Friday, July 18, 2014

Fearless Prediction

If Ruben Amaro acquires Matt Kemp the Phillies will spend another decade in the wilderness.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Polls Are Open

The annual meeting of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Reality-Check Club of America, Ruben Amaro presiding, will meet this week at Citizens Bank Park.  Poll watchers have been speculating for weeks how the membership will vote but as of this date no consensus has been reached.

What should be clear to those card-carrying diehards who still cling to the notion the Phils can still make a run at the playoffs in 2014 is that this past Sunday's thrashing by the Nationals proved the Phightins [sic] are only headed in one direction and it is due South!

The week before the Phillies brought home some fools' gold from Milwaukee.  Learned observers knew it would only take a series at home to put the boys back on track, and, sure enough, the friendly confines proved anything but as visiting Washington took two of three.

The case for rebuilding is really a simple one:  the Phillies are so bad and have so many problems to correct they had better get started without further delay or the good people of the Delaware Valley are looking at another lost decade...or two.

The first step in the right direction would be a coup d'etat, firing General Manager Amaro.  Rube has been on the job long enough now to demonstrate his lack of judgement.  He has saddled the franchise with ruinous contracts, depleted its farm system, and shown little acumen when evaluating talent.

Inquiring minds will be watching the vote tally closely.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

All That Glitters....

The Phils have won five straight.  Whoopee!!

I'm hardly one to minimize taking four in a row from the Brewers in Milwaukee (OK, I should point out Milwaukee was already tumbling back to earth when the Phillies arrived, but, hey.....).  Then they come home at stomp Washington (which also has been less than impressive of late).  It should be noted the Phillies hate home cookin' this season.

Anyway, the streak lifts the Phils from 14 games under .500 to 9 under.  (Math was never my strong suit but even I can figure this one out.)

So, if you, let alone Ruben Amaro, are tempted to think maybe these guys shouldn't start unloading a lot of veterans at the trade deadline, I have a suggestion for you:  DON'T!!!!!

Amaro isn't much of a judge of talent despite all those years watching the game.  He made a lot of foolish decisions about talent and money over the past several seasons desperately trying to go all in with the core of players held over from the glory years.  The problem has been four-fold:  the core has aged dramatically, the acquisitions have been less than stellar, the team is saddled with some crushing contracts, and the farm system is pretty much empty.

Now Amaro and Phils have arrived at another crossroads.  Five straight wins (forget the miserable series in Pittsburgh just before that when the Phils were themselves swept) may tempt Amaro to try and squeeze one more playoff appearance out of the core and bits and pieces he surrounded those players with.  It won't work.  The Phils aren't mathematically out of it, yet, because the rest of division has its own problems.  But make no mistake, the Phils aren't good and they need to begin the rebuilding immediately.

Amaro probably doesn't get that.  He's like the gambler who thinks the big pot is really just one more hand away.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pap Mixes Metaphors In With The Occasional Fast Ball

Let's face it, Jonathan Papelbon isn't overburdened.  No, I do not refer to his comment the other night that it is a "no brainer" to want to play for a contender.  Papelbon has been making it clear for more than a year he wants out of Philadelphia.  Once you have $50 million in the bank, winning IS everything.

Instead, I refer to his statement a day earlier regarding rumors circulating the Phillies were trying to trade him:  "I don't have a crystal eight ball," Pap replied to a reporter's query.

Now we know language isn't one of Papelbon's strong suits.  Heck, he probably just made it out of high school English as a first language.  For the record, Johnny boy, what you uttered is a mixed metaphor.  You see, it goes like this:

One is "behind the eight ball" or one does/does not possess "a crystal ball".  Not both.  Eight balls are decidedly black, Johnny, while crystal balls are clear.  One refers to the game of pool; the other to the game of chance.  Now, in his defense, Papelbon was probably recalling the Magic Eight Ball he owned as a high school senior.



