Phils Lose to Nats on Hangover Day

There was a game played today? How dare they. After the champagne was cleaned up (although Matt Gelb of the Inquirer said there was a candle lit in the clubhouse and it still smelled of bubbly and stogies) the Phillies and Nationals got together for game two of a now-meaningless series. The Nats won 2-1 tonight on an Adam Dunn walkoff blast in the ninth, causing a celebration of sorts for the cellar dwelling neighbors to the south.

Roy Oswalt got the start and didn’t last very long before Charlie Manuel pulled the plug on his outing. He was stopped at just 66 pitches in an effort to keep him fresh for either Game 1 or Game 2 of the National League Division Series which begins next Wednesday. The over/under set by myself was at 70, so whoever had the under won nothing. For the playoffs, Slot #1 is reserved for Mr. Halladay, but beyond that, the order is not known.

Anywho, Oswalt was nice again tonight, throwing five innings and allowing no earned runs. Washington scored in the first inning after a Jimmy Rollins error on an attempted run-down play. Rollins threw the ball past Greg Dobbs as they tried to get Nyjer Morgan between second and third. Morgan would score a batter later on a ground out by Dunn.

Dunn would strike early and then again late with his 38th home run off Jose Contreras, an absolute missile well into the second deck.

Now on to more important things, such as the health of their shortstop Jimmy Rollins. J-Roll made his return to the starting lineup for the first time since September 8, going 1-for-3 with a few weak ground outs to first base. He said later that he probably wouldn’t be healthy until February, noting that legging out infield singles will have to wait until then. But as long as Rollins can maneuver in the field and give the Phils some clutchness in the postseason, it’s all you can ask for.

Few other notes: Dom Brown stole two bases tonight, flashing some speed that we hope to see next year. Placido Polanco got the night off and likely will have every night off until next Wednesday. He’s expected to have another cortisone shot in his bad elbow, which should help him get through October. Greg Dobbs went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts – he did not make a case for a spot on the postseason roster with another ugly performance. If it comes down to Brown and Dobbs, who do you take?

Gameday: Phillies (94-63) at Nationals (67-90)

Philadelphia Phillies (94-63) at Washington Nationals (67-90)

NationalsRoy Oswalt (13-13, 2.80 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (2-9, 7.18)

Time: 7:05, Nationals Stadium
Cloudy, 68
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They call it “The Hangover.” Not the movie, the lineup. No Zach Galifinakis making funnies, but a lineup short the normal starters. Utley and Howard are still in there, with nothing really to play for. It’s obvious Charlie Manuel wants to keep his guys fresh.

Plaicdo Polanco is out, and you may not see him for the rest of the season as he’ll rest that bum elbow. So the good news is he’ll get more than a week to heal. Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, and Jayson Werth are the other regulars to get a blow tonight.

It’s also official: The Phillies will begin their playoff schedule on Wednesday, October 6 at Citizens Bank Park. Going with that start date (the Phils had the choice between Wednesday the 6th or Thursday the 7th), they’ll be assured normal rest for Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt until Game 4 of the NLCS (not getting too far ahead of ourselves). That means Joe Blanton is your long man in the pen and we’ll get to see plenty of the Big 3. Nothing wrong with that.

Tonight is a fine opportunity to take a look at the bench the Phillies will have in the postseason. Greg Dobbs, Dom Brown, Brian Schneider, and Ben Francisco will all get some hacks as they get prepared for the playoff run. More importantly, Jimmy Rollins is back in the order. He’ll get some at bats before the regular season ends. He hasn’t started a game since September 8.

