Monday, May 31, 2010

Half Empty...Again

The fall out of first place was inevitable; after all, you can't keep putting up goose eggs and expect to stay ahead of the pack.

The Phils did score a few runs too late to matter as they dropped a 9-3 stinker to surging Atlanta and dropped a half game behind the Braves. The loss was their fifth on the current nine-game road trip. It's a wonder they aren't in fourth place given how horribly the offense has sputtered. Indeed, they had a chance early to put away the Braves and started Tommy Hanson and they let both off the hook.

Not one position player is looking good right bat or in the field. It remains to be seen if they can sort things out, but one thing is abundantly clear. It isn't a given the Phillies can right their ship.

[Editor's note: I told you, dear reader, not to take the optimism of the last post as a sign of glasses half full to come.]

Silver Lining

[Editor's note: the guarded optimism expressed below should not be construed as a predictor of future postings.]

While we are on the subject of perfection it is worth noting the Phils have sailed into a perfect storm of offensive futility. No one is producing. Yet a mound meeting late in yesterday's game provided a measure of hope.

The Marlins were threatening to add to their precarious (though not really given the team they were facing) one run lead. David Herndon was on the mound. He summoned his catcher Brian Schneider for a conference. Third baseman Juan Castro joined in as did shortstop Wilson Valdez. You got that? Herndon, Schneider, Castro and Valdez. And the Phillies still hold a precarious half game lead over Atlanta.

Despite all the injuries and a truly horrendous stretch of offensive ineptitude, the Phils are still in first place. That may change this afternoon when the square of with the Braves, but it is nonetheless remarkable they've played as well as they have given their problems.

If they don't start hitting soon, however, it won't matter who meets at the mound for the next conference.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Perfecto Mundo

On a night when virtually the entire sporting public in Philadelphia had ice on their minds, Roy Halladay induced channel surfers to watch him pitch in steamy South Florida as he hurled the 20th perfect game in major league baseball history.

So much for pitch counts, eh?

The Fly Boys were where it was at until one out of fifty sports ban patrons seated over in the corner in front of the analog tv's noticed something special was happening in Miami. "Hold on, everybody", the lonely fans announced to no one in particular. "Halladay has a No No going." "What inning is it?", those few who heard the lonely cry inquired. "The sixth," came the reply. Silence followed.

Ten or fifteen minutes later the lonely voiced piped up again. "Hey, wait. He's into the eighth inning and he's got a perfect game going."

A few more people drifted over to the corner. Suddenly, people were rooting in front of the analog TV. Several more patrons wandered over to see what the fuss was all about. Soon a crowd had gathered. "Hey, switch the channel," those patrons still in front of the High Def sets pleaded. The hockey game was tied a five apiece. Ho hum. Soon every tv in the joint was tuned to Halladay.

Miami sent up three pinch hitters in the ninth. The first one drove Shane Victorino to the track in deep center field. That was the last threat. The next two went down easily. Earlier, in the eighth inning Phillies-killer Jorge Cantu hit a screamer to substitute third baseman Juan Castro who made a play worthy of Mike Schmidt. That was the toughest out of the evening.

Halladay, the stoic with the Sphinx-like expression, broke into a smile. His catcher, Carlos Ruiz, literally half Halladay's size, rushed out to embrace him. Ryan Howard, a grin a mile wide, ran over to join in the celebration. Soon everyone in red pinstripes had surrounded Halladay, slapping him on the back, jumping up and down. Charlie Manuel sauntered out to shake his pitcher's big right hand.

Halladay had his perfect game. Hold on, Roy, I thought. Just because your mates can't score any runs doesn't mean you have to be perfect. On second thought, why not?!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Breaking News


The Phillies' Ruben Amaro has persuaded his counterpart Paul Holmgren to loan them Simon Gagne, Ian LaPerriere, Chris Pronger and Michael Leighton for tonight's game in South Florida.

All four players will be back in Chicago in time for tomorrow night's face off against Chicago.

"No one knows how to come back from a 3-0 deficit like these guys," Amaro explained.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I can forgive the offensive ineptitude...for now.

I can forgive the opponents' running the Phils' pitchers and catchers ragged...for now.

I can forgive Raul Ibanez growing old...for now.

