Rested Lidge Could Mean Success For Phils

I know what you’re thinking – haven’t I been on Charlie Manual’s rear about not closing with Lidge? Didn’t I in previous posts say that I didn’t belive the Phillies will repeat because of Lidge’s failings?

Yes, you would be right on both counts.   After doing a little digging, however, I found a rather interesting trend with Brad Lidge courtesy of the Philadelphia Daily News’ Rich Hoffman.   Seems that the Lidge we see rested is a completely different pitcher than the Lidge we see when forced to pitch on consecutive days.  Here are the numbers which do not take into account the two appearances Lidge made against the Braves this weekend.  Both appearances resulted in saves, and both appearances came after Lidge rested at least one day.

When Lidge pitches with rest, he as an era in the two’s and a whip (hits plus walks divided by innings pitched) around 1.05.  He also doesn’t allow a run in about 75% of those appearances.  Conversely, when Lidge pitches on consecutive days, his era is around 9.00 with a whip over 2.00.  Makes you think, doesn’t it? You can’t tell me that even if Charlie Manuel doesn’t know this that some stathead in the Phillies organization would’ve pointed it out to him and pitching coach Rich Dubee.

If Brett Myers is healthy, and he’s looked good in his minor league appearances, he would be the perfect guy to pair with Lidge if the Phillies have save opportunities in consecutive games.  It also doesn’t interfere with what Manuel likes to do, which is bring in Madson in the 8th to set it up for the closer in the 9th.  Myers has closer experience saving 21 of 24 games two years ago.  Myers also has the perfect mentality to do the job on the days when Lidge needs the day off. 

The question remains whether the Phillies dugout braintrust (Manuel and Dubee) would actually do this.  We keep hearing Charlie say he has confidence in Lidge and he believes he will get back on track.  He’s lying through his teeth every time he says it.  He has to say it because he knows that Lidge lost the closer job in Houston back in 2006 and basically was lost to the Astros as they tried getting him on track by pitching him in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.  Nothing worked, and so the Astros had to trade Lidge.  The other reason Manuel has to keep showing faith is that the Phillies locked Lidge up with a big money extension last year and there is no way they will keep cutting those checks to a guy not closing for them and there isn’t a team out there that would take Lidge and that contract off the Phillies hands. 

The Lidge/Myers combo allows the Phillies to keep trotting Lidge out there to get saves most of the time, with Myers just pitching the day after a Lidge appearance if needed.  The flow of Charlie’s bullpen stays the same until the 9th when Myers goes out instead of Lidge.  Its no different than the Phillies starting Paul Bako in a day game after a night game to give Carlos Ruiz a day off.  The numbers certainly support it – let’s see if the Phillies employ it.

I think that if they do it gives them a much better chance for October success.

Phillies Beat Braves Take Two Of Three

Last night we found out that Cliff Lee wasn’t really Superman after all as the Braves showed up with some Kryptonite, smashing three homers off the new found Phillies ace.  Lee gave up more runs in the fifth inning than he had allowed in all five of his starts since joining the Phillies.  It was the first time in two years that he had allowed two homers in an inning and three homers in a game as the Braves battered the Phillies on their way to a 9-1 victory.

With Saturday nights debacle behind them, the Phillies sent Joe Blanton out to face the Braves and Jair Jurrjens in front of a national audience on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.  The Braves struck first as Martin Prado took Blanton deep with one out in the first inning to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.

Jurrjens was tough as he put down the first seven Phillies in order before allowing a double to Carlos Ruiz with one out in the 3rd but Jurrjens worked out of the inning by retiring  Blanton on a groundball and Rollins on a flyball to centerfield.   The Phillies would finally get on the board in the fourth courtesy of Chase Utley’s 29th homerun which curled just inside the rightfield foul pole.  It was the first homer ever allowed by Jurrjens at Citizens Bank Park.  Only Esteban Loaiza, Chad Billingsly and Tim Redding had made at least four starts at CBP and not allowed a homer.  Chase took Jurrjens off that list and tied the score at 1-1.

The Phillies blew a big opportunity in the fifth inning as they loaded the bases with nobody out and Joe Blanton worked the count to 2-2 before hitting a liner to first baseman Adam LaRoche who easily doubled off Ruiz.  Jimmy Rollins again ended an inning, this time by grounding out to Prado as the faithful began to boo the missed opportunity.