Today’s lineup: Rollins SS, Ibanez LF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Francisco CF, Brown RF, Dobbs 3B, Schneider C, Oswalt P

Nugget NectarYour Gameday Beer – Rouge Dead Guy Ale
It was named one of the five best beers in America by Food and Wine Magazine. This is a darker, more intense style of ale (technically, it’s a German style called a Maibock). It’s a bit higher in alcohol — 6.5 percent — with a toasty, malty character and real texture to it. This is my go-to for big, spicy foods: sausages on the grill, barbecued ribs, that kind of thing. -Pat Gallen


Gameday: Phillies (93-63) at Nationals (67-89)

Philadelphia Phillies (93-63) at Washington Nationals (67-89)

NationalsJohn Lannan, LHP (8-7, 4.58 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (20-10, 2.53 ERA)

Time: 7:05, Nationals Stadium
Chance of rain, 66
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The Phillies 2010 season began in Washington, DC with Roy Halladay squaring off against John Lannan. It could for all intents and purposes come to a close tonight under the same scenario. A Phillies win or a Braves loss will clinch the fourth consecutive division title for the Phillies.

Rain is expected tonight, so there is a chance the game will be postponed or even canceled. For the latest on how the weather will affect tonight’s game, follow Twitter:

After a brief appearance in yesterday’s game, Jimmy Rollins will not be starting.

Today’s lineup: Victorino CF, Polanco 3B, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Werth RF, Ibanez LF, Ruiz C, Valdez SS, Halladay P

Nugget NectarYour Gameday Beer – Nugget Nectar
This brew by Troegs (out of the PA capital) is a mix of Red and Amber Ale; and as a result, it pours a vibrant orange color in your glass. The taste hits you right away with piney hops then gradually fades into tropical fruit flavors. It’s a tasty beer worth trying, especially alongside a roasted chicken. – By Brian


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.

Trade more than just a rumour now.

It is looking more and more like the Phillies will acquire a new pitcher.

With Victorino, Rollins and Utley on the DL, and Moyer apparently done forever, the Phillies are trying to shore up a roster that looked a lot deeper and stronger at the beginning of the year then it does now.

Roy Oswalt may be the missing piece.   Oswalt has not yet waived his no trade clause but appears very unhappy with his standing as the staff ace for the Houston Astros, who, at  42-59 look to have no chance at the post season for 2010.  Oswalt, a very capable pitcher has seen his numbers drop to match the team, with a 6-12 record and a 3.42 ERA so far this season.

OswaltSince breaking into the big leagues in 2001, Roy Oswalt has 143 victories — 28 more than any other NL pitcher. And his 1,593 strikeouts are the most for any NL pitcher with 100 starts since 2001.  The combination of Oswalt and Halladay would give the Phillies their first authentic 1-2 punch in a generation.

Halladay held similar records in the AL prior to the trade to Philadelphia and despite a lack of run support in all his starts, he still is second in the league in ERA and 3rd in victories, and in both these categories he leads the Phillies.

The Astros, in turn, are looking to acquire Happ and Singleton as well as a prospect to be named later from the Phillies.   While Happ has not yet lived into his potential, Oswalt is a proven commodity.  And Singleton IS a hot prospect for the Phillies at a farm league level, but right now, if the Phillies are going to stay in it for the rest of the year and make a run at the Braves, they need pitching.

Wow.  It seems like every time we evaluate this team, it needs pitching.

Fielding is covered; the hitting; comes and goes, that is the nature of the game.   Pitching, has long been the area in which the Phillies have lacked world championship caliber players.  Consider 2008, their World Series winning season.  They had 4 pitchers with 10 or more victories. 

Moyer led the team with 16, then came Hamels with 14, Kendrick with 11 and Myers with 10.  The team ERA was 3.88 and the lowest ERA by a starting pitcher was Hamels at 3.09.   So when the possibility exists the Phillies may end up with 2 pitchers who can record 20 wins with an ERA in the 2′s, fans can sense the excitement.   If we can win the world series with the above rotation, imagine how much better we can be with a starting group including Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, and Kendrick 

Missing man is Joe Blanton who had several strong years but is posting a 4-6 record with a 5.86 ERA after 16 starts this year.   If we can’t trade back for Lee, I say let Happ go and acquire the veteran that has proven he can fill the staff ace role.  Let the 2 Roys, Halladay and Oswalt fight it out to determine who will be ace #1, and who will be ace #2.

