Tagged: Michael Martinez

Phillies Infield Grasping at Straws

After trading utility infielder Wilson Valdez for a minor league pitcher in January, things have gone steadily downhill since then.  In an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic earlier this month, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. finally admitted that the Valdez trade was “foolish.”  His exact quote was, “It was foolish to trade Wilson Valdez” and Amaro then admitted if he could go back in time, he would take Valdez back.

I knew that in January.  Why didn’t Amaro?  Obviously, he did not see the train coming before it ran him over this spring training.  You cannot predict injuries, but even I knew that Chase Utley would be a big question mark this year after last year’s chronic knee issues.  Sure enough, he is out and no one knows when he will return.

Adding to the disaster at second base,  Michael Martinez has a broken foot and will be out until at least May.  To begin with, I’d have taken Valdez over Martinez anyway.  But again, Valdez is gone.  And first base is going to be an adventure as well with Ryan Howard out until…???  No one knows.

Now the Phillies are stuck with a rookie short stop as their starting second baseman.  Don’t get me wrong, Freddy Galvis is a wonderful prospect, but can he handle this type of pressure so early in his career?  Switching positions makes this even harder on a very young player who may not be ready for the big leagues yet.

Galvis may be just fine.  But this is certainly not the kind of uncertainty the Phillies wanted to start the season with.

Pete Orr may wind up being the back-up for Galvis, although the roster will not be set in stone until probably Sunday night.  We do know outfielder Juan Pierre has made the team, but the rest of the roster is still in limbo.

You can see the Phillies are very worried though…today they signed a Nationals reject, just in case.  Andres Blanco, a 27-year-old utility infielder who hit .224 with the Rangers last season, was given a minor-league deal.  This is the Phillies idea of a back-up plan.  Yikes.

A few other bonehead moves by Amaro this offseason include signing outfielder Laynce Nix to a 2-year deal.  This guy has hit above .255 only ONE time in a nine-year career.  And this spring, he is hitting .200.  And how about first baseman Ty Wiggington?  His career has been on a steady decline the last two seasons, hitting .248 and .242 respectively.  This spring, Wiggington has hit .190.

The good news is, both guys were cheap and Wiggington was given just a one-year deal.  But in case anyone is wondering, Valdez is hitting .318 in 44 at-bats this spring with the Reds.  Just saying…

Ok, so maybe all these new guys will surprise us all and get some big hits?  But I do not see any of them volunteering to pitch the 19th inning and risk making a total idiot out of themselves for the team.  That guy is gone….Wilson!  Miss you already…

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Valdez Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Spring Officially Kicks off with 3-Straight Phillies-Yankees Games

In the 1st of 3 games against the Yankees to start Spring Training, the Phillies dropped the game by a score of 8-5.  Cole Hamels started the game and tossed 2 innings, allowing 1 run.

The Yankees and their fans were salivating as Hamels pitched because Hamels could be a free agent after this year.  Hopefully, the Phillies will handle that issue before it comes down to a financial slug-fest with the Yanks.  Because we all know who wins that particular battle…

The first recorded RBI of spring came off the bat of Raul Ibanez…in a Yankees uniform.  The Phils will miss Ibanez’s personality in the clubhouse, but it was time to part and get a little younger in the outfield.  I wish Raul the best!

When watching early spring games, it can be hard to judge a players performance.  The games do not count, so wins and losses are just a meaningless statistic.  Veteran players are the most difficult to judge as they will use spring to get in shape and work on their technique.  So if a guys like Hamels, for example, gives up 5 runs, it does not mean much.  Maybe he is working on his grip, his delivery or trying out something new.  Spring is the time for veterans to  pace themselves, avoid injury and work out the kinks.

What you should really be looking at are the young guys and the players fighting for a roster spot.  This year, the Phillies have a number of battles brewing.  Both the bullpen and the bench have spots ready for the taking.

In the pen, watch for Dontrelle Willis, Justin DeFratus, Phillppe Aumont and Michael Schwimer, among others, to be vying for a spot on the big club.  Now, unlike the veterans, these are the guys who need to bring it every time they are out there.  It is all about who makes the biggest impression.

Willis pitched 1 inning yesterday and gave up a run on two hits.  Willis showed signs of the pitcher he used to be, but then also left his fastball up in the zone way too many times.  And there are plenty of younger guys standing by to try to knock him off.

As for the bench, Michael Martinez, who was here last year, now has a lot more competition to deal with.  Other utility guys like Scott Podsednik and Juan Pierre will be trying to make the team as well.  Podsednik is especially intriguing as he hit .304 and .297 in 2009 and 2010.  But he missed the 2011 season with a foot injury.  If he does well this spring and stays healthy, he has a shot to make the team as an extra outfielder.

