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Phillies Beat Marlins to Avoid 100 Loss Season

The Phillies have 99 problems but 100 losses ain’t one.  Sorry, could not resist.  So yeah, the Phillies escaped the dreaded 100 loss season today by the skin of their teeth with a 7-2 win over the Marlins that included many odd and interesting moments.  For starters, Roy Halladay made an appearance on Phantavision with his stuffed Chooch pillow to congratulate Carlos Ruiz on being honored for the four no-hitters he has caught for the Phillies.  Charlie Manuel joined Chooch on the field to celebrate.

100415 Chooch

A few not-so-great moments occurred once the game began.  For example, Jeff Francour missed what appeared to be a routine fly ball to give the Marlins a lead.  And as if so disgusted by his play, a bird apparently committed suicide and had to be carted off the field by Phillies security personnel.

100415 Frenchy

But things began to brighten up when it started looking like David Buchanan might actually get a win.  Not only did he pitch well, he also had 2 hits in the game and scored a run.

100415 Buchanan

Suddenly, players began smiling and sliding into bases and collecting extra base hits.  When you sit through a 99-loss season, seeing this in the last game of the season was somewhat miraculous.

100415 Misc

But the strangest part of the day had to be seeing future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki make his major league pitching debut in the 8th inning.  Apparently, it was a long-time dream of Ichiro’s to pitch so he asked his manager to put him in.  It was a treat for the crowd as well.  Ichiro gave up 1 run to the Phillies on 2 doubles; he tossed a total of 18 pitches.

100415 Ichiro

So after a very bad season, the Phillies end on a high note.  And they also get the 1st round draft pick as well for being so awful.  Bonus.  Here is the Photo Album from the game.  Also, here is another album for anyone who is interested; I took a tour of Petco Park in San Diego last month.  There was a charity event that day so the field was littered with stationary bikes, but the view is still cool.

I also took some video today of Halladay’s speech, Cody Asche addressing the crowd and a few other things.  I hope to have that uploaded in the next week or so.  Goodnight for now!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Phillies Choose Their 2016 Manager

Today the Phillies chose their 53rd manager by promoting Pete Mackanin from Interim Manager to the permanent role…at least for the next year.  Pete played for the Phillies in the late 1970’s and is now the 8th person to have managed, coached and played for the team.  Larry Bowa, who is the current bench coach, is also a member of that club.

This move is not a surprise.  The team really began to come to life after Mackanin took over when Ryne Sandberg ran off.  While youth, trades and injuries have made it impossible for them to win much, the Phillies have at least looked like a team that is trying since Mackanin was put in charge.  He has also kept the youngsters in line, like when he benched Odubel Herrera this past Sunday for throwing a tantrum after an at-bat.  Herrera seems to have taken the lesson to heart and apologized to Mackanin earlier today.  This is a good sign that Mackanin can bridge the gap with this team from awful to, hopefully, competing again in a few years.

So, totally off topic, I recently went to Los Angeles to a Dodgers game to see Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins play in blue uniforms.  I took a tour of the stadium before hand, which was very interesting.  The stadium itself is huge and not easy to find your way around, but Emma from Dodger Blue World was nice enough to give me a quick tour of the upper deck, which was very cool.  The view from above is amazing!  Thank you, Emma!

DSCN0562BMThe game itself was a very strange one.  The guy sitting next to me said he had been going to Dodgers games for 30 years and that day was the first time it had rained while he was there.  Yes, I went all the way to L.A. to get rained on.  So by the 4th inning, the camera was put away for good as I did not bring my usual Philly rain gear.  But I did manage to get some pictures before the 16 INNING ordeal ended.  Yes, 16 innings….and the Dodgers lost.  But I had photos to Chase and J-Roll to cheer me up!  I also saw Davy Lopes and….believe it or not…GREG DOBBS!  I have no idea why he was there watching the game, but I got a shot of him too.  It was an ex-Phillies reunion. 2015.09 Dodgers game

If anyone is interested, here is the full Photo Album from the pre-game tour and the start of the game.  I also visited Petco Park in San Diego, but am still working on those photos; I will post those in the next week or so.  In the meantime, it looks like the Phillies might actually win a game tonight….shhhh!  I should not say that too loudly.  Cross your fingers that the Marlins stay quiet.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Amaro is OUT – Finally!