According to Wikipedia, Johnny, here are the possible answers to that reporter's question:

The 20 answers inside a Magic 8 Ball are:
 It is certain
 It is decidedly so
 Without a doubt
 Yes definitely
 You may rely on it
 As I see it, yes
 Most likely
 Outlook good
 Yes
 Signs point to yes
 Reply hazy try again
 Ask again later
 Better not tell you now
 Cannot predict now
 Concentrate and ask again
 Don't count on it
 My reply is no
 My sources say no
 Outlook not so good
 Very doubtful

Thursday, July 03, 2014

When Do They Get The Message?

It's no fun watching the Phillies play.  As a matter of fact, it hasn't been fun to watch them for two seasons and counting.

They are an incomplete team on good days and an spent team on bad ones.  In between they get either good starting pitching, good relief pitching or the occasional offensive burst...but never all three and certainly not all three on the same day.

How much fun is it to watch Ryan Howard step to the plate with his .235 batting average?  How many more times will be treated to Dom Brown taking a route around his elbow to get to his thumb?

Chase Utley started off well.  Indeed, on the strength of his early season performance he will be elected to the All Star team, probably as the starter.  But Chase has slowed down considerably over the last five or six weeks.  His average has plummeted to a still respectable .288 but hardly the robust .333 of earlier days.  He's tired of playing his usual all out game and he's probably tired of losing.  The other night he dropped two balls.  Never a great fielder, he nonetheless was never prone to mental mistakes.

Cole Hamels pitches up and down...literally.  He gave up three home runs the other night.  Last night he walked four batters in five innings.  He has a losing record...again.  He has pitched well enough to have a winning record, but that would require he pitched for a team that had not been shut out 11 times before the All Star break.

The Phillies cannot pitch consistently.  They definitely cannot hit period.  And they do not field well.

They need to begin rebuilding without delay.

They won't

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Half Empty

Soccer fans of the domestic persuasion point to the enthusiasm for this year's World Cup as evidence their favorite sport is finally catching on broadly throughout the land.

Yesterday's loss to Belgium should correct that misconception.

The US side was badly outplayed and out-coached in yesterday's game.  Belgium controlled the ball for an overwhelming portion of the game and was thwarted from winning in regulation time by the heroics of US goalkeeper Tim Howard, who was sensational.

Otherwise, the US could not control the ball, move the ball or threaten much.  Commentators like to point out the Americans play excellent defense...and for the most part they do.  But let it be said by this viewer, hardly an expert but, hey, this is the internet, defense is easier to play!  There, I said it!

It's much harder to control the ball and mount an offense then it is to head a ball away from your goal or kick it out to who-knows-where.  And in this regard, control, the Americans were absolutely inept versus the much more skilled Belgians.  Without Howard's heroics the game could easily have been 4-0 in regulation time.

The Americans played an extraordinarily dull game...again except for Howard.  They gave the ball up at midfield easily.  They were one and done on their few advances deep into Belgian territory.

Were viewers going to remember Howard or the ineptitude of his teammates?  The bet here is they will remember the latter.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

SIXERS TO FANS: DON'T CALL US, WE 'LL CALL YOU

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Something Old; Something Older

The Ron Hextall era has begun and we can be excused if we blinked and thought it looked a lot like those of his predecessors Paul Holmgren and Bobby Clarke.

Hextall's first roster move was to reacquire J.R. Umberger, whom the Flyers traded away several seasons ago.

What is it about the Flyers' front office that compels them to reacquire players they jettisoned?  I don't have the official figures in front of me (and I am not going to spend a single nano second digging them up) but if they aren't professional sports' all-time leaders in sellers' remorse I don't know what franchise is!!!

* * * * * * * *

In today's Inky the estimable Bob Ford suggested the Sixers would be smart to draft recently injured and operated on center Joel Embiid.  Embiid was projected to be the first pick in the upcoming draft and thus off the board by the time the Sixers made the third pick, but he fractured a bone in his foot, had surgery, and is on the shelf for at least six months.

Were the Sixers to draft Embiid they would be in position to set an all-time NBA record that will never be broken...guaranteed!  They would be the first and only team to ever acquire through a trade or draft pick three starting centers in three consecutive seasons who could not, and in two cases and counting, did not play a single game that season.