Are the Phillies on their way down?

Well we are almost at the midway point of the baseball season.  The All Star game is next week and the Phillies are in third place and six games back.  What a shocker!  At the beginning of the season there was a real sense of anticipation and excitement.  We were all waiting to see how Roy Halladay would perform.  Personally I want to see the Phillies and Yankee back to the World Series, and this time we win!

Recently though the Phillies have been on a slide.  I’m not really sure when it started .  Maybe  when we lost Jimmy Rollins In the first game of the season.   Maybe it started back when the Red Sox came to town.  The Phillies lost two of three with the Sox shutting out the Phillies in Game two.   But  the slide rapidly intensified  when the Phillies went to NY for a series against the stinky Mets.  There the Phillies were unable to score even one run over three games.

Recently, the Phillies placed Chase Utley and Placido Polanco on DL.  Utley would out for at least 8 weeks.  Do the math and Utley might be back in September.

Through out all of this there is speculation about Jason Werth.  While Werth has proven to be an out standing asset he has had his struggles recently.  There is also the question of his contract at the end of 2010.

So with all this in mind are the phillies on a slide?  If so how big?  Will they make the playoffs this year?  How about next year?  I realize one team can not always be the ones to win, but I sure how this slide does not last until 2020.

Phillies place Utley and Polanco on DL

Five keys for Phillies to survive injuries

As reported yesterday, the Phillies will be without Chase Utley and Placido Polanco for at least the next 15 days, and in all likelihood a little longer. The timing of the news is not great as the team had broken out of its hitting slump and looked poised to regain the lead in the NL East. Now with these injuries that becomes a lot more difficult. I still think the Phillies can hang right with the Braves and Mets over the next few weeks, but it will take a variety of factors coming together to do so.

Bellow are five keys for the Phillies to stay in the race despite these injuries.

1. Rollins must regain form: When a player is out for as long as Rollins was it is expected that the player will need a few weeks to find his swing. The Phillies can not afford Rollins that time, however. With their No. 2 and No. 3 hitters on the bench, the importance of Rollins setting the table becomes even more important. I’m not saying he needs to hit .350 the next month, but the team will need Rollins to at least maintain his .400 an-base percentage.

2. The Big Man must get on a tear: Over the past four seasons we have seen Ryan Howard get incredibly hot in August and September and at times single handily carry the team to victories. This time Howard can not wait until August. The team needs one of those power surges right now. Howard’s .295 average has caught everyone off guard and he is having a season that should put him back in the top five of the MVP voting. There is no reason to think he can’t catch fire over the next few weeks and lift his team once more.

3. Pitching: If you lose a little offense than the pitching must do its part to keep the opposition off the board. The Phillies staff has been hot and cold this season and needs to get hot again in a hurry. Roy Halladay is the only member of the starting staff that has an ERA under 4.00 and that simply won’t cut it over the next month. This team may need to win a couple of games by 3-2, or 2-1 scores and for that to happen the starters must show more than they have so far this season. Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick have the most room to improve and one may be pushed by a returning J.A. Happ.

4. A surprise candidate must emerge: This could come from anywhere. Maybe somehow Greg Dobbs will remember to hit again? Maybe Ibanez will go on a tear like he did the first half of last year? Maybe one of the team’s backup catchers has the best two weeks of his career? Maybe the Phillies reacquire Cliff Lee and none of this will matter? No matter where it comes from the team will need unexpected productions to keep moving forward in July.

5. The Braves and Mets slump: Most believe that the Braves and Mets have overachieved the last two months. If that is indeed the case it is fair to suggest that a downward swing is coming. The Braves (5-5) and Mets (4-6) may already be in the process of doing so as their last 10 games have not gone well. Consider that the Mets are just 15-22 on the road and have an 11-game West Coast trip coming in the second part of July and its not hard to see them falling off. As for the Braves, the Phillies can help themselves from July 5-7 when they host Atlanta for a big series.

