Archive for the ‘ baseball ’ Category

More J-Roll Drama at Phillies Camp

I am sure most of us have heard about the Jimmy Rollins – Ryne Sandberg drama at Spring Training this week. To recap very quickly, J-Roll was being J-Roll and let fly a “Who cares?” when asked about the team’s offense. And then Sandberg let fly a telling, “No comment” when asked about Jimmy bringing positive energy to the club. Rollins was benched for 3 straight days (Mon.-Wed.) without having spoken to Sandberg until Thursday.

Before I offer my thoughts on the situation, I will tell you a little story from Spring Training 2009. I make it a habit to arrive to all games, even Spring Training games, many hours early. That is when some of the most entertaining and interesting things happen. Before one 2009 spring game in Bradenton, FL against the Pirates, I witnessed some real J-Roll being J-Roll behavior.

As the team was stretching on the field, manager Charlie Manual was pacing about, looking annoyed. And one player was noticeably absent from the field: Jimmy Rollins. About 20 minutes into this, Rollins suddenly appeared jogging across the field. When the team noticed him, everyone, mid-stretch, stopped what they were doing and began clapping and cheering for Rollins as he approached. It was group sarcasm, although in good fun, to congratulate Rollins for finally showing up.

As I was right up against the fence where they were stretching, I saw and hear nearly everything that happened next. Manual sauntered over to Rollins with his irritated, head-tilted, almost twitchy swagger that we have seen many time over the years. Usually you saw this when Manual was about to confront an umpire.

As Manual berated Rollins, wagging finger and all, Rollins slouched over like a 5 year old getting yelled at for stealing a cookie. He even pouted. Rollins then made various hand gestures to explain how he got stuck in traffic and then got turned around, etc… A lot veteran players these days don’t like taking the team bus to spring away games, so it was not too unusual that Rollins drove himself. Still, everyone else was on-time.

022509a1Ryan Howard then wandered over and put his arm around Rollins to comfort him, again, like a 5 year old whimpering after being punished. Manual just kept talking. It was very clear that this was not the first time Rollins broke the rules. And as we all know, it would not be the last.

But under Manual, Rollins got used to being “scolded” and then simply going about his business after some comforting words from a few teammates. This has been a decade-long pattern. So does it really surprise anyone that in this most recent incident Sandberg decided to give Rollins the silent treatment? When you were a kid, what was worse? Getting yelled at or being ignored and having to wonder what you did wrong? The silent treatment doesn’t work on everyone; however, I am sure Sandberg felt like at the very least, he needed to try something different than what Manual had done.

I have heard a lot of criticism of Sandberg the last few days for not speaking to Rollins right away. Personally, I think giving Rollins days to stew over what was going on may have an effect going forward. Although Rollins did nearly hang himself in the media afterwards with comments like, “Well, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion. It doesn’t make it right, but he’s the manager so he gets to have the last say.” I am sure that did not endear him to Sandberg at all. But as the new manager, Sandberg is going to have to think outside the box when dealing with player issues, especially with those players who have become used to a very different style of management.

How will J-Roll react now that he and Sandberg have put the issue to rest? Time will tell.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

I’m Back – Can the Same Be Said for the Phillies?

After a very long vacation from blogging, I’m back. I have just a quick list of excuses for my absence. For starters, I have experienced a complete life “do-over.” After some hair-raising experiences including the deaths of 3 friends/family, I changed jobs, relationships, bought a house and am going back to school to work on my Master’s degree. Change is good. Trust me on this one.

Change for the Phillies thus far this offseason, however, has been minimal. It was less change and more resurrecting history when the Phils signed Marlon Byrd, Bobby Abreu (minor league deal), Larry Bowa (bench coach) and Charlie Manual, rehired as an advisor. Not to mention dumping Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews in favor of Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer in the broadcasting booth. And don’t forget Mike Schmidt on air for Sunday games. It’s a reunion!

Did you realize there are now no less than 4 Phillies managers back with the 2014 team? The current manager, obviously, is Ryne Sandberg. Former managers on staff also include Manual, Bowa and Dallas Green (front office). That is incredible. If you want to be with a team for life, sign with the Phillies!

With all of these blasts from the past, the season will at the very least be interesting to watch. But my initial impressions so far in watching Spring Training games are not too encouraging. The offense is still in hiding, as it has been for about 3+ years now. Ok, I know it is only Spring Training, but the Braves have no problem putting up 8-9 runs a game right now so why can’t the Phils? Also, many pitchers, like Cole Hamels, are already or still hurt. But hey, the defense looks pretty good J

Of the few moves the Phillies did make this offseason, I actually like the return of Marlon Byrd. He did well with the Pirates last year, he has been open about his previous suspension and above all, he has something to prove. I love his attitude so far and he appears to have at least brought some smiles back to camp.

