Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"Happy being miserable"

For future reference...these are alpacas - it will come in handy, I promise

Last year at this time it was easy to pinpoint the Phillies' biggest strength - the bullpen was going to turn ballgames into 6 innings affairs with the 1-2-3 punch of Ryan Madson, Tim Worrell, and Billy Wagner locking things down once the 7th inning rolled around. The green converted starter, the former closer, and THE closer were expected to play a big part in the Phils 2005 success. Obviously things didn't go as planned...all three guys are now no longer a part of the bullpen in Philly - the converted starter is doing just that again, the former closer is out in the desert, and...whatever happened to THE closer. I think he's out raising alpacas somewhere...

I could go on and on writing about Tim Worrell and Billy Wagner's recent comments about their time spent in Philadelphia. I actually like Tim Worrell though I should say that I'm sure these positive personal feelings toward him have got to help me understand where he is coming from more so than when Billy Wagner (for whom I don't care for) runs his mouth. Worrell doesn't come across as pro-Philly in this article, but he does sound pretty damn honest to me...

"Philly is a tough place to play when things go right," he told veteran Giants beat reporter Nick Peters. "I'm a West Coast guy. I grew up in California [Pasadena] and I live in Arizona. It's a different mentality back there. I don't want to say it's wrong, but I'm just not used to it.

"It was a night-and-day difference, a shock to my family. [Philly fans] want to win, but they seem happy being miserable."

Worrell, 38, made it clear that he was exempting the Phillies organization and former general manager Ed Wade from his thumbs-down review.

"[Being traded to] Arizona was a favor, and [Wade] made it happen," he said. "He was very good to me. I have nothing bad to say about the Phillies.

"They went out of their way for me. I don't think you ever solve problems, but my mind was clear enough to concentrate on doing what needed to get done. In Philly, it was tough to focus when a lot of stuff was going on."

Wagner, on the other hand, is a dope. Plain and simple. He just doesn't get it and I don't think he ever will. Good thing they don't boo in New York, right Billy? These comments are about a week old, but I just couldn't ignore them anymore...

"Those people, it doesn't matter how successful you are. I don't get it. They boo you. They scream at you. Anybody who's going to boo you when you don't hit 100 miles per hour, what does that tell you? There are some fans who are fantastic, who were very supportive, and made you feel welcome there. But, for the most part, you had the guys who just came to the ballpark to yell at you. If you're having a bad season there, forget it. You can't get out of that funk. They won't allow you to. You have to go into Philadelphia and become so thick- skinned, somebody that you're not. It's hard." --new Mets closer Billy Wagner, on the fans in Philadelphia (Newark Star-Ledger)

Booing the radar gun means they love you...what? You don't understand that? Still? Dope.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Philadelphia Phillies Top 20 Prospects - John Sickels at Minor League Ball

John Sickels at Minor League Ball as his Phillies Top 20 Prospect list up today. I know content here has been prospect heavy (and Sickels heavy to be honest) over the past few days, but that's just how I roll - the minor leagues and prospect evaluation interests me and it is a good time of year to focus on the youngsters, so that's what will be getting the attention for now. Check out the list here for now - I recommend checking it out if you're into prospects at all...but if you aren't I would also recommend it for the cute picture of Cole Hamels.

This is all I've got for now, more to come later...

Quick Prospect Roundup

John Sickels had an All Questions Answered Thread over at his website - here are some highlights (basically 2 questions with Phillies involved and then my own personal query)...

Q: On Greg Golson - Do you see him rebounding from a sub-par second professional season?

A: He's young and athletic. If he can get ahold of the strike zone, sure he could rebound. He has time on his side. But it is NOT a sure bet.

Q: Young Catchers - George Kattaras vs. Kurt Suzuki vs. Jason Jaramillo

A: Kattaras is the best of the group, most advanced offensively. Suzuki and Jaramillo are about equal I'd say. I like all three of them in one way or another.

Q: On Phil Hughes (Yankees prospect) - What kind of ceiling does he have and when do you see him cracking a big league rotation - in New York or elsewhere?

Ceiling: number one starter, combination of power and precision is very notable, similar to Prior or perhaps Roger Clemens when his command is on. CAVEAT: Hughes has significant injury risk and is far from a sure thing. IF HEALTHY, should be ready by '08.

So, only 2 questions out of over 100 about the Phillies...can't really complain considering the one question I personally asked was about a damn Yankee. Don't be alarmed people - I hate the Yankees as much as the next guy and will do so as long as I breathe and live. I do have a bit of a fascination with Phillip Hughes however...seeing a player dominant a game in low A ball to the point where you walk away shaking your head in amazement will do that to a guy. Plus, seeing him the next day at the ballpark with his shoulder wrapped in ice talking to some sort of official from the Angels organization (no idea who or why) up close and personal adds to the attachment I have to the guy - not to mention the fact that I got to talk to him briefly after the Angels guy left while he signed a shirt for my friend. Personal feelings aside, I'm as high on his potential as can be and I think he will be a true number one starter someday soon - he's just one of my favorite prospects in all of baseball, I can't really describe the man-crush any further than that.

Ironically enough, the first question Sickels answered referred to Phillies OF prospect and former first rounder Greg Golson. I like Greg Golson a whole lot as a prospect, but I can still remember many of the more astute draft-following Phillies fans hoping for Hughes during the 2004 draft. The Phils went with Golson at pick 21; Hughes was taken by the Evil Empire at 23. What might have been...

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Talkin' Prospects - Jason Jaramillo

John Sickels over at Minor League Ball is having an All Questions Answered Thread today (2/25/06) between 12:00 - 2:00 (EST). He is taking questions now, so head on over there if you have anything you want to ask about anything minor league baseball related. I'm struggling to come up with any good questions of my own, so if anybody has anything that they want me to ask on their behalf, I'd be happy to do it. Just leave a comment before then and you're golden.

Now to provide a little content to this post...a commenter from about a week ago asked about the future of Phillies prospect Jason Jaramillo. To read more about Jaramillo, check this little bit of information out from Phillies.com (how perfect did this all come together for me at a time when I had no idea what to post - first the question in the comment section, then the news of the AQA thread at Minor League Ball, and then finally an article at Phillies.com about our man of the hour, Jaramillo. Isn't that perfect?). Anyway, here is what I wrote from a while back about Jaramillo - keep in mind I only kind of sort of barely know what I'm talking about here...much like the way I talk about the Phillies and baseball in general. I'm no expert (far from it) just some random guy who talks a lot. Just gotta throw that out there for my own peace of mind before you read on. One last thing...comparing Jaramillo to some of the Braves prospects makes sense in the context of the comment; I thought about editing that part out, but decided to leave it as I still like the Jaramillo/Pena comparison.

Jason Jaramillo, C, Philadelphia Phillies - 23 years old, expected to start 2006 in AA Reading

Jaramillo has been a far more impressive hitter than I expected. He has shown good contact ability and surprising gap power. His defense is so good that he won't have to hit a ton to reach the majors some day - an optimistic projection would be something along the lines of a .280 hitter with 10 homers and 25 doubles or so. This year is the big test for him as he is a prospect with plenty of college experience and was somewhat expected to handle the transition to the pros like he did. Now he has to deal with AA pitching at some point in '06 and see if his early professional progress with the bat was real or not.

Jaramillo is 23 year old and should move quickly through the system. If he spent the majority of '06 in AA with maybe a late season call up to AAA, I'd be happy. With a good 2006 season, he should be in the mix in 2007 for what should be a wide open Phils starting catching spot.

The more I think about it, the more I think that Brayan Pena is an interesting comparison to Jaramillo. Pena was a 22-year old in AA in 2004 - he hit an impressive enough .314/.349/.401. Jaramillo would do well to do the same in AA as a 23-year old in '06. Check out JJ's career minor league line so far - .290/.355/.410. That's very similar to Pena's AA season, not to mention his overall minor league line (.304/.357/.387).

Jaramillo and Pena are both good defensive catchers though I'd put Jaramillo in a different class though, as he is supposedly a plus-plus defender. Pena strikes out less than JJ, but doesn't quite have the power potential Jaramillo has either. They are both switch hitters with similar builds and should both have long careers in the major leagues one way or another. The big difference could be opportunity - as stated earlier, Jaramillo could have a shot to make the team and contribute in '07. Pena is blocked or surrounded in the Braves organization by Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Max Ramirez...even Todd Pratt at the big league level.

I haven't had a chance to see Jaramillo live and in color yet, but with his likely starting point Reading in '06, I'm planning to see plenty of him this upcoming season. Hopefully, the first hand observations will make their way to this site and whatever insight I can provide about Jaramillo's game will be of some use...or an entertaining read at the very least.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Bullpen

Since this little site goes by the name ‘Phillies Baseball,’ I figure it is about time to actually talk a bit about…Phillies baseball. Pitchers and catchers have now had time to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with one another and shake off some of the offseason rust. Now things get serious. Now it becomes a daily game of which pitcher on the bubble can catch the manager’s eye. The Phillies will go into 2006 with a 12-man pitching staff – this much is known for sure. Who will the 12 guys be? Let’s take a look.

The starting rotation looks like it is set in stone: Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Cory Lidle, Ryan Franklin, and Ryan Madson. Tom Gordon will be the closer with the three headed lefty monster of Arthur Rhodes, Aaron Fultz, and Rheal Cormier setting him up. There is an outside chance that something happens with Cormier between now and the start of the season, but don’t count on it. Our total is now…nine. Three more guys to go. I said way back on October 30th that Geoff Geary was a 99% lock to make this team. I make tons of dumb predictions, heck check that same link for others, but I liked that claim at the time and I will stand by it now. Pencil Geary in as arm number ten. This is where things get dicey.

What does Phillies.com beat writer Ken Mandel think about those last two bullpen vacancies? Mandel claims that because Santana signed an $800,000 guaranteed contract this offseason, he "appears to have a lock on one of the jobs." This is obviously good logic, but I have one minor quibble. According to some of the websites I trust most, Santana's contract does not guarantee the full $800,000; only the first $325,000 is guaranteed while the remaining $475,000 only goes into Julio's bank account after he makes the team out of spring training. Like I said, it is a minor quibble and there could be a mistake on my end - Mandel has much better sources than I do and it is likely he knows something I don't. The contract may have been guaranteed from the start or maybe the Phillies decided to guarantee the full amount after becoming more convinced that Santana would be a useful player. Who knows? It all boils down to Ken Mandel thinking Santana has a "lock" on one of the bullpen jobs and that has got to be considered useful information. Santana is the eleventh man in. One more spot to go.

The three remaining candidates, according to Mandel, are Chris Booker, Ricardo Rodriguez, and Robinson Tejeda. Now that’s a fun bunch. Booker may have been the favorite heading into camp based on the club’s enthusiasm over selecting him in the Rule 5 Draft, not to mention the fact they’d have to offer him back to the Nationals if he didn’t make the team out of spring training. Either he’d be on the team to start ’06 or he’d most likely be lost. Then…tragedy struck. Okay, that may be just a smidge overdramatic, but an old injury to Booker has surely complicated things this spring. Take it away, Ken…

Booker's throwing debut has been slowed by a left knee injury. He had surgery in the offseason, experienced soreness during his rehabilitation, and been limited to light jogging and long-tossing. He hasn't been cleared him to throw off a mound.

This may seem like bad news, but it could be very beneficial to the Phillies. One of the most exploited loop holes of the Rule 5 Draft is the technique some teams employ of stashing a Rule Fiver on the disabled list to buy time in evaluating him. If Booker starts '06 on the DL, the Phillies will have a few extra weeks to decide what they want to do with him. Pretty clever, right? In reality, if the Phillies liked Booker enough I'm sure they could work out a deal with Washington that would enable them to acquire the real rights to Booker, not just the Rule 5 rights. The Phils could send a little something over to the Nats (a player to be named later would probably suffice) in order to actually make Booker a permanent member of the organization. Then the team could do whatever they wanted with him. Anyway, as it stands now the Phillies have got to be hoping that the DL trick works so that they can delay the decision and go with the guy that I think they really want to see win the coveted last spot in the pen.

Who is that guy? I think it is the one, the only, the...Ricardo Rodriguez. Why? Well, I'll apologize in advance because I think this may come off as negative. So, why Rodriguez? Well, because...the Phillies are dumb. Oh, and poorly run too. Ricardo Rodriguez was the big prize in the Vicente Padilla salary dump - the savings by unloading the Padilla contract, by the way, look a lot less valuable when you consider the rather reachable incentives in Ryan Franklin's that were just made public. Gillick himself said that there were "other reasons" behind the Padilla trade. That's fine, I can respect that. But the bottom line about the trade hasn't changed - the Phillies, as a baseball team, are worse for making what amonted to a Padilla/Franklin+Rodriguez swap; I can't imagine that point being argued from a pure baseball standpoint.

Rodriguez, as stated earlier, was the prize for dumping Padilla. The fans, by and large, realize that the Padilla trade didn't make a whole lot of sense. The pressure is now on the Phillies to prove to the doubters that they are right. If Rodriguez were to fail to make the team, then the Phillies would be admitting their mistake. I don't see that happening. In five weeks, we'll now for sure. Just for laughs, let's hear what Rodriguez has to say about the spring competition...

"I've never been a bullpen guy," Rodriguez said. "I'm fighting to make the staff. If [the bullpen] is what I'm fighting for, I hope they tell me, so I can prepare."

I love it when 27-year old journeymen guys (28 in May) with 39 games of big league experience make comments like that, don't you? Give me a break. It should also be noted that Rodriguez has no minor league options remaining (Geary still has options by the way...that little piece of knowledge makes me glad I said 99% and not 100%) and would have to pass through waivers before being outrighted to Scranton. If they don't use him, they could lose him. I think they'll make a point to use him.

Apparently Robinson Tejeda is also in the mix to win the last spot in the pen. I go back and forth on this one - he'd be the best option (especially with Booker starting on the DL) for a spot in the bullpen and he may actually be best suited for middle relief down the line, but at the same time he has more value long-term as a starting pitcher. In the end, it may just be best to send him to Scranton and let him start every fifth day. Tejeda is just 24 years old and is far from a finished product. His minor league BB/9 and K/BB ratios are not impressive at all and he has only pitched 28.1 innings at the AAA level. Tejeda and Gavin Floyd can go down to Scranton together, headline the rotation, and wait for the call that notifies them that Ryan Franklin has been busted for steroids again and they need to step into the big league rotation.

To close, with a rant...

Eude Brito, Yoel Hernandez, Ryan Cameron, Travis Minix, Brian Sanches, and the forgotten Aquilino Lopez are all also said to be in the mix. None (well, maybe Lopez) are likely to be taken seriously by the Phillies as they search Brito should join Tejeda and Floyd in the Red Baron rotation and be ready when called upon in case the Phillies decide the need yet another lefty for the bullpen. The other guys...they simply don't have much of a shot and it's a damn shame. I'm a sucker for relief pitching - I find it fascinating. To me, the Ryan Camerons and Travis Minixsss of the world should absolutely be given the shot to come in and provide the better than average work they are completely capable of for the minimum salary. Cameron, Minix, and Lopez can all step into a big league clubhouse right now and get the job done - I'm not getting carried away and predicting All-Star games and huge endorsement deals, but it seems painfully obvious that the 28-year old Cameron (9.29 K/9, 8.12 H/9 career) and 28-year old Minix (8.26 K/9, 8.86 H/9 career) at least have the basic skills necessary for some degree of success in the big leagues. These kind of players are not limited to any one team like the Phils - there are examples of pitchers all over the league that are all capable of doing well enough in the majors but are never given the opportunity.

Kevin Barry (ATL), Brady Borner (PIT), Jason Bulger (ATL), Josh L. Fields (CWS), Lee Gronkiewicz (TOR), Cesar Jimenez (SEA), Hong-Chih Kuo (LAD), Shawn Marcum (TOR), and Sendy Rleal (BAL) are just a few of the names out there that come to mind as guys who are ready to pitch in the big leagues but are jus not given the chance. Should you take your chances on the proven Scott Eyre for $11 million over 3 years or give one of (or some combination of) Barry/Borner/Bulger/Fields/Gronkiewicz/Jimenez/Kuo/Marcum/Rleal/
Minix/Cameron/Hernandez/Sanches/Lopez a shot? Okay, I'm done. I promise.

Back on topic...my prediction for the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff as of 2/23/06:

SPs Lieber, Myers, Lidle, Franklin, Madson (5)
RPs Gordon, Rhodes, Fultz, Cormier, Geary, Santana, Rodriguez (7)

Relief pitching really shouldn't get anybody this worked up...it can't possibly be healthy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Form Email Response from the Phillies

Judging by this email from the Phillies, I obviously wasn't alone in sending in emails to the organization...

Thank you for taking the time to contact the Phillies. We appreciate your interest and input.

First, please be assured that there is not the slightest truth to the suggestion that the Phillies do not want Harry Kalas to continue broadcasting our games. We are well aware that Harry is a treasure not only for the Phillies but for the entire Delaware Valley. We are both lucky and proud to have this Hall of Fame announcer in the booth, now and in the future.

Second, as you know, Tom McCarthy has taken a broadcasting job with the New York Mets. His departure caused us to re-examine our broadcasting lineup. One thought was to have the announcers do less cross over between radio and television. That remains an option, along with several others under consideration.

No final decision has been made, but it is important that we think about all the possible ways we might achieve our ultimate goal of providing the best broadcast package for our fans. In making these decisions we fully understand the connection broadcasters make with fans. It is one of baseball’s strengths and we don’t want to do anything to diminish those connections.

Again, thanks for expressing your opinions.

Larry Shenk
Vice President, Public Relations

PhilliesPhans.com deserves a lot of the credit for stirring up the email campaign. Job well done, boys and girls. Keep up the good work...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Save Harry

This article by Paul Hagan has caused quite a stir over the past 24 hours or so about the future of the Phillies broadcasting team. It's bad enough Paul Richardson won't be a part of Phillies baseball this season, but is the organization really trying to push Harry Kalas out the back door?

The tentative plan is to pair Hall of Famer Harry Kalas and Chris Wheeler in the first three and last three innings on television, with Wheeler and Scott Graham working the middle three. Larry Andersen will move to radio exclusively.

All indications are that this arrangement didn't make any of the holdovers particularly happy, although all apparently stand ready to carry out whatever duties they're assigned.

The added twist is that Kalas turns 70 next month. He's in the last year of his contract. And he figuratively shrugged recently when asked what his plans beyond 2006 might be.

"I haven't really thought about it, no," he said from his Delaware County home. "We'll see how it goes. I still enjoy it, and as long as I enjoy it, I'll probably want to continue."

The key phrase appears to be "as long as I enjoy it."

Because when asked whether the partners he ends up working with could impact his enjoyment and, by extension, his decision, he replied: "It might. I'm certainly going to miss working with L.A."

Damn. I didn't think it was possible for this franchise to prove to be any more out of touch with their fan base, but they've gone and proved me wrong again. Since when is pissing off all four of the team's main announcers and alienating an entire fan base a sound business strategy? I'm sure I'm missing something obvious here, but I fail to see the motivation behind this move. If the Phillies want to groom Scott Graham to take over Harry's spot someday, so be it. I just think it is incredibly naive to think that this is the sole purpose for the 2006 broadcast rearrangement. Let's try and break down what the Phillies logic is behind this move...

Harry and Wheels don't get along at all...so how about partnering them up for the first 3 innings and last 3 innings of every game!

Harry loves working with Larry Andersen...they obviously must remain isolated and separated from one another at all times.

I think it is fairly obvious to see where the idea that H.K. is being forced into uncomfortable working assignments to push him out of the job comes from, no? What other reasons do the Phils have for making this move?

Larry Andersen will from time to time offer some objective analysis when he, heaven forbid, actually has the audacity to question moves the Phillies make. This makes him a dangerous, dangerous man in the eyes of the Phillies management. If one of the announcers starts openly questioning the team, the fans will surely follow suit! This is such a dumb way of thinking that I don't even know where to begin tearing it apart. It's pretty ironic that L.A. is the guy who is banished to radio work - he may be more critical of the Phils than the other announcers, but he is still extremely tame in his analysis. Go figure.

Chris Wheeler, who I happen to dislike a whole heck of a lot less than the majority of Phillies fans out there (really not saying much), is absolutely the definition of a "homer." The Phillies organization can do no wrong in his eyes. Well, unless you are one of the targets of Wheels' illogical, completely unfounded animosity (think Bobby Abreu or Vicente Padilla). Every major league team has at least one extreme homer on the broadcast team - it's not always fun listening to a Phillies apologist for 9 innings, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I try to compare Wheels against the other homers from other teams around the league; when looked at it that way, he isn't all that bad. Still no good, but I don't agree with some Phils fans who think he is the worst announcer in the world. Bottom line though - Wheels is a good company man. He has spent a lifetime spreading pro-Phillies propaganda and the Phillies are doing their part to pay him back with this promotion. Like it or not, it's how the world works.

Phillies fans need to do their part and voice their displeasure over this series of moves. Luckily, PhilliesPhans have already started the ball rolling. Let the Phillies know how you feel by sending emails to Scott Palmer (spalmer@phillies.com) and Larry Shenk (lshenk@phillies.com). This is an opportunity to see some fan activism at its finest. Harry Kalas IS Phillies baseball. He deserves to go out on his own terms and should not be subjected to the passive agressive bullshit management is trying to pull on him. My email to the Phillies will be sent out within the hour - I hope it is just one of the many they'll receive over the next few days.

Monday, February 20, 2006

My Two Scotts

Tom McCarthy out, Scott Franzke in. No complaints out of me on this one - he seems well qualified to do the pre- and post-game shows along with 2 innings of play-by-play plus Scott Graham will now have the opportunity to make many a "Hey, we're both named Scott and we are working together!" jokes that I guarantee will be heard nightly. I kid because I love, Scott. By the way, Scott Graham and Guy Smiley...separated at birth or what? I'll admit you don't get the full effect without hearing both speak, but trust me it's an uncanny resemblance whether you want to believe it or not. If you still don't believe me, try picturing Guy with teeth. I think that helps seal the deal.

Scott Graham


Guy Smiley

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"A rosin bag is just a mirage of innumerable particles constantly speeding up or slowing down."

Alternate titles include:
  1. If Tom Cruise was a ballplayer...
  2. "She Thought I was Looney Toons"
  3. "Eleven equals BALANCE"

Click this link and read this article - I'll wait...

Alright. What the hell was that? There is no way that was real. I refuse to believe it. This is all a big joke. Darren Daulton is just trying to pull a fast one on us. You almost got me, Dutch, but you gotta do better than that next time. If clicking a link is too much work, (normally I'd say it is, but if you only click on one link all year long then this should be it) here are some choice excerpts from an SI.com exclusive article on arguably the greatest catcher in club history (for what it's worth, Bill James thinks so) and, without a doubt, the pride of the '93 NL champion Philadelphia Phillies...

Darren (Dutch) Daulton is now a bona fide member of the Fifth Dimension...It's a nether world that involves alchemy, auras, telepathy, energy transfers, astral planes, planetary ascension, parallel universes and other psychic phenomena too mind-boggling to catalogue here...

In Daulton's private cosmology, everything "just is" -- so yesterday, right now and tomorrow all happen simultaneously. "Your mind creates the reality you live in," says the former big league catcher...

To most of us living in the Third Dimension, Daulton's life started getting surreal during spring training of 1994 in Clearwater, Fla. Crouching behind home plate at Jack Russell Stadium, he was practically compelled to stare at a Hooter's billboard featuring his estranged wife, Lynne, in dead center field. Lounging languorously in a skimpy tanktop, Lynne -- a former Playboy

"There is no good or bad," he says, explicating the Dutch Theory of Being. "We're all the same, but we're all different. The higher we ascend, the more the same we are." ...

"I didn't have my first out-of-body experience until I was 35," he says. Curiously, the epiphany occurred at one of baseball's holiest shrines -- Wrigley Field. "I hit a line-drive just inside the third base line to help win a game," he recalls. "The strange thing was I didn't hit that ball. I never hit balls inside the third base line!" playmate -- was the company's poster personality. The day after Daulton signed an $18.5 million contract extension, someone added the graffito: "$9.25 million." ...

He left the ballpark in tears. "I told my wife, 'It wasn't me who swung that bat! It wasn't me!'" he says. "She thought I was Looney Tunes." She's not alone...

"Reality is created and guarded by numeric patterns that overlap and awaken human consciousness, like a giant matrix or hologram," writes the .245 lifetime hitter. "They are created by sacred geometry -- numbers, the language of the universe, codes of awakening -- such as 11:11, which represent twin strands of DNA about to return to balance. Eleven equals BALANCE." ...

"I'll wake up at night and look at the clock and it's 11:11," he says. "I'll turn on the TV and see a baseball game tied at 11 in the 11th inning. I'll look out the window and see a car passing with 1111 on the license plate. The car will turn into a driveway with 1111 on the mailbox." ...

Eventually, Daulton would like to compile these synchronicities in a book and call it If They Only Knew! ...

The book would recount the day Daulton literally stepped through time. It would detail his ability to become a sort of otherworldly Willard Scott -- at times, he says, the weather changes with his moods. "At one point everyone was against me, kind of like I'd struck out with the bases loaded," he says. "Whenever my thoughts got totally negative, it would automatically rain." ...

Daulton can ramble in mind-numbing detail about Dark Forces, the illusion of substance, the limitations of linear time. "The universe is made of vibrating energy," he says. "When energy vibrates fast enough on our 3-D plane, matter becomes invisible. Everything you see is vibrating at a certain level. A dirt clod, a rock..." ...

Earth, Daulton believes, is entering a quadrant of space in which the "vibrational energy" will increase dramatically. "The Mayan calendar stops at Dec. 21, 2012 -- the date the Mayans believed the world would end," he says. "On that day, at 11:11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, those who are ready to ascend will vanish from this plane of existence, like the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek." ...

Daulton hopes to beat the rush. "I can't wait to disappear," he says. "I'd disappear today if I could."

Times like these make me wish I was smart enough to come up with something insightful or clever to say in response to what I just read. I got nothing. What the hell was that?

In other slightly less insane news, pitchers and catchers did in fact report for duty today. So, Happy New Year to Phillies fans everywhere - really any baseball fan with their favorite team already in camp either in Floriday in Arizona. Bad news on the first day of workouts though - Darren Daulton was not happy to hear the first practice of the new season began at 12 noon and not an hour earlier...

Needless to say, it automatically thunderstormed shortly thereafter.

An event as big as Darren Daulton losing his mind just feels like the perfect occasion to bust out the first ever Phillies Baseball Poll Question of the Day. It's a tough one - think long and hard before you answer...

Choose the one word that best describes Darren Daulton
Other (specify in Comments)
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

2/15/06 - New Year's Eve

Weather report for Clearwater, Florida tomorrow (2/16/06): 71 degrees by noon with an overall high of 77

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hamels' Health

Phillies SP prospect Cole Hamels' health will surely be a much talked about topic over the course of the spring training. Why wait until Thursday when pitchers and catchers actually report to get talking about it though? Todd Zolecki of the Inquirer (first quote) and Marcus Hayes of the Daily News (second quote) both agree - writing positive stories about how Cole Hamels' back feels while in sunny Florida is about a billion times nicer than reporting from frigid Philadelphia on such fun topics like wondering which Flyer will have to pull out of the Olympics next or trying to figure out why the Sixers couldn't trick New Orleans into taking Steven Hunter after all (anybody else think the Hornets were seriously worried about Hunter's "health"? Yeah, maybe if "health" means "ability to play basketball"). Anyway, back to Clearwater and Cole...

Lefthander Cole Hamels said his back feels fine, and he hopes to be pitching in spring-training games by the second week of March. Hamels had to be shut down for a few weeks recently because of back problems, but he said he has received positive signs from trainer Jeff Cooper.

Hamels, 22, was a first-round pick in the 2002 draft. He is expected to open the season at double-A Reading.

Sounds good to me, Todd. Oh by the way, isn't this so true? Good call, Beerleaguer. Anyway, back to Cole...again. Marcus, care to add anything else to the discussion?

Hamels had no pain in his chronically troublesome back.
"I feel great," said Hamels, who has yet to return to full speed after the most recent flare-up of the stress reaction in his lower back that he has fought since 2003. He underwent an MRI exam on Feb. 1 that showed no further damage and has been working back into shape.

Hamels, a 6-3 lefty with a devastating changeup that helped make him the Phillies' first-round pick in 2002, said he feels well enough to go full-bore. That would make him ready for tomorrow's reporting date and could have him ready to fight for a spot in the rotation when Grapefruit League games begin March 2... except team medical personnel won't let him go full-bore.

"My arm feels incredible. I'm ready to go right now," Hamels said, "but they're like, 'Not yet.' " Hamels, 22, predicted he would be able to pitch in games during the second week of spring training at the earliest.

Seems like things are running quite smoothly down there in Clearwater thus far. Hopefully this promising start leads to bigger and better things for both Cole Hamels and the Phillies in 2006.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sloooow News Day

What do you make of the Alex Gonzalez signing? It looks likes the Phillies have too many guys who can do the same thing in Abraham Nunez and Tomas Perez. What does this mean for David Bell, and shouldn't the Phillies be looking for a fifth outfielder?
-- Adam D., Mt. Laurel, N.J.

You make a valid point about what Gonzalez represents, and I agree that it's a curious move, as Gonzalez and Nunez are interchangeable. That said, Gonzalez represents another veteran presence who can play multiple positions, and manager Charlie Manuel suggested that they may be tried in the outfield. Gonzalez or Nunez can fill in at first against tough lefties, or steal at-bats away from Bell at third base. Bell and Nunez are the two players who should be concerned. Manuel insisted Bell is his starter at the hot corner, but conceded he'll go with the hot hand. Should Bell produce, one of them could be shopped for an outfielder.

I realize this is just Ken Mandel from Phillies.com (new picture for Ken by the way, very sexy) answering a Phillies fan mail bag and not necessarily representative of the Phillies organization's true beliefs so take it with a grain of salt, but his response still brings up an interesting subplot that has been lurking all offseason long and is definitely something to watch early on in the season - how often will Charlie Manuel and the Phillies use Alex Gonzalez or Abraham Nunez at first base to "protect" Ryan Howard from lefthanded pitchers? Is this a good idea or a bad one? Does Howard deserve some time against lefties so that we have some actual statstical proof he can't hit major league lefthanded pitching? Maybe it makes some sense to sit Howard on days he'll be facing "tough lefties" - it would be a shame for Howard to go into a funk and develop bad habits trying to hit these tough lefties, but maybe this whole notion is just an old school baseball myth? I'm not sure I have the answers to any of these questions right now. I do, however, have a general idea on what to do with Ryan Howard at first.

The Phillies should ultimately decide that Ryan Howard should be given plenty of chances against lefties of all shapes and sizes throughout the season. I'd be willing to bet that he winds up being a better option at first base against lefthanders than either Alex Gonzalez or Abe Nunez even if his splits against lefties are poor in the early going - this isn't so much due to a belief in Howard, but more a reflection of how I feel about his competition for playing time at the position. This isn't to say that Howard should always play against all lefthanders even when the Phils are in the middle of the playoff race come August - if he still has horrible numbers then, you'd have to consider sitting him more often. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it (notice the when and not an if...optimism).

I'm all for platooning when there are proven people in place - Howard has not yet proven he can't hit major league lefties while Gonzalez and Nunez are not what I would consider to be proven lefthanded hitting threats. Until we know for a fact that Howard can't do the job at first against lefties AND a proven alternative is ready to fill in for him in such situations, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year should be given a chance to play everyday no matter the handedness of the fellow on the mound.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Guess Devon White Wasn't Available...

Looks like Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com is the bearer of bad news today…

(before we go on, this is a WARNING: if you aren't interested in reading 500+ words based solely on a rumor about something as uncertain as reported interest in a player who is likely to be a 25th man on a middle of the pack National League ballclub anyway...then I'd suggest you back up from the computer and just walk away now - I won't be offended, honest)

The Phillies, seeking a backup outfielder, have contacted free agent B.J. Surhoff to gauge his interest. Philadelphia could be viable for Surhoff, who lives outside of Baltimore with his wife and four children and probably will put off retirement only if he could play close to home. Surhoff turns 42 in August.

Seems to me that the marriage between Surhoff and the Phillies was preordained – this move makes too much sense from the Phillies perspective not to happen. A large part of Pat Gillick’s offseason plan has revolved around the acquisition of “proven veterans.” Well, you can’t get much more of a “proven” guy than a player who Gillick saw up close and personal during their time together with the Baltimore Orioles in the mid to late nineties. You definitely can’t get someone who is too much more of a “veteran” than a 41-year old guy with 19 major league seasons under his belt (especially considering Julio Franco is taken). Surhoff has contemplated retirement this entire offseason; it had been assumed by many that last year was his swansong as a professional. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Surhoff himself had resigned himself to the fact that his long career had finally wrapped up. Then, in what really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to any fan of this organization, the Phillies came calling.

Again, I try to be as positive as I can in this space, but this offseason has really tried my patience. This may be a huge stretch, but I think I see one plus in a potential Surhoff signing. If the Phillies do wind up signing B.J., they will have accomplished something unique enough that only one other major league team can say the same – just two teams have the ability to field a 2006 roster that includes two first overall draft picks. B.J. Surhoff was the first overall pick of the Milwaukee Brewers out of the University of North Carolina in 1985 and Pat Burrell was the first overall pick out of the University of Miami in 1998. The only other team with two number one picks – the Cincinnati Reds with Paul Wilson (’94) and Ken Griffey Jr. (’87). There may be no real point to this after all, but it is a good piece of trivia you can use to impress your friends and family…assuming you associate with people who are rather easily impressed by obscure baseball knowledge (my favorite kind of people, by the way).

Now that the positive portion of this post is out of the way, it is time for some truth (negativity, truth…same thing). B.J. Surhoff will turn 42 years old in August and is coming off of a year in which he hit .257/.282/.356 in 303 at bats – that amounts to an OPS+ of 74. Not good. To his credit, Surhoff is still a versatile asset in the field – he played 46 games in left, 18 games at first, and 16 games in right in 2005. The only problem is he plays each position as one would expect a 41-year old man to play.

In summation: Surhoff is old. Surhoff is no longer a particularly good hitter. Surhoff is a liability in the field. Surhoff is lefthanded. I have nothing against B.J. Surhoff personally. I actually tend to think that he could go somewhere else (far, far away from Philly) and have a reasonably successful season as a bench player – he did post slightly better than league average OPS numbers in ’03 and ‘04. This doesn’t change the fact that he is a bad fit for this Phillies roster as currently assembled. Adding B.J. Surhoff to this baseball team is a terrible, terrible idea.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Websites, Ruben, and the WBC

Fantastic article by Jim Salisbury in today's Inquirer about Sean Forman and the creation of Baseball-Reference.com. The entire article is really worth a read, I highly recommend it. Salisbury throws a list of links out there at the end - all of which are extremely useful:

Retrosheet.org. University of Delaware professor Dave Smith heads up an excellent resource that has collected thousands of box scores and game accounts from the 20th century.
Baseballprospectus.com. This site is loaded with smart analysis.

Hardballtimes.com. This is another site packed with analysis.

Baseball-almanac.com. This site is very entertaining and informative.

Thebaseballcube.com.This site is a good source for minor-league and draft information.

Salisbury also includes this little nugget near the end of the article:

For a fee - they start at $2 - you can pick any player in the history of the game and sponsor his page. (Sorry, new Phillies pitcher Ryan Franklin is already taken.)

Feel free to check out Ryan Franklin's Baseball-Reference Page - believe me, it is well worth your time. It's amazing...and people think I'm overly negative about the guy.

Randy Miller from phillyBurbs.com has some interesting quotes from Phils assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. concerning the potential fallout from the Gonzalez acquisition:

"It probably puts us in a position where we have to figure out what we're going to do with Tomas," Phillies assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said of Perez, who will make $700,000 this year. "Maybe we'll see if one of them can play some outfield."

The Phillies say nothing is imminent, but it's possible starting third baseman David Bell, coming off a poor season, could be on the move this spring.

"David Bell is our third baseman," Amaro said. "I don't foresee [a trade] happening right now."

Miller also speculates on a potential David Bell to Kansas City trade. I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense other than the family ties involved (David's father, Buddy, is the Royals manager), but you never know.

Marcus Hayes of the Daily News reports on the status of Jimmy Rollins and Brett Myers with regards to the World Baseball Classic:

The Phillies last night confirmed a weekend report in the News Journal, of Wilmington, that shortstop Jimmy Rollins and No. 2 starter Brett Myers have been scuttled from Team USA's plans. Either can be an injury replacement.

Rollins was bumped when Alex Rodriguez decided to play for the United States last month. The Phillies told Team USA they didn't want Rollins to try to make the team at second base, where Phillies teammate Chase Utley likely will see some time.

Among Phillies expected to play for their countries: Venezuelans Bobby Abreu and Tomas Perez, Dominicans Rob Tejeda and Eude Brito and Canadians Rheal Cormier, Aaron Myette and Scott Mathieson.

No Rollins makes a lot of sense for Team USA. He just wasn't a good fit from a position standpoint for the team. No Myers...well the jury is still out on that decision. Only time will truly tell which direction Team USA takes when putting together a pitching staff. It is believed that they are looking to add guys that can contribute in certain roles; they claim it won't be a team of all start players that are unfamiliar with their spots on the team, but a compilation of stars and an assortment of complimentary guys such as solid bench players and pinch hitters, middle relievers, maybe even a lefty specialist. Team USA would rather have players accustomed to relieving at the big league level in the bullpen rather than have pitchers of a better quality, but who are starters in the big leagues, as relief options. I can't say I necessarily blame them for taking this approach, but when the hot WBC rumor of the day involves Colorado Rockies OF Matt Holliday verifying reports that he will be on the American roster, well then I begin to seriously doubt the competency of those in charge of this team and this event. What a strange tangent...anyway, no Rollins and Myers in the WBC - looking at it selfishly, this is nothing but good news for the Phillies. Isn't it nice to end on a high note for a change?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Making Sense of It All

How does Gonzalez fit on this team? What will be done about David Bell? Why is Abraham Nunez even here? Should Danny Sandoval and Matt Kata start shagging flies right this minute? How in the world did Tomas Perez even get a 2-year deal (with an option!) in the first place? (Yesterday’s post)

Jeez, what kind of crazed egomaniac publicly quotes himself? I’ll tell you what kind – this kind! In my defense, I left out the last line about Ed Wade so at least I spared the agony of reading my bad jokes anymore than you have to. In all seriousness, the above questions raised yesterday serve as a delightful intro to today’s topic/question: what the heck does the Alex Gonzalez signing mean to the makeup of the Philadelphia Phillies?

Well in case you were so worried that Gonzalez and the Phillies wouldn’t agree on an appropriate salary figure for 2006 that you couldn’t sleep at all last night (I won’t name names…), you can rest easy now that Alex Gonzalez is officially a Philadelphia Phillie after signing a one-year deal worth $750,000 earlier today. The Phillies now have a bit of a surplus at the middle infield positions – Alex Gonzalez, Abraham Nunez, and Tomas Perez all have guaranteed deals in ’06 while Matt Kata and Danny Sandoval also remain in contention to earn bench spots with the big club. There is also the matter of figuring out what will become of one David Michael Bell. Let’s see if we can figure this all out.

