Results tagged ‘ Rangers ’

The Perplexing Papelbon Problem

Wednesday night’s Phillies 3-4 loss to the Rangers was the kind that makes you want to scream.  It was a game they had well in hand; very winnable.  Enter the $50 million dollar man, Jonathan Papelbon:

Through 7 innings, starter Kyle Kendrick was great, allowing only 1 run.  Rookie reliver Mario Hollands totally redeemed himself from a very rough outing the previous day by pitching a scoreless, hitless 8th inning.  Papelbon entered the 9th inning with a 3-1 lead that any closer making $50 million dollars, the largest payday ever for a reliever, should be able to preserve.  That did not happen.

Papelbon has lost 3-5mph off his fastball since the signing and has yet to make an adjustment for his lost velocity.  He just keeps flinging the ball up there figuring he’ll get all the swings and misses of days past.  He was severely up in the zone all inning and the Rangers put a beating on him with 4 hits and 2 walks.

The 2nd walk was literally a walk-off win for the Rangers.  The 4th ball of the at-bat was not even anywhere near the strike zone.  How does a veteran pitcher walk home the winning run?  I almost looked like he just said “screw it, I want to go home now” and just threw the ball without even thinking.  This is a big problem.

After the game, here was Papelbon’s take on the loss:

“Obviously, this is a disappointment,” Papelbon said. “I thought Kendrick pitched well enough to deserve that win, and unfortunately the bullpen wasn’t able to preserve it for him. But it’s a long season. I think that’s one of the stronger points of my game is being able to bounce back and not have any memory of the previous game good or bad.”

So he is saying “the bullpen” couldn’t hold the lead?  Try again…the ONLY guy who gave up a run after Kendrick left the game was Papelbon.  The least he could have done was owned it.

And one of the strongest points of his game is a lack of memory?  I guess he likes to take full advantage of this “strong points” by blowing games so he can then utilize his terrible memory to the fullest.

But maybe a bad memory is not so helpful.  Frankly, I think Papelbon needs to remember what he did wrong and try not to do it again.  I know he was speaking more to the mental aspect of the game, but perhaps those words have a deeper meaning than he realizes.  If we do not remember, how can we learn from our mistakes?

Or is that a moot point and Papelbon’s career is to suffer a very expensive and painful end?   Not expensive for him, of course.  But the Phillies have him under contract for at least 2 more seasons, with an automatic vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 15 games in 2015.  That is a scary thought.

Yes, it is only 3 games into the season.  But this issue goes all the way back to last season and Papelbon has still not adjusted his pitching style.  Is he capable of doing so?  Sure, I think so.  But will he?  That is the real question.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Game 2 Questions

Only 2 games into the season, some odd things have happened with the Phillies.  Game 1 was a 14-10 hitting spree win.  And yesterday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers was quite the opposite.  Manager Ryne Sandberg made some very puzzling moves with the line-up and pitching during the game.

First, not all the line-up changes were too weird.  I liked Ryan Howard hitting 5th against a lefty and using Chase Utley as the DH.  But starting Jayson Nix at third instead of Cody Asche the day after he has a career game with 4 runs scored and 3 hits?  That I do not understand.

I get the whole lefty facing a lefty thing and if it were a week or two into the season, then sure, give Asche a break against a lefty.  But the timing of this move in only the second game of the season with Asche having big momentum coming off Monday’s win is confusing.  I do not think it was the right call; but they don’t pay me to make those decisions.

Another decision I would not have made was tossing a rookie pitcher making his major league debut into a tie game in the 9th inning against a very strong lineup.  Poor Mario Hollands had to face Shin-Soo Choo (walk), Elvis Andrus (sac bunt) and Prince freaking Fielder (walk)!  Seriously?  Is there anyone else out there who thought this was a good idea?  Talk about being thrown into the fire…

Sandberg also reused 3 relievers who had pitched the day before while leaving 2 guys in the pen, Justin DeFratus and Brad Lincoln, who have not pitched at all in 2 games.   Lincoln did not have a great spring, but few Phillies did.  And I definitely would have thrown DeFratus out there in the 9th before a rookie who has barely pitched above Double-A ball.

The end result was a frustrating loss in a very winnable game.  Plus it wasted an outstanding effort on the mound by A.J. Burnett who allowed only 1 run over 6 innings.  Is this just growing pains for a new manager or is there some method to this madness I am not seeing?

Sandberg is a Hall of Famer and all around cool guy, so he will be given the benefit of the doubt here.  A win tonight would go a long way for me :o)  Game time is 8:05pm; Kyle Kendrick will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

2014 Opening Day Roster

The Phillies have announced their Opening Day roster and were few surprises.  Here is how it worked out:

Pitchers (12): Right-handers A.J. Burnett, Justin De Fratus, Roberto Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Manship, Jonathan Papelbon and B.J. Rosenberg and left-handers Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands and Cliff Lee.

Catchers (2): Wil Nieves and Carlos Ruiz.

Infielders (6): Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, Ryan Howard, Jayson Nix, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley.

Outfielders (5): Domonic Brown, Marlon Byrd, Tony Gwynn Jr., John Mayberry Jr. and Ben Revere.

They also resigned Ronny Cedeno to a minor league deal so he will be at Triple-A until he is needed.  And Jayson Nix, brother of former Phillies Laynce Nix, was signed a few days ago and put on the roster as an extra infielder.

Also of note, the Phillies will begin with only 4 starting pitchers as, due to off days, that is all they will need the first few weeks of the season.  Relief pitcher Mario Hollands was a bit of a surprise to make the roster as he has pitched in only 3 games above Double-A ball (2012, AAA Iron Pigs).  But he was impressive in camp; he will be interesting to watch.

The final spring tune-up on Sunday was canceled due to rain L  That was a bummer as I was hoping to meet some of the new players before the game.  So I wound up going to the 76ers game instead later that night.

The Sixers finally broke their 26-game losing streak in a dominating performance over the Detroit Pistons.  And that win prevented them from becoming the all-time worst team in all major sports.  Instead, they are tied.  But still worse than the 1961 Phillies, so that is an achievement.

