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


Division: Clinched. Business: Unfinished.

Carlos Ruiz after the Phillies clinch the 2010 NL East titleI’ve always been awed by the ability of major league ballplayers to keep things in perspective. Consider Roy Halladay. Halladay signed what was then the richest contract in Phillies history in terms of annual salary, replaced a fan favorite, and, like Atlas, lifted the hopes and expectations of a city of 1.6 million on his shoulders. Tonight was his 33rd appearance of the year, and he was perhaps as stunning this evening as at any other point in his six months in red pinstripes (his perfect game in May notwithstanding). 97 pitches, 65 strikes, no walks, two hits, six strikeouts, no runs allowed. Methodical is the word that comes to mind.

Pitch no. 97 was a fading 84-mph split-fingered what-the-hell-was-that?-ball low and on the outside corner to a befuddled 23-year-old Nationals infielder named Danny Espinosa. I was sitting in Mac’s Tavern on Second and Market when that ball hit Carlos Ruiz’s glove. Mac’s is not really a sports bar, and it was only half full, but its patrons celebrated pitch no. 97 with appropriate pomp and circumstance: the Rocky theme was played, strangers were hugged, fists pumped, and high-fives exchanged. This fourth straight division title is an unprecedented occurrence for this team, so we were pretty jazzed. Imagine how Roy Halladay, a veteran of 13 major league seasons with nary a playoff appearance, must have reacted!

Methodically. Halladay, veteran of 13 major league seasons, none of them ending in playoff runs, pumped his fist, walked off the mound, and gave his catcher a peremptory hug. The eight position players on the field, seven of whom has played in a World Series in the past five years, were similarly nonplussed. Jayson Werth, whose two extra base hits and four RBIs paced a Phillies attack that methodically hung eight runs on five Washington pitchers, jogged in from right field to join the party. The ordinarily effervescent Shane Victorino couldn’t be bothered even to do that–he walked.

The fracas on the mound (if you could call it that) seemed staged, a display no one really wanted to bother with and only put on for the benefit of the TV cameras. The Phillies looked, for lack of a better word, bored with the division title. They expect to have another shot at this pitching-mound-orgy-and-champagne-shower business in a couple weeks. Considering recent events, that might be a reasonable expectation.

Here are some photos from tonight’s game courtesy of Brian:

Gameday: Mets (74-79) at Phillies (93-61)

New York Mets (74-79) at Philadelphia Phillies (93-61)

Atlanta BravesDillon Gee, RHP (1-1, 1.80 ERA) vs. Kyle Kendrick, RHP (10-9, 4.78 ERA)

Time: 7:05, Citizens Bank Park
Clear, 80
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It doesn’t seem that long ago when beat writers and reporters were using words like ‘must-win’ and ‘crucial’ when describing upcoming Phillies games.  Now while the crown is still up for grabs, the Phillies are on fire.  Their magic number to clinch the NL East is two and they are showing no signs of slowing down.

It was hard to even think the Phillies would have a magic number back in July when they were seven games back behind the Atlanta Braves in the division.  However, the Phillies have completed flipped those numbers going 45-15 since July 22 and have built a 6.5 game lead heading into the last week of the season.

The Phillies can come one game closer to clinching by knocking off the Mets in the second game of this three game series tonight.  They will be looking to Kyle Kendrick (10-9, 4.78) to get the job done.  Kendrick could be making his last start of the season, depending how Charlie Manuel sets up his rotation for a likely playoff berth.

Kendrick has been your typical 5th starter all year long.  Inconsistency has troubled the young right hander in his last couple of outings.  He only has three wins in his last seven starts going an average of 5+ innings and giving up a little over three runs a game.  The offense will once again be asked to pick up the slack.  Something they have had no problem doing over this current 11 game winning streak.

Shane Victorino is hitting .385 against the Mets in 13 games collecting 12 hits and three homeruns.  However, those stats won’t mean anything going into tonight.  The Phillies will be facing Mets’ rookie pitcher Dillon Gee (1-1. 1.80).  Gee is making just his fourth start of his career and faces probably his toughest opponent yet.

