Yesterday I posed a question about Chase Utley and his health. Today, the Phillies finally spilled the beans and admitted that Utley has tendinitis in his right knee. An MRI revealed the issue which requires rest in order to heal.
While Utley has agreed to take things slow, the injury is still worrisome. According to the Mayo Clinic, knee tendinitis can involve a grocery list of complications including weakened leg muscles due to overcompensation, tendon tears and chronic pain. The recovery time is anywhere from weeks to months.
In my own personal experience, tendinitis can be chronic and linger for years. Utley has already stated that this is a condition he has dealt with in the past, so it appears to be an ongoing issue. How much it will hamper his future performance remains to be seen. But for now, it is not good news.
On to another sore subject, Jayson Werth made a very bad error in judgment this week when he trash-talked his former team. The Washington Post reported that Werth stated, “I hate the Phillies, too,” during a conversation with his new GM, Mike Rizzo.
I wonder which parts he hated. Could it be his 2008 World Series ring? Or maybe it was all the attention from fans who routinely professed their admiration of him? No, I’ll bet it was that the Phillies signed him when every other team in baseball assumed he was a washed-up, injury prone discard.
Then again, Werth is a National now. And I suppose all Nationals hate Philly for winning four straight division titles while they have done nothing but suck since moving to DC in 2005. Sounds like sour grapes from an underperforming club that has to beg fans of opponents to come to their ballpark just to sell tickets.
In another interview about Phillies fans outnumbering Nats fans in DC, Werth also said, “The reason why those people come over here is they don’t have a chance to watch their team in Philadelphia and as soon as we fill the seats with Nats fans those people are going to go away and we are going to regain homefield advantage and I am looking forward to that day too.”
News flash Werth – We see our team in Philly all the time. The reason most of us go to DC is because Nats tickets are super easy to get. And we do not mind the drive because we love and support our team, unlike most Nats fans who cannot be bothered to show up.
I will be honest; Werth has never been a favorite of mine. I have seen him treat fans badly and even watched him make rude, ignorant comments to small children who were politely asking for an autograph during a previous spring training. So frankly, the “hate” comment does not shock me.
But if Werth thinks his $126 million paycheck is going to fill seats in DC, he is in for a rude awakening. And if he is expecting a Pat Burrell-like greeting upon his return to Philadelphia, I am not sure that “rude awakening” would even begin to cover what Philly has in store for him.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
December 15th is a historical date. In 1794, the United States Bill of Rights became law. In 1933, the 21st Amendment went into effect, legalizing alcohol. Russians landed on Venus in 1970. And now, in the year 2010, Cliff Lee re-signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The signing will obviously not impact our society in such way as the Bill of Rights or the 21st Amendment once did. And it is doubtful that December 15th will be named a national holiday. However, this is still a historic occasion for the City of Philadelphia.
The following is a list of five ways in which the Cliff Lee deal has made a positive impact on the team, the city and the fans.
Four Aces Are Better Than Three
The entire Phillies team just got a whole lot better. Adding Cliff Lee to the already dominant rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels has the potential to make the opposition weep like children.
All together, that makes 3 Cy Young awards, 13 All-Star appearances plus an NLCS and a World Series MVP title. Combining all four starter’s 2010 ERA’s comes out to an average ERA of 2.86. If they stay healthy, this rotation will be frightening.
Statistics aside, these are four very competitive pitchers who will push each other to do better. This type of healthy dynamic should inspire the entire team to work harder and expect more from themselves and their teammates.
Having solid starting pitching also takes a great deal of pressure off the offense. Players who can relax at the plate will be more productive. After a down year in 2010, this Phillies offense should be ready to explode.
The City of Philadelphia Finally Gets Some Respect
The City of Philadelphia and their sports fans constantly get a bad rap in the media. Focusing only on the negative, national press makes Philadelphia look like a war zone.
Yes, some horrible human being threw up on a little girl at a Phillies game. The Eagles snowballs and Santa disaster begs the question, will the media ever get over it? That was in 1968. It is officially time to let it go.
There are idiots everywhere, not just in Philly. Look at the Cubs fan who threw beer on Shane Victorino during a play in the outfield. Ask the family of the poor teenager who was killed after a San Francisco Giants game in 2008. But these are isolated incidents and by no means do they reflect the attitudes or actions of an entire fan base.
About Philadelphia fans, Cliff Lee told the press, “They get excited. They’re passionate fans. They understand what’s going on. They don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer, to do that.” Lee also stated, ” Yeah, you know, the feeling of playing on the field feels different than anywhere else. I don’t know how to explain it other than you can feel the volume that’s created by the fans and their intensity.”