I can forgive Shane Victorino suddenly turning fly balls into adventures...for now.

I can forgive another Brad Lidge bullpen session accompanied by optimism...for now.

I can forgive Greg Dobbs not being the second coming of Brooks Robinson...for now.

I can forgive Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro not being the second comings of Jimmy Rollins...for now.

I can forgive Charlie Manuel for putting away the stick but not the carrot...for now.

BUT I CANNOT FORGIVE the Phillies for playing some of the dullest, most disinterested baseball in recent memory. They are boring to watch.

P.S. I cannot forgive Ruben Amaro for trading Cliff Lee...forever.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Brother, Can You Spare A Run?

The Phils lost their third straight game last night, 8-0, to the Mets, and looked as anemic and inept as they have for much of the last eight days. They wasted not one but two straight bases loaded opportunities in the early innings against a knuckleballer who wasn't going to make anyone forget Hoyt Wilhelm or Charlie Hough any time soon.

Carlos Ruiz gets the nod for player of the game NOT, meekly tapping into a twin-killing that all but ended one bases loaded opportunity and doing little else the rest of the night at or behind the plate. New York ran almost at will against him but in his defense Jamie Moyer doesn't exactly have Andy Petitte's move to first base.

This game had loss written all over from the Mets' first at bats. Jose Reyes, who up until last night had been struggling all season, jumped all over Moyer and Ruiz and led the assault right out of the gate, bunting for base hits and stealing bases.

The Vaunteds never got untracked as they showed little or no plate discipline against a junkballer who had no business beating them.

* * * * * * * *

It's time for my annual rant against All Star voting by the fans. Jimmy Rollins is currently leading all shortstops in the NL voting. I rest my case.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Memorable Sport

I digress.

Conventional wisdom has maintained all along that were the Flyers to fail to reach the Stanley Cup Finals all the heroics of this post-season, beginning with winning the shootout on the final play of the final game of the regular season, would fade in time.

Now that the Fly boys have reached the Finals conventional wisdom no doubt will stick by the same premise.

So much for conventional wisdom.

Memories of great sporting events belong to those who witnessed them. Though individual efforts or moments can and frequently do fade with time, a protracted series of events tend to remain indelible in the minds' eyes of the beholders.

This playoff run by the Flyers will certainly qualify.

Prior to the start of the season the Flyers were considered Cup contenders. They weren't the first choice of the pundits, but they were given a shot. As the season wore on their chances dimmed considerably. The new goalie was often injured and when healthy a bust. (Has his name even been mentioned in the last two months with the remarkable runs of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton?) The coach was fired in mid-season. His replacement began inauspiciously to say the least. And then there were the injuries that piled up, taking out key players at key times.

The Flyers began the playoffs by literally and figuratively limping across the finish line. They beat old nemesis New Jersey in the first round, besting one of the great albeit slightly fading goalies of this or any era, Martin Brodeur. They dug the deepest hole imaginable against Boston and climbed out it...twice! Prior to the series could anyone but the most hardcore hockey fan name the other two teams that had come back from 3-0 deficits?

Against all odds, some of their key injured players managed to come back late in playoffs. At least two of them, Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter, were returning from serious foot and ankle injuries, not the easiest kind of injury to come back from if you happen to make your living skating. The other key injured player to return, Ian Laperriere, just happen to do so from a horrendous head injury. No one was surprised when he returned. Players who give up their bodies all the time don't let concussions, brain contusions and 70 stitches around the eye stop them.

And then there was the goalie situation. Brian Boucher, playing like he'd been reincarnated as a younger, nimbler goalie, got them as far as the middle of the Bruins series and then had to come out in the middle of a game. Michael Leighton, a journeyman goalie himself coming back from injury, stepped in, finished off a win and then went on to throw three shutouts in the five games against Montreal.

Meanwhile, captain Mike Richards, a man of few public words (or private ones if stories are to be believed) stepped up his game and leadership capping the series against Montreal with one of the greatest shorthand goals of this or any other era.

