Results tagged ‘ Maikel Franco ’

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

Phillies’ Sunday Doubleheader – A Tale of Two Teams

The first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Nationals featured a team that could not string together hits and guys who looked like little leaguers on the field, dropping balls and missing bases.  The second game showcased a group of young players having a good time playing baseball and smacking the ball all over the field.  It is too bad that most of the crowd left after the first game; they missed a pretty fun offensive explosion.

In the first game, pitcher Kevin Correia was the victim of the Phillies sloppy defense.  He gave up 3 runs in 5.1 innings, but only 1 of those runs was earned.  Two Phillies errors helped the Nats with the other runs.

062815 Correia

And the offense did little to help; the Phillies had only 5 hits in the game.  Both RBI’s were courtesy of Jeff Francour (who also had one of the errors in the game) who homered in the 2nd inning and singled a run home in the 6th.
062815 Frenchy

The Phillies could not recover from the 2-3 deficit, even though 4 bullpen players pitched the final 3.2 innings without allowing a run.
062815 GM1 pitch

The second game was a very different story.  Rookie pitcher Severino Gonzalez collected both his 3rd major league win and his first major league hit and RBI with a sacrifice in the 2nd and a single in the 4th.  He allowed 4 runs over 5.1 innings, which was not super, but still pretty good for a rookie pitching to a good offensive team.
062815 Gonzalez

And after only 5 hits in the first game, the Phillies’ bats suddenly came to life. The team scored 4 runs in both the 2nd and 4th innings.  Cesar Hernandez had an amazing game with 4 hits and Maikel Franco collected 3 RBI on 2 hits.  Odubel Hererra had 3 hits and an RBI and both Cody Asche and Domonic Brown had 2 hits each.  It was almost as if the anemic crowd made them all less nervous.  They were finally able to relax and just swing away.
062815 GM2 O

And you could even see the change in their faces.  Players smiled and laughed running out to their positions and for once, actually appeared to be having a good time.  You have to wonder, was it the crowd, the departure of their manager finally sinking in or just the result of a group of guys playing with other guys they actually feel comfortable with?  I know this will cause controversy, but I think it is important to note that 6 of 9 starting players in game 2 were Hispanic (Game 1 had 3).  And with many of them being so young, perhaps they are simply more comfortable playing with guys who speak their language, literally and metaphorically?

I think this is great, especially for younger players who need to find ways to fit in.  And as they get older, they will adapt more easily and expand their friendships.  But right now, maybe the camaraderie is helping?  I could be wrong; this is just an observation of how players reacted to one another on the field.  It was obvious to me that, for whatever reason, they were more relaxed and comfortable in the second game.  Of course, maybe interim manager Pete Mackanin said something magical to them in between games?  Who knows; anything is possible.

Speaking of the interim manager, I would like to add my comments on Ryne Sandberg’s resignation last week.  As I stated in my last post, I felt Sandberg had lost the clubhouse and was not long for this position.  Apparently, he came to same conclusion.  And while I do think his departure is for the best, I do not agree with just quitting.  That is just my personal feeling; I think he should have stuck it out until he was fired.  If he couldn’t handle the pressure, he was clearly not the man for the job, which is unfortunate.  I cannot imagine Sandberg getting another job in the majors, especially as a manager, after bailing on his team.  So that is sad for him as well.

Here is the Photo Album from both games of the Doubleheader…enjoy!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Giles Gets a Win on His Giveaway Day

Today I wondered if the following scenario has ever happened in baseball before: A middle relief pitcher gets a game win on the same day that a tee shirt with his name, number and face on it is given away to fans.  That is what occurred today in a 6-4 Phillies win over the San Francisco Giants for reliever Ken Giles.  Giles pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 3 Giants to keep the Phillies in line for the victory.
2015.06.07 Giles

Sean O’Sullivan started the game and actually, despite his struggles, did fairly well.  He allowed 3 runs in 6 innings for a quality start and also helped at the plate with a sacrifice bunt.  The Phanatic tried to help out before the game by squatting on top of Giants players, but the molestation turned out to be unnecessary.  Although, the Phanatic gets an A for effort.
2015.06.07 O'Sullivan

The Phillies actually found some offense today, which was a nice change.  After hitting a grand slam last night, Jeff Francour followed that up with a 2-run pinch-hit triple today.  Both Maikel Franco and Odubel Hererra hit solo homers.  And Cody Asche also collected 2 RBI in the game.
2015.06.07 offense

Once Giles got the Phillies through the 7th and 8th innings, Jonathan Papelbon came in for the save.  After he committed an error to extend the inning and gave up 1 unearned run, Papelbon did finally shut the door on the Giants to salvage one game in this series.

The Phillies head to Cincinnati next for a 3-game series with the Reds.

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

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Five Wins in a Row!

It’s a miracle!  The Phillies have won 5 consecutive games!  So I learned many things at today’s Phillies game.  First, this team can actually win games.  Next, Jonathan Papelbon has a tramp stamp and Odubel Herrera can fly.
2015.05.17 Papelbon-Herrera

P5172014AVAnd finally, getting hit in the face with a ball hurts.  Sean O’Sullivan does not recommend it.  Perhaps next time, catcher Cameron Rupp will wait to toss the ball until someone is actually paying attention?  Just a thought.

Aside from that little once every several decades incident, O’Sullivan had a great day.  He pitched 6 scoreless innings and earned his first major league win since the 2011 season.  And he was finally healthy; until, of course, Rupp whacked him in the face.  But he seemed to be okay afterwards.
2015.05.17 OSul

Ben Revere led the offense with 3 hits, a walk and an RBI; he is starting to look like the guy who almost won a batting title last year.  And Maikel Franco has certainly added some excitement the Phillies line-up.  In addition to a triple, he hit his first major league home run today.  Darin Ruf also homered and had 2 hits.  And even Ryan Howard helped out with a pinch-hit single in the 7th.
2015.05.17 Offense

Obviously, this team needed a spark and maybe Franco is that guy.  Although, I still think Cody Asche got a raw deal being sent to the minors to “learn” left field.  He could have done that just as easily here.  That brings us to the most awkward part of the day; the Asche whiffle ball and bat set that was handed out to kids entering the gates today.  Too bad Cody had to miss it.

And now for the O-M-G moment of the day: After the game, Chad Billingsley was put on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.  So after two elbow surgeries and only 3 starts with the Phillies, Billingsley could well be done.  Hector Neris has been recalled to take his place on the roster.

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

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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

It’s Official – This Team Sucks

I hate to state the obvious, but this Phillies team just plain sucks.  This fact has been made plainly evident after the Phils lost 4 of 5 games to the Mets in spectacularly bad fashion.  The secret is out.  When I was at the game on Sunday, the only reason I did not hear crickets in the stands was because of all the Mets fans there.

I cannot think of a single strength on this team.  The pitching is impossible to predict, the defense is awful, base running seems like a mystery to these guys and the offense is practically non-existent.  Even the attitudes suck.  Just in the last week, we have witnessed veteran players making mental mistakes, lazy play, especially in the outfield, and a lot of “that’s baseball” comments after games.  This team seems to have accepted that they suck and that is exactly how they are playing; like a defeated group with no hope of recovery.

I do not think the Phillies stand a chance this year.  Still, they need to make some moves to, at the very least, appease what fans they have left.  First, send Domonic Brown to the minors and bring back Darin Ruf to play left field.  Brown has been lazing about in left and needs a reality check.  Ruf deserves a shot.  It doesn’t matter that his defense is not great because, really, where is this team going anyway?  Nowhere.  So give this guy some playing time.

Please send Phillippe Aumont back to the minors.  Or better yet, give him away to another team for free.  He does nothing but walk guys and give up home runs; last night’s grand slam was the final straw for me.

There are many other moves I would like to see, but some are just not possible.  I still hear chants of “trade Ryan Howard.”  To those people I say, good luck with that.  No team would want him with his salary.  I’d like to see the Phillies play a centerfielder better than Ben Revere, but who exactly would that be?

There are a few guys in the minors that may help at some point (Ken Giles, Maikel Franko), but why bring them up before they are ready?  The team will still suck either way.  And you then risk exposing them to what appears to be a negative clubhouse environment where older players are setting very bad examples for younger ones.  Do you really want Franco to learn how to play with a total lack of urgency and swing at every pitch regardless of circumstance or location?  How about teaching him to get thrown out on the base paths?   If this is what you want him to learn, bring him up!

The last thing I’d like to see…fire Ruben Amaro Jr., his staff and all the scouts and START OVER.  This team needs a serious reboot with a NEW approach to the draft and scouting.  The same old, outdated approach has run this team into the ground.  They need to start pouring sabermetrics on top of their traditional scouting cereal for breakfast and get with the times.  I am not discounting traditional scouting nor touting sabermetrics as the savior, but a nice combination could maybe get things going in the right direction.  And frankly, what do the Phillies have to lose?

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