Another extra inning affair.

What next for the Phillies ? 

Much has been made of Ryan Howard’s performance since his return from the disabled list, and now sources are saying there may still be something wrong with the big man preventing him from playing at 100%.

Last night, the first 6 innings were relatively uneventful as the teams played to a 1-1 draw.  The Phillies looked lifeless after being swept by the Astros in a 4 game series that included losses to former Phillies pitchers J A Happ and Brett Myers as well as a 16 inning heartbreaker that saw some offensive players go 0-7.   Happ, two years ago the team’s ace of the future, outlasted Halladay in the third game to really rub it in.  Of course, for the Astros, this series against last years NL champion and 2008 World Series champion was their post season.  At 12 games below 500 and 16 games out with less than a month to go, the Astros are not playoff bound. 

The Phillies probably are, which makes the 4 game sweep so confusing and upsetting.  They have more to play for but seem to be manuevering into position to win the wild card, instead of pushing the Braves to take the National League East for the third year in a row.  At least we aren’t trailing the Mets, that would be TOO much to bear !

Rollins had a good night, going 3-5 with a double, a walk and a run scored.

Ryan Howard did provide a single in the 7th, sandwiched by walks to Utley and Werth, that may have been the catalyst behind the Phillies go ahead score.   If Howard’s single was the catalyst, Raaauuul Ibanez came through with the clutch hit, a one out single to right that scored the run.  Gregerson came in in relief and got Victorino into a double play fielders choice then struck out Ruiz to end the threat.

Oswalt pitched a masterful game, with 6 strikeouts versus five hits allowed through the first 8 innings.  He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the ninth as the Phillies looked to build on that scant one run lead.  The Phillies however went down one, two, three, and Lidge came in for the bottom of the ninth with a one run lead.

He pitched a typically ugly half inning, with a single, sacrifice, groundout, intentional walk, hit batsman, than the piece de resistance, the balk to push the tying score across the plate.

Oswalt can’t win a game, no matter how well he pitches !

Maybe Charlie will consider letting him keep pitching next start if he has the same stuff.

Rollins doubled to lead off the 12th inning. Polanco singled to center to score Jimmy and put the Phillies up  3-2.  The Phillies FINALLY took advantage of an Atlanta loss and picked up a game on the NL East lead.



9th Inning Woes

It seems like a new sport has popped up in Philadelphia: Lidge bashing. He’s the closer, so that must mean all of the bullpen problems, particularly in the 9th inning, are his fault.

It makes me wonder if people actually watch all the games, or are just intent on playing Lidge Bashing. For example, let’s take last night’s game. Chad Durbin pitches a beautiful 8th inning. But in the 9th, he started to have a little bit of trouble. He was at 40 pitches over the 2 innings. He had two runners in scoring position and he was getting a little wild. Granted, the team had a nice lead and those 2 runners weren’t really bothering anybody. But the point is, Durbin didn’t have a clean 9th inning.

Mitch Williams, who made 9th innings more interesting than almost anyone in my Phillies memory, suggested JC Romero as the closer. Okay, let’s look at Juan Carlos in the 9th recently. Didn’t he just blow a save last week against Arizona?

The more I watch the season unfold, coupled with last season, the more sure I am that Lidge is NOT the problem on the backend of the bullpen. The problem is the 9th inning. It appears that the mentality of the pitching staff changes when the inning counter flips to 9.

Because the problem seems to be universal to the bullpen staff, I am lead to believe the real problem lies in the coaching. Are pitchers not prepared enough to come into the 9th? Is the pen being used properly? Is it time for a change in pitching/bullpen coaches?

It’s easy to Lidge Bash and focus on him as the microcism of the problem. He gives the 9th inning its face — and that perfect season has put ridiculous expectations on him. Not that I’m saying there are mechanical problems at work with Lidge; there may be. But the 9th inning problems lie much deeper than a solitary closer, and I believe the wrong person is being held accountable for the problems.



Phillies roster set for Opening Day

Baseball officially begins tonight with the Yankees taking on the Red Sox on ESPN as the schedule makers have done their best to make sure fans will be sick of the rivalry by mid-June.

As for Philadelphia baseball — well that’s about to take off as well.
The Phillies open up the season Monday afternoon with a 1:05 start against the Washington Nationals.

The Phillies will begin their quest for a second World Series title in three years  a little short-handed as Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero will start the regular season on the DL. The position players have remained healthy though, so expect plenty of runs to be scored in this opening three-gams set with the Nats.