So, the Flyers have reached the Finals where they are again underdogs to a tough, talented, speedy Blackhawks team even hungrier for the Cup than they are. It is tempting to say the Flyers have Chicago right where they want them, but that might be a cliche. No matter what the outcome, this has been memorable hockey. Heck, this has been memorable sport. Nothing can or will take that away, especially from the legions of Flyers' fans who watched it happen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost In The Pines

I am all for resting regulars with, well, some regularity, and giving role and bench players a chance to shake off the rust, but putting Greg Dobbs in at third base for Placido Polanco is always a risk and yesterday the move had disastrous consequences when Dobbs booted a key play that opened the gates for Boston.

The Phils have gotten decent performances out of Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez subbing for Jimmy Rollins, decent given what the expectations have been, but they haven't gotten much else out of the bench. Tops among those who have disappeared in the pines is Ben Francisco, who should be getting a lot more playing time than Raul Ibanez, and Ross Gload, who could also spell Ibanez when the Phils need a left-handed bat. Ibanez hasn't reached the Dallas Green "killing us" stage, but his glove, always suspect, is worse than ever, and his batting remains erratic and largely unproductive. Franciso needs to play more than once a month to get his stroke. The Phillies seemed keen to get him last year but have largely buried him.

Dobbs hasn't produced anything other than intelligent copy for more than a year now and his bat and glove have become liabilities the Phils can ill afford to carry. Castro and Valdez won't make anyone forget Jimmy Rollins, but regular playing has helped their games. Gload may be this team's Matt Stairs, but he probably should see more playing time, too.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not Good Enough

The Phillies are intimidated by the Red Sox. I don't know why, but they play some of their worst ball against the Sox. Of course the Vaunteds have been playing some fairly mediocre baseball ever since they returned from their road trip a week ago but they saved some of their "best" ineptitude for the weekend series just ended, losing two out of three to Boston in convincing manner.

Maybe Beantown was due against a team from Philadelphia, but the Vaunteds sure didn't help themselves getting one hit Saturday and three runs Sunday, all of them after starter Tim Wakefield had departed late in the game.

The loss on Sunday was pinned on Roy Halladay, his second in as many starts, and was sure to start tongues wagging again about pitch counts. Truth be told, he hasn't looked sharp lately, struggling with command. For the record, he had faced Boston many times in the past, carrying a 14-14 lifetime record against them prior to today's defeat.

No one is swinging the bat well. Carlos Ruiz crashed and burned during this home stand, going 1 for 17. Jayson Werth, who carried the club for over a month, had a few good at bats sandwiched by a lot of wild swinging with one knee to the ground flailings. Pick your batter, they all looked lost or over matched. Those guys from Beantown left town wondering with justification what all the fuss was about.

Come to think of it, the Phillies vaunted offense can be a lot like Ryan Howard. He can have six rbi's in a blowout game and the season totals look pretty good. But in between those outbursts he is leaving a lot of ducks on the pond. The Phils can score big in a few games then go stone cold. In the home stand just concluded they scored 12, 1, 1, 5, 5, 0, and 3 runs respectively. That twelve certainly inflated the totals and the three at the end came in garbage time. The net result was a 3-4 home stand. That won't cut it going forward.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ain't The Beer Cole!!

The most impressive part of Cole Hamels' performance last night was his new-found ability to shrug off an early home run, stick to his game plan, mix in four pitches and throw strikes. With all four cylinders clicking, Hamels improved to 5-2, dropped his ERA below 4, and stopped the Boston Red Sox cold.

The only negative in last night's victory occurred when Jimmy Rollins apparently reinjured his calf. All along we were told calve injuries are difficult to come back from given the high incidence of recurrence. Who is to say if this were the case. We can say the Phils missed his presence but managed to produce the second best overall record in baseball without it. They should proceed even more cautiously going forward because half a JRoll is no good.

The other issue involved the bullpen committee. Last night it was Danys Baez' and JC Romero's turns and the results were an adventure to say the least. If David Ortiz had been a hair more out in front of the last pitch of the game, it would have been a grand salami to right, tying the score. But he wasn't. Still, the two relievers had everyone moving forward half a foot on their seats.

