Archive for the ‘Philadelphia Phillies’ Category

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees

Ryne Sandberg inherited a tough job. After taking over from Charlie Manuel towards the end of the 2013 season, the former second base great must now confront a roster lousy with two things – veteran players and expectations.

Veteran players tend to be expensive players, drawing huge paychecks after prosperous careers. Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and the rest certainly earned the spoils of their spectacular early careers. But with big money comes an expectation of a winning product. The Phillies might have a great new TV deal but they don’t trot out this expensive roster for fun.

This is a team expected to win. Rather than break up his underachieving group, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. doubled down this offseason. The Phils added veterans Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett in addition to Cuban pitcher Miguel Gonzalez.

So Sandberg must do what he thinks he must to wring all the wins out of roster presented to him by Amaro. His chosen method for getting the most out of his guys? Needling and benching starting shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

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The Philadelphia Phillies reportedly made a very curious decision recently. After drafting college junior Ben Wetzler in the fifth round of the June draft, the club and player could not reach an agreement on a contract and the Wetzler opted to return to Oregon State for his senior season. A tough choice, as college seniors have little in the way of leverage in negotiations after they’re drafted for the final time.

The Phillies, for whatever reason, took it upon themselves to report Wetzler to the NCAA for consorting with an agent, a violation of the collegiate body’s rules that could result in the left-handed pitcher losing eligibility for his final season.

In terms of real life, that’s pretty messed up. An enormous and wealthy corporation, run by the best in their field (and also Ruben Amaro Jr.) versus a college kid, an “amateur” athlete trying to secure what could be the only big payday of his sporting life.

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago White Sox

On January 8, 1963, the International League announced expansion, including a new team in Little Rock, Arkansas. There were concerns about placing a Triple-A club in Little Rock, where just six years prior Governor Orval Faubus had called in the Arkansas National Guard to forcibly prevent the integration of the city’s Central High School. Gabe Paul, president and general manager of the Cleveland Indians, had claimed “he would not vote extra travel funds for Cleveland’s Jacksonville farm club until Faubus assured him that Negro players would be given the same treatment as white players in Little Rock,” according to the Associated Press (via the St. Petersburg Times).

Without Paul’s vote — and those travel funds — the International League would have been unable to complete its necessary expansion in the wake of the collapse of the American Association. But just days after making his doubts known, Paul recanted. He said commissioner Ford C. Frick assured him “our Negro players will receive equal treatment in Little Rock,” and, “We have advised [Frick] that we no longer have objections to our Jacksonville farm club playing in Little Rock in 1963.” Frick had made “the proper assurances,” Paul said. Faubus, when pressed about integrated baseball coming to Little Rock, refused comment.

In April of 1963, the Arkansas Travelers opened International League play in Little Rock. The starting left fielder was Dick Allen, a rising prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. At Class A Williamsport in 1962, as a 20-year-old, Allen hit .329/.409/.548 with 20 home runs in 132 games, and in spring training he led all Phillies — even the major leaguers — in home runs with nine. In 1960, the Phillies had given him a $70,000 bonus, then the largest signing bonus ever given to a black baseball player. He was a star in the making.

Some 7,000 fans attended the Travelers’ first game. Roughly 200 were black. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus threw out the first pitch as white fans picketed the stadium with signs reading, “Don’t Negro-ize Baseball,” and “Nigger Go Home.”

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The Phillies have a lot of problems. When general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. went to bed last night, he probably thought his pitching staff was the one thing he could count on in 2014. Sure, there are always injury concerns (as the bicep troubles of Cole Hamels indicate) but with Hamels, Cliff Lee, Cuban import Miguel Gonzalez, and low cost flier Roberto Hernandez

Maybe some outfield depth or viable backups for their aging infielders represent higher priorities. Maybe stripping down and rebuilding a little bit, using Cole Hamels as the future face of the franchise.

Clearly, none of us are familiar with the way RAJ thinks. Ruben Amaro Jr. doubled down for 2014, signing A.J. Burnett to a one-year contract with $16 million. Only the Phillies.

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MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves

Nothing like using a paradox to frame an article, eh? There is no fixing the Phillies, right? They’re an aging team run by a defiant throwback to a simpler time. The Phillies famously eschewed advanced statistical analysis until very recently, but that isn’t the reason they’re doomed as we find them today.

Well, let’s hold on a second here. The Phillies aren’t doomed as much as they’re…up against it. The Phillies have a ton of payroll tied up in some rapidly aging players. Their farm system ranks among the worst in baseball, a by-product of a “win-now” mentality that brought them incredible success for the better part of a decade.

The Phillies, for all their faults, are not too far gone as to advocate a complete and total sell-off. The best reason to look for other ways to help the Phillies, aside from the fire sale option, is because the Phillies are not going to give up now. They will not. They probably should but they almost certainly won’t.

Two different buzzwords from two different industries come to mind when I think about the Phillies and their past, present, and future. The first is “sunk cost” and the second is “pot committed.”

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Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs

The Philadelphia Phillies have signed free agent right-hander Carlos Zambrano to a minor league deal, Ken Rosenthal reports. As it was reported yesterday, Zambrano walked away from an agreement with the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League in an effort to concentrate on landing a deal with a Major League team. A sound decision from Big Z’s camp, if he can crack the roster.

Zambrano bounced between the starting rotation and bullpen with the Miami Marlins last season, to mostly mediocre results. While Zambrano’s velocity has remained roughly the same over the last few seasons, his fastball usage has declined every year since 2007. The big righty has gradually increased the number of split-finger fastballs he’s thrown, relying on it 21.1% of the time in 2012. The longball has never really been a big problem for Zambrano, but he did raise his groundball rate to 49% last season, the highest total he’s registered since 2005.

The Phillies could use some help in their rotation with Roy Halladay on the shelf for the foreseeable future. Whether or not Zambrano will help fill that void depends on how effective he can prove himself to be in the minors.

ryan howard premier

Ryan Howard might not be the perfect baseball player but he sure seems like a pretty cool dude. This picture was posted on DJ Premier’s instragram page and includes a very important detail: Ryan Howard had DJ Premier as the DJ at his wedding. Which, I think we can all agree, is the kind of thing we would all do provided a $125 million guaranteed contract.

Secondary to posing with hip hop royalty, Ryan Howard also appears to have a Tottenham Hotspur shirt on at this time. As a West Ham supporter, this offends me. But Ryan Howard deserves credit just for not supporting one of the Big Four. The bar is set incredibly low but were he sporting a Manchester United jersey in this photo, I’d probably have a few more snide comments about his contract in this piece.