Tagged: World Series

Is There a Bright Side to the Phillies Skid?

With 6 straight losses, horrible defense, an anemic offense and banged up pitching staff, the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies are going nowhere fast.  Unless of course the “somewhere” you are thinking of involves a deep, dark, black hole in an alternate universe.

But for those of us stuck in the reality of here and now, being a Phillies fan sucks right now.  And there are no signs of relief on the way either.

I have been a Phillies fan for over 30 years and will always be a Phillies fan.  I remember all the ups and downs; even the mention of the name “Joe Carter” still makes me want to vomit.

But this recent downhill spiral is harder to take than most.  It is a combination of a lot of factors: Getting used to winning in the recent past; the enormous $175 million payroll; the injuries to key players; paying more for everything from parking to tickets to food at the ballpark; the utter depletion of the farm system to get all this expensive players; etc…

Before spring training even started, I predicted that the Phillies would not make the playoffs this year.  I also hoped that I was wrong.  But check out the trend:

2008: World Series win!

2009: NLCS Champs, World Series loss :O(

2010: NLDS Champs, NLCS loss

2011: NL East Division Champs; NLDS loss

The Phillies have literally gone down exactly 1 step on the postseason ladder every year since winning the World Series in 2008.  If the trend continues, that means either a Wild Card spot or no playoffs at all.

And the off-season moves the Phillies made did not inspire confidence either.  It was like Ruben Amaro Jr. tossed a coin and said, “Gee, I hope this is enough for us to scrape by with.”  Hmmm…no so much.

So let’s take a few moments to review the bright side of cheering for a bad team.  I worked very hard on this list so hang in there with me…

–          If you can afford it, it will be a lot easier to find tickets to the games in a good spot (i.e. – not the nosebleeds).

–          Games will be less crowded, therefore concession stand lines will be shorter (again, if you can afford to buy food at an overpriced stadium).

–          Better parking spots!

–          Less traffic!

–          Lower expectations: It is easier to watch your team suck when you totally expect them to suck.  Trust me…I have a lot of experience with this.

–          Fewer people at games also means it should be easier to get autographs!  And the players who were once too smug to sign should have a new attitude very soon.

–          When someone on the street sees your Phillies gear and tells you how bad they suck, you can simply reply with, “Yes, we suck.  But they are still my team.”  This is WAY less work than feeling the need to defend your team to a total stranger.

So who’s with me for the next home stand?!  Meet me Tony Luke’s in the 3rd inning; don’t worry, the line will be short so we won’t miss much of the game and once we return to our seats behind home plate, we will have a great time cheering despite strike-outs, pop-ups and bad plays while easily fending off haters rooting for the opposing team.

It’s a plan.  Go Phils!

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Spring Has Sprung: Phillies 2012 Edition

The start of spring training is always an exciting time.  It means a new year, new players and another shot at the World Championship.  For me, the day pitcher’s and catcher’s report does not exactly conjure the urge to cheer out loud; it is more a feeling of relief.  It is time to exhale…

Because all winter long, I have been holding my breath waiting for spring to arrive and it is finally here!  Winter is the worst season for baseball addicts.  You can try to distract yourself with the holidays, football, hockey and hoops, but it is just not the same.  And there are so many down days and so much time to fill.

Now, like a child on Christmas morning, we all feel the anticipation of the new season upon us.  Just as excited must be Roy Halladay, who arrived to spring training in style.  This appears to be a 1932 Ford Roadster; the photo was tweeted by Matt Gelb:

As spring training rolls forward, here are a few things to keep your eyes out for:

Who’s on First? – After Achilles surgery, Ryan Howard will be out of the line-up until at least May, probably longer.  Will John Mayberry take over?  Or, will he start in left and leave 1st base to new Phillies Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton?  My preference is the latter.

What’s on Second? – The “who” here is Chase Utley.  The “what” is what shape will he be in after nursing a bum knee throughout the 2011 season.

Juggling of the Bullpen – There are some significant changes to the pen this year starting with new closer Jonathan Papelbon.  But that role is set, so what about the rest of the pen?  What role will Kyle Kendrick fill?  Will Dontrelle Willis be a real contributor?  And can Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes move past the awful ending to an otherwise solid 2011 season?   Add Chad Qualls and a possible return from Jose Contreras and this has the makings of a huge soap opera.

The Infirmary – One of the biggest question marks on an aging team is can they stay healthy?  Many players had off-season surgery including Cole Hamels, Placido Polanco, Hunter Pence and, of course, Ryan HowardJimmy Rollins has only played around 1/2 of the last two seasons due to injuries.  And this year, he has a brand new contract, making his continued health a real priority.

