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The Captain



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After The Worst Season In 14 years What’s Next For Phils

By The Captain

This weekend the Phillies ended their worst season since 2000 with their 89th loss.  This group of aging injury prone veterans and a smattering of young players have shown they need significant help if they have any chance of a better outcome in 2014.  General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admits he made some mistakes this season but clearly doesn’t see how far away this team really is from the championship caliber team of just 2 years ago.  Amaro has said he will focus on starting pitching, getting an outfielder and upgrading the catching situation while attempting to bring back Carlos Ruiz.  He seems to think this club just needs a bit of tweaking and they can be right back on top.  Sadly, Amaro is woefully wrong and the first move that needs to be made is to get someone else in the general manager’s chair that sees the Phillies for what they are and his willing to make the moves to set the team on the long term road back to the top. 

Let’s take a look at the first reason there is no quick fix for the Phillies like the Red Sox were able to do last winter.  Boston was able to unload most of their big contracts in a blockbuster deal with the L.A. Dodgers in the summer of 2012.  There is no longer any team willing to take on contracts like Ryan Howard’s, Jonathan Papelbon, or Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies are unwilling to deal Cliff Lee which would not be easy with his contract.  The Red Sox after freeing up a ton of salary also made some quality free agent signings like former Phillie Shane Victorino and former Texas Ranger Mike Napoli.   Last year’s free agent market was not great but it was significantly better than this year’s market.  There is one good every day catcher in Brian McCann and one back up that is good enough to play 50-80 games in Dioner Navarro.  McCann is intriguing because he can be an impact bat though yet another left handed bat in the lineup is not what the Phillies really need.  He will also likely cost in the 15-20 million per year over at least 5 years.  McCann will be 31 at the start of the 2014 season.  As much as I would like an impact bat the idea of signing a catcher on the other side of 30 to a long term deal is scary considering how catchers tend to age badly.  If the Phillies decide to bring back Ruiz, Navarro might be a good much less expensive option.   He is also a switch hitter that can actually hit a little (.300 13 HR 34 RBI in 266 AB). 

In the starting pitching market it is thin to say the least.  The best available out there are Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Jason Vargas, Ricky Nolasco, Dan Haren, Paul Maholm, Phil Hughes, and former Phillie Gavin Floyd.  There are some other, “names,” out there but other than Tim Lincecum they are all 35+ and more than a little bit of questions.  Yes, that’s right I didn’t list Roy Halladay.  I have loved Doc over the years but I just can’t see bringing him back.  The only thing I feel the Phillies could do out of respect is offer him a non-roster invite though I think he would reject that offer.   So with that list and the reality that Ruben Amaro has said the Phillies will tender Kyle Kendrick the Phillies will only be looking for one starter.  The rotation will look like this; Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Miguel Gonzalez, Kyle Kendrick and a fifth starter that will either be a free agent or an in house candidate of Jonathan Pettibone or Adam Morgan.  Considering we have no idea what Gonzalez will actually be is that rotation really one that could get the Phillies to the post season?  From what I can see unless the Phillies offense is what it was in 2007-2010 that rotation gets them no better than 84 wins but more likely in the 70-80 range?  That said, the best case for the Phillies is maybe signing Matt Garza and hoping returning to the NL he pitches more like he did with the Cubs before his trade to the Rangers.  Ervin Santana is a guy they should stay far away from.  Yes, I know he had a great year with the Royals but if you look at his career numbers he has consistently alternated between a good year and a bad and has never put together back to back good years.  Taking that into consideration signing him would be an extremely bad idea.  Finally, the other issue you have consider is with this thin crop of starting pitchers they will likely be significantly over priced compared to their real value.  All I can say is stay away from any bidding wars and only sign any of these guys to a shorter term more team friendly deal if you sign one at all.

Now the outfield free agent market is even uglier than the starting pitching market. There is Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, and Carlos Beltran and then cheaper options like Mike Morse.  Ellsbury is the only one of only 2 that is younger than 31 and in many ways the best choice though again yet another left handed bat.  He also does lack the power the Phillies need.  Ellsbury has only hit double digit homers once, back in 2011 when he hit 32.  He has also missed significant time in 2 of the last 4 seasons due to injury.  Choo has the power and is a great OBP guy but is also another lefty.  Granderson and Beltran would be extremely interesting if the Phillies were just one bat away and their price tag even with injury risk would be worth the shot.  Sadly, this club is more than a bat away from contention.  The most likely move is Mike Morse.  He is a much needed right handed power bat, though he is well below average defensively.  Morse however, would be decent in the role that has been talked about for Darin Ruf, but at a significantly higher cost than Ruf.  In the end, unless the Phillies sign Choo or Ellsbury expect the OF defense to be bad again though it might have a little more pop.

There is one completion in spring training that will be interesting and that is at 3B between Cody Asche and Maikel Franco.  Asche got to audition for the job over the final 50 games of the season.  He started slow and then seemed to pick it up but then faded in September particularly in the last 2 weeks hitting just .071.   Franco has been hitting lights out since the minor league all-star break in 2012.  Between high A Clearwater and Double-A Reading in 134 games 581 AB’s he hit .320 31 HR 103 RBI.  Franco just turned 21 in late August.  His foot speed but agile in the field and has a strong arm.  Though, he is considered a better fielder than Asche today, many feel he may not be able to keep his weight down and will have to move to 1B and played some 1B late in the year with Reading.  Another positive in Franco’s favor is he is a much needed right handed power bat.  Ryne Sandberg did say Asche has a leg up, but Ruben Amaro said if Franco’s bat proves too good to ignore this spring the team could look at Asche in the outfield. I would assume that would mean a Ruf/Asche platoon in left considering Brown is likely to move back to right unless the Phillies sign a free agent right fielder.  Boy, does that sound like some ugly outfield defense.  Getting back to the competition, the 23 year old Asche has the advantage for two reasons.  First he already has the job and second the Phillies very well might want to hold Franco down just long enough to push the arbitration clock back a year.  That would probably mean keeping him down until the beginning of June.  On the other hand the Phillies offense needs a serious shot in the arm and especially from the right side.  Franco is most compared to Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays.  The Phillies definitely hope that is the case.   So, if Franco plays well in the Dominican League this winter and rolls into spring training and keeps swinging the bat well  there will be a 21 year old 3B heading north with the big club.  That could also be the case if Asche scuffles through spring training like he did in September.  My gut says Asche has a decent spring Franco is good but not scary good and the Phillies send him to Triple-A and provided he hits in Lehigh Franco gets his ticket to Philadelphia on June 1.

Now, the bullpen that failed the Phillies so often this season, Ruben Amaro says it’s pretty much set.  At the back end with Papelbon I agree but beyond that to say its shaky would be an understatement.  Can you really expect anything out of Mike Adams outside of him cashing that 7 million dollar paycheck?  Jake Diekman does look promising and Justin De Fratus shows flashes but looks more like a 10th pitcher on the staff.  B.J. Rosenberg, if he’s the answer I don’t want to know the question.  He’s a borderline guy at best. How can I forget Mr. PED, Antonio Bastardo.  Now he is a legit bullpen piece but let’s see how he is without the PED’s.  Ethan Martin got moved to the pen in September and was not much different than he was as a starter, good stuff but erratic.  His splits look like he could eventually be a decent arm in the pen but let’s wait and see. So does that seem like a bullpen you can trust? I didn’t think so.   There are a few decent to solid relievers on the free agent market this winter, like Jason Frasor, Joe Smith, and Scott Downs to name a few. So Ruben could go that route or could to look on the trade market if he wants to keep the bullpen from continuing to be a liability.

Now, after all that examination what will the Phillies 2014 opening day roster look like?  My guess is something like this:

Starting Rotation: 

Cliff Lee

Cole Hamels

Miguel Gonzalez

Kyle Kendrick

Roy Halladay or a free agent ( maybe Jason Vargas, Matt Garza or Scott Feldman) or one of Jonathan Pettibone, or Adam Morgan

Bullpen:

Jonathan Papelbon

Mike Adams

Antonio Bastardo

Jake Diekman

Justin De Fratus

Ethan Martin or B.J. Rosenberg

Starting Lineup:

Catcher – Carlos Ruiz/ Donier Navarro and or Jarrod Saltalamacchia if Ruiz walks

1B - Ryan Howard

2B - Chase Utley

3B – Maikel Franco

SS – Jimmy Rollins

RF – Dom Brown

CF – Ben Revere unless they sign Jacoby Ellsbury

LF – Cody Asche/Darin Ruf or Ben Revere unless they sign Shin-Soo Choo or Mike Morse

Bench:

Cesar Hernandez

Freddy Galvis

John Mayberry Jr

Chris Young

Before I go into what I think the Phillies will end up doing and what 2014 may look like I want to hit on the handful of moves the Phillies should make.  My first moves would be on the international free agent market something the Phillies only recently have started to tap with the signing of Cuban pitcher Miguel Gonzalez.  I would head right back to the Cuban market and jump in with both feet like the Dodgers did with Yasiel Puig. The Phillies should pay even over pay and sign Cuban 1B José Dariel Abreu and Cuban SS Alexander Guerrero, who broke off talks with the Dodgers and is free to sign with any MLB team.  Both are 26 and could potential be major league ready very soon.  Abreu has been compared to Ryan Howard so obviously big power something the Phillies very much need.  Guerreo is a power hitting shorts top that is also a good on base guy.  The scouting reports say he could eventually move over to 2B.  The third move would be to post for 24 year old Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  He isn’t Yu Darvish but he is projected to be a number 2 or 3 starter.  It’s expected to cost over 25 million to secure his negotiating rights.  Right now it is not guaranteed that his Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, will post him but if they do the Phillies should be prepared to post a big number and then sign him.  If Tanaka were to be signed he could be that free agent starter the Phillies need to add.  After making those 3 bold moves the Phillies would instantly have a much stronger young base for the future and the present.  The other moves I would make is to non-tender Kyle Kendrick and let Pettibone and Morgan compete for the number 5 slot. With those moves out of the way I would concentrate on three potential big moves moving Cliff Lee for the best package possible, go back to calling the Marlins daily about Giancarlo Stanton, and shopping Jonathan Papelbon.  Now all 6 of these potential moves are extreme long shots but they are moves that I believe would be best for the Phillies over the long haul. I know some may be upset that I seem to be giving up on 2014.  They would be right to a certain extent, but I am only giving up on what is already lost and looking to a brighter future beyond 2014.