The Sixers' front office cannot be that stupid.

Can they?

* * * * * * * *

Through seventy-five games this season the Phillies have been shut out ten times.  Despite their ineptitude, some commentators are still suggesting they should not be sellers at the trade deadline.   What a great idea.  To follow such a course would not be postponing the inevitable because the inevitable arrived two seasons ago.  The Phils are old.  They cannot hit.  They pitch erratically.  They have nothing down on the farm.  They have plenty of examples not only of what some teams have done to rebuild but what they themselves have done in the past to avoid it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

J-Roll

Many years ago I took a graduate seminar with the most famous photographic historian in the world.  That statement isn't an exaggeration.

When I finished my degree I returned to the East Coast and landed in Boston.  There I met a number of photographers and historians who asked me about my background.  When I mentioned this historian and my admiration for him I was often taken aback when told, "Photography left him behind in the '50's!"  My reply was always the same:  "I'd rather judge someone for what he accomplished, not what he didn't accomplish."

I feel the same way about Jimmy Rollins.

Yesterday J-Roll tied Mike Schmidt for the franchise record of total hits.  As early as this afternoon, Jimmy could be in sole possession of the record.  Along the way Jimmy has earned an MVP, four gold gloves and the admiration of his peers.  He is one of the best all-around shortstops ever to play this game.  He has over 400 stolen bases and over 200 home runs.  His range is impressive, his hands sure and his arm strong.

J-Roll has also endured the wrath of fans who lament his failure to draw enough bases on balls, hit the ball on the ground more and in essence perform like the lead-off man he has been most of his career.

For my part, I'd rather judge him for what he accomplished.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Wake Me

Wake me up when they win.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Who Had June 3rd?

So, who had June 3 in the pool?

Who had the date Larry Bowa would publicly spew his trademark "He's killing us" tirade?

Does a team that has been shut out seven times in its last 27 games derive any benefit from Larry publicly scolding them?

So, will the winner please step forward.

Monday, May 26, 2014

No Kidding

Inevitably the morning papers around the nation trotted out all sorts of variations on the words "no", "nothing" and "nada".

What did you expect?

The Phillies celebrated their descent into the nether lands of the NL East by going hitless in a 6-0 loss to Josh Beckett, one of the genuine jerks in baseball.

The shutout was the fifth the Phils suffered in the last few weeks.

They landed in the basement on merit.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Predictable & Boring

Managers like to talk about certain pitchers giving the team a chance to win every fifth day when they take the ball.

Kyle Kendrick is never mentioned in that conversation.

Kendrick always has a bad inning or two somewhere along the way.  Some times he implodes right out of the chute; other times he is sailing along and then it happens.  The proverbial bottom line remains negative. Kyle, it seems, never gives his team a chance to win.

* * * * * * * *

In the interest of full disclosure, I've watched very little baseball this season.  I've read a fair amount and watched replays and wrap-ups, but it isn't much fun to sit there inning after inning listening to the most boring three-man commentary in baseball today describing a team that isn't much fun to watch...and hasn't been for a few seasons now.

The Phillies manage to take three out of four in Los Angeles, never an easy place to play for any East Coast team and then find all sorts of ways to lose more than they win ever since.  One night (or three) they just don't hit.  Then they kick the ball around.  Then the bullpen implodes or a starter gets rocked.

They already look like the tired, veteran team they are.

Of course they do have some youth on the squad, but there isn't much infusion from that group including Domonic Brown, who has all but disappeared this season, and Ben Revere, who should.

Cody Asche has shown some life (but not leather) with the bat lately, no doubt a nominee for Reverse Curse of the Month award from yours truly.


Friday, May 09, 2014

Alive & Well Division

The venerable Reverse Curse is alive and well.  (See Burnett in post below).

Meanwhile, in the Not So Alive Nor Well Division, I give you Domonic Brown.  From Phenom-in-waiting to Mediocrity-instead, Dom Brown has been a bust. Apart from the first half of last year, Brown has been invisible.  His outfield mate Ben Revere came to Philadelphia with a reputation as a slap hitting base stealer who could play some defense (minus throwing).  Revere will cost the Phillies as many runs with his glove as he might produce with his bat and feet.  He's been a complete bust, too.