On David Bell…I have a hunch that he can still play a little – obviously not at the All-Star caliber level we’ve come to expect out of him (conveying sarcasm through the written word is a bitch, I learned that the hard way when I was accused of being a Ryan Franklin fan a few days ago), but I believe that he is still capable of better than anything the combined efforts of Abe Nunez, Alex Gonzalez, or any other utility guy the Phillies elect to bring in can do (though this may be seem like some kind of backhanded compliment, it is still in fact a compliment). I know claiming to have a “hunch” about a player is counterintuitive to most everything written on this site (I’d say things are fairly stat driven around here, no?), but it is a feeling I can’t shake. His 2005 season was just so far out of line with his generally decent career numbers, it seems like he is at least a reasonable candidate for some kind of bounce back year in 2006. I don’t have a say in personnel matters with the Phillies, so pretty much everything I said in the past few sentence might be useless to you dear reader since it seems pretty clear that the new Phillies regime thinks quite differently than I do; Bell has been rumored in more than a few under the radar deals this offseason and Phils GM Pat Gillick has made no secret of his desire to upgrade at third base in ’06. The Abraham Nunez signing was indicative of this – Nunez was signed because Gillick viewed him as having the potential to be a solid fill in at third for the 2006 season after he could find a way to deal Bell this offseason. No deal involving Bell went down (remember how close he was to becoming a Dodger?) and the Phils were stuck with two “starting quality” third basemen. Not a problem in the eyes of the Phils brass though, as Nunez was still viewed by the organization as an upgrade over Ramon Martinez as the first backup infielder off the bench. Bell would play third, Nunez would be the top infielder, and Tomas Perez would be back as the second infielder off the bench. Sal Fasano would likely win the backup catcher job over Carlos Ruiz (Fasano is a proven veteran after all…) and Shane Victorino would be the top backup outfielder. All that was missing was a fifth outfielder – after this acquisition or promotion the Phillies 13-man position player roster would be all set. And then they went out and signed Alex Gonzalez. Not necessarily a bad move or anything; it’s just that it’s a curious one.

Let’s assume David Bell isn’t going anywhere – a very good assumption despite the Phillies looking to move him (who wants him now?) since I’d put the odds at him being moved between now and when the season starts at around 25-1. It’s safe to pencil Bell in as the starting third baseman at this point. Abraham Nunez and Alex Gonzalez are both assured spots on this team – they are both locks to be here. Victorino will obviously be here and a spot will also be reserved for a backup catcher. This leaves one spot available. This spot just so happens to be the spot where a team would typically go with another reserve outfielder. The Phillies, always looking to keep their fans on their toes, came forth with this bit of pre-spring training logic today in the Inquirer:

Manuel said yesterday from his Winter Haven, Fla., home that he would like to see Gonzalez, who has spent the majority of his 12-year career as a shortstop, and infielder Abraham Nunez play a little in the outfield this spring. The Phillies suddenly are an outfielder short after they traded Jason Michaels to the Cleveland Indians for relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes. Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Shane Victorino are considered the team's top four outfielders, with a fifth spot open. The Phillies also could make a trade in the spring to get a fifth outfielder. "I think those guys could play out there," Manuel said of Gonzalez and Nunez. "Tomas [Perez] is still in the mix. I want to play [Matt] Kata in the outfield. You know what? We want the best team out there. So there's going to be some competition. Going in, people are going to have to play. We've got a lot of players in the mix, and we want to see what our best team is going to be."

Phils manager Charlie Manuel is looking forward to seeing Nunez, Gonzalez, and Kata play the outfield this spring. This is a terrible idea for a few reasons. Believing that either Nunez or Gonzalez is capable enough to play the outfield creates a spot on the roster for a non-outfielder to make the team…seems like Tomas Perez would be that guy to me. Believing Kata can work as an outfielder would mean that he’d make the team as the last bench option – the silver lining there is that Tomas Perez would be booted from the team (though not before collecting $775,000 in severance pay on the way out). I just don’t get the feeling Sandoval will be given a fair shot at all to win a job which is a shame for all parties involved, but not the end of the world. There are worst things than having Sandoval serving as insurance at the AAA level in something unforeseen occurs.

So the first 4 bench spots look to be locks with the only real competition at the last spot. The most realistic look at the roster points to this being the 2006 bench setup: Nunez, Gonzalez, Victorino, Backup Catcher, Kata/Perez. It is still possible that the Phillies could come to spring training and not be overly impressed by Nunez, Gonzalez, or Kata’s progress in the outfield. Then a backup outfielder could be sought via free agency or through promoting from within. It is also possible that a deal could be made to bring in a backup outfielder through a trade of one of the spare parts in the infield. I’m not so sure what team is willing to add Tomas Perez or Matt Kata to their roster, but anything is possible I suppose.

In a perfect world, the Phillies would come to their senses and realize that sticking a marginal backup infielder in the outfield is not a good solution to solving the problem of an offensively below average bench. There is no player on this bench that an opposing manager would have to do any extra late game strategizing for. The sight of Abe Nunez striding to the plate in a tense late game situation isn’t going to strike fear into the collective heart of any opposing team. If the plan to try Nunez, Gonzalez, or Kata in the outfield is carried out and the last roster spot is given to either Kata or Tomas Perez and not a real major league outfielder, then the bench will cost the ballclub games in 2006 – you can count on it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Newest Phillie - Alex S. Gonzalez

News that was first reported early this morning by the Philadelphia Inquirer has now been confirmed by the Philadelphia Phillies via a press release on their official website – Alex Scott Gonzalez is the newest member of the Phillies organization. The Phillies have also dipped into their international scouting budget and snatched up another young Australian prospect. If you don’t mind, I’ll just pass along a link that explains the story (since I know very little about the Aussie baseball) and just move on to devoting about 1,000 words on Alex Gonzalez.

In a vacuum, this has the look and feel of a good addition. Gonzalez is an above average defender with the talent to play any of the four infield spots – he has only played SS and 3B in his big league career, but the transition to the right side of the infield shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Gonzalez as it is a necessary adjustment the natural shortstop would have to make eventually in order to prolong his big league career through reinventing himself as a utility guy. Gonzalez also has a commodity that looks to be severely lacking in this present incarnation of the Phillies collection of benchwarmers – power. Gonzalez has hit 137 homers in his 12 big league seasons with 20 of those coming in his career high homer year of 2003 (in the NL with the Cubs).

Gonzalez isn’t necessarily an ideal option of the bench, however, as he has one of the most atrocious strikeout/walk ratios in major league history. Gonzalez has struck out a remarkable 1155 times in his 1376 games played while only walking 390 times (good for 2.96 strikeouts for every walk). Not exactly the kind of bat you’d want off the bench in a late game situation even when taking into account the power he provides. I’m not sure if Gonzalez has enough power to justify his strikeout totals, but this is a point that could be debated.

I’m sure Gonzalez is remembered by the five organizations he has played for in very unique ways. Gonzalez has spent the bulk of his playing days in Toronto (8 years) and Chicago (2.5 years), so the memories in those places may actually be somewhat significant. We’ll get to those in a second, but it would be a shame if the nomadic existence of Gonzalez over the past two seasons is ignored. Four teams in two years is an impressive feat for any player and it deserves proper recognition. I mean, seriously, what Expos fan can forget the 35 he games played in Montreal after the Cubs dumped him back in Canada in 2004? Padres fans still look back fondly at his 23 late season at bats with the team after they picked him for the stretch run? Devil Rays fans can now look back at Gonzalez for what he truly was – a one year stopgap who fit the bill as the “veteran presence” management was looking for. Gonzalez did hit the ball very well at Tropicana Field in ’05 (.283/.340/.433) so maybe Rays fans can remember the good times they enjoyed watching him play at home when they look back on the one year Alex Gonzalez era.

Toronto fans can probably only look back at Gonzalez and wonder what might have been. He was a highly regarded prospect coming off of an All-State year at Killian High School in Miami, Florida who fell in the draft due to the fear most teams had that he would opt for college instead of the pros. Toronto took a chance on him in the 14th round and it quickly paid off. After an early minor league adjustment period, Gonzalez settled in and by 1993 had established himself as one of the top shortstop prospects in all of baseball. He hit .289/.340/.451 with 16 homers as a 20-year old kid in AA in ’93 and then followed it up in 1994 with an even more impressive .284/.365/.435 line with 12 homers in AAA. His development was astonishing – he had improved in every aspect of the game, most notably his plate discipline, in just a four seasons as a professional. Gonzalez was called up and given the everyday job at shortstop for the Blue Jays in 1995 – he posted an OPS+ of 87 in 367 at bats as a 22-year old in the majors. His career OPS+ as it stands right this minute – 79. Needless to say, Gonzalez did not progress at the big league level like so many had predicted he would. His offensive game stagnated or worse –in some areas, again going back to plate discipline, his numbers regressed. This made me think of something Bill James wrote about Shawon Dunston in his Historical Baseball Abstract; he wrote, “He was basically an eternal rookie, a player who continued until the end of his career to make rookie mistakes.” I haven’t followed the career of Alex Gonzalez closely enough to say the same about him, but Shawon Dunston did happen to have a very similar statistical line as Gonzalez as both players progressed into their late 20’s. Just a thought.