Sixers fans were so relieved, with 5 minutes left in the game, chants of “Thank You Detroit” rang out all over the stadium.  Nicely done, Philly fans.

As for the Phillies, Cliff Lee will take the mound in Texas tomorrow against the Rangers for 2014 Opening Day.  Finally, some real baseball!  Game time is 2:05pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Get Young

Adding veteran infielder Michael Young to the Phillies roster does not actually make the team younger, but it does fill the hole at third base.  Young is owed $16 million in 2013 and the Rangers are reportedly picking up at least $10 million of that.  The Phillies sent right-handed reliever Josh Lindblom and minor league pitcher, Lisalverto Bonilla to the Rangers.

Lindblom had little to no impact when he came to the Phillies in July of last season in the Shane Victorino trade.  He had a 4.63 ERA in 26 games with the Phillies, so this seems to be a good move.  And Bonilla is a prospect who probably has a future as a middle reliever.  This was also not a bad price to pay for the return.

As for Young, he is no so young (36), but may still have some ammunition left.  A 7-time All-Star, Young is the Rangers’ all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles and triples.  He has hit over .300 7 times in his career, with the latest being in 2011.

2012 was not a great year for Young as the Rangers severely reduced his playing time.  Young had graciously moved all over the infield in prior years, playing 2nd, short and 3rd, to accommodate his team.  But he felt slighted when he was bumped down to basically a DH and utility role, despite hitting .338 in 2011.  As a result, the relationship with Young and the Rangers was strained and he wanted out.

Young’s performance suffered as a result; he hit only .277 with 67 RBI in 2012 which is a steep drop-off from his usual numbers.  The Phillies are banking on this change in scenery to have a positive impact on Young.

The likelihood of Young bouncing back to 2011 form is high.  He is a starter once again, which should make him happy.  This is also a contract year for him and his final chance to show he can still be an impact player.  Young will be 37 in 2014; getting a descent contract at that age is not easy.  He will need to impress in 2013 in order to make that happen.

So Young will fill the void at 3rd, with Kevin Frandsen filling in as needed, which should be a good thing for the Phillies.  Young is also touted as a great clubhouse guy, which is also a perk.  He joins another new edition, Ben Revere, who will take over in center.  And I have it on good authority that Revere will be loved in Philly.  Take it from the Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, R.T. Rybak, who told me, “You’ll love him.”

Welcome, Revere and Young!

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Young photo by Keith Allison

Ben Revere In; The Vanimal Out

Right-handed pitcher Vance Worley was actually standing in Citizens Bank Park when he got the news that he was being shipped to Minnesota.  He was as shocked as the rest of us that his time in Philadelphia was at an end.  Sadly, the Vanimal is gone.  Phillies’ top pitching prospect Trevor May will join him there as well.

In return, the Phillies got a young centerfielder.  Ben Revere, 24, hit .294 last year for the Twins with a .333 on-base percentage.  He also had 40 stolen bases and is being touted as a young Juan Pierre with excellent range in the outfield.  The downsides include his lack of power, minimal walks and below-average arm.  But he is under team control and therefore, very cheap.

It seems Revere’s skill set could make him the new lead-off hitter; he has speed and gets on base.  While it is very sad to say bye-bye to the Vanimal and to May, this trade may pay dividends for the Phillies if they can use the money they are saving towards a bullpen piece or another outfielder.

Revere should fit in well in Philly.  In fact, his name alone is a combination of two historical figures with Philadelphia ties:  Ben Franklin and Paul Revere.  I suppose then, it was fate that brought him here.

Welcome, Ben!

The Phillies are not done yet as trade talks still linger.  The latest rumor has Michael Young, who is actually not so young at 36 years of age, possibly coming to Philly with half of his salary paid by the Rangers.  Stayed tuned…

UPDATEJust a few quick notes on the Ben Franklin and Paul Revere comments above.  It seems we have some badly educated, wanna-be historians in the Twittersphere who question my references to the historical links of these figures in Philadelphia.  First, Revere was born in Boston and made several rides to visit the Continental Congress in Philly to report on the impending revolution.  Then, during the war in 1775, Revere was sent to Philadelphia to study the only powder mill in the colonies so that northern colonies could learn how to produce more gun powder.  So yes, Revere does have ties to Philly.  Look it up.

Even more shocking was someone questioning Ben Franklin’s relation to Philadelphia.  No, he was not born there, but he lived there most of his life (around 67 years), died and was buried in Philly.  Oh, and he signed that little document called the United States Constitution in Philadelphia.  Anyone questioning that should be ashamed.

By the way, Ben Revere retweeted the photo I posted of him as Ben Franklin and Paul Revere.  So clearly, he enjoyed it :O) 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Infield Grasping at Straws

After trading utility infielder Wilson Valdez for a minor league pitcher in January, things have gone steadily downhill since then.  In an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic earlier this month, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. finally admitted that the Valdez trade was “foolish.”  His exact quote was, “It was foolish to trade Wilson Valdez” and Amaro then admitted if he could go back in time, he would take Valdez back.

I knew that in January.  Why didn’t Amaro?  Obviously, he did not see the train coming before it ran him over this spring training.  You cannot predict injuries, but even I knew that Chase Utley would be a big question mark this year after last year’s chronic knee issues.  Sure enough, he is out and no one knows when he will return.

Adding to the disaster at second base,  Michael Martinez has a broken foot and will be out until at least May.  To begin with, I’d have taken Valdez over Martinez anyway.  But again, Valdez is gone.  And first base is going to be an adventure as well with Ryan Howard out until…???  No one knows.

Now the Phillies are stuck with a rookie short stop as their starting second baseman.  Don’t get me wrong, Freddy Galvis is a wonderful prospect, but can he handle this type of pressure so early in his career?  Switching positions makes this even harder on a very young player who may not be ready for the big leagues yet.

