as bad in this series.  After ending the season with a .314 average, Pence hit only .211 in the NLDS.  Ruiz was worse, going 1-17 which equates to a .059 average.

Shane Victorino and Rollins were they only two guys who hit with any sort of consistency, but Rollins crashed and burned in the final game.

And then there is the line-up as a whole.  Manuel moved Utley to the 2-hole and Pence to the 3-hole.  This worked well for all of maybe 3 games total? – A few in at the end of the regular season and Game 1 of the NLDS?  Howard hit well before with Pence behind him.  Why mess with that once it stopped working?

Manuel is big on  what he calls playing the guys who got them to this point.  I’ve got news for Charlie…Valdez, Mayberry and sometimes Michael Martinez were a HUGE part of what got this team there, filling in for injured players and making big plays.  But he started Mayberry once and totally ignored the other guys.

And now for the pitching…Roy Halladay gave everything he had and gave up only one run.  He would have bled for this team if he thought it would help.  But the team let him down and could not score even one lousy run for the one guy who has carried them all year.  Disgusting.  After the game, Halladay said that the worst part of the loss was letting down the fans who were so supportive all year.  For me, the person I feel the worst for is Halladay.  He deserved a win; he earned it.  This team should be ashamed of letting him down like this.

And among the rest of the four aces, only Cole Hamels pitched well.  Cliff Lee blew a 4-run lead in Game 2, which was the real turning point of the series.  Once that happened, the Cards knew they had the Phils by the balls.  It was all downhill from there.

The Game 3 win was a freak accident, thanks to a Ben Francisco homer.  But the Phillies did not really earn that win.  And in Game 4, Roy Oswalt choked and gave up 5 runs.  So much for four aces.  Because the Cardinals had the royal flush.

This is possible the biggest let-down for any Phillies team in history since Black Friday on October 7, 1977 when Davey Lopes with the Dodgers was called safe and the momentum propelled the Dodgers to win the series.  So Friday October 7, 2011 (yes, the same day) may go down in history as Black Friday II.

With the pitching staff the Phillies assembled this year and the overall talent on this team, to see them lose the NLDS is a gut-wrenching tragedy.  I would not be surprised to see GM Ruben Amaro Jr. at the top of a very tall building today contemplating where it all went wrong.

I feel sorry for Ruben – he did his job, got them the players they needed and has nothing to show for it.  In fact, this Phillies team since the 2008 World Series win has taken one huge step backwards each year following: in 2009 they lost the World Series; in 2010 they lost the NLCS; and now in 2011, they lost the NLDS.  One step further back each year – if the trend continues, they will not even make the playoffs next year.

The window of opportunity for this team to win is about to close, which is the worst part of this horrible loss.  The main players are getting older, they are more injury prone and many may not even be back next year.  This may officially wind up being the worst offseason in Phillies recent history.

So I am ready to spit nails, how about you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section. 

 

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Photo by Philly.com

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Opportunity Lost As Cards Tie Series

So far in this NLDS, two of the Phillies heralded four aces have been hugely disappointing.  In Game 2, Cliff Lee gave up 5 runs in 6 innings.  Tonight in Game 4, Roy Oswalt did exactly the same.

Those two starts, and even yesterday’s Game 3 win, only served to amplify another Phillies major issue: the offense.  The bats have been mostly quiet in every game except the first one.  The Phillies snuck by with 3 runs for a win in Game 3 thanks only to a Ben Francisco homer.

It looked like the Phils might put a hurting on the Cardinals early tonight, scoring two quick runs in the 1st.  But instead of piling on, Ryan Howard struck out and on the same pitch, Hunter Pence got nailed going to second, although on replay, he was safe.  No matter, because that one strike out / throw out killed the rally and the offense died after that.

The slow, painful death of the Phils offense this postseason could signal the premature end of their playoff run.  Even with Roy Halladay to pitch in the final Game 5 of the NLDS on Friday, if the Phils do not score, what Halladay does will not matter.

The only light moment in tonight’s disgusting loss was the reappearance of the Busch Stadium squirrel.  The BS Squirrel enjoyed a run around the field in Game 3.  In Game 4, he interrupted an Oswalt pitch by running straight across home plate.

The umpire had no sympathy for Oswalt.  Shocking, I know.

