Ok, so I knew it was going to happen, but that does not make it suck any less. My favorite player of all time, Chase Utley, is now a Los Angeles Dodger. That is painful to write. On the plus side, he is now reunited with double-play partner, Jimmy Rollins. I guess this means I now have to cheer for the Dodgers, unless of course, they are playing the Phillies.
I purposely went to bed right after the Blue Jays game last night so I did not have to hear the “official” word on the trade before attempting to sleep. But when I saw Utley tip his cap to the fans right after the game ended, my heart sank. He knew he was leaving. Of course, I am happy he will get to play for a contender and be close to home, so that is the bright spot.
I am not sure I am able to sum up what Chase Utley has meant to me and this team for the last 13 years. I remember the first time I saw him play back in 2003, I said to a friend, that guy is going to be a star. An argument then ensued. He, of course, thought I was biased by Utley’s good looks. And he thought Utley would not amount to anything as his defense was weak. But my retort was, “Look at his eyes when he plays. This guy has a passion for the game I have not seen in a long time.” That fire is what I believed would propel Utley to greatness, and I was not wrong. This guy was all about playing hard and I knew, with that kind of work ethic, he would get better. A lot better…
And that is what I love about Chase Utley. Sure, the looks don’t hurt. But as a person who loves baseball, that same passion is what I look for in players. I want to watch guys who give it everything they have and make no excuses. This is the same reason I never really loved Cole Hamels (sorry folks); sure, I liked him as a pitcher. Who wouldn’t? But early in his career, he was Mr. Excuses…a prima donna. He was sometimes very rude to fans, myself included. And I will stress “sometimes,” because I know a lot of you had good experiences with him. Overall, his attitude got better in time. But I had a hard time getting past that behavior.
My point is that Utley is the example that all other players should follow. Losing a guy like that is going to be very hard on this team; but luckily, some of his awesomeness should have rubbed off on the younger guys by now.
So next month, I will actually be in Southern California for a bit. Looks like I am now going to have go to a Dodgers game to see my two guys, Utley and Rollins, together again. Anyone been to that stadium and have any advice? Please leave me some comments below. I will leave you with a few final images, including my absolute favorite from the 2008 All-Star Home Run Derby; it is Dan Uggla grabbing himself some Utley…ah, memories! MISS YOU ALREADY, CHASE!!!
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Photos by Jenn Zambri
This Phillies bullpen sucks. There are few more accurate ways to describe it. The young pitchers are up one day and way down the next; the veterans are too inconsistent and have the threat of injuries, both past and present, constantly haunting them.
But the real shame of Monday night’s 9-6 loss to the Braves was the wasted 8th inning 5-run rally, including a 3-run shot from Domonic Brown. That gave the Phillies a 6-5 lead, which was wiped away in the 9th inning with a Dan Uggla Grand Slam. Ugh.
It seems the 2014 Phillies may actually have the spirit and possibly the offense to carry them to a winning season. But without the pitching, they are sunk. It is only mid-April and this team is already breaking records, and not in a good way.
B.J. Rosenberg gave up 3 home runs to consecutive batters last night. That feat has not occurred in literally over 100 years of MLB history. Sure, he has a nice fastball. But clearly, he has no idea what to do with it.
Jake Diekman has a big arm too. But the lack of experience, recent overuse and general wildness is holding him back. Pretty much every guy in the Phillies pen is suspect. Mike Adams is back, but after being out for so long with such an array of injuries, the expectations of him are low.
Even the starting pitching has major issues. Roberto Hernandez looked winded last night after only 5 innings. He has yet to make it through 6 innings. And now A.J. Burnett has been diagnosed with a hernia. He will pitch through the pain, which is not a comforting thought.
Some of these guys have real talent, like Diekman. But even the smartest students do not always get good grades. Many times, the results depend on the teacher. So why are the Phillies seemingly unable to develop their talent? And how deep within the organization does this disconnect go? This is not a new problem. It seems like every year, the Phillies bring up young pitchers who are just not prepared.
I wish I had the answers to those questions. Thoughts? Feel free to comment below.