Galvis may be just fine.  But this is certainly not the kind of uncertainty the Phillies wanted to start the season with.

Pete Orr may wind up being the back-up for Galvis, although the roster will not be set in stone until probably Sunday night.  We do know outfielder Juan Pierre has made the team, but the rest of the roster is still in limbo.

You can see the Phillies are very worried though…today they signed a Nationals reject, just in case.  Andres Blanco, a 27-year-old utility infielder who hit .224 with the Rangers last season, was given a minor-league deal.  This is the Phillies idea of a back-up plan.  Yikes.

A few other bonehead moves by Amaro this offseason include signing outfielder Laynce Nix to a 2-year deal.  This guy has hit above .255 only ONE time in a nine-year career.  And this spring, he is hitting .200.  And how about first baseman Ty Wiggington?  His career has been on a steady decline the last two seasons, hitting .248 and .242 respectively.  This spring, Wiggington has hit .190.

The good news is, both guys were cheap and Wiggington was given just a one-year deal.  But in case anyone is wondering, Valdez is hitting .318 in 44 at-bats this spring with the Reds.  Just saying…

Ok, so maybe all these new guys will surprise us all and get some big hits?  But I do not see any of them volunteering to pitch the 19th inning and risk making a total idiot out of themselves for the team.  That guy is gone….Wilson!  Miss you already…

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Valdez Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Grieving the Phillies 2011 Season – Stage 4: Depression

Has anyone been watching the World Series?  I have not been able to.  Not because my TV blew up or squirrels chewed through my cable lines, but because it is just too depressing.  The 2011 World Series without the Phillies?  *SIGH* :O(

The only thing I think about right now is that there are approximately 124 days, 2,996 hours, 179,761 minutes and 10,785,690 seconds left until players report to Spring Training.  That means I have ahead of me approximately 124 days, 2,996 hours, 179,761 minutes and 10,785,690 seconds of sheer boredom and misery.

Sad Phillies

I know, I should really get a grip.  Perhaps join a 12-step program?  But I simply cannot fathom what those 12-steps might be that would be able to lift me out of this funk.

To make matters worse, there are many impending decisions on the horizon that will greatly impact the future of this Phillies team.  There are seven free agents the Phils have to make decisions on: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez, Brian Schneider and Ross Gload.

My thoughts are that the options on Lidge and Oswalt’s contracts will not be picked up nor will either player be resigned.  Neither lived up to expectations this year and injuries were a huge problem.

Madson’s agent is Scott Boras.  That being said, the Phillies will not be able to afford to resign him.  Plus, rumor has it that Madson’s wife hates Philadelphia.  He is gone.

As for the other four, Gload and Ibanez likely will not be back.  This team needs to get younger and healthier.  The Phils will probably resign Schneider at a discount as his offensive numbers are exactly that – offensive.  And Rollins will hopefully return after some intense negotiations.

And all of that is also depressing.  This team we have all come to know and love will be broken apart with holes likely to be filled with some new faces.  Change is necessary here, especially after the final results of this season with the team ousted way earlier than expected.  But that does not make it less sad :O(

I am currently in the process of peeling myself out of this dark, hopeless abyss where I am blubbering uncontrollably while cowering in a corner.  This disappointing season has been difficult to cope with, but we must all make a commitment to try.

Although, if trying includes watching the Rangers and Cardinals, I may pass for now.  It is just too demoralizing  right now :O( 

Stay tuned for Stage 5…

 

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Oswalt Loses at Citizens Bank Park for the First Time

It  looks like #13 was unlucky for Roy Oswalt.  In his 13th career start at Citizens Bank Park, Oswalt lost his first game in the ballpark thanks to a non-existent offense.  It was a 2-0 shut-out by the Rangers.

 

Let me rephrase:  The Phillies did have bats and some did swing them, but no runs ever crossed the plate.  In the last nine games, the Phillies are averaging FIVE hits a game.  Yes, five hits, not runs.  They hit over 5 runs only twice in that spam.

Sunday was no different.  Five hits, NO runs.  This has been a bad case of déjà vu for the starting pitchers, who have been the victims of the invisible run support.

Today, there were a lot of pop-ups, swings at bad pitches, no swings at good pitches, confused looks and ball hit right at fielders:

 

The déjà vu continued as catcher Dane Sardinha got on base in both the 3rd and 5th innings.  Both times, Oswalt bunted him to second.  And both times, with one out and a runner in scoring position, Jimmy Rollins popped out.

 

Oswalt continued to pitch well, despite the disappointing offense.  He went seven innings, allowing only one run.  And the Phillies had some nice defensive plays as well, including a pair of double plays and some acrobatics by Wilson Valdez.

 

And then there was this play, where Rollins tagged out Elvis Andrus, but the umpire missed the tag.  It did not matter anyway, as Oswalt got out of the inning.

 

The second Rangers run was charged to J.C. Romero.  But again, it did not really matter as the Phillies batters were hitting anything.

The good news is that Chase Utley is back!  Pete Orr was sent to the minors to make room and Utley will make his 2011 debut on Monday night against the Reds.  The Phillies are counting on Utley to light a fire under this offense.

Joe Blanton was placed on the DL as expected and Vance Worley will replace him, pitching on Tuesday night.

The Phils also signed veteran outfielder Scott Podsednik to a minor-league deal as a back-up plan after the Blue Jays released him.  Podsednik is a lifetime .279 hitter but he has had issues with plantar fasciitis in his foot, which is why the Jays let him go.  If he can take time to heal, he could be useful later in the season.

The Reds game starts at 7:05pm tomorrow night.  In the meantime, here is the full Photo Album from today’s massacre…I mean, game.

 

Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

 

Cliff Lee Shuts-Out His Former Team

After choosing Philadelphia over Texas this offseason, Cliff Lee faced his former team for the first time since pitching in the 2010 World Series for them.  The reunion appeared to be motivating, as Lee was on top of his game.

Over eight innings, Lee struck out 10 Rangers, allowed only five hits and did not give up a run.  Lee has been the victim of a lack of run support this year, but it did matter this time as he kept the Rangers off the board.