Finally, I gave some of the potential free agent options the Phillies could choose if they spend the 45-50 million they have available before they hit the 189 million dollar luxury tax threshold. My best guess is they may go after either Garza or Ervin Santana but get out bid and sign one of the low budget options or one of bring back Halladay or let Jonathan Pettibone and Adam Morgan battle for the spot in spring training.  Also my guess is they will be serious bidders on both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo but will not get either and possibly go after cheaper options like Mike Morse or Chris Young.  I seriously doubt Amaro will bring in any outside help for the bullpen.  So in the end the roster will not be significantly better that in 2013 outside of the possibility that Ryan Howard is finally healthy again and Maikel Franco is at 3B and ready to contribute.  If both of those happen it is possible the offense could be greatly improved but that is, to say the least, a HUGE if.  So what does that mean for the season?  I think it is pretty clear the answer to that question is a team that is a likely 70-75 win team.  If those ifs happen and the aging core manages to stay healthy the upside could be as high as 80-85 and it would take something magical to go above that level.  Wow, it is so back to the future and looking like those bad teams of the mid to late 80’s and through the 90’s. Let’s hope for the best that I am proven completely wrong 2014 turns out to be a magical season.  One can dream anyway, you know Ruben Amaro is praying for just that.

Send your comments and questions to The Captain

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Look To The Future Or Start The Dark Ages

By The Captain

With the MLB non-waiver trade deadline just a week away Phillies G.M. Ruben Amaro Jr has some work to do if he wants to keep the Phillies from a long stay in the NL East cellar and a pink slip for himself.  First things first Ruben and Phillies ownership need to look in the mirror and see the reality that the Phillies are an aging team that is fading quickly and without aggressive action they will be doomed to look up at the rest of the NL East for the next half dozen years.  Second, Amaro needs to star aggressively shopping Jonathan Papelbon, Michael Young, Delmon Young, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz.  Third, at worst he must have at least 3 of those 5 dealt before the deadline next week.

But the Phillies can’t deal Papelbon and Utley if they want to get the best deal they can on a new local TV contract.   This has been an argument you’ve heard a few times this summer.  It is an argument that actually defies reality because the key to the biggest possible contract is simple and it has always been the same, winning.  The Phillies are old and not winning, names are meaningless.  Just look at how attendance while still solid, has dropped as the Phillies have become a borderline 500 team.  The Phillies will get a big new TV deal no matter if they stand pat or sell this summer. That is especially true if there is a bidding war between Comcast and Fox Sports for the team’s broadcast rights.  So with that in mind the Phillies again need to look to the future and no one other than Dom Brown and Cole Hamels should be held back from any potential deal that will help the club rebuild and compete in 2014 and beyond.

So what teams could the Phillies send these guys and what can they hope to get in return?  The Detroit Tigers have been the team most mentioned when it comes to Jonathan Papelbon and the name most associated is Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos.  I would also push for Bruce Rondon to be included in the deal if I were the Phillies.  Yes, he was supposed to be the Tigers closer but failed miserably both in spring training and with the big club this season.  But, he is only 22 and if the Tigers have Papelbon they won’t be looking for another closer until 2015 making Rondon very expendable.  Castelanos is the tougher get in this deal.  Detroit does not want to give up their number one prospect if at all possible. Papelbon is far and away the best closer on the market and the Tigers are a closer away from being the hands down favorite to return to the World Series and win it this time.  That urgency should be enough to push them to make the deal.  Some other names in the Detroit system the Phillies could eye up are OF’s Avisail Garcia and Danry Vasquez and pitchers Jake Thompson and Casey Crosby. With the injury to Jason Grilli it is possible the Pirates could become a suitor for Papelbon.  The Phillies would probably need to eat a little money in this case.  The two top targets would be elite pitching prospects Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia and OF Gregory Polanco.   Papelbon should at least bring 2 of the three and all three if the Phillies have to eat any money.

Chase Utley is the toughest player for the team to deal because he is biggest fan favorite in decades and possibly the most loved player the team has had going all the way back to Richie Ashburn.  Utley fits with the Yankees, Athletics, Orioles and possibly the Dodgers.  Yes, I know there were rumors a few weeks ago that Utley’s most likely destination was L.A. but 3B not 2B is the Dodgers biggest need so that deal seems a little less likely than those rumors portray.  The A’s look to be the best fit for Utley.  They likely would not give up top prospect Addison Russell but it’s definitely worth trying to talk them into parting with him.  Some more likely names are OF Michael Choice, 3B Renato Nunez, and pitchers A.J. Cole, Sonny Gray, and Dan Straily.  Utley would likely get you one of those maybe two if Renato is the second and or if they got a fringe prospect.  With the Orioles it has been said they are not willing to part with pitching prospect Kevin Gausman and probably the best you could hope for from them is infielder Jonathan Schoop.  The Yankees make some sense and you would likely package Utley with Carlos Ruiz. In a package deal The Phillies should be able to pry one of the Yankees top 3 OF prospects Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, or Austin Jackson.  Some other names to look at might be 2B Angelo Gumbs and pitchers Manny Banuelos, Ty Hensley, and Rafael De Paula. Finally the Dodgers the top targets would be  OF Joc Pederson, 3B Corey Seager, pitchers Zach Lee, Chris Reed and one current member of their MLB roster reliever Paco Rodriguez.

Michael Young, Delmon Young, and Carlos Ruiz could be dealt individually or as part of a package of 2 or three together or with Utley.  Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz as a package to the Yankees have been rumored over the last month.  I could easily see that happening. I could also see either one going to the Yankees by themselves. For the package deal I would try for one of the OF prospects mentioned in the potential Utley deal to the Yankees.  If not one of them I would expect maybe 1 or 2 mid-level prospects along with a couple fringe prospects.  For Young to the Orioles I the best I could see is Jonathan Schoop but more likely a mid-level prospect and a fringe guy.  Delmon Young could be dealt to almost any playoff contender and is most likely only going to get you a fringe prospect or two, but if Ruben can get more God bless him.

If Ruben Amaro is aggressive and deals at least three and at best all five of Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Michael and Delmon Young the Phillies outlook for 2014 and beyond will be significantly changed for the better. While they likely wouldn’t be contenders in 2014 unless everything just fell into place they should be in position to make a run for the post-season in 2015.   If Amaro and Phillies ownership instead chooses to stand pat or is delusional enough to be buyers the Phillies will be making the biggest mistake in franchise history since the early 80’s when they threw Ryan Sandberg in with Larry Bowa for Ivan De Jesus of the Cubs.  Also, in the same year they dealt Jay Baller, Julio Franco, Manny Trillo, George Vukovich and Jerry Willard to the Indians in exchange for Von Hayes. In a week we will know what course the Phillies have chosen and if the Phillies have a bright future or dark days in the cellar.

Send your comments to The Captain or join the forum and have your say.

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Can The Phillies Pull Off a Red Sox Style Salary Dump Deal?

By The Captain


With Roy Halladay about to have shoulder surgery, his career his return to baseball in serious doubt, and the Phillies floundering under 500 people are wondering if it’s time to blow up the roster and rebuild.  Some are even speculating if Ruben Amaro could pull of a huge salary dump trade much like the Red Sox did last season when they traded Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  In short no they can’t.  There are no other teams that can currently take on the huge contracts of Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard.  The Yankees are striving to be under the luxury tax when it rises to 189 million in 2014, the Angels and Dodgers are already up against it or over it and are not willing to go any higher.  The Texas Rangers traded Michael Young to the Phillies in part to trim 8 million off their budget and didn’t resign Josh Hamilton so they could stay within their budget.  The Orioles have a crazy owner in Peter Angelos but probably not crazy enough to add to huge contracts over the next 3 years even if picking up Howard and Lee would be exactly what his club needs on the field.   What the Phillies are more likely to do if they choose to dump is do a serious of maybe a half dozen smaller deals.

As you look at potential trade options the easiest players to move are Chase Utley, Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, Delmon Young, Mike Adams, and Carlos Ruiz.  The most difficult to move are clearly Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee because of the amount of money remaining on their contracts.   Howard has 93 million remaining while Lee has 82 million left on his deal.  Getting out from under even one of these deals would be a boon for the Phillies.   Though it would probably be difficult if not impossible without having to eat somewhere in the neighborhood of half of either contract as part of any trade.  That in itself shrinks the chances of dealing both to almost zero.   So then if you can only deal one of the two who should you deal. In all deference to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, who recently opined in an article that now was the time to deal Ryan Howard, the player with a big contract that the Phillies should deal is clearly Cliff Lee.  He is more in demand. Also, if you have learned anything from all that has gone on with Halladay is that every pitcher no matter how good or durable is just one pitch away from the disabled list.  While Howard is over paid he still is a sorely needed power source and in a position that can afford his lack of mobility no to mention there is a better possibility that he will be more productive at the end of his contract than Lee at the end of his.