The Contract SituationCole Hamels is on board for the year.  But unless the Phillies ink a long-term deal with him this spring, they are likely to lose him in free agency next year.  The question is, how much of a distraction will this be?  Personally, I think the Phillies need to cut a deal now and be done with it.

Luckily, this year fans will have more opportunities to see these dramas play out thanks to expanded TV coverage of spring training.  Comcast has published a list of all 14 games that will be aired plus many news and social media events.  This is the first time EVER that you can see every Phillies spring training game without travelling to Clearwater.

Of course, I would rather be in Florida.  However, this is a great alternative.  With the early March games being aired, you can see a lot of young guys and prospects play that without the TV coverage, you normally would not.  In prior years, those players were already sent back to the minors by the time games began to air.

Changing the subject to a more personal note, many of you who follow my blog regularly know that I generally post new content frequently.  However, this off-season has been a tough one for me.  It seems like life keeps tossing me curve balls.  I have been quite ill all off-season.  Then a short time ago, my cat of 15 years passed away in my arms.  I had to have surgery just 6 days after that happened and am still recovering with another surgery on the horizon.

I will live, but it has been a rough go for a while here.  So I thank you all for continuing to follow my silly little blog :O)  I hope to be back on track with regular postings and some fun photos real soon.  And what could be a better cure for that which ails me than baseball?

Thank goodness, Spring Training has sprung!

 

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Grieving the Phillies 2011 Season – Stage 5: Acceptance

With the final game of the 2011 World Series upon us tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to end the drama.  As Phillies fans, it has been a rough ride since our team took an early and unexpected exit from the playoffs.

But not just fans have been on the mend, so have the players.  Some were on the mend in a very literal sense.  Ryan Howard got the stitches out from his Achilles surgery.  Hunter Pence, Cole Hamels and Placido Polanco are all rehabbing from hernia surgery.  Hamels had elbow surgery as well.

It is simply time to move on from all these aches and pains and accept the fact that the season is over.  I found something today that made me smile and even feel a little better.  This is a poem written by manager Charlie Manuel back in 2000 when he was with the Indians.  It was originally published on the Indians web site and can now be found in the online Baseball Almanac.

My Most Memorable Day

by Charlie Manuel

“It was a warm day in August when history was made,
And the fans in the boxes were looking for shade.
The bases were loaded, it was the last inning.
From the sound of the crowd, you knew we weren’t winning.

When out of the dugout came No. 3,
The last hope for the Twins it was sure to be.
Now legend tells of Casey at the bat,
But today it was the Killer who tipped his hat.

Cursing and swearing came from the stands,
When Harmon was waved back by Rigney’s hand.
An astonishing look came over the Brew’s face,
When Rigney said, ‘Manuel is taking your place.’

A disbelieving look as he turned around,
Placed his bat in the rack without a sound.
Then from the bench came No. 9,
Who’d been warming the pine for a long, long time.

As he stepped from the dugout came a yell from the stands,
‘You can’t hit Manuel, the Killer’s our man.’
Never before in history had they pinch hit for the Brew,
Especially with some hillbilly hitting .182.

This was a mockery, a dirty rotten shame,
To pinch hit for a man who’s a sure Hall of Fame.
But Charlie heard not a word as he strode to the plate.
He only noticed the crowd’s eyes; they were filled with hate.

‘God, help me this one time,’ kept going through his mind.
‘If I ever get a hit, let it be this time.’
Jim Palmer looked in and thought, ‘This should be a cinch,
I’ll throw three by this rider of the bench.’

Down came the ball with a little white glare,
As Manuel stood watching for he knew it was there.
‘Strike one,’ came the call from the man in blue,
And four pitches later it was 3 and 2.

Now everything rode on the very last pitch.
Would Charlie stay a poor boy or would he suddenly be rich?
The crack of the bat and a long drive to right,
The back of Blair’s uniform is the only thing in sight.

The roar from the stands gave a deafening scream…
Then Charlie fell out of bed, it was only a dream.”

Charlie….you gotta love him. :O)

 

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*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Grieving the Phillies 2011 Season – Stage 4: Depression

Has anyone been watching the World Series?  I have not been able to.  Not because my TV blew up or squirrels chewed through my cable lines, but because it is just too depressing.  The 2011 World Series without the Phillies?  *SIGH* :O(

The only thing I think about right now is that there are approximately 124 days, 2,996 hours, 179,761 minutes and 10,785,690 seconds left until players report to Spring Training.  That means I have ahead of me approximately 124 days, 2,996 hours, 179,761 minutes and 10,785,690 seconds of sheer boredom and misery.

Sad Phillies

I know, I should really get a grip.  Perhaps join a 12-step program?  But I simply cannot fathom what those 12-steps might be that would be able to lift me out of this funk.

To make matters worse, there are many impending decisions on the horizon that will greatly impact the future of this Phillies team.  There are seven free agents the Phils have to make decisions on: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez, Brian Schneider and Ross Gload.

My thoughts are that the options on Lidge and Oswalt’s contracts will not be picked up nor will either player be resigned.  Neither lived up to expectations this year and injuries were a huge problem.

Madson’s agent is Scott Boras.  That being said, the Phillies will not be able to afford to resign him.  Plus, rumor has it that Madson’s wife hates Philadelphia.  He is gone.

As for the other four, Gload and Ibanez likely will not be back.  This team needs to get younger and healthier.  The Phils will probably resign Schneider at a discount as his offensive numbers are exactly that – offensive.  And Rollins will hopefully return after some intense negotiations.

And all of that is also depressing.  This team we have all come to know and love will be broken apart with holes likely to be filled with some new faces.  Change is necessary here, especially after the final results of this season with the team ousted way earlier than expected.  But that does not make it less sad :O(

I am currently in the process of peeling myself out of this dark, hopeless abyss where I am blubbering uncontrollably while cowering in a corner.  This disappointing season has been difficult to cope with, but we must all make a commitment to try.

Although, if trying includes watching the Rangers and Cardinals, I may pass for now.  It is just too demoralizing  right now :O( 

Stay tuned for Stage 5…

 

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Grieving the Phillies 2011 Season – Stage 3: Bargaining

Stage 3 of my mourning the 2011 Phillies season has reached the bargaining stage.  The only problem is that the season is already gone, leaving nothing but “why’s,” “what if’s” and “if only’s.”

For instance,

  • What if…the Phillies had just let the Braves win the last two games of the season, thereby eliminating the Cardinals from the Wild Card?
  • What if…Cliff Lee did not blow a 4 run lead in NLDS game 2?
  • If only…I had a magic wand to make it all better.
  • What if…the Phillies offense actually showed up?
  • If only…I had a time machine (*sigh*).
  • If only…this team had stayed healthy.
  • What if…Charlie Manuel had a clue about when to pull his starters?
  • If only…wishing made it so :O(

Are there any deals left to be made?  Can I bargain with the devil to rewind this horrendous end to the season?  Ok, maybe not the devil.  But how about the angry, rabid and totally evil Busch Stadium Squirrel?  Clearly, this rodent has super powers that helped propel the Cards to the World Series.

Evil squirrel

The World Freakin’ Series?  The Cardinals?  A team that had literally no shot at a playoff run just weeks before the postseason?  If they win it all, they should dedicate the trophy to the Phillies, who beat the Braves, putting them in playoffs.  And the Phils then laid down and let the Cards walk all over them in the NLDS.

Not that the Cards did not earn it…they certainly did.  But the Phillies barely put up a fight, which still makes me want to travel back in time, violently shake each Phils player and scream until they WAKE UP!

Someone please wake me up…I must still be dreaming.  And oh, what a nightmare this has been.

Stay tuned for Stage 4…

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*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*

John Bowker Hits the Baseball Lottery

After two dismal years from 2008 – 2009 in San Francisco, John Bowker was traded halfway through 2010 to the Pirates.  Yes, just as the Giants were heading towards a World Series win, Bowker got dumped.

And while he still technically qualified for a ring, Bowker sat at home last October watching his old team win it all without him.  That had to suck.

This year, Bowker spent a little time with the Pirates and a lot of time in the minors.  A lifetime .237 hitter, even the lowly, fourth place Pirates finally decided they did not want him anymore.  Bowker was designated for assignment on Thursday.

But then a miracle occurred.  One day before the end of August with only a month left in the regular season, John Bowker won the lottery.  And oddly enough, he has the Phillies to thank.

To recap, Bowker got sent away from a World Series-bound team in 2010, dumped by one of the worst teams in baseball in 2011 and now, by some weird act of God, he has landed a spot with a playoff-bound team, the Phillies.

Some guys have all the luck.

The Phillies apparently acquired Bowker as an extra left-hander off the bench.  Why, I am not quite sure.  Maybe they lost a bet?  Or with all the success this year, perhaps they were in a charitable mood.

But seriously, Bowker had a nice run in Triple-A this year so I am sure the Phillies are hoping he can feed off that success and contribute to a World Series run.

So welcome to Philly, Mr. Bowker!  You still cannot believe your luck, can you?  Don’t worry; it will all sink in right about the beginning of October.

 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*