Tagged: World Series

Jimmy Rollins Goes West

J-Roll says hi crIt took the departure of Jimmy Rollins to wake me from my offseason slumber.  And it was indeed a rude awakening.  The trade of Rollins to the Dodgers signals the end of a Phillies era, which is sad.  It also seems that more big changes are on the way.

I do think the trade was the right move, but that does not make it any less depressing.  During his 15 years with the team, Rollins provided fans with exciting moments, frustrating moments and everything in between.  He became the team’s all-time hits leader, won an MVP and helped bring Philadelphia a World Series.  If you follow this team closely as I have done over the years, watching J-Roll head to the west coast is akin to a family member moving away.  Love him or hate him, life will never be the same without Rollins.

The Phillies Phollowers official mascot, J-Roll Smurf, was hit the hardest.  He immediately took to the phone to call his agent and make sure he was not also being shipped out.  A blue uniform would totally clash with his blue skin.  It is not a good look.  J-Roll Smurf then drown his sorrows in sugar by raiding the cookie jar.  I have assured him he will always have a home here, as will the real Rollins.

Smurfs

It has not yet been announced what the Phillies will get in return for J-Roll, but it is assumed to be two minor league pitchers.  The Phillies acquired another new pitcher yesterday when they traded Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates for another lefty, Joely Rodriguez.  Rodriguez went 6-11 with a 4.84 ERA in 30 games this past year with Double-A Altoona and is considered to be one of their top prospects.

The question now is who will the ax fall on next?  Many hope it will be Ryan Howard, but who wants him, really?  His contract is too large and his production too little.  Cole Hamels may be next, but the Phillies have to hit a grand slam with that trade if it happens or risk losing the fan base.  And I do not even want to mention Chase Utley…I cannot imagine a Phillies team without him.

We now wait and see what will happen next.  In the meantime, I wish Jimmy the best and hope the move works out for him.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

An Emotional Offseason

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.

Ouch.

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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The 2012 Phillies: A Season to Forget

The torture that was the 2012 Phillies season is finally over.  And sadly, it ended just as I predicted before the season even began; without a playoff bid.  I was hoping to be wrong about that.

Since the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, each year they have taken exactly one step backwards.  So this year, missing the playoffs seemed like their destiny.  They lost the World Series in 2009; lost the NL Championship Series in 2010; lost the NL Division Series in 2011; and now, the next logical step has arrived.  The Phillies will go home early without even a sniff at a post-season run.

Remember happy days like these?:

For now, they are gone :O(

The first casualties of the 2012 disaster are already accounted for.  Bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Greg Gross and first base coach Sam Perlozzo have all been given their walking papers.  More fallout is probably on the horizon, but it will probably involve players, not coaches.

So who else should stay and who should go?  Here are some thoughts, starting with the offense:

In 195 at-bats, Kevin Frandsen hit .338, which led the team.  And for an entire month, he played with a stress fracture in his leg, yet he still kept hitting.  I say put him at 3rd base and get a back-up in case of injuries.

If the Phillies do not re-sign Juan Pierre, they are insane.  He hit .307 in 394 at-bats, led the team in stolen bases with 37 and he is the best bunter you can find anywhere.

Bring Shane Victorino back!  After a depressing second half with the Dodgers, his price will go down, possibly to the point where the Phillies can afford to resign him.  John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown can platoon and then the Phils need another outfielder or two.

Needs to Go:  Nate Schierholtz, Ty Wigginton, Michael Martinez.  Martinez is good defensively, but hit only .174 in 115 at-bats.  They can find a better utility guy.  And we are stuck with Laynce Nix for one more year unless someone is willing to trade for him…not likely.

Back-up Catcher:  In – Erik Kratz; Out – Brian Schneider.

Relief Pitching:  Jonathan Papelbon stays and probably Antonio Bastardo.  I will also put in votes for Jeremy Horst and Phillipe Aumont.  The maybes are Jake Diekman and Justin DeFratus, although DeFratus needs to be 100% healthy, which I feel is still in question.  Michael Stutes may return, but no one is sure in what condition.

Please Go Away:  Josh Lindblom – trade him (if anyone wants him).  He has been awful.  This team needs some veteran help in the pen.

Please Come Back: Ryan Madson!

As for starters, unless someone’s arm falls off, stick with the usual 5: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay (pray he gets healthy), Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick.

