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.
You can call this Operation Save Jayson Werth.
Speculation about the Phillies being unable to retain Werth’s services after this coming season have been going on since Werth established himself All-Star last season. With contracts already given out to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Shane Victorino and company, and the Phillies front office setting a cap to its spending, many fans believe this will be it for Werth in a Phillies uniform.
Of course a lot can happen between now and the start of free agency next season, but if Werth continues to take his game to new levels, the dollars in his next contract will also head north.
More bad news came out this weekend when the New York Post reported that Werth had an hour-long lunch with Yankees Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Philly.com is reporting that “The strong implication was that Jackson was doing some early recruiting since Werth can be a free agent at the end of the season.”
As if the Yankees need to recruit. Their method of recruiting involves hiring a truck driver to unload a U-Haul full of cash at a free agents door. That type of negotiation tactic speaks for itself.
For his part, Werth said that Jackson is an old family friend and that the two were just catching up.
I believe him.
But that won’t stop the rumors that will persist throughout the season, particularly if Werth puts up monster numbers again.
I understand that the Phillies have a budget and plan to stick to it. I also understand they sell out home stand after home stand. If they want to charge $7 for a beer, the least they can do is put some of that money into a “Save Jayson Werth Fund.”
If Werth hits the open market the Yankees, Red Sox and whoever else is in need of, and can afford, a guy who hits over 30 home runs and has a strong arm in the outfield will come calling.
As much as it pains me to say it, this is the time for the Phillies to take after the Yankees. Just open up that check book baby.
Werth’s value is only going to get higher and fans shouldn’t be forced to cringe every time he has a two-homer game, knowing that it just became even harder to re-sign him.
How do you view spring training numbers?
Spring Training is the time of year where all kinds of opinions get thrown out. A young player who comes up and gets six hits in their first 10 at-bats is referenced as the next Mike Schmidt.
Veteran players who struggle for a couple weeks get titles such as “washed up” and “over-the-hill”.
It’s all part of the baseball landscape. Judgments are made at a time of year when the players aren’t even judging themselves. A pitcher could give up six runs a 3 1/3 and be quoted afterwards as saying “It was a good day. I got my pitches over strikes and I think my command is coming along.”
But maybe you are a stat guy and Spring Training numbers matter to you. If that’s the case, here are the numbers that are the best and worst from Clearwater with 11 days to go until the real baseball starts.
Roy Halladay — 3 games, 10 innings 1-0 record, 0.90 ERA. He has been everything he was advertised to be. His 14 K’s have given fans a reason to be excited about Doc’s arrival.
Danys Baez — 7 games, 8.2 innings 6 K’s, 1-0 record, 1.04 ERA. The Phillies bullpen has been the most questioned aspect of this team this Spring. Baez was the only big acquisition to the group and could be the man in charge of the 8th inning. He could also close if the 2009 Brad Lidge shows up.
Placido Polanco — 39 at-bats, 16 hits, 1 SO and a .410 average. Like the two before him, Polanco is new to the team and has started strong. His ability to put the ball in play in 38 of 39 at-bats is just what the Phillies offense needs.
Cole Hamels — 14.2 innings, 10 runs, 8 earned, 4.91 ERA. Hamels hasn’t technically been the worst pitcher in camp, but he also hasn’t shown much to show he will bounce back from a bad 2009.
Raul Ibanez — 37 at-bats, 4 hits, .108 average. Ibanez insists he is fine and there is no reason not to believe him. This guy has been around long enough to know Spring Training stats are worth nothing. That said, fans would feel a lot better if he started swinging the bat like he did in the first half of last season.
Chase Utley — 31 at bats, .258 average, 0 extra base hits. Utley was not himself the second half of last season as an injury held down his power. So far that power has not shown its face this Spring. Thirty-one at-bats is a long stretch for a player of Utley’s quality to go without an extra-base knock.
So there you have it, the best and the worst with 10 days to go. Do of it what you want.
Just remember, on April 5, everyone’s stats go back to zero.
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.
The very nature of the idea is straight out of a video game. Trading one superstar for another? It just doesn’t happen in professional sports.
Yet according to sources the Phillies have kicked around the idea of looking into a deal with St. Louis that would send Ryan Howard to the Cardinals for Albert Pujols in what would be the biggest trade in baseball history. The report, which can be read on ESPN.com includes a denial by Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro who said, “That’s a lie. I don’t know who you’re talking to, but that’s a lie.”