So there you have five ways that the team can keep winning despite the recent injuries. If a few of these factors take place there is no reason that the Phillies can’t be right at the top of the pack when Utley and Polanco return.

Welcome back Jimmy Rollins

Through his first 17 innings back with the team Jimmy Rollins hadn’t exactly announced his return. He was hitless in eight at-bats and had made a costly throwing error that helped the Cleveland Indians close in on a victory Wednesday night.

Then with one mighty swing in the bottom of the 9th Rollins reminded the city of Philadelphia just how valuable he is.

Rollins blasted a walk-off two-run home run down the right field line that gave the Phillies an inspiring 7-6 win. Though it is hard to believe, Wednesday was the first time in his career that Rollins hit a home run to an end a game.

Not everything went the Phillies way on this night. Kyle Kendrick was awful, allowing five runs in 4-plus innings, the Phillies made a pair of errors, and Chad Durbin strained his hamstring.

Yet by night’s end it was Rollins who had the final say. The Phils still have a long way to go to get back atop the NL East with both the Braves and Mets surging, but having Rollins back and healthy is a big step towards doing just that.

Phillies designate Greg Dobbs

The return of Jimmy Rollins meant that someone would have to go. As it turns out that someone is Greg Dobbs.

The Phillies designated  Dobbs for assignment, giving them 10 days to either trade, release or place him on waivers. To sum it up: Dobbs’ time in Philadelphia is over.

Bellow is an excerpt from a story:

Dobbs, who was one of the top pinch-hitters in the National League in 2007 and 2008, was 1-for-25 as a pinch-hitter while hitting .152 with one home run and six RBI overall.

The Phillies have also placed catcher Carlos Ruiz on the disabled list while recalling leftander Mike Zagurski from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

In 2007 and 2008, Dobbs hit .284/.331/.467 (.798 OPS) with 19 home runs and 95 RBI in 598 plate appearances. During the Phillies’ run to their title in 2008, he went 7-for-14 with two runs scored and two walks. But he struggled throughout last season, hitting .247/.296/.383 (.679 OPS) with five home runs in 169 plate appearances, including a 9-for-54 performance as a pinch-hitter.

You can read the full article here:

This is a great move by the management as Dobbs has been dead weight this season. He should be remembered fondly for his contributions over the past few years, but clearly he needed a change of scenery as he has provided nothing this year.

Phillies offense on a tear

The Phillies put an exclamation point on their quick start this season by loading up early and often on the Nationals in their fifth meeting and winning 14-7.

Amid concerns that with the loss of Jimmy Rollins and Jaysen Werth, the team may struggle on offense; the rest of the team turned in another winning performance.   Werth made a late performance as a pinch hitter so it seems obvious his absence from the starting lineup will be brief.   Rollins calf injury may be more serious then was at first thought, which is a shame given his extremely fast start.

If there is ANY early question about the Phillies this year, it would have to be their starting pitching.  Halladay is a lock, and Hamels is 2-0 but has been shaky. Happ looks as good as he did last year and Moyer just keeps throwing up W’s.  But tonight, Kendrick, subbing for the injured Joe Blanton, lasted a mere 1 and 2/3  innings after giving up 6 runs and saw his ERA shoot above 17.   We need Blanton back.  Hey, where was the last Martinez sighting anyway ?

Three middle relievers combined to hold the Nationals to 1 run from the 3rd inning on.

The bottom line, no matter the injury, the focus is on offense.  When one Phillie is out of commission, another simply steps it up a notch and fills the gap.  There are many teams that struggle to score 14 runs at all in a game, and I have the feeling we may see this another dozen or more times this year, when the team gets in sync and everyone has a couple hits and a couple RBI.

Tonight, Victorino broke out of his mild slump with a 4-5 day with a triple, homerun, and 5 RBI’s.  He was listed on ESPN’s MLB top performers of the day board.  Utley went 2-4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI.  He also appeared on the top performers board.  Polanco maintained his torrid pace going 2-4 to keep his average in the .480′s

Overall the first four in the lineup were a combined 10-18 with 12 RBI.