The offense had another rough day, but they managed to squeak out two runs for Lee.  Ryan Howard busted out of his slump with a solo homer and a single in the game.  John Mayberry Jr. collected a two-out RBI single in the sixth for the Phillies second run.

Domonic Brown made his 2011 debut in right field.  He got off to an ugly start in the first inning by grounding into a fielder’s choice in which Jimmy Rollins was thrown out at second.  Brown then was caught stealing afterwards.  He later left the bases loaded with two outs by hitting a fly ball to end the fifth inning.

Another player who had a bad day was Raul Ibanez.  He went 0-3 and hit into two double plays.  The first one came with one out and a runner on third, which was really disappointing as a sac fly could have added on a run.

But even though the offense is still holding on by a thread, Lee pitched them out of trouble.  He even tried to help out with a single and his first career stolen base.  But the two runs on eight hits turned out to be enough.

After Ryan Madson closed the game, the Phillies walked away with a 2-0 win and a chance to sweep the series.  The final game with the Rangers is Sunday afternoon at 1:35pm.  Roy Oswalt gets the start.  I will be there and return with photos.

 

Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

 

Best of 2010: Power Ranking the 25 Best MLB Moments This Year

The 2010 baseball season was full of surprises.  Had he been alive today, even Nostradamus would not have seen some of this coming.

There were bright beginnings and fond farewells, remarkable performances and unwavering determination.  Some moments were exhilarating and some were heartwarming.

In short, 2010 was an amazing year to be a baseball fan.

The following is a collection of the best, most memorable and most inspirational events that took place both on and off the baseball field in 2010.

#25: Jamie Moyer Throws A Shutout At The Age Of 47


Jamie Moyer3.jpgOn May 7, 2010, Jamie Moyer became the oldest player in history to ever throw a complete game shut-out when he blanked the Atlanta Braves in a 7-0 victory.  With a fastball that tops out around 83 miles per hour, Moyer allowed only two hits to a stunned Braves team.

In doing so, Moyer defeated both a division rival and Mother Nature.  For years, fans have witnessed Moyer bathing in the proverbial Fountain of Youth, all the while asking themselves one question.  Will Moyer ever stop pitching?

Coming into the 2010 season, Moyer had battled through three off-season surgeries plus multiple hospital stays due to complications and infections.  Despite being knocked down in nearly every way possible, the determined Moyer keeps getting right back up again.

This off-season, Moyer went through Tommy John surgery which will keep him out of the entire 2011 season.  Even so, Moyer plans on making a return to baseball.  He will be 49 years old going into the 2012 season.

#24: Mike Sweeney and Michael Young Finally Taste Playoff Baseball

With a combined total of almost 3,000 games between them, both Mike Sweeney and Michael Young had never tasted the playoffs until this year.  Add to that 11 combined All-Star Game appearances, two Marvin Miller Man of the Year Awards for charitable work, and each player has also received nominations for the Roberto Clemente Award for community involvement.


PA234128Ib.jpgA 15 year veteran, Sweeney joined the Philadelphia Phillies part way through the 2010 season.  He made an instant impression on fans, teammates and coaches with his exuberance, positive attitude and unwavering love for the game.

Sweeney’s 1,451 playoff-free game streak came to an end when the Phillies appeared in the NLDS.  In Game 2, Sweeney stepped to the plate for his first and only playoff appearance.  He made the most of it with a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning.

Prior to that, Sweeney also tasted celebratory champagne for the first time right after the Phillies clinched the NL East division title.  The entire Phillies team waited in the locker room for Sweeney, plus other playoff-free veterans Roy Halladay and Brian Schneider, before opening the bottles.  All three players popped the corks at once to begin the celebration.

Sweeney told the press afterwards, “That’s something I’ll tell my kids about and remember for the rest of my life.”

Michael Young found himself in a similar situation, having played 1,503 games without a playoff appearance.  All 11 of his years in the majors were spent with the Texas Rangers, who finally made the playoffs this year.  And although they made it to the World Series, they were beat by the San Francisco Giants.

Young batted .254 with one homer and seven RBI throughout the 2010 postseason.  And although he did not get a ring, Young’s playoff-free streak is over and that has to be a relief.  Just ask 13-year veteran Randy Winn who has played in 1,717 games and is still waiting for his playoff shot.

#23: Fathers And Sons

Diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in April this year, Tom Morrison had only one major concern.  “Am I going to be around long enough to see my son get his first big league hit?”

Logan Morrison was finally called up to the Marlins on July 27 to play left field.  For medical reasons, his father would be unable to fly to see him play.  But that was not going to stop a very determined father.

By the end of August, Tom Morrison was well enough to travel 29 hours by train from his home in Louisiana to New York.  Logan went 1 for 5 that night against the Mets and the following day, father and son were able to celebrate Logan’s 23rd birthday together.  Logan had three hits that night, including his first career triple, and he scored two runs. 

Logan Morrison ended the season with a .283 average and 18 RBI.  Sadly, on December 8th, Tom Morrison lost his battle with cancer.  On his Twitter page, Logan reacted to the news by saying, “To the world he may have been just a somebody, but to this somebody he was my world.”

Earlier in 2010, another father-son story made headlines.  Widely respected as one of the nicest people in baseball, Toronto Blue Jay John McDonald missed nearly a month of baseball while caring for his sick father.  Suffering from liver cancer, his father passed away in mid-June.

McDonald returned to the team on June 19th, only a day removed from the funeral.  But knowing that Father’s Day was that same weekend, McDonald felt that his father would have wanted him to play.

A utility man, McDonald saw little playing time with the Jays.  But that Father’s Day, he was called to pinch hit in the 9th inning of a blowout loss to the Giants.  McDonald sent the second pitch he saw out of the ballpark for a 2-run homer.  He pointed to the heaven’s as he rounded the bases to honor his father.

