Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

Magic Moments of Phillies Spring Training

The first official Spring Training game for the Phillies will take place on Saturday.  I am excited for baseball!  But there is also a little sadness that I cannot be in Clearwater this year to enjoy the first crack of the bat under the warm Florida sunshine.  If you are lucky enough to be heading south, enjoy it!

Spring Training is a magical moment in time where players are generally happy, relaxed and having a good time.  The fan-friendly atmosphere and nice weather draws big crowds each year.  And while the games are interesting, they really don’t mean much.  The real reason to head to Clearwater is to mingle with other fans, chat with players, get autographs and photos and, most importantly, get a closer look at how major leaguers behave when their guard is down.

You may notice a lot of smiles, laughter and silly hijinks.  To demonstrate, and also to get you in the Spring Training frame of mind, here are some of my favorite photos and moments from years past in Clearwater:

First up, the normally quiet and reserved Chase Utley laughs out loud and on another occasion, poses and smiles for me:

Jimmy Rollins waves hello and later attempts to play golf with his bat and ball:

Phillies alum Mike Schmidt has some fun with Reggie Jackson; Charlie Manuel jokes around with his players:

Remember Fan Fest?  For some reason, the Phillies have cancelled this annual tradition of meeting players and getting autographs.  But it was amazing while it lasted.  Here are Chad Durbin and Kyle Kendrick signing and posing for me:

I attended a few Team USA games while in Clearwater.  The most memorable moment was watching Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter of the Yankees field balls side-by-side during warm-ups.  The second photo is Chooch, Carlos Ruiz, making an odd face at batting practice:

Here we have the Big Man, Ryan Howard, yucking it up on the field and later doing his impersonation of an airplane (or maybe he was just playing 1st base?):

And finally, just me and my camera hanging out by the field before batting practice.  You can see how close fans can get to the field:

Are you ready to pack your bags yet?  Wishing I was….sigh.  Maybe next year :O)

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

An Emotional Offseason

A recent Sports Illustrated article graded the Phillies offseason moves a “D.”  They summarized it by saying, “Though the trade for Revere gives the Phillies a cost-controlled centerfielder to grow on, they’ve taken steps backward with most of their other moves, and are more likely to repeat last year’s middling showing than contend in a division where the Nationals and Braves have upgraded in impressive fashion.

Ouch.

This assessment, however, may or may not be totally off-base.  I decided to rank some of these moves for myself using not grades, but my emotions about each event.  Roger Ebert once said, “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”  Let’s see if he is correct:

Happy: The trade for centerfielder Ben Revere.  He is cheap, young and has room for improvement.  My instinct says he will be a pleasant surprise.

Nostalgic Joy: Re-signing RHP Chad Durbin.  Durbin is a solid human being and he had a great 2012 with the Braves.  Plus he helped the Phillies collect their 2008 World Series championship.

Cautiously Optimistic: Signing Michael Young to play third base.  Young seems like another solid human being with a true passion for the game.  The question is whether or not he can still play defense.  I feel that a guy with this much experience and motivation should be able to work it out.

Conflicted: Adding Chase Utley-hater and lefty John Lannan to the starting rotation.  Obviously with the departure of Vance Worley, the Phillies needed a starter.  Lannan is cheap, but how well he will perform and his attitude are, at least for me, big question marks.

Confused: Signing outfielder Delmon Young.  This guy is a problem child who is also still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.  His defense is awful and he has been, not without cause, labeled an anti-Semite with a bad temper.  I get the low-risk, high reward school of thought here.  What I do not get is why the Phillies would rather mess around with this guy than finally give Domonic Brown a full-time shot at one of the corner outfield spots.

Nervously Nauseous: I am just a wee bit sick to my tummy about the 2-year, $12 million deal the Phillies gave to RHP Mike Adams to be the 8th inning guy.  I like Adams if he is healthy.  However, he is recovering from thoracic outlet surgery.  This is the same surgery that Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals had and his career looks like it may be over.  That is a little scary.