Lee loves Philadelphia, the team and their fans so much that he took fewer contract years and less money to play here. Much to the dismay of the national media, Cliff Lee has finally given Philadelphia the respect it deserves.
Philadelphia Just Landed On Every Player’s Wish List
Along with the respect that Cliff Lee’s words and actions have delivered, this signing has also put the Phillies on the wish list of all major league players who are interested in winning.
The days of JD Drew, who was drafted by the Phillies in 1997 but refused to sign, are long gone. No more grumblings from the likes of Scott Rolen either, claiming the Phillies have no desire to win.
The Phillies were already on the minds of many players before the Cliff Lee signing. Roy Halladay made an exception to his no-trade clause last year to come to Philadelphia. Later in July of 2010, Roy Oswalt did the same.
But the Cliff Lee deal puts the Phillies in a whole new echelon. They are now able to compete with the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees. The Yankees lost out on Lee despite offering more money and additional years. So while the Yankees payroll still far outweighs the Phillies, in terms of status, they are now nearly equals.
Jayson Who? Losing Werth Is Not So Bad
There was a lot of groaning among Phillies fans when All-Star right fielder Jayson Werth signed a gigantic contract with the Washington Nationals. Fans having flashbacks to Werth’s monster home runs, a steal of home plate, his rocket arm nailing runners at the plate and the 2008 World Series win, were disappointed that the Phillies did not try harder to sign him.
The facts now show that had the Phillies re-signed Werth, Cliff Lee would not be on the team. They simply would not have had the money or resources to bring Lee back.
Pitching wins ballgames. The impact Lee will have on this Phillies team in the long run far outweighs anything that Werth may have delivered.
Werth went where the money was and no one can fault him for that. But that move further illuminates the magnitude of Lee’s decision to sign with the Phillies for less money. Lee will be appreciated by Phillies fans everywhere. Werth will simply fade away into a distant memory.
Ruben Amaro Jr. Is Now A Phillies Legend
A Philadelphia native, Ruben Amaro Jr. started out as a Phillies bat boy in 1980. His father, Ruben Amaro Sr., was the first base coach at that time. Prior to that, Amaro Sr. played short stop for the Phillies from 1960-1965. Amaro Jr. also played for the Phillies from 1992 to 1993 and 1996 to 1998 in the outfield. He became the Assistant GM right after his playing career ended. Currently the Phillies General Manager, this man has literally spent almost his entire adult life, and part of his teenage years, with the Phillies.
Many were unsure of how Amaro would fare in the GM spotlight, having taken over the job right after the 2008 World Series. Amaro was doing a pretty average job but did not score big until wrapping up Roy Halladay last offseason. Most were thrilled with the Halladay signing. However, the happiness quickly turned to shock when it was announced that Cliff Lee was traded in order to replenish the farm system.
The short half year that Lee spent with the Phillies in 2009 was enough to enamor him to the entire fan base. His easy-going and unwavering demeanor on the mound combined with his ability to mow down opposing batters made Lee a fan favorite. He was also the only Phillies pitcher to record a win in that year’s World Series, which they ultimately lost to the Yankees.
To say that trading Lee was a stunning blow to the fans is an understatement. Even months later and well into the 2010 season, people questioned the move. Some even went so far as to proclaim it the dumbest move Amaro would ever make.
And while those people may be correct, Amaro created an extreme reversal of fortune by re-signing Lee on December 15, 2010. The five-year, $120 million dollar dear with a sixth year option completely redeemed Amaro.
Amaro jumped though a number a very large hoops to make this deal happen. The biggest of those had to be convincing team ownership, who have been notoriously stingy in the past, to cough up the dough. This will be the highest payroll carried in Phillies team history.
Respect is not easy to come by in this business, but Amaro has now earned it. He is a formidable opponent in the eyes of other ball clubs and to his own staff and players, he is a true leader. More than that, Amaro has earned the trust of this organization. They know he wants to win both now and in the future.
The Cliff Lee deal has cemented Amaro’s place in Phillies history. All he is missing now is his very own World Series Championship.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Many Phillies fan’s rolled out of bed this morning and had to pinch themselves to make sure they were not dreaming. Next, came a glance at the calendar to verify that they had not time travelled to April Fool’s Day. And when all that was done, the reality hit like a freight train, only in a good way. Sleepy eyes widened and fans began to jump for joy! Cliff Lee is back!
Phillies fans were treated to the exact same mind-boggling experience last offseason, just without the happy ending. Lee was sent to Seattle to free up prospects and acquire Roy Halladay which was a serious shock. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong. Not only has GM Ruben Amaro Jr. done that, he has redeemed himself completely with this signing.
And Cliff Lee has just established himself as almost God-like in the still sleepy eyes of Phillies fans everywhere. Lee accepted less money and fewer years to come back to Philadelphia simply because he loved it here. His wife Kristen loved it here. And Philadelphia loved them right back.
