Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hit or miss: Phillies 2015 season

Last season was a rough one for the Philadelphia Phillies. With a record that read 73-89 it did not come as too much of a surprise to find them rooted to the bottom of the National League East. Whilst that was a bad year, people are already suggesting that the one to come is going to be even worse. Bookmakers Betfair currently have the Phillies at 100/1 to win the World Series. Together with the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks, we have all been written off. So can our team upset the bookies odds and have a fairly successful season, or will Citizens Bank Park again be invaded by mediocrity and disappointment?

The Squad

Phillies at the Orioles by Keith Allison / flickr

To start with let’s look at the core, the squad. The biggest talking point is naturally the departure of Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Coming in his place were Tom Windle and Zach Eflin; two young and relatively inexperienced pitchers. Rollins is very much a double-edged sword. On the one hand you have a player who has spent all his career with the Phillies, was the National League MVP in 2007, a three-time All-Star shortstop, the franchise leader in hits - at-bats and doubles - whilst his role in the victorious World Series 2008 team can never be underestimated. On the other hand there is a drastic need to modernize. Rollins has sentimental value to Philadelphia fans but does he really have a practical use at 36-years-old? If Rollins had remained with the team he would have cost them $11 million. That is money that could be used to bring in hot prospects.

Jimmy Rollins by Matthew Straubmuller / flickr

With the decision from management being to trade Rollins it did make you beg the question about Cole Hamels’ availability, although it has since been all but confirmed that the 31-year-old is available. The pitcher is one of the hottest commodities available in the MLB right now. As a three-time All-Star it is only natural that teams like the Yankees, Padres and Dodgers are sniffing around. Losing Rollins was bearable but what sort of shape is the squad going to be in without Hamels? Not a very good one. Efficiency was missing in so many Phillies players last season and only a few could truly hold their head up.

Cole Hamels by hueytaxi / flickr

One of those few was Hamels, who, despite how lacklustre the side around him could be at times, managed to finish sixth in the Cy Young voting. With their strongest component increasingly looking likely to jump ship it is imperative that the Phillies replace him with the right player. Signing Wandy Rodriguez is a gamble and one that could go either way. He is a pitcher who has proven that he can cut it in the past. He was a member of the Houston Astros 2005 World Series team and, although he hasn’t been at his best in recent years, he does still show glimpses and could be an attacking force. Unfortunately, all this talk is just theoretical baseball chatter. Hamels is a World Series-winning pitcher, although he will never do that again with us, whilst Rodriguez is someone who comes in at 36-years-old with his talent depleting by the innings.

Rodriguez is not the answer, but there is pitching talent in the younger players of the Phillies outfit. Granted, they will need to be blooded and shouldn’t be rushed, but trial by fire can be of extreme advantage. A lot of attention will be paid to Aaron Nola’s progress. The 21-year-old, who was drafted No. 7 by Philadelphia, will be expected to blitz through the minor leagues. It borders on the absurd to be thinking that Nola will be able to perform to the levels that Hamels achieves, but if the lad is given a chance in the big leagues then it would certainly speed up his improvement. Nola has the makings of a great pitcher, it’s just about making sure that he doesn’t get stuck in the minors for too long.

All in all, when it comes to the squad it is undeniably weaker. There are positives to be found, the club are looking towards younger players and expect there to be many more of them to come into the club as the older players are moved on. This season the improvements and benefits of this transfer policy will be highly unlikely to see, but the creating of a solid bedrock will be more than evident. If management bring in enough high-quality, hungry, young players then the side will grow together and before you know it will be back to performing like a cohesive unit.

Ryne Sandberg was brought in in 2013 after the club’s hierarchy ended Charlie Manuel’s eight-year tenure. It was a decision that did split some fans, many of which Sandberg has failed to truly convince. There are those that believe his handling of the Rollins situation was the right thing to do and there are those that believe it to be stupid ostracizing one of your greatest assets.

Ryne Sandberg by Tom Hagerty / flickr

Regardless of his dealings with Rollins there is still one undeniable fact; Rollins is unproven at the top. Yes, his time in the lower leagues saw him take the Lehigh Valley IronPigs to their first ever playoff appearance and International League championship in 2011, a feat that saw him justly named Baseball America’s Minor League Coach of the Year.
Here is a coach who may have an impressive resume, a resume that deserves to have a shot in the big leagues. Besides his success with the IronPigs, Sandberg is a Hall of Famer and a World Series MVP. However, for all the glory he has had in his past career it counts for nothing. You cannot live off reputation, you need to bring results. Something that last year Sandberg failed to do.
However, there is a much bigger picture going on with the Phillies than just the results, and this is something that Sandberg is very much vested in. You get sick of saying it but the need for youngsters is huge, and with his wealth of minor league baseball knowledge it is safe to say that Sandberg knows how to bring the best out of young talent.
Much like the team, Sandberg needs to become part of the bedrock. No, he won’t do particularly well this year, but he will be forging the start of something. The coach and the team have to be as one, getting rid of one completely disrupts the harmony of the other. If the Phillies are to get the best out of this partnership then they have to allow it time to grow.
So management won’t be doing much this year to put a smile on the faces of Philadelphia fans, but they will hopefully be building a playoff contending team. 