I am all for giving Cody Asche a chance to prove he can hit in the big leagues.  I'm just not going to hold my breath.

Add high fastballs to the stuff with which to get Ryan Howard out.

Chase Utley has come back to earth.

Jimmy Rollins is again hurting.  The injuries aren't major but they keep on coming.  Age will do that.

The Phils probably aren't close to giving up on Antonio Bastardo, but that's only because they don't have someone to take his place.  Bastardo has been given plenty of chances to nail down a variety of roles.  In the end, he's flubbed them all.

The pitchers didn't like Rich Dubey but they pitched well despite him.


Thursday, May 08, 2014

Lights Out

When A.J.Burnett is your only reliable pitcher you know the Phaithful are in for a long season.

Cliff Lee pitched last night in Toronto and it was a vintage performance, 2014 edition.  He was brilliant; he was awful.  Breezing along, he suddenly imploded in the seventh inning and the Phils were shellacked by Toronto, 10-0.

Another shutout of an offense that does as good an impersonation of Jekyll and Hyde as the pitching staff.

Cole Hamels was awful Tuesday night.  It's time to admit Hamels will never be the dominating pitcher we expected.  Indeed, despite possessing a change-up commentators love to love, Hamels has never been the kind of pitcher teams fear to face.  No one in, say, Milwaukee, looks at the schedule a few days hence and starts to worry about facing Hamels.  They don't start thinking about him until they are in the on-deck circle.

Kyle Kendricks will always be a mediocre back-of-the-rotation guy.

The bullpen is awful.

The aging stars are showing their age.

Take away Cody Asche's grandslam home run the other night and the offense has been worse than anemic.

Those three wins in L.A. might as well have happened years ago.  The future is dim and the bulb is flickering.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

WYSIWYG

Jonathan Papelbon blew the save Wednesday night as the Phils dropped the finale of their season-opening series against the Texas Rangers.  The Phils won the first game of the set but the bullpen blew the next two games.

Papelbon was horrible.  All of the questions about his velocity and command from last year resurfaced in one ugly inning in which seven of eight batters he faced reached base including the final hitter, who drew a bases loaded walk.  After the game Papelbon complained about the defensive alignment in that fatal ninth inning. Interestingly, not one of his teammates or coaches had anything to say about his pitching.

Then, again, what could they say?


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Why Worry?

What's all this hand-wringing about?

Too old?  Too impatient?  Too selfish?

Stop worrying, Phillies' fans, there's much to be happy about:

Cliff Lee finally got run support.

J-Roll leads the league in rbi's.

Ryan Howard's OBP is great.

Cody Asche can hit.

Marlon Byrd's revival continues.

Jonathan Papelbon can pitch in a non-save situation.

Ryne Sandberg pulled all the right levers.

So, why worry?

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Pepper

For nearly sixty years I've noticed an inverse correlation between Spring Training fortunes and Regular Season success.  (Don't ask me to provide the data because I can't.  This conclusion is strictly a hunch.)  If a team stinks down south in Feb and March, my reasoning goes, they will smell as sweet as a rose up north April through October.

All of which means your 2014 Phillies should be playing post-season baseball.

Of course, there are exceptions to the "rule" and the bet here is your 2014 Phillies will qualify on that score.

The Phillies don't look like they can pitch, hit or field as well as a number of teams in their own division not to mention league.

In no particular order we are being treated to:

1.  The now annual Cole Hamels won't be ready for the start of the season warnings;
2.  The question of who will start in the middle let alone back of the rotation;
3.  Can Ryan Howard hit lefties;
4.  Can Ryan Howard hit righties, for that matter;
5.  Is this the year Jimmy Rollins' fielding follows his bat down hill;
6.  Can these guys catch the ball; and,
7.  Will Ruben Amaro survive the year?