The deal is reportedly for five years and $120 million with a vesting option for a 6th year. The Yankees offered six years, $138 million and another option to bring the total to $154 million. The Yankees must be equally stunned as the Phillies are with this turn of events. A player choosing happiness over money is not something you see every day.
The Yankees fans who probably feel the worst about this news are the ones who harassed and spit on Cliff Lee’s wife Kristen during the ALCS in New York this past October. These fans may be to partly blame for sending the Lee family on this journey back to Philadelphia. Phillies fans thank you.
As far as making room for Lee, the Phillies made an exception to their payroll to make the deal happen. It is also rumored that they are shopping pitchers Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick plus outfielder Raul Ibanez. Whether any teams will bite remains to be seen.
For now, Phillies fans should feel free to celebrate. The Phils now have the best rotation in the majors with Lee, Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. And while no one faults Jayson Werth for taking the money and going to Washington, Cliff Lee will be appreciated that much more in Philly for choosing this team over the money. And what an amazing team it is.
You can all take the masking tape off you HalLEEday tee-shirts now.
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
While the Phillies were unable to conjure a tidal wave in the Winter Meetings this year, they did make a few smaller splashes. Free-agent left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes, 33, has been signed to a one-year, $1.25 million dollar contract, pending a physical. Reyes is a 14-year, well- traveled veteran who now joins his 11th major league club.
While the signing is relatively small in terms of impact, Reyes is anything but small. This six-foot, 3-inch 250 pound reliever goes by the nickname, “The Big Sweat.” In other words, he will add both depth and width to the bullpen.
On the other end of the size spectrum, the Phillies also picked up a five-foot, nine-inch, 145 pound infielder from the Nationals AAA system in the Rule 5 Draft. Michael Martinez, 28, had better watch himself around Reyes who is liable to mistake him for dinner.
Martinez’s small size has made him a versatile player who can handle both shortstop and second base as well as the occasional stop in centerfield. He hit a combined .272 with 21 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs, 56 RBI’s and a .408 slugging percentage in 522 plate appearances with Double-A Harrisburg and AAA Syracuse.
When asked about the pick-up of Martinez, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. joked, “We figured with this Rule 5 Draft we would get back at the Nationals. They got Werth. We’ll take Martinez and call it even.” While the attempt at humor is admirable, Amaro should probably not quit his day job.
The Phillies picked up a few other players in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft; Colorado outfielder Chris Frey and Oakland righty Justin Friend. While these are not real impact moves, it does give the Phillies a little more depth in the minor league system.
Overall, the Phillies had a quiet week at the Winter Meetings. However, with rumors flying about a possible deal for the Royals righty Zach Greinke, the Phillies may still have a big move on the horizon.
Photo by shgmom56 on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons
The Phillies made two moves on Tuesday that may indicate a few deals are in the works at the Winter Meetings. Pitchers Jesus Sanchez and Yohan Flande were released from the 40-man roster, likely to make room for a few additions. One of those additions is rumored to be ex-Phillie Aaron Rowand.
Rowand has two more years and $24 million left on his contract with the Giants. After a down year in 2010 and losing his starting spot, the Giants have implied that Rowand is no longer in their plans going forward. If the Giants are willing to eat most of his salary, Rowand could possibly return to Philly.
Best known for smashing his face against the centerfield wall at Citizens Bank Park to make a game-saving catch in 2006, Rowand was also the leader in the clubhouse and well loved by players and coaches alike. He was never afraid to call out a teammate who was slacking. This kind of fire is what Charlie Manuel loves about Rowand. It may also be motivation to bring him back.
In 2007, Rowand had a career year with the Phillies, batting .309 with 27 homers and 89 RBI. He also made the All-Star team that year. Since departing for San Francisco, Rowand’s numbers have steadily declined. At the time, critics said the move to a larger ballpark might affect his production and that appears to be the case. On the flip side, a return to the smaller confines of Citizens Bank Park may give new life to Rowand’s bat.
In addition, Rowand will have something to prove wherever he lands. This is a guy who plays the game hard and takes pride in his performance. Losing his starting job may have been the kick in the backside he needed.
Another upside is that Rowand can play either center or right field, just as Jayson Werth was able to. Neither Domonic Brown or Ben Francisco would likely be effective in center in the event that Shane Victorino is hurt or needs a break. And right now, Victorino is the only true centerfielder on the roster. Even if it is just coming off the bench, Rowand could fill that role while Brown and Francisco patrol right field.
Whether or not the Phillies decide to work out a deal with the Giants for Rowand is still unknown. But if the price is right, Rowand could be a real asset and maybe inject new life into this Phillies team.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography