A Yearlong Journey: How did we get here?

 


lee.jpgMonday, December 14, 2009. Moments before I sit down to take my first final exam of the semester, I receive a text saying a deal is imminent that would bring Roy Halladay to Philly. Before I could even begin to celebrate, a second text followed mentioning a minor detail….Cliff Lee would be shipped to the Pacific Northwest as part of a three-team deal between the Phils, Seattle, and Toronto.

 

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUBEN?!?!?!? How can you take an exam after that….after your ace pitcher, who genuinely loved this town and this team, gets shipped about as far away from Citizens Bank Park as possible? Without Clifton Phifer Lee, the Yankees likely sweep the 2009 World Series in an embarrassing fashion.

 

Did Halladay come here with credentials that are second to none? Of course. Should Ruben Amaro Jr. have been scrutinized for the trade as repetitively as he was over the last year? No. Some fans don’t realize that you have to give something to get something in any trade. We traded a stud; we received a stud. Bottom line.  


halladay.jpgIt was impossible to read the comments section on any Philly.com article without having some moron bring up Cliff Lee.

 

A poll question would be, “Who should start at quarterback this week? Kolb or Vick?”, and “username: clifflee4lyfe” would write-in “CLIFF LEE!!!!” A running joke, but annoying nonetheless.

 

I felt bad for Mariners fans in the great state of Washington. I’m sure some reside in Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, too. As exciting as it is to acquire of Lee’s caliber, you also want him to be amped up to come to your city. Amped up, Cliff Lee was not. How much did he dread making the trek to Seattle? He postponed his formal introduction at Safeco Field until January 22nd, a mere 38 days after the trade was finalized! (His re-introduction to the Phillies came just 38 HOURS after the trade was announced.) He tried to say all of the right things at the press conference – the clichés that fans want to hear – but he continued to reminisce on his stint in Philadelphia.

 

“I thought I’d be spending the rest of my career there. I was under the impression they wanted to keep me there for a long time.”

 

“It took me a few days [to get over it]. It was just shock….disbelief.”

 

If you’re an M’s fan, you want to hear, “I can’t wait to get out there in April, form a 1-2 punch with Felix [Hernandez], and win an AL West title.” General Manager Jack Zduriencik noticed Lee’s somber tone and said the Lee family was “very excited” to be in The Emerald City.

 


lee2.jpgIn his brief three-month tenure, I had bought a Lee burgundy/pale blue and an “unbeLEEvable” t-shirt. Those went out of style quicker than the snuggie. Now I’d have to buy a Halladay shirt? When I visited Modell’s, authentic Lee jerseys were $80 off…only $20…the same price as a Halladay tee! I went with Lee and would wear it to Halladay’s Opening Day start in Our Nation’s Capital. Some people, including the local Fox TV station, thought it meant I disagreed with the trade. Hardly. It has the wrong number, but who’s nitpicking?

 

Lee battled an abdomen injury that kept him sidelined for the first month of the season. A lot of Phillies fans took joy in this, saying Ruben had made the correct move as Halladay cruised through April! Inevitably, every Lee start was compared to Halladay, as if he asked to be traded. Clifton’s first outing was against Texas, coincidentally, and he shut out the Rangers over 7 innings of 3-hit ball. Meanwhile, the prospects acquired from Seattle were struggling in the minors. Phillies fans panicked for less than a day until Doc threw a complete game gem versus the Mets. No overreaction there!

 

I stayed up late every 5th day to watch Lee’s starts in Seattle. The calm, cool, composed nature in which he plays the game is too addicting NOT to watch. And that sprint from the mound to the dugout after each inning….legendary.

 

In early July, reports came out that Seattle and the Yankees had agreed on a trade that would send Lee to the Bronx. I could live with Lee in Seattle….not, however, pitching in pinstripes. Upon hearing this news, I proceeded to rip down my Cliff Lee Fathead in frustration.

 

Dear New York Post: Get your facts right next time. Thanks.

 


cliff.jpgIn August, Lee struggled mightily in Texas, while Roy Oswalt excelled in Philly. I argued with another passionate Phillies fan that I’d still rather have Cliff because of his desire to play for this team and city. Oswalt didn’t want to waive his no-trade clause to come to Philly. He wanted to win, but in St. Louis, closer to his home in Mississippi. Houston didn’t like the Cardinals’ package, so Oswalt relented to make the “Chutes and Ladders” jump up the standings.

 

No two Lee/Halladay starts were compared more so than game 1 of their team’s respective divisional playoff series on October 6th. Lee went 7 innings, allowing 1 run with 10 strikeouts in the afternoon against Tampa Bay. Halladay? Yeah, he one-upped Clifton a few hours later….if you don’t know why, you wouldn’t have read this far along.

 

After the Phillies were abruptly eliminated by the Giants, a majority of fans either didn’t watch the World Series (that’d be me…too soon) or took pleasure in seeing Lee struggle, Pat Burrell struggle, and Aaron Rowand ride the pine. But why, after they contributed so much to the Phillies organization?

 

Fast forward 52 weeks to Monday, December 13, 2010 at around 8 p.m. Earlier in the day, a source said there was a…..drum roll, please…..”mystery team” in on the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes. OMG MYSTERY TEAM!!! So, you’re saying we have a chance? The source also said that “mystery team’s” offer is much lower than the Yankees, but also a place Lee “loves.”