It seems clear to me now that the team is off to a 7-1 start that they may be substantially better than they were in 2008.  If the pitching solidifies, this offense is lethal.  And every new addition to the sluggers row has stepped up and over performed, as in Ibanez, and Francisco and now Polanco.  With six guys in the lineup that are each capable of a clutch hit, homerun or other run producing play, it is extremely difficult for a pitcher to work his way through this lineup.

Oh, and by the way, our pitchers can hit too !

Looks like it is going to be a long, enjoyable summer ahead with the Phillies setting the pace the whole way !

Phils win home opener, now 6-1.

The Phillies won their home opener 7-4 behind Cole Hamels to run thier National League leading record to 6-1.    They dealt Marquis his second loss of this young season.  Hamels and Halladay are now both 2-0 and the Phillies bats are smoking hot.

Jimmy Rollins was a late scratch due to a calf injury but his replacement, Castro, was 1-4 with a double and an RBI.   Rightfielder Jayson Werth left the game after the fifth inning due to a sore left hip.   Chase Utley ripped a two run homerun with one out in the fifth.

Ibanez and Victorino are the only two starters who have not hit their stride as yet, with the remainder of the starting lineup batting above .290.  The team as a whole continued their torrid hitting. They’re averaging 7.1 runs and 11 hits per game.

The fans showed up in force for the home opener, giving the Phillies their 43rd consecutive sellout at home dating to last season.

Game 2 of the series is tomorrow night, and the Nationals have got to be searching for answers after dropping 3 of their first 4 games against the defending NL champion Phillies.  Even the new pitcher signed for 15 million after an All Star year with Colorado last year was unable to keep the Phillies hitters in check.  Our team now leads all of baseball in hitting.

I limited myself to 2 hotdogs and four beers and had a great time rooting for my Phillies.  For some reason a Mets fan sat behind me and booed every time the Phillies had a good play, but after checking the standings, I refrained from comment, the poor guy already has enough going against him and the Mets season is only going to get worse once they starting playing Philadelphia !

I think I will have to get tickets in my normal spot on April 30th and see if he shows up again to watch the Phillies play the Mets for the first time this year.  Maybe I will buy him a beer.  Who says Philadelphia fans are horrible ?

The extra bad news for my friend in blue; it is likely Halladay will have the start on that Friday night game, in which case, the Mets, who will arrive at Citizens Bank sporting a 6-16 record or so, don’t have the faintest chance !

Strong start for Phitens-home opener today at 3

The Phillies finished thier opening road trip with a 5-1 mark, representing thier best start for a season since 1993 when they started 7-1.  Not only did they win 5 of 6 games but did so by outscoring the opponent 43-18. 

To be fair, the teams they played were not top echelon teams.  The Phillies return for their home opener today at 3pm and face the Nationals for the 4th time already this season.  This time the matchup is Cole Hamels against the Nationals Marquis who gave up 6 runs in 4 innings in his first start against the Phillies down in Washington.

The Phillies started strong, leading the majors in hits, runs, slugging percentage and batting average on their first road trip.  They rank second with a team 2.72 ERA.  They look to continue their success at home. 

Halladay is already paying dividends, going 2-0 with a .56 ERA in his first two starts.  The offense has returned in force with 5 starters currently batting .348 or better.  7 starters have an OBP of .400 or higher.  Polanco, the other off season acquisition is paying equal dividends to Roy Halladay as he is 13-27 with 1 home run and 8 RBI through the first 6 games.   Ryan Howard is leading the team in homeruns (3)  RBI (10) and is batting .357 with only 4 strikeouts.   Jimmy Rollins started the season off looking like the MVP he was several years ago with his batting average pushing .400 and his OBP over .500, exactly what the Phillies need out of their leadoff batter. 

The last time the Phillies started the season this strong, they won the NL East, then won the NLCS against the  Braves, prior to losing to the Blue Jays in the World Series.  More typically of late, this team has started off average and then accelerated through May and June to lead the NL East for the majority of the summer and fall.  This year they actually look to lead the division from start to finish.   Florida briefly held a game advantage but that was swiftly erased when the Phillies went to Houston and swept the Astros last week. 