Prior to that day, McDonald was not known for hitting home runs.  In fact, in the prior 11 seasons, he hit a total of 13 homers.  But after the Father’s Day home run, McDonald hit a total of 6 home runs in just the one season.

McDonald later said, “Somebody was helping get that ball out of the ballpark.”

#22: The Giants Ride Three Minor League Contracts Into The World Series

Three players that no one wanted joined the Giants on minor league contracts this year and wound up having a huge impact on the team’s roller coaster ride to the World Series Championship. 

Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe and Andres Torres were not high on anyone’s list.  But the Giants, already a team of misfits, took a chance on these players and it paid off.

Burrell had an awful time in Tampa Bay after winning the 2008 World Series with the Phillies.  Unable to adjust to the designated hitter role, the Rays sent him packing in May.  By June, Burrell found himself with the Giants after only five games in their minor league system.

In the final months of the 2010 season, Burrell added power to the Giants line-up, smashing 18 home runs and collecting 51 RBI.  Pat “The Bat” became an integral part in the Giants push for a World Championship.

Second baseman Uribe signed a minor league deal in the 2009 offseason and by April that year, he had made the team’s roster.  That led to a one-year contract for 2010 where Uribe hit 24 homers and added 85 RBI, a career high in both categories.

After two years as a major leaguer, Andres Torres was sent back to the minors in 2004 where he languished for almost five entire seasons.  But in 2009, the Giants gave Torres a second chance and signed him.

In 2010, Torres had a career year, batting .268 with 63 RBI and 26 stolen bases.  He took the center field job away from veteran Aaron Rowand and did not look back.  In the World Series, Torres batted .318 with a homer and 3 RBI.

In the land of misfits, the Giants reign supreme.  And in 2010, they reigned supreme over all of baseball.

#21: Brian Wilson Closes Out An Amazing Season

Looking at Brian Wilson with his floppy mohawk and jet-black dyed beard, one does not imagine that there lurks a serious ballplayer.  But underneath the scruff, a mad genius may very well lie.

Despite his erratic behavior off the field and odd collection of 300 plus bullpen warm-up balls, Wilson is all focus on the mound.  It is exactly that intensity that makes him a great closer.

Wilson put up career numbers in the 2010 regular season with 48 total saves in 53 attempts and a stifling 1.81 ERA.  His 48 saves rank first among all closers in 2010.

In the postseason, Wilson converted six of seven save attempts and did not surrender a single earned run.  Throwing the final pitch of the 2010 World Series to clinch the Championship, the always entertaining Wilson stated, “It was like any other ninth inning, except it was the final one of the year.”

#20: Roy Oswalt: Jack Of All Trades


0822 2Oswalt.jpgOn August 24, 2010, Roy Oswalt became the first Phillies pitcher in 39 years to play a field position.  In the 14th inning, the Phillies ran out of players when slugger Ryan Howard was ejected for tossing his bat and helmet after being rung up on a check swing.

Oswalt volunteered to take over in left field while Raul Ibanez moved to first to replace Howard.  Sprinting to the outfield with a child-like grin on his face, Oswalt relished the ovation from excited fans who boisterously expressed their appreciation.

And as luck would have it, the very first pitch after the switch went straight to Oswalt.  The crowd summoned a collective gasp as the fly ball neared the rookie outfielder.  But then cheers erupted as Oswalt made the catch and was smiling from ear to ear, enjoying the moment.

The game eventually went 16 innings after which Oswalt said, “I was hoping to play more.”

#19: Mark Buehrle’s Opening Day Kick Flip

The wackiest and possibly the most amazing defensive play of 2010 came without delay on Opening Day.  White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle used multiple body parts to rob the Indian’s Lou Marson of a base hit.

The comebacker to the mound was slowed by a kick from Buehrle’s foot.  He then ran the ball down near the first base line and flipped the ball, backwards and between his legs, to first base for the out. 

You can watch this video clip 50 times and it never gets old.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/10709160″>Off the foot–through the legs!</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user2241489″>Aaaaa Kkkkk</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

#18: The National League Wins The All-Star Game After A 14-Year Drought

For the first time since 1996, the National League came out on top of an All-Star Game on July 13, 2010.  Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told the press before the game that he was determined to bring the National League a win, expressing the importance of home field advantage.

Manuel led his group of All-Stars and pitching ruled the day.  Pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson pitched two scoreless innings each.  Closers Heath Bell, Brian Wilson and Jonathan Broxton contributed as well.  In total, nine National League pitchers held the American league to just one run.

The big blow for the National League came off the bat of Braves catcher Brian McCann.  Smashing a 3-run double in the seventh inning, McCann provided all the offense that the win-starved National League needed.

After the 3-1 victory, McCann said, “You dream of moments like this as a kid. It was amazing.”

#17: Jose Bautista’s Great Big Bat

In 2010, the home run crowd did not belong to Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols or even Mark Teixeira.  Instead, a guy who has never hit more than 16 home runs in a season more than tripled that total and came out on top. 

In his seventh year in the majors, Bautista stunned the baseball world by smacking an insane total of 54 home runs this year.  That is 12 more than the next highest total, which is 42, hit by Albert Pujols.  That is also 38 more homers than he has ever hit before in a single season.

Bautista also landed in third place overall in RBI’s, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage.  This right-handed outfield will also take home a Silver Slugger award for 2010.

Whatever Jose Bautista has been drinking, please pass the cup.

#16: Yankees Honor The Late George Steinbrenner

On July 13th, Major League Baseball lost one of its giants after the passing of George Steinbrenner at 80-years old.  Steinbrenner was the principal owner and managing partner of the New York Yankees for the last 37-years.

Love him or hate him, Steinbrenner revolutionized the business of baseball.  He became the first team owner to sell TV cable rights and also turned the Yankees into the first professional sports franchise to have an estimated worth of over one billion dollars.

Despite his outspoken attitude and penchant to arouse controversy, Steinbrenner led the Yankees to seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants.