 

(::thinking:: The Phillies don’t have the financial flexibility to offer a contract a la the Yankees 7 year/$154 million offer…..and he loved his time as an Indian in Cleveland more than Lebron, but not as much as his time in Philadelphia! COULD IT BE?!)

 


mystery.jpgSo, 8 p.m. Just like last year, it’s finals week and I’m getting ready to sit down and study. Almost simultaneously, it’s announced that “mystery team” has been renamed the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

(Studying suspended.)

 

Four long, excruciating hours later, Lee becomes a Phillie as the clock strikes midnight. The Phillies are hardly a Cinderella story when it comes to spending money; however, whenever the Yankees don’t get their guy, it has to be considered an upset.

 

For the fans who thought Amaro’s hand was forced to trade Lee for prospects last year, so as not to lose him in free agency and get nothing in return? Lee never indicated that he was out to get every last dollar on the open market. While playing at Benton High School in Arkansas, he probably couldn’t have dreamed of the offers that he’d have an opportunity to sign one day thanks to baseball.

 

“At some point, enough is enough. [$120 million] is plenty of money. It’s a matter of where you’re comfortable, where you’re happy, where your family is most comfortable.”

 

As fans, we often ask when is “enough really enough?” When Jayson Werth traveled down I-95 to sign with the Nationals, a lot of Phillies fans were mad he sold himself to the highest bidder and accused him of not caring about winning. The Phillies highest offer to the right-fielder was reportedly 4years, $64 million. To these fans, I honestly ask, “Would you turn down $127 million for $64 million? Or more fathomable, $127,000 for $64,000?” Of course not.

 


cash.jpgBut Cliff Lee might have. He left about $34 million on the table from the Yankees (which if anyone finds this table full of cash, please let me know). Yes, I understand taxes are higher in New York than Pennsylvania, but it’s still considerably less. He and his wife, Kristen, simply decided that the quality of life in Philly would bring happiness that an extra $34 million in New York couldn’t buy. What were Kristen’s reasoning for initiating talks with the Phils? Compared to New York, Philly has an easier commute to the ballpark, better dining options, and teammates have more kids who are the same age as the Lee’s.  Who knew recruiting was so easy?

 

(Opening Day 2011 is April Fool’s Day. Why do I have a feeling that this rotation is a joke?)

 

family.JPGLast month, Cliff donated $1 million to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. His son Jaxon, 9, was treated for cancer there as an infant.

 

  

Interleague Play: The Only Chance the Yanks Will Ever Get to Play the Phillies

After a couple low-scoring games at the most hitter-friendly ballpark
in the Majors, the Phils dropped a 12-spot on the Reds to win the rubber match
yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on TV in Ohio? J-Roll notched his
300th stolen base and 1,500th hit in the rout.

 

J.A. Happ is finally replacing Chan Ho Park in the rotation and will
have ice water running through his veins in front of a few hundred fans at a
cheaply thrown together stadium in the Bronx tomorrow…ha, no pressure.
Interleague play was probably the greatest idea to come to baseball in the last
25 years. It’d be nice if the Phils can improve on their dismal 4-11
interleague record from last season.

 

Tonight should be a fun baseball evening around the country. Jake Peavy
is looking to show off his services to other potential suitors against Carlos
Zambrano and the Cubbies. Highly touted Rangers prospect Derek Holland makes
his first big league start in Houston. Dice-K returns to the rotation at Fenway
versus Johan and the Mets. The Big Unit faces his former team at Safeco. RJ vs.
Junior. That was THE dream batter/pitcher matchup back in the day!

 

And here are my predictions in the Friday Pick’em Contest generously hosted
by Jon, writer of The “Mc” Effect.

Padres

Yankees

Tigers

Orioles

Mets

Indians

Marlins

Blue Jays

Rangers

Brewers

Pirates

Royals

Athletics

Mariners

Dodgers

 

Have a phantastic Phillies night everyone!

Yes, James Harrison, Champions Visit the White House and Meet the President. It’s Tradition.

In hopes of finishing my freshman year on a high note, I haven’t been
giving my perspective on here. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been
following the team on a daily basis. Here’s a brief rundown of items that you
already know about, but I want to document so I have an accurate record of the
season looking back in November.

 

After losing 4 out of 5 against Atlanta and the Dodgers to
finish the home stand, a gift was waiting at Nationals Park in the form of a
four-game sweep of Washington. Unfortunately, the Mets have taken 3 of the
first 4 games this season and is the primary reason the Phils sit a half-game
back in the division.