Even the pitching staff is hitting, with Hamels, Halladay and Moyer all collecting hits on their opening road trip.   When the pitching staff is batting 4-15 you get the feeling this may be the year the Phillies put it all together and set many records en route to another World Series victory. 

The Phillies started the season ranked #3 in the MLB power rankings, behind the NYY and the Red Sox in the AL.   The Yankees are now 4-2 and Boston is at .500 at 3-3 so it is probable the Phillies will move up in the ranking. 

Now I have to sign off, and get moving, so I can get to the park in time for some tailgating before the game starts in 2 1/2 hours.  I was privileged to watch the season opener in DC and am now going to watch the home opener live at Citizens Bank.  I will report on the game once I return home.    If you are my boss, and are reading this, I REALLY am sick, and my doctor prescribed an afternoon of $9 beers and fresh air, so I have to go.  Just don’t ask me for the note, because I think I lost it already ! 

Go Phillies !!!!

Phillies dominate Nationals

The first game of the season is in the books and things turned out exactly as Phillies fans hoped it would. Roy Halladay was dominant over 7 innings and Placido Polanco had six RBIs and a grand slam in an 11-1 spanking of the Washington Nationals.

Opening Day is the always time for overreactions from fans, so I won’t go there.

But I will give you a few quick thoughts.

First impressions

— Halladay has some serious movement on all of his pitches. Not much Halladay did surprised me today as he is the model of an ace. Actually the only thing that was a surprise was each time the Nationals managed a hit. His stuff was that good today.

— Tom McCarthy loves him some Roy Halladay. I’m talking about the “want to take him home” kind of love. It was bad.

— The Phillies are going to lead the league in Grand Slams again. When Polanco is raking them out, you know your in for big things. Plus this team always fills up the bases.

— Rollins looks like the J-Roll of old. He clearly wasn’t himself last season, never really finding a groove after an awful first half of the year. He had two hits and was on base four times. In other words, he was a perfect leadoff hitter.

— The Mets won 7-1 today, which is good news for the Phillies’ rival. The bad news: Four more days until Santana can throw again.

— Sarge went the whole game without using the phrase “as well” or “slide-piece.” Don’t expect it to happen again.

— As I’m writing this Braves rookie Jason Heyward just destroyed a home run in is first career at-bat. This kid might just be as good as advertised.

— The Phillies played smart, sound baseball. Now all they have to do is keep that up for a 161 games plus the playoffs.

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.

Wright thinks Mets will win NL East

I guess this counts as “We’re the team to beat” Part 4.

Like the Phillies, the Mets opened Spring Training action yesterday and it didn’t take the team long to show off it’s confidence for the upcoming season. Despite a 72-90 year, David Wright believes the Mets are World Series contenders.

The following is an excerpt from a NY Post report:

“We’re expecting to go out there and win the National League East and go deep in the playoffs and win the World Series,” Wright said, a day before Mets pitchers and catchers were required to report to spring training. “That is the expectation I’ve gotten from the guys who are here early, and I [expect] this team is to get back to where we are winning the National League East.”

You can read the entire article here.

OK, it’s not exactly the type of verbal jab that Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Beltran have made in the past, but for now it’s going to have to be good enough.

Something was missing last year with the Mets out of the race. Part of what made the two previous NL East titles so great was the way it came down to the last week against a big time rival.

On paper the Phillies should be at least eight to 10 games better than the Mets this season, so the New York-Philadelphia rivalry may be put on hold for another year. Then again, the Mets still have a solid core and a counterpart to Roy Halladay in Johan Santana, so maybe things will tighten up again.

David Wright sure thinks so.

Even though Wrights comments were mild and meant as support for his teammates, the media is sure to run with this story, so expect some type of rebuttal from Rollins and company.

If nothing else, it should give the rivalry a nice kick in the butt after a year off.