The win over the Red Sox was particularly satisfying since they have become one of the true Evil Empires of baseball.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thank You, Aramis

Following the Phils 5-4 victory over the Chicago it is difficult to say whether or not Jose Contreras deserved the save or the Cubs Aramis Ramirez did. With two on and one out Ramirez swung at and missed a 3-2 pitch that was so far outside it would have been balls 4 and 5 if he'd let it go. The home plate umpire later acknowledged the ball passed just outside Citizens Bank Park's official zip code. The runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd but Contreras got the final out to preserve the win.

The game feature a first inning home run by Chase Utley, his 10th of the season, a three run shot by Jimmy Rollins, in the 6th inning, and the game winning hit by Raul Ibanez, off a lefty, in the 8th. Do you think the Phils are glad J Roll is back? Do you think Castro or Valdez have much pop in their bats? Do you think Ibanez is relieved to have contributed?

Enough of these NL Central patsies, however. It's time to take on the Red Sox, AL East patsies. Oh, well, maybe not "patsies", but they've been struggling. Usually, the sight of the Phillies is enough to cure what ails the Red Sox. We shall see. The always pompous Red Sox Nation will show up en masse and at some point this weekend we will be reminded how despite their World Series victories of the recent past the Red Sox know suffering better than anyone else. It's all so boring and inevitable.

Just A Little Hiccup

Since pitching in general and starting pitching in particular were the chief concerns for this edition of the Phillies entering the 2010 campaign, it is more than a bit disconcerting to see them drop two games in which the starters pitched very well, especially against teams with losing records. The truth is, though, they lost because they didn't hit and that is a scenario unlikely to occur with any regularity.

The Phils had their chances both nights but couldn't capitalize. Roy Halladay only yielded two runs in nine innings and Jamie Moyer went seven strong innings allowing only two runs. The Phils scored a lone run each night.

When they get everyone in sync they are going to win a lot more games than they lose. They might start as early as today.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Horses & Bulls

The good news is Doc Halladay is a horse. The bad news is he's a bull, as in "headed." This guy doesn't like to come out and, apparently, his manager doesn't like to contradict him. The net result is Halladay threw another complete game and a season and nearly career-high 132 pitches. If he wears down by August and September he has only himself and his manager to blame.

If Halladay's mates had been able to score more than a lone run, of course, things might have been different, but since they were flailing away to a grand total of six hits, three by Ryan Howard, Doc felt it incumbent upon himself to do it all alone. Afterward, Shane Victorino among others expressed regret the offense couldn't back him up.

The Phils were due for an offensive stinker after scoring a ton of runs in their previous five games and perhaps they felt comfortable knowing they wouldn't need many with Halladay on the bump.

They were wrong.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Age Before Beauty

The ageless wonder wasn't exactly brilliant last night but he managed to notch another win as the Phils pounded the Brewers 9-5.

Jamie Moyer looked every bit his 47 years in yielding three solo home runs in the bottom of the second inning after his mates had staked him to a 3-0 lead versus former Phil Randy Wolf. By his own admission, the three pitches the Brewers launched had nothing on them and were right over the heart of the plate. Charlie Manuel probably stuck with Moyer as long as he did to save his depleted bullpen. Still, in the end he used three more pitchers before securing the victory.

Ryan Howard got things started with his first home run in a long time. Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley also went deep. It wasn't a pretty win but it was efficient.

* * * * * * * *

Throwing has always been the one glaring weakness in Chase Utley's game and last night he made another error on the back end of a double play, throwing the ball away. Replays show he didn't appear to have full control of the ball before he literally let it fly to first. Utley made two errors in the game giving him six for the season.

* * * * * * * *

Tampa Bay designated Pat Burrell for assignment today perhaps ending his career. I guess it's possible some team will pick him up for the stretch run given Burrell's ability to catch fire and carry a club for a few weeks. More likely he will fade into oblivion, there to count the $9 million Tampa Bay still owes him. Burrell arrived with a "can't miss" tag normally reserved for number one draft picks and proceeded to hit and miss plenty during his career. Years from now fans who saw him play will remember the home runs and conveniently forget the defensive liabilities. He was a middling player with good power.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Memos & Laments

Memo to the Phillies and Flyers:

As far as I know, there is no reward for being the local team which sustains the most injuries in a given season. at least not yet.