Bellow is the 2010 Phillies roster, which was finalized this weekend.

Pitchers: Righthanders Danys Baez, Andrew Carpenter, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin, Roy Halladay, David Herndon, Kyle Kendrick and Ryan Madson, and lefthanders Antonio Bastardo, Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer.

Infielders: Juan Castro, Greg Dobbs, Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley.

Catchers: Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider.

Outfielders: Ben Francisco, Ross Gload, Raul Ibañez, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth.



Phillies name Jamie Moyer #5 starter

The old man gets the nod.

The Phillies officially named Jamie Moyer the team’s fifth starter today.

Bellow is an excerpt from philly.com

“We think it’s the right way to go,” (pitching coach Rich) Dubee said. “Jamie proved that he’s healthy. That was the biggest question coming into spring training, how he’d come back from the surgeries. He’s throwing the ball well. He’s functioning well. And again, this guy has a tremendous track record of being a winning pitcher.”

Dubee looked at the situation in a different perspective for Kendrick.

“He won a job,” Dubee said. “He didn’t lose the starting job. In my mind, it was going to be a tough thing to do if Jamie was healthy to win that job from Jamie Moyer. Kyle won a job on our roster.”

Given the fact that Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero will begin the season on the disabled list and the way Jose Contreras and Antonio Bastardo have struggled this spring, Kendrick’s role in the bullpen could be significant. Moyer, 47, isn’t able to bounce back as quickly as Kendrick can after a relief outing.

You can read the whole article here.

This is not surprising news to Phillies fans. When the Phillies gave Moyer a 2-year deal at the end of the 2008 season, it was viewed as a reward for helping the team win the World Series. A man of his word, Charlie Manuel will give Moyer a chance to finish his career in the starting lineup.

Now it’s time for the veteran to make his coach look good.



Pleading the fifth: Moyer of Kendrick?

Having won three straight NL East titles and appearing in the World Series the last two years, few questions surround the Phillies as they embark on the 2010 season next month.

And the questions that do exist — bounce back seasons from Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels — don’t pertain to the first week of the season so much as they do the season as a whole.

The team’s starting eight are assured. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley don’t exactly have their jobs on the line.

But there is one bit of competition that has the interest of the team’s followers.

The old soft throwing lefty vs. The promising, yet inconsistent young buck.

Jamie Moyer vs. Kyle Kendrick.

On one end you have a  47-year old who’s fastball is looks like a changup, but has always found a way to get the job done. Since being acquired by the Phillies in a deal with Seattle, Moyer has been a great presence in the locker room. His work on the mound has been equally as impressive. He is 47-31 in three seasons and has given his team a chance to win the vast majority of the time. With the Phillies offense, they usually have.

He tied for the team lead with 12 wins last year, though his ERA bloomed to 4.94.

On the other hand you have Kendrick who pitched well in 2007 — surprising the organization with a 10-4 record and a 3.87 ERA — but struggled in 2008, finishing with a 5.49 ERA. Kendrick doesn’t overpower hitters and doesn’t have amazing stuff, but he is a Major League pitcher and does appear ready.

This Spring, Kendrick has put forth a strong audition, posting a 1.29 ERA. In 14 innings he has allowed just seven hits and two runs, while striking out 6. Moyer made his first official start of the Spring on Sunday and he to had success, allowing one run on five hits in five innings against the Blue Jays. Moyer previously made three starts in “B” games, and currently has a 3.86 ERA.

This will not be an easy decision by any means.

Although he pitched in relief at the end of last season Moyer does not want to be a reliever. Kendrick could be used in relief but may be better served getting starting experience in the minors if he isn’t chosen as the fifth starter. The team already has Jose Contreras in the bullpen so the need for a long-man is not there.

The Phillies could also try to trade Moyer, but as Philly.com writer  Paul Hagen points out, the team would be best served to keep both as there is a lack of starting depth in the minors and injuries are inevitable during a season.

I think that Kendrick’s time has arrived and he should get the nod. I also think he won’t.

If we have learned anything about Charlie Manuel in his time in Philadelphia it’s that he is loyal to his guys. Sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes to a fault.

The Phillies can survive with Moyer in the No. 5 spot and they know it. Kendrick will get his chance, just not during the early part of the season.