So where to you trade Cliff Lee?  As I see it there are six possibly seven landing spots for Lee, the Rangers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Orioles, and the Angels if they can get things turned around. Of those teams, the Rangers, Giants, and Diamondbacks are the most realistic.  The Yankees are trying to get themselves in position under the luxury tax for next season and the young players they have to offer is not all that great.  The Red Sox are more of a dark horse that might swoop in but most likely will try and do something smaller.  With the realistic candidates now at four what players of the Rangers, Giants, Diamondbacks and Orioles should the Phillies target?  My first choice of where to send Lee is Texas and the top targets should be Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, Martin Perez, Leonys Martin, Luke Jackson, Luis Sardinas, Jorge Alfaro, and Joey Gallo.  One of either Olt or Profar and 2 of the others should be in any deal for Lee along with one or two lower tier prospects that may be high risk reward prospects that are potential 3 years away. In a deal like that the Rangers get the front end of the rotation starter to go along with Yu Darvish that they need to contend for a world championship and the Phillies get a young potential impact player and  help for the coming 2 or 3 years as they rebuild.   I know some of you are wondering how the Giants can be in play.  It’s simple; Tim Lincecum is looking shaky again and likely won’t be back in 2014.   Also Barry Zito’s horrible contract is up at the end of this year and the combination of the two frees up a lot of money potentially for the quality starter they will need to win their third championship in four years.  The Phillies would need to have something from the wish list of Kyle Crick, Joe Panik, Chris Stratton, and Gary Brown. Then there is the team Cliff Lee was rumored to be on his way to this winter, the Diamondbacks.  The targets from then is Adam Eaton (no not that Adam Eaton), Archie Bradley, Matt Davidson, David Holmberg, and Chris Owings.  Davidson and Bradley would be perfect for the Phillies giving them a future ace and a 3B.  Finally, the Orioles would be a great fit for Lee though what to get from them in return might be a tad more difficult.  Dylan Bundy would be at the top of the list but it is highly unlikely that they would ever part with him.  Next In the line of prospects would be Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman.  On the major league level target is Chris Davis would be the only possible choice though he is almost as untouchable as Manny Machado.

Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are marketable to many of the same teams, St Louis, San Francisco, Arizona, and the L.A. Dodgers.  With Utley, he is also marketable to Baltimore and Oakland.  In addition, Rollins possibly could be targeted by Boston.  To me the Giants and Cardinals are the best fits for both guys.  My top target  with the Cardinals would be Osacar Tavaras though I highly doubt he would be available.  If that is the case I would move towards picking from a list of Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, and Kolten Wong.  Of course some of these guys might only be available if you were dealing both guys to the Cards.  Next would be the Giants who could use the help of one of Utley or Rollins.  The same list of targets I mentioned in a potential trade of Cliff Lee to the Giants would apply here as would be the list of targets from the Diamondbacks. Now with the Red Sox and Jimmy Rollins it is a bit of a long shot but Stephen Drew does have a significant injury history so it is possible he could go down before the trade deadline.  If he does that could open the door for a Rollins deal.  Here’s the list of players the Phillies should be looking to pick from:  Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, and Jose Iglesias.  Utley could be a possibility for Oakland and Baltimore either at 2B or DH. With the Orioles the list would be the same as the one for Cliff Lee. The Phillies targets in the Oakland organization would be Addison Russell, Michael Choice, or A.J. Cole. If the Dodgers get themselves into the race Utley could be a good option for them and some names that come to mind are Yasiel Puig though he like Bundy with the Orioles is likely off the table, Corey Seager, Paco Rodriguez, Joc Pederson, and possibly Dee Gordon.

Michael & Delmon Young could be trade options for a number of teams looking for a rental bat.  The Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, and Athletics would be the top possible landing places for either Young. In any of those places Michael Young is obviously the first choice but considering neither is all that expensive they would not be hard to move. I believe Baltimore and Oakland are the best places for both though San Francisco could be a possibility for Michael Young as well.  

Carlos Ruiz and Mike Adams could be possible with just about any playoff contender.   Teams always are looking for bullpen help.  Ruiz could be either an upgrade or provide flexibility at for a number of contenders. For example if the Giants picked up Ruiz they could strengthen their lineup by moving Buster Posey to 1B and also improve defense and game calling behind the plate.  He would also be an improvement with the Yankees, Reds and Indians if they continue to hang in there.

Finally, can you deal Ryan Howard?  Yes anything is possible but it would be fairly difficult and you would likely have to package him with another player if the Phillies want to avoid eating half to two thirds of the remaining money left on his contract.  Now who would take Howard? On the field the best matches are the Orioles, Rangers, Giants, and Mariners with the Yankees as a dark horse.  It is unlikely that any of those teams would be willing to pay more than half of Howard’s contract and the more the Phillies eat the better the return would be.  Again the names are the same in the list of targets from the Orioles, Giants and Rangers.  The Yankees trade targets would be Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, Jose Campos, Brett Marshall, and Manny Banuelos.  The Mariners are as much a long shot as the Yankees though if the Phillies eat a lot of Howard’s contract that could change quickly because of Justin Smoak being slightly better than a train wreck at 1B.  He has been to say the least a bust since being the center piece of the Cliff Lee trade in the summer of 2010.  If the Mariners decide they wanted to make a move for Howard the names the Phillies would have to look at are Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, and Luiz Gohara.  The Mariners system is very pitcher heavy and the Phillies should especially target Walker and the very young Gohara at the very least.  They have the highest upside.

We have identified whose days are numbered and where they could land. Now it is a matter of seeing if the Phillies surprise us and drastically improve or does Ruben Amaro start looking towards 2014 and beyond and send all the names we know out of town.

Send your comments to The Captain
The 3 Things That Kept The Phillies From Being A Dynasty

By The Captain


We are well into spring training and the Phillies look like an aging team that might be in their last gasp as a playoff contender.  A few years ago it looked like the Phillies were on the verge of a dynasty much like the late 90’s Yankees.  Now all Phillies fans are thinking is what could have been and why it didn’t happen. I believe there are 3 reasons the Phillies are where they are now and not the dynasty they should have been.


Reason one and the biggest reason of all the Phillies never became a dynasty.  Not acquiring Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays in July of 2009 after picking up Cliff Lee from the Indians.  Fact is the Phillies gave Toronto the prospects they wanted in July in the deal they eventually made in December of 2009.   Yes the Phillies made it to the World Series in 2009 with just Cliff Lee. But Cole Hamels was injured in ineffective in the post-season.  Had they also acquired Halladay the one two punch would have been enough to beat the Yankees and win back to back World Series titles.  You would have though with the chance to be the first NL team to win back to back titles in over 30 years they would have gone for broke.   When you look at it, there was no reason other than budget not to have done the deal in July of 2009.   All you can say is this is one of the all-time missed opportunities and a very typical Philadelphia sports.


Second, is the trade of Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners in December 2009.  Yes Lee’s agents asked for too much initially but still the chance to have 2 aces is not something you pass up.  Again it was a budget decision that proved to be foolish and wrong not to mention the Phillies got little value for one of baseball’s top starters.


Finally, reason number three and probably the main reason the Phillies never became that dynasty, Ownership not realizing they could afford to have a budget that bumped up against the luxury tax.  Had ownership realized this, the first two reasons why the Phillies failed to win multiple championships wouldn’t exist.  The club would have acquired both Halladay and Lee in July of 2009 and most likely extended Halladay that summer and Lee that winter.  And in the case of Lee the price likely would have been lower than his current 125 million dollar deal.  Also, they would still have been able to afford picking up Roy Oswalt in July of 2010 and had a little more payroll flexibility to improve the club in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  Yes hindsight is 20/20 and it is easy for me to say now.  But the fact is it should not have been that hard to see the finances were there to spend back in 2009.  


After revisiting the past and why the Phillies came up short of what could have been fans are reminded of the last almost dynasty in the late 70’s and early 80’s and know this is so Philadelphia how could it be any other way.

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Who Should The Phils Sell To?

By The Captain

 

The Phillies 2012 hopes quickly fading away and now it’s time to think about the future.   In looking to the future means selling off some of their marketable talent.  This is obvious a horrible proposition for anyone in Philadelphia considering how used to the post-season they have become over the last 5 years.  The reality is this team has gotten old and selling off some of the soon to be free agents or other potential trade pieces could help them as soon as the 2013 season and for the long term.  Now, let’s take a look at what the Phillies have to offer, where and who the possible return could be.

The first to go would likely be Shane Victorino and the best landing spot would be in the division with the Washington Nationals.  Before you start screaming, the Nationals have one of the more talent rich farm systems and a need for a centerfielder. My top target would be Anthony Rendon, possibly Steve Lombardozzi, and a decent to marginal prospect.  Honestly, if you forced my hand I might even accept just Rendon if the Nat’s would even give up their top prospect.  He would be your 3B of the future and a potential middle the order right handed bat.  He is on the minor league DL right now with a broken ankle but long term he projects.  Lombardozzi would be a nice utility option and even could be the stop gap 3B until Rendon is ready, which at worst would be 2014.  Another potential target would be the L.A. Angels Mark Trumbo but that would likely take more than Shane Victorino.  I would suspect the only way that would happen is if it was Victorino, Hunter Pence for Trumbo plus and even that is doubtful though interesting.  The third team I would look at is the Reds and my favorite targets would be Billy Hamilton, Todd Frazier, and Chris Heisey.