Two innings later the Phillies were given another opportunity and this time they did not disappoint.   After Ibanez walked to lead off the seventh (his second leadoff walk of the game) Manuel had Feliz try to bunt Ibanez over to second.  Feliz laid down a great bunt which Braves third baseman Chipper Jones fielded and made a bad off balance throw that LaRoche couldn’t handle.  The error put Ibanez at third and Feliz at second for Carlos Ruiz.  Ruiz sent a flyball to deep left field that Garret Anderson got a glove on but couldn’t hold onto.  Ruiz’ second double of the game gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead.   Ruiz would be left stranded as pinch hitter Stairs struck out, Victorino lined out to right and Rollins flied out to left.  Blanton left the game allowing just 1 run on 3 hits over 7 innings while striking out 7.  Madson relieved Blanton and did not record an out and left after Matt Diaz scored on a Chipper Jones single making the score 3-2 and left Braves runners first and second with nobody out.  Scott Eyre relieved Madson and got McCann to ground into an rather unconventional second to short to third double play to erase Prado and Jones. This was another great play by Jimmy Rollins , who also  made a spectacular catch on a Diaz liner to start the game.  Rollins took Utley’s throw and alertly cut down Prado going to third.  With McCann on first, Eyre got Garret Anderson to ground out to second base.   Brad Lidge, again pitching rested, came on and worked a perfect ninth for his 27th save and second in a row since recording his 9th blown save Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

Blanton got the win to improve to 9-6 on the season while Jurrjens fell to 10-9.  This was the first time the Phillies have beaten the Braves righthander in his short career.   The Phillies will enjoy tomorrow off before hosting the Giants, who are now tied with the Colorado Rockies for the  NL Wild Card.

Hope to end the month on a positive note

It is time for the Phillies to step it up a notch.   Tonight they face one of their toughest opponents in recent years, Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens.   Jurrjens has gone 2-0 with a .87 ERA in three starts against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park this year.   The Braves are one of the few teams that faced them in multiple series and earned a positive head to head record this year at 9-5.  If the Phillies win the remaining 4 games they can even the series at 9-9.

The Braves are coming off a game where they handed new Phillies ace Cliff Lee his first loss in Phillies pinstripes.  The victory on Saturday night was never close as the Braves took a page out of the Phillies playbook by roughing up Lee for 3 long balls in 5 innings before Manuel went to his bullpen in a rain shortened 7 1/2 inning 9-1 loss.

The National League East leading club has nothing to worry about, still holding a 7 game lead over their division rivals, but a victory tonight would do wonders for the morale of this team.  The Phillies are a team that truly believe they can win each and every game they compete in, and having their efforts end last night before the last official out took a little wind out of their sails.  Now they are facing a tough pitcher on their home field and countering with Blanton.

Blanton has been challenged in his career so far against the Braves, going 0-1 with a 6.58 ERA in 5 games against them this year and last year.  His last start he showed marked improvement, allowing only 2 runs in an eventual Phillies win August 14th.  He needs another performance like that tonight.

The  Braves are, at best, fighting for a wild card spot with the Colorado Rockies.  The Phillies on the other hand, are confidentally finishing another championship caliber season and looking forward to the possible post season matchups.  This is the reverse position these two teams shared for over a decade as the Atlanta pitching staff ruled supreme from the mid eighties to the late nineties.  At this point in the season, it used to be the Phillies that would be hoping for a wild card spot which tells you how far this club has truly come in recent years.

After a night of the Phillies bats being quiet, and given the high scoring totals so far in this series between division rivals, it is likely tonight will be a high scoring affair.  This makes it even more important for Blanton to keep his head in the game, since Atlanta possesses a superior bullpen with a better head to head matchup against the Phillies as well.

After tonight’s game, the Phitens get a rare day off before playing 30 games in 30 days of September including two double-headers.   A win here could help them mentally as they go on to play a tough National League West team in the San Francisco Giants who are also fighting for their playoff lives.  By not losing this game, the Phillies can also keep their momentum for the best National League record alive, as they are currently tied for fewest losses with the LA Dodgers, who lead them by three games in the win column.