And if your rooting for one guy or the other and it doesn’t work out in your favor don’t let it bother you. When a team’s only dilemma is at the No. 5 spot in the rotation, your team is in really good shape.



Whiz Kids or the New and Improved Phitens, who is better ?

 From 1976 to 1980 they won 4 NL East titles, 1 National League Pennant and 1 World Series.

 From 2005 to present they have won 3 National League East titles, 2 National league Pennants and 1 World Series.

The first team included the group known as the Whiz Kids, with nearly every member of the team either in the hall of fame, or close to it, and known nationally as household names due to the exposure they recieved during their dominance.  The second team is still playing so does not have the advantage of securing a historical place in our minds and memories as of yet, but may equal or exceed the ability and statistics of the first group of Phillies superstars. 

This article will attempt to compare the two squad’s core group of players, then and now to determine which team is truly the best Phillies team of all time.  It might be noted the first team played just prior to the advent of steroid allegations and performance enhancing drugs becoming the norm, whereas the second group has played and does play in “the steroid era” of baseball with equal or better statistical results, yet has received no substantiated press regarding the use of these illegal and banned substances.  That by itself in this modern era of sports is remarkable, but what this group has acheived in a short period of time may be more so.

The first group-of Phillies included; Michael Jack Schmidt, Pete Rose, Bob Boone, Greg “The Bull” Luzinski, Tim McCarver, Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox and was led by pitchers Steve “Lefty” Carlton, Tug McGraw and Larry Christensen. 

The current group of 21st century Phillies includes; Ryan Howard, Jaysen Werth, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and has had Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, JA Happ and Brad Lidge leading the way from the mound. 

For purposes of a direct comparison, I am not selecting players that only played 2 years or less with either team during the peak, hence the noticable lack of names such as  Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Juan Samuel, Pedro Martinez and the like.

The 1976 to 80 team, over their five seasons averaged  747 runs, 113 Homeruns, 696 RBI’s, 136 stolen bases and a .270 batting average while the pitching staff posted an ERA of under 3.50 for the span.   The two offensive leaders would have to be Rose and Schmidt, with Rose batting .291 with 390 runs and 255 RBI and Michael Jack posting over 200 homeruns, 600 RBI and 600 runs scored over the same 5 year span.

The leaguewide change of focus from defense to offense over the ensuing 30 years is evident when one realizes the Whiz Kids pitching staff ranked 7th league wide with an ERA around 3.00 while the 2008 staff was ranked 4th league wide while the ERA had risen to 3.88.

The offensive numbers of todays Phillies correlate to this change.  The current team is averaging 837 runs scored, 207 home runs, including a team record 224 last year, 706 RBI’s and 120 stolen bases.   Todays squad is led by Ryan Howard, with 220 homeruns, 630 RBI’s, and 460 runs scored over his first 5 full seasons.

The Phillies offensive output has increased by 30-40% while the team ERA has risen by 20% at the same time the league ERA has risen accordingly.   Between the Phillies dominance in the late seventies and early eighties and the current Phillies rise to prominance, the National League East was owned by the Atlanta Braves.  But those Braves dominated by virtue of their excllent pitching staff led by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.  There has not been a National League team that has ever had the dominant lineup from 1st to 7th position that the current Phillies possess.

Last years Phillies saw 4 players hit 30+ homeruns and drive in 90+ runs, as well as six players score 90+ runs and 8 hit 25 or more doubles.   They also had 4 players steal 20 or more bases.  This is the most balanced team to play in the National League in 50 years.  The Whiz Kids were famous simply because the perennial basement dwelling Phillies went to and won the World Series.   The current club should be afforded more respect because they are a better rounded and higher achieving team, and I for one, can not wait for them to close out the National League for 2010 so they can return to the World Series and go 2 for 3 as they take the championship away from the hated NY Yankees and return it to it’s rightful place, in Philadelphia.  This is a team that could easily win 3 or 4 of the next 5 World Series and establish itself in history as a baseball dynasty.

Based on these numbers, I would have to state, the current Phillies ballclub is the best statistical team ever to play baseball in Philadelphia, and I have a feeling the best is yet to come.



Brad Lidge throwing off mound

Consider this step one.

Phillies closer Brad Lidge threw off the mound for the first time this spring today, and did so with the eyes of his teammates all over him.