I take no reverse curse responsibility for Chooch's injury yesterday. (See post below.) To me it looked as if he first tweaked the knee on the play at the plate and aggravated it later in the game running to first. Not the kind of injury a guy who squats for a living needs. Not the kind of injury the Phils need having just put their backup catcher on the DL. Not the kind of injury the pitching staff needs either.

Roy Halladay struggled with his command all game but he still might have held on had he received better support in the field and at the plate with runners in scoring position. It wasn't an ugly loss, merely one that could have been avoided. The Phils didn't mail in the game like they did last Saturday but they sure looked like they weren't happy to be playing.

Speaking of ice hockey (see above in case you weren't paying attention), what a magnificent game it is when the play sweeps back and forth, up and down the ice. What a terrible game it is when players deliberately try to render the opposition senseless by allegedly "finishing checks", which is really hockey parlance for "he was going to crush the guy no matter what, so he just went through with it."

Any game where people carry sticks and shoot a hard rubber object is going to be risky but you'll notice lacrosse players don't beat the shit out of each other every chance they get. Hockey has the fighting tradition and management that tolerates it, so it's here to stay. When Claude Giroux was boarded in game five the whole purpose of the play was to injure him and get him out. The penalty? Two minutes for boarding. Not assault and battery with intention to maim. Boarding. It stinks. Worse, when playoff games are in the waning moments, Refs won't make a potentially game-altering call even if a guy goes out there with a Magnum and shoots an opposing player. Very manly to run a guy from behind into the boards.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Chooch Ruiz has rewarded the Phillies' patience with an extremely productive start at the plate this season including the highest OBP of his career and a .354 batting average. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

* * * * * * *

Cole Hamels lasted long enough Sunday to get the win. There's no truth to the rumor Charlie was eager to yank the lefty after five so Chad Durbin could pitch in front of his mother. Charlie could see the handwriting on the wall and it spelled more trouble if Hamels came out to start the sixth. Sentimentality had nothing to do with it.

* * * * * * * *

Re-signing Placido Polanco was a smart move. He loves playing here and he brings offensive stability to the position for the first time in many years. When the term "professional hitter" is thrown around in baseball it frequently applies to an aging veteran whose best years are behind him but who can come off the bench and produce. Not so in Polly's case. He's the real deal day in and day ouit. And for those who think he is a slight downgrade from Pedro Feliz, think again. He doesn't have Feliz' arm but his hands are sure and his range quite good. Great to have him back.

* * * * * * * *

Brad Lidge is hurting again. What else is new? Why is it we always here about a new ailment after he's pitched poorly? Sunday he got away with two pitches that would have been home runs to dead center field in the old Polo Grounds had not the winds been blowing. The next day we learn he's hurting. This routine is getting old. If he isn't 100%, why do they bring him back? Are we to believe these ailments don't surface during multiple rehab appearances? Look for Jose Contreras to be the closer as long as he continues to do the job.

* * * * * * * *

How many times over the last few seasons has Chase Utley flipped the ball with his glove to the shortstop or first baseman? It's getting to be a routine thing with Chase and it ain't an easy thing to do, especially when you are falling down or diving as is frequently the case with the Phils' second baseman. The guy just goes hard on every play. Remind yourselves not to take him for granted for one play. Be grateful you are watching one of the great players of this or any era.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dull & Sharp

C'mon, sports fans, admit that Brad Lidge dodged two potentially game-tying home runs in the ninth inning yesterday to earn the least convincing save in memory in this his umpteenth comeback. Yes, I know, the wind blows for both teams, but the post game comment from Lidge that his battery mate Chooch Ruiz just told him "Throw some strikes away and let them do what they want with them" is less than reassuring. Just the other day Lidge was telling reporters there is more bite to his slider. Yesterday it looked to me like that slider nearly bit him back...two times!

Meanwhile, Cole Hamels continued his strange odyssey, throwing four decent innings before coming apart in the fifth frame. Nothing Hamels has done this year has convinced me he is much more than a .500 pitcher. On the other hand, Joe Blanton deserved a better fate Saturday than the loss he absorbed as his teammates failed to deliver with runners in scoring position. In only his second start of the season Blanton looked reasonably sharp. The entire story of the Phils' starting rotation has been bizarre this season apart from Roy Halladay and it remains to be seen just which staff will show up as the season wears on.