Randy Couture is the real life Rocky

I can’t help it.

Every time I watch a movie from the “Rocky” series I become emotionally invested. When I watch the original, I still hope that somehow, Rocky finds that one more punch he needs to defeat Apollo Creed. In the later movies, I still find myself cheering for Rocky to overcome all the odds and take down the larger and younger opponents, even though I already know he will. When Rocky is in the ring I feel like I am right there in his corner experiencing each blow.

Of course Rocky is just a fictional character – a symbol.

Randy Couture is real.

“The Natural” as he has been labeled for his glory days in MMA is still going, still fighting at 46 years old. And like Rocky, he just won’t quit – even when he probably should.

Last night was the perfect opportunity to go out on top – even in a loss. The Madison Square Garden crowd ate up everything that Couture was dishing out. The cheered him throughout, chanting his name. The crowd knows how much Couture, a two-time champion – means and has meant to the sport of MMA. He was once again headlining a Pay-Per-View.

For three rounds Couture took blow after Antonio Rodrigo Nogueiro, delivering a few good shots of his own. It was clear after the first round that Couture was not going to win the fight. That didn’t stop his fans from believing though, believing that the old-timer might just have one good blow left in him. He didn’t and he probably won’t in the next fight the veteran enters. After the fight, Joe Rogan interviewed Couture in the center of the octagon. It was the perfect time to thank the fans and announce he was moving on to the next chapter in his life. Instead, he talked of coming back even stronger and fighting again.

I love watching Couture. I hate seeing him go out this way.

In the later Rocky films I always hated Adrian’s character. I hated her negativity. In Rocky IV after the death of Apollo Creed, Rocky agrees to fight Ivan Drago, to the dismay of Adrian. She yell’s to Rocky “You can’t win!”

I think Couture needs an Adrian in his life. He needs to hear those harsh words.

The fact is, the octagon isn’t Hollywood, and there is no Adrian to set Couture straight. At 46 and fighting against guys much younger, Couture is putting his health on the line each and every fight. He doesn’t have to, but yet he does.

I guess that’s why we love him so much. He gives us fans a chance to believe that age is just a number and not indication of what one should be doing with their life.

Fighting fans love Couture like Philadelphians love Rocky. We believe in him and hope our faith can take him to the next level. Maybe Couture, who claims to be in the best shape of his life, and looked it, does have a couple more good fights in him. Maybe the happy ending is achievable.

However, we all remember Rocky V. That’s not the way I wish to remember Rocky. And that type of ending is not the way I want t remember Couture.

Best teams/best conferences in College Football

In Happy Valley all the talk this year is of the Nittany Lions potentially going 12-0 and not getting a BCS national championship bid due to their weak schedule.  A lot of fans don’t realize that these schedules are determined 5-7 years in advance.   It is also a fact that the Lions have to play each team in their conference.  In addition, their non conference schedule for 2009 originally included Alabama, a genuine SEC powerhouse, but that game got pushed to 2010.    When the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, it was a feared conference, with Michigan,  Purdue, and Ohio State frequently being nationally ranked programs.

The Big Ten is now a wounded grizzly.  The teams playing there still can be scary and can devastate you if you get in range and don’t put them away, but a wounded grizzly is far less intimidating than a fully healthy grizzly like the Big Ten conference used to be.

Actually, if you look at cumulative records for the last 60 years, 2 of the three best teams of all time currently play in the Big Ten.  Ohio State and Penn State are numbers 2 and 3 in overall winning percentage since 1949.  Oklahoma is number 1 and Texas is number 4

Like all things in life, football conferences are cyclical.  They have their ups and downs.  When Penn State was independent, they commanded little respect because they didn’t play in a dominant conference.  They joined the Big Ten, a dominant conference and made it more so, and now it is on a downward trend.  This won’t last.  Statistics say it will rise again to once again be a major power and wrest that honor away from the Big 12 and SEC.

It is interesting to me that Paterno is calling for a 12th team to be added to the Big Ten.  Maybe he is hoping to attract some other quality team for his squad to showcase their talents against.  It is hard to be considered on a national level when 7 of your games  are against teams you are supposed to beat by 20 points or more and at least 2 others are non conference games scheduled in advance against teams that come and go with each class of new recruits .