As a tribute to Steinbrenner’s impact on both the baseball world and the Yankees in particular, a seven-by-five-foot, 760-pound monument of bronze was erected in his honor.  Located in Yankees Stadium’s Monument Park, the gigantic plaque was unveiled on September 21, 2010 during a moving ceremony attended by many Yankees legends.

Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson plus Joe Torre and Don Mattingly joined the entire Yankees team and the Steinbrenner family in honoring “The Boss.”  Torre noted, “George is responsible for really the best years of my life professionally.”

The plaque reads, “A true visionary who changed the game of baseball forever.  He was considered the most influential owner in all of sports.”

The gigantic monument is befitting such a man.  Derek Jeter said it best, “Probably just how The Boss wanted it. The biggest one out there.”

#15: Roy Halladay And Travis Wood In An Epic Duel


P6203325bbo.jpgOn July 10, 2010 the veteran Roy Halladay and the rookie Travis Wood, making only his third major league start, staged an epic pitching duel.  Halladay threw nine dominant shut-out innings against the Reds, striking out nine batters and still not earning a win.  Wood took a perfect game into the ninth until Carlos Ruiz broke it up with double to left-center.  Wood also did not record the win.

After being lifted for a pinch hitter in the 10th inning of this scoreless game, Wood sat watching from the bench as Carlos Ruiz struck again.  Ruiz won the game for the Phillies with a one-out double in the 11th that scored Jimmy Rollins. 

This walk-off, extra innings victory marked the third consecutive extra-inning walk-off win for the Phillies over the Reds in the four-game series.  It also marked the very first time the Phillies had won three consecutive extra-inning games in walk-off fashion.

The extra-innings fireworks may have slightly overshadowed two major pitching performances by Halladay and Wood, but looking back, the battle is unforgettable.

#14: Raking Rookies

It was a good year in baseball to be a rookie.  Just ask Jason Heyward, Starlin Castro, Mike Stanton or Daniel Nava.

Braves rookie right fielder Jason Heyward took the third pitch of his major league career in his first at-bat directly over the fence in right for a colossal 476-foot home run.  Heyward ended his rookie season hitting .277 with 18 homers and 72 RBI.

In his first game with the Cubs, Starlin Castro made history.  Castro became the first player ever to record six RBI’s in his major league debut, hitting a three-run homer and a three-run triple in a 14-7 win over the Reds.  Castro hit .300 for the year and stole ten bases.  The Cubs anxiously await his sophomore season.

For the Marlins, Mike Stanton had a less-noticeable rookie coming-out party due to a different rookie debut in a city nearby.  The super-hyped rookie start of the Nationals Stephen Strasburg dominated the headline instead.  But to his own team, Stanton did not go unnoticed.

Against the Phillies in a 10-8 Marlins loss, Stanton went 3 for 5 while scoring two runs.  At only 20-years of age, this rookie has some growing to do, but his future looks very bright.

Finally, Daniel Nava of the Red Sox made a little history of his own.  On June 12th, Nava became only the second player in Red Sox history to hit a grand slam in his first plate appearance with the team.  And it was not only his first at-bat, it was the very first pitch he saw.  Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton laid one down the middle and Nava did not miss it.

After college, the only team interested in Nava was the independent league Chico Outlaws.  The Red Sox took a chance on him and it paid off.

#13: Trevor Hoffman Reaches 600 Saves

Trevor Hoffman became the first pitcher in major league history to reach 600 saves with a 4-2 win over the Cardinals on September 7, 2010.  It was a circus of game where the Brewers manager and centerfielder plus the Cardinals pitching coach and a fan in the stands were all ejected for various reasons.

Despite the chaos, Hoffman nailed down the historic save by inducing a double play ball and then a grounder to short stop for the third out in the ninth inning.  Hoffman’s three sons and all his teammates greeted him with hugs on the mound while the crowd gave a standing ovation.

On the field, Hoffman spoke to the crowd.  He said, ”What a feeling! It’s hard to describe this moment.  Thanks to everybody who stuck around. Thanks for enduring a long season.”

Hoffman spent 16 1/2 of his 18 years in the majors with San Diego, playing the final 2 years in Milwaukee.  In his career, he has collected 601 saves.  The next closest is Mariano Rivera with 559 career saves.  Hoffman is currently a free agent.

#12: Dustin Pedroia Has A Career Night

The Red Sox faced the Rockies in a rematch of the 2007 World Series on June 24, 2010.  The Sox were able to pull out a 13-11 ten inning win over the Rockies thanks in part to their second baseman, Dustin Pedroia.

At only five-foot nine inches tall and 180 pounds, Pedroia certainly does not look intimidating.  But this three-time All-Star and 2008 MVP put a hurting on the Rockies that night.

Pedoria went 5-5 at the plate with three home runs, a double, a walk, four runs scored and five RBI.  In one game, Pedroia was able to raise his batting average from .280 to .293 with a slugging percentage over .500.

Oddly enough, the very next day, Pedroia fouled a ball off the navicular bone of his left foot which essentially ended his season.  He was put on the DL twice before finally having surgery.  Pedroia is expected to make a full recovery and return to the Red Sox for the 2011 season.

#11: Three Skippers Sail Off Into Retirement

The 2010 season turned into a series of farewell’s with the retirement of three great managers, Lou Piniella, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre.  All three left with winning records and six World Series rings between them.


P4137213Piniella.jpgLou Piniella, 67, spent his 23-year managerial career with five different teams including the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs.  He won both a pennant and World Series title with the Reds and ended his career with a .517 winning percentage.  Piniella left the Cubs early in August of this year to tend to his ill mother.

Bobby Cox, 69, spent 25 of his 29 years as a major league manager with the Atlanta Braves.  The other four years, Cox managed the Blue Jays.  Cox was named Manager of the Year four times while collecting 14 consecutive division titles, five pennants and one World Series title with the Braves.  His .556 winning percentage ranks 13th best in history.  When the Braves visited other cities this year, the opposing team chose to honor Cox before one of their games in the series.  The only team to refuse to show their respect was the Florida Marlins.

Joe Torre, 70, also spent 29 years as a major league manager with five teams including the Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers.  His six pennants and four World Series titles all came with the New York Yankees.  Torre ended his career with a .538 winning percentage, although no one would be surprised if he comes out of retirement if a good offer is made.

#10: Two MVP’s, Two Amazing Seasons

A recovering addict and former bad boy, many thought Josh Hamilton would never make it to the major leagues after his career was derailed by drugs in 2001.  But Hamilton cleaned up his act and has been knocking the cover off the ball since 2007.

Joey Votto had his own demons to fight as well.  After the passing of his father in 2008, Votto fell into a deep depression and suffered from anxiety attacks that threatened to hurt his baseball career.  But Votto, with the help of family and friends, sought treatment and overcame his illness.

Despite their personal problems, both Hamilton and Votto emerged as 2010 MVP’s of their respective leagues.  Hamilton ended the year with the highest batting average in all of baseball at .359, hitting 32 homers, collecting 100 RBI and was first in slugging percentage at .633.  Votto had a similar year with a .324 average, 37 homers, 113 RBI and a .424 on-base percentage, the best in baseball.

Overcoming all obstacles, Hamilton and Votto have succeeded both in their careers and in their personal lives.

#9: Perseverance Pays Off For John Lindsey

Having played 16 years and recording 6,342 minor league plate appearances, John Lindsey may have thought he would never see the major leagues.  Despite hitting .353 with 25 homers and 97 RBIs for Triple-A Albuquerque in the 2010 season, this 33-year old first baseman seemed to be stuck in the minors.

Finally, on September 8, 2010, Lindsey’s hard work paid off and he entered his first major league game with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  With his entire family looking on, Lindsey got his first major league hit on September 12, 2010 against Houston Astros pitcher Nelson Figueroa.

That hit was 16 years in the making.  Afterwards, Lindsey said, “It was awesome.  It felt just like it did when I got my first hit in Dixie Youth baseball in Hattiesburg.”

#8: The Long Awaited Debut Of Stephen Strasburg

June 8, 2010 marked a big day for the Washington Nationals.  Having pitched only 11 games in the minor, fans were anxious to finally see the much-hyped 21-year old Stephen Strasburg with the 95-98 mile-per-hour fastball.  Some went so far as to say it would be the greatest debut of any major league player since the draft started in 1965.

Strasburg did not disappoint.  In seven innings, Strasburg struck out 14 batters, which was the third most in history for a major league debut.  He also did not walk a single batter, which in a debut, had never been done before.  In fact, only five other pitchers since 1900 have had a 14-strikeout, zero-walk game in any game, in which they pitched seven innings or less.

Strasburg’s rookie season was cut short after a game against the Phillies on August 21, 2010.  He was diagnosed with tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in early September.  Strasburg is likely to miss the entire 2011 season and not return until 2012.

However, Strasburg did have success in the 12 games he pitched, ending his season with a 2.91 ERA and a 5-3 record.  Unfortunately for the Nationals, they will have to wait quite a while to see how the rookie pitcher bounces back after surgery.

#7: Carlos Gonzalez Hits For The Cycle With A Walk-Off Homer

A rare feat in baseball, hitting for the cycle is not something we see every day.  Topping the cycle off with a walk-off homer is even rarer.  But the Rockies center fielder did just that on July 31, 2010 against the Cubs.

Gonzalez singled in the first inning, tripled and scored a run in the third inning and doubled in the fifth. He even added a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.  Finally in the ninth, Gonzalez smashed a solo homer to complete the cycle and win the game for the Rockies.  It was only the sixth cycle in team history.

Gonzalez finished his storybook season batting .336 with 34 home runs, 117 RBI and a slugging percentage of .598.  His average was second best in baseball behind only Josh Hamilton and Gonzalez also landed fifth in RBI total.

#6: Brooks Conrad Enters History Books With A Walk-Off Slam

Brooks Conrad has had a pretty unremarkable three years in the major leagues.  But Conrad made a name for himself when on May 20, 2010, he rallied the Braves past the Reds in the ninth inning with a walk-off grand slam.

Down by a score of 9-3 against the Reds, the Braves entered the ninth inning with little hope of a comeback.  In fact, if they did win, it would be the biggest comeback in team history.

Pinch hitting in the ninth after the Braves scored to close the gap to 9-6, Conrad had the bases loaded for him with one out.  Conrad swung and the ball just barely brushed the left fielders glove and snuck over the wall.

This was only the 23rd time in baseball history that a walk-off grand slam overcame a three-run deficit and it was also only the second time it was done by a pinch-hitter.   Conrad later said, “I’m lucky it got up and [I] hit it far enough.”  Lucky or not, that hit sealed the greatest comeback in Braves history.

#5: The Texas Rangers Overcome All Obstacles To Play In Their First World Series

The Rangers are not a team anyone expected to succeed in 2010.  The season was off to a very rocky start with a few startling revelations. 

The previous offseason, their star player and recovering addict Josh Hamilton was discovered drunk in a bar right before 2009 Spring Training.  To make matters worse, part way through 2010 Spring Training, it was announced that team manager Ron Washington, 57, had tested positive for cocaine during the 2009 season.

An addict relapsing is not so unexpected.  But a 57-year old manager dabbling with cocaine use is whole other monster.  In spite of the admission from Washington, the Rangers chose to stick with their man.

The drama continued in May when it was announced that the team voluntarily pushed themselves into bankruptcy in order to facilitate the team’s sale to a group of investors which included the team’s president, Nolan Ryan, for about $575 million.  They even had to borrow money from the league at one point.

But even with all the distractions, the Rangers kept on winning.  By June, they had locked up first place in the division.  And at the trade deadline, they added pitcher Cliff Lee to bolster their already strong rotation.  Everything was going right for the Rangers.

The end result was the Rangers first World Series appearance in the team’s 50-year history.  Sadly, the San Francisco Giants outplayed the Rangers and they lost the series in five games.  But having made it that far with so many things working against them is a feat they should all be proud of.