The Phillies have the best record in all of baseball and have won 20 of their last 23 games.  They are streaking to a fourth consecutive NL East title and looking to represent the National League in the World Series for a third straight year.

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

Your gameday beer: Yards Love Stout
Victory LagerAnything from Yards is a friend of mine. They just make damn good beers. My favorite is Yards ESA, but this Love Stout is intriguing. Right now, it’s cask conditioned at Grey Lodge Pub in Northeast Philadelphia, another enticing factor. Since I’v never tried the Love Stout, I can’t say first hand how it looks or tastes. But by all accounts, it’s a very dark beer with a dark head that has a chocolate and coffee aroma. For you java lovers, this could be gold. If your in Philly, get down to the Grey Lodge and order a burger med-well with one of these and enjoy the game. -Pat Gallen


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.

Houston we have a problem

For months Phillies fans trotted a sentence that went something like this: “If we can just stay in the race while our stars are out, this team will catch fire once its healthy.”

The team played well above expectations during injuries to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz … and so on.

Now that the gangs finally all here, things were supposed to really take off. Instead, the team has gone into another funk. The Phillies lost to the Astros 3-2 last night, marking the third straight game it has dropped to the lowly Astros. Making matter worse is that two of those losses have come in games started by Brett Myers and J.A. Happ, two former Phillies.

While fans have been stunned by the way the team has played recently, they really should not be. When players are away from the game as long as Utley and Howard were, they rarely come back tearing the cover off the ball. It takes time to get back into a rhythm and unfortunately time in in short supply when you get to mid August. Utley’s swing isn’t quite back yet, while Howard is in a 2-19 funk since returning. That combination could have the Phillies reeling right now but thankfully for them the Braves have joined them in struggling this past week. Atlanta did the Phillies a huge favor yesterday, blowing a 10-1 lead in a loss to the Rockies. Meanwhile the Phillies remain in a tie with the Giants for the Wild Card lead.

I don’t expect the Phillies recent slump to last too much longer. Howard and Utley will get their timing back and the rest of the lineup will benefit from that. This team is still in great position to make another postseason run and has the arms to go up against anyone once they get into serious October baseball. The key will be riding out this storm.

It would also help if they won today. Getting swept by the Astros in a four-game series just isn’t palatable.

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.

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 !

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.

Three becoming the number for the Phillies

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.

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 !

Yummmm….Gold Glove Update

I happened to be visiting Philly this past weekend for the first time in a while. I decided before I left that it was extremely important for me to take what I call the Pats vs. Gino’s Challenge. So, a buddy and I went into South Philly and first stopped by Pats. After following the directions printed on the building, we ordered our “Philly Wiz Wit” and of course cheese fries. I was very pleased. Not wasting anytime we walked across the street to Gino’s and after the fifteen-minute wait, we ordered two more “Philly Wiz Wits.” Although, I thought it was good, in my eyes it did not match up to Pat’s. Maybe the difference was Pats pouring on the whiz and Gino’s just smearing a little on the bread. Whatever the case, Pats won my challenge and I had to get an angioplasty. Let me hear ya Philly!!!

As expected Phil’s Short Stop Jimmy Rollins took home his 3rd consecutive Gold Glove Award on Wednesday. Teammate Shane Victorino secured his second straight award for his stellar defensive play in center field. One of the biggest keys to a good baseball team is to be strong up the middle and the Phil’s are definitely that with Ruiz, Rollins, Utley and Victorino.

The Phil’s, Cardinals and Dodgers dominated the awards by winning two Gold Gloves each. The Nationals and Padres also had players win Awards. Here is the entire list of award winners: 

C: Yadier Molina

P: Adam Wainwright

1B: Adrian Gonzalez

2B: Orlando Hudson

SS: Jimmy Rollins

3B: Ryan Zimmerman

OF: Shane Victorino

OF: Michael Bourn

OF: Matt Kemp

Gold In Sight

Tomorrow the National League Gold Glove Award Winners will be announced. There is a good possibility that the trophy room will be “philled” with red and blue.