If Blue Jay fans feel badly about the time they spent watching Alex Gonzalez, consider for a second what Chicago Cubs fans went through. Gonzalez was the man at shortstop for the Cubbies during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Gonzalez dropped a routine ground ball hit right to him that would have ended the eight inning with Chicago up 3-1. Seven Marlin runs would eventually score, Steve Bartman would be run out of town, and the World Series drought for the Cubs would live on. Baseball is a game of inches – a solid and very applicable cliché if you ask me.

It’s really anybody’s guess as to how Alex Gonzalez will be remembered for his time spent in Philadelphia. He comes in hot; 2005 was the best full season of his career. He hit .269/.323/.410 with 9 homers in 349 at bats while playing third base for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His OPS+ of 95 was his highest over a full season ever, topping the 100 he put up in 154 at bats in ’99 and the 94 OPS+ of 2002 in his first of two full seasons with the Cubs. He’ll be 33 years old on April 8th, so what you see is what you get. He is a very talented athlete who does certain things reasonably well (power and defense), but always leaves you wanting more. He is a unique player to evaluate because he has a rare skill set – how many utility infielders do you see out there who combine good defense with good pop while consistently finishing with over 100 strikeouts a season? The terms of the contract will play a big part in determining how good or bad a move this was, but Gonzalez is a decent ballplayer who is capable of helping this team. To borrow a phrase I used earlier - in a vacuum, this has the look and feel of a good addition. The problem with this move is that it isn’t in a vacuum (obviously). Other acquisitions have been made this offseason and more moves are still to be made. How does Gonzalez fit on this team? What will be done about David Bell? Why is Abraham Nunez even here? Should Danny Sandoval and Matt Kata start shagging flies right this minute? How in the world did Tomas Perez even get a 2-year deal (with an option!) in the first place? Well, at least I can actually answer one of these questions…just blame it on Ed Wade.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bob Abreu en Español

"La primera duda del manager Luis Sojo para el Clásico Mundial de beisbol quizás haya encontrado respuesta esta semana. Bob Abreu no tendrá problemas con ser el primer bate del equipo venezolano." - ESPNdeportes

Bobby Abreu says he has no problems leading off for the Venezuelan squad in the World Baseball Classic. His logic is simple - if he is asked by the manager, he'll do it. This doesn't quite fit into the typical Philadelphian's image of Bobby Abreu - from what I've heard down at the ballpark in South Philly over the past few years, Abreu is too lazy, not passionate enough, and unwilling to do whatever it takes for the betterment of his team. I realize there certainly is something special about playing for your native country with the whole world watching (the whole world watching...in theory anyway), but this team first attitude doesn't come as much as a surprise to many who follow the Phils closely. Things are so often assumed about the kind of person Bobby Abreu is to the point that rumors of selfish behavior and perceived loafing in the field become concrete evidence in the argument against him. Maybe this story, made up of real life facts and not assumptions by the way, will help people realize what kind of ballplayer Bobby Abreu really is.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Weekend Update

Something to read during the Super Bowl halftime show this year...
  1. The Philadelphia Inquirer had an article on Friday about Phillies SP prospect Cole Hamels. If one didn't know much about Cole Hamels then this article appears to contain nothing but the most worrisome news for Phils fans regarding the health of the most talented minor leaguer in the organization. Luckily, I consider the majority of Jim Salisbury's article to be just restating what many Phillies fans already know about the future of Hamels. I personally wouldn't worry about this specific article - it contains no real new news about Hamels and his injury status. There are no new reasons to worry about Cole's health for the upcoming season only the same old ones that were reported on months ago. Note the italics of course - no new reasons, but plenty of old ones (a pitcher with a bad back is scary stuff). The health and progress of Cole Hamels will make for one of the most intriguing storylines within the Phillies organization in 2006 and beyond.

  2. It isn't really news or anything, but it deserves to be mentioned - Bill Conlin is a dope. On Friday in the Philadelphia Daily News, Conlin addressed the "Hot Internet trade rumor du jour" that has been discussed in this space before - Jermaine Dye and Jose Contreras for Bobby Abreu and Gavin Floyd. Some of Mr. Conlin's thoughts on the idea:

    The deal-breaking question could be: Why would Chicago settle for Gavin Floyd? Whatever, it rates a solid 6.0 on the trade-rumor Richter Scale and even makes a little sense for the Phillies. When you factor the intangibles, I'm not so sure Abreu would be an upgrade for the Sox. But Dye would certainly fit well here. He led all rightfielders last season with 31 homers.

    Funny that many Phillies fans (myself included) cite the addition of Gavin Floyd in the deal as a very, very bad idea from the Phillies perspective; Bill Conlin can not figure out why the White Sox would "settle" for the still 23-year old former 4th overall pick. I also wonder what precisely Conlin means by "intangibles" when writing that Abreu might not even be an upgrade for the Sox in right. He call talk about "intangibles" all he wants; I tend to think that the kind of production Bobby Abreu has put up over his eight full seasons as a Phillie more than makes up for any perceived lack of "intangibles" the media wants to call him out on. By the way, Abreu's worst year of a pro happened to be his 2005 season - he had an OPS+ of 123. Jermaine Dye has bested that only once in his 10 big league seasons (2000) and during his major league leading 31 homers as rightfielder season in '05, his OPS+ was 118 - obviously very good, but still no Bobby Abreu. The arguments for trading Abreu just get weaker and weaker with every attempt. Some Philly journalists don't seem to even bother trying anymore. Pathetic.

  3. This article from the Chicago Tribune on Friday makes me happy as a Phillies fan:

    White Sox general manager Ken Williams shot down Internet reports that the team was on the verge of trading pitcher Jose Contreras and right fielder Jermaine Dye to Philadelphia for All-Star right fielder Bobby Abreu and pitching prospect Gavin Floyd. Williams, through a team spokesman, said there is nothing to the report, adding he hadn't spoken to the Phillies in eight or nine days and that no proposal was tendered.

    Does this kill the Abreu to the White Sox rumors for now? I hope so.

  4. Halo's Heaven, a very good Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim blog, reports that Jeff Weaver will officially be an Angel on Monday. This is important for a few reasons. If this report is true, then everybody out there still holding out hope that the Phillies will change their minds about signing Weaver and sticking him in the '06 rotation can now officially be disappointed. In addition to that, if this report is in fact true, we have yet another example of a very well run, independently operated, MLB team blog beating all other major media outlets to a story. Inside information can be a beautiful thing sometimes - I'm hoping that by tomorrow we will all recognize the good info that only a site like Halo's Heaven can sometimes get and appreciate the medium a bit more.

  5. It was a slow news weekend, so reporting on the happenings of two blogs is a rare treat. I personally consider Athletics Nation to be the gold standard when it comes to an independent team site - the community of fans that frequent that site and leave comments is astounding. That community of A's fans came together over this past week and raised $4,450 (with still some cash left to be sorted out) to buy season tickets for two Bay Area charitable organizations. The final purchase of the tickets is on Monday and the tickets should be delivered to the charities by Wednesday. The guys who run A's Nation say that they'll be able to buy 8 season tickets with the money raised plus food vouchers for each game. It may sound corny but it is true - the power people can wield when united in a good cause is really something extraordinary. It's great to be able to point to a shared love of a baseball team being the reason for these good people coming together and helping others.