And of course, all the usual suspects, like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, etc… will be back.  But will they be healthy?  That is the looming question.

To give an idea of how badly the injuries hurt the team this year, consider this: I may be missing some, but by looking at the team stats, at least 49 different players made an appearance for the Phillies this year, rotating in and out of the 25-man roster.  Also, only 2 players of those 49 reached 400 or more at-bats; Rollins (632) and Mayberry (441).  That is scary.

So the season is over and the healing (quite literally) shall begin.  Do you have any thoughts you would like to share about this season?  Feel free to leave comments below. 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

11th Inning Walk-Off Gives Phillies a Series Split with the Reds

It took a torrential downpour to start the game, 4 runs, 11 innings and 4 ½ hours, but the Phillies finally pulled off a win against the Reds for a series split.  The win also vaulted them into 3rd place in the division.  Imagine being happy about 3rd place back in April…this has been a crazy year.

One person who was not happy about the rain to start the game was Cole Hamels.  He stated after the game, “We have these things called radar detectors and if you can’t read them correctly I don’t know what’s going on.”  After getting into trouble and allowing a run in the 1st while it poured, Hamels was probably having bad flashbacks to Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.  Officials did not call that game until after Hamels relinquished 2 runs to tie the game due in part to the sloppy field conditions.

But that game turned out pretty well, although not until several days later.  The start of Thursday’s game was not delayed as it should have been, so his frustration is easy to understand.  But the extra-inning affair also worked out in the end.  Hamels went 6 innings and allowed 3 runs.

The offense had some issues as well.  It looked like no one could hit Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto until the 6th inning when the Phils finally scored 2 runs.  But once they got the game tied up at 3-3, things got every stranger.

The Phillies started getting on base, but there appear to be a brick wall at 3rd base that no one could pass.  In both the 8th and 9th innings, the Phillies had the bases loaded with only 1 out and did not score.  In the 9th Domonic Brown hit into a double play to end the inning, adding to the frustration.  They left 2 men on base with 1 out in the 10th as well. In all, the Phillies stranded 16 runners and went only 4-14 with runners in scoring position.

Throughout those many irritating innings though, the bullpen did an excellent job of holding the Reds at bay.  5 pitchers went 5 scoreless innings, including Phillippe Aumont who made his major league debut.  He tossed a scoreless 8th inning.

Aumont had been called up to replace Jeremy Horst who was on paternity leave.  But Horst returned, and also pitched, last night.  Aumont stayed and instead, Michael Schwimer was very quietly sent back to Triple-A.  So it appears the Phillies will get a longer look at Aumont to see what he can do.

With the bullpen’s solid effort, the table was set yet again for the Phillies in the 11th inning.  Finally, someone got a hit with the bases loaded.  John Mayberry Jr. singled to left to score Chase Utley for the walk-off victory.  After the game, Charlie Manuel expressed his frustration about all the previously stranded runners by saying, “I feel drained. Really. I kept waiting for somebody to come home.”   Everyone laughed, which is certainly a lot easier when you have won the game.

And now the 1st place Nationals come to town.  There is just something very wrong about that previous sentence…sigh.  Game time tonight is 7:05pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Two-Straight Complete Game Shut-Outs for Hamels

After a couple of shaky starts after signing a huge contract, Cole Hamels is in the zone again.  Last night marked the second straight complete game shut-out for the lefty with a 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins.

Hamels tossed 113 pitches, 85 of them for strikes.  He allowed 7 hits and 1 walk, but no Marlin even crossed home plate.  While playoff hopes for the Phillies are all but dashed, Hamels could still be in line for another big prize if he continues to pitch at this pace: the Cy Young award.

This ace already has a World Series ring, a World Series and a NLCS MVP award plus 3 All-Star nods.  All Hamels has left to accomplish is the Cy Young…and of course, one more World Series ring.

Supporting their teammate, the Phillies offense produced 4 runs, which was plenty considering how Hamels was pitching.  Juan Pierre had another 3-hit night, including a triple and an RBI.  Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr. and Kevin Fransden had 2 hits each while Chase Utley and Erik Kratz both knocked in one run each.

As for the bullpen…there was no bullpen as Hamels went all 9 innings.  This could be the best bullpen performance all year long!  Way to sit on the bench guys; nicely done.  With the way this year has gone, I am sure the relievers were as relieved with this turn of events as anyone.

