Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

Halfway through 2015: Down the Rabbit Hole

A recent article in The New Yorker described going down the rabbit hole as “a bizarre and disorienting alternate reality.”  That perfectly describes how many Phillies fans feel at the halfway point of the 2015 season.  We followed the Phillies here and have now fallen into the proverbial, Alice in Wonderland-esque rabbit hole.

This team is such a departure from that of the 2008-2011 teams that watching them really does feel like a bad acid trip.  The Phillies are dead last in all of baseball with a 29-62 record.  Their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, cannot stop yelling to the media about how badly he wants to be traded.  Cole Hamels is pitching like a man who has given up on life.  And their manager, Ryne Sandberg, ran screaming from his duties, despite the obvious detriment to his career by doing so.

Sad Phillies (2)But the most depressing part of the season has been the lightning fast decline of Chase Utley’s career.  According to the general manager, Utley is no longer the starting second baseman, even after he comes off the disabled list.  This is officially the end of Phillies baseball as we knew it.  Indeed, an alternate reality that is painful to watch.

But even with Utley’s downfall, there was no reason to think the Phillies would be THIS bad, as in 62 losses bad, the worst half way mark in team history.  There is a lot of young talent here, like Maikel FrancoBen Revere is hitting .297 with 21 stolen bases and 45 runs scored.  Ryan Howard has hit 15 home runs and has 45 RBI, which is really pretty good considering he is on the tail end of his career.  Papelbon has been perfect in saves, although he has had limited opportunities.    But most of the pitching has be atrocious.  Even so, this team should have won more than 29 games, given their talent.

Perhaps Pat Gillick’s pre-season declaration about this team not being able to compete for several years has created a culture of losing?  And not only that, but the team seems to have accepted this.  They are not showing any fight, maybe because they simply expect to lose.  They are just collecting their fat paychecks and then going home.  And if this attitude continues, attendance will continue to drop to levels where you can hear crickets chirping.  Hopefully, the Phillies will emerge from their slumber in the second half and at least put on a good show.  Then again, that could just be the psychedelic acid talking.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Tension Still Building Despite Phillies Win

At the beginning of the year, we knew this Phillies team would be bad; but I do not think anyone expected them to be THIS bad.  By “this bad” I mean 24-47 near the end of June, dead last in all of baseball.  I also mean a team that constantly makes mental errors, missing bases and forgetting to put the bullpen phone back on the hook (yes, that happened).  And also a team that got Chase Utley so mad, the usually quiet and calm second baseman screamed at the pitching coach during a mound visit this past Tuesday. Oh yeah, THAT team.

So despite a rare 9-2 win today over the Cardinals, there were still disgruntled fans, players and even boo’s raining down from the stands.  Why?  Because manager Ryne Sandberg showed everyone that he cannot manage this team.  As if the “players-gone-wild” (Utley) vibe were not bad enough, Sandberg dug a deeper hole today by pulling rookie pitcher Adam Morgan with 2 outs in the 6th inning for no apparent reason.  The kid had pitched a great game, allowing 1 run, and only had 78 pitches.  Not to mention that the Phillies had a 5-1 lead.  Sure, Morgan had just walked a batter, but who cares?  He deserved to finish the inning.  At this point, winning and losing is of little consequence – this team sucks and will not make the playoffs.  So what is important is developing young players.  By taking Morgan out, Sandberg sent a message that he has no confidence in the young player, which can be devastating to a guy, especially in his major league debut.  Morgan got a standing ovation as he walked off, while Sandberg left to a chorus of boo’s.