It’s no secret that a bounce-back year from Lidge is considered one of the biggest shorelines of the upcoming season. After a perfect 2008, Lidge had a disastrous 2009, setting a team-record for blown saves.  Expect to hear nothing but good things this spring as the public relations department will do their best to fill Lidge’s head with positive thoughts.

Whether or not that will help his pitching is another issue. If Lidge returns to form the team seems to be a lock to win the NL East and a heavy favorite to go back to the World Series.

If he doesn’t. Well at least Halladay can go nine innings, so that takes care of one out of every five games.

The following is from a post by philly.com’s Andy Martino
“Brad Lidge threw 20 pitches off a mound earlier today, the first time he’s thrown off a mound since the 2009 season ended.


“The closer called the session “very successful.” Lidge threw all fastballs despite pleading his case to throw a slider or two to pitching coach Rich Dubee. Dubee wasn’t having any of it.


“He knows his body better than we know his body,” Dubee said. “But at the same time we have to make sure he isn’t trying to skip steps. Today he wanted to throw sliders. I said, ‘No. It’s your first time on the mound.’”

Dubee said Lidge will likely take two days off and throw off a mound again on Thursday. He won’t be throwing sliders then either.



There is a new Ace in town

After starting last year against the perennial rival Atlanta Braves, the Phillies will have a chance to start off strong an immediately separate from the rest of the National League East.  Their first 9 games come against 2 teams that went a combined 133-191 in 2009.  With the addition of staff ace Roy Halladay and 5 of their first 8 series coming against sub .500 teams from 2009, the Phillies may have a real shot at the best start in team history.   Halladay may have 3 starts against National League bottom feeders before he is put to his first true test.

It is funny though, from all the reports I have read, and out of all the quotes attributed to Halladay, he seems to have a sense of nostalgia regarding his days with Toronto in the American League.  Here is one of his quotes:  ”I think I’ll miss a little bit of going into Yankee Stadium and Boston, where you’re expected to lose every time you go in there, and being able to walk out with wins.”

This is a man who is not only capable, but confident.  He holds the best record for a starting pitcher against the Yankees in the past 55 years among pitchers with 22 or more starts in that span.  He won 1 Cy Young and seriously competed for 2 others in the last decade in the American League, and now he gets to face teams who average fewer hits, a lower slugging percentage and less home runs.   He will also get to totally confound the oppositions pitchers when their turn at the plate arrives.   We haven’t had that kind of swagger here since the days of Mitch Williams, and in my opinion, Halladay has earned the right to swagger more than “The Wild Thing” ever did.

What I am most curious about however, is how will he do at the plate ?  He has faced an opposing pitcher at the plate rarely if ever in his career.   I mean, we all know he can pitch, but he is arriving in the city of brotherly love as the second highest paid player on the team, behind Ryan Howard, and what the fans really want to know is that they got good value for their money.

I mean, really, when the Phillies traded for Cliff Lee midseason last year, they knew he could pitch too, but who would have guessed he would go 7-33 with 2 doubles ?  It wouldn’t have surprised me if he had gone without a hit in his 12 starts as he got used to taking a stance at the plate as opposed to his accustomed place on the mound.   And how about his nonchalant fielding prowess on comebackers and infield pop ups late in the season and during the playoffs ?  And his exuberant dash to and from the mound every time out ?  Are we going to get a show from Halladay or just solid relentless pitching ?  His regimen already indicates he has an extremely strong work ethic, showing up at 5:30 each morning to begin his workout, normally ahead of the rest of the staff.  But the important question is, will he entertain us as he wins games, or will he just shut ‘em down and send them packing ?

Obviously I want to see some wins, I really feel he has to have at least a 15 win season to validate his salary and contribute to this team making a run at a fourth straight NL East title.  But it would also be nice to see a show.  Get the crowd into it, in the way Lee did last year, and Hamels did the year before.  After all, the Phillies may finally be in a position to get some national respect; after being a laughingstock for a century, they are seriously being considered a strong contender for not only the post season this year, but to return to the World Series.

Seriously, if  Halladay bats .050 and goes 15-5 with an ERA under 3.5 or better, it will still be an enormous upgrade for this team.  They are finally getting a solid staff in place that will enable them to dominate any team in a 5 or 7  game series, and that is what matters.  The only real question mark that remains is closing games.  Will we get the Lidge of 2008 who was nearly flawless, or the Lidge of 2009 who posted a 7+ ERA and set the record for blown saves ?  That, more than any one factor will most likely contribute to the Phillies successful return to the World Series.  I can’t wait for the baseball season to get underway so we can get some answers to these questions and get a chance to check both Halladay and Lidge out.