Jayson Werth has looked sharp from Opening Day. Werth's AB's can be amazing. One inning he looks fooled and the next time up he crushes the ball. The biggest change in his approach over the last two seasons is that he seems to make excellent in-game adjustments, a real sign his maturity and improvement are not temporary. As of this date his contract year is shaping up as one of supremely perfect timing. I'd hate to think where the Phils would be next year without his bat and glove.

* * * * * * * *

Like most baseball fans, I have been dismayed and angered by the records being broken by PED aided players like Alex Rodriguez. Yesterday, Alex Rodriguez tied Frank Robinson for seventh place on the all-time home run list with his 586th round tripper. The next player he will presumably pass is fellow violator Sammy Sosa, but beyond him lie Ken Griffey and Willie Mays. Rodriguez will need 75 home runs to pass Mays and if and when he does it will be a sad day.

Baseball has been and always will be a statistics-driven game but at least some of the lists true fans can rattle off have started to lose their meaning. Of course at the top of the list in question resides the biggest cheater of them all, Barry Bonds.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Ageless Wonder

Damn it, I wish Jamie Moyer would stop making me look like an idiot!

Every time I write him off (I've lost count) he confounds me not only by refusing to act his age but by out pitching guys half his age. As teammate Roy Halladay put it after Moyer became the oldest major league pitcher ever to throw a complete game shutout, holding the opposition to two hits over nine innings is impressive regardless of age.

Impressive also is the continued torrid bat of Jayson Werth who, frankly, has carried this team much of the season. As CSN commentator Ricky Bo put it after Werth's latest offensive explosion, "they'll have to back the Brinks truck up" to meet Werth's salary demands when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Having been written off several years ago following a wrist injury and a prolonged, difficult recovery, Werth has come into his own the last few seasons. The Phils have to make a big push to sign him but must know there won't be any "home town" discount.

Also worth noting is that while Ryan Howard's power figures are down, his batting average is up as he makes more and better contact. His over-the-shoulder basket catch last night was another sign that his defense continues to improve.

The Phils are on a roll and without J Roll. Winning has provided them with the luxury of not hurrying Jimmy back. When he went down a month ago all hands said they would have to be patient with his rehabilitation but sometimes teams panic despite the best medical advice. So far the Phils haven't had a need to panic.

They've also been patient with Raul Ibanez, yet another Phillie who is making me eat crow. (My plate runneth over.) Ibanez has slowly but steadily raised his average after a brutal start. Meanwhile, Carlos Ruiz is batting a robust .315 and doing his normal fine job behind the plate. If he keeps this up he'll be an All Star this July.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Robin Roberts

Many of my younger whipper snapper friends in the blogosphere never saw Robin Roberts pitch but I did...a few times. I was a teenager in Baltimore when Roberts was traded to the Orioles. He arrived something of an enigma since he was coming from the other league. In those days nationally televised games were a rarity, interleague play non-existent and Philadelphia, 100 miles north, the only nearby city with an NL team. Thus, Roberts was a relative unknown though he'd been an outstanding pitcher for many years by the time of his trade.

When Roberts arrived in Baltimore the Orioles were a work in progress. Many of the pieces that would form the nucleus of the great teams of the late sixties and early seventies were being assembled. Brooks Robinson was there. Dave McNally and Boog Powell were on board. Jim Palmer was a 19 year old in Roberts last season. Frank Robinson would not arrive until the year following Roberts' departure. Two years later the Orioles would sweep the Dodgers for their first World Series triumph. Four years later they began the first of three straight WS appearances with their stunning loss to the Mets.

While with the O's, Roberts won 42 games and lost 36, compiling a 3.10 ERA and throwing 28 complete games. Of all his statistics, the 305 complete games for his career stand out. Of course, it was a different era, but his durability was astonishing.

Between his retirements and yesterday morning, when Roberts passed away, he was an occasional presence at Spring Training and when the Phils were in a celebratory mood for one reason or another. He always came across as a warm, likable man first and as a great pitcher second.

Last night Comcast rebroadcast a lengthy interview Al Meltzer did with Roberts a few years ago. If baseball ever needed an instructional video on modesty and grace they could show this tape.