  • Last October’s NLCS rematch
    with the Dodgers was Manny-less after he became the latest player to have his
    image tarnished by steroids.
  • In the lone win versus LA,
    Jayson Werth tied a team-record with 4 stolen bases including stealing 2nd,
    3rd, and home consecutively. Check it out:

werth.jpg

  • Jamie Moyer might be feeling
    the pressure of getting win #250, allowing 19 runs in his last three starts
    lasting 12.1 innings.
  • ·The 4-game sweep of
    Washington was completed in 46 hours and took some tinkering of the bullpen.  J.A. Happ was slated to make his first start
    of the season in Game 2 of a double-header Saturday, but a 12-inning affair on
    Friday night required him to contribute. Andrew Carpenter was called up from
    AAA Lehigh Valley and celebrated his 24th birthday (which is today!)
    early with his first Major League start and a victory despite only pitching 4.1
    innings in the rain-shortened game. He also got to wear Jackie Robinson’s #42
    as the Phils and Nats paid tribute a month belatedly.

rainfun.jpg

  • Jayson Werth and Adrian
    Gonzalez were voted as MLB’s “Most Underrated” players. With this publicity,
    does that still mean they’re underrated?
  • ·Raul Ibanez didn’t get to
    go to the White House, so he decided to take home NL Player of the Week honors
    instead. His stat line for the double-header Saturday? 5-8 with 3 homers and 7
    RBI. Those were not “boos” you heard at Nats Park. It was the influx of
    Phillies fans making the trip down and raining “Rauuuuuul” chants down, both
    literally and figuratively. This dude needs a catchy fan club name quickly.
  • I’m a little disappointed
    that the Phillies-Reds series in Cincy is in the middle of the week. If it was
    this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, I’d be there for all three games.  A trip to the new Yankee Stadium should be
    entertaining though. I hope the Phillies fans who went to D.C. saved up some
    money to visit the Bronx because I heard tickets aren’t cheap.

I went to my first game of the season on May 9th
and saw Aaron Harang help himself out with a 2 RBI single on his 31st
birthday. Jay Bruce and Jerry Hairston Jr. went yard for the Reds, while Ryan
Ludwick clubbed one for St. Louis. A perfect Saturday night weather-wise
combined with two teams playing well and Joey Votto bobbleheads being given
away resulted in the Reds first sellout since Opening Day.

May Day = Mets Day

Well, I haven’t posted in a week and figured it would be cool to get back in the action with some live blogging of tonight’s invasion of the Mets at CBP, the first of 2009. Along the way, I’ll include some tidbits from the previous 7 days. Here are the pitching matchups this weekend:

Tonight: Mike Pelfrey vs. Chan Ho Park
Tomorrow: Oliver Perez (haha!) vs. Jamie Moyer
Sunday: John Maine vs. Joe Blanton

Here is some pre-series smack talk airing on a New York television station:

Choke on what?!?! The Mets are the ballclub that has blown the division two years running. But, then again, it wouldn’t be smart advertising to include a call of Billy Wagner blowing a save or something. We’ll refer to this as necessary “false advertising.”

7:13:
So much for Chan Ho continuing his success from Sunday. A 2-run homer by Daniel Murphy gives the Muts a quick lead.

7:17:
Beltran and Wright get walked back-to-back and Rich Dubee has to pay Park a visit ONE out into the game. Oh geez…

7:20: After a strike finally crosses the plate, the fans at sold-out CBP give Park a Bronx cheer. Shortly thereafter, Ryan Church grounds into an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play! I thought the bullpen was going to be active super early for a moment.

7:31: Pelfrey retires J-Roll and Shane before hitting Utley in the shin. Now Big Howie laces one past Pelfrey’s noggin into center moving Chase to 3rd. Beltran falls FLAT on his derriere in an attempt to throw the ball home I’m presuming?!?! hahah

7:33:
Werth grounds out stranding Chase 90 feet away. Still 2-0 Muts. Let’s go Chan Ho!

7:38: This….is….ridiculous. Chan Ho is not a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. I don’t care if his ego takes a hit; he needs to be replaced by Happ. Fernando Tatis (one-year wonder in St. Louis and Omir Santos (who?) get singles to start the inning before Pelfrey is a foot away from going yard on a hanging breaking ball. Jose Reyes follows with another sacrifice fly. 4-0 Muts.

7:45: Well, this deficit only means another comeback is in order to add to 9 already in 11 victories.

7:48: Park is greeted by boos as he promptly flies out to end the 2nd. At least I’m not in total shock with Chan Ho’s effort (or lack thereof). I picked the Mets to win tonight over on The “Mc” Effect. Check out his blog on the resurgent Pirates.

7:54:
The Phillies bullpen is still quiet with 2nd and 3rd and no out after Wright doubles. Even with an day off yesterday, the relievers have been overused recently. But you can’t concede a game to the Mets this early and that’s what you’re doing with Chan Ho on the mound.

8:00: Sac Fly #3 of the night. Beltran just beats a laser from Werth in right. 5-0 Muts, middle of the 3rd. It could be worse….I feel Pelfrey about to get roughed up by the top of the order.

8:07: Pelfrey makes the 1st error of his career (quite impressive for over 300 innings pitched) on a wild pickoff throw to 1st. Utley walks. Howard flies out to left. Werth walks loading up the bases for Rauuuuuuuul Ibanez! He’s been up in this situation recently hitting a grand slam on Monday in the 8th to beat the Nats. It was the 4th time in team history the Phillies hit 2 grand slams in the same game; Howard hit the first.

raul2.jpg

8:16: And Rauuuuuul slices a 2 RBI single into left center. Fans could not have asked for a better start to the season from the new LF.

8:18: Pedro Feliz hits an RBI single! 5-3 Muts as Coste grounds out to end the 3rd.

8:27:
Park retires Reyes, Cora, and Murphy in order in the 4th. Is he settling into a groove? Probably not, but at least the bullpen didn’t have to rescue him ridiculously early.

8:38: April was not a good month for J-Roll. He only had 1 stolen base, mainly because he’s batting .202 and hasn’t been on base enough to steal. He just got caught stealing and Victorino grounds out. End of 4: Muts 5-3.

8:42:
Chan Ho doesn’t settle into grooves, but you already knew that. Wright gets one back for the Mets singling in Beltran, who doubled to lead off the 5th.

8:46: What was with the criticism with Ibanez’ defense? Reporters were saying he wasn’t much of an upgrade over Burrell. I call BS. There seems to be at least one player per game he makes that I find my self thinking, “No way Pat catches that.” He just made a pretty sliding catch in left center on Ryan Church.

8:50: Tatis doubles and Chan Ho can’t make it out of the 5th (live blogging a Chan Ho start was a terrible idea, in hindsight). He doesn’t have a decision in 3 starts, yet the Phillies have won all 3 games. Hopefully the trend will continue tonight.

8:54: Aww, c’mon Chad Durbin. This isn’t relief. Pelfrey, an .074 hitter, bloops an RBI single into right. 7-3 Muts.

9:05: Not much doing in the bottom of the 5th. Last Friday, the Phils trailed Florida 3-0 until the 9th and destroyed closer Matt Lindstrom’s pitching led by Victorino’s grand salami. Tonight, Frankie Rodriguez would be the 9th inning man — a little more experienced in closing out ballgames, so it’s pretty important to get the lead beforehand.

victo.jpg

9:14: Durbin sustains no damage as he plows through the meat of the Muts. Delgado is not playing tonight due to a sore hip.

9:22: Ugh, the Phillies broadcast is having problems on mlb.tv, so I’m forced to watch and listen to the Mets announcers on SNY. They just pointed out a nice stat though. The Mets are 0-10 trailing after 7, while the Phils are 4-6. Plenty of baseball to be played.

9:28:
Coste got thrown out at home in the 6th, but I missed it because of mlb.tv.

9:31:
Utley committed just the 4th TEAM error of the year and the 1st in 12 games. Impressive….

9:35: J.A. Happ? How can I campaign for you to be the 5th starter when you walk reliever Pedro Felicano — 0 for 6 lifetime?? Phils announcer Chris Wheeler says, “A lot of ugliness here tonight…not a pretty game.” You can say that again. 7-3 Muts, middle 7.

9:40: ATTA BOY CHASE! Solo shot to lead off the inning! The short, compact swing is a sight to behold.

9:45: Unfortunately, Howard, Werth, and Ibanez can’t add on. 7-4 Muts after 7.

9:51: Happ = 2 innings of no-hit relief, just the one brain freeze walk to Feliciano. My case stands in terms of him joining the rotation. J.J. Putz coming on in the 8th….sounds like some runs!

10:00: Well, a “W” tonight will have to come in walk-off fashion. I would love nothing
more than the Phils handing K-Rod his first blown save as a Mut. He is 4 for 4, but did allow a couple runs in a save vs. the Nats. (Note: I don’t mind K-Rod’s celebratory antics after a save because he has earned it per se, but Julian Tavarez did some sort of high-step on Wednesday after saving a 4-1 win for Washington. Victorino, who struck out, was like “what the heck are you doing?”  Thankfully, St. Louis brought Tavarez back to Earth scoring 5 times in the 9th in what was a 4-4 game.)

10:09: J-Roll gets out on a broken bat jam job pop-up to shallow right.

10:12: Shane couldn’t lay off the slurve in the dirt. Two away.

10:16: Chase draws a walk. K-Rod is struggling with his control, but J-Roll and Victorino helped him out by swinging at some balls.

10:19: Howard chases ball 4 that bounces in front of the plate. Muts 7, Phillies 4.

nometspc41.png

Nearly No-hit by Dave Bush?!?!

The only consistent
thing the Phillies have going right now is being inconsistent. Luckily, every
team in the division has been struggling this week, so no ground has been
lost.

 

Ryan J. Braun (not to be confused
with the Kansas City reliever of the same name a couple years ago), what can
you say? He can flat-out rake – 8-10 with 3 homers and 4 walks in the 3-game
series. He was on base 12 out of 14 times?! Best outfielder in the game, in my
opinion.

 

Can Hamels catch a
break?
Prince Fielder hit a rocket liner that fortunately caught Cole’s
shoulder rather than…say…an elbow. Unfortunately, he was dominating hitters
with 6 K’s in 3.1 innings and had to be taken out of the game as a
precaution. He says he simply has a “temporary tattoo of a baseball” and
expects to pitch in five days. After elbow soreness pushed back his deserved
opening day start, rainouts have forced him to pitch on 6 and 7 days rest, out
of a routine that pitchers are used to.

home run.jpg

(Here’s Ibanez watching yet another souvenir fly out setting an MLB record.)


Forget New Yankee
Stadium, CBP is still Home Run Paradise:
Congratulations
Phils, you are now in the record books for allowing a home run in the most
consecutive games with 14. (I heard this fact in passing. I’m not sure if it is
a record to start the season or at any point.)

 

Dave &$%^*(#
Bush?!?!?
If I had to guess who would have a better chance at throwing a
no-hitter, my money would be on former President Bush….H.W. that is…..at the
age of 84. Seriously, how do you allow this pitcher who is mediocre at best to
keep you hitless for 7 1/3 innings? Thank goodness for Matt Stairs hitting a
pinch-hit homer off the foul pole, but Bush would have been one of the worst
pitchers in MLB history to throw a no-no. Howeverm his parents are Phillies
season-ticket holders, so he can’t be too bad of a guy.

bush2.jpg

The lack of run
production can be attributed to one simple factor: the guys setting the table
(J-Roll and Shane) are combining to barely hit over .200. So, while Chase and
Rauuuuul are racking up extra base hits, there are no “ducks on the pond” to be
driven in! It’s frustrating, but the numbers will even out as time
progresses.

 

Around the Majors

What
a day for Darren O’Day!
At least a Major League team wants his
services unlike this next example.

 

Poor
Jason Tyner:
Milwaukee could have at least asked Detroit for some Miller Lite in
return. I’m sure the Tigers would have agreed despite these tough economic
times.

 

Have a
phantastic Phillies weekend!

April Showers Bring May…..Power Numbers?

It was pouring
buckets most of yesterday morning and afternoon where I go to school in
southeast Ohio, about eight hours west of Philly, so I had a pretty good
feeling last night’s game was going to be postponed (Somewhere during the
course of my edumacation, I learned that weather travels west to east!). The
good news is the two rainouts in the last week break up what would have been 15
straight days without an off day (fans
don’t like off days
, but players need them). The bad news is this was the
Padres lone visit to Philly and the make-up game will mean losing an off day
later in the year.

ringkey.jpg

(Fans in attendance last night received World Series ring keychains and I now attempt to get one on the black market from some profiteer. No “fan” would sell this!)


This mid-week series
with Milwaukee is the NLDS rematch from last fall which the Phillies won 3
games to 1. The 4-game sweep of the Brew Crew in September at CBP cost Ned Yost
his job and the squad is a little different in 2009. Former A’s manager Ken
Macha is one of only two new skippers (Seattle’s Don Wakamatsu being the other)
in baseball and CC Sabathia traded a lifetime of riches and praise from Milwaukeeans
for fortune and ridicule in the Bronx for not living up to his $161 million
price tag.

 

If you told me
before the game Ryan Braun would have a career-high 5 hits and 2
round-trippers, I would not be too optimistic about getting a win. However,
Jamie Moyer held the rest of the lineup in check and his offense supported him
early and often. Manny Parra somehow lasted 4 innings after almost being yanked
in the 4-run 1st. He allowed six straight batters to reach base
after retiring J-Roll on one pitch to lead off the inning. First-inning
deficits HAVE to be averted though. We must lead MLB in this category!

 

Other highlights
include:

Pedro Feliz went oppo, opposite
field for his first dinger of ’09.

J-Roll AND Shane both scored on a
R.J. Swindle wild pitch and a subsequent error by the usually-reliable Jason
Kendall.

shane.jpg

A quick reaction by Shane for a
force at 2nd on a shallow blooper that had Billy Hall tagging
leaning toward heading back to 1st.

 

Lowlights:

79-minute rain delay. BOO.

charlie.jpg

The delay occurred around the same
time as dejected Flyers fans filed out of Wachovia Center following a 3-1 L to
Pittsburgh (and now trail the series by the same 3-1 margin). I’m sure an hour
backup to get out of the Sports Complex was a joy to fans already in a
fantastic mood….sarcasm definitely intended.


Overall, a total
team effort with every starter except Big Howie recording a base hit. And guess
what? Losses by Atlanta and the Mets have catapulted the Fightins to 2nd
place in the division with a 6-6 record! It’s time to be relentless – no looking
back. A visit to Dolphin Stadium this weekend versus the division leaders is an
important litmus test. If that other team in the Keystone State is defeating
the Marlins……I’m just sayin’.

 

Hamels Shouldering
Blame?
Cole, from yesterday’s Inquirer: “If it comes down to the end of the year
and we lose the division by one game, I can easily raise my hand and say I
[messed] up. I didn’t help the team in my first couple of games of the
season.”

Why he would even bring up this unrealistic
hypothetical scenario is beyond me. But seriously, it is always nice to see professional
athletes take accountability when they’re struggling, but two starts does not
make a season. Hopefully, his mind is on shutting down the Brewers on Thursday
afternoon. He’s inferring that his jam-packed offseason schedule (that’s the
downfall of being World Series MVP) caused him to not be prepared for spring
training, which resulted in elbow issues. Thumbs
up to his wife, Heidi, and him adopting an orphan from Africa, though.

 

Around the Majors

What is better than
11 a.m. baseball on a Monday morning?
Patriots’ Day is THE most underrated holiday
and I propose every team have one A.M. start time per month. Brunch and
baseball! This is the one sweet thing about living on the Left Coast. All of
the East Coast Sunday games start at 10 a.m. = Heaven.

 

Maybe Manny Acta
will be the most man canned?
My pre-season predictions had San Diego’s Bud
Black to be the first casualty this season, but Acta is catching a lot of heat
in the Nation’s Capital – even
for mistakes made by the equipment manager
! They’ve strung together two
wins in a row to improve to 3-10 after blowing three consecutive saves to
Florida over the weekend…ouch. Whenever I watch them play, I don’t see any
desire and teams are taking advantage. Matt Diaz of the Braves legged out a
DOUBLE on the most ordinary ground ball up the middle after CF Elijah Dukes
took the laziest jog inward. Since I do reside in the D.C. metro area over the
summer, I look forward to getting nice tickets at an affordable price.

natinals.jpg


Let’s hope Kerwin
Danley makes a speedy recovery back behind the plate after receiving a mild
concussion from a broken bat of Hank Blalock. Umpiring is a thankless job and
seems to only go noticed when there is a bad call or fluke injury.

http://espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=4087781


Have a phantastic Phillies day!

Walkin’ Off in Style: Rauuuul!

Six days feels like an eternity without a
win. Albeit there was an off day and a rainout before three consecutive losses,
a win was sorely needed in Game 3 of 4 against San Diego. It didn’t start off
promising, but a 4-0 deficit turned into a 5-4 walk-off victory thanks to
Rauuuuuul Ibanez! It feels good to be the team coming from behind rather than
the team blowing the lead, that’s for sure. Here are some notes, one from last
night and the majority from this afternoon:

 

Jinx? Am I at fault for Brad Lidge’s first blown save as a
Phillie because I mentioned it for the first time in my blog during the game? I
was voicing some concern and unfortunately, it came to fruition. He had given
up runs in two of his three previous appearances; it just happened the Phillies
had a larger lead. Last night, he was one strike away from entering the bottom
of the 9th tied before walking two straight hitters. Should Charlie
have taken him out at that point? I think Charlie wanted to show the confidence
he has and thought Lidge deserved the chance to work out of the jam, but a
three-run jack by Kevin Kouzmanoff gave Los Padres the 8-5 victory. Cheers to the fans at CBP last night for
realizing the streak Lidge had attained and giving him a standing ovation as he
walked off the field.
It was certainly a feeling that we never experienced
in 2008.

 

blidge.jpg

Rookie in
First Geer:
Today’s starter for San Diego, Josh Geer, is
not overpowering, but has pinpoint control and had the Phillies out in front of
the ball for 5.1 innings. Not having a scouting report on a pitcher really
keeps the offense off balance. I expect Geer to be knocked around in his next
start. He was cruising until SS Luis Rodriguez airmailed a throw to first base
(which might have rattled the youngster) because Chase Utley subsequently sneaked
a home run into the first row in right.

 

Gonzalez
Bros:
I didn’t know Padres 1B Adrian Gonzalez had a
brother, 2B Edgar, on the same team?! San Diego likes the brother tandems as
Brian and Marcus Giles paired up for a season in 2007.

 

Big Howie
Flashing Some Leather!
Chan Ho Park has to give
some credit to Ryan Howard for taking away some hits, twice diving to his right
before flipping to the pitcher covering. More impressively, he chased down a
foul pop in shallow right to make an over-the-shoulder basket catch, just like
wide receivers are taught. Oh yeah, he tripled to the deepest part of CBP and
watching the big boy motor around the bases is something else.

 

J.A.
Happ-ens!
Three scoreless innings of relief proved that
he still wants that starting spot. Park was serviceable today, but the #5 slot
is still not set in stone by any means.

 

That’s good
coaching!
Uncle Charlie gave J-Roll the day off in
hopes the extra rest would get him out of the 6-45 funk. It already paid
dividends! Though his numbers as a pinch-hitter were a bleak 1-13 (they lie),
Rollins hit his first homer on the year to pull within 4-3. At least he’s
healthy unlike this time last season. Charlie knows what he’s doing in the
dugout.

 

No Heath
Bell, No Problem:
Padres closer Heath Bell has been unhittable
this season and is 7-7 in save opportunities. He had pitched the last three
days (2 against us…grr), so Bud Black turned to Edwin Moreno to save the game.
He never got an out. Howard blooped one into center because Jody Gerut was
hugging the fence playing no-doubles defense. Ibanez had actually had a
miserable game leading up to his walk-off, but Phillies fans won’t remember
that tomorrow. He was the hero today. His reward? An obligatory pie in the face
during his post-game interview!

 

Phillie Phanatic
turns 31!
Happy birthday buddy! You’re aging well.

 

phanatic.JPG

Flyin’ High! The
Flyers defended their home ice at Wachovia Center with a 6-3 win and now trail
the series to Pittsburgh, 2-1.

 

And
Michael Young just sent the Rangers fans home happy with a walk-off of his own
against Kansas City.

 

Have a phantastic evening everyone!

A Fitting Goodbye

I commented on Julia’s blog the other
day saying “There is no crying in baseball!” Well, this morning at Citizens
Bank Park would be the exception to the rule if there ever was one. Thousands
gathered from 8 a.m. until noon – some camped out as early as midnight — to
pay their respects to a man they might have never met in person, yet invited
him into their living room night after night for 38 years.


http://espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=4079400

The Phillies organization has done a
first-class job in honoring Harry Kalas. I outlined some of the tributes
in my last post and they have been executed perfectly. In addition, his
three sons – Brad, Kane, and Todd — each threw out the first pitch before last
night’s home game to “catchers” John Kruk, Jimmy Rollins, and Mike Schmidt.
Kane performed the National Anthem.

 

The most accurate quote I’ve read was from a
71-year old retired Philadelphia police office
r: “You don’t realize what you got. You just get so used to it.” I
don’t think fans have taken Harry for granted, but the old adage rings true:
“you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”

HK.jpg

____________________________________________________________

Who knows how much the emotional toll has
taken on the team right now. They won the game on Monday, just hours after
Harry collapsed and died at Nationals Park, but that was likely too soon for
the reality to sink in. The main problem plaguing the team is pitching. Cole
Hamels continued to struggle last night giving up 5 runs in 6 innings of work.
Brad Lidge has extended his saves streak to 47, but has given up runs in two of
his three saves this season.

