A recent Sports Illustrated article graded the Phillies offseason moves a “D.” They summarized it by saying, “Though the trade for Revere gives the Phillies a cost-controlled centerfielder to grow on, they’ve taken steps backward with most of their other moves, and are more likely to repeat last year’s middling showing than contend in a division where the Nationals and Braves have upgraded in impressive fashion.”
This assessment, however, may or may not be totally off-base. I decided to rank some of these moves for myself using not grades, but my emotions about each event. Roger Ebert once said, “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” Let’s see if he is correct:
Happy: The trade for centerfielder Ben Revere. He is cheap, young and has room for improvement. My instinct says he will be a pleasant surprise.
Nostalgic Joy: Re-signing RHP Chad Durbin. Durbin is a solid human being and he had a great 2012 with the Braves. Plus he helped the Phillies collect their 2008 World Series championship.
Cautiously Optimistic: Signing Michael Young to play third base. Young seems like another solid human being with a true passion for the game. The question is whether or not he can still play defense. I feel that a guy with this much experience and motivation should be able to work it out.
Conflicted: Adding Chase Utley-hater and lefty John Lannan to the starting rotation. Obviously with the departure of Vance Worley, the Phillies needed a starter. Lannan is cheap, but how well he will perform and his attitude are, at least for me, big question marks.
Confused: Signing outfielder Delmon Young. This guy is a problem child who is also still recovering from offseason ankle surgery. His defense is awful and he has been, not without cause, labeled an anti-Semite with a bad temper. I get the low-risk, high reward school of thought here. What I do not get is why the Phillies would rather mess around with this guy than finally give Domonic Brown a full-time shot at one of the corner outfield spots.
Nervously Nauseous: I am just a wee bit sick to my tummy about the 2-year, $12 million deal the Phillies gave to RHP Mike Adams to be the 8th inning guy. I like Adams if he is healthy. However, he is recovering from thoracic outlet surgery. This is the same surgery that Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals had and his career looks like it may be over. That is a little scary.
Utter Disappointment: Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension for using a banned substance. He did not use steroids, which is a relief. But still, getting caught with ADHD meds when he was forewarned about it after a previously positive test is very disappointing. He knew he’d probably get caught again and did it anyway. *Sigh.*
Sad: Losing Vance Worley in the Ben Revere trade. I wish him luck in Minnesota!
Indifferent: Everything else. A lot of minor moves were made, mostly involving minor league deals and guys past their prime. Unless someone makes a real impact in camp, I cannot imagine there will be much to say about these miscellaneous people.
And my final emotion of the day…
Elation! Spring Training starts tomorrow!
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Please excuse the following outburst of unbridled enthusiasm for a move that many may view as not very exciting: The Phillies have signed our old friend Chad Durbin!!!! Whoo hoo!!!! Durbin was a big part of the 2008 World Championship team; he spent the last 2 years with the Indians and the Braves.
Durbin adds much needed depth and maturity to the Phillies bullpen. In his first stint with the Phillies, he was known as the intellectual of the bullpen group. He has a great personality and is extremely fan-friendly, as well. Durbin was one of my personal favorites for those reasons and I am glad he is back!
Durbin, 35, did very well with the Braves last year, pitching in 76 games with a 3.10 ERA. His new contract with the Phillies is for 1 year with an option for a second year.
The Phillies also signed a utility infielder this week to a minor league deal. Yuniesky Betancourt, who turns 31 in a few days, will join the team for Spring Training. He hit .223 with the Royals last year, but was designated for assignment in August when the team manager, Ned Yost, became unhappy with his attitude. “Yuni did a great job for us. But he was a guy that wanted more playing time, and he would get upset when he didn’t,” Yost said.
So add Betancourt to the Phillies list of problem children headed to camp next month. If nothing else, Spring Training looks a lot more entertaining now!
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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
‘Tis the season to buy lots of crap! Black Friday, Cyber Monday….here we come! The Phillies began shopping early when they signed Kevin Frandsen earlier this month to a 1-year, $850,000 deal. If Frandsen plays the way he did last year, that small chunk of change could wind up being the bargain of the year.