Beating the Mets
The relationship we share with the New York Mets is one of the hottest in the MLB. A poor season can always be made slightly better by beating the Mets. Although the bookmakers favour the Mets over the Phillies in the World Series betting, they don’t have faith in either. In essence, we are both as bad as each other.
Last season it was the Mets who came off the better. This season let us hope that won’t re-occur. The Mets are more than beatable and the Phillies owe us one.

Philadelphia is very much a fixer-upper. It has all the grandeur and iconography of a lovely old home, but it also has the rotting deadwood inside. Here is a great team that just needs to be made great again. The only way to do that is to modernise. This season is not going to be particularly favourable for Phillies fans, but the project has an end goal that makes all this pain bearable.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas to you

Merry Christmas to all the readers of FightinPhillies.com and listeners of the Phillies Talk Podcast, the most listened to independent internet broadcast about the Phillies.

For old time sake, let's all remember J Hustle just one more time for the holiday! Thanks for everything Jimmy!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fleeing Phillies to leave much different team

Ruben Amaro wants to be plain that now since he's made plenty of errors with the make up of the team in the last few years, he's rolling out the 'see you later' spiel to any other long time Phillie on the team

Jimmy Rollins is now gone from the Phillies. He's in the hills of LA with the Dodgers with a much better Dodger team.

You can say what you want about Rollins in terms of his hustling in the last couple of years. He's been admonished for not running every play out, and just generally not giving it his all when he is on the field sometimes. One thing that not a lot of people talk about is his 'team' centric mentality.

Rollins seemed to embrace the team mentality, not just the 'me' mentality.

Cole Hamels was very much the same, he embraces the team theme most of the time. Now, he's thinking about leaving that former World Series winning team to go somewhere else, according to many trade reports from around the league. He's due nearly $100M dollars from the Phils in the next 4 seasons.

Who will be the next long time Phillie to leave the team?

Friday, December 19, 2014

It's taken long, but Rollins will be a Dodger for 2015

Rollins will have to fill his locker up with new blue spikes soon, his red ones will be from his 'old' team

In what has to be one of the longest trades to be completed in recent Phillies history, Jimmy Rollins is all but sure to be a Dodger for 2015. That is what all the 'experts' are saying.

The deal hasn't been announced as official as of this morning, but that announcement could come soon as Rollins is a man in the middle right now.

Even Jimmy's twitter page still reflects he is with the Phillies, but he hasn't said a word about the trade in twitter or public for that matter.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mayberry Jr. to play for the Mets in '15

John Mayberry Jr. leaving the confines of Toronto for New York in '15

A signing by the New York Mets will have John Mayberry Jr. coming back to Philadelphia to not play for the Phillies again, but he will be in a Mets uniform as the Metropolitans picked up Mayberry pending a physical.

Now the fans in New York will have a nice chance to see the ex-Phillies player who we expected to do a lot better in his career, but never blossomed into that semi-star that perhaps a few tweaks to his game he could have been.

John Mayberry Jr and Domonic Brown were touted as being the next big stars that the Phillies would cultivate from their own farm system, but neither one really took off, although Brown did find his swing briefly and started hitting home runs faster than Ryan Howard for a short time a few seasons ago.

Ruben Amaro Jr. and John Mayberry are both alumni from Stanford University, and that's what a lot of people said helped keep Mayberry on the Phillies roster through his tougher times in his early career.

If Mayberry can get back to his double digit home runs that he has hit in 3 seasons in a row from 2011-2013, he'll be a welcome addition to that Mets team. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rollins going out to the sun and fun of LA?

Well so much for a quiet off-season.

Word is out that the Phillies have traded Jimmy Rollins, who has been a mainstay on this team for the last 15 seasons. Rollins has been with the team as their continuous shortstop for many years before the team got real good and then through arguably one of the best stretches of the Phillies history ever.

Something had to break though with this team, players had to be traded and now news that Rollins is apparently headed to LA and Antonio Bastardo is heading to Pittsburgh.