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And that was a real shame especially because the Phillies finally managed some offense today, which should have been cause to celebrate.  Instead, we are all left with a feeling of disappointment because it seems obvious (at least to me) that Sandberg is not cut out for the job.  He simply does not have the appropriate people skills to manage.  Don’t get me wrong; I have met Sandberg and he is a super nice guy.  But being nice does not a good manager make.  And with the GM’s job also in jeopardy, Sandberg may be out of time to find ways to improve.
062115 Offense

A few other items of note today involved Cole Hamels.  Before the game, he was seen cavorting with Cardinals players and even posing for photos.  One of these is Greg Garcia; I think the other is Xavier Scruggs.  I have seen players chat during warm-ups; this is not unusual.  But Hamels brought a photographer with him to the Cards dugout for a pre-meditated photo-op.  Now that is something I have never seen.  Seeing baseball etiquette pushed aside, I can’t help but wonder if maybe Cole has one foot out the door already?
062115 Hamels

And by the way, does anyone else find it suspicious that Hamels had a “minor” hamstring issue that caused him to miss pitching against the Cardinals and magically rescheduled him to pitch against the Yankees in New York on Wednesday?  It could be legit, but rumor has it that the Yankees are in dire need of starting pitching.  And this is the perfect way to showcase Hamels to the Yanks.  Just sayin’…

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

A Few Good Signs

P4060114SThere were a few signs of life from the Phillies in last night’s 4-2 win over the Red Sox.  First, the fact that they won after a 0-8 beat down in the home opener is encouraging.  Second, pitcher Aaron Harrang dominated the Red Sox line-up.  No one was really sure what to expect from Harrang after a spring that seemed to be riddled with back issues.  But through 6 1/3 scoreless innings, Harrang proved he is ready to go.

Jeff Francoeur also had something to prove after spending nearly all of last year languishing the Padres minor leagues.   He gave the Phillies their first runs of the season with a 3-run homer in the 6th inning.  If Francoeur can continue to find some of his old, Braves-days magic, he could see some descent playing time.

Another good sign was the speedy Ben Revere, who turned a Sox error into 3 bases in the 7th inning.  His hustle led to a run after Chase Utley hit a sac fly.  And Carlos Ruiz had 2 hits on the day batting 2nd, which is also nice to see.

The one not-so-great sign was Ken Giles.  He was all over the place pitching in the 8th inning.  Giles gave up a hit and 3 walks, which accounted for both Red Sox runs.  After he walked a run home, manager Ryne Sandberg finally went out to get him and let Jonathan Papelbon earn a 4-out save against his old team.  Giles had some soreness in spring training.  His speed is down and his control is missing.  One has to wonder how healthy he is.

Tonight, David Buchanan gets his first start after a very encouraging spring.  Game time is 7:05pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri

Jimmy Rollins Goes West

J-Roll says hi crIt took the departure of Jimmy Rollins to wake me from my offseason slumber.  And it was indeed a rude awakening.  The trade of Rollins to the Dodgers signals the end of a Phillies era, which is sad.  It also seems that more big changes are on the way.

I do think the trade was the right move, but that does not make it any less depressing.  During his 15 years with the team, Rollins provided fans with exciting moments, frustrating moments and everything in between.  He became the team’s all-time hits leader, won an MVP and helped bring Philadelphia a World Series.  If you follow this team closely as I have done over the years, watching J-Roll head to the west coast is akin to a family member moving away.  Love him or hate him, life will never be the same without Rollins.

The Phillies Phollowers official mascot, J-Roll Smurf, was hit the hardest.  He immediately took to the phone to call his agent and make sure he was not also being shipped out.  A blue uniform would totally clash with his blue skin.  It is not a good look.  J-Roll Smurf then drown his sorrows in sugar by raiding the cookie jar.  I have assured him he will always have a home here, as will the real Rollins.

Smurfs

It has not yet been announced what the Phillies will get in return for J-Roll, but it is assumed to be two minor league pitchers.  The Phillies acquired another new pitcher yesterday when they traded Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates for another lefty, Joely Rodriguez.  Rodriguez went 6-11 with a 4.84 ERA in 30 games this past year with Double-A Altoona and is considered to be one of their top prospects.

The question now is who will the ax fall on next?  Many hope it will be Ryan Howard, but who wants him, really?  His contract is too large and his production too little.  Cole Hamels may be next, but the Phillies have to hit a grand slam with that trade if it happens or risk losing the fan base.  And I do not even want to mention Chase Utley…I cannot imagine a Phillies team without him.