Game 2 with the Braves begins at 7:05pm tonight.
Alumni Weekend for the Phillies is something for fans to look forward to each year. Players of the past come back to be celebrated and adored once again. This year, Brad Lidge retired as a Phillie; Curt Schilling was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame; and the 1993 NL Championship team was honored on their 20-year anniversary.
The following is a photo diary of Sunday’s events and, unfortunately, a few not-so-fun happenings from the Phillies 1-4 loss to the Braves.
Here is a photo of 1993 manager Jim Fregosi signing my championship pennant and another of the joining the celebration:
Players of old joined current Phillies players at their respective positions prior to the game as the National Anthem was played. Having the 1993 and 2013 players together was a very nice touch. And Darren Daulton got a standing ovation for the 3rd consecutive day. Surviving brain cancer surgery and being able to walk out onto the field with his friends was worth at least that, and much more. It was great to see Dutch still fighting.
But the fun ended there. Unless of course, you count the following events: The top photo shows a camera man focusing in on Kevin Fransden’s rear-end. And I can tell you, he lingered there for quite a while. I want that job.
And the photos below the Frandsen camera-rape episode show that Dan Uggla still has a serious man crush on Chase Utley as he tries to get as close to him as possible during the game. Remember my shocking 2008 All-Star photo of Uggla goosing Utley? In case you do not, I of course included it here for your enjoyment:
And then there was the rest of the game, which was horrible. The only events worth mentioning are the 2 times Braves players were caught in a rundown. One ended peacefully, with Carlos Ruiz applying the tag. The other was not so nice. Total jerk Jason Heyward, rather than take getting picked off like a man, decided to ram Frandsen, sending him flying into the air. I had nothing against Heyward (beside him being a Brave) until that moment. That was completely unnecessary, especially with a 3-run lead and the Braves about to sweep the series:
If a picture paints a thousand words, then these shots speak volumes. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley look downright infuriated by the team’s current situation. And manager Charlie Manual just looks defeated:
Defeated is a good word; it covers all of angles of this team. They have been defeated literally, figuratively, emotionally and any other way you can think of. The suspension of pitcher Antonio Bastardo today was just adding salt to the wound.
This is about as ugly as one can imagine for the Phillies. The only thing they can hope for now is maybe to find some new, young talent in the coming weeks. And perhaps they are also hoping for a quick end to this painful season.
Here is the full Photo Album from Sunday’s events.
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Photos 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
The five teams in the NL East, the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets and Nationals, have all had busy off-seasons trying to improve their clubs. Some have been more successful than others. And some, like the Phillies and Mets, are moving very slowly through the free agent and trade possibilities.
Here is a countdown of the top 10 moves so far within the division and a breakdown of potential future moves for each team.
#10 – Three Relief Pitchers to the Marlins
In mid-November, the Red Sox swapped lefty relievers with the Marlins. Dustin Richardson went to the Marlins and Andrew Miller landed with the Red Sox. Miller, previously a highly-touted prospect, was a disappointment in Florida. He struggled with control and lacked consistency.
The addition of Richardson is a good move for the Marlins. At only 26-years of age, Richardson posted a 4.15 in 26 relief appearances in the bigs, although most of his time has been spent in the minors. This lefty has great potential. The Marlins hope they can mould him into a solid reliever.
The very next day, the Marlins also acquired two right-handers, Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. The Marlins sent Cameron Maybin to the Padres in exchange. Webb has averaged a 3.19 ERA in two major league seasons while Mujica is going into his 6th season having posted a 3.62 ERA last year.
These three pitchers combined should make a major impact on the Marlins 2011 bullpen.
#9 – Dennys Reyes to the Phillies
The Phillies have agreed to terms with veteran left-hander, Dennys Reyes. The 33-year-old reliever posted a 3.55 ERA in 59 relief appearances last season for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Phillies chose not to re-sign JC Romero after Romero struggled with control and left elbow surgery last offseason seemed to alter his mechanics. Reyes will be counted on to take over for Romero.