Next on the block is the big dog Cole Hamels.  I have made it clear in multiple articles that I would do whatever it takes to re-sign Cole Hamels but it is clear the Phillies have no plans to bring back the 2008 LCS and World Series MVP.   The Dodgers are his most likely landing spot this winter and could be a potential player for him before the deadline.  The other potential suitors are the Yankees of course, and possibly the White Sox and Orioles.  Maybe you could add the Reds into that mix but I doubt they would be willing to pay the price.  Now to what the Phillies could ask for from each team.  From the Dodgers the three young arms I like most are Zach Lee, Allen Webster, and Nate Eovaldi who is currently in the Dodgers rotation due to injury. Chad Billingsley is also intriguing though frustrating.  The asking price could be Billingsley, Zach Lee and either Webster or Eovaldi.  If the Dodgers weren’t willing to give up Billingsley I would ask for all three plus at least one other decent prospect. Now what to get from the Evil Empire, yes what to get.  That is the problem as you look at their prospect scouting reports it is at best difficult to see the Phillies and Yankees as trade partners.   The White Sox are another fairly difficult match though their post-season chances could be greatly helped by Hamels.  Most of their top minor league arms more likely project as bullpen arms than starters and the position players in their system are just ok.  Leftfielder Dayan Viciedo could be of interest as part of a package as would Chris Sale who is most likely untouchable.  Finally the Orioles, who desperately need a front of the rotation starter, and have some of the most intriguing names.  Three prospect names immediately come to mind when I think of the Orioles and any deal of Hamels.  Those names are Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado, and Jon Schoop.  There are a few more names that are worth thinking about but on the major league level name and that would be Chris Davis.  From the Phillies perspective getting one of those top two, Schoop, and Davis would be good.  The minimum of Davis and either Machado or Bundy is a must though.

 Now for the rest of the potential trade pieces the Phillies might unload.   Joe Blanton will at best bring you a marginal to decent prospect. The more of his salary the Phillies eat the better the prospect would be.  The same is true of 3B Placido Polanco.  Finally, do you deal Hunter Pence?  For my money if you can a pretty good offer you take the money and run.  Don’t get me wrong I like Pence but he is a guy that won’t age well.  He’s not as good but I suspect he will age something like Dale Murphy did.  Remember he was a 2 time MVP dominate bat but once he got into his 30’s there was a severe drop off.  Pence’s batting style and he way he takes chances once his skills start to erode his numbers will take a huge hit.  The potential landing spots for him could be the Dodgers, Reds, Angels and Giants.  With the Dodgers my targets would be the same names I mentioned in a Hamels deal though a little different and smaller package.  The Reds targets if they were interested would be similar to the possible Victorino package and considering they would have him under control for another year the price could be pretty much the same. Now with the Giants, Gary Brown, and Brandon Belt would be the two names I would start with and go from there.  As I mentioned with Victorino and the Angels, Mark Trumbo is the name I like and it would take more than just Hunter Pence I suspect but if that’s all it would take I would do it in a heartbeat.

 Now whether you agree with a Phillies fire sale or want to hang in there is entirely a matter of opinion. I’ve stated mine as have quite a few others over these last couple of weeks since Roy Halladay went on the DL and the Phillies have nose dived in the standings. I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to jump in the forum and speak your mind or send me your comments.


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The Twitch Club
By The Captain

Back in the 80’s a few friends of mine and I affectionately started calling a portion of the Phillies pitching staff the twitch club. Wipe, that, “what in the world are you talking about,” look off your face I’ll explain it to you. The Twitch is that quick head snap when the pitch you just threw goes past you for a base hit or sailing into the seats for a HR. A member of the twitch club is one of those special pitchers that spend more time looking over his shoulder watching one after of his pitches being crushed.  These are the guys that come into a close or tied game to put out a fire but instead throw napalm on it. Or they start a game and just blow up leaving your club in a hole they’d never be able to climb out.

No matter what team you are a fan of I’m sure you can name some current twitch club members on the roster. Also, I bet you can recall some all-time members in your team’s history. For me growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in the Philadelphia area the names, Randy Lerch, Sid Monge, Dave Rucker, Ed Farmer, Don Carman, Tom Gorman, Freddie Toliver, Joe Cowley, Todd Frohwirth, Doug Bair, Bob Sebra, Starvin Marvin Freeman, and so many more. In the 90’s there were some classics twitch club members like Andy Ashby(never could handle being in a real media market), Barry Jones, Jay Baller, Bob Ayrault, Bobby Thigpen, Roger “Home Run” Mason(yes he was money in the playoffs but sucked during the season), Mark Davis, Shawn Boskie, Ben Rivera, Jeff Juden, Omar Olivares, Matt Beech, Ron Blazier, Ken Ryan, Mike Mimbs, Scott Ruffcorn, Carlton Loewer, Darrin Winston, and so many more. The 90’s were an ugly decade other than 1993. The 2000’s the Phillies had plenty that fit in but my two favorites were Adam Eaton and Rheal Cormier, Amaury Telemaco, Jose Santiago, Geoff Geary, and the newest members David Herndon and Chad Qualls.

For Phillies fans this list brings instant indigestion and memories of guys who could in moment turn a campfire into a five state out of control wildfire. Any one of these guys could give you a drinking problem in a 1/3 of an inning. Though the Phillies have more losses than any team in professional sports they are not  the lone team with a twitch club. Whatever team you are fan of start looking at your club especially at the pen. Just think what pitcher gets up in the pen and your heart sinks and you keep thinking to yourself please, please don’t bring him in he can’t get my grandmother out. If you’ve thought that you have identified a twitch club member. Now that you know make up your own list and post it in the forum here at Hardballmadness.

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The Offer The Phillies Must Make ASAP
By The Captain

The time is now for the Phillies to aggressively make Cole Hamels an offer he can’t refuse. The Phillies have not had any recent contract discussions with Cole Hamel’s agent John Boggs according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney in his insiders report. Matt Cain’s five year 112.5 million dollar extension raised the bar well above Phillies hoped it would get and a couple million above where they probably could have signed Hamels over the winter. Now, to re-sign Hamels, the Phillies are looking at a contract a lot closer to Cliff Lee’s than they would like and likely it will need to be a year longer with option years to potentially take it up to 7 or 8 years.

Ruben Amaro Jr. should call Cole Hamels agent John Boggs today and offer a 5 year 118 million dollar deal with a 26 million dollar vesting/club option for a 6th year if he makes at least 28 starts per year all 5 years and does not end 2017 on the DL with an elbow, shoulder, or back injury. The deal should also include a 2019 7th year club option for 27 million with a 5 million dollar buyout and a 2020 28 million dollar mutual option with a 5 million dollar buyout. Also, to help with the luxury tax the 5 year guaranteed portion of the contract should be structured something like this: 2013-21 million, 2014-22 million, 2015-24.5 million, 2016-25 million, 2017-25.5 million.

Now, there is no absolute guarantee that Hamel’s would sign the deal but if he didn’t immediately accept it likely the two sides would be extremely close to a deal and probably would have one within days. Hamels re-signing with Phillies has to be done and is the most important roster move for the Phillies in close to 30 years. Letting him go would down as one of the worst moves in franchise history along the lines of the Larry Bowa, Ryne Sandberg for Ivan De Jesus trade in 1982. The failure would haunt the team for a decade and probably turn the fan base against ownership much like it was before this current run began. The ball is in the Phillies court time will tell if they are willing to pay the price for success and keep the second best homegrown pitcher in franchise has produced or go quietly out of the greatest era in team history.

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Should The Phillies Get Youkilis?
By The Captain

A few days ago on the MLB Network Radio, Jim Bowden suggested the Phillies should call the Red Sox and offer them Domonic Brown and Antonio Bastardo for Kevin Youkilis. On the surface it seems like a great move for the Phillies to help their offense. But when you look at it more closely it might not be a smart move at all.

Over the last few years Kevin Youkilis has been declining. In 2010 Youkilis had a drop of 1/3 in his HR and RBI numbers. In 2011 his batting average dropped 49 points and his HR numbers had a slight drop of 2 while he bumped his RBI numbers up by 18 just over half of the decline from 2009 to 2010. This season he is really struggling, hitting just .200 with 1 HR 5 RBI while walking just 3 times.  Youk, has also not played a full season in his career and over the last 3 seasons he has played 136, 102, 120 games respectively.  The Phillies are already overloaded with aging declining starts with injury woes. Yes, there is no doubt they need a bat desperately. But, is it smart to add a player that seems to be in potentially a rapid decline with a high salary? That is a difficult thing to say about one of my favorite players in baseball but it is fair.

 For the Phillies the only way they should consider acquiring Kevin Youkilis is first, if the Red Sox are eating quite a bit of his salary. Youkilis is being paid 12 million in 2012 and has a 13 million dollar club option for 2013 with a 1 million dollar buyout. Second, they should make it a requirement that the Red Sox, instead of taking Domonic Brown the Red Sox take someone like mid to lower prospect like Jiwan James. Also, another possibility is if the Red Sox took Placido Polanco(6.25 million salary in 2012 with a 5.5 million dollar mutual option in 2013 with a 1 million dollar buyout) in the deal the Phillies could ask the Red Sox only to eat as much of Youkilis’ salary as to even it out with Polanco’s. Otherwise, the Red Sox would need to eat around 75 percent of Youkilis’ salary. All in all, I still like Youkilis but he is not the player he was from 2007-2009. and I would be very leery of bringing him on board without some salary protection and the price tag being cheap overall.

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Is It Time To Make A Big Move
By The Captain

We are only a few weeks into the season but many are ready to push the panic button with the Phillies offense. After just 13 games the Fighten’s are averaging just under 3 runs a game and are one game under 500. It was assumed the mammoth hole in the middle of the order left by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard would be an issue but it was assumed the pitching would keep them above water. The pitching has been solid as expected but not enough to calm the fan base.