Beyond that, not much stands out. Ryan Howard has proclaimed his perfect health. That is nice, but we will have to wait to see if results follow. Howard will be under even more pressure this year now that he and the team are adamant that he is 100%. If he falters early, I shudder to think of the reaction from the press and the fans. They will tear the Big Piece into little pieces. I do not envy his position.

I have begun counting the days until the first real pitch of the season to see what this team really has to offer. Is the winning team back or just a rerun of last year? More thoughts on Spring Training to come…stay tuned.

Sandberg Signed; Phils Swept by Mets

It’s official – The Phillies announced today that Ryne Sandberg is no longer the “interim” manager.  He has been signed to a 3-year deal, with a club option for a 4th year.  With a new manager in place, everyone was smiling and laughing before the game.

But the smiles faded as the day wore on.  It is a shame the Phillies could not scrape out a win for Sandberg today; they got swept by the Mets in a 3-game series.

For the first 3 innings, Cliff Lee was so sharp, it looked like he may pitch a no-hitter.  But he ran into trouble in the 4th inning and allowed a run.  He wound up allowing 2 runs over 7 innings, which is still great, but only helpful if the offense does its part.

At the plate, the Phillies left too many runners on base (8) and went 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.  There were a few amusing moments, like when Cliff Lee swung the bat so hard, it split in two, even though he did not hit the ball (see photo).  And Chase Utley apparently got a big chuckle out of the Mets pick-off attempt.

There were also many adventures in the outfield with balls played off the wall that could have been caught, Domonic Brown bobbling a ball which allowed an extra run to score and the Phanatic lost his shirt again.

And in the end, the Phillies could not muster a win.  I suppose that was a fitting end to the home games in a sad 2013 season.

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game, including pre-game shots.

The Phillies go to Miami on Monday for the second-to-last series of the year.  Game time is 7:10pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Sweep Braves Behind Hamels and Ruf

An odd thing happened today.  The Phillies actually showed signs of life as they swept the division leading Braves in a 3-game series.  Inspired baseball is not something we have seen a lot of this year, so this game was a real treat.

On top of his game again, Cole Hamels pitched 8 innings, allowing only 2 solo homers, both of which were absolutely murdered off the bat of Evan Gattis.  The official word is that the 1st homer went 486 feet, which is a MLB record for the season.  Yikes!

But aside from Gattis, Hamels had few problems.

The Phillies scored two runs in the first inning, but could not seem to kick start a rally after that despite some base runners.

Actually, base running was a bit of an adventure on this day.  Jimmy Rollins stole a base, which was a plus.  But rookie centerfielder Cesar Hernandez got picked off right before that and then was thrown out later in the game because he hesitated going around second base.  He received a bit of coaching from Chase Utley in between innings (see photo):

The defense was solid and fans were oohing and ahhing again over Cody Asche, who made a few more spectacular plays.

With the game still tied in the 8th inning, the Phillies needed a spark.  Darin Ruf provided the juice, and the lead, with a solo home run, his 13th of the year.

The Phils went into the 9th with a 3-2 lead and, luckily, passed on Jonathan Papelbon who had blown a save the night before.  Papelbon also pitched 3 out of the last 4 days.  So instead, B.J. Rosenberg pitched a clean 9th inning for his first career save.

Here is the Photo Album from Sunday’s game, including a bunch of pre-game photos.

The Phils are off tomorrow and will face the Padres on Tuesday at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Halladay Shows Signs of Life In Return After Surgery

After missing 3 months of the season due to right shoulder surgery, Roy Halladay finally returned to the mound for the Phillies yesterday.  The stars aligned in favor of Sunday ticket holders when the Phillies used up originally scheduled starter Tyler Cloyd in Saturday night’s 18 inning, 7-hour marathon loss to the Diamondbacks.  Halladay was supposed to make a rehab start in Reading on Sunday, but was instead called back to the bigs.  Sorry, Reading fans.

Reading’s loss was Philly’s gain.  Halladay looked a little rusty at first, but eventually found his groove.  Over 6 innings, he allowed only 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks.

Halladay may have given up more if not for the magic glove of Roger Bernadina.  In the 3rd inning, Bernadina made a spectacular jump at the centerfield wall to steal a home run away from Matt Davidson.  Then in the 7th, he made an amazing diving grab on a hit ball that appeared to have no chance of being caught.

 

On offense, Bernadina ended a 0-19 streak on Saturday with 2 hits in that game.  Then in addition to his fun fielding on Sunday, Bernadina collected 2 RBI on double in the 6th inning.  Maybe some regular playing time will get his bat going.  So far, so good.

It was a good day for offense overall.  Darin Ruf sparked the Phils in the 1st inning with an RBI single. Cody Asche had 2 hits and 2 RBI, Chase Utley went 1-1 as a pinch hitter and John Mayberry Jr. smacked a 2-run homer and also had a walk.

