The Philadelphia Phillies: End of An Era

The last two sea­sons have been tough in Philadel­phia. After a glo­ri­ous run as one of the best team’s in base­ball, the Phillies crashed back to Earth. Char­lie Manuel, a beloved fig­ure for any­one who’s fol­lowed the Phils, was tossed aside. Roy Hal­la­day, a play­er who more than any­one made Philadel­phia a des­ti­na­tion for free agents, retired after two injury-rid­dled sea­sons. It was a mag­i­cal time and now it is over.

The next phase is a famil­iar one. The Phillies will like­ly be hard to watch for a long time. With com­mit­ments made to an aging core and lit­tle to no tal­ent in the farm sys­tem, the boom has gone bust. For any­one who remem­bers what hap­pened to the team after 1993, we know what hap­pens next. It won’t be pret­ty, but we’ll still be in the stands, bask­ing in the ball­park, thank­ful for the mem­o­ries the Phillies gave us.


2011 NLDS Phillies vs Cardinals


Didn’t start or end pret­ty, but I can hon­est­ly say that what hap­pened in between the first and ninth innings were tru­ly inspired base­ball. Hal­la­day dom­i­nat­ed, the offense erupt­ed and Char­lie went wild with the ral­ly tow­el.

It was an absurd­ly fun night at the ball­park, punc­tu­at­ed by the lone Cards fan in our row leav­ing when it start­ed get­ting ugly.

Singing “High Hopes” as we left the ball­park is so sat­is­fy­ing. “10 mas!”


In Praise of the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies

Nev­er in my life did I believe that the Phillies would be the sort of dom­i­nant team fans link to the Yan­kees and Red Sox. The sort of team that “buys” cham­pi­onships. The sort of team that play­ers want to join, even if it means tak­ing a pay cut to do it. The kind of team that can win 100+ games and dom­i­nate the com­pe­ti­tion.

Want to know a secret? I real­ly thought 2011 might be a let­down year for the Phillies.

Acquir­ing pitch­ing is great, but there’s only so much pitch­ers can do to help win games. I feared that our aging core play­ers, notably Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jim­my Rollins, would make us vul­ner­a­ble to the sort of pow­er out­ages we’ve faced in the past and that the replace­ment parts wouldn’t be up to the task. I was wrong.

It was amaz­ing to watch this team cut through the oppo­si­tion no mat­ter who they put on the field. I saw Michael Mar­tinez hit a three-run homer. I feel like that encap­su­lat­ed what a rar­efied sea­son this was for a team whose expec­ta­tion is suc­cess. On the eve of the play­offs, I think I’m one of those who thinks that any­thing less than a World Series cham­pi­onship will be a dis­ap­point­ment.

The last two sea­sons have been heart-wrench­ing for Phillies fans. 2009 end­ed just short of repeat title. 2010 was cut short by a Giants team that caught fire. Where will 2011 leave us? Will we fall short again, or will we run roughshod over a field that is prob­a­bly the strongest we’ve faced since 2009?  Need­less to say I’m excit­ed to see what unfolds.

Dream match-ups? Phillies ver­sus Brew­ers in the NLCS. Would love a rematch of the ’08 NLDS, which prob­a­bly fea­tured the most excit­ing game I’ve ever seen in the post­sea­son first­hand, with the ’09 NLCS clinch­er against the Dodgers a close sec­ond. (Saw the 10–2 laugh­er against the Rays in the ’08 World Series. It was sat­is­fy­ing, but not exact­ly thrilling.) Want to see Phillies-Tigers in the World Series. I’m a chau­vin­ist for clubs that have his­to­ry to com­ple­ment a daz­zling rota­tion topped by one of my favorite AL play­ers, Justin Ver­lan­der. (A lit­tle secret: I fell in love with the Tigers ear­ly in ’06 and have fol­lowed them since.)

I’ll be at the ball­park Sat­ur­day with my fam­i­ly, excit­ed for anoth­er round of post­sea­son base­ball. Wish me luck as I run on no sleep for a month!


Thoughts on the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies

They appear to be pret­ty good. Guess they answered the “but can they hit?” ques­tion ear­ly. Nev­er thought Wil­son Valdez and Ben Fran­cis­co would be ear­ly heroes. Polanco’s not shab­by either.

How much do you want to bet that Jimmy’s talk­ing to Char­lie non­stop about jump­ing back into the lead­off spot? If Charlie’s smart he’ll keep him bat­ting third. Feel like the bot­tom of the line­up is flu­id, which is great. Like the idea of drop­ping guys like Raul down if Fran­cis­co is hot. Want May­ber­ry Jr. to get some expe­ri­ence and maybe spell Raul from time to time.

Not con­vinced that the bench will be as help­ful as hoped. Love Ross Gload. Didn’t like what I saw out of Orr at 2nd last night. Might be okay at third, which is fine because Char­lie needs to han­dle Pol­ly with kid gloves. Valdez can do it all if asked.