So after 13 games is it time for Ruben Amaro Jr. to make his big move and not wait for the trade deadline like he has the previous 3 seasons? In a word the answer is, YES! There are two reasons why I say that. The first is even with a healthy Howard and Utley this team wasn’t going to run away with the division and was going to struggle at times offensively. Second, the Phillies can’t afford to fall too far behind early with the improved division. John Mayberry Jr. is not a starter on a playoff team he is a versatile 4th OF that some pop but has holes in his swing that are exposed the more he plays. Now is the time to make a move. The most likely candidates right now are expensive salary wise like Carlos Lee, in the final year of his deal and the Astros are willing to pay some of the 18 million owed him. Then there’s Alfonso Soriano who’s still owed 54 million through 2014 by the Cubs. The only way any team would take him is if the Cubs ate most all of that 54 million. After that the one possible would be B.J. Upton who is coming off the DL with the Rays today. Upton is also a free agent at the end of the year but his contract is workable at 7 million, plus he could prove to be insurance and a cheaper option in case the Phillies lose Shane Victorino to free agency. Other options will open up as we get closer to the trade deadline like the often talked about David Wright trade over the winter. That one I still don’t see happening no matter how much Phillies fans would like it.

Now will Amaro make the bold move or wait to see what happens once Utley and Howard return to the lineup. My guess is he will wait at least 3 or 4 weeks to see if the offense starts to improve or if the pitching picks them up enough to get on a role. If either of those happens Ruben will likely hold off doing anything until late June into July when more bats become available. If not he may look to make an intermediate move that would still leave the options open for a big move closer to the deadline. That said, there is one thing that the last three years have shown us and that is Ruben Amaro will make whatever move he deems necessary to put his ball club in the best position to compete for a world championship.

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Step Back From The Ledge People
By the Captain

We are just four games into the season and Phillies fans are out on ledges of high rises, clinging to the Walt and the Ben ready to jump into the Delaware or screaming on the local sports-talk stations that Charlie Manuel has to go. Take a deep breath people, there’s still 158 games left.


We knew going in the Phillies were going to struggle to score runs over the first couple months of the season with no Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. This is not the 2009 team that just bashed teams day in and day out. The Phillies run production has been on a steady decline because of injuries and age since that season with a drop in run production from 2009-2011 of approximately 100 runs a season. Now without their two biggest offensive guns there really is only one hitter in the lineup teams may fear even a little bit in Hunter Pence. The Phillies offense now more resembles the Giants of last year, or even the Padres. I know it’s scary for Phillies fans to watch a team that struggles to plate runs every game after years of watching this team put up crooked numbers for years.

Take a minute and step back remember there still is Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. Over the long haul of a 162 game season pitching is king. Before you jump try and think of a team that had 3 starters on the level of the Phillies top 3 that didn’t win. The fact is you can’t come up with one. Baseball is a marathon and the one thing that is consistent over a marathon is pitching. So again, take a step back take a deep breath. I know it’s not going to be easy it will be ok.

All that said, for the here and now should the Phillies make a move now or just be patient and try and tread water until Howard and Utley return? The answer isn’t quite that simple. They need to do a little of both. Ruben Amaro Jr needs to be on the lookout for a power bat that would be a fit at 3B or LF. Before you say it, David Wright sounds awful good but it’s not happening. Now that we have that out of the way be patient and remember Ruben has made a big move every July for the past 3 years. Until then it’s going to be an up and down road with an anemic offense and stellar pitching. So step back from the ledge, climb down from the bridge relax and try and enjoy the best team in Philly sports.

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How 2012 Will Shake Out
By The Captain

With just days left in spring training and a few cuts left it’s time to look into the crystal ball and predict how the 2012 season will turn out. In the National League I see the Phillies coming back to the pack and the Nationals has the most dangerous team in the senior circuit. Yes the Marlins will be tough but will have growing pains in 2012. The Braves will step back and the Mets will be, well the Mets are the Mets bringing up the rear in the East.


In the Central, the Reds will bounce back the Cards will slide backwards but be competitive. The Brewers will hang around but without Prince they won’t have enough. Good news in Pittsburgh they won’t finish with a losing record. That leaves the Cubs and the Astros. Well there’s always next year, ok maybe 2014 or 2015 will be better for these two clubs.


The West should finish out similar to 2011. The Diamondbacks are balanced and should prove last season was no fluke. The Giants are going to get back to the post season but that will be about it in their final season with both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Dodgers will be better than expected and are a dark horse to win the division and the Rockies aren’t far behind. The Padres, well they’re the Padres enough said.


Post Season

The Nationals will be the story of the post-season. They will make their first playoff appearance as a wildcard and go all the way to the NLCS. They will serve notice to the rest of the NL that they will be the class of the National League for the next few years. The Phillies will make one final run much like the Wheeze Kids did in 1983.

American League

In the American League it should be interesting there are more power house teams in the AL that are a sheer joy to watch the great baseball these teams will play. In the East the Yankees will be the class again and should win 100 games. The Rays with that amazing rotation will finish second and gain a wildcard berth. The Red Sox will be solid but not strong enough to make the post-season. The dark horse team in not only the AL East but in the whole AL is the Toronto Blue Jays. This team has an offense to compete in baseball’s best defense and their pitching is catching up. They can finish anywhere from fourth to second. Oh the Orioles have some promising young talent. Well, that’ is it for my complements of the O’s sorry this team is doomed to the AL East cellar once again.

In the central The Tigers will roll this mediocre division and finish with baseball’s best record. The Indians will finish second but that’s about all I can say for them. They are not a playoff caliber team. The rest of the division shakes out this way. The improving young Royals will finish third and you can throw the Twins and White Sox into a hat and whichever one you pull out will finish a distant 4th and the other will bring up the rear.

The battle for the West is going to be the most fun division race in baseball. The Rangers talent-wise have been the best team in baseball for the last two years and still are. The Angels are much improved with the additions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. They will give the Rangers fits all year but not enough to keep the Rangers from the division title. The Athletics will be better than the Mariners but that isn’t saying much. Both teams will finish miles behind the Rangers and Angels.


Post Season

The Yankees will have an early exit at the hands of Albert Pujols and the Angels. The Tigers and Rangers will have an amazing division series. The wild AL West race will culminate with the best league championship series in years with an epic 7 game series between the Rangers and Angels.


World Series

The most talented team in baseball will finally take home the crown. The third time will be the charm as the Rangers will reach the mountain top and defeat the Phillies in 6 games to take home their first ever World Series title.


National League
East
y-Phillies 92-70
x-Nationals 90-72
Marlins 85-77
Braves 84-78
Mets 71-91


Central
y-Reds 88-74
Cardinals 85-77
Brewers 83-79
Pirates 81-81
Cubs 73-89
Astros 56-106


West
y-Diamondbacks 95-67
x-Giants 87-75
Dodgers 84-78
Rockies 79-83
Padres 67-95


Wildcard Playoff

Nationals over Giants

NLDS

Nationals over Diamondbacks 3-2
Phillies over Reds 3-0


NLCS

Phillies over Nationals 4-2
Roy Halladay NLCS MVP

American League

East
y-Yankees 103-59
x-Rays 95-57
Red Sox 93-69
Blue Jays 86-76
Orioles 71-91


Central
y-Tigers 106-56
Indians 88-74
Royals 78-84
Twins 75-87
White Sox 71-91


West
y-Rangers 97-65
x-Angels 96-66
Athletics 72-90
Mariners 69-93


Wildcard Playoff
Angels over Rays

ALDS

Angels over Tigers 3-2
Rangers over Yankees 3-1


ALCS

Rangers over Angels 4-3
Yu Darvish ALCS MVP


World Series
Rangers over Phillies 4-2
Yu Darvish World Series MVP


Regular Season Awards

National League
MVPMatt Kemp Dodgers
Cy Young Cole Hamels Phillies
Rookie of The YearYonder Alonso Padres
Manager of The Year Davey Johnson Nationals


American League
MVPMiguel Cabrera Tigers
Cy YoungJustin Verlander Tigers
Rookie of The Year – Yu Darvish Rangers
Manager of The YearMike Scioscia Angels

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Are You A Baseball Addict?
By The Captain

Top Ten Things that Confirm You Are A Baseball Addict

1. You yell, “PLAY BALL!,” before you turn the lights out when you are about to make love to your wife.
2. You just put field turf in your living room limed foulines from your lazy boy to the wall and painted distances on the wall and mounted a scoreboard above the TV.
3. You put your grocery list on a lineup card.
4. Your ringtone is the theme from the Natural and when you get a text you hear the crack of the bat.
5. Your coffee table is buried under stacks of preview magazines and back issues of Baseball America.
6. When someone mentions reading the classics you think they mean The Natural, Boys of Summer, Eight Men Out, Ball Four, etc., etc.,
7. When you go to Starbucks you tap your right arm for regular or your left for decaf
8. You’ve memorized the Baseball America prospect handbook.
9. You have MLBRadio Network on speed dial and your TV has never been off MLBNetwork since it came on the air.
10. It’s the second week in March and you are having beer and hot dogs every day for lunch and dinner.

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Is Ryan Howard Underrated?

By The Captain

It’s hard to believe but Ryan Howard could be underrated. I know, I know, your first reaction is he may be one of the most overpaid if anything. You may or may not be right on that one. The Phillies certainly jumped the gun on the 5 year extension. That said; let’s take a look at Ryan Howard.

When the Phillies had one of the top offensive clubs in baseball from 2007-2009 Ryan Howard was leading the league in RBI’s.  All the experts blew off Howard’s big RBI numbers as a product of more RBI opportunities than anybody else and a hitter friendly ballpark that inflated his HR numbers.  In 2010 and 2011 the Phillies offense dropped off significantly but Ryan Howard kept driving in 100 runs. Now, the experts say well he doesn’t hit for average and he doesn’t hit in the clutch.