Taut Wins & Tasers

The results of the last few days have nothing to do with a reverse curse; rather, they reflect how little I know. In my defense, few if any other observers of the Philliles expressed much if any confidence in Brad Lidge or Kyle Kendrick but at least for the last two nights our collective lack of real knowledge didn't matter. As for Cole Hamels, well, let's just say I am among the doubters. Fortunately, neither Cole nor his supportive manager could care less what I think.

The Phils have taken two straight from the Cardinals after dropping the opener. In neither game win did the vaunted offense explode, but last night it showed up sufficiently to stroke the only home runs the Cards' pitching staff has allowed in a very long time. The Phils won because their starters held the fort until the offense produced and the relievers came in and stifled any Cardinal comeback. Both games were fairly taught affairs, especially the 2-1 victory Tuesday evening, because the Cards have several players who can change things in one swing of the bat. King Albert has been held in check the entire series so watch out today, the reverse curse may come back to bite us.

* * * * * * * *

One night after producing both of the Phillies' runs in a dramatic 2-1 victory, Chooch Ruiz' reward was a seat on the bench. I guess Charlie felt backup Brian Schneider would be better at guiding Kendrick through the minefield that is the Cardinals' lineup. Still, it seemed a rather strange development unless there is something we don't know. Maybe Chooch was sore after the pounding he took at home plate following his walk-off homer.

* * * * * * * *

The umpiring on the base paths this series has been horrible. They have missed two plays each at third and first base. The Phils have been the beneficiaries of the majority of these blown plays. This isn't a plea for instant replay; I remain in favor of using it only for home run calls, but this crew leaves much to be desired. Tony LaRussa, manager and self-appointed genius, has a legitimate beef with these guys.

* * * * * * * *

To tase or not to tase. That was the question before the Phillies' management and they have decided to let their own security staff handle intrusions going forward unless reinforcements are necessary. No one likes bad publicity and Philadelphia once again got plenty of that following Monday and Tuesday nights' incidents.

I've written many times how easy it is for the national press to jump on Philadelphia's fans at every opportunity, but this time they should have been all over the cops who used excessive force. As I wrote yesterday, the FOP president went on TV and said the parents of the first jumper should also have been tasered and that using force would stop further intrusions in the foreseeable future. That last prediction was correct...until the next night.

As for the jerks who decide to romp on the field, trust me, you can find them in every stadium in America. Jumping on the field is dramatic and plays well on YouTube, but the boors in the stands abound and don't just call the City of Brotherly Love home.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Huge Win

Let me count the ways:

1. Cole Hamels looked very sharp.
2. Brad Lidge held the fort.
3. Carlos Ruiz, erroneously called out at third early in the game, accounted for both runs, a sacrifice fly and a walk-off home run.

The Phils still aren't hitting with any consistency but when Cole Hamels can put together eight fine innings like last night combined with Roy Halladay's normal outings the team can afford occasional lulls. Most impressively, Hamels had his best fastball of the season in terms of velocity and that makes his change, always tough, even more deadly. He mixed in a curve or three, still not as effective a pitch, worked his way out of a jam or two and almost threw a shutout. Only the onfield intrusion of another Phillies fan, the second in as many nights, prevented the smooth completion of Hamels' appointed rounds. Later he claimed the work stoppage did not affect him, but his body language suggested otherwise.

What can we say about Carlos Ruiz? Quietly but firmly he has taken over this team's leadership along with Chase Utley. He has the full attention and respect of the pitching staff and coaches. He has hit effectively since the last part of 2009. He has even allowed himself to voice or at least show the occasional displeasure with the umpires, holding and framing a pitch he thinks is a strike. In sum, he has emerged as a confident veteran who is literally and figuratively the backstop of this team.

As for the second fan in as many nights to decide the field is his personal showcase, the solution should be an ordinance raising the fine for such behavior to a high enough level to discourage all but the most inebriated fans for whom nothing, not even Tasers, will be much of a deterrent An announcement at the beginning and during the game informing fans they will be a lot poorer for their antics should become as standard as the seventh inning stretch.

