Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

Chase Utley: A Phillie for Life

The Phillies made the official announcement yesterday that Chase Utley will be a Phillie for life.  They have signed him to a contract extension for 2-years at up to $27 million, with 3 option years that would max out the entire contract at around $75 million if he stays all 5 years.  He would be 39 years old in the 5th year.

There is some risk involved as Utley has battled serious knee issues over the years.  The 2nd year of the contract has a clause built-in which adds $5 million to his salary if he can avoid the disabled list.  Although the specifics of that are hazy, it appears that he can go on the DL once, but no more than that.  That does give the team at least a little insurance.

But Utley has not had any knee issues this year and his production is up.  He is also the leader of this team and a stellar example to all the young players of what being a major league player is all about.  That alone is worth keeping him around while the Phillies retool this beleaguered ball club.

There are so many reasons to be excited about Utley staying in Philadelphia that I cannot pick just one.  So here are a whole bunch:

He loves puppies and running through fields of flowers:

He is the Terminator:

Yet, he is also mysterious:

He plays the game hard and looks good doing it:

It looks like Chase has found just the right fit:

And thank goodness for that!

Congrats, Chase!  I am SOOOOOOO happy that you will be here for years to come!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Alumni Weekend and a Bashing from the Braves

Alumni Weekend for the Phillies is something for fans to look forward to each year.  Players of the past come back to be celebrated and adored once again.  This year, Brad Lidge retired as a Phillie; Curt Schilling was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame; and the 1993 NL Championship team was honored on their 20-year anniversary.

The following is a photo diary of Sunday’s events and, unfortunately, a few not-so-fun happenings from the Phillies 1-4 loss to the Braves.

Here is a photo of 1993 manager Jim Fregosi signing my championship pennant and another of the  joining the celebration:

Players of old joined current Phillies players at their respective positions prior to the game as the National Anthem was played.  Having the 1993 and 2013 players together was a very nice touch.  And Darren Daulton got a standing ovation for the 3rd consecutive day.  Surviving brain cancer surgery and being able to walk out onto the field with his friends was worth at least that, and much more.  It was great to see Dutch still fighting.

But the fun ended there.  Unless of course, you count the following events:  The top photo shows a camera man focusing in on Kevin Fransden’s rear-end.  And I can tell you, he lingered there for quite a while.  I want that job.

And the photos below the Frandsen camera-rape episode show that Dan Uggla still has a serious man crush on Chase Utley as he tries to get as close to him as possible during the game.  Remember my shocking 2008 All-Star photo of Uggla goosing Utley?  In case you do not, I of course included it here for your enjoyment:

And then there was the rest of the game, which was horrible.  The only events worth mentioning are the 2 times Braves players were caught in a rundown.  One ended peacefully, with Carlos Ruiz applying the tag.  The other was not so nice.  Total jerk Jason Heyward, rather than take getting picked off like a man, decided to ram Frandsen, sending him flying into the air.  I had nothing against Heyward (beside him being a Brave) until that moment.  That was completely unnecessary, especially with a 3-run lead and the Braves about to sweep the series:

If a picture paints a thousand words, then these shots speak volumes.  Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley look downright infuriated by the team’s current situation.  And manager Charlie Manual just looks defeated:

Defeated is a good word; it covers all of angles of this team.  They have been defeated literally, figuratively, emotionally and any other way you can think of.  The suspension of pitcher Antonio Bastardo today was just adding salt to the wound.

This is about as ugly as one can imagine for the Phillies.  The only thing they can hope for now is maybe to find some new, young talent in the coming weeks.  And perhaps they are also hoping for a quick end to this painful season.

Here is the full Photo Album from Sunday’s events.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Dead Men Walking: The 2013 Phillies

In their 4th consecutive loss on Wednesday night, I do believe the Phillies finally rolled over and died.  They did not just lose 4 games, they were slaughtered in the ugliest and most painful manner possible.

Every problem this team has had this season was glaring in last night’s 3-11 drubbing, courtesy of the Cardinals.  It was a proverbial highlight reel of all that is wrong with the 2013 Phillies.  First, the starting pitching has been wildly inconsistent.  John Lannan had 2 solid outings in his last few attempts; but last night, he was run out of the game after only 4 innings with 4 runs allowed.  In the 4th inning, Lannan walked the opposing pitcher who then proceeded to steal second base and score after a single from the next batter.

Next, the defense was pitiful.  John Mayberry Jr. summed up 2013 defense with a Little League play in the 5th inning that allowed 3 runs to score.  He dove for a ball that he had zero chance at catching in the air, only to watch the ball sail past him into deep center field.

And then there was the awful bullpen performance.  J.C. Ramirez allowed 5 runs in one inning of work.  Jake Diekman added 2 more for the Cardinals in the 8th.

And how about that offense?  What offense, you may ask yourself.  Exactly.  The Phillies have scored 4 runs total in their last 3 games.

But the whipped topping on this sh@!! sundae has got to be all of the injuries.  Domonic Brown was pulled from the line-up with concussion symptoms.  Ben Revere, the hottest hitter in June and July, went down earlier this month with a broken foot due to a foul ball.  Ryan Howard is out with knee issues.  Roy Halladay is recovering from shoulder surgery.  And the list goes on…

The trade deadline is less than a week away.  If GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has half a brain, he will begin selling as many players as he can and give this team some hope for the future.  And if he wants anyone to attend games for the rest of the year, he should scratch Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee off any possible trade list.  Anyone of the other veterans are fair game, in my humble opinion.

In the meantime, all we can do is wait for the hammer to fall…

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Phillies Head to All-Star Break at .500

It was a very weird weekend for the Phillies heading into the All-Star break today.  Sunday’s game commenced a 3-game series with the White Sox that included a postponed game turned into a doubleheader, during which another rain delay occurred.  All 3 games went extra-innings, with the teams playing 24 innings total in one day; each game on Saturday lasted exactly 3 hours, 53 minutes, excluding the 41 minute rain delay.  In the midst of all that, Ben Revere broke his foot by fouling a ball off it; he will be out for about 6-8 weeks.  Very sad news for the Phillies :O(

Sunday’s game went 10 innings, 3 hours and 26 minutes.  Jonathan Papelbon blew his 5th save of the year in this one, denying Cole Hamels yet another win.  But Hamels pitched very well, allowing just 2 runs over 8 innings, which is what kept the Phillies in line for the win.

The offense started strong, but sputtered again later in the game, which has become a pattern with this team.  Still, they managed enough runs to get by.  Hamels, in addition to pitching well, led the team in hits with two; he also had a fabulous sacrifice bunt and a crucial RBI in the 4th inning.

The defense was a bit better on Sunday, although Chase Utley still had a blunder.  Luckily, no damage was done.

The only real damage was Papelbon’s blown save.  However, his teammates got him off the hook.  Utley redeemed his previous fielding error by leading off the 10th inning with a double.  And John Mayberry Jr., getting playing time since Revere is on the DL, singled the winning run in for a 4-3 victory.

Prior to the game, the Phillies All-Star’s, Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown, got their jerseys:

This win was a nice way to send them off to New York and finally put the Phillies at the .500 mark.

The Phils are now 6.5 games out of 1st place and a half-game behind the 2nd place Nationals.  But whether or not they can make a run at the playoffs still seems like a long shot after watching their struggles against a last place White Sox team this weekend.

In 3 games, they left 25 men on base and went 6-for-28 with runners in scoring position.  In Saturday’s 1st game loss, the Sox practically handed the game to them.  But with runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs in the 9th, they failed to score.  That just cannot happen.  Similar situations played out in the 10th and 11th innings with the same result.  It was gut-wrenching; very difficult to watch.

Now with Revere gone and the bullpen situation still tenuous, there is no way to know how the 2nd half will play out, but the odds are certainly stacked against the Phillies.

While we all wait and see, here is the Photo Album from Sunday’s game.  Enjoy!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Squeak Out Series Win Over Nationals

With a 3-1 win on Thursday night, the Phillies managed to just barely squeak out their 3rd win in the 4-game series with the Nationals…and it was not without drama, as usual.  Even with 4 errors in the game, somehow, this team found a way to win.

Of those 4 errors, 3 belonged to Chase Utley.  He was so off-kilter in the field, one may have wondered whether or not someone spiked his Gatorade.  But he did have a hit in the game and also ran the bases well, scoring a crucial run in bottom of the 8th inning.

The real heroes of the night however, were Darin Ruf and Kevin Frandsen…again.  Ruf started off the 7th inning with a double off the Nat’s lone All-Star, Jordan ZimmermanCarlos Ruiz bunted him to third and then, Mr. Clutch, Kevin Frandsen stepped to the plate.  Frandsen smacked a double into no-man’s land in right-centerfield to score Ruf and give the Phillies their first lead of the night.

In the midst of all that, Kyle Kendrick managed to pitch a very solid 7 innings, despite all the fielding errors and the lack of run support.  And then both Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon broke recent routine and pitched one drama-free inning a piece to nail down the win.  It was as if the stars had finally aligned….

But even after taking 3 of 4 from the Nats, and 2 of 3 from the Braves, the Phillies still have a lot of work to do.

Slightly off topic here, did anyone else see the interview with Darin Ruf that aired a few days ago on CSN Phillly?  He was asked why his offense has improved since being called up.  While I cannot find a video of this anywhere (and there may be a reason for that), he said basically that he was taking advantage of the “detailed scouting reports” that were available in the majors, but not in the minors.

Here is my question – do they seriously not have scouting reports in Triple-A?  Or perhaps they have generic, inferior reports?  Either way, am I the only one who thinks this is a major problem?  You cannot tell me this organization cannot afford to pay someone to produce minor league scouting reports.  Heck, I’ll do it for a very modest paycheck and some free baseball!

Just sayin’…  Thoughts anyone?

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Rumor Mill Begins to Turn…

The Phillies have done themselves no favors during the first half of the season.  Their mediocre play has left them in 3rd place in the NL East and 9.5 games out of first.  Losing 3 out of 4 against the Dodgers this past weekend did not help their case either.

And so the rumor mill begins to turn with names like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon in the mix.  If the team does not pick up their play significantly in the next few weeks, this could signal the end of an era.  It is hard to envision a Phillies team without Utley or Rollins, but that may soon be the reality.

The most persistent rumor recently has the Red Sox making a run at 3rd baseman Michael Young.  The Phillies signed Young as basically a 1-year rental, so his departure would not be surprising.  Utley is in the last year of his contract, so losing him is also a possibility, although not one that most people would be very happy about.

Utley may be the most beloved player in franchise history.  If the Phillies trade him, they run the risk of alienating a large portion of their fan base.  This is guy who blurted out the F-word on national television, not once, but twice, and people still say he can do no wrong.  That is a powerful show of affection, especially in a city like Philadelphia.

Rollins, on the other hand, may not be missed quite as much.  While he is the longest tenured active Phillie and a former MVP, Rollins still has that magical ability to piss people off.  He has made derogatory comments in the past about Philly Fans and he has been criticized for a lack of hustle.  More recently, Rollins said he was “not disappointed” with the team’s 1-3 performance in Los Angeles this past weekend.

While Rollins has a point, that being he believes the team will overcome, it still rubs some people the wrong way.  Personally, I like Jimmy.  He speaks his mind and I respect that.  So seeing him in another uniform would be quite a shock.  It would not, however, induce the same type of freak-out that losing Utley would.

On Tuesday night, the Phillies pulled out a 3-1 win over the best team in baseball right now, the Pirates.  That is still weird to say…  However, even that win may not help quite the trade rumors.  A sweep of the Bucos might be helpful, but even in a win, the Phillies still have some very obvious, glaring problems.

The bullpen, for example, is a huge mess.  It took 3 pitchers who combined to load the bases to get the Phillies through the 8th inning last night.  It did work out, but could have easily ended in disaster.  The offense is getting better, but they are still not hitting consistently with runners in scoring position.  And the defense is very shaky; Delmon Young dropped a routine fly ball last night which is a prime example of the issues on the field.

All we can do now is hold our collective breaths, wait and hope the Phillies can pull out a string of convincing wins before the All-Star break.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Lose Series to Mets

The Phillies completed an embarrassing weekend series against the Mets today with a 0-8 loss.  They lost 2 of 3 in the series and the only reason they won on Saturday was due to another Kevin Frandsen miracle in the form of a walk off homer after the team blew a 7-1 lead.

In his second start since coming off the DL, John Lannan struggled to get through just 5 innings, allowing 4 runs on 3 walks and 8 hits.  Below is a photo of Lannan pitching and another photo I took today which seems to express how Lannan felt his outing went:

In the top of the 5th inning, the Mets had some extra help against Lannan in the form of creative umpiring.  Ben Revere caught a fly ball, took a few steps with it securely in his glove and as he transferred the ball to his hand, it slipped to the ground.  The runner was allowed to advance to third and was called safe.

In the official MLB rules, a catch is defined as follows: “If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught. In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.  Rule 2.00 (Catch) Comment: A catch is legal if the ball is finally held by any fielder, even though juggled, or held by another fielder before it touches the ground.”

Revere had the ball long enough to be a catch.  Manager Charlie Manuel argued to no avail.  That was the turning point of the game as 3 runs scored right after that call.  Here are a few shots of the event:

Of course, the Phillies offense was no help at all either.  There were many bewildered looks at the plate, swings and misses and various other miscues.  Every mistake seemed inflated as they began to pile up; much like Ryan Howard’s inflated back side as a result of my viewing angle and his standing next to Chase Utley:

See, even in a 0-8 rain-soaked loss, I still managed to have a small bit of fun ;o)

J.C. Ramirez had some fun as well; he made his major league debut and struck out all 3 batters he faced.  Sadly though, the fun ended there.

The team starts a West Coast road trip tomorrow in San Diego.  In the meantime, here is the Photo Album from today’s game, including a Cole Hamels pre-game bullpen session and pitcher warm-ups.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Brown’s Bombs

Hitting five homers in his last four game, Domonic Brown is on fire…and it is about time.  The Phillies have been waiting for Brown to explode and reach his potential for years now.  It looks like he may be right on track now.

Fresh off his first Player of the Week honors, Brown may now be in the running for Player of the Month.  He has been the one bright spot in an otherwise drab Phillies season so far.  Brown’s efforts have helped the Phillies win the last 2 games against the Red Sox, but can the Phillies keep up the pace?

The team lost another player yesterday due to a family issue; Michael Young was placed on the bereavement/family emergency list and will be gone 3-7 days.  There was no clarification beyond that.  And Chase Utley is progressing slower than everyone had hoped after an oblique injury.  With many other Phils on the DL as well, it will not be easy for this team to keep their heads above water.

Brown’s recent performance has been a big boost.  Erik Kratz looks like he is finding his groove as well.  But clutch hitting on this team is still not happening much.  With 1 out and the bases loaded last night in the 7th, Ryan Howard struck out and John Mayberry Jr. then popped out.  With 1 out and 2 runners on in the 6th, Freddy Galvis ended the inning by hitting into a double play.  These examples are the exact opposite of clutch hitting and sadly, it happens more often than not.

Last night’s win was the result of good pitching and 4 solo home runs.  I stress the “solo” part because no one seems to want to hit with runners on base.  For example, the Phillies had 4 stolen bases in the game, but none of those runners scored.  The team left 8 men on base and went 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

Still, it was a win so we’ll take it.  But Brown’s bombs are not going to carry a team; he is going to need a tad more help.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Big Questions About the Big Piece

The Phillies have lost 3 of their last 4 games and there are still more questions about this team than there are answers.  Perhaps the biggest question right now is about the Big Piece, Ryan Howard.

Take a look at the timeline for Howard this past week and a half:

Howard had a cortisone injection on May 19th; he was back in the line-up May 21st and feeling better.  By May 23rd, he needed a break again.  He started the next 2 games and went 1-8.  On May 26th, he sat out, but pinch hit into a double play later in the game.  And last night against the Red Sox, Howard was visibly uncomfortable; he went 2-5 with a double play and a huge base running blunder where he got picked off at 2nd base.  He appeared to be having great difficulty running.

All of this is very bad news.  The MRI Howard had showed inflammation and changes in the meniscus, which basically means he has cartilage tears.  If the cortisone injection lasted only a few days before he felt discomfort again, the options for treatment during the season will be limited.  And he will be doing further damage to the cartilage as the season progresses and he continues to pound that knee.

And the plot thickens: According to manager Charlie Manual, “He has some arthritis. It comes and goes in his legs. He’s going to always be bothered by that.”  Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease which has no cure.  It can be caused by wear and tear as one gets older, or it can result from an injury.  In Howard’s case, it could be due to the extra stress on his knee after his Achilles surgery.

Whatever the cause, it is beginning to look like Howard’s 5-year, $125 million contract is going to be one of the biggest bust’s in baseball history.  With all the recent injuries, plus the arthritis, Howard will likely never be the same player again…at least, not the one they paid $125 million for.

And with the way this team is currently constructed, having neither Howard nor Chase Utley (currently on the DL with an oblique strain) healthy spells disaster.  There is no way, with the age and the injuries on this team, that the Phillies can contend.

Remember all of the criticism Spring Training that that this team was too old and too injury-prone to win?  Remember Howard’s response to that criticism?  He told the media, “Just don’t be surprised,” basically saying that they were going to prove all the critics wrong.

Well, it is May 28th; the Phillies are in third place and have lost 3 of their last 4 games in spectacularly bad fashion.  The following key players are all on the DL: Utley, Roy Halladay (will miss at least most of the year), Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan.  There are 2 rookies pitching in the rotation.  The bullpen is horrible.  The offense is non-existent.  The fielding errors and base running blunders are piling up.

As much as I hate to be a pessimist, stick a fork in them; I believe this team may be done.

Although, Howard is certainly welcome to prove me wrong…

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Lee Pitches Another Gem

In a year full of drama for the Phillies, Cliff Lee stepping on the mound is a sight for sore eyes.  The same can be said when he steps to the plate as well.  In a complete game shut-out of the Marlins last night, Lee also collected 2 hits, giving him a team-leading .316 batting average.  And his .350 on-base percentage is second only to Michael Young (.378) among active Phillies.

Simply put, Cliff Lee is amazing.

Yet those offensive numbers are a bit disturbing in another respect.  When your ace pitcher is leading the team in average and OBP, there are some serious problems.  Granted, Lee only plays once every 5 games, but it is still a somewhat revealing statistic on a team that has struggled to score runs.

There was some offense last night though, and some signs of life all around.  Although they only scored 3 runs, most guys hit the ball well and as team, they collected 12 hits, which is way better than their usual production this year.  On Tuesday night with Tyler Cloyd pitching, the Phillies racked up 7 runs on 15 hits in the win.

But again, this has been a pattern; the Phillies have 1 or 2 games with solid offense and then they go right back to not being able to hit the broad side of a barn.  And with the injuries mounting, can they get any kind of consistency?

The latest injury to Chase Utley is extremely worrisome.  Utley was finally having a good year, after missing time in both of the previous 2 seasons with knee issues.  Now, it appears he has an oblique strain of some sort; he will have an MRI today and will likely be put on the DL along with Roy Halladay, Mike Adams, John Lannan and Carlos Ruiz.  Stay tuned…

Today is an off day as the team travels to Washington to take on the Nationals.  News on Utley should be coming very soon…cross your fingers!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

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