Let’s examine Ryan Howard’s numbers in the clutch.  In 2010 Howard hit .275 with RISP, 2 out, man on 1st .277, man on 2nd 2 out .333, man on 3rd 2 out 235.  In 2010 he hit .280 when it was close and late in games.  His overall average was .276 so he basically hit as good or better when he had the chance to make an impact.  He hit better than Prince Fielder by 13 points, 90 points higher than Mark Teixeira, and one point less than Adrian Gonzalez late in close games. Yes Joey Votto the 2010 MVP and Albert Pujols hit better but of the elite 1B Howard was arguably in the top 3 in 2010 even with missing over a month to an ankle injury that was nagging even through 2011.

Now it’s time to look at 2011.  Ryan Howard’s average overall was .253 and he hit .298 with RISP and .268 close and late in games. He was significantly better in clutch situations.  He hit 30 points higher than Teixeira with RISP and 68 points higher close in late. In 2011 Howard’s numbers did improve but Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, and of course Albert Pujols all hit over 300 with RISP and close and late in games. So Ryan Howard still basically ranked in the top 1B in baseball. Yet the perception has become he is just middle of the pack.

 If a player say like, James Loney or Ike Davis put up the numbers like Ryan Howard the experts would be saying they are RBI machines. So why is there all the player hating on Ryan Howard's over his production? Yes his overall power numbers are down so he isn’t quite as dominate a run producer as he was 2 or 3 years ago. But, when you look at the numbers it can be attributed to fewer opportunities because of the Phillies declining offense.  Also, his leg ankle injury that eventually led to his torn Achilles.  Then when you look at how he has been improving his hitting with RISP and close in late in games he is doing a better job of maximizing his opportunities.  If he is able to continue to do this he could end up being the best run producer in Phillies history.  When he returns from the torn Achilles in May if that leg is now strong you could see a return to the 40HR power. No he may not hit 40 with missing a month but he could push 35 and drive in a 100 for the 7th straight season. Yes Ryan Howard is not Albert Pujols but he is the guy who has hit more homeruns and driven in more runs than anyone since 2006. So is he underrated or overrated? Forget the contract just go on the production and you have to admit he just may be.

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Nothing Is More Important Than Locking Up Hamels
By the Captain.

The Phillies have made a few nice moves this winter in signing Jonathan Papelbon, and re-signing Jimmy Rollins. They have yet to make the most important move for the teams present and future, locking up Cole Hamels. Right now he is their number 3 starter but over the next 3 to 5 years he may end up being their best. Hamels will be 28 when the Phillies open the 2012 season and is coming of his best season to date. He has matured over the last couple years and become the ace that the Phillies always dreamed he could be.

Now the Phillies need to do what they can to lock up the 2008 LCS and World Series MVP. It’s not going to be cheap and it probably going to cost Halladay-Lee money but it is more than worth the price. Signing Hamels long term insures the Phillies present and their long term future. Roy Halladay will be 35 in May and Cliff Lee will turn 34 in August. Cole is heading into his prime as Halladay and Lee are heading out of theirs and there is no way Ruben Amaro Jr. can let Hamels walk or deal him and both improve the teams present and future. So what will it take to Sign Cole Hamels and how long should the Phillies go. Just looking at what the Phillies did with Lee and Halladay I my prediction is a deal of 5 years 110 million with options years for a 6th and 7th season would insure Cole Hamels is a Phillie through the best years of his career. Remember you have the 8+ million of the Blanton contract coming off the books after 2012. Hamels contract this year is 15 million. So the extension could average around 22 million without too much damage do the Phillies attempts to stay under the luxury tax. The 5 year deal could look something like this, 2013 - 20 million, 2014 – 20 million, 2015 – 22 million, 2016 – 24 million, 2017 – 24 million, then a vesting option in 2018 for 25 million if Hamels makes at least 28 starts per year during the first 5 years of the contract which could become a club option if he falls short of 28 starts in any of those years with a 5 million dollar buyout. Then a club option for 2019 for 26 million with a 5 million dollar buyout. So Cole Hamels would end up with a contract that would be in the ballpark of Halladay and Lee and if he pitches like the Phillies hope he will end up with a 7 year 161 million dollar deal and wouldn’t be looking at free agency until the winter he turns 35. With that being the case the Phillies would likely be in position to extend him again and make him a Phillie for life. And if the Phillies win another World Series or two in the next few years they could do nothing else. So over the next month or so it’s time for the Phillies to do what is most important to the franchise’s present and future and pay Cole Hamels like the ace that he is and will be for years to come.

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Is The Phillies Bullpen Ready?
By The Captain

Pitchers and Catchers report in just 39 days. As I ponder that it reminds me that the Phillies bullpen is still major question mark outside of the closer role. Jose Contreras is rehabbing.  Will Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes be the guys they were in the first half or the extremely hittable guys they were down the stretch? Could the Phillies add Kerry Wood or even gasp bring backRyan Madson on a one year deal so he can hit the market again next year as the big dog among free agent closers? Those are some of the questions bouncing around in my mind.

Let’ knock out the easiest one.   The chances of Ryan Madson returning on a one year deal are slightly better than his agent Scott Boras announcing that he is 6 months pregnant. That said Ryan Madson signing a one year deal so he could go back out on the market next winter as the number one closer available would be a good move. Unfortunately, for the Phillies, the price of that contract likely would be prohibitive with respect to the luxury tax.

Kerry Wood on the other hand actually is a possibility. CSNChicago.com’s David Kaplan has already reported that Kerry Wood is all but done with the Cubs because they aren’t willing to pay market value for him in their rebuilding mode. There are several contending teams looking at him so the price could be driven up higher than the Phillies might be willing to pay but there is no legit worry that they are just being used to drive up the price for the Cubs. So in the end if the Phillies can get Wood for 2 million or so for 1 year and not the 4 million dollar asking price, it would be an economical sign and talent wise a potential upgrade.

Now the Stutes, Bastardo combination is one that has some good potential but considering how they performed down the stretch it should scare not only fans but the Phillies front office as well. First, let’s take a look at Michael Stutes. His first half E.R.A. was 3.26 and his WHIP was 1.154, and in the second half his E.R.A. went up to 3.98 and his WHIP ballooned up to 1.326. He was especially bad in August. His E.R.A. went all the way up to 5.84 for the month with a WHIP of 1.541. He seemed to settle down some in September with an E.R.A. of 3.00 and a WHIP of 1.250. Hopefully, that is a sign that he figured things out. If you also look at opponent batting average for Stutes it also has a significant jump in the second half though it does stay respectable. In the first have opponents hit .183 and in the second have it jumped 65 points to .248, a solid number but trending the wrong way. All these numbers should make the Phillies take a bit of a pause and be willing to add another righty to backstop the pen in case Stutes falls.

 Bastardo’s splits are downright frightening. His overall numbers look good with a 2.64 E.R.A. and a .931 WHIP. Then when you look at the splits it is a much different story. In the first half Antonio Bastardo had a 0.82 E.R.A. a 0.758 WHIP and an opponent’s batting average of .103. In the second half Bastardo’s E.R.A. blew up rising to 5.04 with a WHIP of 1.160 and a still very good opponents’ batting average of .193. The problem was that most of the jump occurred in September. His numbers during September were about as scary as it gets, with an E.R.A. of 11.05, a 2.182 WHIP and an opponent’s batting average of .310 with an OBP of .432, yikes! 

Contreras is doing well in his recovery but he is coming off significant surgery and he is 40 years old. Last season before he got hurt his numbers weren’t great with a 3.86 E.R.A. and a 1.357 WHIP, though it was in a very short sample size in 14 innings. He did do well in the closer role, a perfect 5 for 5 in save opportunities with a 0.00 E.R.A., a 1.200 WHIP, and a .125 opponents’ batting average. The fear for the Phillies here should be two fold. The guy is 40 years old and he could be older. Second young or old he is coming off a significant arm surgery and you just never know how a guy will bounce back.

So after looking at the three guys the Phillies have in house to set up for Jonathan Papelbon, and some untested arms they could bring up from the farm system are you comfortable with the Phillies bullpen? I know I’m not and neither should the Phillies. They should definitely take a flyer on Kerry Wood or even seriously consider going up against the luxury tax and throw a big money one year deal at Ryan Madson. This team has a short window of probably this year and possibly 2013, and 2014. They need to do whatever it takes to put this team in the best position possible to take home another World Series title. I know easy for me to say I’m not writing the checks but it is what this team has to do.

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HOF Ballot: Will The Writers Get a Clue?

By The Captain

We are just days away from finding out the results of this years’ Hall of Fame vote. Over the past 20 years or so the majority of the baseball writers have shown themselves less than worthy of their votes. They have passed on several players that had better careers than some already enshrined in the Hall. Some of the stated views of what is needed to get into Hall would disqualify three quarters of the current members. 

One modern example is Harold Baines and Andre Dawson. Obviously, most everyone felt Dawson deserved the Hall, while the lesser known Baines was considered borderline. But if you compare their career numbers if anything Baines overall numbers are better than Dawson’s. The Hawk’s 162 game average power numbers slightly better as is his slugging percentage. Baines beats Dawson in average on base and OPS. The fact is Had Harold Baines played on more good teams or in a place like New York, Boston or L.A. at any time he would have gotten significantly more support and likely would be in the Hall.

The next victim of the writers is, “The Cobra”, Dave Parker. One of the most feared hitters of his era, a batting champion, MVP, and the best player on the, “We are family”, Pirates that won the 79 World Series. Yes I know Willie Stargell was on that team and the unquestioned leader, but he was clearly the not best player on that team, or the most feared hitter. When you look at the numbers Parker compares well with Hall of Famers Al KalineEnos Slaughter, and he had more high quality years than Ralph Kiner though the numbers weren’t quite as eye popping as Kiner’s over years 2-7 of his career. 