Utter Disappointment: Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension for using a banned substance.  He did not use steroids, which is a relief.  But still, getting caught with ADHD meds when he was forewarned about it after a previously positive test is very disappointing.  He knew he’d probably get caught again and did it anyway.  *Sigh.*

Sad: Losing Vance Worley in the Ben Revere trade.  I wish him luck in Minnesota!

Indifferent:  Everything else.  A lot of minor moves were made, mostly involving minor league deals and guys past their prime.  Unless someone makes a real impact in camp, I cannot imagine there will be much to say about these miscellaneous people.

And my final emotion of the day…

Elation!  Spring Training starts tomorrow!

 

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Phillies 2013 New Year Resolutions

In what has become an annual tradition, I usually post New Year Resolutions for Phillies fans at about this time.  But it seems that as a fan base, most of us do seem to have our act together.  As for the 2012 Phillies team, the same cannot be said.  They need some serious help.

So this year, I would like to propose a set of New Year Resolutions for the team instead:

Jimmy Rollins – I resolve to stop swinging for the fences and hitting pop-ups.  I will stick to line-drives and grounders.

Roy Halladay, Chase Utley & Ryan Howard – We all resolve to be healthy, productive members of this team!  No more bum shoulders, ankles or knees!

Kyle Kendrick – I will not mope when I feel disrespected and just keep pitching.  I will put on my big-boy pants and wear them all year long.

Carlos Ruiz – My goal is to repeat my 2012 performance, without the performance-enhancing ADHD pills, thereby regaining the respect I lost after getting suspended.

Ben Revere – I resolve to hit my first major league home run in Citizens Bank Park.  If Juan Pierre can hit a homer here, then so shall I!

Ruben Amaro Jr. – No matter how tempted I am to save money, I will not sign former Phillies relief pitcher Ugueth Urbina.  Yes, he paid his debt to society.  However, he did attempt to murder 5 ranch hands by setting them on fire and chopping at them with a machete.  Perhaps we should pass on this one.

Domonic Brown – I resolve to reach my full potential this year and prove I belong in the big leagues, preferably by May.

Mike Adams – I resolve to be fully recovered from surgery and return to my All-Star relief-pitcher form in order to be deemed worthy of my giant $12 million contract.

Charlie Manuel – I will go out on top this year!  World Series or bust…

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year!

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The Phillies Night Before Christmas 2012

 

The Phillies Night Before Christmas

 

Twas the night before Christmas, when all over the field,

Not a player was stirring, as the 2012 season had been sealed.

The bats were stacked in the clubhouse with care,

In hopes that a Championship soon would be there.

-

The Phillies were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of trophies danced in their heads.

And Charlie with his new line-up tucked under his cap,

Had just settled down for a long off-season nap.

-

When outside of his house, there arose such a clatter,

Charlie sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window he stumbled, half asleep,

Having woke from a nightmare of his bullpen being taken deep.

-

The moonlight lit up the old ‘08 trophy, causing it to glow,

Giving the illusion of a night game on the grass down below.

When what to his wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh filled with ballplayers in good cheer.

-

With his General Manager and ace pitchers in tow,

He knew in a moment it must be Ruben Amaro.

More rapid than the trade deadline, forward they all came,

And he grumbled, and shouted, and called them by name!

-

“Now, Hamels! Now, Howard! Now, Rollins and Utley!

On, Brown! On, Halladay! On, Papelbon and Lee!

To the top of the National League! To the top of them all!

Now run away! Run away! And play some baseball!”

-

And then, in a twinkling, Charlie heard, “You The Man!”

From the shouting and cheering of each happy fan.

As he drew in his head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney, Ryan Howard came with a bound.

-

He was dressed all in pinstripes, from his head to his foot,

Having tossed his old ankle brace, which was tarnished, with ashes and soot.

But he arrived with a smile and Charlie gave him a pat on his back,

Surely the fully healed Achilles would put him right back on track.

-

Howard spoke many words, and after tightening his shoe lace,

He welcomed Michael Young, who will now man third base.

And with thunderous joy, the fans clapped their hands,

With a few shiny new toys, 2013 is sure to be grand!

-

Howard then sprang to the sleigh, and to his team gave a call,

“You guys are the best ballplayers of all!”

But Charlie heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,

“Happy Holiday’s to all and to all a good night!”

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Photoshopping and re-wording by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Sign Pitchers Lannan and Adams

I am guessing that John Lannan and Chase Utley will never be BFF’s, but Lannan signing with the Phillies may at least prompt a truce.  In 2007, Lannan threw the pitch that broke Utley’s hand, essentially ending his run for the MVP award that year.

In 5 plus years in the majors with the Nationals, Lannan has hit Phillies’ batter’s 11 times; 3 of those were directed at Utley.  I would venture an educated guess that these two guys do not like each other.

Regardless, Lannan is on-board for 1 year and $2.5 million to take the place of Vance Worley, who was traded to the Twins earlier this month.  It sounds like a low-risk, high reward situation, as long as Lannan can stop himself from whacking his new teammates with the ball.  The temptation may linger until he gets used to his new location.

As for Mike Adams, this sounded like a good signing until I heard the terms.  We will get to that in a moment.  Adams is a very solid relief pitcher who has a lifetime 2.28 ERA over 8 seasons.  However, he is 34 years old and coming off a surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which a rib bone presses against a nerve, causing pain and numbness in the arm.

Does this sound like a guy you would sign to TWO years and $12 million?  Not so much.  And yet, that is what the Phillies are giving him.  While this is not fully in the range of a Freddy Garcia-type disaster (whom the Phillies gave $10 million to in 2007 to do basically nothing), the potential is similar.  If Adams does not recover from surgery or comes back as a lesser pitcher, this deal is a huge bust.

But the Phillies are once again rolling the dice and praying for the best case scenario.  Let us hope they come out on the winning end this time.

By the way, if you missed my 2012 Phillies Photo Tribute slideshow, here it is again for your entertainment.  Enjoy!

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Lannan photo by Nick Wass (AP)

Slideshow photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

2012 Phillies Photo Tribute

Drum roll please….

Here is my annual Phillies Photo Slideshow!  The slideshow includes all original photos that I took during the 2012 season; it includes players, coaches, fans, the Phanatic, and more.  Enjoy!

Sign of the Apocalypse? Ruiz Suspended for Stimulant Use

Well, at least it was not steroids.  Still, the news that the Phillies’ beloved catcher Carlos Ruiz has been suspended 25 games for violating the league’s drug policy does sort of feel like the end of the world may be upon us.  Is the Phillies 2013 season already going down in flames?  Oh Chooch, say it ain’t so!  I am so depressed…

The stimulant Ruiz took was Adderall, which is an amphetamine used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).  College students use it to improve focus and stamina.  For ADHD, it helps alleviate symptoms and allows patients to behave “normally” (if there is such a thing as normal).

Many major league baseball players are prescribed this type to drug for ADHD and they are granted an exception from MLB.  A good example would be our old pal Shane Victorino, who has struggled with ADHD since childhood.  He even wrote about it in his book that was released last year, “Shane Victorino: The Flyin’ Hawaiian.” 

Another Phillie, Kevin Frandsen, was suspended in 2011 for a different amphetamine, Ritalin, while in the minors.  These pills have become more common over the years among athletes looking for a “mental” boost instead of a physical one, like steroids.  There is much debate over whether or not amphetamines really offer any serious edge, but Ruiz’s numbers this past year do seem suspicious.  He had career highs in many categories including batting average, home runs and slugging percentage.

Know what else is a stimulant? Caffeine.  So can players just drink jugs of coffee before games to get a similar effect?  And how about energy drinks, like 5-Hour Energy or Monster?  While these are not nearly as strong as Adderall, it does raise some interesting questions.  Does feeling more “awake” enhance baseball performance?  And if so, how much?

There have been a number of studies which can be found in scientific journals, but the results are varied and, therefore, inconclusive.  An article at LiveScience.com reviews a journal entry by six scientists from top universities who advocate the use of amphetamines by healthy people.  But the review serves to show an opposing view, noting the dangers of drug dependency and side effects.  So even scientists cannot seem to agree on the subject.

Whatever the individual opinion on the subject, the end result is the same.  There will be no Chooch for the first month of the season.  Worse, players are only given a suspension for use of amphetamines after their second failed test.  This means Ruiz knew he was to be retested, and still did not stop taking the drug.  Chooch, you are killing me, man!  What the *%*^@!!??

This is a crippling blow to the Phillies, who are already in a tenuous situation as this team continues to age.  The window of opportunity for wins with this core group of players is closing fast.  Of course, Erik Kratz will be there to fill in, but with so many questions going into the 2013 season, this is a huge setback.  Will Chase Utley be healthy?  How about Roy Halladay?  Can the team sign a solid outfielder?  And the list goes on…

I need a stiff drink right about now.  Spring training has not even begun, and I already feel the weight of impending doom upon us.  Hey, isn’t the end of the world nearly upon us?  December 21, 2012 is less than a month away and, according to the Mayan calendar, we are all as good as gone.  Is Chooch the first sign of the apocalypse or do the Phillies just have a black cloud over them in 2012?  And could the Angels signing of Ryan Madson, who the Phillies should have gone after this offseason, be apocalypse sign #2?  I officially hate the Mayans for prompting this silly discussion.

Let us all hope that 2013 has better luck in store for all of us.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The 2012 Phillies: A Season to Forget

The torture that was the 2012 Phillies season is finally over.  And sadly, it ended just as I predicted before the season even began; without a playoff bid.  I was hoping to be wrong about that.

Since the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, each year they have taken exactly one step backwards.  So this year, missing the playoffs seemed like their destiny.  They lost the World Series in 2009; lost the NL Championship Series in 2010; lost the NL Division Series in 2011; and now, the next logical step has arrived.  The Phillies will go home early without even a sniff at a post-season run.

Remember happy days like these?:

For now, they are gone :O(

The first casualties of the 2012 disaster are already accounted for.  Bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Greg Gross and first base coach Sam Perlozzo have all been given their walking papers.  More fallout is probably on the horizon, but it will probably involve players, not coaches.

So who else should stay and who should go?  Here are some thoughts, starting with the offense:

In 195 at-bats, Kevin Frandsen hit .338, which led the team.  And for an entire month, he played with a stress fracture in his leg, yet he still kept hitting.  I say put him at 3rd base and get a back-up in case of injuries.

If the Phillies do not re-sign Juan Pierre, they are insane.  He hit .307 in 394 at-bats, led the team in stolen bases with 37 and he is the best bunter you can find anywhere.

Bring Shane Victorino back!  After a depressing second half with the Dodgers, his price will go down, possibly to the point where the Phillies can afford to resign him.  John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown can platoon and then the Phils need another outfielder or two.

Needs to Go:  Nate Schierholtz, Ty Wigginton, Michael Martinez.  Martinez is good defensively, but hit only .174 in 115 at-bats.  They can find a better utility guy.  And we are stuck with Laynce Nix for one more year unless someone is willing to trade for him…not likely.

Back-up Catcher:  In – Erik Kratz; Out – Brian Schneider.

Relief Pitching:  Jonathan Papelbon stays and probably Antonio Bastardo.  I will also put in votes for Jeremy Horst and Phillipe Aumont.  The maybes are Jake Diekman and Justin DeFratus, although DeFratus needs to be 100% healthy, which I feel is still in question.  Michael Stutes may return, but no one is sure in what condition.

Please Go Away:  Josh Lindblom – trade him (if anyone wants him).  He has been awful.  This team needs some veteran help in the pen.

Please Come Back: Ryan Madson!

As for starters, unless someone’s arm falls off, stick with the usual 5: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay (pray he gets healthy), Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick.

And of course, all the usual suspects, like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, etc… will be back.  But will they be healthy?  That is the looming question.

To give an idea of how badly the injuries hurt the team this year, consider this: I may be missing some, but by looking at the team stats, at least 49 different players made an appearance for the Phillies this year, rotating in and out of the 25-man roster.  Also, only 2 players of those 49 reached 400 or more at-bats; Rollins (632) and Mayberry (441).  That is scary.

So the season is over and the healing (quite literally) shall begin.  Do you have any thoughts you would like to share about this season?  Feel free to leave comments below. 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Trading Places: Phillies Out; Nationals In

Watching the Phillies win a game against the Nationals last night and seeing the Nationals celebrate instead was like being in the Twilight Zone.  Not many teams get to pop the champagne after a loss.  But before the game even ended, the Nats were celebrating as the Braves lost, making Washington the new National League East Champs.

It was quite a role reversal for the Phillies who, prior to this disastrous year, won that title 5 years in a row.  Sadly, they have officially traded placed with the Nationals.

It was a somber win that will guarantee the Phillies a winning record to end the season.  But even that small accomplishment cannot make-up for the fact that the Phils have missed the playoffs and will go quietly into the off-season with many questions.

Perhaps less of a question now is Kyle Kendrick, who appears to finally have his act together.  He pitched 7 scoreless innings last night and should be a starter next season.

Kevin Frandsen continues to hit, with 2 singles last night, even with a stress fracture in his leg.  Still, he does not appear to be an option for 3rd base next year, despite his efforts.

Rookie Darin Ruf keeps slugging away and his triple last night scored the Phillies only 2 runs.  But his future is also uncertain, as are many futures of players on this team.  Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard are hurt again; Roy Halladay had a bad year.

The Phillies still have many questions left to answer.  And they still have 2 games left to play.  Game time is 7:05pm tonight.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Playoff Elimination: Check; Howard Injury to End Season: Check.

The end of this Phillies season seems to be a long, painful check list of unfortunate events.  And there are still 4 games to go, so the list may not yet be complete.  Let us see where we are so far:

- The Phillies have been eliminated from the playoffs.

- Ryan Howard dropped a warm-up bat on his toe and broke it, ending his season.  That makes 2 straight seasons that will end with a Howard limping off the field.  Maybe the Phillies need to invest in a lot of bubble wrap?

- Rookie pitcher Tyler Cloyd has been shut-down early with a “tired arm.”

- In what seems like an attempt to get the media to talk about anything other than the worst Phillies season in a long time, the Chase Utley 3rd base experiment has been deemed “over.”  He will not play 3rd base.

- Speaking of 3rd base, the Phillies have absolutely no idea who will play there in 2013.

- Last night, Roy Halladay pitched fewer than 6 innings for the 6th time this season and gave up more than 3 runs in a game for the 9th time, unofficially announcing to the world that getting old sucks.

- For the 6th time in his career, Jimmy Rollins will end the season with at least 100 runs scored.  However, he will also finish having batted well under .250 for 4 out of the 6 months of the season.  He also came in 4th in all of baseball in fly ball outs and 2nd in the National League.

I think those were enough depressing thoughts for the day.  On a happier note, despite Halladay allowing 4 runs in 5 innings last night, the Phillies did pull out a 9-5 win over the last place Marlins.  5 players had a multi-hit game, including Utley who picked up 3 RBI.

The win puts the Phillies dead-even at 79-79 for the season with 4 games to go.  The goal in these last several games should be to finish above the .500 mark.  They will go after the Fish one more time today at 1:10pm.

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Head shot by Jenn Zambri Photography

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