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Gearing up to go for 4 in a row

Thank God, baseball is back ! 

Pitchers and Catchers reported a day early as the Phillies get geared up to try to make it 4 in a row.  The role that used to belong to the Atlanta Braves as the perennial team to beat seems to have been handed over to our Phitens.   The Braves and Marlins both made off season moves that indicate the team in their sights is in fact the Phillies.  The Mets also signed Jason Bay for 66 million for four years to improve their chances at being competative.  They may finish 15 games out instead of 24, but will never seriously challenge.

I believe this year the race is a two team one.  The Braves and the Phillies, although unlike most of the late eighties through early this century, the Phillies are the team with the slight edge prior to the start of the season, thanks in part to their off season acquisition of Roy Holliday, the pitcher many expected them to sign when they ”settled on” Cliff Lee last year.

I LOVED Lee.

I respect the man as a pitcher and a player, and think he did amazing things for the Phillies, especially in his first 6 starts after the trade, and through the 2009 playoffs and World Series.

But seriously, as good as he was, the Phillies are markedly better with Halliday in the rotation.

The Phillies finished the season last year first in runs, and slugging, second in stolen bases and on base percentage.  They hit a team record 224 home runs as well.  They finished 6th in ERA.  So the obvious place for manager Charlie Manuel to focus on improvement was at pitcher. 

Some improvement may have occurred without management intevention, one thing in particular being right knee surgery to 33 year old closer Brad Lidge.  He may startle some with a year closer resembling his stellar 2008 after a lackluster 2009.  He contributed to both the Phillies 3rd straight National League East title as well as their World Series loss.  He has been quoted as saying he wants to end the season on Broad Street again, obviously with different results.  A repaired right knee may allow him to complete his follow through more quickly as well as hold runners on base better, two things he was unable to do at his normal level of competance at the close of last season, when it mattered most.

 So it is starting to take shape here, the 2010 pitching rotation.  Cole Hamels as the throwback Ace.  Roy Halliday as the entering Ace.  Jose Contreras as the Ace in waiting.   J A Happ as the rookie phenom.   Joe Blanton as the workhorse.   Madsen and Baez as middle relief.   Romero, Kenrick and Durbin as the bullpen crew.  Brad Lidge as THE CLOSER (Goat or hero, depending on which Lidge we get apparently)

With much of the offense returning intact, notable exception being the addition of Placido Polanco, these Phillies should once again chase the 100 win mark.  I, for one, can hardly wait for opening day.  Unlike last year when I was exiled to the deep south, this year, I will be there in person to watch my favorite sports team of all time take to the field.



Did the Phillies improve their roster?

With Pitchers and catchers having reported to Clearwater, Fla., Spring Training is officially underway.

The Phillies, who are coming off of consecutive trips to the World Series, return much of the same core from the previous two years with newcomers, Roy Halladay, Placido Polanco and Danys Baez now on as additional reinforcements. There will be plenty of debate about how the team’s offseason will affect the team this season. The biggest question is did the team improve?

The Philadelphia Daily News’ Paul Hagen took a stab at answering that question today and the result was a mild yes. Hagen points to the rotation, bench and catcher position as upgrades, with the bullpen a downgraded and the infield and outfield remaining the same.

In regards to the bullpen Hagen writes: “On one hand, Lidge almost has to be better than the guy who was a mirror image of the perfect closer of 2008, blowing a major-league high 11 saves with a 7.21 earned run average. On the other, he is coming off knee and elbow surgery. On one hand, the Phillies should benefit from having Romero for the entire season after he missed the first 50 games of ’08 while suspended for violating baseball’s performance-enhancing substances policy. On the other, when he did come back he experienced elbow problems, missed the postseason and required surgery. On one hand, veterans Baez and Contreras were signed as free agents. On the other, the dependable Condrey and the occasionally electric Park are gone. It appears that the Antonio Bastardo, Mike Zagurski and Sergio Escalona will compete for the second lefthander’s spot. Keep an eye on RHP Scott Mathieson, coming back after double Tommy John surgery.”

Had the Phillies brough back Park I think they would have gotten a thumbs up here. Baez was a solid addition but there is still inexperience at the end of the pen. However, if Lidge can rebound no one will be talking about whoever it is who lands the final spot in the rotation.