Third on the list Tim Raines, who is still on the ballot. This one is probably the one that bugs me the most and it proves how clueless many of the BWAA voters are. If you look at the numbers alone you see that Tim Raines was second only to Ricky Henderson as a leadoff man in his era. So he was second to the best leadoff man in the history of the game. Then when you compare him to similar guys in the Hall, while not as good as Lou Brock overall he was not far off. Think about it Tim Raines was one of the 4 or 5 greatest leadoff men in baseball history at worst and potentially could be put in the top three. Yet, the baseball writers can’t see how he is an obvious no brainer for the Hall. Come on you are in the top 5 leadoff hitters in a 140 years of baseball history and you can’t get a serious sniff of the Hall. I submit that every writer that doesn’t vote for Tim Raines should have his vote taken away.

Finally, the Crime Dog, Fred McGriff, how in God’s green earth is this guy not in the Hall. It is an absolute crime that cannot be defended with any intelligent thought. The guy is a .284 career hitter, just 7 homeruns short of 500, 1550 career RBI’s and zero steroid taint. In 19 seasons McGriff drove in over 100 runs 9 times, over 90 another 4 times. Compare McGriff to Willie Stargell and there is no way he can be out of the Hall. McGriff played 2 less seasons than Stargell and hit 18 more home runs and drove in 10 more. He also scored 160 more runs and had 258 more hits than Pops. Between McGriff and Raines there should be a congressional hearing on the mental competence of 95 percent of the voting members of the BWAA.

Hopefully, as they usually do the veterans committee will bail the writes out of their indefensible votes. They did with Richie AshburnRon SantoHack WilsonEnos Slaughter
Jim Bunning  and many others. For me as I look the ballot I see these guys as worthy of the Hall: Tim RainesBarry LarkinLarry WalkerJack MorrisFred McGriffAlan Trammell and Edgar Martinez. Now there are 3 steroid tainted players, Mark McGwireJeff Bagwell and Rafael Palmeiro. They have the numbers but the steroid taint makes it difficult. I think I would still vote for Palmeiro because of how good of an all-around hitter he was and I believe he would have made the Hall without roids. That is purely a judgment call on my part though. I would also tend to want to put Bagwell in too but it is understandable that some may feel they can’t because of the steroid cloud. So there you have it my view of the Hall of Fame vote like or hate it. Take a look at the current ballot and tell me what you think.

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Pondering The Jimmy Rollins Market 
By the Captain

As Christmas is approaching Jimmy Rollins is sitting on Santa Claus’ lap every chance he gets and is asking for a 5 year deal. Good old St. Nick keeps saying how about 2 or 3 years an option year or two. Much like Ralphie‘s focus on a BB gun in , “A Christmas Story”, Jimmy is totally focused on 5 years and won’t even consider anything else to date. Maybe teams interested in Jimmy Rollins need to ask him to write a theme, “Why a 5 year deal is a good idea”. All Ralphie heard was, “you’ll shoot your eye out”. All Jimmy is hearing is, “You’re 33, you can’t stay healthy how about 3 years”, and he holds firm in is 5 year deal mania. So will Jimmy make like Ralphie and get his obsession for a Christmas present? Time will tell, but my best guess is Jimmy Rollins won’t have, “A Christmas Story”, ending. Instead he’ll wait until the new year and settle for 3 years at around 10-12 million for 3 years and an option for a 4th at around 12 million or get a 2 year deal at around 13 million with a club option for the 3rd year at the same and a mutual option for the 4th year. 

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A Look Back To The Future 2004
By The Captain

A little useless but interesting information. According to Baseball America's 2004 prospect Handbook the Phillies farm system was ranked 21st in Baseball. Hindsight being 20-20 I think they may have been a bit off. Here is the Phillies top 10 prospects in 2004 according to Baseball America. 

1. Cole Hamels
2. Gavin Floyd
3. Ryan Howard
4. Ryan Madson
5. Keith Bucktrot
6. Alfredo Simon
7. Michael Bourn
8. Elizardo Ramirez
9. Juan Richardson
10 Terry Jones
3 guys outside of the top 10 but have at some time in MLB
13. Kyle Kendrick
14. Scott Mathieson
18. Josh Hancock

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Save MLB and Bud Selig From Himself
By The Captain

After listening to MLB/Bud Selig's realignment plans; here's my plan to save Bud Selig from his own stupidity. MLB needs to do three things. First move Tampa to Orlando. They should have followed the NBA's example that proved Orlando is a much better market to support a major sports team. The demos are worlds better. Orlando is a much younger market and it is geographically better to draw from all of central Florida. Next expand the American League by two teams in 2014. I know some decry that saying it will water down play and wax poetic about the 50's golden age. Face facts the nation's population was 165 million now it is 311 million and we also draw in a ton of talent from outside the country. I would add Nashville and Charlotte. After you do that then you break both leagues into 4 divisions. The playoffs will expand to 6 per league with 2 wildcard teams. The playoff structure would be the top two division winners get a bye and the two worst division winners play the two wildcard teams in a best of 3 series. All 3 games of that series would be at the division winner’s park. After that the Division and League championship series stay the same. 

Here’s how MLB would look in 2014 if we save MLB from Bud Selig’s foolish 15-15 plan.

AL  NL

East  East

NYY Philadelphia
Boston NYM
Toronto Washington
Baltimore Pittsburgh

South  South
Orlando(formerly TB) Atlanta
KC  Cincinnati
Nashville(expansion team) Miami
Charlotte(expansion team) Houston

Central Central
Detriot         Milwaukee 
Chicago         St. Louis
Cleveland         Colorado
Minnesota         Chicago

West West
Texas LAD
LAA Arizona
Oakland San Francisco
Seattle San Diego

Playoff format
All division winners earn an automatic berth, plus two wildcard berths are given to the 2 non-division winners with the best records.

First round: Widlcard round
Top 2 division winners in each league get a bye.
Bottom 2 division winners host a best of 3 series against two wildcard teams.

Division Series
Top two seeds in each league play the winners of the wildcard round in a best of 5 series. Seeding is determined by regular season record and if tied winner of the season series will be the tiebreaker.

League Championship Series
A best of 7 series between the winners of the divisional round.

World Series
A Best of 7 between both league champions.

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Awards Predictions
by The Captain

MVP
NL
Matt Kemp - Dodgers
I know the Dodgers were bad but Kemp just had too good a year to overlook.

AL
Adrian Gonzalez - Red Sox
Yes the Red Sox collapsed but Gonzalez had an incredible year and without him they aren't even in it in September.

Cy Young
NL
Clayton Kershaw - Dodgers
No offense to Hallady, Lee and Kennedy, but Kershaw had no doubt about it the best year of any pitcher in the NL.

AL
He is simply the best enough said.

Rookie Of The Year
NL
Craig Kimbrel - Braves
He handled the high pressure role of closer like a veteran. His teammate Freddie Freeman was the only other serious contender for the award, no offense to the Phillies Vance Worley who had a very good rookie year.

AL
He had a tremendous year significantly better than fellow rookies Nova or Pineda. His only competition for ROY was Mark Trumbo of the Angels.

Manager Of The Year
NL
Kirk Gibson - Diamondbacks
Other than saying what he did with the collection of talent he had was amazing.

AL
Joe Maddon - Rays
He does a great job year in and year out. The Rays weren't supposed to be able to hang with the Yankees and Red Sox.  They did and had one of the great late season runs in years.

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Carlos Quentin & The Phillies?
by The Captain

As Ruben Amaro Jr. examines the Phillies and their needs and the idea of at least 2 months without Ryan Howard in the middle of the lineup does he pick up another power bat? He could go the free agent route with names like Lee or Nady at first or Ludwickor Willingham in the OF.  Cody Ross could even be a cheap option if you just went for versatility for when Howard is back. Then there is the trade route and a guy the Phillies looked into before they got Hunter Pence, and that would be Carlos Quentin.  He is in his last year of arbitration and won't be 30 until the end of August. If the price is right from the White Sox the Phillies could add another power bat and one from the right side to boot. Word is that he is on the market this winter(check out Inside The White Sox by Daryl Van Schouwen in the Chicago Sun Times).  
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The Phillie Winter
By The Captain

While Ryan HowardHunter PenceCole Hamels, and Placido Polanco are all recovering from their recent surgeries many are pondering what the Phillies will look like in 2012. The rotation should stay the same in the top three slots. What happens at the four and five slots all depends on two things. First, do the Phillies declilne Roy Oswalt’s option and let him go or decline it and resign him for 2 years at a much lower number than his 16 million dollar option for 2012. Second, do they keep Joe Blanton or deal him during spring training. They could save significant money if they let Oswalt go and trade Blanton but I would suspect they keep one of them and go with Vance Worely as the fifth starter. If they do get rid of both then the four and five slots will be taken by Worely and Kyle Kendrick. For the Worely fans that say get rid of Oswalt you might want to look at how Worely’s numbers rose in August(3.86 ERA) and September(4.05 ERA). The numbers reveal that the second time around NL hitters adjusted and were no longer fooled by him. In the end Kendrick may turn out to be a better option than Worely. Kendrick quietly had a good year(8-6 3.22 ERA 1.221 WHIP) as a long reliever and a part time starter.

Now what about the bullpen? This one is easy, decline Brad Lidge’s option and resign Ryan Madson. I realize some dopes have said let Madson go and sign Heath Bell for 4 or 5 million less. Those fools haven’t noticed 2 things. First, Heath Bell has already passed on a deal worth between 15-16 million for two years with the Padres, the team he wants to stay with and is willing to give a hometown discount. Second, Madson is a couple years younger and if you look at both guys Bell’s overall numbers went down in 2011 from what they were in 2010. The other thing you might want to do is sign a couple of veteran righty’s and keep an eye onAntonio Bastardo during spring training because if he still isn’t right you may have to go get another lefty as well.

The 2012 lineup is going to have a huge hole in it through at least June because of Ryan Howard’s torn Achilles. Raul Ibanez is all but gone. John Mayberry is the odds on favorite to be in left. Ruben Amaro says Dom Brown will spend the year in triple A but it is possible that may change depending on how spring training goes. Brown did hit over 300 under from the time he was called back up after his injury until he was sent down when Hunter Pence arrived. The rest of the outfield are in good shape with Victorinoand Pence. Forget the upgrade 3B talk, Polanco will be at the hot corner. The Phillies don’t have a lot of money to spend and besides Aramis Ramirez there is nothing even as good as Polanco available. Shortstop is a tougher question. Jimmy Rollins says he’s not giving a hometown discount and he wants 5 years. There is a shortage of quality shortstops available on the free agent market so Jimmy just may be able to sucker a team into what he wants. It will be weird to see Rollins in another uniform but the Phillies would be fools to give Rollins 4 years let alone 5 with his history of leg injuries over the past 3 seasons and the fact that he is going to be 33 years old on opening day. It would be as bad a move as the big contracts the Phillies gave Lenny Dykstra and Darren Daulton in the early 90’s. So what do the Phillies do at short? I would say one of three things. Sign a less expensive veteran, play valdez there or take a chance and bring up Freddy Glavis and plug him in at short. Now what do the Phillies do at first while Howard is out? Do they sign a free agent or make a deal for another bat? Absolutely not to both questions, the Phillies will do one of two things. They will either play Chase Utley at first and plug in some combination of Wilson ValdezMichael Martinez, and Pete Orr at second base. Or, if Dom Brown does well in spring training they put Mayberry at first and play Brown in left and when Howard comes back they platoon Mayberry and Brown or send Brown back down. Ok, now that we got who’s play where out of the way. What will the Phillies lineup look like in 2012. Well, let’s look at it without Rollins and pre-Howard and post. 

Pre-Howard Return
1. Victorino CF
2. Valdez/Orr/Martinez 2B
3. Pence RF
4. Utley 1B
5. Mayberry LF
6. Ruiz C
7. Polanco 3B
8. Galvis SS

Brown Option
1. Victorino CF
2. Polanco 3B
3. Pence CF
4. Utley 2B
5. Mayberry 1B
6. Brown LF
7. Ruiz C
8. Galvis SS

Post-Howard Return 
1. Victorino CF
2. Utley 2B
3. Pence CF
4. Howard 1B
5. Mayberry/Brown(unless he gets demoted) LF
6. Ruiz C
7. Polanco 3B
8. Galvis

My guess is that Galvis will get another year on the farm and the Phillies will sign a cheap veteran shortstop. Galvis’s glove is more than ready it is just a matter if his bat is up to the task at the next level If you’re wondering what Galvis will be like, he has been compared to Omar Vizquel. Obviously he’s just a kid, but if that projection is right the Phillies will be in great shape and missing J-Roll a lot less than I think they will. So does this mean the Phillies offensive struggles in the post-season will continue into 2012? It very well may but that all depends on how guys like Mayberry, Galvis, and possibly Brown progress. Also, it will be interesting to see how Polanco bounces back from surgery and how Utley’s knee will hold up for a whole season.

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Is this the End For The Phillies
by the Captain

After watching the Philadelphia Phillies go meekly out last night in their loss in game 5 of their NLDS series with the Cardinals I was struck with the question is this the end of their run? The quick answer is yes no doubt about it. Of course with their starting pitching they will still be a good team and competitive but the days of being a World Series contender are clearly over. Their offense over the last two years has been very inconsistent and regularly shut down but above average to good pitching. Their top hitters are on the downside of their career. Also, you have to look at the fact that the sparkplug for the team, Jimmy Rollins, will be playing somewhere else in 2012 because there is no way with his injury woes and age that the Phillies will give him the 5 year contract he is insisting upon and there are certainly one or two teams that will be foolish enough to do it with the dearth of shortstops available on the free agent market this winter. Then you look at the fact that on the last play of game 5 the Phillies lost their biggest impact bat, Ryan Howard, to a torn Achilles, and he will likely miss all of 2012. Also, as expected left fielder Raul Ibanez will not be resigned. Yes the Phillies have John Mayberry Jr. ready to fill in at first and top prospect Dom Brown ready to play left field. Dom Brown has a huge upside and he will be only 24 on opening day 2012. Mayberry played great in a part time and later platoon role this year but there are real questions about how well he will perform when Charlie Manuel can’t protect him by strategically playing him in spots with the best chance to succeed. Replacing Jimmy Rollins will be tough. How do you replace the straw that stirs the drink? The Phillies will try with prospect Freddy Galvis. He has been compared to Omar Vizquel and if that is true it would make losing Jimmy Rollins a whole lot less painful for the Phillies. He is a kid though and likely, Wilson Valdez will share some playing time with the rookie Galvis.  As you look at the Phillies starting pitching not much should change there. The top 3 should be the same. The last 2 slots depend on whether the Phillies resign Roy Oswalt after they decline his 16 million dollar 2012 club option. If they do it should be a 2 or 3 way competition for the number 5 spot between, Joe Blanton, Vance Worley, and Kyle Kendrick, unless of course they deal Blanton this winter. If they don’t resign Oswalt then they will probably keep Blanton and the 3 will compete for the final two slots in the rotation. The bullpen could have the usual year to year changes in middle relief.  Ryan Madson will be resigned as the closer. Some of the money that will be freed up when they let Brad Lidge walk will make that easy.

Now, what about the NL East? The Phillies have owned the division for the last 5 years. That ownership will end in 2012. The Braves were not that far behind last year and are an improving team. Also the team that should own the division about 2 or 3 years, the Washington Nationals, is going to be a serious player in 2012. Between the great young talent they already have and the fact they are ready to write some big checks in free agency this winter, the Nationals will be a good club next season. Oh and don’t forget the Marlins will be in a new stadium and suddenly will have money to spend to keep their players and add to the young talent they already have. The only team that should not be a threat for the division title over the next 2 or 3 years will be the Mets. All this adds up to a competitive and fun NL East for baseball fans and the end of the dominance of the division by the Phillies.

Look at all that and look at the last 2 years and how the Phillies have played in the post-season. Then look at what their 2012 roster will likely be. Can you really see a team that has the potential to win the 95 games it will probably take to win the NL East? Do you see a team that can hit consistently and not disappear for stretches like it has over the last 2 seasons? Right now I don’t see any of that. The Phillies have to hope 2012 is the year Dom Brown develops into the star they expect him to be. They also need John Mayberry’s 2011 to be just a taste of what his 2012 will be. If both those happen and Galvis turns out to be the next Omar Vizquel the Phillies will prove me wrong and may actually be better than they have been the last two years and a serious contender for a World Series title. That is a lot of what if’s and way more than I am willing to give them at this point. So Phillies fans what you have seen over the last 5 years. It has truly been the golden age of the Philadelphia Phillies. 

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Quick And Dirty LCS Analysis 
by the Captain

Brewers v. Cardinals

The rematch of the 1982 World Series now a battle of division rivals for the right to go to the World Series should be an instant classic. As you look at the match up there are some similarities to the Cards-Phillies matchup in the division series. There is one difference though. The Brewers bats have been more consistent and even though the Brewers pitching isn’t quite as strong as the Phillies it is plenty strong enough to get them through. That said the Cardinals will not go quietly. This should be a barn burner of a series. I see the series going the distance and unlike the 82 World Series, this time the Brewers come out on top.

Rangers v. Tigers

The Rangers started out the 2011 post-season getting demolished. Does anyone remember that? The Rangers don’t seem to and seem poised to make their second straight trip to the World Series. The only thing standing in their way is a relentless Tiger team led by the best pitcher in baseball and their chain smoking manager. The Rangers are the best team in baseball offensively and have solid pitching. The Tigers have very good and underrated offense and similar starting pitching to the Rangers with the exception of Justin Verlander who is simply the best and a game changer. I Think the Tigers just have a whisker more than the Rangers and will win a nip and tuck 7 game series and move on to play the Brewers in the World Series.
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Torre & Selig Need to Step Up!!!
by the Captain

After last night's Cardinals-Phillies game, I still have a bad taste in my mouth. It was quite possibly the worst umpired game behind the plate in years possibly decades.  Umpire Jerry Meals didn't have a different strike zone for each team like Tony LaRussawhined. Meals in fact had a different strike zone for every pitch thrown. You could see the frustration on the faces of hitters likeYadier Molina and Chase Utley, among others.  Also on the mound, Chris CarpenterCliff Lee and every pitcher that came out of each bullpen were visibly frustrated as pitches thrown in virtually the same spot could be called a ball one time and a strike the next with no rhyme or reason.  Players understand every umpire calls the strike zone differently and they adjust. What players, coaches, and fans will never get used to is when an umpire can't make up his mind on the strike zone and keeps changing the more the managers complain.  By the time an umpire gets to the majors he should have the strike zone down and be able to tune out the complaints of the coaches and players.  Apparently, Mr Meals has not reached this point.  You would think that fact would keep him from getting post-season assignments. But, I have to remember the most powerful union on the planet is the umpires union and they have no interest having the best out their on the sports biggest stage.  You'd think the union would avoid having the umpire that had the worst call of the year get a post-season assignment wouldn't you?  Or at the very least Commissioner Selig or Joe Torre would decide to leave the man with the biggest blunder of the year out of the post-season rotation. But that would mean the union would have to admit not every umpire was good and Bud Selig would have to to stand up to the umpires union. Neither happened and instead of a completely great game between the Cardinals and Phillies we had a game that was good but shrouded with controversy.  For the Next time Bud Selig and Joe Torre MUST stand up to the umpires and just like the teams that are playing get the best in there to call the game and instead of the not ready for prime time players. 

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