We now wait and see what will happen next.  In the meantime, I wish Jimmy the best and hope the move works out for him.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Final Game of 2014 – Mirror Image of Entire Season

The Phillies season ended today in the same fashion they played throughout the year.  There was no offense to be found and lackluster effort.  The Phillies were 1 run away from a win with the 2-1 loss to the Braves; pitcher Cole Hamels was 1 win away from double-digit wins for the season; and Ben Revere ended the season 1 base short of 50 stolen bases on the year.  Jimmy Rollins spoke before the game, telling fans, “Before we’re done this year, we’d like to say thank you for showing up.  We know it was rough, but hopefully we made you guys smile.”  Etch that on a tombstone and you have the Phillies 2014 eulogy.
092814 Hamels Revere

As is tradition for the last home game of the year, today was dubbed “Fan Appreciation Day.”  Players signed autographs and jested with fans cheerfully and prizes were given away.
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But I’ll tell you when I will feel truly appreciated; when the tickets prices go down to a level worthy of watching a last place team.  Don’t worry; I won’t hold my breath.

After all the happy exchanges, the game began and it was more of the same.  Poor Cole Hamels did not get even 10 wins this year thanks to an absent offense.  Adding insult to injury, Hamels had a team-leading 2 hits in the game but no one could drive him in.  He even got whacked on the face with a batted ball and suffered a minor bloody lip.  That about summed up his season.

The offense was so bad, players were literally throwing their bats away.  Chase Utley, Maikel Franco and Braves pitcher James Russell all tossed their bats mid-swing at different points in the game.  I guess they weren’t really using them anyway.
092814 OFNS

And so ends a dreary Phillies season with little hope for quick recovery.  Oh sure, they fired Assistant GM Marti Wolever.  But all that really means in Ruben Amaro Jr. keeps his job.  And I guess more heads are going to roll, which is appropriate.  But how much difference will it make and when?  I hope to take a guess at answering some of those questions in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, here is my final 2014 Photo Album.  Here hoping for a happy off-season!

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Papelbon Implodes in Shocking Phillies Loss

The day started out so well.  It was sunny outside, people seemed happy…even Chase Utley was smiling on the field during warm-ups.  Anyone who follows this team knows what a rare moment that is.  It just seemed like a good day where a sweep of the Marlins was totally possible.  Heck, there was even breakdancing during the game!  It was all going well until the 9th inning…
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Before that frightening 9th inning, starting pitcher, David Buchanan pitched very well, allowing only 1 run on a solo homer through 6 1/3 innings.  Although, he did almost have his head taken off while attempting to bunt, which was a bit scary.
091414 DavidB

But baseball carried on and the Phillies racked up hits, stolen bases and Ryan Howard even showed patience at the plate, drawing a walk in the 4th inning.
091414 Misc

I finally got to see Maikel Franco play in person.  He had an interesting day that included a broken bat RBI single where he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.  He also had this play at third where he bobbled the ball, recovered and still got the out:
091414 Franco

By the 9th inning, the Phillies had a 4-1 lead.  But then Jonathan Papelbon came into the game.  Granted, he has been mostly good all season.  And anyone can blow a save…it happens (unless it is 2008 and you are Brad Lidge).  When one blows a save however, that person should expect to get boo’ed.  In fact, that person should boo themselves for sucking on that occasion.  Instead, Papelbon decided to look into the crowd as he walked to the dugout and grab his crotch demonstratively in reply to the boo’s.  After the game, he said he was “adjusting” himself.  Really?  And he could not wait 10 more steps to do so?  I am not buying it.

His attitude just sucks.  And his response was way out of line.  After ejecting Papelbon for the gesture, umpire Joe West grabbed Papelbon by the shirt and shoved him.  I cannot wait to see the blow back from that…stay tuned.