The only other lefty who has had much success with the Phillies in the few past years is Antonio Bastardo. The Phillies will likely go into the 2011 season with these two left-handed relievers in the bullpen.
#8 – Javier Vazquez to the Marlins
Right-handed starter Javier Vazquez struggled last year with the Yankees, ending the season with a 10-10 record and a 5.32 ERA. However, Vazquez pitched for the Braves in 2009 and ended with a 2.87 ERA. A return to the NL East may be exactly what Vazquez needs to get back on track.
The Marlins also like the idea that Vazquez can eat innings for them, which is something they have been lacking. This 13-year veteran is sure to bring some stability to the Marlins rotation.
#7 – Eric Hinske re-signs with the Braves
The Braves liked Eric Hinske in left field last year, where he made only 1 error in 360 innings. At the plate, Hinske hit .256 with 11 homers and a .793 OPS. In 2011, Hinske is likely to serve as a left-handed pinch-hitter who may fill in for Martin Prado from time to time.
#6 – John Buck to the Marlins
Catcher John Buck will enter his 8th major league season with a 3-contract from the Florida Marlins. Buck had a breakout year in 2010 with the Blue Jays and made the All-Star team for the first time in his career.
Buck set career highs in batting average (.281), on-base percentage (.314), homers (20) and RBIs (66) with the Jays and also threw out 28% of runners attempting to steal. The Marlins may have hit a home run with this signing.
Jose Contreras spent most of his career as a starter until last year with the Phillies where he made a nice transition into a full-time reliever. Contreras was one of the most dependable relievers in the Phillies bullpen and as such, the Phillies rewarded him with a new 2-year deal, including an option for a third year.
Contreras went 6-4 with four saves and a 3.34 ERA in 67 games in 2010. He is able to pitch multiple innings when necessary and can also fill in as a closer. This gives the Phillies some much needed stability in the bullpen.
#4 – Scott Linebrink to the Braves
There was one more pitching swap this offseason as the Braves sent Kyle Cofield to the White Sox in exchange for another righty, Scott Linebrink. At 23 years of age, Cofield was moved in favor of experience. Linebrink is a 12-year veteran who has had a fairly consistent career. He went 3-2 with a 4.40 ERA as a reliever for the White Sox last year and will be a solid piece in the Braves bullpen.
#3 – George Sherrill to the Braves
Continuing to add pitching, the Braves signed lefty reliever George Sherrill, who will be entering his 8th season in the majors. The one-year deal is a smart one for the Braves as it is fairly low-risk. Sherrill performed well in 2008 and 2009, but last year, he ran into trouble. Posting a 6.69 ERA with the Dodgers in 65 games, Sherrill got destroyed facing right-handed hitters who batted .427 off him.
If Sherrill can rebound to his 2009 form, the Braves move will pay major dividends. If not, they only spent $1.2 million dollars to sign him. This looks like a winner for the Braves.
#2 – Dan Uggla to the Braves
His name is Dan Uggla and yes, he is now a Brave. This All-Star second baseman has been tearing up the NL East for five years now. The Marlins refused to meet Uggla’s demand of a five-year contract and decided to trade him. They received Omar Infante and left-handed reliever Michael Dunn in exchange.
The winner of this trade may be a tough call. Uggla, with 33 homers last year, gives the Braves a right-handed power bat. However, Infante is a more versatile and solid defender. Plus, Infante batted over .300 each of the past two seasons. And with good left-handed relievers hard to come by, Dunn’s 1.89 ERA in 25 games last year looks pretty good. However, Dunn is a rookie with little experience so the Marlins cannot be sure what they will get out of him.
The worst news about this trade for the NL East is that Uggla remains in the NL East. The Marlins may have just shot themselves, plus three other teams, directly in the foot.
If anything is certain about this signing, it is that no one saw it coming. The 7-year, $126 million dollar deal handed to right fielder Jayson Werth is the biggest move made in the NL East so far this offseason. It may even wind up being one of the top five deals in all of baseball by the time 2011 gets started.