#4: Two Perfect Games And Four No-Hitters

2010 was indeed the year of the pitcher.  In one season, fans were treated  to six no-hitters, two of which were perfect games and with one happening in a playoff game.  The following is a breakdown of those six games in chronological order.

1: Ubaldo Jiménez, April 17th, Rockies 4, Braves 0 – The first no-hitter in Rockies franchise history was thrown by 26-year old Jiménez.  Facing 31 batters, Jiménez walked six, struck out seven and his fastball reached 100 miles-per-hour three times during the game.  A diving catch by center fielder Dexter Fowler saved the no-hitter in the bottom of the seventh.

2: Dallas Braden, May 9th, Athletics 4, Rays 0 – Braden’s mother passed away when he was in high school.  It was only fitting then that his grandmother was in the stands on this very special Mother’s Day when Braden tossed a perfect game.  Braden struck out three batters and 77 of his 109 pitches were thrown for strikes.  It was only the second perfect game in Oakland Athletics history.

3: Roy Halladay, May 29th, Phillies 1, Marlins 0 – As it would turn out later, Halladay was just getting warmed up with this perfect game.  With 115 pitches thrown, Halladay struck out 11 batters for the 20th perfect game in major league baseball history.  For the team, it was just the second perfect game in Phillies history.

4: Edwin Jackson, June 25th, Diamondbacks 1, Rays 0 – Throwing the most number of pitches for any no-hitter in history with 149, Jackson walked 8 Rays in this battle.  The Rays made history here as well.  They became the first team since the 2001 Padres to be no-hit twice in a season, and the first team in history to be no-hit three times within a one-year span.  This no-hitter was the second in Diamondbacks history.

5: Matt Garza, July 26th, Rays 5, Tigers 0 – Garza allowed only one base runner in this no-hitter which came on a walk in the second inning.  He faced the minimum of 27 batters as the walk was erased by a double play.  Garza became the first pitcher in Rays franchise history to toss a no-hitter.

6: Roy Halladay, Oct 6th, Phillies 4,  Reds  0 – Only the second no-hitter in postseason play, Halladay made history with this gem.  In Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, Halladay missed his second perfect game of the year by allowing just one walk.

#3: Grace And Forgiveness Highlight The Ultimate Display Of Good Sportsmanship

When Tiger’s pitcher Armando Galarraga stepped on the mound against the Indians on June 2, 2010, he had no idea that his life was about to change drastically.  Umpire Jim Joyce was equally unaware of the impending events.

With two outs in the ninth, Galarraga had a perfect game nearly in the record books.  But a ground ball by Jason Donald that should have ended the game turned into a disaster.  Joyce called Donald safe, saying Galarraga was off the bag.  The perfect game was ruined.

In an amazing display of restraint, Galarraga snickered but did not argue the call.  Later, when Joyce saw the replay and realized he blew the call, he was inconsolable, knowing he cost the young pitcher a perfect game.  Teary-eyed afterwards, he told Galarraga over and over, “I am so sorry.”

Understanding the situation, Galarraga told the press, “Everybody makes a mistake. I’m sure he don’t want to make that call. You see that guy last night, he feels really bad.”  To show there were no hard feelings, Galarraga decided that before the next night’s game, he would personally deliver the lineup card to Joyce.

The gesture brought Joyce to tears as Galarraga gave him a supportive pat on the back.  The Tigers gave Galarraga a cherry red Corvette in honor of his near-perfection and fans applauded Joyce for his honesty and obvious remorse.

The exchange between these two men was the ultimate display of class and sportsmanship.  It became a valuable lesson in humanity to all who witnessed the event and will not soon be forgotten.

#2: Roy Halladay Throws The Second No-Hitter In Postseason History

On October 6, 2010 in Game One of the NLDS, Roy Halladay made history.  Having thrown 104 pitches and striking out eight batters, Halladay allowed just one base runner which came on a walk with two outs in the fifth.  It was only the second no-hitter in postseason history.  The first was a perfect game thrown by Don Larsen in the 1956 World Season.

Multiple records were set with this amazing no-hitter.  Halladay became the fifth pitcher ever to throw two no-hitters in one season.  He also became the first starting pitcher in postseason history to out-hit the opposing team with an RBI-single.  In addition, this was the first no-hitter thrown in Citizen’s Bank Park.

One statistic in particular illustrates the magnitude of Halladay’s performance.  Only two other times in the history of the postseason had any pitcher even taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

Halladay’s 320 career starts were the most of any active pitcher who had never appeared in the postseason.  Deservingly, Halladay has been named the National League Cy Young winner for 2010.

#1: The San Francisco Giants Win The World Series


101610 Lincecum.jpgIn the land of misfit toys, otherwise known as the San Francsico Giants, a great big, shiny trophy sits where once there was only doubt.  Manager Bruce Bochy stitched together a team made out of spare parts and unwanted players and hiked with them to the very top of major league baseball mountain.

The roster was mashed together with other team’s rejects, like Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross.  Many players found themselves in the thick of things after originally signing minor league contracts, like Juan Uribe and Andres Torres, who spent almost 5 years in the minors before coming to the Giants.  Their best pitcher, Tim Lincecum, was a guy no one thought would make it in the big leagues due to his small stature.

But all these misfits came together and made things happen.  Burrell hit 18 homers in the second half of the season.  Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young winner.  Huff batted .290 in the regular season and collected eight RBI in the playoffs.  And Ross absolutely destroyed opposing pitchers in the postseason.  His three home runs and five RBI in the NLCS against the Phillies earned him the series MVP award.

And these are just a few examples of ways that the Giants made this Championship happen.  Their pitching was dominant, their hitting was timely and manager Bochy made all the right moves.

Not only did the Giants win the whole thing, they also took a franchise that was losing money every year and made a profit.  Set to come out of the 2010 season with around a $5 million dollar loss, the World Series run turned the finances around into an estimated $7 million to $10 million dollar profit.

There are now 29 other teams, heads held low, humming, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.”  And the Giants are the reason why.

 

Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*

 

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