So the Phillies will ride this smelly, stinky 4-5 loss all the way across the country to San Diego where they start a 4 game series with the Padres tomorrow.  For now, here is the Photo Album from today’s game which includes the happier moments.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies First Combined No-Hitter

Congratulations to Phillies pitchers Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon and catcher Carlos Ruiz on Monday’s combined no-hitter against the Braves.  It is the 12th no-hitter in Phillies history and the first combined no-hitter.  Altogether, there have been only 11 teams in baseball history to record a combined no-hitter.

2014.09.01 no hitter

One other fun note is that this is the 3rd no-hitter caught by Carlos Ruiz in his career.  He is ties for second all-time behind Jason Varitek, who caught four no-hitters for the Red Sox from 2001-2008.

Oddly enough, Hamels had what appeared to be one of his most difficult outings of the year, even though he did not allow a hit.  His pitches were all over the place and he walked 5 batters.  I am guessing this erratic performance completely confused Braves hitters.

Overshadowed in the 7-0 no-hit victory was a 5-RBI day for Ben Revere, who is now batting .310.  Jimmy Rollins had 3 hits and Chase Utley walked twice.  It was a nice day offensively, but the no-hitter took the front page news, as is appropriate.

So in an otherwise awful Phillies season, this was a very nice moment for the team and the fans.  Fans do have a little more fun ahead as September call-ups start streaming in.  It looks like Maikel Franco will finally get a shot in the Bigs.  We will also get our first look at Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the Cuban righty that the Phillies spent a fortune on and, so far, have little to show for it.  Also, Mike Adams and Tony Gwynn Jr. will return.

I look forward to seeing the line-up for tonight’s game.  First pitch is at 7:10pm and Kyle Kendrick will pitch.  That is a nice gift to the Braves following the no-hitter.  Just sayin’…

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

A Phillies Miracle – They Win on a Sunday

The Phillies were beginning to give new meaning to the phrase “Day of Rest” after losing their last 9 Sunday games.  It has been less rest, and more of a coma.  But today a miracle occurred and they won a Sunday game, beating the Diamondbacks by a score of 4-2.  Yippee!

Roberto Hernandez had a very good day, allowing only 2 runs over 7 innings.  I should qualify that by saying he had a good day pitching because, have you seen this guy swing a bat?  He looks like a 3 year old holding a 20 pound piece of lumber.  At one point, he actually swung at a pitch after the ball was already in the catcher’s glove and the catcher was reaching in to take the ball out.  Seriously.  But hey, nice job on the mound, Roberto!  And thanks for the extra entertainment.
072714 Hernandez

The offense was kicked into gear by Ryan Howard, who is out to prove something after being benched for 3 games earlier this week.  He smacked a 2-run homer in the 1st inning; it was his first homer in Philly since June 1st.
072714 Howard

Howard was also involved in a home plate controversy later in the game.  After not immediately hustling around the bases on a Marlon Byrd fly ball, Howard finally sped up when the ball was dropped.  While he should have been out at home (by a mile), the out call was overturned on replay as the D-Backs catcher was blocking the plate.  While I am happy the Phillies got the run, I have to say this home plate no-collision / no blocking rule is utterly ridiculous.  No way should Howard have been safe, but he got by on a technicality.  Can’t we just go back to bowling over the catchers and be done with this silliness?

So the Phillies did go on to score another, non-controversial run as Wil Nieves scored on a double by Ben Revere.  And yes, the Phillies managed to win a game with only 4 hits, thanks to several D-Backs errors.  The Phillies defense was solid and kept them in the game.
072714 O and D

There were some other great non-baseball moments today, including armed services members being honored, as the Phillies do every Sunday.  But this one almost brought everyone to tears as a little boy was reunited with his mother after a deployment and video of the boy crying hysterically were shown on the big screen.  Kudos to the Phillies for a very touching moment.
072714 Military

Here is the full Photo Album from Sunday’s game.  The Phillies start a series in New York tomorrow against the Mets.  And the trade deadline is almost here…who will stay and who will go?  We shall see…

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Back to Reality as Nats Pound the Phillies

P7131631WDid you get your hopes up after that 5-game winning streak?  And the 5-game winning streak last month?  Well, today was a statement game for the Phillies in their last outing before the All-Star break.  And the statement, summed up in the nice photo to the right of Marlon Byrd getting hit by a pitch with nothing to show for it, was this: “We suck; let the trading begin.”