Now word is spreading is Utley may be on his way out to Dodgerville? Well, Hollywood Hamels might as well go out there too, and the Phillies might get 62 wins this year? The Rollins deal wasn't announced as official by either club yet as of the time of this posting, so we'll just have to wait for the official announcement.

Holding the line on the Phils best players is admirable

Ruben Amaro Jr. has had the task of making the Phillies younger, he hasn't been rushing this task since he's been trying

When you think of it, all Ruben Amaro has to do is move a few players that have been on the team a long time, and make a ton of money.

It would probably be easy to give these players away for next to nothing as teams would line up to get the likes of a Cole Hamels, Chase Utley or Ryan Howard for practically nothing.

So, the fact that Amaro and company haven't done that is very admirable. This team still isn't a team that's totally lost. It's in desperate need of some tweeks to make it younger but at the same time, have that youth contribute to this team in a very positive way.

Armchair GM's that follow the Phillies probably have a lot of ideas on making this team better. If you're one of them, share your move with the blog here by leaving one or more in the comments section. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Former Phillie Jayson Werth to trade uniform for prison garb

The Phillies ex-player Jayson Werth will have to swap out his Nationals uniform for some prison issue clothes soon, as he was guilty going 105 mph in Virginia with his 911 Porsche.

That's not a good idea in Virginia, as their laws don't allow for just a fine and you're on your way. In fact, Werth has a suspended sentence of 170 days as well, so if he gets into any more problems, he could see himself into the slammer for up to 6 months.

Maybe community service would have served Virginia better in this case, but apparently that's not good enough and Werth will have to do time for his crime.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

NL East Baseball Podcast Simulcast hosted by Miami Marlins 'MarlinsFamilyPodcast' tonight at 7 PM Eastern Live

A special simulcast of the Marlins Family Podcast tonight with FightinPhillies Podcast, Mets Musings, Atlanta Baseball Talk and more! 

Tune in at 7PM Eastern time to hear the show and get a chance to call in and speak live on the show!

Everyone knows the Phillies need change as Winter Meetings start

The Phils World Series win is now but a distant memory, but there are still familiar names still on this team some 6 seasons later

Ruben Amaro Jr. has kept longtime Phillies together for a chance a returning to the World Series well past the time he should have.

As the years have gone by, the core group of Hamels, Howard, Rollins, and Utley have also had a lot of others staying with the team as well. Lessor known names to the casual baseball fan as Kyle Kendrick, Domonic Brown, and until recently John Mayberry have been on this team for long periods of time too.

The facts hare all there to see that this team has needed change for some time now, and only recently did the Phillies front office officially acknowledge that they weren't a contender anymore and it could be several years before they become a contender again. You think?

Maybe it was the last two years that the Phillies finished dismally in the standings. That gave the front office a clue that this was indeed the case, that the Phillies were not in good shape.

If anything, the last three years have been dismal for this team, and the last three years have seen this team spend a whopping $509M on salaries. That is a half a billion dollars my dear readers.

The front office above Ruben Amaro has been on snooze alert as this team has spent and not gotten anything in return for it. Normally a business that is managed so poorly as that gets some attention. Usually the people responsible for things like that find themselves out of a job.

What happens after such a poor performance last year? The Phillies announce there will be no changes in the coaching staff. Huh? A terrible season in which the team had a 73 win season and there won't be any changes? That's just proof that this team is hurting more than we realize.

What will happen at the Winter Meetings that start up today? Maybe the Phillies will trade Cole Hamels has the media has been clamoring for. That isn't the answer to the Phillies problems though, it goes much deeper than that.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Holiday Selfies this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park with Ben Revere

Its' the annual Christmas Tree lighting at Citizens Bank Park, and this afternoon it was holiday selfies with Ben Revere...

Monday, December 01, 2014

Baseball Winter Meetings just a week away

A huge baseball floats down the Thanksgiving Day Parade from New York City's 88th Annual parade

The winter meetings for baseball is just a week away, taking place in San Diego this year from Dec. 7 through the 11th at the San Diego Hilton Bayfront.The city of San Diego is the 3rd time for hosting this event, the first two times were 1963 and 1985. It's 113th such Winter Meeting of baseball.

There is usually a trade buzz happening around the Winter Meetings, although we've seem a lot of movement already, we could see a lot more as this meeting generally shakes the trees loose when it comes to trades.

We could see a significant trade involving the Phillies during this event, if there was ever a time to get something done, this meeting would be the time.

A lot more than just trades happen at this event, the business of baseball also happens as well.