Below are the winning percentages of all the teams I consider successful college football programs over the last half century.  Many fans may be upset not to see their team, but I will tell you what the criteria is for making the list.  Your team must have played at least 600 games with a winning percentage of at least .650.  14 teams made this list, and 1 made honorable mention.  Here we go.

The Big Ten.   3 teams qualified

Ohio State University        660 games with .747 WP

Penn State University       674 games with .734 WP

Michigan                           667 games with  .720 WP

The Big Twelve.   3 teams qualified

Nebraska                         688 games with .702 WP

Oklahoma                        688 games with .756 WP

Texas                               682 games with .723 WP

SEC  4 teams qualified

Alabama                           694 games with .699 WP

Tennessee                       688 games with .695 WP

Georgia                            688 games with .664 WP

Florida                              682 games with  .651 WP

Pac 10  1 team qualified

Southern California          691 games with .700 WP

ACC  2 teams qualified

Florida State                     658 games with  .671 WP

Miami                                682 games with  .652 WP

Independants  1 team qualified

Notre Dame                     680 games with  .694 WP

The team with honorable mention that has simply not been around long enough ?  Boise State with a .703 winning percentage but only 453 games in.

It is interesting to note that NO team from the Big East, Conference USA, Sunbelt, Western Athletic (see Boise state above) Mountain or  Mid American conferences made this list.

From the above standings, one could argue that the best team of all time is the Oklahoma Sooners and the best conference of all time a tie between the Big Twelve and the Big Ten.  The SEC has more qualified teams but the Big 10 and Big 12 have 6 of the only 7 teams to achieve a better than .700 overall winning percentage.  If Penn State sweeps the Big Ten including OSU, it will be interesting to see how much respect their conference currently has.  In 2009, if there are no other undefeated teams in college football, the Lions should get the nod.  Shouldn’t they ?

Just A Bit Outside Podcast

This weeks’ edition of “Just A Bit Outside” has been added to the site.  Just click on the PSB Podcasts link above and you can access not only this week’s version, but also last week’s inaugural version as well.

This week I discuss Brad Lidge and the Phillies, the Pittsburgh Pirates 17 years of futility as well as the NL and AL races.

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And The Phillies 5th Starter Is…….Pedro Moyer?

I know, I could’ve used Jamie Martinez as well but I think everyone gets the idea here.  For the second time in four starts Pedro Martinez had a good performance interrupted by rain.   On Friday night in Philadelphia Martinez survived the first 63 minute delay  but after play was resumed for all of 7 minutes Pedro’s night was done as the Braves and Phillies waited through a second 45 minute delay.

Enter Jamie Moyer.   Making his second relief appearance since being sent to the bullpen in favor of Pedro Martinez, Moyer relieved Martinez after another rain delay and pitched an effective 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits.  He struck out five and walked none.  It was also the second time that Moyer earned the win coming in behind Pedro to run his mark for the year to 12-9.

After making some comments in Chicago after the demotion saying that he felt “mislead” by the Phillies, Moyer has been all business in his two relief appearances.  His 12 wins leads the Phillies and more importantly his two appearances have saved the bullpen from becoming taxed.   I don’t have the stats, but I’d have to say if Moyer finishes the season leading the Phillies in wins after being sent to the bullpen it would certainly be something that hasn’t happened in a long time if ever at all.

And somewhere Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee are smiling after dismissing the idea of using a six-man rotation.    Could Charlie have known that we’d have some rainy nights in August? Could he have pulled out his Farmer’s Almanac and saw this coming? Even if he didn’t he probably should say he did because right now the Phillies are looking pretty smart by sending Moyer to the bullpen.  Moyer has pitched some effective baseball, giving up just one run in his 10 2/3 innings of relief while going 2-0.  Pedro hasn’t pitched bad and he hasn’t pitched great.  The Phillies have given Pedro great run support in Pedro’s non-rain starts which certainly helps.  The important thing for Pedro is for him to get stronger with every outing, and should mother nature intercede well, there is always Jamie Moyer.

Phillies Pitchers overview

A lot has been made this season about the Phillies pitching

When the season started they did not have enough quality starters.