There are lots of other questions at nearly every position.  The Phillies don't have a Mike Trout, who you pen into a spot in the batting order and don't think about it for the rest of the year.  Everyone is suspect in this lineup for one reason or another.  Heck, even the broadcasters are suspect!

Fourth in the division...at best.

* * * * * * * *

The newspapers have been full of stories wondering aloud if the Sixers' alleged brain trust really has a plan to turn things around and, if so, is it going to work.

I certainly don't know...nor, really, do I much care.  Professional basketball is a boring game on a good night.  What is clear to me is that while this process unfolds (or implodes), the Sixers are such a miserable assortment that there is little wonder no one is turning out to watch them.  Heck, even the players can't stand to watch.  Those players fortunate enough to be traded couldn't wait to depart.  None has publicly trashed the team upon arrival at his new destination, but, then, what would be the point?  Everyone knows they are pitiful.

I have to laugh a the notion they may deliberately tank to get a better lottery pick position.  Tank?  Deliberately?  That would suggest the Sixers have options.

You have to hand it to the former and current owners and coaches of the team.  This sorry excuse for a professional sports franchise didn't burgeon over night.  It took years of ineptitude to run the Sixers into the ground.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Paul Blair

Growing up an Orioles fan I had the pleasure to watch two of the greatest fielders in history at their respective positions:  Brooks Robinson and Paul Blair.

Paul Blair died in Baltimore last night at age 69.

While teammates and fans of his era (the 1960's - 70's) remember a fluid, graceful fielder of slender build and fluid motion, many people forget he was a very solid hitter until being beaned by a pitch in 1970.  He was never the same hitter after that, involuntarily stepping into the bucket on any pitch even close to being inside.  It was a shame because Blair possessed all the talents necessary for a storied career.

He won 8 Gold Gloves and batted .250 for his career, but the latter number would have been much higher had he not suffered that dreadful injury.  Teammates literally stood and watched him in awe as he chased down fly balls deep to cavernous Memorial Stadium's outfield.  He played very shallow and could glide back on the ball with uncommon ease.  I still remember a teammate pulling up to watch Blair leap at the fence to haul in ball that was really the teammate's play to make.

He had a wonderful gait at the end of an inning, too.  He would tuck his glove up near his armpit and glide into the dugout. He wasn't showing off; he was just enjoying the freedom of running and playing a game at which he was so good.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This And That

The baseball HOF ballot has been announced and at least one, possibly two, players seem likely to be voted in immediately:  Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Timing, of course, is everything, so the unluckiest names on the ballot are Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas. Mussina won 270 games and had a career ERA of 3.46, but here's betting he won't be voted in.  Not easy to be that good and fail to get in.  Indeed, a lot of pitchers with less gaudy numbers have been voted in.

Frank Thomas is my candidate for least good player to get in.  Thomas had a career batting average over .300 and smacked 521 home runs, but many fans and maybe even a writer or two will say, "Who'd he play for?"

Lastly, there is the cheaters' division led by Barry Bonds.  He ain't getting in because the baseball world is still pissed off at him.

* * * * * * * *

If football were a 45 minute game, or even a 59 minute game, Temple might be ranked number two or three in the nation.  Unfortunately, it is still a 60 minute game.  Temple has lost more big leads and late than any team I can ever remember.  Is their problem one of conditioning or is their defense easy to figure out after about 30 minutes exposure?

* * * * * * * *

The 2008 Phillies never died.  You can see most of them again this coming April at a stadium near you.

* * * * * * * *

The Flyers struggled mightily to get back to .500 after their disastrous first month and when they finally got there they went to Florida and blew it against a mediocre team.  Afterwards, one of their veteran players and their new coach said aloud the team didn't seem ready to play last night.  Seems a little late for that kind of sentiment, eh?

* * * * * * * *

The Eagles have defied a lot of pundits and sit tied atop the NFL East division.  Of course, theirs is the weakest division in football.  The next several weeks they play a number of teams who could prove the pundits really do know what they are talking about, but it has been entertaining lately to watch Nick Foles mature into a starting quarterback....at least for this season and next.  The Eagles are still going to try and draft a franchise quarterback.