Start­ing rota­tion? Goes with­out say­ing, but I’m shocked at how effi­cient Doc and Cliff have been and how effec­tive Roy Oswalt was in his start. Cole? He’ll bounce back. Blame it on the bad weath­er. Blan­ton? Any­one else think Char­lie left him out there to die as an object les­son in con­di­tion­ing? Dude just can’t seem to pull it togeth­er in ear­ly going, and with a staff like ours, there’s real­ly no excuse.

Bullpen? Some ques­tion marks there, too. Romero, Hern­don and Baez fright­en me. Kendrick sur­prised me in the mop up role. Got love for Con­tr­eras, but I fear we’re ask­ing for trou­ble when Mad­son looks to have super­star clos­er stuff. Why post­pone the inevitable? If it’s sole­ly for lever­age, that prob­a­bly won’t change much when the time comes for nego­ti­a­tions. Get Mad­son in the clos­er role. That change­up can’t be touched.

Glad that like last sea­son Amaro didn’t pan­ic and rush to add a bat, right-hand­ed or oth­er­wise, when Utley went down and Werth left town. Let the offense play out and see where you are at the dead­line. Blanton’s val­ue will increase, espe­cial­ly if Utley’s able to come back before the dead­line.

Look­ing for­ward to see­ing where the Phillies stand at the end of April. Have a good feel­ing about their hot start.


Enjoying the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies

Love when my reg­u­lar morn­ing reads include Beer­lea­guer, Crash­burn Alley, Phillies Nation and more of my favorite Phillies blogs. Fol­low­ing the games on Twit­ter is a treat, although Chris @LONG_DRIVE isn’t in mid­sea­son form, yet. Miss check­ing the Fight­ins for all the great flubs. I caught a bad typo on the new Phillies score­board at the On Deck game against the Pirates in trib­ute.

I love the 2011 team. I know everyone’s freak­ing about Utley, but c’mon peo­ple, get it togeth­er already. Look at the injuries we had in 2008 and 2010. We may not have won it all in 2010, but it wasn’t because injuries held us back. The 2011 team needs to do what it’s doing right now: beat the bad teams hand­i­ly and let pitch­ing keep the good ones in check. I think the Phillies fan men­tal­i­ty aligns with Char­lie Manuel’s too much, i.e. we need home run slug­gers to win games. Truth is, you get a few guys to hit dou­bles reli­ably and we’re still scor­ing runs in bunch­es, just like last night. The home runs will come, but it’s great that you’re not wait­ing for that salvif­ic at bat.

For some­one like me who loves low-scor­ing games, this team is a dream. Watch­ing Roy Hal­la­day and Cliff Lee back to back, pitch­ing for my team, is just unre­al. When Roy Oswalt is going against the oth­er team’s #3, it’s just not fair. Heck, even Joe Blan­ton is going to get some very favor­able matchups over the course of the sea­son. It’s a thing of beau­ty to know you have 4 All Star-cal­iber pitch­ers out there going every day.

Will we win it all? Hard to say. How far can the Phear­some Phour­some take us? I love Mad­son, but there isn’t a great deal of reli­able help out there. Which Raul will we see after the break? Will Fran­cis­co fig­ure out right? Can Dom Brown be an impact play­er down the stretch? Can Jim­my play like it’s 2006 again? Lots of ques­tions.

If this team makes the play­offs, watch out. It’s hard to imag­ine even elite teams not find­ing them­selves down 2–0 just on the strength of our pitch­ing. If we get Utley back at any point, or if Dom Brown can rejoin and con­tribute mean­ing­ful­ly, we may being march­ing down Broad Street again.

(Also, how many teams are think­ing they could use a spare starter right now? Boston’s been bru­tal­ized by the Rangers to start the sea­son. Won­der if they’d be inter­est­ed in Ken­tucky Joe. Can’t wait to see how the Yan­kees rota­tion plays out, either.)


The Dead-ball Era Philadelphia Phillies

The base­ball off­sea­son tor­ments me. While I appre­ci­ate the post­sea­son awards — con­grats to Roy Hal­la­day on his Cy Young Award — I find my thoughts turn to the likes of Ed Dela­han­ty, Sam Thomp­son, Gavvy Cra­vath and Grover Cleve­land Alexan­der.

For­tu­nate­ly, I have com­pa­ny. My friend and cowork­er Dan McQuade of Philadel­phia Will Do is loan­ing me an Ed Dela­han­ty biog­ra­phy! Can­not wait to read about a trou­bled ballplay­er who died at Nia­gara Falls. I’m fas­ci­nat­ed by Big Ed’s sto­ry and I love think­ing about the dead-ball era, when base­ball was a grind­ing game of bunts, steals and dirty pitch­es, to say noth­ing of rogue leagues and labor strife.

I also near­ly joined the Soci­ety for Amer­i­can Base­ball Research yes­ter­day. I told you it was get­ting bad!