At trade deadline they had too many.

The late relief and closers have been under scrutiny all year long.

This is my review based strictly on statistics and each players overall value to the team this year.

Starters:  So far this year there have been 7 bona fide starters on the club.

CLIFF LEE       Midseason acquistion   5-0 with .68 ERA

This one should be obvious.  Great pick up.  Potential to be staff ace.  One sports writer commented on how the Phillies would have been better off with Halladay.  I say, I would rather have Cliff Lee for a year and a half and lose him to free agency then give up the farm to sign Halladay and end up with a 6 year 9 figure contract.  That never works out well.  Plus, look at Halladay’s last month.   He has gone 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA with  opponents hitting .320 against him.  Compare that to Lee and there is NO comparison.

COLE HAMELS    Last years World Series MVP  7-8 with 4.52 ERA

There is no denying Cole has had a rough year.  That being said, he has not gotten consistent run support from the offense, and he has had some bad breaks.  He is still in the top three in the rotation, but nowhere near as dominant a pitcher as he was last year.

J A HAPP   Potential NL Rookie of the Year contender  10-3  2.63 ERA

This kid can pitch, and was a pleasant surprise since being promoted out of the bullpen.  He has been 6-1 with a 1.72 ERA on the road, and is a large part of the reason why the Phillies are the best team in baseball away from home.  He, in my opinion, has also earned a slot in the top three.  He is untested in post season, but hopefully he will have a chance this year to do what Hamels did for the Phillies last year in post season play.   Note: currently he has the lowest ERA of a Phillies Rookie since 1912 !

JAMIE MOYER   staff veteran and wins leader    12-9 with 5.12 ERA

Jamie has a high ERA, but he has greatly reduced it over the past few months from his early season high near 8.  He has also proved to be a class act going to the bullpen and coming in for several long stints as reliever to win games for Martinez when rain cooled off the former Cy Young winner’s aging arm.   Note: how funny that you bring in a 46 year old to provide a fresh arm for a 38 year old ?

JOE BLANTON:    8-6 3.66

This one is tougher to call.  His record is not a good reflection of his ERA which is good when compared to National League pitchers.  He has not always gotten run support, but he also is prone to make a big mistake on one pitch that negates a three hour good performance and results in a loss.  The jury is still out on Joe and what he will contribute in the future.

PEDRO MARTINEZ:     2-0  4.52 ERA

Pedro can no longer bank on his past credentials.  He has been fortunate to not have a loss with the Phillies based on his performance and he has absolutely lost something performance wise compared to his early career.  He has had too little action to give be completely sure, but he seems to be a pitcher on his way out, and with plenty of young, up and coming pitchers in the Phillies organization, I really can’t see him staying here for too long.

BRETT MYERS:     4-3  with 4.66 ERA

Another ambigous performer this year. He could be really good, he could be really bad.  This year he has been neither.  He has also had enough availability and personal issues to make him a question mark with the club’s future plans.  This one is on a “we’ll have to wait and see status” for now.

I focused on starting or potential starting pitchers in today’s post.  There is not room here, or perhaps in all of print to discuss the Brad Lidge situation, but maybe he will be reviewed in a future post.  It is fair to say he had an incredible record setting performance last year for a World Series winning ball club, so any comparisons to that will, by neccessity, make him look bad.  Right now, the management seems to be standing by him as their closer, at least until the post season, so I am placing him also on a “we’ll have to wait and see status” til the end of the year.  Hopefully he will pull out of his recent funk and go back to his near unbeatable ways of 2008.  We shall just have to watch, wait and see, won’t we ??

Howard Powers Phillies Past Braves

After a disappointing three days in Pittsburgh that saw the Phillies drop two of three to the Pirates, the Phillies returned home Friday night and Ryan Howard blasted two homers (36 and 37) in between the rain drops to push the Phillies to a 4-2 win against the Braves.

Howards display was just another day at the office for the big man who certainly knows what its like to have big games this time of year.   Howard certainly knows what its like to have success this time of year, hitting .339 with 11 homers and 29 rbi in his last 15 games.  This streak could just be a preview of things to come.   After August 26th the past two seasons, “Rynomite” has a combined .317 average with 25 homers and 54 runs batted in.

Howard gave the Phils an early 1-0 lead in the second inning before rain halted play for 64 minutes.   Pedro Martinez, who had allowed just one hit and a walk in two innings, was set to come back after the first delay and was the on deck batter when play was stopped again after just 7 minutes.  After another 45 minute delay, Pedro was finished for the night.  Jamie Moyer came on and pitched effectively for 4 1/3 innings, allowing a run on four hits with no walks while striking out five.  It was the second time Moyer has relieved Pedro after a rain shortened outing, the first came back on August 18th against Arizona.   Both times Moyer (12-9) has gotten the win.

Howard gave the Phillies more offense in the 4th inning as his second homer of the night, this time a two-run shot, cleared the center field wall and gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead.   The Braves got a run in the 5th on a Matt Diaz double, and the Phillies got their 4th run on an rbi single by Pedro Feliz in the 7th.  The Braves threatened in the 8th as they loaded the bases but only got one run on a fielder’s choice ground out by Chipper Jones.   Brad Lidge, sporting a new hairdo and pitching on two days rest, got the Braves in order in the 9th for his 26th save of the year.

After dropping two of three to the lowly Pirates beating the Braves had to feel good for the Phillies.

“It was definitely a good game to try and right the ship because it’s a game where, for both teams, it was a mental game,” Howard said. “You’re playing the waiting game with the rain, starting and stopping and trying to stay loose. We didn’t know it was going to be up in the air. We were able to play through some things and get it done.”

Anything can happen down the stretch, but this win combined with the Marlins loss gives the Phillies an 8 game lead on both the Braves and Marlins as we get set to enter the seasons final month.  Strange things tend to happen in September, but the Marlins and Braves don’t seem as though they have the ability to put together the kind of streak that the Phillies put together in 2007 to over take the Mets down the stretch.

With Captain Ryan at the helm, its hard to imagine this ship not coming in to port on top of the National League East when its all said and done.

Donovan McNabb strong … with Michael Vick on the sideline

A Philadelphia Eagles quarterback heard a smattering of boo’s Thursday night.

It wasn’t Michael Vick, however it was Donovan McNabb that heard some jeers from the Philly faithful after his inconsistent first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars in what became a 33-32 Eagles win.

McNabb and his receivers seemed on a different page for much of the first two quarters. The biggest blunder came inside the Jaguars 10-yard line when McNabb threw a high screen pass to LeSean McCoy that bounced off the rookies’ helmet and to the grass. The Jaguars’ Brian Iwuh wisely pounced on the lose ball and returned it 92 yards for a score.

Vick, meanwhile, came out to a standing ovation (though some boos were mixed in). He finished the day 4-for-4 for a modest 19 yards. He showed that he still has a rocket arm and did a bit of running, if to no avail.

Though Vick had a bit of success, the question remains if he will be a help or hinder to the Birds offense. The former Falcon came in for six plays, none consecutive. There is no way to say for sure how much Vick’s cameo appearances bothered McNabb’s rhythm. McNabb was more successful in the second half when Vick remained on the sideline, leading the team to a pair of scores and tossing a touchdown to Marcus Mailiei.

As expected there has already been plenty of overreaction, despite it being the preseason.

Clarke Judge of has already seen enough to determine Vick will hurt the Eagles more than he helps them in his column here Others are excited about the rocket Vick completed to Hank Baskett and point to it as evidence that Vick is ready to have a big impact.

While some may look to Vick’s statistics to judge the success of his signing, I believe the ultimate stat will be wins and losses.

With all of the talent on the Eagles roster a deep layoff run is expected. If Vick helps make that happen then his signing will have been a major success. If the Eagles fall short of the goals, the move will be second-guessed in the offseason. 

After one experiment Vick showed he can make plays. McNabb showed he can make more plays with Vick on the sideline.

It will be interesting to see how much Reid would use Vick if the Eagles get off to a 5-1 start featuring an offense that is clicking. Would adding Vick be worth the gamble of breaking up the team’s rhythm?

It might be. Then again, it might not. It was a gamble to sign Vick. Now fans will have to wait and see how often Reid wants to role the dice.

Who let the Fans shout

Unlike ESPN’s Matt Mosely, I believe Vick has not yet weathered the storm of public opinion in Philadelphia.  The truth is, if you have been a fan for any length of time around here, you need to achieve BEFORE you are forgiven.  That is if you start from neutral.  Vick is starting from a negative position.  The first botched play, there will be hell to pay.  And  being a superstar in a previous life, I don’t see Vick responding very well to the pressure.

The fans WILL boo Vick, WILL be hard on him, WILL expect him to be near perfect from the first snap, and WILL be plenty vocal about it if he is not.   This is a fan base that booed McNabb when he was acquired with the number one pick over Ricky Williams.   We all know now he was the better performing of the two players, but when McNabb has a bad day after ten years of proving himself, the fans still boo.  Philly fans LOVE to boo.

Vick seems to be in good shape, but being in shape does not give you football timing.  And I don’t care how many practices you have with the team, you don’t get the timing down until you PLAY in a game, something Vick has not done in 32 months.

I don’t want to predict any bad outcome for the Eagles as I have been waiting to see them play for about 9 months.  But my gut, and my knowledge of people and how they react, especially to the gauntlet that is the Philly popularity contest, tells me Vick will make a quick exit whenever he actually gets into a game.  Fortunately the Eagles have plenty of quarterbacks to pick from when they have to pull Vick.

I hope all this attention on a “reformed felon” does not detract from the rest of the team and the effort they are sure to put into tonight’s performance.  I won’t be attending any games in continued silent protest of the Vick signing, but I will keep half an eye or ear on the event and hold my breath that the Eagles can pull out a win before getting their season underway.

The Michael Vick show begins


That is what many Eagles fans are feeling heading into tonight’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The words “intrigue” and “preseason” don’t usually go together, but tonight is an exception with Michael Vick set to make his return to football and debut with the Eagles.

There are plenty of questions surrounding Michael Vick. Has two years out of football diminished his skills? In what role will the Eagles use Vick? How will the fans react in Vicks first home appearance?

Making things more intriguing is Andy Reid, who has yet to disclose how much playing time Vick will see tonight. Consider what Reid said about playing time just a couple of days ago. He said that Donovan McNabb and the first team offense would play the first three quarters. Reid then said third-year quarterback Kevin Kolb, who missed the Eagles first two preseason games, will play the forth quarter.

That doesn’t leave a whole lot of playing time for Vick.

The best guess is that Vick will play a series or two with the first offense subbing in or playing alongside McNabb. It’s hard to imagine that Reid would show off the wildcat formation in the preseason, so we should see Vick dropping back for a couple of plays. Then again, this is new frond for the Eagles so anything is possible.

Local and national TV will be all over this game and there is bound to be plenty of overreaction one way or another when this one is finished. How much it will really mean is open for debate.

Tonight promises to be preseason football like you rarely get to see it. Thursday night “Must-See TV” is back.

Save To Howard?

No, Ryan Howard didn’t finish last night’s game in Pittsburgh on the mound.  He used a more conventional approach, which was to deposit the first pitch he saw from Pirates lefty Phil Doumatrit in the 10th inning deep into the right field seats to break a 1-1 tie and give the Phillies a 4-1 win.   Ryan Madson got the win after serving up a game tying homer to Brandon Moss in the bottom of the ninth to spoil a real nice outing by Cole Hamels.  It was the second night in a row that Moss tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Hamels gave up 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7 in his eight innings of shutout baseball.  He was pinch hit for with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the ninth inning, an inning where the Phillies put the first two on with nobody out and weren’t able to push across a much needed insurance run.  This has been a familiar theme for the Phillies this season as they continue to struggle with runners in scoring position, something that they need to improve upon if they hope for success come not just in October, but down the stretch should either Florida or Atlanta mount any kind of threat in September.

One thing is for sure – Ryan Howard is hot.  Some athletes just live for certain moments.  John Elway and Joe Montana did their best work in the fourth quarter of games.  Ryan Howard saves his best work for August and September.   Only two other players in baseball history, Babe Ruth and Ken Griffey Jr, have averaged the 50 homers and 130 runs batted in like Howard has the past three seasons.  Imagine how much more ridiculous Howard’s numbers would seem if he hit above .250 during the months of April and May? Howard’s final months the past two seasons have pushed the Phillies into the playoffs.    Its going to be fun to see what he does the rest of the year.