To be clear, this deal would never happen. You could line up all the reasons why it would be feasible — including Pujols’ impending free agency next year and St. Louis being Howard’s hometown — but you would be wasting your time.
These things just don’t happen. But it is fun to talk about.
So would you make the move?
They both are the same age, Howard a couple months older, play the same position and are on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. While Howard has emerged as the greatest power hitter in the game, Pujols is widely regarded as the best player in baseball. Both players have are loved by their hometown fans and neither has been linked to performance enhancing drugs.
There is no right answer with this one as you couldn’t go wrong with either player.
But who would you rather have?
It is pretty much a forgone conclusion that Eddie Jordan will not be welcomed back next season as the coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Hopefully, half the roster is shown the door with him.
The Sixers do not have the least talent in the NBA. Their roster includes a former All-star at power forward (Elton Brand); a talented, if overpaid guard (Andre Iguodala); a $12 million center (Samuel Dalembert); a young guard scoring 14.9 PPG (Lou Williams); and a young forward with big upside (Thaddeus Young).
Yet they play like the Washington Generals.
The Sixers aren’t just losing, they are failing to show up. In nine of the most recent 10 losses the team has suffered, the Sixers have been defeated by double digits.
Some of these losses can be explained. Losing by double figures to the Lakers, Magic, Hawks, Suns and Celtics can at least be partially accepted for a team that was not expected to be a contender when the season started.
However, big losses to the Heat, Bulls, Raptors, Pacers and most recently the Bobcats can not. There simply is no excuse for the team’s lack of competitive spirit.
It’s not like tanking the season will do the Sixers any good, as the Nets (seven wins) and Timberwolves (14 wins) already have the top two in the lottery locked up. Being the third-worst team in the NBA won’t give the Sixers enough ping pong balls to really make a difference from being the sixth worst team.
It is clear that this team doesn’t care. They have a bunch of veteran players who got fat contracts for mediocre production. They do have some promising youth in Young and Jrue Holiday, but they have not been around long enough to make their opinions heard in the locker room.
The Sixers have no identity and that’s a problem that must be fixed soon. Does anyone know the plan for this team? I certainly haven’t heard one.
This city is not going to tolerate quitters. This year’s group of Sixers fits under that billing. The attendance has reflected that
It’s time to blow the whole thing up, from GM Ed Stefanski, to Jordan, to a large bulk of the roster. This team is going nowhere. It’s time the front office and roster does.
I believe it is foolish to get wrapped up in Spring Training statistics, particularly when they come from players who have already secured roster spots.
When a player goes through an 0-for 10 stretch at the plate, it’s not something that gets me worked up, and likewise if a young player goes through a 7-for-10 stretch I don’t jump to the conclusion that the Phillies have the next great thing on their hands.
But once in awhile I see something in Spring Training that holds my attention. Today Cole Hamels did exactly that.
The notion that the Phillies chances of winning a second World Series in three years hinges on Hamels being the pitcher of 2008 and not the sub-.500 one of 2009 has been exhausted to death. so I am not going to go into it. Phillies fans know Hamels has to pitch better and become a strong No. 2 behind Roy Halladay. What they want is to see it.
Today we got a taste.
Hamels retired the first nine batters he faced and struck out four in a 3 2/3 innings appearance in the Phillies 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. It wasn’t all good news for the young left-hander, as he did give up a solo home run and walked a pair, but the fact that he was able to find a groove is a good sign for the team. Hamels is experimenting with a couple pitches so he could be excused for some troubles, but they have yet to show themselves this Spring.
It was only 3.2 innings and it’s only Spring Training, but Hamels took a step forward in what will be a long quest to prove that an ugly 2009 is behind him.
It should be noted that while Hamels was showing he was ready to be a top of the rotation pitcher, former Phillies prized prospect Kyle Drabek was giving the Blue Jays a taste of why they traded Halladay. Drabek started the game and pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just a hit and a walk. Not much was hit hard against Drabek as five of the six outs came on ground balls.
Like with Hamels, it is much to soon to predict what this season will hold for Drabek.
But for today, the results were very positive.
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.
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.