Jimmy Rollins with his Major-League best .990 fielding percentage will almost certainly win his 3rd straight Gold Glove, but he may not be alone. Shane Victorino and Chase Utley also have a good chance of joining Rollins. For Victorino, it would be his 2nd consecutive Gold Glove and for Utley his 1st. Carlos Ruiz, Pedro Feliz and Jason Werth are sure to receive some consideration. Stay Tuned….

The American League announced its Gold Glove winners earlier today:

P: Mark Buehrle

C: Joe Mauer

1B: Mark Teixera

2B: Placido Polanco

SS: Derek Jeter

3B: Evan Longoria

OF: Adam Jones

OF: Torii Hunter

OF: Ichiro Suzuki

World Series offensive breakdown

We are now just one day away fro Game 1 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees. There promises to be plenty of drama as these two teams face off in the World Series for the first time in 50 years.

Bellow is a breakdown of how the teams match up position-by-position.

 First Base: This would be the marquee position with two players who are not only of All-Star caliber, but MVP worthy. Ryan Howard has been a monster year after year, producing 40-plus home runs and 140 RBIs a season. His defense has improved and he defines the word clutch. Most people credit Jimmy Rollins for being the engine of the team but it became clear this season that the Phillies would go as far as Howard takes them.
On the other side, Mark Teixeira has been as good as advertised. The Yankees paid him big money in the offseason and he delivered with 39 homers and 122 RBIs. He has also delivered Gold Glove play at first base. Howard’s knack for getting the big hit gives him a slight edge on offense, but Teixeira seems to save a run a game with his glove, making this a toss up.

Verdict: draw

Second base: Robinson Cano has developed into the type of players that could be a cornerstone for the Yankees for many years. He hits for average (.320) and power (25 home runs).
Chase Utley also had a strong regular season, though his average dipped to .282. Something just doesn’t seem quite right with his swing right now and he only has two RBIs in the postseason. Utley may just be the hardest-working player in baseball and if there is something wrong there is a good chance he will fix it.

Verdict: Slight edge Yankees

Shortstop: This was nowhere near Jimmy Rollins’ best year, but his second-half was certainly acceptable. Rollins is hitting just .244 in the postseason, but it was his two-run double in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the NLCS that all-but finished off the Dodgers.
Meanwhile Derek Jeter is having a career year, which is saying something given his track record. He hit .334 during the regular season and his playoff performances in the past have been well-documented. If Rollins was having a typical year this would be a tough call. Since he has struggled, the check mark has to go to the Yankees’ captain.

Verdict: Edge Yankees

Third base: Alex Rodriguez finally learned how to hit in the postseason. Like Howard, A-Rod has been an RBI machine with 12 and is hitting .438. Clearly he is making up for lost time.
Pedro Feliz has been a great defensive presence throughout his career and even with his age creeping up continues to play the position well. Offensively Feliz is not a big cog, but had a three-run homer against the Dodgers in the NLCS and has given the lineup great depth.
He’s just not A-Rod.

Verdict: Edge Yankees.

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz or “Chooch” has been a monster this postseason, both behind the plate and as a hitter. Ruiz is hitting .346 and has driven in seven from the eight-hole. His pitchers love throwing to him and he has become one of the best in the league when it comes to throwing out base stealers.
Jorge Posada is not the player he once was. He still had good numbers with 22 homers and a .285 average, but his shortcomings defensively have led to the Yankees using Jose Molina more than anticipated. In fact, the Phillies will likely see Molina in games that A.J. Burnett pitches.

Verdict: Edge Phillies.

Left Field: The Phillies could not have asked for more than what Raul Ibanez gave them this season. He was an NL MVP candidate the first half of the year and hit a career-high 34 home runs. Even at 33, his defense is not a shortcoming. “Rauuuul” instantly became a fan favorite and remains one.
The Yankees counter with Johnny Damon who can still swing the stick, but has nothing in terms of an arm in the outfield. He is a liability out there and is usually replaced in the late innings.

Note: Ben Fransisco will star in left field on the road and Ibanez will DH. We still list Ibanez as the left fielder because he will play there during the home games.