Phillies pull off extra inning affair

Yes, the closers are not doing a good job, but at least the Phillies pulled this extra inning exercise off and concluded with a win.  Thank you Ryan Howard, for creaming another baseball just when your fans needed it most !

Lost is a workman like performance by Cole Hamels, 7 hitting the Pirates through 8 shutout innings.  I stated earlier that Charlie Manuel needs to leave his starters in the game.  I repeat that tonight !!  This time, it wasn’t “the Evil Lidge” who coughed up the tying run, it was Madsen’s turn to not do the job, and he is rewarded with the win !

This game was actually a pretty well fought pitching dual with only a pair of opposing solo home run shots providing all the scoring.  What made it so nasty to watch was the fact that the Pirates game tying homerun came with only 2 outs remaining in the game.  Another instance of the closers simply not getting the job done.

Howard is on his normal fall tear, hitting everything is sight as far as it will fly.  The other Phillies stepped it up after the past few games by playing solid defense behind their starting pitcher.  They should be able to salvage a series win.  Kudos to every Phillies batter in the tenth inning for believing in this team, ignoring another blown save by the closing staff, and getting the job done.

Now we need to win tomorrow, get out of Pittsburgh and find a closer.  It is time for Manuel to admit Lidge has lost it and there is no one capable of taking his place on the current roster.  Maybe Brett Myers, but, who can say at this point ?  What the hell, trot Jamie Moyer out there from now on and maybe he can get the record for oldest guy to get a World Series save to go along with all his other “oldest to” records.   Manuel will need to get him accustomed to the role here during the last few weeks of the season.

Moyer has stated he does not want to be in the bullpen, but he, more than any other player on this team, had proven he is a class act and will do what it takes to help this team win.

On to Atlanta and San Francisco, 2 clubs the Phillies should be able to beat.  But, of course, this was true of the Pirates as well.

Phils On The Ledge With Lidge

I’m not a “I Told You So” kind of guy, but for anyone who read my “Five Reasons Why The Phillies Won’t Repeat” article you got to see reason number one first hand last night in Pittsburgh.

Pitching against what is now basically a Triple-A lineup, Brad Lidge failed to record an out and after Brandon Moss tied the score at 4-4 with a single, McCutcheon drilled a walkoff homer to give Lidge his 9th blown save of the season with an era now back at 7.00.

After the game Lidge said that his being used in four straight games was the reason his pitches didn’t have their normal bite.   Nice try Brad, what about the other eight saves you’ve blown? This has been the worst season for a Phillies closer since the Jose Mesa/Mike Williams disaster back in 2003.  When Williams came to the Phillies from the Pirates that season, he had the worst era for any closer with more than 20 saves. His era was over 6.00 – Lidge is worse this season.

If there is anyone out there who thinks there is a magic button Lidge can push to get him back to his 2008 form then you live in the same dream world that Charlie Manuel lives in every time he says he has faith in Lidge and that he is his closer.  I guess everyone who bought tickets for the Titanic really thought that boat was unsinkable, too. 

I’ve seen nothing to indicate that Lidge can close out these tough, close games.  Forget about last night – with a 7 game lead its doubtful that the Phillies – masters of the second half the past two years – will cough this one like their 1964 predecessors or their rival 2007 Mets.  My issue is that when its time to close a 4-3 game against the hot again at the right time Rockies, Dodgers or even the Cardinals they are going to be in for big-time trouble.  

The problem is that the Phillies really don’t have any other good enough in-house options.    We’ve seen Ryan Madson fail, and Brett Myers isn’t ready yet nor do we know what we’d get from him when he finally does come back.  Tyler Walker closed for the Giants once upon a time, but he’s been inconsistent to the point where the Phillies have actually optioned him to Triple-A this year.  Chan Ho Park has never closed and is just settling into his role in the middle innings.  This isn’t computer baseball where you can just put the best stats guy out there.  In real life the guy has to have that something special and the ability to have no memory to be a closer. 

So, unless the time machine is invented in the next six weeks so we can go back to last year and bring the 2008 Brad Lidge to 2009 this team will continue to struggle to hold leads which doesn’t spell success come October.