But the Phillies have a much longer shopping list than that. Unfortunately, even on Black Friday, not everything is on sale. Even if Ruben Amaro Jr. camped out in front of All-Star Josh Hamilton’s house all night, I am pretty sure someone with more money would be camped out in front of him in line. Fold up the tent, Ruben, and let’s work on a more realistic shopping list.
– The first item on the list should be a centerfielder. I hear our old pal Shane Victorino may come at a descent discount. But the Phillies seem to be more focused on B.J. Upton, who could rival Ryan Howard for strikeouts. They both strike out around 30% of the time and neither hit for average. Regardless, this team needs to shop for an outfielder!
– Bullpen help is needed….badly. Maybe the Phillies need to look back at a few guys they previously tossed in the trash? Here are some oldies, but goodies: Our old pal Chad Durbin had a 3.10 ERA for the Braves last season. And how about Jason Grilli, who was with the Phillies minor league system until they dumped him…he went on to record a 2.91 ERA for the Pirates last season. But my #1 oldie would be Ryan Madson. He is coming off Tommy John surgery so the bidding for him should not get too high.
– Third base: Personally, I feel a combination of Frandsen and a drug-free Freddy Galvis can handle the hot corner. But if you are the type who MUST buy during holiday sales whether you need to or not, here is who might deserve a look: Kevin Youkilis will be 34 in March, but the guy can still hit for power. At 36 years, Michael Young is not exactly young anymore….but he would be a solid veteran to keep the spot warm for a much younger Cody Asche in 2014.
– While the team is stocked with starting pitchers, maybe a few small upgrades could help? You know…get Roy Halladay a bionic shoulder to replace the bum one. Buy Kyle Kendrick an “All I Want For X-Mas is You” tee-shirt to keep his confidence high. And for Cliff Lee, donate to his favorite charity and make a pledge to get him more than 6 wins this year.
– Buy baby-faced Darin Ruf a pair of big-boy pants and put him on the big-boy team. That gamble may really pay off. What have they got to lose? And J.C. Penney has a great Black Friday sale on pants right now…
– And the final big purchase for the Phillies should be a stand-up comedian. When things start to go downhill for the Phils, the comedian can jump in and tell jokes between innings to keep spirits high. Because as a fan base in 2012, we have all lost a bit of our sense of humor. You cannot blame us though…losing is just not funny. Help us all remember how to laugh and smile again! And if the wins start coming, you can trade the comedian to a more needy team.
Happy shopping, everyone!
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Amaro photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies were swept by the Braves today in a depressing 4-3 loss. There was not even a little comic relief, as in Saturday’s loss when Hunter Pence bowled over 3rd base coach Juan Samuel while rounding the bases towards home. That bit had everyone except Samuel laughing to the point of tears.
The only laughs today came before the game started:
After that, absolutely nothing was funny. Even the presentation of All-Star jersey’s to Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels was somehow lacking in enthusiasm.
And then fans learned that Shane Victorino was pulled from the line-up at the last moment, prompting rumors of a possible trade or injury. But what actually happened, according to Charlie Manuel, was that Shane was feeling “down” and had “a lot on his mind…” And so, Charlie took him out in favor of Jason Pridie.
That turned out to be the only good move of the day. Pridie hit a 2-run homer and a double, which accounted for all 3 Phillies runs in the game.
Vance Worley battled through 6 innings, allowing 3 runs, which was a nice improvement over his last start where he have up 6 runs in 4 innings. But despite the quality start, not much was going the way of the Phillies.
There were some nice defensive plays:
But the offense was lackluster, despite having both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the line-up. The top 4 in the line-up went 1-for-16 collectively, although Jimmy Rollins did go 3-for-3 in pop-fly outs. I am not sure that is a stat to be proud of, but at least he is consistent (note my sarcasm, in case you missed it).
Ultimately, Raul Valdes gave up a solo homer to who else, but Brian McCann, giving the Braves a 1-run lead that the Phillies failed to overcome.
So the Braves had a nice visit to Philly, complete with attempts to steal young Phillies fans. Here is ex-Phil Chad Durbin and Dan Uggla before the game playing nice with one of the kids chosen for the traditional Sunday Starting 9:
Actually, it was very sweet. But Durbin was always that kind of guy; his presence is still missed on this ballclub.
So the Phillies go into the All-Star break in the midst of a complete disaster. They have won only 1 of their last 12 games and sit in dead last in the NL East, 14 games out of first. Get ready fans; I am afraid change is coming, and not the good kind.
For a pleasant distraction, check out my Photo Album from the game; just pretend they win and the photos look even better!
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Over the past several weeks, the Phillies have made a number of off-season moves. Some of them make sense, some of them make a bit less sense. The following is a breakdown of the various Phillies events, the reasoning behind it and my opinion as to the real reason for the move.
Event: The Phillies send Wilson Valdez to the Reds in exchange for a minor league pitcher.
Reason: One can only assume that the Phillies wanted to add pitching depth.
The Real Reason: Having a great back-up for Jimmy Rollins is unnecessary since J-Roll is superman and cannot possibly get injured again, right? Also, Ryan Madson needed the company of an old teammate for his transition to the Reds.
Event: Brad Lidge, left unsigned by the Phillies, goes to the Nationals on a one-year, $1 million deal.
Reason: Lidge was told he was not in the Phillies’ future plans and that was the extent of the explanation he received.
The Real Reason: Lidge has lost the speed on his fastball and is almost guaranteed to get hurt multiple times based on his past track record. Also, after the awful 2011 season Jayson Werth had with the Nationals, Lidge can now provide him with moral support. The Phillies like to take care of their former players ;o)
Event: Hunter Pence received a $10.4 million, one-year deal for 2012.
Reason: To avoid arbitration. Pence is the final arbitration-eligible player therefore, no hearings for the Phils this year.
The Real Reason: Had the Phillies allowed this to go to arbitration, they would have gotten spanked by Pence and probably would have been forced to pay him more. But the real reason for the contract is simple; a happy Pence means more “Let’s Go Eat!” T-Shirt money for the Phils.
Event: The Phillies have torn out the grass on the field and are putting down brand new sod.
Reason: The Winter Classic torn up the field pretty bad.
The Real Reason: While the stated reason is valid, there is another underlying reason as well. Having raised ticket prices yet again, the Phillies now have more money than God and they need to justify that by spending a boat load of cash. Last year it was a new Phantavision screen; this year is a new field. Maybe next year they can hire more employees so the concession lines will be less than an hour wait time? Nah…dream on people.
Event: The Phillies sign former Padre, Chad Qualls to a one-year, $1.15 million contract. Qualls is a 33-year old right-handed reliever who posted a 6-8 record with a 3.51 ERA in 2011.
Reason: Ruben Amaro Jr.’s favorite saying – Low-risk, high reward. In other words, if he sucks, they did not pay much for him.
The Real Reason: Because we really miss Chad Durbin and this was the best right-handed Chad they could find.
Event: Pat Burrell has decided to retire. Amaro is “considering” a 1-day contract so he can retire as a Phillie.
Reason: Burrell retired due to a nagging foot injury. Amaro is “considering” the 1-day contract because Burrell deserves a proper send-off.
The Real Reason: The foot injury may have played a role, but really, no one was going to sign Burrell. He has passed his expiration date. And the only reason Amaro hesitates to make a decision here is because he is afraid that Burrell’s dog Elvis will pee on his brand new field.
With pain in his right shoulder, closer Brad Lidge will start the 2011 season on the disabled list. With Lidge’s long history of injuries, this new issue should be a huge red light to the Phillies that Lidge’s time is close to being over.
Lidge was especially concerned with this new injury saying, “I haven’t had shoulder problems in the past.” Although, Lidge has had surgery on both knees multiple times, elbow surgery, an oblique strain, a strained intercostal muscle and bicep tendinitis, just to name a few.
Still, Lidge entered spring training boasting that he was healthy and felt great. Exactly when that may have changed is hard to tell. Lidge is an eternal optimist so what he says should maybe be taken with a grain of salt.
Here is a little help for those who cannot always decipher what Lidge is talking about.
The Brad Lidge Translator
Lidge Says: I feel great.
Lidge Means: The pain is unbearable!
Lidge Says: I am not concerned.
Lidge Means: I am totally freaking out here!
Lidge Says: No need to panic.
Lidge Means: Red alert, red alert…PANIC!!!
Lidge Says: It is a setback.
Lidge Means: This is the END of my career!