You can read Hagen’s entire report here.

Let the baseball debating begin.



Phillies pitchers and catchers report

Roy Halladay is there.So is Cole Hamels.

J.A. Happ? Check

Brad Lidge? Check.

The pitchers and catchers have arrived at Clearwater, Fla., one day earlier than tomorrow’s mandatory date.

According to philly.com every pitcher has reported except for Jamie Moyer and Jose Contreras. (There’s an old persons joke just begging to be inserted with that).

So good news baseball fans; despite the snow that appeared outside our windows today, baseball is ready to get going again.

The only real news of the day is that J.C Romero said he expects to break camp with the team, implying that he will be completely recovered from his elbow surgery and ready to pitch at full strength by Opening Day.

That’s good news for the Phillies, as Romero is the only lefthander in the bullpen that has succeeded at the Major League level.

News will be pouring in over the next few weeks about every player and the Phillies roster. Hope springs eternal for every team this time of year.

For the Phils that hope is real.

It may be snowing outside, but baseball is back.



Time to upgrade late night sports talk

In his three seasons with the Eagles Garry “G” Cobb made his presence felt on the Eagles defensive line. Teamed with Reggie White, Seth Joyner and Jerome Brown, Cobb was a productive player on the field.

I wish I could say the same about his radio career.

As a member of 610 WIP, Cobb brings his insights to the late night listeners. Cobb doesn’t lack in experience - he was a CBS sports anchor for eight years, runs his own web site gcobb.com and is a columnist for the Philadelphia Bulleton.

What he lacks is range.

When it comes to talking about the Eagles, few on the station do it better than Cobb. As a former player he knows the ins and outs of the game and provides quality insight.

When it comes to the Flyers, he gives you nothing.

The Sixers? A little.

The Phillies? Well, he does his best.

On Wednesday night Cobb made a big error though. Every disk jockey will make a mistake here and there, mixing up a fact or two, and that’s to be expected. No one is perfect.

However Cobb’s error showed a clear lack of knowledge about a sport he is paid to talk about.

While talking about what the Phillies need to do to win the World Series next year, Cobb turned the focus to Cole Hamels and eventually Brad Lidge. The point being made was a good one. Cobb said that the their ability to return to their 2008 form would be critical for Phillies success.

That point is right on target. This was not.

Cobb went on to say that had Lidge not blown those 10 saves the Phillies could have had home-field advantage in the World Series. I waited for the retraction. And then I waited some more. It never came.

This tells me that Cobb truly believes that the team with the better record gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Any true baseball fans knows that home field in the World Series goes to the team form the league that wins the All-Star game. It has been that way for years.

That Cobb doesn’t know that after being a sports anchor for eight years astonishes me. I don’t ask for perfection, I just ask for common sports knowledge.

Is that too much to ask for these days?

 



Lidge may miss opener

The offseason signing of Danys Baez is looking better already.

Mlb.com is reporting that Phillies closer Brad Lidge had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday, making his status for Opening Day cloudy.

His surgery consisted of “the removal of loose bodies and meniscal debridement,” accoding to the release.

With Lidge status up in the air the Phillies may have to start the season with Biaz or Ryan Madson as their closer. Each has closed in the past, though Biaz has much more experience.

You can read the full release here: http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100114&content_id=7915416&vkey=news_phi&fext=.jsp&c_id=phi



Phillies purchase Lidge insurance

He isn’t Placido Palonco and he certainly isn’t Roy Halladay. Maybe that’s why the Philadelphia Phillies signing of Danys Baez has gone so under the radar. We’ll that and the whole “Eagles-Cowboys thing.”

Despite the lack of recognition of the move, it was just what the Phillies needed.

While he is not coming off one of his best years – a 4-6 record with a 4.02 ERA with the Orioles – Baez comes with a truck-load of closing experience.

The Phillies found out just how valuable that can be last year when Brad Lidge struggled and Charlie Manuel could not find anyone else to do the job. Ryan Madson had his moments, while Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre failed in limited samplings in that role.

We don’t know if we will get the 2008 or 2009 version of Lidge this season, so having Baez as an option provides an insurance policy that was previously lacking.

For his career Baez has 114 saves, with his best years coming from 2003-2006 when he saved 96 games with the Indians and Rays. He will make a nice chunk of change over the next two years as the Phillies inked him for $5.25 million.