The Phillies have another shot at the Fish tonight.  Kyle Kendrick, despite being awful lately, will get yet another chance at being a real starter.  This is beginning to feel like Pinocchio trying to be a real boy…it’s never going to happen.  I could be wrong; what do you think?  Will Kendrick ever be consistent enough to be a starter?  Feel free to leave comments below.

Game time is 7:10pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Get Wrecked by the Mets for 6 Straight Loses

An 11-1 loss against the Mets tonight was a complete and utter disaster on all sides for the Phillies.  The pitching stunk, the offense was invisible and the defense phoned it in too.

Vance Worley had the worst start of his career, allowing 6 runs in only 4 innings.  When Raul Valdes took over, he left 2 runners on base in the 6th before being pulled with 2 outs recorded.  Why was he pulled?  Because apparently, he was not giving up enough home runs.  So the Phillies brought in Brian Sanches from our minor-league bullpen to take care of that.  David Wright thanks him for the 3 RBI.

Behind the pitchers, the defense was not great either.  John Mayberry Jr. missed a fly ball he should have caught.  Chase Utley made a mistake on what could have been a double play ball.  Instead, both runners were safe.  And Placido Polanco was charged with a throwing error.

But the offense was even worse.  The Phillies managed only 3 hits and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.  The only Phillies run in the game was a solo homer from Carlos Ruiz in the 2nd inning.

Folks, this is as bad as it could possibly get right now.  This game was the epitome of this horrible season, now more than halfway over.  We could all try chanting the insurance jingle, “Like a good agent, State Farm is there…with a 10-game winning streak!  Poof!”  But I have a very bad feeling that even that will not help.

Instead, you could go to blast some virtual home runs online at statefarm.com/gotobat for the chance to win two tickets to the World Series.  So even if the team doesn’t win, you can get back that feeling of good baseball, even if it is just a virtual version.

I mention that because the Go To Bat charity has offered me a video interview with Ryan Howard!  I will be posting that sometime next week during the All-Star break; Ryan will be in Kansas City promoting the charity and I have a few fun questions for him.

So there is a little bit of good news in the midst of a whole bunch of bad.

The Phillies will try once again to conjure a win tomorrow at 1:10pm.  Start praying for a 4th of July miracle!

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Utley photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Thome Sets Another Record in Phillies Walk-Off Win

In their 1st visit back to Philadelphia since losing the 2008 World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays once again brought the rain with them.  Friday night’s Phillies – Rays game was rained out and will be played as part of a doubleheader on Sunday.  The originally scheduled 1:35pm game will start instead at 1:05pm and the make-up game will begin at 6:35pm.

For today’s game, Kyle Kendrick started as originally planned, with Cliff Lee being pushed back to Sunday.  After Lee had fully warmed up Friday night, they did not want to take any chances by having him go today.

Kendrick did not have a great day, getting speeches while on the mound from teammates Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins and then pitching coach Rich Dubee.  It seemed like a lot of work just to get Kendrick through what turned out to be only 4 innings.  He walked 3 and allowed 3 runs.

But the offense gave the pitching a boost with big home runs from Rollins and Juan Pierre.  For Pierre, it was his first homer since August of last year and his first 3-run homer since 2004.  Pierre is not typically a long-ball hitter and as a result, there were huge smiles all around the Phillies bench when he hit that one.  Pierre got to play Superman, if only for just one day.

For the bullpen, Raul Valdes did a commendable job picking up the slack for Kendrick.  Fresh back from the minors, Valdes pitched 2 very solid innings.  Antonio Bastardo had a little trouble in the 8th where he loaded the bases but did pitch out of it after allowing only one run.

The 6-4 lead carried the Phillies into the 9th with a save opportunity for Jonathan Papelbon.  It was not exactly smooth sailing.  In fact, he blew his first save of season, giving up 2 runs and really putting the Phillies in a very bad position with a doubleheader scheduled the next day.  This could not have been worse timing, except…

In the bottom of the 9th, a future Hall of Famer was lying in wait to bail Papelbon out.  Jim Thome stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 9th and absolutely crushed a ball to deep left field.  And just like that, BOOM!  The Phillies won it in walk-off style.

It was Thome’s 13th career walk-off homer, which is a major league record.  He is also the all-time leader in Interleague play home runs.  And Thome is now tied with Sammy Sosa for 7th place in career homers with 609.

On Sunday, Cole Hamels will pitch the first game and Lee will pitch the second one.  I will be at both games and shall return with photos.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography