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Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia Phillies’

Dear Ben, I’m Sorry

In MLB, Uncategorized on September 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm

By Chris Hallenbrook

Dear Ben Cherington,

I’m sorry. This past offseason every time you made a major addition I criticized you for overpaying for aging, mediocre ballplayers. I was entirely convinced that your judgment was shot and that thanks to your inability to be bold the best the 2013 Red Sox could hope for was a return to the .500 mark. Well, so much for that. Here’s the rundown of this past offseason, my complaints and why I was wrong.

Shane Victorino – Coming off a pedestrian .255/.321/.383 season with the Phillies and Dodgers, it seemed utterly insane to be giving him $13 million a year for 3 years at the age of 32. I still think the contract was too rich, but his contribution to the team far exceeds his massively improved .295/.353/.453. He has been crashing into walls in right a la Trot Nixon despite playing with pain most of the season. In fact, since August the career switch hitter has been batting exclusively from the right side due to a bad hamstring, and has continued putting up big numbers and delivering the key hits despite not having faced right-handed pitching from the right side of the plate since his days in high school. He’s a gamer.

Mike Napoli – I put Napoli in the same boat as Victorino this past offseason, namely a declining veteran who should have been signed on the cheap, not for top dollar. But as with Victorino, he’s been a grinder, playing through plantar fasciitis, playing in more games than he has since 2010 and producing more than his .258 batting average suggests. Despite slumping across the summer months, he was white hot in April and May, helping the Sox to a badly needed quick start, and is now hitting well over .400 for the month of September. Talk about playing your best when it matters most.

Johnny Gomes – To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to this acquisition because I didn’t see him doing anything notable. Boy, was I wrong about that. Sure he’s only hit .238, but he has been a valuable fourth outfielder, ably filed the holes when guys got hurt and oh yeah, he has hit four pinch hit home runs with a .515 batting average in over twenty pinch hit appearances. He embodies the main cause of the Red Sox’s turnaround, which he articulated a month ago when he remarked that “Heart and hustle are two things you can’t fake. Bring those two things every single day and the baseball gods will reward you.”

Ryan Dempster – Oh yeah, I just loved bringing in a 36 year old pitcher whose career ERA versus the AL East was over 4.00. I’m pretty sure I wanted to have your sanity checked after that one Ben. And admittedly, I’m not too sure I’m willing to take this one back given his 4.46 ERA. Then again, the man eats innings, which is always a plus, and you turned Jose “Iggy” Iglesias into Jake Peavy, who has had nothing but filthy stuff since joining the Red Sox, so it all comes out in the wash.

The Bullpen – As Matthew Perry tells fantasy baseball owners “don’t pay for saves.” I used to say that Theo Epstein needed an Assistant General Manager in Charge of Shortstops. You need an Assistant General Manager in Charge of the Bullpen (or at least closers). Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan have done nothing for this team, and cost assets including Jed Lowrie, JJ Reddick, Mark Melancon and other prospects. Melancon is especially galling as you gave up on him after only one year despite the fact that relievers are notorious for their ups and downs, thereby allowing all Red Sox fans the joy of watching him post an otherworldly 1.38 ERA in 68.1 innings (and counting) for the Pirates. That said, you pulled Koji Uehara out of nowhere and watched as he retired 37 consecutive batters in one of the most dominant closing performances since Dennis Eckersley played in Oakland (further proving Berry’s point).

So all in all, you were right and I was wrong. What do you know, maybe you are more qualified for the job than I am…nah, let’s not push it. I’ll just stick with saying “I’m sorry.”

Confused and Grateful,

Chris Hallenbrook

PS – all stats were as of the end of day on 9/19/13

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @CHallenbrook.

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Why Did I Have To Go To Work Today?

In MLB on April 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

Did you notice today was like every other day between Monday and Friday? In the morning, people were on the road to work, then in the evening they were commuting home? Businesses were getting business done. People were at their jobs. Nothing was any different?

Why was everyone at work today? Why were they not home? Why were they not out at the park, or glued to their television sets? It’s Opening Day for Major League Baseball, and why is that not a national holiday?

"Anything less would be un-American."

“Anything less would be un-American.”

Opening Day for baseball is an all day event. It’s every team shaking off the dust and taking the field for the beginning of America’s Pastime. America’s sport. A national tradition.

It was the Boston Red Sox beating the New York Yankees. The new look (and expensive) Los Angeles Dodgers shutting out the defending World Champs. It’s the Phillies and the Braves. It’s every other team in every other city.

And everyone’s missing it.

Me, I’m about to take a moment and be grateful for what’s important, and give thanks for what I have, and I’m going to do that by plopping down on the couch, turning on the TV, and watching my favorite team throw out their first pitch.

Viva los baseball. Viva los Opening Day.

To End All Flukes

In MLB on October 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

Considering where I currently live, and considering who a lot of my family members root for, this article is not going to make me too popular at backyard BBQ’s or family reunions.

Either way, the playoff series taking place in San Francisco is one of great importance to Major League Baseball. The Giants, winners of the 2010 World Series, are playing the St. Louis Cardinals, winners of the 2011 World Series, to see who will get to play for the 2012 World Series.

It’s battle of the titans, only both teams haven’t been considered very colossal given their achievements. And that’s because of how both teams accomplished their most recent World Series wins.

“2010 was a fluke.”
“No, 2011 was a fluke.”

Halfway through the 2010 regular season, it did not look like the Giants were going to contend for much of anything, let alone the Commissioner’s Trophy. Coming into the final series of the season against the San Diego Padres, the Padres, who had led the division for 148 days during the season, trailed San Francisco by two games with only three games left to play. After winning the first two games of the series, the Giants were finally able to shut out the Padres and win their first NL West since 2003.

The Giants then continued their tear into the postseason, beating the favored Atlanta Braves, the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies, and then Texas Rangers to win their first World Series since moving to the Bay Area in 1958.

It’s San Francisco, so all of the confetti is made from 100% recycled, biodegradable, bird friendly, angel kisses.

It had been seven years since the Giants had even been to the postseason, and all of a sudden they were in it to win it. In 2010, the Giants were the poster children for a team that may not have had the most talent on their roster (on paper, it was the Phillies), but who got hot at the exact right moment; when it counts.

That was, of course, until they were replaced on that poster by the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals.

This World Series made as much sense as the new Wild Card format. Wait, the Cardinals won that too?

The last day of the 2011 MLB regular season will go down as the craziest day in the history of the sport. Not even considering the Tampa Bay Rays win over the New York Yankees (that is a whole other article), the St. Louis Cardinals completed the greatest season comeback in MLB history (or perhaps it was the Braves performing the worst collapse in history) to win the NL Wild Card on the last day of play.

Like the Giants the year before, the Cardinals (considering the odds) shouldn’t have even been playing October baseball, but there they were; beating the heavily favored Phillies, the juiced up Milwaukee Brewers, and the “There’s-No-Way-They-Can-Lose-Two-World-Series-In-A-Row” Rangers.

The Cards were another team that got hot when it mattered most.

Now, to call either St. Louis of San Francisco total flukes would be unfair, but let’s be honest, their wins were at least a little flukey at best.

(And before my family in the Midwest, or my neighbors in California get all crazy about me calling their team flukey, think about this: regardless if it was a fluke or not, your team has a banner in their rafters. Isn’t a “flukey” World Series better than no World Series? Know what I’m saying North Side of Chicago?) 

“WE’D SELL OUR CHILDREN FOR A FLUKE!”

The Giants weren’t in the postseason in 2009, and they weren’t in the postseason in 2011. They almost didn’t even make they playoffs the year they won.

The Cardinals weren’t in the postseason in 2010, won a 2011 Wild Card spot on the last day, won the whole shebang, and then lost their longtime manager (Tony La Russa) and longtime face of the franchise (Albert Pujols) in the offseason. By all accounts, they shouldn’t even be in the postseason this year, but look where they are.

Both teams need this 2012 World Series berth to legitimize the current state of their franchise. The Giants need it so they can look at the league and say, “See, losing Buster Posey last year really was as devastating as we said it was.” The Cardinals need it so they can say “We were more than just La Russa and Pujols.”

Considering both franchises wish to be considered legitimate contenders and powerhouses (who doesn’t?), both teams need this series. After the Boston Celtics won the 2008 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan allegedly told Ray Allen (I’m quoting from memory here), that winning one championship is lucky, but winning two is validation.

This series is that validation.

Boston Red Sox Offseason To-Do List

In MLB on September 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm

With the end of the MLB regular season less than three weeks away, there are more than a few teams who will look back at the year with disappointment and regret.

“There’s no crying in baseball!”

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who still might not make the playoffs after making the biggest blockbuster trade in the history of the league.

The New York Yankees, who blew a ten game lead to a team who hasn’t had a winning season since 1993. 

The Arizona Diamondbacks, who suffered injuries and under-performance, and failed to live up to the expectations of 2011.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who acquired Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, yet are 4.5 games behind the Oakland A’s (a team whose payroll is roughly $100 million dollars less than the Angels) for the last AL Wildcard spot.

The Philadelphia Phillies, who imploded under the weight of big contracts and egos. 

The Detroit Tigers, who like the D’backs, also failed to live up to expectations. 

The Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins, simply for being the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. 

And lastly, any team who didn’t have a player suspended for PED’s, yet have to watch the San Francisco Giants and A’s play in October. 

There are a lot of teams who will look back at 2012 with heartache and sadness, anger and frustration, but none of them will have more heartache, and feel more sadness, anger and frustration, than the Red Sox of Boston.

“I wonder if anyone wants to go out for KFC…”

After suffering one of the biggest meltdowns in the history of Major League Baseball last season, the Red Sox fired Terry Francona, the skipper who broke The Curse of the Bambino, and replaced him with Bobby Valentine, a man few thought would be successful in the position (know what I’m saying, Curt Schilling?).

Valentine was doomed to failure as the manager of the Red Sox from the beginning. First, the club’s management was torn about hiring him from the get go. Second, the players were still pining away for the last guy they got fired. Third, because Valentine’s managerial style was completely opposite of Francona’s, Valentine was never able to fully embrace his style of coaching, and consequently was never able to sell his vision to any of his players.

It didn’t help that Valentine also kept digging his grave with his constant misspeaks and gaffes.

This isn’t to say all of the troubles befalling Boston can be pointed to the hiring of Bobby V. The players themselves are just as, if not more responsible for how 2012 turned out as anybody. They vastly underperformed. They refused to change their ways. They refused to play like professionals.

Yet, for all the problems facing the players and the franchise, there are three simple solutions the Red Sox can take in the offseason, to begin the rebuilding process and turn this ship around.

1. Fire Bobby Valentine

“Please do what I say.”

While Valentine has had a successful major league managerial career, he will not find success in Boston. Unless Lou Luchino (The Red Sox’s President and CEO) plans on trading away the entire roster, top-to-bottom (going so far as to rehire new beer and hotdog sellers, as well as Fenway parking lot attendants), Valentine has lost the clubhouse. He will not be able to pull any player from the current roster to his side, and therefore has to go.

2. Fire Bobby Valentine

“And so now you agree with Curt that you weren’t the right man for the job…?”

Curt Schilling was right; Bobby V wasn’t ever going to work in Boston. With the roster the way it was built, the team just wasn’t going to easily transition from Francona’s laid back, beer guzzling, fried chicken eating ways, to Valentine’s strict regime. Instead, the team need to look at other guys who are somewhat like Francona, yet bring a new voice of leadership to a team longing for someone they can believe in.

Bob Brenly did the same magic for Arizona over a decade ago, after he replaced the strict rule of Buck Showalter. Currently, all Brenly’s up to is sitting in the announcer both in Chicago. Trying to jumpstart the Red Sox couldn’t be worse than having to watch the Cubs play everyday, could it?

I didn’t think so.

3. Fire Bobby Valentine

“It’s not you, Bobby, it’s me. Specifically, it’s me hating you.”

Everyone knows Dustin Pedrioa leads this team. He’s already led a mutiny against his manager, and as long as he plays in Boston, no’s ever going to listen to anything Valentine will ever say. While the players are in the wrong for not giving Valentine a fair shake at his job, it’s time for the club to find a man the team can respect.

Thoughts On MLB Deadline Deals

In MLB on August 1, 2012 at 9:30 am

Well, it’s the day after the MLB trade deadline, and I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of the trades that happened not only last night, but leading up the cutoff as well.

Here’s a few that stuck out.

1. Yankees Trade For Ichiro

Like rainy weather and bitter Sonics fan, Ichiro Suzuki has been synonymous with the city of Seattle. That all changed last week though, when out of no where the Yankees came to town and decided to leave #51 before the series was even over.

See translator for what Ichiro said.

Seeing Ichiro in a jersey different than the Mariners might be strange, but this is 2012; Peyton’s not a Colt, Nash isn’t a Sun, and the world’s supposed to end. This also continues the long tradition of the Yankees obtaining any and all players they want, whenever they want. Not even the Lakers can say that. You thought it was strange seeing the Queen of England speak in a non-formal setting during the Olympics Opening Ceremony last week? Wait until the Yankees sign her to play shortstop once Derek Jeter retires. She’s going to be epic.

2. Dodgers Desperately Wish They Were The Yankees

Speaking of the Yankees, the Dodgers are doing everything they can to try to become NYY-West.

“Do I get to play shortstop again? I better get to play shortstop again.”

After entering Opening Day with what seemed like a ten-game lead in the division, the Dodgers now sit one game behind the Giants (even though they swept San Francisco last week), and are on the verge of getting swept by Arizona.

But at the trade deadline, it was like all of a sudden the owners realized they spent waaaaay too much money not to just buy whomever they please, so they traded for Marlins mainstay Hanley Ramirez, Philadelphia icon and outfield slugger Shane Victorino, and Mariner’s reliever Brandon League. Time will tell if the Dodgers can actually be like the Yankees and become perennial contenders due to their spending habits, or if they will be like every fan in LA wearing a Dodger hat. A wannabe.

3. Giants Right Wrong From Last Year

Last year, the Giants had a chance to get Hunter Pence, but went for the cheap and got Carlos Beltran instead. This season Beltran is having a great year, but the problem is he plays for St. Louis.

“I could have been doing this in a Giants uniform last year.”

Unlike a lot of teams out there, the Giants were quick to admit their mistake and went after the guy they should have gone after all along. The guy who might have prevented the team from having to watch the guys in Arizona jump into the pool last year. Quite frankly, Pence is what the Giants needed all along.

Although now that he’s a Giant, Hunter Pence Bobblehead Night, scheduled for August 31 in Philadelphia, might be a little problematic. Can those things quickly be repainted black and orange, and shipped across the country? Nope? You know what, don’t even worry about it.

4. Diamondbacks Continue To Trade Fan Favorites

Last year, the D-backs made a last second move and shipped Kelly Johnson to Toronto for John McDonald and Aaron Hill. Johnson was popular in Arizona, but nowhere near as popular as Ryan “Tatman” Roberts, whom they shipped to the Tampa Bay for an infielder prospect earlier in the week, then made a move on Astro’s third basemen Chris Johnson.

From one hot city with an expansion team to another.

With Hill becoming the first player in 80 years to hit two cycles in a single season, last year’s trade has so far worked out for Arizona. Regardless of what some are saying, if Chris Johnson’s Grand Slam debut against the Dodgers is any indication, maybe this reshuffling at Arizona’s hot corner might work out too. Either way, it’s always sad to see a fan favorite go.

5. The Rangers Will Be Damned If They Lose A Third Straight World Series

While missing out on a third-straight ring might endear the nation to the hard-luck franchise, the Rangers would rather have less fans and a trophy then consider the implications of expanding their market. Bring in Ryan Dempster, arguably the best available pitcher at the trade deadline.

“With the Cubs, I never won any games or a World Series. With the Rangers, at least I can win a lot of games!”

The A’s might be the best story in baseball right now, and the Angels got a lot better by adding Zack Greinke, but the Rangers have come too far to not do everything possible to get over the hump. Nolan Ryan thinks the team’s fans in Dallas deserve a parade. Heck, even the Mavericks were able to give the city one. Sometimes the world just isn’t fair.

6. Fire Sale In Miami!

No matter how you spin it, the Marlins are up to their old salary dumping tricks again. If they aren’t even going to try, neither am I.

“Everything must go!”

The Phillies Should Blow The Whole Darn Thing Up

In MLB on July 9, 2012 at 10:26 am

The Phillies won a World Series in 2008 (vs. the Rays) and lost one in 2009 (vs. the Yankees). Every year since, it’s seemed they’ve tried to make big moves to not only get back to the top of the mountain, but become perennial title winners as well. Over the years, they’ve brought aboard Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Hunter Pence and Jonathan Papelbon. They’re paying $104 million dollars just in Lee, Halladay, Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley alone. The team has been dropping bills to try to win rings.

So far, it hasn’t worked out so well for them.

Objective correlative for 2012 season.

This season, the Phillies have been bad. Really bad. I mean, almost as ugly as those old “Saturday Night Special’s” they wore in 1979.

They can’t pitch, they can’t hit, they can’t run bases, and they can’t play defense. Their relief pitching has been atrocious, and the best play Papelbon’s made so far was stopping a fan from running on the field (although, given how hilarious that was last time, it probably would have been more entertaining than anything the team’s shown this season).

Profile picture for life.

With so much invested in the Phillies roster, you’d think by the All-Star Game they’d have better than a 0.8% chance of making the playoffs, wouldn’t you?

Maybe those Saturday Night Specials aren’t so bad after all.

Going into the break, the Phillies are thirteen games under .500, with a record of 37-and-50. Their payroll is the second highest in the league, at $173,458,939, which is roughly $22 million (give-or-take) less than the New York Yankees. If you divide the Phillies payroll in half (since we’re only half-way through the season) then divide by the number of wins the team has produced, the Phillies are paying $2,344,039.72 for each win. In comparison, the Minnesota Twins have an almost identical record (36-49) and are only paying $1,306,736.11 per-victory.

No matter how you spin it, that is a bad investment. That is JP Morgan bad investment.

There are a lot of theories in the City of Brotherly Love on how to make the team pay a little less for each win. The team’s already been making minimal strides by shipping Jim Thome back out-of-town as fast as he arrived, and if Shane Victorino’s late scratch from Sunday’s game against the Braves means anything, he’ll soon be rested up and playing for a new team by the week’s end.

This picture is not relevant to the article.

If you’re the Phillies, that’s simply not going to cut it. I know the team doesn’t want to blow it all up before Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard return (which he did yesterday), but the Phillies have too much money invested for so few wins, especially when they’re paying Cliff Lee $10,750,000 for his one win of the season so far.

“Can you guys dump some Gatorade on me? This is the best day of my life!”

The first thing the Phillies need to do is trade 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels to a team who would be interested in a half-season, gun-for-hire rental. Teams like the Dodgers, White Sox, or Angels, who are in the fight but just need a little bit more pitching to get them over the hump.

After the Phillies trade Hamels, they need to back up a dump-truck filled with money to his house and try to re-sign him the day free agency starts. Hamels himself even said he’d be open to such a circumstance.

Think about it, right now the Phillies still owe Hamels $7.5 million for the rest of the season, and at that price, he simply isn’t worth it. He is still relatively young, and it’s a gamble he might not return to the team if traded, but considering how the Phillies are a bunch of overpaid old guys anyway, they are facing a serious rebuild mood very, very shortly. They could use Hamels as a valuable trade bait to acquire high-valued prospects. Apparently, the Phillies are asking for four-or-five prospects, but should lower that price to two-to-three, and hope really, really hard that they get him back.

The rest of the plan is relatively easy. The team is old and overpaid, and needs to get younger and cheaper. Victorino’s pretty much already gone, so while they’re at it, they should trade Lee to another team on the cusp and load up on even more prospects. Follow through with the rumors that pitcher Joe Blanton and third basemen Placido Polanco are also available. I know dumping salary is probably not exactly what you were expecting when I said something about making those wins cost a little less, but let’s be serious, this year’s a wash, look toward the future. The odds are so against the team making the playoffs that it would be better to dump salary, and add young, fresh faces that may or may not even play this year.

The beauty about this tactic is that even if the team gets loaded in the farm levels, you’re still the Phillies, meaning you’re still a team like the Yankees who can pretty much buy whomever you want, whenever you want. Dump the older guys who are not earning their keep, get a bunch of cheap, fresh new faces who will either one day become the old guys you overpay, or trade them for veterans to fill the roster.

Normally I’m not the one to toss a grenade in a clubhouse, just because things aren’t going the way management expected (unless you’re the Phillies, Red Sox, or Lakers, apparently) and usually I’m the one to say “the roster’s got too much talent to give up on,” when it looks like the nuclear option is about to take place. Normally (I think) I’m like that, but with 0.8% chance of the post season, and roughly 2.3 million dollars per win, every day they don’t meet expectations is just too damn expensive.

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