This should be a very entertaining spring.

Game 2 with the Yankees today starts at 1:05pm today where we get our first look of the year at Roy Halladay in action!

 

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Questions That Loom Over the Phillies 2012 Season

A new year is upon us and a new Phillies season is almost here, with Spring Training to begin in just over a month.  A few off-season signings have solidified some areas, where other areas may still be of concern.  Here is my list of Phillies looming questions by position:

The Starting Rotation – The projected starters and order are Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Vance Worley.  Halladay and Lee are no brainers.  Hamels is recovering from elbow surgery but reports are that he is throwing and feeling fine.

This means the two questions remaining are Blanton and Worley.  Blanton sat out most of 2011 with a bum elbow and chose not to have surgery this offseason.  How he will respond in 2012 is a mystery.  However, Kyle Kendrick will be waiting in the wings to fill in should Big Joe go down.

And the question for Worley is simply, will he suffer the sophomore slump or pick up where he left off in 2011.  Either way, the Vanimal will be fascinating to watch.

Catcher –  Carlos Ruiz returns as Batman with Brian Schneider backing him up as Robin.  Choooooch!  No questions here.

1st Base – The sight of Ryan Howard tumbling to the ground in agony to end the Phillies 2011 season still burns in our collective memories.  Beat-writer Todd Zolecki reports that Howard is recovering well from Achilles surgery and is now beginning a light exercise program.

Still, Howard will miss some time.  Experts predict that John Mayberry Jr. will pick up most of the time at 1st with an occasional appearance from Jim Thome.  This seems like a terrible shame for Mayberry who should simply be handed left field and allowed to get comfortable there for the long haul.  Instead, the Phillies will probably platoon Laynce Nix in left with someone like Scott Podsednik.

My suggestion?  Give Nix a shot at 1st base and leave Mayberry in left.  Nix has played 1st before and with some work in Spring Training, he could work his way into the role easily.  Of course, I have no real say in the matter.

2nd Base – Can Chase Utley start and end a whole season at 2nd with his health intact?  We shall see…

Shortstop – Jimmy Rollins returns with a fresh 3-year deal.  The question here is that same as that of the other Phillies aging players…can he stay healthy?

3rd Base – I hate to beat a dead horse, but can Placido Polanco stay healthy at  36 years of age, coming off sports hernia surgery?  We hope so.  Polly’s contract is up after 2012, so who will be our 3rd baseman in 2013?

My suggestion?  Glad you asked.  Have minor league prospect Freddy Galvis spend the year working on a move from SS to 3rd.  Galvis is almost major league ready but out of options with J-Roll resigned at SS for 3 years.  Either Galvis becomes trade bait or he finds another way to be useful to the Phils.

Outfield –  As I mentioned before, Mayberry should be the left fielder but it may wind up being Nix until Howard gets healthy.  At least center and right are set: Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence will both be back and ready to play.

The Bullpen – Once again, the Phillies pen is a huge question mark.  The Phils saw rookies and younger, less experienced players, like Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo, rise and fall throughout 2011.  The status of veteran Jose Contreras is mostly unknown since having elbow surgery.  Other veterans, like Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson are gone (for now).  However, neither Lidge or Madson have found homes.  Could they return?  It’s a long shot….but not impossible.

Spring Training is going to be huge in determining the make-up of this bullpen.  There will be a lot of opportunities for younger guys to step up and steal a spot.  It will also be interesting to see if Dontrelle Willis can conjure up some of his early career magic or if he will slide back into oblivion.

And of course, the closer question was answered with the signing of Jonathan Papelbon.  The only question here is will Papelbon play up to his huge salary?

The Bench – Both Thome and Wilson Valdez are set.  The rest of the bench could consist of any number of new signings or guys like Michael Martinez and Pete Orr.  Again, Spring Training should be very interesting.

FYI – Totally off topic, if anyone has noticed some of my photos and albums mysteriously gone missing, this is due to an unexpected issue with the site I was using to store them.  I am in the process of getting it all loaded to a new site and will be working on updating older blogs as I am able to.  For now, all 2011 albums are back up and can be found under my 2007 – 2011 Photo Archives.  Thank you for your patience while I get everything back up and running :O)

I would like to thank all of my loyal readers for stopping by and helping to make Phillies Phollowers the #1 Phillies Fan MLBlog for the 4th straight year.  Among all team MLBlogs, I ranked #10 in 2011.

Many thanks to everyone in the MLBlogs community and congrats to all the leaders!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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*

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*