Lidge Says: This is disappointing.
Lidge Means: I am going to crawl into a hole with a vat of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and eat and cry until I vomit.
With Lidge out of the picture, closing duties will fall either to Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras. While it is good to know the Phillies have options, this does create major issues in the bullpen. The Phillies failed to re-sign Chad Durbin, which may come back to haunt them as they now have to rely on less experienced arms in the middle innings.
The Lidge injury is magnified when you think about the loss of Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and questions still lingering about Placido Polanco’s elbow.
So, should Phillies fans be worried? The short answer is, not yet.
The team seems to have back-up for Utley. Luis Castillo finally got a hit today and also walked twice while showing solid defense in the field. Wilson Valdez continues to impress as well.
As for Brown, Ben Francisco is doing well in what may have been Brown’s spot in the outfield. John Mayberry Jr. is also capable and the two may wind up rotating in right field.
Another good sign is that Polanco did play today in the 3-1 victory over the Braves. Polly looked a bit tentative and was sore after the game, but he expects to play again on Sunday. Or perhaps, much like Lidge, I am being a tad too optimistic about all this? I hope not.
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
Baseball is finally back! After an 8-0 win in an exhibition game against Florida State on Thursday, the Phillies took on the Yankees today in the first official spring training game. Cole Hamels started in the 5-4 victory and went 2 innings allowing an unearned run.
Notably absent from the game were short stop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley. Rollins was said to be a healthy scratch after missing a few days of camp for a Motown event at the White House. The absences were excused.
The Motown Tribute was held for President Obama in celebration of Black History Month lead by musicians Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. And while that sounds like lots of fun, it also does not appear that Rollins was required to be there for any reason.
J-Roll is in the music business and has his own label, but his job right now is baseball. Leaving his team for two days to schmooze with famous musicians seems irresponsible. Outside interests should be left for the off-season. Of course, that is just my humble opinion.
As for Utley, rumors have been flying about his physical condition. Mentions of “soreness” in his knees and legs are raising eyebrows. Utley missed both the exhibition game and the first official game this week after “intense workouts” during the first week of camp. He may not play tomorrow either.
Utley has been developing a pattern of injuries over the past several years which are becoming alarming. Rumors of a hip injury followed him throughout the second half of 2008. After winning the World Series, he did finally undergo surgery.
His health was questioned after that for much of the 2009 season, although he did not miss signifigant time. In 2010, Utley sprained his thumb and was put on the DL in June. The injury was more serious than initially disclosed and Utley had to undergo surgery on the thumb. He missed 47 games that year.
Not only have the injuries become a pattern, but so has disguising them. A war of words ensued in 2008 when then GM Pat Gillick slipped and told a reporter that Utley was experiencing hip problems. Utley vehemently denied the statement, yet in the offseason, it became apparent that Gillick was telling the truth as Utley had hip surgery.
The thumb injury was underplayed as well in 2010. Now, when rumors of Utley’s health arise, most are inclined to think there is truth to the rumor. Then when Utley drops coy comments to reporters like, “If there’s cause for concern you’ll be the first to know,” it leads people to wonder if they should be worried.
Utley is not a big guy. His weight has been generously listed as 190 pounds on his MLB bio page. His smaller than average baseball player frame has led to questions about his endurance for years. When the previous injuries and previous denials about injuries are all mixed in, it is a recipe for trouble.
The current issue may just be a simple matter of Utley being over-zealous and working himself too hard in camp. But until he gets into a regular spring routine, the questions will linger.
In Other News
– It appears that the Phillies have lost out on relief pitcher Chad Durbin. Offered a minor league deal, Durbin decided instead to sign with the Cleveland Indians on a one-year contract. Durbin is a great guy and he will be missed. I wish him all the best!
– Another relief pitcher, Danys Baez, was a huge disappointment last year. But after signing a two-year deal, the Phillies are stuck with him and hope he can rebound. However, in a B-game today, Baez allowed five hits, five runs and one walk in just two-thirds of an inning. Not good. Even sadder, the $2.75 million he will be paid this year could have been put to better use, like signing Durbin.
The Phillies next spring action is tomorrow and they will again face the Yankees, this time at home in Clearwater. Game time is 1:00pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography