Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

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.

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.

062115 Morgan
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.
092814 fan appr

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…
091414 Utley

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

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