The use of a taser was excessive and inappropriate the other night. It has been demonstrated those devices can produce serious if not fatal injury. While there is evidence (Kansas City) some fans can be very dangerous, such was not the case the other night when the fool in question simply ran around in circles. In the end, he was shot in the back, posing no danger to the officer in question or to anyone else. The next night the president of the FOP suggested the kids' parents also be "tasered", a brilliant idea if what we want is more not less bad behavior. He also said the use of the taser would prevent any further intrusions onto the field in the near future. He sure had his finger on that pulse!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

All Bets Are Off

When the 2010 schedule was announced one could not help circle the four-game series with St. Louis currently underway; after all, it had all the earmarks of a post-season matchup of two of the best teams in the NL.

That may still be true if only because the NL East looks like it is going to be a see-saw division with as many as three teams trading places at the top of the standings. Nevertheless, the Phillies' pitching situation continues to deteriorate and its offense continues to go awol too often to assume anything about the post-season.

Joe Blanton returned on the day the Phillies confirmed Ryan Madson would be out for a long time with his self-inflicted wound. Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero have yet to show they can return to in 2008 form! Nelson Figueroa gives ample notice that he is, in the final analysis, a guy who has been released or traded by a lot of teams including his current one. Danys Baez hasn't shown anything remotely approaching consistency. Kyle Kendrick is still on the roster because so many people aren't. Cole Hamels is, frankly, a work in progress. Jamie Moyer lives on borrowed time; hell, he's remortgaged his time six fold. J.A. Happ? Has anyone heard anything about J.A. Happ lately? Is he in the witness protection program or something?

This isn't a pitching staff that scares anyone. OK, once every five days it scares people, but that is truly it.

The offense is incapable of making up for so many deficiencies, especially when it has its share of streaky hitters, is missing its spark plug and is still vulnerable to lefties.

The Phils have played twenty-five games and lost eleven of them. That may work out to a 91 win season, but it also assumes no one else goes down and everyone still standing remains so. That's a bet I wouldn't take the way things are going.

Monday, May 03, 2010

If You Can't Lick 'Em Join 'Em

We all know the majority of Phillies' starters just don't pitch very well but even the the team's vaunted offense had been missing in action for nearly two weeks. Fortunately, their dormant bats awakened for games two and three of the weekend series with the Mets but it was a walk to pitcher Jamie Moyer that keyed Sunday night's comeback victory.

Moyer began his primary duties of the evening by surrendering a three-run homer to David Wright in the top of the first inning and just like that his mates were down three zip to Johann Santana. The Phils came back in the bottom of the frame stroking two solo home runs to keep things close. Unfortunately, Moyer wasn't done pitching and by the middle of the fourth inning he had yielded another home run and the Phils were down 5-2. That's when the home team exploded against Santana and his relief for nine runs, all coming with two outs in a rally that was kept alive when Moyer drew a walk to drive in a run and set the table for Shane Victorino's grand slam. Not since Brett Myers' infamous walk against C.C. Sebathia in the playoffs two years ago had a Phillies pitcher worked such a crucial free pass.

Had Moyer just stuck to his day job, throwing junk and carrying the moniker "Ageless Wonder" around with him, the Phils might have lost two of three to the visiting New Yorkers and in the process dropped their third straight series. Imagine the humiliation of letting those Metropolitans come into our house and take two out of three!! [Added comment: Moyer is allowing nearly six runs per game, hardly "wonderful".]

The Mets did arrive in town on a beautiful Friday evening trailing the Phils by half a game in the standings and riding a seven-game winning streak. They proceeded to thump the Phils 9-1 as Kyle Kendrick showed once again why he is strictly an emergency starter, nothing more, nothing less. Other than their improbable victory over Tim Lincecum, the Phils offense had been anything but "vaunted". Saturday's 10-0 win, fueled in no small measure by a fellow named Halladay, and last nights blow out that looked for all the world like it was going to be a blowout by the guys in the third base dugout, seemed to fit the earlier pattern the Phils established and the one most observers expected them to follow for much of the season, namely, beat the other guys by scoring a lot of runs.

The Cardinals arrive tonight for a four-game set and the Vaunteds will face some tough pitching not to mention a guy named Pujols. Let's hope Jamie Moyer will be available to pinch hit.