Verdict: Edge Phillies

Center field: Shane Victorino made the first of what is likely to be many All-Star game appearances this season. He led the team in several offensive categories, including hits (181), average .292 and steals 25. He also provided Gold Glove defense. Last season he introduced himself to all of baseball. This year he announced that he isn’t going anywhere.

Melky Cabrera didn’t quite meet the expectations he ha set for himself with a big 2008 season, but still hit a respectable .274 and is an outstanding defender. Cabrera has good speed, but can not compete with Victorino in that department. In fact, there is not one part of his game that is clearly superior to Victorino’s.

Verdict: Edge Phillies

Right field: What a player Jayson Werth has become. Finally healthy, Werth had a huge season and has kept it up in the postseason. Werth is the team-leader in home runs during the playoffs, knocking five out of the park. He is making opposing pitchers pay for pitching around Howard.

Few people would have predicted that Nick Swisher would be starting for the Yankees in the playoffs when the season started. Xavier Nady was the opening day starter but an injury erased his season after seven games. Swisher stepped in and stepped up. He is not the player Werth is, but the pop in his bat still makes him a threat.

Verdict: Edge Phillies

Designated hitter: Ben Fransisco is the extra bat added during games in New York. Seen as a throw-in in the Cliff Lee trade, Fransisco has been solid in limited action. He hit .278 on the year and is 0-for-4 in the playoffs. Matt Stairs could also see a game in this role with Ibanez playing left.

Hideki Matsui is on the south-side of his career, but can still come up with the big hit. He hits lefties and righties about the same and finished with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs.

Verdict: Edge Yankees.

There you have it, a pretty even matchup on paper. The Yankees get the edge of the infield, mostly due to A-Rod at third, while the rest of the infielders are pretty similar. The Phillies get a big edge in the outfield in both fielding and hitting. There is a reason all three players were All-Stars.


Check back later for the breakdown of the pitching matchups.

Phillies and Dodgers set for NLCS showdown

Tonight begins the next step in the Philadelphia Phillies quest to repeat as World Series champions. The Phils take on the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight at 8:07 p.m. in the first game of a best-of-seven NLCS series. Last year the Phillies beat the Dodgers in five games in the NLCS, but how will they fair this year?

 He is a breakdown of how the match up:

 Phillies Pitching:

Game 1: Cole Hamels: The lefty has had his ups and downs this season and was less than stellar in his outing against the Rockies. Against the Dodgers, however, he has been dominant. In his two starts against them this season, Hamels posted a 1-0 mark with a 0.56 ERA. He also struck out 14 while walking just one. And who can forget last year’s NLCS where Hamels went 2-0, including winning the series clincher in Game 5 and being honored as the series MVP.

Game 2: While it has yet to be confirmed by Charlie Manuel, is reporting that veteran Pedro Martinez will get the nod. It is hard to predict hat Pedro will do in his first playoff outing since he was in a Red Sox uniform.

Game 3: Cliff Lee will return to the mound on his regular day of rest and look to continue what has been a marvelous postseason. Lee has allowed just two earned runs in 16-plus innings of work this postseason and is making it clear that he is indeed an ace.

Game 4: The Phillies will trot either J.A. Happ or Joe Blanton out to the mound. Manuel’s decision may come down to which of the two he needs to use out of the bullpen in the first three games of the series. Blanton has the experience of pitching against the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS, but my guess is that Happ will get the nod here.


Dodgers pitching:

Game 1: Clayton Kershaw: One of the top young pitchers in the game, Kershaw has the kind of stuff that can cause nightmares for hitters. Against the Phillies, that has yet to be seen though. He has a 5.23 ERA in two starts against the Phils this year.

Game 2: Vicente Padilla: The first of the two former Phillies pitchers to take the mound in the series, Padilla has done surprisingly well with the West Coast squad. Acquired in a midseason trade with Texas, Padilla has pitched eight games for L.A., going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA.

Game 3: Hirokia Kuroda: Kuroda was the only Dodgers pitcher to record a win against the Phillies in last year’s NLCS. He was mediocre this season going just 8-7.