Villanova was the latest victim, getting outplayed by a desperate Uconn team to the tune of an 85-74 final. A couple of days before that Rutgers beat Syracuse and St. Johns took down Louisville.
Keep in mind this is a Uconn team that is firmly on the bubble just to make the NCAA Tournament and Rutgers and St. John won’t sniff the event.
If Uconn was to get in, the Huskies might just make a run to the Elite Eight. I have become convinced that it takes more skill for teams to be in the middle of the pack in the Big East, than it does to be in the top three teams in any other conference.
Good luck with your brackets come March. In the Big East alone, Nova, West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Louisville each have a chance to make a deep run. Heck, if Notre Dame and Cincinnati can find their way into the tournament, a Sweet 16 spot isn’t out of the question.
As AP sports writer Dave Skretta points out here the Big East looks better than ever.
I still give Villanova a slight edge heading into the conference tournament due to the Wildcats experience and the standout play of Scottie Reynolds.
But Syracuse could also win.
Or West Virginia.
In Philadelphia every offseason is about Donovan McNabb.
Only this time, Philadelphia is not alone.
ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio says that the drama around McNabb is the story off the offseason. Bellow is an excerpt:
Philadelphia is the only team in the NFL with all three quarterbacks on its roster going into the final year of their contracts. Teams are calling, wondering who’s available, who’s not and what the Eagles would want in any potential trade.
The Eagles’ front office is listening. But here’s the kicker: The Eagles, according to multiple league sources, have so far told teams that both McNabb and his primary backup, Kevin Kolb, are not available.
Now, does that mean the Eagles won’t trade McNabb? Definitely not. Most league insiders believe the Eagles are just posturing right now, trying to determine the market and how to proceed. If the team says publicly or privately McNabb is on the trading block, its bargaining position would tank.
You can read the complete article here.
The word sources has been thrown everywhere lately and none of it has been verified. On the same day a source told a Buffalo newspaper that McNabb would be open to a trade to the Bills, and a source told ESPN that he would not be open to a trade to Buffalo.
Sometimes I think sources are pulled from the thin air.
It seems set in stone that at least one member of the Eagles’ quarterback trio and maybe a second will be traded. Who that is and where he/they end up is anyone’s guess right now. The speculation will be endless and the Eagles front office has to be loving every second of it. The more their quarterbacks are pumped up, the more the Eagles can ask for in a trade. The trading game is all about having leverage and with three quarterbacks that teams believe can be starters, the Eagles are holding all of the bargaining chips.
Among the teams that have talked to the Eagles, according to multiple sources, are the Denver broncos, Cleveland Browns, St. Luis Rams and Buffalo Bills.
Eight teams, three spots.
Note: This is being published before Saturday’s games have been concluded.
Elimination No. 1 – New York Islanders: Is it hard to call a division opponent a “feel-good” story? The Islanders have been bottom dwellers for the better part of a decade but are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Once a given win on the Flyers schedule the Islanders have proven tough to beat this season and are currently 23-23-8. At time of publication the team was trailing the Flyers 2-1 in a game that could help our hurt their place in the standings.
Because they have struggled for so long, I want to root for this team to sneak in a grab a playoff spot but the evidence isn’t there. They still lack consistent scoring and their April schedule is brutal.
They close the season with just one easy game (Carolina) in their last six and their final three gamess come against Pittsburgh (twice) and New Jersey.
Elimination No. 2 – Montreal: The Canadians have the most games played (55) of all of the contenders, giving them less games to gain points down the stretch, but that isn’t why they will be on the outside.
The offense for the Habs, just isn’t consistent enough. They have the 28th ranked offense in the NHL. They have scored three-or-more goals just three times over their past 12 games. The team does have a chance if they stay in contention until the final week, as Montreal closes with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Maple Leafs.
I just think it will be too late by then.
Elimination No. 3 – Florida: By eliminating the Panthers I am going against the old adage great goaltending can take a team far into the playoffs. In this case, I don’t think the stellar play of Thomas Volkan can even get the team into the postseason. Volken has done an amazing job keeping his team in the race, posting a 2.37 goals-against average.
The problem with this team is that it has not shown an ability to get hot for long stretches. The Panthers have not had a winning streak longer than three games this year, while they have lost four straight twice, and five straight another. The teams that sneak in the playoffs will be the ones that catch fire down the stretch. I don’t see that ability in the Panthers.