The Phillies could not afford to meet Werth’s demand, who made his first All-Star appearance with them in 2009. Batting .296 with 27 homers and 85 RBI last year, this five-tool player is a great addition to any team. However, at 31 years of age, Werth’s 7-year deal may look foolish a few seasons down the road.
Potential Future Moves: The Phillies
A name you are likely to hear a lot in the coming weeks is Zack Greinke. In fact, the only NL East team who has not been linked to Greinke is the Mets. The Royals have made it known that they are willing to part with this right-handed starter for the right price. Once Cliff Lee signs somewhere, the market for Greinke will certainly heat up.
While Greinke is on the Phillies wish list, they may also be looking at right fielder Delwyn Young. Having spent the last two years with the Pirates, Young has not exactly been lighting up the batter’s box, hitting only .236 last year. But the Phillies are still deciding how to replace Jayson Werth. Young is a possibility, but look for the Phils to fill the spot internally.
Potential Future Moves: The Braves
Aside from Zack Greinke, the Braves are also rumored to be in talks with lefty reliever Ron Mahay. While with the Braves the last few months of 2007, Mahay posted a 2.25 ERA in 30 appearances and has since expressed interest in returning to the Braves.
Mahay had surgery near the end of the 2010 season for a torn rotator cuff. but with left-handers in short supply, the Braves may take a look at re-signing Mahay.
Despite signing a few lefties already, the Marlins are still looking for depth in this area. Ron Mahay, whom the Braves are looking into, is also a possibility here. A few other lefties the Marlins may consider are Joe Beimel and JC Romero. Beimel posted a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings last year and Romero had a 3.68 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
The Marlins have also been tossing around the idea of signing right fielder Delwyn Young, whom the Phillies expressed interest in as well.
Potential Future Moves: The Mets
The Mets have not made many moves this offseason aside from a few smaller players like catcher Ronnie Paulino and righty DJ Carrasco. The biggest potential move for the Mets may be simply retaining outfielder Carlos Beltran. Already signed through 2011, several teams including the Red Sox, have expressed interest in a trade for Beltran.
With budget concerns, the Mets have little room to squeak out any significant deals. Therefore, the most important move they make may just be retaining players like Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes. The Mets will need to resist the urge to dump payroll if they are to have a chance to compete in 2011.
Potential Future Moves: The Nationals
While the Nationals severely overpaid for right fielder Jayson Werth, they may not be done just yet. It seems, that like a lot of teams, star pitcher Cliff Lee is on their radar. And similar to the Werth deal, no one would ever see it coming. But the Nats appear to have money to burn so Lee may not be out of the question.
Veteran outfielder Randy Winn has also been rumored to be generating interest in Washington. Also add first baseman Adam LaRoche to their wish list and right-handed reliever Kevin Gregg. Gregg spent two years in the NL East with the Marlins from 2007 to 2008. He pitched in 63 games for the Blue Jays last year and posted a 3.51 ERA. Several teams, including the Nationals, have been courting the reliever.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
A couple of Phillies were getting hot, hot, hot in Miami tonight. At the plate, Carlos Ruiz ended the game only a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. Not only was his bat hot, but he got big hits with 2 outs and in key situations, collecting 2 RBI’s and scoring 2 runs. Ruiz had 4 hits on the night against the Marlins!
Ben Francisco was nipping at Ruiz’s heels all night too. Both players hit solo homers in the 2nd inning, back-to-back. Francisco ended with 3 hits, an RBI and 2 runs scored. Wilson Valdez contributed 2 hits as well. With Ryan Howard being sent to the DL today and Chase Utley already on the DL, the Phillies needed other players to step up and add some pop to the line-up. Ruiz, Francisco and Valdez did just that.
No one appreciated the effort more than Roy Halladay, who has suffered from a lack of run support in games past. In fact, during the 4th inning, it looked like the Phils would let him down again when they had runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Cody Ransom got ahead in the count and then on the 2-0 pitch, he popped out, leaving the runners stranded. After an intentional walk to Valdez, Halladay decided to get the job done himself. A 2-out hit down the 3rd base line is just what the Doc ordered. Halladay collected 2 RBI and now has 3 RBI this year.