The Phillies will head back home, in a 2-2 series tie.  Friday night is a case of win or go home…start praying that the Phillies find their bats before then.

 

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*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Big Ben Unlikely Hero In Game 3 Win

With the NLDS series tied 1-1 between the Phillies and the Cardinals, Game 3 was going to be big for the winner.  The Phillies had not been able to hit Cards starter Jaime Garcia in previous meetings, so for the Phillies, this was not an easy task.

Equally intimidating, Cole Hamels pitched for the Phillies.  Over 6 innings, he did not allow a single run.  But multiple base runners and deep counts ran Hamels out of the game earlier than the Phillies would have liked.

Big Ben Francisco There was no score by the time Hamels was out of the game, but an unlikely hero emerged in the top of the 7th inning to keep Hamels in-line for the win.  Shane Victorino singled to start the inning and later, Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked to bring up Big Ben Francisco.

Outfielder Francisco  was a relative non-factor most of the year after the emergence of John Mayberry Jr. and the acquisition of Hunter Pence.  He hit only 6 homers the entire regular season and saw limited at-bats.

But on the one night the Phillies really needed a hero, Big Ben stepped up with a 3-run blast in the 7th.  Even better, the bomb came off a pitch from Garcia who suddenly lost some of his command in that inning.  Finally, the Phillies hit Garcia and took a 3-0 lead.

The Phillies bullpen made the final 3 inning a real adventure though.  Vance Worley gave up a run in the 7th.  Then he and Brad Lidge combined to load the bases in the 8th.  But Ryan Madson, brought into the game earlier than usual, coaxed a double play ball to end the threat.  Madson did give up a run later in the 9th, but still earned the save.

This was a huge win for the Phillies who now need only one more win to erase the Cards and advance to the NLCSRoy Oswalt will pitch tomorrow night; game time is 6:00pm.

 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Roster in Place, the Phillies Are Ready for the NLDS

Game 1 of the NLDS is scheduled for a 5:07 start tonight.  Here is the post-season roster for the Phillies:

  • Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider.
  • Infielders (6): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez.
  • Outfielders (6): Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, John Mayberry Jr., Ben Francisco and Ross Gload.
  • Pitchers (11): Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes, Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton.
  • Extras: Infielder Pete Orr and Catcher Erik Kratz will travel with the team. RHP Justin De Fratus, LHP Joe Savery and outfielder Domonic Brown will work out in Clearwater, FL and Outfielders John Bowker and Brandon Moss and RHP Michael Schwimer have been sent home.

The only slightly interesting move here is that Blanton was chosen for the roster instead of David Herndon, despite missing most of the season with injuries.  The Phillies chose experience over a younger guy, even though Herndon was with the team most of the year.

As for the pitching match-ups in the series, here are the probable starters for the Phillies and Cardinals:

  • Game 1: Roy Halladay vs. Kyle Lohse (ex-Phillie)
  • Game 2: Cliff Lee vs. Chris Carpenter (on 3 days rest)
  • Game 3: Cole Hamels vs. Jaime Garcia

These are some odd moves by Tony LaRussa.  It will either turn out to be genius, or a huge mistake.  The Phillies should be able to handle Lohse and will then get Carpenter on short rest.  That is another situation they can probably take advantage of.

The pitcher the Phils have the most trouble with is Garcia, who was pushed back to Game 3 because his home numbers are much better than his road numbers.

This all seems to add up to a Phillies advantage, however, that remains to be seen.  Also of note, Game 2 has been pushed back to 8:37pm (ugh) on Sunday due to the Yankees – Tigers rain postponement.

I also wanted to share with you an article I just read about how Danys Baez has helped Antonio Bastardo out of his recent pitching funk.  Baez was released by the Phillies in July and was not picked up by another team.  He has been sitting at home in Miami watching and noticed Bastardo, a player he previously mentored, was having problems.  He reached out to Bastardo and helped him find the issues in his mechanics.

Bastardo has bounced back since then and it seems that Baez is the reason.  The story made me a little sad, thinking about how much criticism Baez took while he was in Philly from fans and media.  For him to swallow his pride and reach out to an ex-teammate like that is a sign of true character.  He may not have been the bullpen solution the Phillies hoped for, but he gets huge brownie points in my book for just being a great guy.

Hope to see you all at the game tonight!  Go Phillies!

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*