Both Asche and Ruf have been impressive both in the field and at the plate.  They are probably close to cementing their places in the line-up next year.

Here is the full Photo Album from the game, including a lot more of Mr. Halladay.

So they might not be making the playoffs, but at least Phillies baseball is a bit more fun to watch now!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Phillies Week In Weird

This has certainly been an interesting week for the Phillies.  Let us review the many weird happenings:

- First, manager Charlie Manual got the axe last Friday and Ryne Sandberg took over.

- People cried, complained and gave Charlie lots of hugs.

- Manual admitted to CSN Philly’s Leslie Gudel that he knew he could not win this year or last year with the team assembled as it was.  Shocker.  Not really…

- On Monday, David Murphy of Philly.com posted an article about how the front office was to blame for the Phillies failures.  Also not a shocker…

- The Phillies Triple-A Iron Pigs gave away a free funeral valued at $10,000 as part of a promotion.  Seriously.

- After 2 losses, Sandberg got his first win as manager on Sunday.

- Sandberg got that win, despite starting Michael Martinez at short stop.  Martinez was boo’ed throughout the game, I assume because starting him or just the fact that he is on this team at all, is emblematic of a very troubled 2013 Phillies season.

- On Tuesday, Roy Halladay made a rehab start in Lakewood.  He appear to be near-MLB ready.

- After Tuesday’s game, Roy Halladay spoke out on the firing of Manual.

In his comments, he added that he thought things were being “overlooked” and said, “I mean guys being at places on time, being on the field on time, taking ground balls and taking extra bp and all those little thing that nobody thinks make a difference.”

As those word emanated from Roy’s mouth, the Phillies experienced something like a meteor/asteroid shower as their happy little universe slowly imploded.  All Halladay really said was what we have all been thinking/wondering about for years.  This team lacks discipline and focus.

But the media took those comments to a whole new level, posting headlines that seemed to indicate that Halladay endorsed Manual’s firing, to which he took great offense.

- Also on Tuesday, the Phillies hosted their 6th annual Jewish Heritage Celebration.  I think we can all agree that releasing Delmon Young prior to this event was a good idea.  Because, man, that would have been AWKWARD.

- On Wednesday, Halladay “clarified” his comments and reiterated his love for Charlie, saying he did not endorse anyone being fired.

- Also on Wednesday, the Phillies took out the Washington Nationals’s trash by signing Roger Bernadina, who was cut by the Nats on Monday.  Bernadina is hitting .176 this season and has not had a hit in over a month.  He will fit right in.

-  On Thursday, Philly.com reported on the secret pornography stash at Veteran’s Stadium, presumably, because they had nothing better to report on.

And yes, all of that and more happened in just under a week.  Is this a great time to be a bored Phillies fan, or what?

Maybe don’t answer that question.  Please feel free to go on with your life as originally planned.  Thank you!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Sandberg Gets First Managerial Win

Well, it took a few days, but the Phillies finally squeaked out a win for interim manager Ryne Sandberg.  The 3-5 win over the Dodgers ended yet another long losing streak for the Phils who are now solidly in 4th place in the NL East, 2.5 games behind the Mets for 3rd place.

Getting this win against the hottest team in baseball was going to require a combination of things to occur.  Pitcher Cole Hamels had to be good, which he was.  Hamels went 7 innings, allowing just 2 runs.

 

The Phillies offense had to produce.  And although it was not at all pretty at times, 7 hits and 3 RBI did the trick.  Carlos Ruiz, who has struggled lately, went 4 for 4 and Darin Ruf smashed a solo homer in the game.

Defensively, the Phillies were coming off a game in which they committed 3 errors.  On Sunday, they managed to cut that down to 1 error.  Ah, progress!

And for once, the bullpen did not implode in late innings.  Both B.J. Rosenberg and Jonathan Papelbon pitched scoreless innings to maintain what was at that point a 2-2 tie game.

And in the bottom of the 9th, a little bit of luck was in order to seal the Phillies win.  Two errors by Dodgers shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, allowed the Phillies to walk off with the victory.  Michael Young got the game-winning RBI as Ramirez fumbled his grounder with the bases loaded.  Casper Wells scored on the error and Ryne Sandberg finally got a win!

Here is the full Photo Album from the game, which includes some fun shots of the Dodgers as well.  Fun stuff like this right here:

Is he pitching or trying some new form of karate?  I cannot decide.

The Rockies come to town for a 4-game series tonight.  Game time is 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Charlie Manual Out; Ryne Sandberg In

This just plain sucks.  The firing of Charlie Manual was announced this afternoon at a 2:30pm press conference.  Apparently, Manual was told he was out before Wednesday’s night game in Atlanta.  He managed his last game in a Phillies uniform knowing his fate was already sealed.