Apparently, the Pope’s impending visit to Philadelphia has already brought blessings upon us.  In preparing the proverbial landscape for the Holy Man’s visit, the Phillies finally released GM Ruben Amaro Jr.  It is a papal miracle!  I was tempted to go back to being a practicing Catholic after hearing the news, but the whole “thou shall not do anything fun” is still kind of in the way of that transition ;)

P5140472 Amaro2.jpg

While I am thrilled that the Phillies may be making an attempt to move into the correct century with their baseball operations logic, I feel a little bit sorry for Amaro who spent practically his entire life with the team.  He grew up in the area, his Dad played for and coached for the Phillies; Ruben also played for the Phillies and was even the bat boy as a youngster.  That is a lot of time spent in one place.

But my sympathy has to end there.  He made so many bad, disastrous moves over the years that it is hard not to rejoice at this news.  Remember the Cliff Lee trade in 2009?  What a mega-disaster that was!  The Phillies probably would have gone the distance in 2010 if they had both Lee and Roy Halladay in the rotation.  Instead, Amaro squandered that opportunity and got 3 horrible “prospects” who contributed nothing…except a cocaine arrest (Tyson Gillies) and multiple tantrums when they did not get their way (Phillippe Aumont).

The HUGE, ridiculous contracts given to Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon were just a few other terrible moves Amaro made.  Not to mention letting Ryan Vogelsong go in 2010 (he is now a multiple World Series champ) and trading Hunter Pence for next to nothing (he is now also part of the Vogelsong / Giants dynasty).  And don’t even get me started on the $12 million he threw away on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez who has been so bad in the minors that the Phillies finally took him off the 40-man roster.  This year, he spent most of his time on the DL and in the lousy 5.2 innings he did pitch in Triple-A, he ended up with a 14.29 ERA.

Sure, he had some good moves over the years.  But ultimately, Amaro ran this team straight into the ground.  They now sit in last place in all of baseball with little sign of improvement in the near future.  Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock will fill in for Amaro until the new GM is chosen.  Let us all hope the Phillies are smart enough to find a modern GM, instead of another blast from the past.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Asher’s Debut Does Not Go As Planned

P8304487SYou know it has been a rough day when you look back and realize the game highlight was seeing the Phanatic pinch an umpires behind.  And yes, that was as good as it got today for the Phillies who went down in flames to the Padres by a score of 4-9.

I am pretty sure when Alec Asher pictured his major league debut, this was not what he had in mind.  Asher was not awful, but allowed 4 runs in 5 2/3 innings on 8 hits and a walk.  Three of those runs were due to home runs by Matt Kemp and Justin Upton.  On the plus side, Asher’s father was able to announce his first at-bat over the PA system.  Apparently, he used to be the announcer for the Lakeland Tiger’s Class A team. 083015 Asher

The rest of the team did little to help Asher’s cause.  Of course, Cameron Rupp, who is on a home run tear, smacked another one that was very impressive.  Odubel Hererra had 4 hits, but got thrown out stealing once and leaning too far off first another time.  Beyond that, not much positive was happening.
083015 miscIn fact, the bullpen was flat out horrendous.  Hector Neris gave up a home run in one inning of work.  And Adam Loewen allowed 4 runs without ever recording an out.  And just not to be left out, Justin DeFratus allowed yet another run to score in the 9th inning.  All 3 guys have ERA’s near or above 5, with Loewen’s 9.00 being the worst.  It is really too bad because he has such great hair.  I was rooting for the hair ;) 083015 pen

So the Phillies are off to New York to face the dreaded Mets again.  And with this bullpen, the prospects are bleak.  Cross your fingers…

Here is the Photo Album from the game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Utley to Dodgers – Noooooooo!

Ok, so I knew it was going to happen, but that does not make it suck any less.  My favorite player of all time, Chase Utley, is now a Los Angeles Dodger.  That is painful to write.  On the plus side, he is now reunited with double-play partner, Jimmy Rollins.  I guess this means I now have to cheer for the Dodgers, unless of course, they are playing the Phillies.

I purposely went to bed right after the Blue Jays game last night so I did not have to hear the “official” word on the trade before attempting to sleep.  But when I saw Utley tip his cap to the fans right after the game ended, my heart sank.  He knew he was leaving.  Of course, I am happy he will get to play for a contender and be close to home, so that is the bright spot.

Utley MontageI am not sure I am able to sum up what Chase Utley has meant to me and this team for the last 13 years.  I remember the first time I saw him play back in 2003, I said to a friend, that guy is going to be a star.  An argument then ensued.  He, of course, thought I was biased by Utley’s good looks.  And he thought Utley would not amount to anything as his defense was weak.  But my retort was, “Look at his eyes when he plays.  This guy has a passion for the game I have not seen in a long time.”  That fire is what I believed would propel Utley to greatness, and I was not wrong.  This guy was all about playing hard and I knew, with that kind of work ethic, he would get better.  A lot better…

And that is what I love about Chase Utley.  Sure, the looks don’t hurt.  But as a person who loves baseball, that same passion is what I look for in players.  I want to watch guys who give it everything they have and make no excuses.  This is the same reason I never really loved Cole Hamels (sorry folks); sure, I liked him as a pitcher.  Who wouldn’t?  But early in his career, he was Mr. Excuses…a prima donna.  He was sometimes very rude to fans, myself included.  And I will stress “sometimes,” because I know a lot of you had good experiences with him.  Overall, his attitude got better in time.  But I had a hard time getting past that behavior.

My point is that Utley is the example that all other players should follow.  Losing a guy like that is going to be very hard on this team; but luckily, some of his awesomeness should have rubbed off on the younger guys by now.

So next month, I will actually be in Southern California for a bit.  Looks like I am now going to have go to a Dodgers game to see my two guys, Utley and Rollins, together again.  Anyone been to that stadium and have any advice?  Please leave me some comments below.  I will leave you with a few final images, including my absolute favorite from the 2008 All-Star Home Run Derby; it is Dan Uggla grabbing himself some Utley…ah, memories!  MISS YOU ALREADY, CHASE!!! Utley collage

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Pitching Brings Phillies back to Earth

Today, with the bases loaded, 2 outs and Ryan “Steroids” Braun at the plate, friggin’ Aaron “I hang ‘em, you bang ‘em” Harang gave up a grand slam home run.  The Brewers were them up 0-6 by the 5th inning.  And this is a perfect example of how bad Phillies pitching has been.

Sure, the Phillies had the best record in baseball coming out of the All-Star break up until about a week ago.  Well, they have now returned to earth, mostly thanks to crapping pitching.  After sweeping the Padres last weekend, the Phillies lost 2 of 3 to the Diamondbacks and will now get swept by the Brewers (they are losing 0-6 in the 7th as of the time I post this).  Aaron Harang is a large part of the problem, with a 7.75 ERA in his last 7 games prior to today’s game.

But he is not the only one.  Jerome Williams, although better his last few starts, still has a 6.00 ERA in his last 15 games.  David Buchanan was finally sent down to the minors with a 9.00 ERA, also in his last 15 games.  After allowing 25 earned runs in 3 games, I am not even sure he belongs in the minors; perhaps bagging groceries is in his future?  Rounding out the starting pitching nightmare are Aaron Nola and Adam Morgan, who have been okay, as far as rookies go.
P4261085TA few guys in the bullpen look awful as well.  Justin DeFratus is pitching himself back to the minors with an 8.68 ERA in 7 games.  Adam Loewen has a 15.43 ERA in his first two appearances for the Phillies, prior to today.  Luckily, the rest of the pen has been ok, but with all the starters leaving games early, that may change due to exhaustion. And while the offense is still racking up hits, they are suddenly having trouble scoring those runners.  The bad starting pitching has put more stress on the hitters and they are shrinking under the pressure, which is not unusual for a young team. P4261235AP