So just how bad was today’s game?  Let us count the ways…for starters, Kyle Kendrick apparently cannot get out of any 1st inning without allowing at least 3 runs.  And today he did that against the Nationals without recording a single out.  So we were treated to this lovely home run and tongue lashing by our old pal, Jayson Werth.
071314 Kendrick Werth

Later in the game, Kendrick was pulled after 88 pitches which, even though I have obvious reservations about KK, I felt was a big mistake in that spot. Kendrick had already struck out Bryce Harper twice in the game.  So why when Harper came up again was Kendrick pulled in favor of Mario Hollands?  Hollands proceeded to give up a single to him.  Harper scored later that inning and we got yet another Nationals treat, Harper’s hair rounding the bases.  Thanks, Mario!
071314 Hollands Harper

And then there was the Phillies offense, or lack thereof.  Most of the offense consisted of players looking straight up into the air to admire their pop-ups or looking down at foul balls.  It was not pretty.  In the end, they squeezed out 3 runs, but it was far too little, too late as the Nats scored 10 runs.
071314 offense

Pretty much the only entertainment in this game was watching Byrd chug some mystery red substance before the game (5-Hour Energy, perhaps?  If so, it didn’t work well.) and watching Chase Utley dig dirt out of his cleats.
071314 Byrd Utley

Here is the full Photo Album from Sunday’s game.  The Phillies will return from the All-Star break on 7/18/14 with yet another likely depressing series against the Braves.  Despite showing signs of life here and there, this team is going nowhere.  Now we must all brace ourselves for big changes…they are coming soon.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Braves Get Revenge with 4-Game Sweep of Phillies

Just a few weeks ago, the Phillies swept the Braves in a 3-game series in Atlanta.  This weekend, the Braves returned the favor and 1-up’d the Phillies with a 4-game sweep.  Ugh.  So for anyone holding out hope that the Phillies 5 game win streak on the road was a sign of life, you can wipe that thought from your mind.  No surprise…this team still sucks.

Rookie pitcher David Buchanan had an ok game, with 5 walks issued and 3 runs over 5 innings.  He has serious control issues.  A work in progress, I suppose…

062914 Buchanan

The entire game on Sunday was an exercise in futility.  The Phillies left 10 men on base and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.  There were many swings and misses and possibly the worst bunt ever in the history of baseball laid down by 4th string catcher, Koyie Hill.
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The real telling moment came in the 7th after Jimmy Rollins singled and Chase Utley singled for his 1,500th career hit (yeah!).  Ryan Howard stepped to the plate…weren’t we all thinking, here is the BIG 3!  Rollins, Utley and Howard…the former dream team.  If they cannot get it done, this team is doomed.  Howard then proceeded to hit into an inning ending double play.  And that, my Phillies friends, is this team in a nutshell.  They are toast.
062914 Utley

The defense was awful again, too.  Domonic Brown and Ben Revere both misplayed balls in the outfield, something that has become a regular and expected occurrence.  Justin DeFratus and Rollins both had errors in the game as well.
062914 Defense

The only bright spot was Marlon Byrd.  He hit 2 home runs, which were the Phillies only 2 runs of the game.  But really, all that means is his trade value just went way up.
062914 Byrd

It is a bit depressing to be a Phillies fan right now, as stated by the semi-polite Braves fan sitting next to me.  All of the sun-baked babies in the stands concurred with their heat-exhausted whimpers as well.  Seriously…there were 3 babies in my section all under 6 months old literally baking in the sun as their moron parents paid no mind.  One kid had on nothing but a diaper…because apparently, sunscreen is invincible and protects against heat stroke too…magic!  Sorry I ran off on a tangent there…but please people, leave your infants at home in 88 degree temperatures!  That makes me insane…had to vent.

Anyway, here is the Photo Album from Sunday’s game.  The team is off on Monday and will go to Miami for a 3-game series starting on Tuesday night.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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