 

How else
do you explain losing to a 0-7 Nationals ballclub? There is certainly no
sympathy on the field in baseball.

 

Last night was the worst possible scenario
for me on so many levels. First off, rooting for reality always comes before
fantasy baseball. I have Chris Young of the Padres on my team and contemplated
benching him just because he was facing the Phillies and CBP is a hitter’s
paradise. He was dominant in his first two starts, so I started him. Ideally, I
wanted to see a low-scoring Phillies victory.

 

A Chase Utley three-run 1st inning
homer and a 7-1 lead after 4 innings chase Young, but at least the Fightin’s
had the game in the bag, right? Wrong. San Diego slowly chipped away at the
lead and Greg Dobbs was gunned down at home plate in the bottom of the 8th
by Chase Headley to preserve an 8-7 Padres W. To make matters worse, Flyers
hockey dropped Game 2 in overtime to Pittsburgh less than a minute later.

 

Around the Majors

Some run support would be nice: Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren has given up four runs in
19 innings, filling in as ace with Brandon Webb on the DL. His record? 0-3!
Arizona has had exactly ONE runner cross the plate in his three starts. That
offense better wake up or Haren might sneak some diamondback snakes in their
lockers. (Disclaimer: Dan Haren is on this blogger’s fantasy team and he would
like some wins.)

 

Who knew hitting for the cycle was so easy? Orlando Hudson, Ian Kinsler, and now Jason Kubel of the
Twinkies have “re-cycled” and the season is only 12 days old! Kubel did it in
grand fashion, hitting an upper-deck mammoth shot to give Minnesota the 11-9
victory over the Angels. If my math is right, there were only five cycles
all of last season. That should be eclipsed fairly soon.

 

Cool victory song: I watched the end of the Cubs-Cardinals game yesterday
and the Wrigley faithful sing
a pretty catchy song
after the Cubbies get in the win column.

 

The Yankees are very welcoming hosts at new
ballpark:
The Indians lead 22-4 going to the bottom of
the 9th – this after losing 10-2 in the opener. And who can forget
the 22-0 drubbing the Tribe handed New York a few years back. Chien-Ming Wang
has now allowed 23 runs in 6 innings…ouch. The new stadium could be seeing a
lot of high scoring affairs. There have been 17 long balls in only three games,
most of them to right field.

 

Congratulations to Gary Sheffield on hitting
#500!

 

Quick football note: Congrats to Brian Dawkins on winning the Byron White
Award (a former running back and Supreme Court justics), given to the player
who is charitable in the community. This is another reason why he was so
revered in Philly. The Eagles also have the best offensive line in football
after acquiring pro bowler Jason Peters from Buffalo. McNabb is going to have
ALL day to throw!

 

1-0: My
intramural softball team recovered from an exhibition blowout loss to win 15-11
last night. There are seven games on the season, so 7-0 is obviously the goal.

 

Happy 4th birthday MLBlogs! The
b-day is shared with former Phillie Rico Brogna, who is 39 today. Brogna was
one of the names fans loved to hear Kalas pronounce, as he would emphasize
every single syllable.

rico.jpg

Emotional Homestand Awaits this Weekend

kalas2.jpg

What a negative beginning to the 2009 regular
season. Harry Kalas was an integral part of the fan experience for
Philadelphians and I think I will wonder to myself how Harry would have called
important plays throughout each game. It is obviously too soon to speculate,
but I like – and think other fans would be quite receptive of – the idea of
bringing in Harry’s son, Todd, currently the announcer for the Rays. (Only if
he wants it, of course.) Just think of the astronomical odds of a Rays-Phillies
World Series last year that gave the father-son combo a once-in-a-lifetime
experience of broadcasting “against” each other on the biggest stage. What a
blessing.

nats park.jpg

I am going to link to my personal favorite
two tributes of Harry. The first
one is by Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer,
who does a magnificent job
using analogies to show what the city lost on Monday. The second is an audio
obituary by Jayson Stark of ESPN
, who used to cover the Phillies for the Inquirer.
If you haven’t read or watched either one, I highly recommend doing so. (Also,
if anyone could comment and let me know how to embed videos on MLBlogs, I would
appreciate it. I thought I could just use the embedded code and paste it in the
text body, but that didn’t work.)

http://espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=4066191The last couple of days have resulted in a
couple of postponements. Visiting President Obama at the White House was put on
hold until later in the season and rain forced a second consecutive off day
yesterday. Hopefully, the club will pick up where they left off on Monday with
a three-game winning streak.

nats2.jpg

Last night’s cancellation wasn’t all bad as
the Flyers were scheduled to open up their playoff series versus Sidney Crosby
and cross-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately, it was a lackluster
effort and throwing away home-ice advantage on the final day of the season
might prove costly.