GM Ruben Amaro Jr. actually cried as he made the announcement.  But I do not think anyone in that room or anyone watching at home felt sorry for him.  Because much of the demise of this team can be directly linked to many bad moves Amaro has made over the years.  While no one was placing blame, some moves speak for themselves.

Manual was offered a job, presumably in the front office, but he had not made any decision on that.  Getting canned with only 41 games left in the season seems harsh, so maybe that will weigh into his decision.

Hearing Charlie talk about how he loves coming to the ballpark every day and how he does not know what he will do now when he wakes up in the morning was tough.  It was very difficult to listen to and my heart aches for him.

What’s done is done and Ryne Sandberg is the new manager.

But Charlie will always be #1 in my heart!  He brought this team out of the darkness and into the light; 1 World Series Championship; 2 NL Pennants; and 5 Division Championships…it is hard to picture this team without him :O(

We love ya, Charlie!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Bats in Atlanta

While I was really hoping that the Phillies bats would show up in Atlanta last night, it seems my wish was mistranslated by the universe.  Bats did show up…but not the baseball kind.

The game was delayed twice last night.  The start of the game was delayed nearly 2-hours due to rain; the second delay came during the game and was caused by a couple of bats getting busy on the field.  Real bats, with wings and all that.

After being man/glove-handled by Braves third baseman Paul Janish, the love-struck bats finally detached and one flew away.  The second bat was transferred to the aptly-named Batboy, who fulfilled his job duties on multiple levels during this game.

Looks like those bats picked the wrong place to host their little rendezvous.  I do hope they were reunited later in the evening.

As for the games, the Braves bats won out, beating the Phillies by a score of 3-6.  John Lannan lasted only 1.1 innings, allowing 5 runs and left the game due to a knee injury.  He is likely done for the season and has also probably worn a Phillies uniform for the last time.  This is the same knee that landed him on the DL for 2 months earlier this year; the Phillies cannot possibly resign him if he is hurt again.

Then again, they have done dumber things; but I will give them the benefit of the doubt here…for now.

The only good news last night was that Domonic Brown had 3 hits and 2 RBI and Darin Ruf hit a homer.  Yup, the good news ends there.  Unless you count today being an off-day as good news…

The Dodgers come to town on Friday…game time is 7:05pm.

And in keeping with today’s bat-theme, here are some adorable, fluffy bats I met in Costa Rica earlier this year:

Awwww!  (Yes, they ARE cute!  Do not argue…beauty is in the eye of the beholder ;o)

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Baseball Blues

Hey Phillies fans…anyone else out there suffering from a severe case of the baseball blues?  It is hard not to be down in the dumps after watching this Phillies team continue to suck, game after game.  Getting swept in a 3-game series by the Nationals this weekend had to be the pinnacle of shame and embarrassment in an already dreadful season.

Even dumping Delmon Young could not cheer me up.  Young, who they never should have signed in the first place, was designated for assignment on Friday and replaced by White Sox reject, Casper Wells.  Nothing on Wells’ stat sheet gives me any reason to hope either.  This is the 5th team for Wells this year; that alone is telling.

Just three days earlier, the Phillies also nixed Laynce Nix.  I guess his .180 batting average was just not getting it done (*note sarcasm here).

Know which other Phillies are also just not getting it done?  You guessed right…ALL of them!  So perhaps the entire team will soon be designated for assignment and subsequently be replaced by little league-trained robots.  That would at least sell some tickets.

Oh, Jayson Werth, where have you gone?  That’s right…to the Nationals, where with 7 hits, 4 RBI and a homer he nearly single-handedly beat the Phillies in all 3 games this weekend.  He did look a lot better in red pinstripes….sigh.

The Phillies were outscored 23 to 7 runs this weekend and outhit 36 to 16.  I could count the Phillies runs and hits on my fingers, but had to bust out the calculator to find the totals for the Nats.  That alone was depressing.

So what reason do we all have to keep watching this season?  Here are a few:

- It is like a train wreck; one cannot help but wonder what form this ongoing disaster will take next.

- With 45 games left, can the Phillies still prevent Charlie Manual from getting his 1,000th career as a manager?  He has 999 right now and #1,000 is looking tenuous.

- Can a guy with a .151 batting average this year who is named after a ghost bring this team back from the dead?  C’mon Casper, you’ve got to at least try!

- Will the Phillies single-handedly put Papa John’s pizza out of business with their “50% Off After Phillies Win and score 5 or more runs” deal?

- Every time the Phillies bullpen gives up a run, I get to drink another Mai Tai! (Insert your own drinking game here)

That’s all I’ve got.  Oh, and the Braves are up next…what could be more fun than watching the division leader beat the Phillies to a pulp?  Game time is 7:10pm.  Whoo…hoo.

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Werth Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

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