Not only was Halladay hot at the plate, but he looked like he was yielding a flame thrower on the mound. In 7 innings, the only run he allowed was a solo homer to Dan Uggla. He gave up 5 hits, 1 walk and struck out 9 batters. Halladay left the game drenched in sweat and with a 6-1 lead.
Chad Durbin was called upon to finish the game with 2 innings to go. He had a fairly quick 8th inning and ran into some trouble in the 9th. But Durbin buckled down and got the job done without allowing a run. For a bullpen that has been up and down all year, Durbin supplied a much needed boost of confidence.
So, who was not hot tonight? Jayson Werth got the Golden Sombrero by striking out 4 times. He has done that twice now this season; the last time was 5/30/10. Ransom went hitless and popped out twice. Raul Ibanez struck out twice, but did have one hit and a walk. Placido Polanco went 1 for 5. But they all picked a good day to have a bad day; with Halladay on the mound and their teammates picking them up, all is well that ends well.
Kyle Kendrick will pitch tomorrow against the Fish; game time is 7:10pm.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
On behalf of Cole Hamels, can I get a collective “Arrgghhhh!” please? Thank you. This poor guy pitched like a real ace today against the Marlins and has nothing to show for it. His first two outings this year stunk, but the offense scored 8 and 7 runs for him, respectively. Today, Hamels allowed just 2 runs over 8 innings, striking out 8 batters and did not issue any walks. And this game, he loses by a score of 0-2. Ugh.
There were a few moments in the game where it looked like Hamels may revert to his 2009 ways and lose his cool. The home run to Dan Uggla in the 2nd inning was one, but he just kept on pitching as if it did not happen. The second instance was huge; with no outs in the 3rd, the inning began with a double to centerfield from the Marlins pitcher. Allowing hits to the opposing pitcher, especially extra base hits, is usually the one thing you can count on to mess with a pitchers head. But instead, Hamels struck out the next 2 batters and got the 3rd on a ground ball. Bravo, Cole! This is the guy we had all been missing.
But even after the huge effort put forth by Hamels, the offense came up with a great big ZERO. The Phillies had opportunities, including 3 walks in the 2nd inning to Jayson Werth, Ben Francisco and Carlos Ruiz, but they still failed to score. Incidentally, those same 3 players accounted for 3 of the 4 Phillies hits tonight. The 4th was Placido Polanco. So while Charlie Manuel apparently took my hint yesterday about player Francisco in place of Raul Ibanez, Francisco’s walk and double were wasted by those who batted after him.
Here are a few photos from the game:
In that same 2nd inning, Werth could have scored on the fly out by Juan Castro but did not. He tagged up and started to run from third base, but for some reason he stopped and went back. With Werth’s speed, he had a chance to make it. Plus, there were 2 outs in the inning and the pitcher, Hamels, was due up next. It was worth the risk. And as luck would have it, the throw home sailed past the catcher, meaning Werth would have scored easily. Another wasted opportunity.
For their final chance in the 9th, three pinch hitters were sent in; Ross Gload, Ibanez and Greg Dobbs all went down without a fight, faster than fans could run to the parking lot. And there you have it; the Phillies first shut-out of the year and first lost series of the year. They are now only ½ game in front of the Marlins for first place.
The Phillies have the day off tomorrow to collect themselves, but more bad news may be on the horizon. JA Happ is suffering from a sore forearm and his scheduled Wednesday start is uncertain as a result. They are already missing Joe Blanton from the rotation; if Happ is forced to the DL as well, the Phillies may be in big trouble. Nelson Figueroa can probably fill in as a starter, but the pitching is starting to look awfully thin. Please think Happ-Y thoughts this week and perhaps we can all will him to health :O) It is worth a shot…
So, here is the full Photo Album from today’s game, which includes the always entertaining Phanatic Birthday celebration. Check out the stuffed Clam, Clammy Sosa, eating and then spitting out an umpire…classic.
Photos by Jenn