  6. Following the minor leagues and trying to pinpoint the next big superstar in low A ball has become sort of a hobby within a hobby for many baseball fans. You build a major league organization through great drafting and smart trading while using free agency to fill in the pieces to push the team over the top. Based on that logic, it only makes sense that following the minor leagues has become such a big deal for baseball fans everywhere. For most fans, the minor league process goes something like this: a team drafts a guy, waits up to six years while he develops in the minor league system, and then finally unleashes him onto the big league scene only when he is ready. Fans with an interest in the minor leagues now can get all kind of information on a kid before he is drafted, track the amateur draft each year in June live online, keep tabs of the contract negotiations between player and team, follow the player every step of the way throughout his minor league career (through checking stats online or by actually going to see him in person as often as possible), and then, finally, when the team deems the player ready for the bigs, fans who have followed the prospect through all the ups and downs over the years can finally enjoy the fruits of the organization's labor. I tend to get all excited about every big prospect out there, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer offers a well researched word of caution when it comes to the gamble that is developing baseball talent. Keep in mind all these quotes come from Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro - a guy I consider to be a top 5 GM in all of baseball.

    Here are quotes Shapiro made about other recent, celebrated prospects - not long after acquiring them in major trades: 1. "He's a talented player with a lot of tools."
    2. "He has the potential to be a dominant offensive player. We think he could be a core player for years to come." 3. "When he pitches, you put aside the radar gun and just watch the hitter's reaction. He's a winner." 4. "He's competitive, isn't afraid to work inside and he's intelligent."

    In order, Shapiro was talking about outfielder Alex Escobar, infielder Brandon Phillips and pitchers Billy Traber and Ricardo Rodriguez. But today, Escobar, Traber and Rodriguez aren't in the organization. And Phillips may not be much longer: He's been buried in the minors for two straight seasons, and could be gone by April.

    Escobar and Phillips were both supposed to be superstars - I remember many Barry Larkin comparisons in particular for Phillips. Traber and Rodriguez were at least being counted on to be dependable big league starters. At least we now know how "competitive" and "intelligent" Ricardo Rodriguez is. Those traits could really come in handy for him and the Phils this year...if he even makes the team.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Victorino and Ruiz - Kindred Spirits

Baseball Prospectus has some nice things to say about Phillies youngsters OF Shane Victorino and C Carlos Ruiz:

In short, he finally put together the ability to handle the strike zone with a respectable amount of power. During his previous seasons he had occasionally shown decent plate discipline or a flash of power, but never both at the same time. Something fell into place last season and he was able to put up a .377 OBP at Scranton while still hitting 59 extra base hits.

Despite having been around long enough to be drafted twice in the Rule 5 draft, Victorino is only 25, so there is reason to be optimistic that the improvements seen last year are real. If so, he becomes a solid bat off the bench, something the Phillies lacked last year. His strength has always been his speed and his defense, so he is well-suited to the fourth outfielder role, and will likely be frequently used as a defensive substitute for Pat Burrell in the late innings.

Victorino will be the fourth outfielder for this ballclub in 2006. Is he a late bloomer who is now finallly ready to handle a significant big league role? Or is he a guy who was only able to put it all together in AAA after he had outgrown the competition thus making him the classic AAAA player? I tend to believe it is the former and not the latter - he may be old for a "prospect" and he may never be a starter in the outfield, but his success in AAA make him a decent bet to contribute off the big league bench in '06. In fact, I think he finishes the season with a higher OPS than Jason Michaels had in 2005 (the number to beat is .814).

His defense is usually lauded as his major strength, specifically his ability to work well with pitchers. He has a strong arm, although since his control is not as sharp, the arm strength is only partially put to good use. Offensively, he had a productive season in Scranton last year, though there is understandable concern that his advanced age may have given him a boost. Ruiz's most surprising skill should carry over, in that he is one of the fastest catchers in the game, finishing 5th in the International League in triples last year with 9.

His injury history is a concern. Ruiz spent a good deal of time last year dealing with a bad shoulder, and his desire to always block the plate on plays at home--even when it is not necessary--increases the chances of him getting hurt again. If he can demonstrate in spring training that he is healthy and can avoid being overwhelmed by major league pitching, he may very well join Victorino on the Phillies bench.

C Carlos Ruiz - my attempt to summarize what BP had to say

Pros: works well with pitchers, strong arm, above average speed for position, very productive in AAA - high average, very good plate discipline, and gap power potential

Cons: less than accurate throwing arm, overaged prospect in AAA, injury history, too stubborn to stop blocking the plate on every little play at home, lacks big league experience

Sal Fasano brings one thing to the table - power. He is by all accounts a bad defensive player (something teams put extra weight on for backup catchers) and comes with a .222 career BA and a .302 career OBP. I'd love to have a backup catcher named Salvatore Frank Fasano - I really, really would - but if the Phillies don't at least let Ruiz compete for a spot on the team in spring training, it will be a big mistake.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Updated List of Abreu Trade Rumors Vol. 3

  1. Abreu to the Orioles for OF Jay Gibbons and LHP Eric Bedard
  2. Abreu to the Red Sox for OF Trot Nixon and RHP Matt Clement
  3. Abreu to the Yankees with C Mike Lieberthal for RHP Carl Pavano, C Jorge Posada and 3B Eric Duncan
  4. Abreu to the Cardinals for RHP Anthony Reyes and RHP Jason Marquis
  5. Abreu to the Blue Jays for CF Vernon Wells
  6. Abreu to the Giants for RHP Jason Schmidt
  7. Abreu to the Astros for RHP Chad Qualls and RHP Brandon Backe
  8. Abreu to the Dodgers with 3B David Bell for RHP Brad Penny OR RHP Derek Lowe
  9. Abreu to the Athletics with C Mike Lieberthal and SP Gavin Floyd for LHP Barry Zito and C Jason Kendall
  10. Abreu to the Orioles for SS Miguel Tejada
  11. Abreu to the Red Sox with OF Jason Michaels and SP Gavin Floyd for OF Manny Ramirez and SP Matt Clement
  12. Abreu to the White Sox with SP Gavin Floyd for SP Jose Contreras and OF Jermaine Dye
I know talking about rumored deals makes up just about 95% of what I have to say around here. It's what I do. I enjoy it. That being said, I'm not so sure I buy this rumored Abreu and Floyd for Contreras and Dye swap. The logic behind the deal makes sense for a few reasons 1) Kenny Williams, GM of the Sox, has long coveted Abreu, 2) Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is a native of Venezuela who has long standing personal ties to Bobby Abreu, 3) the Phillies have been after another starter all off season, and 4) the Sox have been reportedly shopping Contreras all offseason. The reasoning behind the pieces of this deal may all fit together at first glance, but the sum of all the parts does not necessarily lead me to conclude that a trade is in the works.

A GM is interested has coveted Abreu? Not necessarily a shocker. Guillen and Abreu are buddies? While this is absolutely valid and something to be considered, how much influence does a manager have on player acquisitions anyway? To be fair, Guillen seems to have more sway than most managers around the league (see Garcia, Freddy) and his insistence on a deal could push it over the top for the Sox. Ultimately it is the decision of the front office to decide on who comes and goes - the manager's opinion is considered, but the guys upstairs know that when it comes right down to it, it is their butts on the line.

It is true that the Phillies still desire pitching. It is also true that the White Sox have a surplus of starters. There could be a match here. The Phillies have made their quest of acquiring a "number one" starting pitcher public this offseason. Abreu is the big chip the team has in their efforts to land that number one. Is Contreras a number one starter? If the Phillies think so, we're all in far bigger trouble than I thought. Abreu for an ace is the only deal I would make - Contreras is not an ace. Dye sweetens the deal, but he isn't a good enough player for my tastes to get it done. Throwing Gavin Floyd in on top of that - now that's just crazy. The only way this deal makes sense is if you believe that the Phillies organization wants to rid themselves of some of the long term commitments given out by Ed Wade. I think Pat Gillick wants to do just that; this is what scares me about this current rumor.

This rumor is only in the beginning stages. It could die out completely (see the above list) or it could gain steam over the next few days. I'm willing to call this rumor the most interesting one involving Abreu this offseason - I've heard more arguments for accepting the White Sox package than I've expected. With so many people out there with conflicting opinions (so much having to do with conflicting opinions about the value of Bobby Abreu), it should be a very eventful couple of days ahead. Or not eventful at all. Either way.