If all goes well for the Phils, they will have acquired another set-up man to complement Madson and J.C. Romero, who will get the ball to a Lights-Out Lidge. Or if Lidge falters, the Phillies have a guy who can step in and get the job done.

Either way this move will prove much bigger than it currently seems.



Road to a Dynasty is going to cost $$$

If the Phillies want to become a dynasty, I offer 5 suggestions to send them on their way. They have a good balanced ball club, one that has won the National League east three times in a row, been to 2 World Series and won one. That is a good 500 or so games for the team. But to truly become a dynasty, they need to sustain this level of play for 1000 or so more games.

That is tough in an arbitration filled, salary capped, league unless they plan on spending half a billion dollars each and every off season like the Yankees seem to do. Frankly, as much support as the Phillies get, I still  don’t think they can afford to do this, and I doubt the fans will support them spending that kind of money in the city of brotherly love unless they become perennial champions first.

But short of spending billions there are a few steps they can take to ensure success for years to come, simply by adding the right pieces to the existing nucleus of this years club and securing the worthy pieces they already have in the fold to make sure they don’t find greener pastures elsewhere.   Chase Utley was ranked the 6th best player in baseball, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard should be in the top ten as well. Cliff Lee is a top five pitcher, and Cole Hamels is probably a top ten pitcher, JA Happ is the runner up rookie of the year.  Beyond that, the team is really a group of utility players, position players, run producers and role models.

In addition to this strong nucleus, now that trading season has begun, here is what I would do if I were Ruben Amaro.

1.) I would do whatever it takes to sign Placido Polanco to play third base next year.  5 years for $40 million perhaps.

2.) I would sign Omar Vizquel to replace Bruntlett as the end all-be all utility middle infielder.  4 years for $10 million.

3.) I would sign Ryan Howard up for the rest of his career, with a rich contract full of performance bonuses and incentives, this is the guy who hits 40 homeruns, drives in 140-150 runs, scores another 100 and has a strikeout total that is dropping and a fielding percentage that is rising.  This is a motivated player, 2005 rookie of the year, 2006 MVP, and in my opinion 2008 MVP as well; we CANNOT let him go.  He has three years secured right now, that leaves him a 32 year old in his prime either arbitrating or shopping himself as a free agent.  Wrong !!  He should get something in the 9 figure area now that he proved himself for the fourth straight year, remember he was asking for $18 million a year, before accepting a three year buyout deal in February for $54 million, but is entitled to  Texiera/ARod/Jeter type money and will go get it elsewhere in 2012 if he doesnt get it here.   Figure 5-6 more years at $130 million.

4.) I would sign Jimmy Rollins for another 5 years, slightly sweeter than his previous 2005 deal, to keep him in the leadoff role through 2015.  Figure $40 million here.

5.) I would sign Victorino to a long term contract as well.  Shane and Rollins are looking to be perennial run scoring gold glove machines, and having them 1-2 or 1-3 or whatever in the lineup in front of Utley, Howard and Werth means opposing pitchers dont stand a chance.  You can lock down Shane for $10 million for 4 years.  $40 more million.

Also, I would tie up Chan Ho Park with a multi year deal.  Park is by far the best deal for the money, and a known prospect who performed as well as any other bullpen hopefuls the Phillies are looking at.  $10 million ?  It seems a lot but in baseball salary terms, a drop in the bucket !

Think of it, Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Polanco, Ibanez, Werth, Ruiz, with Francisco, and Vizquel occasionally spotting the starters makes one hell of a lineup.   Everyone of those guys could score 100, drive in 100, hit 30 doubles, 20 homeruns,  steal 20 bases, and have an OPS  between .600 and .900.

Then you have Lee, Hamels, Blanton, and Happ as a four man rotation with Park, Madsen, Eyre, Durbin and probably Lidge since Charlie loves the guy in relief. Who thinks that group WON”T win 100 games next year ? And using these numbers plus those already signed onto contracts, that still places you around 8th in the league in overall payroll.

Because I can sense a dynasty in the making, I only hope Amaro and Manuel sense the same thing and are committed to spending the resources to make it happen.  It won’t be billions but it WILL be $250,000,000 +.   But think of it, $250 million is less than the largest contract in baseball for one person, and it secures a championship caliber TEAM potential through 2015 or so !!  The key is to do it now, and get it done, and then reap the rewards for the next 5-8 years to come.   The fans in Philadelphia are long suffering and certainly deserve it !