Elimination No. 4 – Tampa Bay: Quite honestly I don’t understand how the team has stayed in it to this point. They have by far the worst goals for/goals against total among the playoff competitors with a -23. The second worst is the Rangers with a -12. By contrast the Flyers are a +10 in that department. Even more remarkable is that only three players on the Tampa Bay roster have a plus rating. Even Martin St. Louis, who has a team-high 57 points, is a -4.
Those stats will catch up with this team sooner, than later.
That leaves us with the Flyers, Rangers, Bruins and Thrashers as the final teams fighting for the three open playoff spots.
On Sunday I will examine which three will be have the best shot of punching their ticket to the postseason.
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?
For the third time in a week the Phillies locked up one of their starters with a three year deal.
It is being reported that Carlos Ruiz and the team have agreed to an $8.85 million, three-year contract that avoids salary arbitration.
Ruiz joins Joe Balnton and Shane Victorino as members who have joined the three-year club last last few days.
Three has indeed been a magical number for the organization. When the team acquired ace Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays, they singed him to an extension that guaranteed to keep him in town for the next three years. The team then worked quickly to lock up Balnton, Victorino and Ruiz for what they hope will be three more years of success, including this year where they look to make their third trip to the World Series in — you guessed it — three years.
This is great news for Phillies fans as almost all of the starters will be in place until at least 2011 and most until 2012. Given the age of the core there is no reason to expect decline from the majority of the players and improvements are still possible. The one player who has yet to be locked up is Jayson Werth, who could taste the free agent market after the upcoming season. With the payroll already set to pass $140 million and not much coming off the books next season outside of Jamie Moyer’s $7 million it may be difficult to keep Werth, who appears on the verge of stardom.
Baseball is a business and it is impossible to keep all of the pieces together, but Ruben Amaro Jr. has done an excellent job of keeping the large majority of things the same.
Now all that is left is making sure the level of play remains the same.
The signing of Ruiz basically closes the book on the Phillies’ offseason. Last week the team added veteran — and I mean veteran — pitcher Jose Contreras, so the bullpen is pretty much set. I wouldn’t mind seeing another starter added to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, but with the Phils maxed out on funds, anyone they bring in would be a long-shot at best.
With that said it would be hard to grade this offseason anything lower than a B+ with the only flaw being the decision not to roll the dice on keeping Cliff Lee for one more season and giving the team the best rotation in the game.
Nothing says “hot stove” like backup catcher signings!
While it’s not the kind of news that will get fans screaming in excitement about another World Series run, the Phillies addressed one of their needs on Tuesday, signing former Met Brian Schneider to be the team’s backup catcher.
While Schneider doesn’t bring much of a bat to Citizens Bank Park, he is a solid defensive catcher and is certainly an upgrade over Paul Bako. It is a homecoming of sorts for Schneider who played his high school ball at Northampton High School, near Allentown.
Last season he was one of the many Mets who suffered an injury during the season and underperformed when healthy. He hit just .219 in 51 games.
However, Schneider is a quality defensive cather, having thrown out more would-be base stealers than any other catcher in the game. While he doesn’t have the arm he did in the early part of the decade, he is sill serviceable.
Speaking of catchers, former Phillies’ fan favorite Chris Coste has traded places with Schneider, signing with the Mets on a 1-year deal. Although he is now playing for the rival of his former team, Coste made it clear that his he never wanted to leave the Phillies.
Below is a brief piece from an interview Coste had with Comcast SportsNet:
“It was the Mets,” Coste said. “It’s the last team I ever saw myself playing for. I knew I was going to accept it, but had to think about it for a few days. It wasn’t my choice to leave Philly,” Coste said. “I never wanted to leave Philadelphia, I will always consider myself a Phillie.”
For those of you keeping score, the Phillies bench now has four residents, with Ben Fransisco, Greg Dobbs and the newly acquired Juan Castro joining Schneider. A replacement for Matt Stairs has yet to be signed.
It is clear that the final bench player must have some pop in his bat (likely an outfielder), since Dobbs, Castro and Schneider do not fit that bill. On Thursday we will look at some of the candidates that could fill that roll.
In the meantime, who do you think the Phillies should add to the bench?