Game 4: Randy Wolf: It is hard to believe that Wolf has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the Dodgers, going 12-7 with a 3.23 ERA. A left-hander, Wolf could be a dangerous pitcher in this series.

Phillies lineup:

There are no surprises when Charlie Manuel brings out the lineup card during the postseason. Just as was the case in four NLDS games, the Phillies will go with Jimmie Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz. It is a lineup that as worked for the Phils for the majority of the year.

While Rollins has had a down year by his standards, the career years from Ibanez ad Werth have easily offset that. Werth has joined Utley and Howard to become one of the most feared middle-of-the-order trios in all of baseball.

Philadelphia’s lineup showed in Game 4 against the Rockies, that trailing in the ninth inning on the road is not anything its lineup can not overcome. Despite the team’s strikeout tendencies, one would be hard-pressed to find a better lineup in the National League.

Dodgers lineup: Joe Tore likes to play with the lineup from time to time, but for Game 1 the Phillies will see Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Casey Blake and Russell Martin.

Like Werth, Ethier had a breakout season, posting 31 homers and 106 RBIs. He has been the type of hitter that when paired with Ramirez can bring flashbacks to the Many-Big Pappy years. You don’t want to face that part of the order with the game on the line. Kemp has also been solid, providing great defense in centerfield, while hitting .297 with 26 home runs.

The big letdown for the Dodgers has been the downfall of Martin, who even until last year was one of the top hitting catchers in baseball. This season, Martin’s power disappeared and he hit just seven home runs and limped to a .250 average.

The rest of the Dodgers lineup is solid, although the Phillies should certainly be happy not have to see Jeff Kent anymore.

The Bullpen:

The Phillies: This has been a sore spot for most of the season and has been predicted to be the reason the Phillies don’t repeat as World Champions. The good news is that closer Brad Lidge showed signs of finding his old form, picking up two saves in the NLDS (even if one of them was of the one-out variety). Also promising is that left-hander Scott Eyre appears to be fie after his stumble in Game 4. The bullpen still leaves much to be desired, though, as Ran Madson continues to be hit and miss and it is still impossible to know what can be expected of Brett Myers.

The Dodgers: A team strength all season, the Dodgers’ bullpen really became solidified when the team acquired left-hander George Sherrill from the Orioles at the trade deadline. Sherrill has been remarkable since the trade, posting a 0.65 ERA in 20 appearances. He has also yet to allow a home run to a left-handed batter. Expect to see him in each game this season. The Dodgers have several other quality arms to go to in late innings as they look to get the ball to hard-throwing Jonathan Broxton. The Los Angeles closer had 114 strikeouts in 72 innings, but the Phillies have had success of him in the past, including last postseason.

The Bench:

The Phillies: While there has been little to celebrate about the Phils bench this year, it is impossible not to think of Matt Stairs’ eighth inning, two-out, two-run home run that beat the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2008 postseason. The Phillies know what they get when they send Stairs up to the plate and they will deal with his well-below par .194 average. The rest of the bench doesn’t offer much as Greg Dobbs, Miguel Cairo and Paul Bako leave a lot to be desired. Ben Francisco is a wildcard, as he has pop in his bat and his late-inning defense is valuable, as evidenced by his diving catch late in Game 4 of the NLDS.

The Dodgers: Like the Phillies with Stairs, the Dodgers have a long ball threat in Jim Thome. Though he is not the player he once was, the Thome can still hit the ball out of the park. Orlando Hudson may also come off the bench from in a couple games as Torre has been giving more starting time to Ronnie Belliard at second than expected. The Dodges also have veterans Juan Pierre Mark Loretta and Brad Ausmus.

Prediction: While the Dodgers have the better bullpen and better depth, the Phillies have a better rotation and a more dangerous lineup. A lot of people see this series going all seven games. The two big factors for the Phillies in this series will be the performances of Hamels and Pedro. Can Cole continue his dominance over the Dodgers and can Pedro muster up one more gem? If they can this series could be short. My guess is that one of them slips up but the Phillies have more-than enough to close out the Dodgers in six games.