But what really has me stressed out is the impending departure of my favorite player, Chase Utley.  Nothing is certain yet, but it does look like a lot of teams are bidding on him since he cleared waivers.  Since coming off the disabled list, Utley is batting .500 with 5 doubles, a homer and 5 RBI in 26 at-bats, proving he is healthy again and upping his trade value.  Sure, trading him is the right thing to do so he will have a shot at another championship, but it doesn’t make it suck any less.  I have been admiring Utley for 13 years; this team will not be the same without him.  But for now, he is still here…stayed tuned!

The Phillies are off on Monday and then play two games against the Blue Jays starting on Tuesday.  Game time is 7:05pm.

J-Roll Returns

On Tuesday night, Jimmy Rollins returned to Philadelphia for the first time since being traded to the Dodgers.  It appeared to be an emotional day for J-Roll who hugged, laughed and joked with his old teammates before and during the game.  The Phillies did a great job paying homage to Rollins throughout the game, with special photos on Phantavision for each of his at-bats and a few short video tributes between innings.
080415 jrollRollins received a very long and enthusiastic standing ovation before his first plate appearance; he led off the game for the Dodgers.  J-Roll tipped his cap to the fans and even gestured to the Phillies dugout before stepping in the box. 080415 jroll2

The fanfare was short-lived as Rollins struck out, but he even received a few cheers as he headed back to the dugout.  Rollins wound up going 2 for 5 in the game with 2 strikeouts.

It was a hard fought game for the Phillies who struggled to stay in it behind a very shaky Jerome Williams.  Williams had a lot of trouble, allowing 7 hits and 3 walks in only 5 innings.  But in the end, he only allowed 1 run, which was sort of a miracle based on how he pitched.
080415 jeromeThe Phillies went into the 7th inning with a 1-1 tie and then, the youth movement took over after a Carlos Ruiz single.  Caesar Hernandez was walked intentionally and then Odubel Herrera drew his own walk.  With the bases loaded, Maikel Franco got his first hit of the year with the bases loaded; it was a grand slam home run that put the Phillies in the lead. 080415 offense
The final score was 6-2, which means the Phillies have now won 13 of the last 16 games since the All-Star break, which is pretty amazing for the worst team in baseball.  But they may not be the worst for long; with 43 wins, the Marlins are only 1 game better than the Phillies.  Can I hear a cheer for second-worst?  It is good to have goals ;)

Here is the Photo Album from the game.

And I will leave you with one final, very strange photo.  It is a weird sight for sure:

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Win Streak Ends Along with Alumni Weekend

The Phillies have been on quite a roll lately, winning their last 3 games against the Braves and 12 out of 14 since the All-Star break.  But today, the Phils momentum puttered out as they lost to the Braves, 2-6.  Rookie Adam Morgan started the game and went 5 innings allowing 4 runs with 7 hits and 3 walks.  He did not look awful except for all the walks and the big 3-run homer, but that was all it took today.
2015.08.02 MorganMorgan certainly kept the outfielder’s busy.  Defense was mostly very good but a lot of balls kept squeezing through the infield. 2015.08.02 Defense

And the super-hot Phillies offense was certainly cooled off by Julio Teheran, who apparently only pitches well against the Phillies.  There were many swings and misses and dull grounders tossed about, with the exception of a few solid hits in the 2nd and 5th innings.  Cody Asche and Odubel Herrera accounted for the only two RBI in the game.
2015.08.02 OffenseThere were many Alumni on hand over the weekend, so at least that was entertaining.  Today I saw Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Brad Lidge, Matt Stairs, Nick Punto, Mike Lieberthal, Scott Eyre, John Kruk and Mariano Duncan.  They all appeared to be having a good time. 2015.08.02 Alum

Probably Burrell had the most fun.  He was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame yesterday and I got a good look at the plaque today.  I also got a good look at Pat celebrating by smoking….eh…something?  You be the judge.  Clearly, he is unaware of the advent of the zoom lens.  But this whole episode does go a long way towards explaining the purse he was seen carrying around all weekend.  Ok, the Phillies claim it is a “satchel.”  Whatever the case, I guess he really needed it to carry his….eh….important stuff?  How is that for investigative reporting?  LOL!
2015.08.02 BurrellAnd here is my Photo of the Day:  Justin DeFratus, pre-game, pretending to karate kick a small child.  This will make me laugh for days … P8023873AE

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game and pre-game Behind the Pinstripes taping.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri except “Purse” photo, via Twitter, @Phillies

Hamels, Papelbon & Diekman Are Outta Here

P7193502ACA few days ago, the Phillies completed a trade with the Nationals for Jonathan Papelbon.  I am not sure if anyone in Philly is really sad to see Papelbon and his crotch-grabbing, fan-hating attitude go.  But the Cole Hamels trade announced last night is a different story.  It is bittersweet to see one of the best pitchers in Philly go to the Rangers, but the trade is in the best interest of all involved.  There was no need to let Hamels waste away on a rebuilding team; he is now on a team that at least has a chance of winning this year or in the very near future.

And Hamels will not be going to Texas alone; lefty reliever Jake Diekman is joining him.  Diekman has had a very up and down (mostly down) year so this is probably not a huge loss for the Phillies.  Although, I really liked Diekman; he was one of the friendlier guys on the team and also has great potential as a pitcher.  But he has struggled with throwing strikes and the Phillies’ patience wore out.

The Hamels trade is not technically “official” yet, but all media reports say the deal is nearly final.  The prospects the Phillies are expected to get in return include a pretty good catching prospect, Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams.  The other three players are pitchers who are very young and have a ways to go before we will know their worth.  The Phillies also reportedly will get 29-year-old lefthander Matt Harrison who is working his way back from back surgery.  It is likely that portion of the trade will be a bust so let’s hope the youngsters are better.

So while it is sad to see Hamels go, I wish him luck.  Unless, of course, he is pitching against the Phillies.  Then all bets are off.

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Post All-Star Break Magic

Having entered the All-Star break as the worst team in baseball, there seemed to be little hope that the Phillies might improve this year.  But since returning to action, the Phillies have an 8-1 record, with sweeps of both the Marlins and the Cubs.  In addition, the team brought up rookie pitcher Aaron Nola, who has had two very solid starts so far and collected his first major league win yesterday.  Every starter, including Nola, had a hit in the game with only 3 players lacking a multi-hit game.  It was the team we have been waiting to see all year.  Where have they been?

But the most amazing feat in the last 10 days was the no-hitter thrown by Cole Hamels on Saturday against the Cubs.  It is strange that it took Hamels this long to finally add the no-hitter to his resume.  But his timing could not have been better for the Phillies who are trying to trade Hamels.  After two of the worst starts in his career, Hamels pitched a gem to redeem himself.  He also may have pitched his way out of a Phillies uniform.

Hamels has been tied to many teams in trade rumors, especially the Dodgers and Rangers.  With 4-plus days to go until the trade deadline, there is no telling what can happen.  But if Saturday was Cole’s last start in a Phillies uniform, it was quite a way for him to go out.

So what can we attribute this sudden Phillies awakening to, besides Hamels’ no-hitter?  Obviously, the break must have helped.  Players are well rested and less stressed.  But how much of this improvement might be due to the exit of manager Ryne Sandberg?  Clearly, these guys are giving full effort for interim manager Pete Mackanin.  I am not sure the same could be said for Sandberg, who many guys just did not seem to relate to.  Then again, it could be a fluke and the Phillies may go right back to their losing ways tomorrow when they begin a short two-game series with the Blue Jays.

I supposed time will tell.  But for now, Phillies fans can bask in the glow of a nice win streak, emerging rookies and a spectacular no-hitter.  Game time tomorrow is 7:07pm.

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