 

To honor Kalas, the Phillies have organized
several tributes when the team returns home tomorrow and some throughout the
season. Notably:

  • players will an “HK” patch above their heart on the uniform
  • a Harry Kalas billboard will be featured on the outfield wall at CBP
  • the first half-inning of tomorrow night’s Comcast telecast will have no commentary
  • Kalas’ signature home run call, “Outta here!”, will be played over the PA system after Phillies homers
  • Kalas’ actual signature (or autograph) will be painted on the field for the seven-game homestand
  • Beginning at 8:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Saturday morning (for a 7 p.m. night game) fans will be able to pay their respects on the field at CBP in front of Kalas’ casket at home plate. I’m sure the line will wind into Deleware and New Jersey. Kalas will be only the second person ever to be waked at a stadium on the day of a game. The first? George Herman Ruth. Not bad company to keep.

Around
the Majors

  • New York officially pulled the curtain off of two luxurious stadiums this week…..in a losing fashion; the Mets to San Diego and the Yankees to Cleveland. Jody Gerut and Jorge Posada hit the first home run in each stadium, respectively. Gerut became the first batter to ever lead off a stadium’s first game with a homer.
  • Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff’s auction for two opening day tickets for the poshest seats at Citi Field went for $7,500! Who would want to shell out that much money for the bad karma that lurks in those seats?!
  • With the Phillies being rained-out, they were unable to participate in the Jackie Robinson Day festivities, but it was cool to see every play donning #42 yesterday. It might have provided a little confusion identifying players, but cool nonetheless. Last season marked the first time in 13 years, 1995, that there was an increase in African-Americans on big league rosters. Ten managers of color also ties the most at one time.
  • Lastings Milledge might be referred to as the scapegoat for the Nationals 0-7 start, but he might have warranted the demotion to AAA even if the team was playing well. Missed team meetings and a hot dog style (full of condiments) did not sit well with Manny Acta.
  • Ken Griffey Jr. received a hero’s welcome in his first home game as a Mariner at Safeco Field and singled in his first at-bat. I thought he hit his first homer at Safeco Field last night, but learned that the stadium had an unusual mid-season debut in July 1999 — Griffey’s last season before he was traded to Cincinnati.
  • There have been numerous no-hitters being taken into the 7th and 8th innings already this season. I have a feeling one will happen before the month is over…

The Nationals lead 3-2 after 5 setting up for another phantastic Phillies come from behind W! Hey, it worked last week.

“We lost our voice.”

harry.jpg

In the pit of my stomach, something is lost and will never be replaced.
I’m watching the Phillies-Nationals in D.C. and Harry Kalas, the legendary
voice of the Phillies, is not behind the microphone. While preparing for today’s
game, he collapsed in the press box and was taken to the hospital where he was
pronounced dead. He was 73. After letting out a couple shouts of “Nooo!” in
disbelief of reading the news, I called my dad, who grew up listening to Kalas.
We agreed that it was a blessing we were able to listen to Harry a few more times during the first week of the season. I give credit to Gary Matthews Sr., Tom McCarthy, and Chris Wheeler who have
appeared on Comcast SportsNet, reminiscing about Harry just a couple hours
after his passing. Here are the two calls I will never forget from the late,
great Harry Kalas:

 

April 18, 1987:

“Swing and a long drive, there it is, number 500! The career 500th home
run for Michael Jack Schmidt!”


 

The last pitch of the 2008 World Series:

“One strike away; nothing-and-two, the count to Hinske. Fans on the their
feet; rally towels are being waved. Brad Lidge stretches. The 0-2 pitch — swing
and a miss, struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions
of baseball! Brad Lidge does it again, and stays perfect for the 2008 season!
48-for-48 in save opportunities, and watch the city celebrate! Don’t let the
48-hour wait diminish the euphoria of this moment, and the celebration. And it
has been 28 years since the Phillies have enjoyed a World
Championship
; 25 years in this city with a team that has enjoyed a World Championship, and the fans are
ready to celebrate. What a night!”

 

Rest in peace Harry the K, you were the best.

 

———————————————————————————-

 

This is what I was about to post before hearing of Harry’s passing:

 

Yesterday’s Phillies game was the first of the season that I did not
watch in its entirety. I had it muted on my computer while I watched one of the
greatest final rounds in golf history. Anyone who says golf is boring can’t say
that after yesterday’s Masters. However, I did get to see the most important
plays of the Phillies series finale in Denver (and security attempt to tackle a
fan who was on the field getting a foul ball until they released because he
FELL onto the field…riiiight). Chase Utley hit his first homer on the year to
tie the game at 5 in the 8th before Matt Stairs came through in the
clutch with a go-ahead two-run job in the 9th off Huston Street. All
of this saved Chan Ho Park from being dealt a loss after a miserable outing.

 

Abreu v. Beckett: Our
first benches clearing incident happened at Angel Stadium after Josh Beckett threw
a high and inside fastball to Bobby Abreu after the umpire granted time. It is
difficult for a pitcher to hold the ball in the situation and avoid injury, but
Abreu has reason to react because he is in a defenseless position. Talking
between both clubs ensues for several minutes and Beckett had a heated
discussion with Mike Scioscia. Nevertheless, I don’t think this series needed
any extracurricular activities after the difficult circumstance facing the
Angels.

Update: Harry’s final home run call yesterday afternoon in Denver:

“Long drive into deep right center field, this ball is outta
here…..Matt Stairs with a two-run pinch-hit home run and the Phillies have taken
a 7-5 lead here in the 9th inning…..and have battled all the way back.”

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